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How to Build Your Muscles

July 9, 2022


We all know that our muscles need movement to be healthy, but we know surprisingly little about why or how exercise builds more muscle. In this article we are going to see how our muscles grow, why they do it and how to apply this knowledge in our exercise to maximize our results based on evidence.


If we use this type of information in our favor we can optimize our training taking into account not only information with evidence, but also our individual characteristics. If there is no ideal diet, because we all have different physiological and digestive characteristics and even different flora, why do we think that there is an ideal exercise routine that works for everyone? Our characteristics are different and we need a workout that considers this. An ectomorph person who was always underweight for its height does not need the same type of muscle training as a person who was always endomorphic with a tendency to be overweight.


How does the muscle work?


The contraction of our muscle depends on two very important proteins called actin and myosin. These proteins, that make up the majority of our muscle, are among the most abundant proteins in our body.


These proteins approach or move away from each other when we generate muscle contraction, normally the heads of the protein called myosin move on the actin, getting closer and generating what we see as contraction.


The more weight we lift, the greater the effort of these myosin heads moving on the actin to get closer and generate that contraction. This movement at the muscular level consumes high amounts of energy or ATP.


This process is the basis of any movement that we do in our life but it brings a very basic problem with respect to muscle growth. These two proteins are very simple and highly specialized to do their jobs. This means that they are very good at generating contraction and moving our body, but being so specialized they do not have a mechanism to tell the rest of the body that we need our muscles to grow.


How to activate muscle growth?


Recent research has shown that this muscle growth depends on a protein called titan. This protein gets its name from its enormous size, in fact from the largest protein that exists in our body, and it is also responsible for the passive elasticity of the muscle. This basically means how hard or tense your muscle is going to be when it's relaxed.


Something very striking about this protein with respect to the different animal bodies is that they lose their strength as the animal's body grows. This is in fact one of the explanations why smaller animals like ants are proportionally stronger than large ones like an elephant.


The most important thing about this evidence is that it indicates that there is an ideal weight to which we have to submit each muscle when we train it in order for that muscle to grow. All muscles can work with their maximum load, basically lifting the maximum weight possible, but they can do it for a very short time. 


It is this workload over time that generates the signal to stimulate the formation of more muscle, because it justifies the creation of more muscle for your body because we are subjected to a very high effort. But below a certain load, the effort our muscle makes is insufficient to generate that muscle growth signal unless you subject your muscle to more work time to compensate.


Think of it this way, if you workout with less weight, you need to lift the weight for a longer time to get the same muscle development. Basically keeping the muscle for more seconds under tension. This is known as super slow training and involves using less weight but doing the movement very slowly. This is a great idea especially if you are recovering from an injury or are a beginner over 60 years old.


When we train a muscle, the greater the weight we use, the more repetitions or the greater the frequency of weekly workout we perform, the greater the proportionate growth that we are going to have. 


Unfortunately, the reality is that today we do not have the exact value that each of our muscles needs to be in that ideal point between effort and muscle development, but we can understand how to optimize the development of our muscles if we understand how our muscles grow in the first place.


When the muscle is under tension long enough or lifting enough weight load, a part of the titan protein that was previously hidden is exposed. This part is the one that contains the key to muscle development and the one that tells our cells that we need to build more muscle.


Logically, the more tension we put on the muscle or the longer we put it under that tension, the more your cells will be signaled that the muscle has to develop and, therefore, the more it will grow.


But this protein called titan is not only stimulated when we contract the muscle, it is also stimulated when the muscle stretches. For this reason, if we can combine muscular work while stretching the muscle, we obtain an even greater stimulation of this titan protein and, therefore, also greater muscle growth.


It is now being studied and it appears that eccentric exercises are even more effective at stimulating muscle growth than concentric exercises. Concentric exercises are, for example, lifting a weight to contract the biceps and eccentric exercises are just the opposite, generating resistance while stretching the muscle by doing the opposite movement.


How to stimulate muscle growth?


The evidence regarding the recommended percentage of weight we should lift for building new muscle is 70% of the total weight that we can lift in one movement. Working below 70% of the maximum weight we can lift greatly reduces the effect of titan protein and this prevents our cells from signaling the need to build more muscle, while if we work above 70%, the muscle depletes more quickly giving suboptimal stimulation for muscle development and hypertrophy.


However, this is not ideal for other benefits. Strength training that typically works with 80 percent or more of the percentage of total weight you can lift, while not the most effective workout for building muscle, has other very important benefits for longevity. But if you are an athlete or professional or simply want the best relationship between effort and energy in exchange for muscle building, 70% is the answer.


With regards to muscle mass building development time, at least three weeks seems to be the time it takes for our body to show real and visible hypertrophy results.


It is also important that you know that there is a reasonable limit to the muscle development that we can reach naturally. This happens because the barrier or threshold that we have to cross to stimulate this titan protein and muscle development or growth is increasing as we train our body.


This is why if you don't progressively increase the weights you lift or the difficulty of the movements you do when you workout, you're not going to build more muscle, you will hit a growth plateau.


This threshold stays at that level for a long time, even after you stop training. This is bad news for those who exercised a lot in the past, because it means that, on the one hand, our body keep a memory of the exercise we did throughout our lives, but it also means that someone who has been lifting weights all their lives but stopped a few years ago is going to take longer to build muscle when they return to exercise than someone who has never exercised and starts doing it at the same age. This is why beginners find it easier to build muscle than non-beginners.


How to workout to gain muscle mass?


The objective of this article is to save you years of training with routines that are not optimal for your goals and to make the most of the studies available nowadays to save you time.


Here are some tips to maximize muscle development:


  • Make sure you have the amount of ATP or energy needed to workout. If you want maximum muscle development, train during your eating hours if you're doing intermittent fasting, don't do it during your fasting hours.

  • Use supplements. Supplements like creatine give your muscles the necessary resources to workout and also help muscle growth. Because both the contraction and movement of this myosine on actin and the signaling of muscle growth consume both ATP. As a result, the more ATP or more energy available, the more I can do these two processes.

  • Train lifting 70% of the maximum weight you can lift if hypertrophy is your goal. You can determine this by increasing the weight of an exercise until you reach the weight that allows you to do a single repetition done correctly. That is your 100%, with which you can calculate the 70% that will be the initial weight for that exercise.

  • It is more effective to train each muscle group more than once a week. Ideally every 48 hours, so you don't workout one muscle group per day. If you are going to train three times a week, I recommend working full body all three times to maximize muscle development and total volume worked. If you train more than three times a week, the ideal would be to divide into muscle groups to give each group the 48 hours of rest they need to recover and be trained again.

  • Incorporate some eccentric exercises for each muscle group. These allow you to work with more weight than concentric or normal exercises and thus stimulate the titan protein even more.

  • Make sure you have enough amino acids. We have a threshold called the lucin threshold that is needed to build muscle, so make sure you consume at least 2.5 grams of this amino acid to help you build muscle, otherwise you're impeding muscle building.


For more information, talk to one of our Fitness Experts and get customized advice by submitting a request in our Mavyn website, Mavyn app or Mavyn Fitness page.


Also, Nutrition Mavyn Experts will be available in the near future to help you with any nutritional questions you may have.