While you always have your crowd of people - who, when getting started on a fitness program, want to work on first building up a solid base of cardio endurance - more and more people are starting to turn away from the cardio aspect of things and work on building up a solid foundation of muscle first.
Who You Are And What Goals You Have
This program setup is best suited to someone who is new to lifting, but has been active in the past. Prior to starting a weight lifting program it is important to have some flexibility in the body from prior movement so you are able to move through the full range of motion for the lifts required.
Additionally, if you've been active in some form in the past, this will likely translate into you having a higher degree of balance and coordination, which will come in handy while performing your weight lifting activities.
If you haven't been active though, don't stress too hard. Just be sure you do ease into the program at a comfortable pace for you. When learning a new exercise such as weight lifting, it's vital you're using the correct form, so take a few weeks to just perform the motions with a very light weight or no weight at all until you feel confident you're ready to progress.
Your Source Of Motivation
Your source of motivation for wanting to get started on a muscle-building program could come from a variety of places. You may be feeling like you're struggling to get through everyday activities and want to increase your strength to make your life easier.
Alternatively, maybe you have a slow metabolism and are really finding it difficult to maintain your weight. You are aware of the fact that adding lean muscle mass to your frame will translate to you having a faster metabolism and want to reap those benefits.
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Another common reason for wanting to build muscle is to improve sports performance. This is a common reason many young guys get into weight lifting - they are looking to improve performance in the high school or university sports they are playing such as hockey, football, or basketball. This is a very smart move because not only will the extra muscle help them with their game, but it will also instil good workout habits for them in the long run.
Finally, you might be looking to build muscle for aesthetic purposes. It's no secret that toned, defined muscles look very attractive so this is a primary goal for many people.
Your Nutrition Program
Nutrition for muscle building is extremely important; just as important or maybe even more so than the actual program you choose to use. Due to the fact that you cannot create muscle out of nothing, if you aren't supplying your body with more calories than you need to maintain your weight, you may get stronger but you are not going to see the volume of muscle gains that you otherwise would.
Therefore, while you may think that counting calories is only for those who are trying to lose weight, that's not the case. Having at least some idea of how many calories you are taking in will help ensure you do make progress with your program. This doesn't mean you need to calorie count every single day; rather, just do it when you're first getting started and then every couple of weeks to make sure you're hitting your targets.
Aim for a calorie intake of between sixteen and seventeen calories per pound of body weight. If you aren't gaining at this rate, then you can take it higher, but start here so you don't start gaining body fat right from the start. Once you see how you are progressing, then you can shift it in either direction to meet your needs.
Of those calories, you want one gram of per pound of body weight and at least 150 grams of carbohydrates a day, minimum. You don't need more protein than this because once your needs are met, you're better off supplying additional carbohydrates or fat for energy rather than breaking down excess protein for energy (which is a much slower, and energy costly process).
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Often spreading your calories out over a number of meals will be the best way to handle the larger food intake, making eating your meals that much more comfortable. Usually it will take a week or two at the higher calorie eating to get used to taking in that much food, so if you're struggling initially, try and keep going. It will get easier.
Also make sure you're maximizing your intake of calorie dense foods to make it easier for yourself. Good options include nuts and nut butters, dried fruit, raw oats (throw into your shakes or eat cold like regular cereal), whole eggs, lean red meat, and protein powder added to your shakes, baked goods, cereal, or yogurt for additional calories and protein.
Try to get some form of protein with each meal you take in since this will provide your body with a steady source of amino acids to help repair the muscle tissue. Pair this protein with carbohydrates (not fat) around the workout period and then a combination of carbohydrates and healthy sources of dietary fat in all other meals throughout the day.
Your Supplement Protocol
Many supplements are targeted towards maximum muscle gain so this may be something you are interested in looking into. Finding a good protein powder will definitely be something you should do to help make it easier to meet your protein needs and to supply fast acting protein to the muscles immediately after a workout.
There are weight gainers that you can look at as well, just try and choose one that has a lower amount of sugars to prevent spikes throughout the day (unless you are using it around training).
Creatine is another supplement to think about as this will help ensure you have enough energy during the workout period to get through your workouts without becoming fatigued. Don't be fooled by the common myth that taking creatine will automatically make you build muscle as this is incorrect. If you take creatine and work harder because of it, that will enable you to build more muscle.
Finally, be sure you are taking a good multivitamin and fish oil supplement (aim for 3-6 capsules per day). Since you will likely be reducing your intake of vegetables while trying to gain weight because they add a lot of excess bulk to the diet making it harder to consume more calories, you may be at risk for some nutrient deficiencies that vegetables provide. Taking that multivitamin on a regular basis will prevent this.
Your Workout Program
Now we come to your workout program. For the most part, when focusing on muscle building you will want to limit the amount of additional cardio you perform. Cardio training in higher quantities or intensities does tend to have a negative impact on your ability to build muscle, so keep it to 2-3 times a week for 20 minutes or so (and to a lighter intensity such as walking).
The program below is a four-day split where you will be performing two lower body workouts along with two upper body workouts. This allows you to hit the muscles with a good frequency but shouldn't put you at risk for overtraining since you'll still have three days off each week.
You are going to perform the main lifts with a lower rep range where you will focus on lifting a heavier amount of weight to help develop sheer strength (and actually increase the physical size of the muscle fibers). Aim for 2-3 minutes of rest between each of these exercises.
After that, you will also perform a couple of sets of higher rep work which will help provide some metabolic work for the muscles, as well as helping achieve a 'pump' - which is a temporary size increase in the muscle due to the build-up of by-products surrounding the muscle fibers themselves. For these movements, you'll want to take around one minute of rest to recover.
The combination of rep ranges will produce the optimal environment for you to build quality muscle mass while getting stronger at the same time.
Perform this workout for a period of four to eight weeks, after which you can evaluate your progress and make some changes depending on how you're doing.
When building muscle, you want to focus on both increasing the weight but still making sure you are completing the number of sets indicated.
If you're really struggling to get through your workout, consider cutting back slightly on the total weight you're using. Still ensure it's challenging, just don't burn yourself out so early on in the workout that you cannot make it to the end.