When you build muscle, you will get a vast number of benefits including a much improved appearance.
Building muscle is rewarding because of so many different reasons and not just appearance (as you will find out).
In order to gain muscle, you must undertake weight lifting.
But weight lifting must be done properly and using the right techniques in order to build muscle mass.
All of the major muscle groups must be worked effectively and efficiently to obtain muscle growth throughout your body.
Muscle building diets also play an important role as well as muscle building supplements (but not as you might believe at this time).
Bodybuilding allows you to target muscles for an increase in muscle size.
Strength training is important for building muscle because strength levels and muscle size are so closely related.
In other words, you must increase strength to gain muscle and increase muscle size to gain strength.
Building MuscleBuilding muscle takes both knowledge on how to do it and dedication to execute the right plan.
Weight lifting is going to be the key to building muscle but there are many other things that will play a HUGE part with muscle growth.
You can't just go into the gym without a plan and do random exercises with random weights all the time. This lack of planning will lead to failure, and it's not very much trying to build muscle without a good plan.
A good plan will take you where you want to go.
Here's a list of just a few of the factors to build muscle consistently:
- Lifting heavier weights over time
- Choosing the best muscle building exercises
- Increasing strength levels
- Eating the best muscle building foods
- Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated
- Getting plenty of quality sleep
- Keeping stress levels as low as possible
- Improving rest and recovery from workouts
- Increasing testosterone levels naturally
- Creating the optimal muscle building environment
- Giving your overall best effort in the gym
- Preventing overtraining and cumulative fatigue
Did you know that all of those green vegetables your Mom wanted you to eat are an excellent way to improve muscle growth? Yes, it's true.
There are so many things like this that I want to share with you so you can build muscle faster and more efficiently.
Chest Muscle BuildingBuilding the chest muscle is one of the most popular topics here at Weight Lifting Complete.
Men and women both want to improve the size of their chest muscles and this can easily be done with the right weight lifting exercises and the right weight lifting plan.
100% without a doubt, the best overall chest exercise in existence is the push up, but not how you typically see it being done with half range of motion by men stating they can do “50 push ups.”
What I see most people doing aren't full range of motion push ups.
The Best Muscle Building Exercises for Your Chest are the Big Compound Exercises with Heavy Weight
A secret of mine is doing elevated push ups by placing a weight bench a body length distance from a barbell that has been placed at the height of the bench in a power rack.
I can then do full range of motion push ups elevated and my hands are now comfortably placed on the barbell and not flat on some floor straining my wrists.
The good news about this method of doing push ups is I can now hang extra weight safely around my mid-section. Now I have a way to increase the amount of weight I am lifting with push ups.
The key to chest muscle building (as with all muscle groups) is to increase the amount of weight lifted.
To Build Chest Muscles, Simply Increase the Weight Lifted or Resistance Used Over Time
For example, I would start week number one and workout number one by doing 5 body weight push ups. I would slowly increase the number of repetitions completed, and I would start adding extra weight to my body weight.
By the end of week 10 workout 3, I might be doing 15 push ups with an extra 100 pounds added around my mid-section.
This progressive weight lifting plan leads to muscle growth not only in my chest but also all over my body. Push ups also work many other major muscle groups like the abdominals.
Other great chest muscle building exercises that can use the same type of plan are all variations of the bench press and dips.
Weight Lifting Complete's most recommended chest muscle exercises are push ups, dips, and bench press in that order.
Build Muscle FastIf you want to know how to build muscle fast, you must understand the most important muscle building factor.
The #1 most important factor for building muscle is increasing the amount of weight lifted.
And this doesn't just mean increasing it during a single workout routine.
What this means is to first choose all of the top muscle building exercises for the 11 major muscle groups.
Then, you put those best exercises into a weight lifting program that assists you in increasing the weight over a period of time.
This period of time could be 6 weeks of workouts, 15 weeks or workouts, or literally any number of weeks if the plan is a good one.
An Example to Build Arm Muscles Fast
To illustrate how to build muscle fast, let's say you want to build bigger arms and focus on your arms because they are a weakness compared to the rest of your body.
First, your weight lifting program would already focus on the 7 core weight lifting exercises:
- Push Ups
- Overhead Press
- Chin Ups
To shift the focus to building bigger arms, you would add a couple of arm exercises. The triceps make up about 2/3 of your upper arms, and the biceps make up the other 1/3.
So, you would add a few exercises like the below to specifically work your arms and use different variations of the 7 core weight lifting exercises (where applicable) to build muscle fast.
Here Are 2 Good Workouts for Your Arms
Your workouts to build muscle fast in your arms might look like this:
1. Low Bar Squat 3 sets x 6 to 12 reps
2. Weighted Push Up 3 sets x 6 to 12 reps
3. Single Arm Dumbbell Rows 3 sets x 6 to 12 reps
4. Alternate Dumbbell Curls 3 sets x 6 to 12 reps
1. Trap Bar Deadlift 3 sets x 6 to 12 reps
2. Single Arm Overhead Press 3 sets x 6 to 12 reps
3. Close Grip Chin Ups 3 sets x 6 to 12 reps
4. Parallel Bar Dips 3 sets x 6 to 12 reps
Those workouts include compound weight lifting exercises that overload the arm muscle groups. For instance, push ups work the triceps very well and even better than any triceps isolation exercises.
Every Muscle Building Workout Program Must Have a Plan of Progression
Now, you would start the weight lifting program with very light weights that are very easy for you. From there, you would increase the weight lifted once you reach 12 reps on any of the 3 sets (it should be the first set if lifting weights correctly).
From workout to workout, increasing the weight will lead to fast muscle building results IF you have everything else in your program optimized such as diet, sleep, and recovery.
Another trick to building muscle fast is to increase the weight by larger amounts between workouts. There are trade offs, though, and you need to be experienced to know how much you can handle with the weight increases. Keeping a workout log at all times will help you in the future when choosing weights for your workouts.
The above is just an example to help you understand how to build muscle fast. I hope it helps explain things for you.
Muscle Building TipsYou will find a completely huge number of muscle building tips here at Weight Lifting Complete.
Tips are sprinkled throughout each page you find here. Building muscle is not easy to do or understand for many people.
I hope the muscle building tips you find here will make things much easier for you.
Here are some of my personal tips for building muscle:
- Full body workout routines allow you to work each major muscle group 3 to 4 times more often than split routines leading to more muscle building opportunities.
- Full recovery from weight lifting workouts does not occur within a week.
- The muscle building process is mostly complete within 48 hours post workout.
- The burning feeling in a muscle group during an exercise can signal the muscle building process.
- Choose whole foods from healthy sources as they are much better for building muscle than any supplement (including whey protein)
- All rep ranges from very low to very high will build muscle throughout your body
Just by reading a few of the muscle building tips above, you will notice how they don't agree with so many myths that are out there in the bodybuilding and strength training communities.
Split Routines Aren't Required to Build Muscle and Are Most Likely Limiting Your Muscle Growth
For instance, most of the so-called “experts” will tell you to use a split routine and only work each muscle group once per week because you'll overtrain if you don't. This is an obvious lie and that person most likely is just passing on information they hard somewhere else and not going by experience.
Or, that person may not understand that all routines and all exercises don't need to go to complete failure or beyond failure with all types of supersets, drop sets, rest pause sets, and other beyond failure methods.
To feel the burn in a muscle group, you don't have to do drop sets and beyond failure sets. And you don't have to have it every workout on every set. Higher rep sets mixed in throughout a program give you the opportunity to reach the burning feeling in a muscle group.
You don't have to go to failure to build muscle.
Muscle Building GuideThe WLC System guides you throughout the muscle building process.
For instance, you might be doing everything right except eating enough quality calories to build muscle.
Maybe you're not getting enough protein in your diet.
Or, maybe you fell for the low fat craze many years ago and still think you shouldn't eat foods high in fat.
Healthy foods high in healthy fats can increase testosterone levels and can create the optimal muscle building environment within your body. You need healthy fats to build muscle. One way to do this is to eat more nuts and seeds (without any added ingredients like salt and oils).
Measuring Results & Making the Correct Adjustments is Just One of the Secrets to Building Muscle
Using the WLC System as your muscle building guide, you will measure your results on a weekly basis. You learn how to measure your results correctly. You use the right tools to take body measurements, body weight, and body fat skinfold measurements.
Using your results each week as a guide, you adjust your program so you continue getting results.
If you only gained 0.25 pounds of lean muscle for the week, you might want to increase the number of calories by 300 or 500 to see what happens over the next couple of weeks. You will learn how to make adjustments to increase the results you are achieving.
The WLC System shows you how to optimize everything so you are always moving forward and getting top-notch results. There's no other muscle building guide that I know of that shows you how to do this.
How to Build Lean MuscleThere are some muscle building guides out there that will tell you to eat a HUGE number of calories to build muscle.
First, you might not even be lifting weights properly.
You might not be doing the best exercises to build muscle where you want or need to build muscle.
Muscle imbalances and weaknesses may be increased because you're not doing the right things.
But, you will build muscle by eating a huge number of calories and lifting weights. The extra nutrients will make up for many different mistakes you are making.
The issue, though, is you are also going to add a large amount of body fat when you gain weight.
Never Resort to Drugs of Any Type to Assist You in Building Muscle
Many pro bodybuilders will do this because they are able to use illegal drugs to help cut all the body fat and keep all the muscle mass. Natural bodybuilders don't have this option and should never use illegal drugs or even legal drugs that aren't good for their bodies.
You should be looking for how to build lean muscle and not just gaining weight and building large amounts of muscle mass. Your goal is to add slabs of lean muscle mass to your body and limit the amount of body fat gain.
Many people, when using the WLC System, are able to increase muscle size and burn fat at the same time. Building lean muscle and burning nasty fat is the absolute best result you can achieve because your body composition changes quickly.
How Can I Build Muscle?This is one of the questions I get most when it comes to muscle growth. People simply want to know how they can build muscle fast.
This is the answer from a muscle building expert:
The first thing you must do is lift weights progressively as I explained in an example earlier. Start with light weights using the best exercises and increase the amount of weight your are lifting with those exercises over time.
The next thing you must do is eat the right foods at the right frequency. Your diet must be next to perfect with zero junk foods. This leads to lean muscle growth without body fat gain.
Eat quality protein sources like grass fed beef, pasture raised chicken, and wild-caught fish. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits of all varieties so you get all the different benefits. Eat plenty of whole grains and plenty of nuts and seeds.
Eat 6 to 8 meals per day and spread out the calories. Eat directly before you go to bed and include whole food sources of protein in all meals. Eat every 3 hours or less except when you're sleeping. Never wake yourself up to eat more food (yes, people I know have done this to build more muscle but sleep is more important).
Stay active throughout the day to keep blood flowing throughout your body and carrying nutrients where they need to be. Do a minimum of 2 cardio workouts per week during muscle building cycles for fat burning and health reasons.
Drinking Water All Day Long is Just One Thing You Need to Do to Gain Muscle Mass
Drink water all day long and stay hydrated throughout the day. Add lemon and lime to your water for an extra boost in benefits for your body.
Get plenty of quality sleep each night (8 hours is perfect) and keep stress levels low. Do plenty of things you enjoy that are healthy for you. Stop drinking alcohol completely and stop eating junk foods. You don't need any of that trash.
Don't take typical “muscle building” supplements that aren't good for you as they can actually work against your muscle building efforts. For example, a piece of wild-caught salmon is much better than a protein shake. I've been there and done that and believe so many protein shakes over the years led to health issues for me.
Whole foods, herbs, spices, and water to drink is everything you need to build muscle.
This was a quick overview for the question: “How can I build muscle?” I hope this has helped to answer that question for you.
Muscle Building ProgramsAny muscle building programs should follow the same basic guidelines that I have laid out for you so far.
Weight lifting should be done progressively but should also use all of the right exercises. Many people want to start out with weight machines, but this is the wrong direction to take.
The absolute best muscle building exercises will use barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, pull up bars, weight plates, sand bags, hammers, clubbells, and anything that allows you to free move weight through space.
In other words, free weights are the way to go for all muscle building programs.
If you aren't using free weights, you are missing out on muscle growth.
BIG Time Muscle and Strength for Men and Curvaceous Curve Building for Women are 2 muscle building programs available here at Weight Lifting Complete. Both of these programs are based on the WLC System and both adapt to your body by allowing you to make adjustments based on your results.
Muscle Building ExercisesAll weight lifting exercises are muscle building exercises but some are better than others.
To illustrate this statement, you can build muscle using any exercise as long as you increase the resistance by large amounts over time.
This tells your body that you need more strength and then more muscle to support this increased resistance.
Any Exercise Can Build Muscle as Long as the Weight is Increased
You can take an exercise like concentration curls, which isolates the biceps muscle about as much as you possibly can. Other muscle are worked in concentration curls. I don't know of any exercise that isolates a single muscle group completely. This just isn't how the muscles of the human body work.
So you can work hard on concentration curls and go from doing 15 pound dumbbells for 5 reps to using 40 pounds dumbbells for 15 reps each arm. Your biceps muscle will most likely increase in size due to this increase in weight lifted.
Or, you can do close grip chin ups focusing more on the biceps muscle and using your arms to help lift you versus focusing on your back muscle. Close grip chin ups are a compound exercise that works a much larger amount of muscles than concentration curls.
Your biceps are going to get a much higher load on them using chin ups versus concentration curls, but other muscles are going to be assisting greatly during a chin up.
By working hard on close grip chin ups, you go from doing 5 body weight reps to adding 45 extra pounds around your waist and doing 10 reps. This compound exercise is going to increase muscle size not only in your biceps but also in your back, shoulders, chest, and even your abdominals.
Which choice would you rather make? Get muscle gains throughout your body with close grip chin ups or just in your biceps with concentration curls?
Save the Isolation Exercises Until You're More Advanced
Some advanced bodybuilders in the sport of bodybuilding will choose isolation exercises because they may already have a huge chest and they need to bring up their biceps in comparison to their chest (as an example).
The best overall muscle building exercises are big, compound weight lifting exercises like the squat, deadlift, push up, row, overhead press, pull up, and dip. These exercises work all of the 11 major muscle groups very well.
Just these 7 muscle building exercises and all of their hundreds of variations will allow you to gain muscle mass throughout your entire body.
This is why these 7 exercises are called the core 7 weight lifting exercises as they form the “core” of every weight lifting program you'll find here.
These 7 exercises have been chosen as the best muscle building exercises in existence. There are none better than these 7.
Gain MuscleIn order to gain muscle, progressive weight lifting is required as well as many other factors.
Gaining muscle, as you have learned to this point, takes a progression in the amount of weight you are lifting and/or the number of reps completed.
For example, you may lift the same weight of 225 pounds for squats and go from doing a single rep to doing 30 reps with the same weight. You will build muscle from this increase in reps completed.
Or, you might go from lifting 225 pounds for squats for 5 reps to lifting 500 pounds for 5 reps. You will build muscle from this increase in weight lifted.
Consistency is a Key to Gaining Muscle
You were able to achieve this gain in muscle mass because you were able to stay consistent with your workouts, you ate plenty of muscle building foods, and you rested and recovered from your workouts.
A few important factors that people often forget about when it comes to building muscle is preventing injury and preventing overtraining.
If you injure yourself or have intense muscle pain, you aren't going to be able to stay consistent with your weight lifting workouts.
You'll be forced to take breaks.
When this happens, you won't be increasing the reps or increasing the weight lifted. All of your progress and results will completely stall and may even be reversed based on other choices you make (such as the foods you choose to eat).
Pre Workout Warm Ups and Specific Exercise Warm Ups Prevent Injury
To prevent injury, you must learn how to warm up for your workouts properly.
This includes a pre-workout warm up to get blood flowing throughout your body and to wake your body up. This might consist of 5 minutes on the treadmill, 20 jumping jacks, 5 body weight push ups, and 10 bodyweight squats. This gets your body ready to weight train.
Then you need to do specific exercise warm-ups.
For instance, if you have deadlifts with 315 pounds planned for your working sets, you will want to start out with lighter weight in your deadlift warm up and higher reps and then increase the weight and decrease the reps.
This gets you acclimated to the heavy weight and warms up all your joints and muscles throughout your body.
Don't Wear Yourself Down During Warm-Ups
The point of all warm ups is to warm up your body and not fatigue or wear your body down. You want to save energy to work even harder during the working sets.
Sometimes I see people putting 135 pounds on the squat bar to warm up for 185 pound squats. Their target reps with 185 pounds might be 5 reps. But they “warm up” with 135 pounds only and do 20 reps. This is not a good method for warming up because this fatigues your body too much for the 185 pound squats. This affects how much muscle gain you achieve from each workout greatly.
If you warmed up properly, you might be lifting 235 pounds for 5 reps instead of 185 pounds for 5 reps. This is an absolute huge difference and makes a huge difference in the results you achieve.
Warming up properly greatly decreases the chance for injury, which allows you to stay more consistent with your strength training plan. Consistency is what leads to amazing results.
Prevent OvertrainingDoing too much in the gym and not resting properly will lead to cumulative fatigue.
A build up of fatigue over time will eventually lead to overtraining, and you will not make optimal progress when you begin overtraining.
When I first started weight training, I absolutely loved it and loved it too much.
I started out with just a few exercises from a weight lifting book I purchased at a book store.
The book showed me how to do all of these awesome weight lifting exercises with dumbbells. I loved all of them so I started doing more and more of them.
After not wanting to “miss out” on any gains from different exercises, I started doing most of them that were listed in the book. My workouts went from 30 minutes to 3 hours because I wanted to do more and more.
Working Out for Long Periods of Time Doesn't Help With Building Muscle
This is not a good thing, and that led to overtraining for me and no results even as a beginner. I also didn't know how to eat to build muscle so I overtrained even faster.
The food you eat does affect overtraining. Sleeping does affect overtraining. Stress levels affect overtraining.
Almost everything you do in your exercise program affects overtraining. This means you can take steps forward or take steps backward. The longer you can stay away from overtraining, the more you are able to gain muscle.
Muscle MassMuscle mass is one of the most important parts of your body.
Definition of muscle mass: “The physical size of the muscle.”
Muscle tissue and muscle fibers are “active” tissue in your body meaning they are constantly working for you.
An increase in muscle mass leads to an increase in muscle size which leads to an increase in your basal metabolic rate.
In other words, your metabolism increases when you gain muscle mass and decreases when you lose muscle mass.
This increase in metabolism occurs because you will have a greater amount of active tissue working in your body all day long.
Some people (including me when I was a beginner) never think of the way lean muscle tissues affects fat loss. When I was on my fast weight loss kick, I lost tons of muscle mass and I didn't care. I just wanted to lose weight.
That was a very bad move because losing muscle mass makes it even more difficult to lose body fat.
A larger amount of muscle mass assists you in burning body fat. In other words, the more muscle mass that you have the easier it will be to lose body fat. By building muscle, you can create a fat-burning machine!
Muscle TissueHere's the definition of muscle tissue: “A soft tissue that composes muscles in the human body and gives the muscle its ability to contract.”
Myocytes are muscle cells and they are elongated cells.
These myocytes range in size from a few millimeters in length to approximately 10 centimeters in length.
In width, they range from 10 micrometers to 100 micrometers, approximately.
The structure of muscle tissue is made up by these muscle cells. These myocytes join together to in muscle tissue that can be striated, semi-striated, or non-striated. Non-striated muscle is also called smooth muscle.
Striated or non-striated muscle tissue depends on the presence of myofilaments, which are regularly repeated arrangements of myofibrillar contractile proteins.
There are 3 types of muscle tissue in the human body:
- Skeletal Muscle or Striated Muscle
- Smooth Muscle or Non-Striated Muscle
- Cardic Muscle or Semi-Striated Muscle
The muscle mass that you are interested in for building muscle is the first category above called skeletal muscle.
Smooth muscle or non-striated muscle is not under your conscious control.
I want to take a moment to discuss these 3 types of muscle tissue in more detail so you better understand the muscle mass contained within your body.
Skeletal muscle is a striated muscle and is under your control. This muscle mass is anchored to the bones in your body through tendons.
The purpose of skeletal muscle is to allow movement and to maintain your posture.
Here are the average percentages of skeletal muscle in adult males and adult females:
- Average Adult Male % of Skeletal Muscle in Body = 42%
- Average Adult Female % of Skeletal Muscle in Body = 36%
When you take a closer look at skeletal muscle tissue, you'll find scientists have classified this tissue into 2 different types of muscle fibers.
These 2 different types of muscle fibers will be discussed more in a section below.
Smooth muscle mass is not consciously controlled by you and is located witin the muscle walls of blood vessels, veins, and arteries.
You will also find smooth muscle in your bladder, reproductive tracts, respiratory tracts, uterus, your eye, kidneys, and even your skin. This type of muscle tissue is found throughout your body in your organs and plays a very important role in your body.
I won't spend more time discussing smooth muscle as it is very important in your body, but you aren't here to build smooth muscle.
Cardiac muscle is a semi-striated muscle that makes up the muscle tissue of your heart's walls.
The cardiac muscle is called the heart muscle or myocardium and forms the thick middle layer between the inner and outer heart walls.
The heart muscle contractions are very similar to those of skeletal muscle.
Cardiovascular exercise is very important to exercise this muscle and the entire cardiovascular system.
Sometimes muscle building “experts” recommend that people with the goal of building muscle to stop doing all forms of cardiovacular exercise.
This is not a good recommendation and is very dangerous. I know because I took that advice a long time ago and became very unhealthy.
Muscle FibersClassification of muscle tissue has been divided into 2 different classes: Type I and Type II muscle fibers.
Type I muscle tissue is slow twitch muscle. This is also called red muscle tissue or slow oxidative.
This muscle tissue has a high density of capillaries and is abundant in mitochindria and myoglobin. Due to this, the muscle has a red color.
Slow Twitch Muscle Tissue vs Fast Twitch Muscle Tissue
Slow twitch muscle fiber can carry oxygen and assists in cardiovascular exercise due to this ability to carry more oxygen that other muscle fiber types.
Type II muscle tissue is fast twitch muscle and is further categorized into 3 groups as shown below:
- Type IIa
- Type IIx
- Type IIb
Type IIa muscle is aerobic in nature just like slow twitch muscle fiber. It is also dense in capillaries and mitochindria and even appears red.
Type IIx (or sometimes referred to as IId) is much less abundant in myoglobin and mitochindria and is the absolute fastest muscle type within the human body. This type of muscle is very quick at muscle contraction and provides more overall force than any aerobic muscle types.
Type IIx muscle can only provide short anaerobic bursts of movement before the contraction is painful.
Type IIb muscle is anaerobic muscle or white muscle tissue. The white color is due to the low density of mitochondria and myoglobin.
Should You Try to Target Fast Twitch Fibers With Rep Ranges?
For weight lifting purposes, many “experts” attempt to target the largest muscle tissue types to get the most out of each workout. This would be the fast twitch muscle fibers and this is why so many muscle building “experts” recommend 15 or fewer reps for your workouts.
But what about the slow twitch muscle fiber? Many people forget about these, but they also have the potential for an increase in muscle size. Have you ever done more than 15 reps consistently in a weight lifting program? If not, you probably aren't targeting slow twitch muscle fiber and losing out on potential muscle gains.
Muscle mass is an exciting topic because there is so much more to study and to learn. New discoveries are made often when it comes to muscle tissue and muscle fibers.
Muscle GroupsThere are 11 major muscle groups in your body, but over 600 skeletal muscles in your body.
You aren't going to attempt to build muscle in all 600 skeletal muscles because some of those are muscles in your eyelids and tongue (as an example).
Most of the over 600 skeletal muscle groups will not be discussed here at Weight Lifting Complete, but all of the most important skeletal muscle groups will be discussed in detail.
Major Muscle Groups
You'll want to focus on the major muscle groups as defined below:
- Arm Muscles
- Calf Muscles
- Abdominal Muscles
- Back Muscles
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Chest Muscles
- Leg Muscles
- Shoulder Muscles
The above can be broken out into a larger set of muscle groups or can be broken down to the smallest set of muscles. I prefer to use 11 major muscle groups as shown below:
The above list of muscles is a simplified and easy to use list that you'll find throughout Weight Lifting Complete. These are the muscle groups that are worked within every weight lifting program you'll find here.
Muscles of the Human Body
You've already seen the major muscle groups within the human body, but I want to go a little deeper for you as the additional break down of muscles will be helpful to you in your goal to build muscle mass.
QuadricepsThe quadriceps are made up of 4 muscles. There are several more muscles in your anterior or front legs, but these are the 4 major muscles that make up the front of your legs.
- Vastus Lateralis
- Vastus Medialis
- Vastus Intermedius
- Rectus Femoris
Exercises like all types of squats will work all of these muscle groups.
HamtringsThe glutes or butt muscles are not truly a part of the hamstrings but they are very close. You may have noticed I don't have the glutes listed in the 11 major muscle groups.
I do this because they are worked with the leg muscles through many of the same exercises like squats and deadlifts.
I will include them here as part of the hamstrings:
- Gluteus Maximus
- Biceps Femoris
The hamstrings are a muscle group that gets ingored often. This is probably due to the fact you don't see them from the front.
Exercises like the squat, deadlift, lunge, and pull thru work the hamstrings very well.
CalvesThe calves are one of my favorite body parts because I have spent so much time and hard work on building mine.
You could say my calves were very small before I prioritized them and added slabs of lean muscle.
- Tibialis Anterior
I usually break the calves down into the 3 muscle groups you see above, but there are many more muscles in the calves than just those 3.
To hit all the muscles in the calves, the best exercises are all types of standing calf raises, donkey calf raises, seated calf raises, and reverse calf raises. Other compound exercises like squats do work the calf muscles as well.
ChestThe chest is a favorite muscle group for both men and women for many different reasons.
Pecs are another short word for this muscle group due to the 2 muscles listed below.
- Pectoralis Major
- Pectoralis Minor
Push ups, bench press, and dips are the best chest exercises to trigger muscle growth in this area.
BackThe back muscle is huge and covers a good amount of real estate on your body. You need to build a strong back muscle from the lower back to the upper back.
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Erector Spinae
There are a large number of exercises that work the entire back muscle region.
Deadlifts, rows, chin ups, and all of their exercise variations will cover all of the back muscles very well.
ShouldersShoulders are a very important part of bodybuilding because increased shoulder width makes your waist appear smaller.
There are 3 shoulder muscles or deltoids as shown below.
- Anterior Deltoids
- Medial Deltoids
- Posterior Deltoids
If you are able to build muscle in all 3 heads of the shoulder muscles, you will build a 3D look in your physique.
Exercises like the overhead press, handstand push ups, side laterals, face pulls, rows, and reverse lateral raises work all 3 deltoid muscles.
TricepsMost people don't realize the triceps (3 for tri) are much larger than the biceps and focus more on building bigger biceps than triceps. Bigger arms, though, would come more from triceps size.
- Triceps Brachii Lateral
- Triceps Brachii Medial
- Triceps Brachii Long
I love the appearance of the triceps as it is a very cool muscle group. Exercises like dips work the overall triceps muscle very well, but extensions, push downs, and kick backs are other good triceps exercises.
Pressing movements such as bench press and overhead press also overload the triceps very well. Close grip bench press is a popular exercise for the triceps.
BicepsIf you have lower body fat levels, you'll be able to see the 2 biceps (2 for bi) heads in your upper arm or feel the split down the middle of your biceps.
- Biceps Brachii Long
- Biceps Brachii Short
The biceps are another one of the most popular muscle groups. Sometimes people like to call them “guns” as in “Welcome to the Gun Show” when they wear a sleeveless shirts.
The top muscle building exercises for the biceps are close grip chin ups and all types of curls. Rows of all types also work the biceps very well.
ForearmsThe forearms are another one of my favorite muscle groups because you always see them unless you wear long sleeve shirts (which I usually don't).
All muscle groups within the body are amazing and unique, but the forearms are awesome.
There are several more muscle groups within the forearms. Weight lifting exercises like pinwheel curls, hammer curls, wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and simply holding heavy weights will work your forearms very well.
Strong forearms lead to a strong grip.
TrapeziusThe trapezius muscle group is really an upper back muscle group but the “traps” receive their own category here because this is a huge muscle group.
This major muscle group starts all the way up at your neck and goes down your middle back.
The best muscle building exercises for the trapezius are deadlifts, rows, chin ups, and shrugs of all types. Upright rows also work the traps as well as side dumbbell raises.
AbdominalsThe abdominals or abs might just be the most popular muscle group within your entire body.
People love sexy abs.
- Upper Abs Rectus Abdominis
- Lower Abs Rectus Abdominis
You won't find as many specific ab exercises within the weight lifting programs you find here because the abs are worked very well through all of the compound weight lifting exercises.
I do recommend adding ab exercises if they are a weakness or you want to make them an even greater strength. The best ab exercises are reverse crunches, exercise ball crunches, and hanging knee raises. All types of crucnhes such as the cable crunch also work the abs well.
Weight Lifting Exercises Don't Isolate Muscles of the Human Body
There is not one exercise in existence that will target a single muscle group within your body.
Your body doesn't work that way. Instead, you will find that many different muscle groups will work together to lift a weight.
Isolation exercises will attempt to target a muscle group to a higher percentage but never truly isolates that muscle group.
For example, there are many proponents of split routines to build muscle that will have you split muscle groups into different workouts. You'll work your shoulders on one day and then your chest on another day. Or, your back will get its own day too.
The problem with this is that most of the best chest exercises are going to be majorly using your shoulders. You aren't really “splitting” anything. Back exercises will use your chest and shoulders greatly. So do you really need a full 7 days of rest between workouts with split routines? Because truly, you aren't getting that anyway.
Muscle GrowthMuscle growth is an amazing thing. It's not something you're going to “see” as it happens.
But you will see it over the weeks and months of weight lifting and eating healthy foods all the time.
There are a large number of methods to induce muscle growth, and I want to talk about them here.
Muscle growth can occur in 2 ways: hyperplasia (number of muscle fibers increase) or hypertrophy (size of muscle fibers increase). Let's see what this means.
Hyperplasia Muscle Growth
Muscles (skeletal muscles), as you have learned, are made up of lots of muscle fibers.
Hyperplasia is when the number of muscle fibers increase.
In humans, research has showed signs of muscle fiber splitting but no inidications of an increase in the number of muscle fibers. In animals, though, there is proof of muscle fibers splitting and then increasing in number.
This has been accomplished with loaded stretching or weighted stretching in chicken wings.
Hyperplasia may not actually happen in humans, but I'm one that believes it can happen. This is why I use weighted stretching with the WLC System.
Stretching is very good for you anyway and offers many other benefits, so why not go for it and attempt to induce hyperplasia during your workouts. I use an exact strategy for this such as doing the weighted stretches after the last set of an exercise when there is blood in the target muscle group.
Hypertrophy Muscle Growth
An increase in size of individual muscle fibers is hypertrophy. This is the most common way of building muscle and gaining muscle mass.
This muscle fiber growth can be an increase in diameter (cross sectional area) or the fibers can increase in length.
Some of the best muscle building exercises are those that give you a great stretch in the target muscle group. Think stiff-legged deadlifts for the hamstrings. Another example is the full squat for the quadriceps. In the bottom position, you get a good stretch in the quads.
This is why I highly recommend full reps with a full range of motion. You always want to get a great stretch in the target muscle group and ensure you are moving throughout the range of motion.
For instance, I see so many people cutting the range of motion short on chin ups. Instead, go all the way down and all the way up. This gives you the most muscle building benefits for each exercise.
The negative, eccentric, or lowering portion of each exercise is also highly important for building muscle. Most people would guess that the lifting portion (concentric) of a rep is the most important but the eccentric part of an exercise causes the most muscle damage.
Muscle damage is the trigger for muscle repair and increased muscle size (hopefully an increase in muscle size occurs after the repair takes place).
Muscle Building SupplementsMuscle building supplements are rampant throughout the bodybuilding and fitness industries.
When I first started on my quest to build muscle many years ago, I immediately fell for the marketing of a muscle building supplement.
It was a growth hormone supplement and one that promised me slabs of lean muscle mass and huge increases in muscle growth. If I remember correctly, it was in an Ironman book that I had purchased at a book store.
I definitely wanted what they were promising to me so I spent hundreds of dollars on that supplement. And I didn't have a lot of money back then. So it was a very bad decision for me.
We All “Want” Muscle Building Supplements to Work
That muscle building supplement didn't do anything for me, and I wanted it to very badly. I worked very hard too, and I never saw any gains because I wasn't doing the right things.
Supplements of any type will never help you if you don't already have everything else working properly. And once you do have everything in your muscle building program setup properly, you'll see that you don't need any supplements.
Usually, you only go looking for supplements when you aren't getting the results you want. You and I both believe that a supplement will give us the edge we need to start getting results. But we have to realize at some point, that it won't.
Yes, I still enjoy reading the awesome marketing claims on supplements. I still want to purchase supplements after reading everything that they will do for me. But I learned a long time ago that this is just marketing and sales tactics that are flat out lies and something I don't appreciate from these companies.
I show this unappreciation by never purchasing anything from those companies due to these “slick” tactics they use.
The Belief That Supplements Are Helping is Why The Industry is Worth BillionsThe muscle building supplement industry is HUGE and it shouldn't be because the supplements aren't doing anything.
Many of these muscle building supplements are filled with very unhealthy and dangerous substances that are hurting your body and creating health issues.
Many of them aren't helping you to build muscle but making it much more difficult. Your body will work to get rid of dangerous substances instead of building muscle.
So I am writing this to provide you with a warning for all muscle building supplements. You truly don't need them. At least wait until you have everything else working perfectly. Once you start to gain lean muscle, then you know how to build muscle and you'll see that a supplement isn't required.
Never depend on a supplement to do the work for you or to make up for something lacking in your muscle gain program.
What Are the Best Selling Supplements to Build Muscle?
Here's a list of some of the best selling muscle building supplements:
- Protein Supplements
- Branched Chain Amino Acids
- Beta Alanine
- Weight Gainers
- Testosterone Boosters
- Nitric Oxide Boosters
Notice, I said the above is a list of “best-selling” muscle building supplements. I didn't say any of them work or that you should use them.
I've used most of the above supplements for years, and you would think I would have became healthier. I did not. I became very unhealthy using these supplements.
Muscle Building Supplements Contain Harmful Ingredients
In my most humble opinion, I believe that most supplements contain many harmful ingredients to your body. The same goes with many foods that you find in grocery stores now. You simply do not need processed and engineered supplements in your body.
You can get everything you need from real foods, herbs, and spices that are extremely powerful compared to any legal supplement.
Spend that extra money on finding better sources of food.
If you need to spend a little extra on grass fed beef from a local farmer, do that instead of spending money on muscle building supplements.
There is absolutely no comparison between real food and supplements. I'll take nutrient dense food any day and any time.
Muscle Building DietsMuscle building diets will typically have you eating more calories than you are expending each day.
This is a very simplified version of building muscle, but the concept is to give your body extra energy in the form of calories to build muscle.
We usually measure our calorie expenditure by the day so if you typically expend 3000 calories per day, you might eat an extra 500 calories each day for a total of 3500 calories during a muscle building cycle.
The goal is to eat more overall calories than you are expending to provide your body with repair and construction energy to build muscle.
This is a very simplified way of putting it: “Eat more calories than you expend to build muscle.” Of course, this must be done in accordance with a weight lifting program to ensure you are gaining muscle mass and not body fat.
Also, a lean muscle building diet is the recommended method meaning you will attempt to only add lean muscle mass and not body fat.
To do this, you need to make sure all the foods you are eating are the absolute best foods available.
Add Calories From Real Foods Packed with Nutrients
This means you wouldn't add extra calories with a “Weight Gainer” supplement.
These supplements are absolutely horrible for your body and packed with all types of nasty stuff you don't need. You will gain fat using these weight gainers. Don't do it.
Instead, you eat only the best foods in your muscle building diet and get that surplus from nutrient dense food.
By doing so, you even give your body a chance to build muscle without a huge calorie deficit. Imagine adding lean muscle and burning body fat at the same time. This is not difficult to do because your body can do this all day long.
You might be building muscle while you sleep and burning fat for a couple of hours upon waking each morning.
This is just an example of what a good muscle building diet can do for you.
Here's What the Best Muscle Building Diets Have in Common
The best muscle building diets will look similar to this:
- Create a calorie surplus with only the best foods
- No junk foods or unhealthy foods are allowed
- Eat approximately every 3 hours (doesn't have to be perfect)
- Drink plenty of water and no unhealthy drinks
- Eat approximately 6 to 8 meals per day (4 or 5 is okay too)
- Eat plenty of natural protein sources
- You must include plenty of healthy fats (oils and butters)
- A good amount and large variety of organic vegetables are required
- A large variety of organic fruits
- Grass fed dairy and milks to add easy calories
- Healthy breads (homemade) and grains for sustainable energy
- Plenty of beans and legumes
Follow the simple muscle building diet guidelines above, and you will be building more muscle than 99% of people with the same goals that you have.
Your diet is similar to the control panels and gadgets on a vehicle. When you want to go forward, you hit the gas pedal and make sure the sterring wheel is straight. If you go too fast, you might get a ticket.
You need to count calories with your muscle building diet and measure your results each week. How much muscle did you gain, and how much fat did you lose or gain? If you're gaining too much, you'll have to ease back on the gas pedal or the amount of food you are eating.
If you aren't gaining enough, increase the number of calories you are eating. When you use this simple method that I teach within the WLC System, you are in complete control of your results.
Muscle PainMuscle pain can be normal when you start a good weight lifting program. You must make sure it's the good type of muscle soreness, though.
If you've been working out and you get really sore about 24 to 72 hours after your workout, there's a great chance that this is delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.
This is also known as muscle fever and is decribed as muscle pain, sore muscles, discomfort in the muscle, or stifness in the muscle.
Some people, like myself at one time, become “addicted” to this feeling and strive to get DOMS after each and every workout. Many people believe that DOMS leads to muscle growth. And many times, I believe that it does, but not even close to 100% of the time.
You Don't Have to Kill Yourself In the Gym
You must be careful with doing too much “work” in your workout.
For instance, if you're a beginner to weight training you'll want to start out very light and easy. Do most people start out light and easy? Nope. They head to the gym and have an ego contest with the person next to them.
This is another reason I like a home gym. You don't have to compete with anyone else.
When you start working out with really heavy weights and trying to do too much, you will most likely get muscle pain very badly the next week or so. Some people even end up skipping the next week of workouts and even quit.
Of course, this is not a good plan at all. Your goal was to start lifting weights consistently, and you've already quit because it hurts so much.
My wife did a squats workout many years ago and couldn't hardly walk up the parking garage steps for the next several days to get to her car. It took her a while to make it up those stairs. This is an example of what you don't want to do to your body.
Slight Soreness or Stiffness is a Good ThingA slight soreness is a good thing but an extreme soreness and muscle pain is not a good thing. This adds too much cumulative fatigue to your body and will lead to overtraining much sooner.
Overtraining doesn't occur with a single workout but severe DOMS can help get you there faster.
The better method to ensure you gain muscle consistently is to start every weight lifting program with light weights and low reps.
Then you can start increasing the weight and reps over time. You won't end up with severe DOMS at any time, and your strength training program will last a much longer period of time (think 15 weeks versus 5 weeks before overtraining).
Ensure You Don't Get Extreme Muscle Pain and Extremely Sore Muscles
I still like to strive for a slight DOMS a day or two after a weight lifting workout as I believe this is a good indicator of the stress applied to a muscle.
But I also understand that it depends on many factors such as the exercise variation I use from workout to workout and whether or not my body is accustomed to the rep ranges I am using (plus many other factors). So I don't let it bother me if I don't achieve DOMS for a given workout.
Also, an additional piece of information about sore muscles from workouts is that stretch type exercises are better at producing muscle soreness from a workout.
For instance, getting a good stretch in your lats at the bottom of a chin up (while under load) will give you a better chance of slight muscle soreness than cutting the reps short of a full stretch at the bottom of the chin up exercise.
Focusing more on the negative portion of reps will also contribute to muscle soreness but not muscle pain.
Conclusion to Build Muscle
I hope this page on build muscle has really opened your eyes to the possibilities for your body.
Building muscle is one of my passions so I truly enjoy writing about this topic.
I hope that joy comes through this writing and helps you to gain muscle mass much easier and faster than ever before.
You have my best wishes in your muscle growth efforts!