Whether you lift weights or do calisthenics, training to increase your muscle mass, strength and endurance is a cornerstone of any fitness program. The health benefits of being muscular include a faster metabolism, reduced injury risk and improved ability to perform daily tasks.
Greater energy levels and faster metabolism, stronger muscles to perform daily tasks and maintain posture and lower risk of injury are just some of the benefits of gaining muscle mass.
Benefits of Muscular Strength
Whatever sport or activity you participate in, performance benefits of resistance training include decreased risk of falls, increased balance and stronger muscles. As you gain strength, your tendons and ligaments will also get stronger and make it easier to maintain good posture. This increased strength and stability can boost your confidence in your physical abilities and motivate you to try new activities.
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Resistance training also increases bone strength, which in turn, may help reduce bone loss and prevent fractures, falls and osteoporosis.
After you turn 40 and continue to age, you lose approximately 1 percent of your bone mass each year, reports Harvard Medical School. This makes your bones more prone to fractures and may lead to osteoporosis over time. Strength training can slow bone loss and may even help you regain some of the lost bone mass.
Since muscle burns more calories than fat, gaining mass can increase your metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight. You will feel more energized and find it easier to lose stubborn fat.
Exercise Recommendations for Adults
For overall health, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults train every major muscle group at least two times each week. Depending on your goals, you may want to work out more often than that. Also, be sure to get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly.
Strength training to increase muscle mass can be done with free weights, gym machines, resistance bands or even bodyweight exercises. How much muscle mass you'll gain depends on a number of factors, including your genetics, training regimen, diet and hormone levels, points out the American Council on Exercise. Some people can gain muscle mass faster than others because of their genes. Men typically have more mass than women due to higher levels of testosterone.
It's important to develop an exercise routine that challenges your muscles. If you always do the same exercises with the same resistance, your body will adapt and you will stop seeing gains in muscle mass and strength.
Furthermore, your body needs to be properly nourished and hydrated to repair damaged muscle fibers after exercise and reap the benefits of weight training. You will see faster gains with a healthy diet that provides plenty of protein and nutrients.
Read more: Your Ultimate Guide to Gaining Lean Muscle
Develop a Strength Training Program
To build muscle, the American Council on Exercise recommends doing three to six sets of each exercise with six to 12 repetitions per set. Be sure to increase the resistance or load you're working with as your strength increases. Mix up your routine to keep your body guessing.
If you're starting a new training program, consult your doctor beforehand. Start slowly with lower weights and increase your reps and resistance over time as your strength increases.
You can try a circuit routine that moves through exercises for multiple body parts, or split up your workouts to focus on specific muscles each day. Select exercises for each major muscle group.
If you go to a gym or have a home gym, you can use weight machines, barbells and free weights. In case you're working out at home and don't have any equipment, do bodyweight exercises to increase your strength.
Read more: The Best Way to Gain Lean Muscle Mass
It's a good idea to keep track of your workouts, including the exercises completed and the weight and number of reps. You can do this with a downloadable workout log from ExRx.net or make your own on a computer or a notebook. Having a training journal will let you see how much progress you've made.
If you are just getting started or if you aren't getting the results you want, consider consulting with a personal trainer to customize your workout for your current fitness level and personal goals.
There are lots of exercises to choose from when developing your strength training program. For example, when working the legs, some exercise options include:
- Squats (with or without weights)
- Leg press
- Straight leg deadlift
- Leg curls
When training your upper body, consider these exercises:
- Bicep curls
- Tricep extensions
- Bench press
- Shoulder press
You can also perform variations of these movements depending on what equipment you have available. Bicep curls, for example, can be done with free weights, barbells, cables or resistance bands.
Avoid Training Injuries
Nothing derails a fitness plan faster than an injury. Avoid injury when strength training by following some simple tips. First, always warm up before diving into resistance training. This can be as simple as walking while swinging and rotating your arms, advise the experts at Harvard Medical School.
During your workout, pay attention to how your body feels. You want the exercises to be challenging. Soreness after a tough workout is completely normal.
However, your routine should not cause pain. If you do experience pain in your muscles or joints, stop the exercise and consult your doctor. Existing injuries may worsen if you continue to work out.
Make sure you do every exercise with proper form. If you cannot maintain your form, decrease the weight you're lifting or the number of repetitions you are doing in each set. Ask a professional if you 're not sure how to correctly perform an exercise or use a piece of equipment.
Stay hydrated during your workout and throughout the day. This is important not just to get the most out of your gym session, but also to give your body what it needs to recover. If your workouts last longer than an hour or you exercise in hot, humid weather, you're more likely to become dehydrated.
At the end of your workout, cool down for five to 10 minutes. Be sure to give your body time off to rest and recover. This includes getting a good night's sleep and also resting between workouts. The risk of injury increases when you exercise too often or at high intensity.
- Michigan State University: "Benefits of Physical Activity"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Strength Training Builds More Than Muscles"
- American Council on Exercise: "How Muscle Grows"
- ExRx.net: "Workout Logs"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Avoid Workout Injuries"