You get to the gym, hop on the elliptical while you watch an episode of Real Housewives then towel off and go home. Just like you're on cruise control.
While you'll get points for making it to the gym, you're not getting the most out of your workout. Cardio can help you burn calories, sure, but strength training will actually change your body composition. Building muscle helps you burn calories faster than cardio and can even increase your metabolism in the long run.
Benefits of Building Muscle
You know you need muscle for every day activities, and even things as simple as sitting, standing and lying down. But building that muscle through strength training has additional benefits — both mental, physical and emotional.
- Burns calories: For every pound of muscle you gain, you burn an additional nine calories per day, according to a 2011 study from the Journal of Obesity. It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up over time.
- Burns fat: Strength training also help you reduce body fat, specifically in your abdominal region, and increases your lean body mass.
- Reduces blood pressure: Regular strength training can have a favorable impact on your blood pressure.
- Benefits your bones: Strength training fortifies your bones and helps prevent osteoporosis.
- Boosts mental health: Several studies across a wide variety of age groups have shown that exercise (and strength training specifically) can have a positive impact on your mood and in helping you fight off depression and anxiety.
- Reduces risk of diabetes: A 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that men who participated in strength training had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Increased self-confidence: When you look good, you feel good. And when you're strong, you're confident.
Tips for Building Muscle
Now that you're convinced of the magical powers of strength training, here's a quick guide to get you started. Follow these tips to build more muscle in less time.
- Perform compound exercises: Sure, biceps curls give you strong biceps, but they're not very functional. Plus, with compound exercises (ones that involve more than one joint), you're working multiple muscles with one exercise. Examples include: squat, bench press, lunge and pull-up.
- Up your protein: Your body needs plenty of protein to rebuild your muscles after a workout and to grow. Make sure you're hitting your daily requirements (you can use an app like MyPlate to calculate your specific needs) and supplement with a protein shake if needed.
- Progress your workout: About every four weeks, you should switch up your routine (sooner if you're getting bored, your results are plateauing or your workout feels too easy). That could mean different exercises, adding weight, increasing reps or sets or changing the mode of your workout (like machines to free weights).
- Take time for rest and recovery: Lifting weights causes micro tears in your muscles, so they need time to recover before you hit them with another session. Take at least one day rest before doing another workout with the same muscles.
- Stay consistent: Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are your muscles. Stick with your workout routine (making sure to continually challenge yourself) and you'll see results.
Best Exercises for All Major Muscle Groups
Need some inspiration for your next strength training workout? Incorporate some of these exercises into your next session, depending on which muscles you're focusing on.
Lower Body Exercises
- Hip thrust
- Glute bridge
- Side lunge
- Calf raise
- Hamstring curl
- Bulgarian split squat
Upper Body Exercises
- Bench press
- Chest fly
- Shoulder press
- Pike push-up
- Bent-over row
- Lat pulldown
- Hammer curl
- Diamond push-up
- Triceps kickback
- Side plank
- Bicycle crunches
- Bird dog
- Dead bug
- Standing wood chop
- Boat pose
- Leg raise
- Russian twist
More Muscle-Building Resources
Though building muscle is pretty easy in theory, actually doing it (and sticking with your plan) is a little tougher. To help you get stronger, here are some articles you'll definitely want to check out:
How to Join the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge
1. Sign Up for Daily Emails
Every day, we’ll be sending you your daily workout and a healthy recipe to try, along with fun extras like workout playlists, motivational quotes, self-care tips and other fitness and nutrition information to make 2019 your best (and healthiest) year ever!
2. Print Out Your Calendars
Isn't it so satisfying to check things off of your to-do list? Each day during the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge, you're accountable for two main things: working out and eating healthy.
To help keep you on track for the entire month, we created two calendars — one with each day’s workouts listed and another with each week’s nutrition goal and healthy recipes. Print them out and check off each workout and day of healthy eating as you complete it.
3. Join Our Challenge Facebook Group
For daily support, motivation and camaraderie with LIVESTRONG.COM team members, join our Facebook Group for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. We'll share recipes, tips, motivations, pictures and more! Plus, we'll answer all your questions.