You'd be lying if you said you never dreamed about the kind of muscles you see in magazines and on the silver screen.
But building muscle mass isn't just a vanity project--strength training actually comes with a variety of benefits. Muscles are the caloric powerhouse of the body, so when you consistently work on building muscle, you're actually giving your metabolism a boost.
Here, we're breaking down how to get built like your favorite movie actors (oh, and some essential details to make sure you do it safely).
The Science of Muscle
When you get down to the science, muscles are actually pretty amazing.
There are several different types of muscle, but for our purposes, we'll be discussing skeletal muscle, which consists of thread-like sarcomeres and myofibrils. They're important because skeletal muscles are the basic unit of contraction.
Skeletal muscles contract when they receive signals from motor neurons. The better you become at getting those signals to tell your muscles to contract, the stronger you'll become.
This is why some powerlifters can look small compared to bodybuilders but can actually lift significantly more weight--they're better at using their motor neurons.
So, what happens when you lift?
In simple terms, you're creating microscopic tears in your muscle tissue, which is why you're sore the next day. This isn't anything to worry about--by creating these microtears, you're encouraging your muscles to grow back stronger.
Pretty cool, right?
Types of Strength Training
To the uninitiated, the weight room looks like a lot of grunting dudes (and some girls too!) hefting weights.
In reality, there are several different types of strength training depending on what you want to get out of your regimen.
It's always a good idea to start with bodyweight training. It's not necessarily as fun as working with weights right out of the gate, but it includes all the fundamental movements you must be able to perform in order to lift safely.
From there, you can work up to dumbbell training. Even the most basic gym generally has a decent set of dumbbells, and if you want to workout at home, you can grab a set of adjustable dumbbells and get down to business.
Plus, a 45 lb barbell is a lot to deal with if you've never lifted before.
Once you've worked your way up with dumbbells, you can start to work with a barbell. A barbell is incredibly stable, which makes it a useful tool for lifting.
But realistically, the best type of strength training to build muscle is the type you'll actually do on a regular basis.
Practicing Safe Strength Training
Before we talk about how to get built, let's talk about how to do it safely.
First things first: breathe.
It seems pretty basic, doesn't it? But many people unconsciously hold their breath when doing something physically difficult. To make it easy, inhale when it's easy and exhale when it's hard (so if you're doing bicep curls, exhale when you lift the bar upward).
Second, you should do strength training two to three days a week, but not consecutively. Muscles need 48 hours to heal, repair, and grow before working again (yes, you're literally regrowing your muscles).
However, if you don't do a full body workout, you can get away with strength training most days. Thus arm day, leg day, core, etc.
Finally, do 10-12 reps per round. If you don't know whether the weight is too heavy or too light, try doing a round of 10 with it. You should be struggling a bit on the last couple of reps but able to complete the set.
How to Get Built
Now that we've taken care of some housekeeping, let's talk about the fun part: how to get built.
Train in Under an Hour
Yup. You should keep your training sessions below the 60-minute mark.
This isn't to say sessions will be easy. In fact, the key is to shoot for intensity rather than time and keep your rest periods under a minute.
Learn How to Eat and Understand Caloric Surplus
If you think you can get away with skipping meals and still gain muscle, think again.
Remember how we said that muscles are the caloric powerhouse of the body? They burn a lot of calories, especially when they're going through cell repair.
If you want your body to bulk, you need to feed it properly.
This means creating a mass-gaining diet that contains a caloric surplus. Dietary supplements can be a great help here, but you should always strive to eat real, healthy food (think meat and fresh produce).
Train with Heavy Weights
We said earlier that you want to go for intensity rather than duration. That also applies to your weights.
If you want to build muscle, especially muscle mass, you're generally working with something called progressive overload. This means you'll continually increase the demands placed on your musculoskeletal system.
Basically, to make your muscles bigger and stronger, you have to keep asking them to do things they're not used to doing. This often means increasing resistance, but it also applies to the actual weight.
However, you should still be able to complete your set with good form. If you're trying to lift a weight and you can't actually complete the set and maintain good form, you increase the risk of injury.
You might think that marathon training is the best way to see gains, but remember that it takes muscles around 48 hours to fully repair. That means that if you really want to see gains, it's a long game.
If you want your muscles to get stronger, then you need to give them time to recover. Rest days are golden.
Supplementing Your Workout Game
So, you know how to get built. What are you waiting for?