Tag Archives: muscle growth

How to Grow Muscle Naturally, Part 1

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MarcWkOutStation    To grow muscle bigger and without anabolic steroids and/or growth hormones, you must focus on lifting heavier.  The body will also require a balanced diet to provide muscles the nutrients required to repair and grow the muscle after intense exercise and during periods of rest.  If you plan to cheat your way toward fast muscle growth you’ll achieve short-term results and may harm your good health doing it.  But if you want long-term sustainable muscle growth without health risk, working for them honestly and smartly will help you achieve that goal.

Growing muscle and strength naturally will require working each muscle group by performing fewer repetitions per set with heavier resistive weights.  (Muscle & Strength 2013).  I know, many of you think you have to do as many reps as you can until failure to gain strength and muscle bulk.  The science backs the lower reps per set scenario to stimulate strength and anabolic muscle growth.  To do otherwise is to work for a different fitness goal.

The physiology behind growing larger muscle has to do with muscle fiber types within various muscle groups.  To stimulate the 3 muscle fiber types: slow, moderate fast and fast twitch fibers is dependent on much muscular effort and training technique required to contract each muscle type optimally.  Slow twitch fibers are considered aerobic [optimally stimulated during long endurance, low-intensity exercise activities], whereas fast twitch fibers are optimally stimulated through anaerobic “forceful short burst,” high-intensity exercise activity.  All 3 muscle fiber types are found throughout each muscle group and vary in degree of concentration throughout the body.  (A1Articles 2013)

These muscle types are set up to work like this.  The slow twitch fibers begin muscular contraction when needed for low intensity exercise.  As you need to move with more muscular effort, then the moderate fast twitch muscle fibers fire.  The last muscle fibers to follow are the fast twitch.  At this point the body’s muscles are working without oxygen and lactic acid is produced to slow down muscular intensity or stop the activity.

Slow twitch muscle fiber respond well to aerobic endurance training activities: for example, long distance running, swimming and jogging events.  Whereas the fast twitch muscle fibers are needed to excel in football, bodybuilding and weightlifting which are more anaerobic exercise activities.   Moderate fast or intermediate muscle fibers contract at a rate necessary to sustain mid-range endurance and strength efforts while supporting the other two fiber types to get work done.

It is also shown through controlled studies that with adequate rest and recovery fast twitch muscle fiber breaks down and regenerates itself towards greater growth potential when high intensity anaerobic weight training is practised with frequency.  Fast twitch muscle fiber can also grow larger when adequate rest follows a high intensity training day.  In other words, resist working the same muscle groups daily.  That’s why you see weight lifting routines that focus on core abdominal, low back, legs and calves one day and then chest, back, shoulders and arms the next.

Best repetition strategies per exercise activity.

I’ve extrapolated the following exercise programming from the following cited sources (Muscle & Strength 2013), (aworkoutroutine 2013) and my personal trainer programming preferences.

If you want to grow fast twitch muscle fiber size and performance for any muscle group…  perform between 3-4 sets at 6-8 reps as much weight as you can handle per exercise activity.  Then the following week add 5 lbs at each exercise weight station.  Do not go over 6-8 reps for any one resistive weight exercise.  The key is to find a starting weight you can push maximally 8 times for 3-4 sets the first week [This is your beginning 100% muscular effort].

If you fail to push 6 reps per any weight lifting activity, reduce weight.  If you hit 6-8 reps consistently throughout your 1st week… Then at the beginning of your second week, add 5 lbs to your set and maintain that new weight for the week.  Then the following week add 5 lbs for that exercise activity and repeat the process.

Assisted lifting is where a partner helps you to squeeze out your 6-8 reps using free weights.  Assisted lifting is a wise strategy to use as a safety measure to prevent injury, as well as a motivator when pushing the envelope.  However, be aware and understand when the assist is your partner’s effort vs. your own.  The point is, in knowing whose effort achieved the 6-8 reps/set is just as important as knowing proper nutrition, rest and recovery strategies.  If you can’t balance this wisdom, you’ll spend more time nursing your injuries then growing muscle.

Muscle Rest and Recovery Cycles,

How do you know when to stop adding the 5 lbs/week?  First of all, shoot for intensity training cycles that last 4-6 weeks.  Then provide the body a 1 week rest cycle within a training cycle.  For example, if you cannot maintain your 6-8 reps on the bench, leg or shoulder press while adding 5 lbs per week… Then recalculate your high bench press, leg, shoulder etc., weight at 90% effort and you’ll stay on target with 6-8 repetitions/set, regardless of what week or training cycle you hit the wall.

Let’s make the math simple,

If you can bench 100lbs for 8 reps/per set the first week, add 5 lbs the following week.  The second week you are now pushing 105 lbs for 6-8 reps/3-4 sets.  [You should be able to maintain this effort resting no more than 2 minutes in between each set until you finish the work for each muscle grouping [quads, abs, chest, shoulder, arms, back].

For week three, continue the 6-8 repetitions with an added 5 lbs to your bench press exercise.  Now you are at 110 lbs.  Let’s say you’re at week 5 and reach a sticking point.

In other words, when benching 120 lbs you reach an infrequent 5-6 reps per set… it is now time to take a break on the bench press for a week by working at 90% effort as opposed to 100%.  By using this technique it is possible to pass the sticking point (or wall) and not risk muscle fatigue and injury during a training cycle.  Complete your 4-6 week cycle and then start a second one with a new adjusted and ending bench press weight for example.

120lbs x .90 = 108 lbs [round up weight on the bench press]:  Instead of working the chest press at 120 lbs, you’ll work out at 110 lbs to finish your week. 

In this example, you begin your second training cycle on the bench press exercise at 110 lbs.  This is 10 lbs heavier per repetition then when you started your first training cycle.

This is the change up your muscles need to get you to the next level and prevent injury.  By using this change up technique your muscle will continue to grow and get stronger.  Make sure you listen to your body, watch your repetition counts and make adjustments when necessary.

Cycling your effort, rest and recovery,

Your body needs time to heal and repair after intense exercise activity.  After each muscle group has been pushed hard, do not work the same muscle group for 24-72 hours (Kawamoto 2013).   When torn muscle fibers heal during the recovery phase, they rebuild and get stronger.  Soar and achy muscles tells you, you’ve worked out harder than last conditioned and are ready to continue the course (Siegel 2012).  This does not mean you should strive to achieve a “no pain, no gain” mentality.  Keep this in mind, if you feel like you’re body is going to break, it will.    You can tell when the muscles are adequately rested… when most the aching, soreness and/or stiffness are gone from the last intense workout.  This rested time line toward recovery typically takes 1-2 days.

My personal preference to expedite and alleviate muscle pain after intense exercise is to walk it off through a 1-2 day period while I work other muscle groups.  For example, low-impact exercise: walking, swimming or cycling to circulate oxygen enriched blood to assist in the muscle healing and recovery process.

See Part 2, by Marc Woodard.  Mirror Athlete Fitness Secrets.  Changing Exercise and Nutrient Strategies to Grow More Muscle.   July 2013,

 Works Cited,

 A1Articles. “THE “SHIFT” ON MUSCLE FIBER TYPES: Maximum Strength, Muscle Growth and Performance.” A1 Supplements. A1Supplements.com, n.d. Web. 17 June 2013. <http://forum.a1supplements.com/content.php?618-THE-SHIFT-ON-MUSCLE-FIBER-TYPES-Maximum-Strength-Muscle-Growth-and-Performance>.

Kawamoto, Jon-Erik, M.Sc.Kin.(c), C.S.C.S., C.E.P. “6 Recovery Strategies for a Workout-aholic.” Men’s Fitness. Weider Publications, 2013. Web. 17 June 2013. <http://www.mensfitness.com/training/build-muscle/6-recovery-strategies-for-a-workout-aholic>.

Muscle & Strength LLC. “Rep Out: The Truth About Rep Ranges And Muscle Growth.” Muscle & Strength. Muscleandstrength.com, 2013. Web. 17 June 2013. <http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/truth-rep-ranges-muscle-growth>.

Siegel, Kathryn. “CAN YOU BE TOO SORE TO WORK OUT?” Greatist. Greatest.com, 8 Aug. 2012. Web. 17 June 2013. <http://greatist.com/fitness/can-you-be-too-sore-work-out>.

Woodard, Marc T. “Changing Exercise and Nutrient Strategies to Grow More Muscle, Part II” Mirror Athletes Fitness Secrets. MirrorAthlete.com, Publish Date, 25 July 2013. Web.  <https://www.mirrorathlete.org/>

Woodard, Marc T. “Exercise is the Anti-Aging Hormonal Fix.” Mirror Athletes Fitness Secrets. MirrorAthlete.com, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 June 2013. <http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2012/02/23/exercise-is-the-anti-aging-hormonal-fix/>.

A Workout Routine. “Weight Training Intensity – How Many Reps Per Set Of An Exercise?” A Workout Routine. Aworkoutroutine.com, n.d. Web. 17 June 2013. <http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/weight-training-intensity/>.

Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2013 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.