When it comes to finding a workout to gain muscle and not lose weight, you don't have to look far. A solid strength training program that focuses on hypertrophy will encourage you to lift moderate to heavy weights and eat plenty of calories. And if you follow the plan, you shouldn't lose weight.
Strength Training to Gain Muscle
Gaining muscle mass is no easy feat. That's why patience is your number one goal when it comes to putting on size. Because unless you are genetically gifted, you're not going to pack on muscle overnight. In fact, the American Council on Exercise reminds us that each person will build strength and size at different rates, which means it's often difficult to predict the exact amount of muscle you can gain in a given period.
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That said, as you gain muscle, you can expect to see the number on the scale go up, not down.
For maximum hypertrophy or muscle gains, the National Strength and Conditioning Association suggests a strength training protocol that includes lifting weights with multiple sets of six to 12 reps and a one-minute rest period for the same muscle groups. When choosing exercises, focus on compound movements that target multiple muscle groups at one time, such as squats, bench press, deadlift, rows, pull-ups and shoulder press.
You can follow this up with exercises for smaller muscle groups like the biceps and triceps. Since the goal is hypertrophy, you will need to space your workouts throughout the week, which allows enough rest between training each body part. To accomplish this, consider a body part split routine.
Read more: Can Gaining Muscle Make You Gain Weight?
Cardio and Other Physical Activity
When your training goals focus on gaining muscle mass, it makes sense that most of your attention should go toward strength training. But just because you're hitting the weights several days a week doesn't mean you can't save time and energy for other physical activities.
Some people steer clear of aerobic exercise when trying to gain muscle, but if you enjoy activities like running or cycling, you can still do a cardio workout without losing weight. The key is to limit the number of days and the amount of time you're active each week. And don't forget to eat. If you run for 30 minutes, you can plan on burning about 300 calories, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
As far as when to perform these cardio sessions, you have a few options. You can add them to the end of a weight training day or perform them on an active rest day. If you opt for cardio on an active rest day, stick to low- to moderate-intensity exercises. And if you decide to finish off a weight training day with a quick cardio session, consider doing a 20-minute HIIT workout on the treadmill, elliptical or rowing machine.
Read more: The Best Way to Gain Lean Muscle Mass
Eating to Gain Muscle
Moderate to heavy resistance training sessions are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to developing a workout to gain muscle and not lose weight. You also need to dial in your eating and nutrition plan to optimize your strength training sessions and fuel your body, both pre- and post-workout.
The key to muscle-building nutrition is eating enough calories and making sure those calories come from quality sources of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Since carbohydrates are partially converted to glycogen, which you store in your muscles to fuel workouts, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says you should focus on adding quality carbs that are low in fat, such as whole-grain breads and fruits and vegetables.
When it comes to fat, it recommends that fat should make up 20 percent to 35 percent of your total calories and come from heart-healthy sources such as almonds, avocados, fatty fish and extra-virgin olive oil.
The final macronutrient, and likely one of the most important, is protein.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, people that exercise regularly need to eat more protein than the recommended dietary intake, which is 0.37 grams per pound of body weight. And if you lift weights regularly and want to increase muscle mass, it recommends aiming for a range of 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "4 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass"
- The Mayo Clinic Health System: "Top 10 Workout Myths"
- Harvard Health Publications: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Difference Weights"
- The American College of Sports Medicine: "Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance"
- The American Council on Exercise: "How Muscle Grows: How to Build Muscle Mass"
- The National Strength and Conditioning Association: "Trainer Tips: Hypertrophy"