While eating enough protein throughout the day is important, clearly this is not enough with building lean muscle on its own. The magic happens when adequate resistance training is coupled with the right amounts of protein consumption. But what should that resistance training look like. The difficulty in answering this question is that there is clearly more than one way to achieve this. There are multiple training programmes that will increase muscle mass and the specific one for you will depend on your training knowledge, equipment available and current fitness levels.
However, here are a couple things to keep in mind:
Take Your Rest
Cutting your rest between reps to finish your session early may not be the best idea. It has been shown that shorter rest periods between reps and sets actually blunts muscle protein synthesis (3). One minute rests appeared to compromise adaptations to the resistance training. Aim for 3-5 minutes rest between sets, particularly during high volume of fatiguing efforts.
Is More Better?
For a long time it was thought that there could be too much of a good thing. Too little training was not enough, and too much would blunt your potential improvements. However, a paper published in 2018 suggested that the upper limit is probably higher than first thought (4). They argue that the easiest way to see more improvements, is to increase the volume of training. They argue that volume is perhaps more important that other factors such as training split, training frequency, advance exercise prescription such as drop sets, and rep range. While smaller muscles can probably tolerate less total volume than larger muscles, it does seem that one way to ensure you continually adapt and improve is to add more volume to your resistance training plan over time. As a basic starter, it has been suggested that at least 10 weekly sets per muscle group are required to maximise muscle growth (5)
Once you have training and nutrition in place, the cherry on the cake can come from supplementation. We’ve already mentioned how protein supplements can be a convenient way to get a protein hit in during the day or after training (take a look at our protein range here). What other supplements can help? We’ve written over on the Aliment blog before about 3 supplements that can help add quality to your training session. We have also written about whether omega 3 supplements can help when it comes to adding muscle mass.
Get your training and nutrition in order. Then look at getting the most from your training sessions. And then look to see if supplements can help with any inadequacies within the diet.
1 - Longland, T. M., Oikawa, S. Y., Mitchell, C. J., Devries, M. C., & Phillips, S. M. (2016). Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 103(3), 738-746.
2 - Areta, J. L., Burke, L. M., Ross, M. L., Camera, D. M., West, D. W., Broad, E. M., ... & Hawley, J. A. (2013). Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. The Journal of physiology, 591(9), 2319-2331.
3 - McKendry, J., Pérez‐López, A., McLeod, M., Luo, D., Dent, J. R., Smeuninx, B., ... & Breen, L. (2016). Short inter‐set rest blunts resistance exercise‐induced increases in myofibrillar protein synthesis and intracellular signalling in young males. Experimental physiology, 101(7), 866-882.
4 - Figueiredo, V. C., de Salles, B. F., & Trajano, G. S. (2018). Volume for muscle hypertrophy and health outcomes: the most effective variable in resistance training. Sports Medicine, 48(3), 499-505.
5 - Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, 35(11), 1073-1082.