How to Build Muscle

Learn how muscles grow, how to build muscle and make your muscles bigger, how much weight you should lift, how many sets to do, how often to weight train for muscle building, and muscle building recovery tips.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read

Do you have a favorite t-shirt that would be even more favorite if your arms filled out those sleeves a bit more? Do you want to admire your backside in the mirror rather than avoiding your reflection? Whether you answered yes to either of the above questions, or you simply want to destroy the competition in your local arm-wrestling festival, then you will benefit from my article on how to build muscle.

How Do Muscles Get Bigger?

Before learning how to make your muscles bigger, you should understand how a muscle actually gets bigger.

Let’s use your biceps—the muscle group on the front of your arms—as an example. Like all the other muscles in your body, this muscle group is comprised of tightly woven bundles of muscle fibers, which are comprised of muscle cells.

When you require your biceps to produce a force, such as lifting a couch, most of those muscle fibers in your biceps are exposed to tension, especially if your couch has a fold-out bed hidden inside. The tension from the weight of the couch stretches the fibers and causes tiny tears in them. When the cells in your muscle fibers sense this trauma, they begin to rally the muscle-building troops from your body to repair the tears.

These muscle-building troops include hormones, growth factors, and white blood cells, and working together, they not only repair the muscle fibers in your biceps, but they also increase the size of those fibers and the strength of the nerves that activate them, so that next time you lift a couch you are better able to do so. As those fibers increase in size, the biceps grow, which is precisely why you do not want to challenge a moving-van employee in an arm wrestling competition.

Believe it or not, there are better ways to make your muscles grow than by simply lifting the occasional couch. By working with certain exercises, weight, sets and repetitions, you can stimulate much more trauma (and subsequent growth) than the average furniture re-arranging activity.

How to Build Muscle

The trick to building muscle is to adequately stress the muscle, allow the muscle to recover while eating enough healthy food to feed the new muscle, and then repeat!

The best exercises for full body muscle growth are exercises that require you to use multiple joints. For example, a combination of squats, cleans, deadlifts and bench presses is very effective at helping your entire body to get bigger. I personally added nearly 20 pounds of muscle to my body by using these exercises during college, and because of that, I looked very good in t-shirts and was also very good at lifting couches.

Quick and Dirty Tip: If you don’t want all your muscles to get bigger, but just want to focus on a single muscle group, like your butt, then you’ll need to use a strategy that bodybuilders use. When weight training, do a higher number of sets that focus on that one single body section. For example, a butt-building routine could consist of 5-10 sets of 10-15 repetitions of reverse lunges.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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