Muscle Building Factors
Have you ever wondered how much muscle you can build? Are you curious about what factors determine the amount of weight you will ultimately be able to lift? Ever ask yourself if your body has built in limits for packing on size, using natural approaches to body building? If you want to know the answers to these questions, you have come to the right place.
Body Building and Muscle
This brief article will explore the three primary factors that determine how much muscle you can build. Under each topical area, I have expanded a bit as a way of helping you to better understand how the science of body building works. Some of these points will strike you as common sense while others will make you pause and reflect.
Bear in mind as you read what follows that you have a lot of control over your body building and fitness destiny. Think of the items listed below as guideposts that are designed to provide insight. They shouldn’t be thought of as hard and fast rules.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
You probably already know this but it is worth mentioning here. Your genes have a lot to do with your ultimate strength and capacity to benefit from weight lifting. Genetics determine the number of muscle fibers and fiber types within each of your muscles. They also dictate, to a greater or lesser degree, how well your nervous system coordinates muscle function – as well as your body size and your bone length.
- The main factor of strength is muscle size. When you get right down to it, people with more muscle fibers per muscle increase their level of strength more than others.
- Timing and coordination are partially determined by your genes are strongly linked to strength capacity.
- Body size influences your strength and muscle building capacity. Larger people tend to be stronger than smaller people. Your bone length and frame size also part of the muscle building equation.
You might be thinking this one is common sense too but keep reading because you may be surprised at what you discover. First, you need to know that men and women gain strength at the same rate. Men, however, are generally considered stronger because of their larger muscle mass. FYI: When strength is expressed per unit of cross-sectional area of muscle tissue, men are only about 1-2 percent stronger than their female counterparts.
- Women are naturally stronger in their lower body where as men are naturally stronger (and bigger) in the upper body area.
- The male nervous system activates muscles faster, so men tend to have more power (aka the ability to exert force) than women.
- Testosterone levels in men are thought to be 6-10 times greater than in women. This fact naturally gives guys larger muscles.
- Diet is obviously going to need to be factored into any strength training regime.
3. Training Program
You guessed it – your training program has a lot to do with your ability to gain strength, power and ultimately, muscle. A well designed weight training program that is consistently and systematically practiced will increase muscle size more than any other factor. This is why it is so important that you pick the right plan if you are just starting out. Your ability to pick the right plan and stick to is the major factor in seeing gains – period.
- Progressive overloading with multiple reps is the optimum way to build muscle and mass.
- Your mental approach to weight lifting is a critical factor in what you will get out of your workouts. This means lifting weights mindfully and keeping your end goal at the forefront of your consciousness.
- Use your workouts as a way of channeling frustration, anger or other emotions. This healthy approach to releasing what you are feeling can serve as a conduit for packing on muscle.
- Don’t expect results overnight. It can take up to six weeks of consistent weight lifting to “see” results.
What about age?
You may be wondering if age has anything to do with the strength and muscle building dynamic. The answer is yes but not as much as you might think. While it is true that the natural aging process does atrophy muscles and negatively impact flexibility, it’s also true that you can push back against these realities through ongoing weight training.
In 2009, researchers at the University of Oklahoma published a scientific study where they compared people of different ages who followed the exact same training program for an 8-week period. They discovered that men who were between the ages of 35 and 50 were able to successfully build as much muscle as those who were between the ages of between 18 and 22.
Bottom line is this: don’t use age as an excuse to not hit the weights. Like they say down south – that old dog won’t hunt.
Much of your ability to add both muscle and size to your frame is within your direct control. More than anything else, the training program you pick, coupled with consistency, will be the overriding variable in what you see for results.
Oh – if you are curious about the role of diet and muscle building, I highly suggest you pick up a copy of Flawless by Bob Paris. This is a classic book in the field of strength training that offers a no-nonsense discussion regarding the important link between what you eat and how it can help or hurt muscle growth.
Reference: Kerksick, C., Wilborn, C., Campbell, B., Roberts, M., Rasmussen, C., Greenwood, M., & Kreider, R. (2009). Early-Phase Adaptations To A Split-Body, Linear Periodization Resistance Training Program In College-Aged And Middle-Aged Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 962-971.