For anyone who is at the start of their health and fitness journey I can completely understand if you're a little puzzled as to what direction to turn when it comes to building muscle. Just google "how to build muscle" and you'll be bombarded with over 8 million search results! So here's a couple of key things that in hindsight I wish I had got to grips with sooner when I made my start.
1/ CALORIE SURPLUS - Without this you won't build muscle. It's as simple as that. What this means is you need to be eating more calories than you are burning for a sustained period of time. It works a little like this... Imagine a house (your body right now) and it's made of a certain amount of bricks (calories). If you want to build a bigger house, you're going to need more bricks right? Very simplistic analogy but you get the picture.
2/ MUSCULAR DAMAGE - This is something you're looking to create through training. Not in the same way that you would tear a muscle and end up with an injury, we're talking about tiny micro tears within the muscle tissue. Causing these microscopic tears is one of the goals of weight training when trying to build muscle. Again, lets use the above analogy... If you're going to build your bigger house, you're going to need to chip away a few bricks and cement (muscle damage) to be able to add on more bricks (new lean muscle tissue).
3/ PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD - This is crucial for making progress in whatever the aspect of fitness and building muscle is no exception. The term progressive overload simply means progressing your training over time. This might mean adding extra weight on certain movements or maybe more total reps and sets of specific exercises. The key is to log your training so you know your numbers to then push forward on as the weeks move on.
4/ PROTEIN - Being in a calorie surplus is important but if you don't have an adequate amount of protein in your diet then it's all for a lost cause. Aiming for 2/2.5g protein per kg of bodyweight puts you in a great position. If you don't want to get lost in the maths of it, another good gauge is to include a palm sized protein source in every meal (based on three meals a day) and then supplement with a standard whey protein shake once a day too.
5/ FEEL THE BURN - If it ain't hurting it ain't working. You need to understand that the dull ache you get towards the end of an exercise, that's important! I'm not saying you need to yourself into the ground killing yourself 7 days a week, especially in the early days, but you do need to get your game face on and get comfortable being uncomfortable. It isn't a social event and it will require effort.
6/ IT TAKES TIME - Building muscle is a long steady process. There is absolutely zero chance of you waking up and seeing superman's torso after a week of bench pressing. If only it were that simple! One week you might notice your a couple of pounds up on the scales, the next month you might notice your t-shirt sleeves getting a little snug and next year you might be looking back at holiday pictures and getting some clean cut perspective of the gains you have made over the year.
Building muscle isn't easy, if it was everyone would be walking round looking enviably good! But the benefits of carrying a little extra muscle mass than the average guy or girl definitely make it worthwhile. In fact, they deserve a post all of their own, so i'll leave this one here for now!