Okay, so you want to build muscle, sculpt your body and get stronger - look no further! This guide will teach you exactly how to build a strong & lean body with just a few adjustments to your workouts and nutrition.
Scroll down to read the guide and get the answers to all your questions 👇🏼
Are you ready?
Personal trainer & Founder of trainn
Step 1: Your workouts
#1 Strength train often enough 🏋️♀️
You've heard it before. To build muscle, strength training should be the main focus of your workouts. And hitting the right training frequency is key.
If you don't strength train often enough, your muscles won’t be challenged and therefore not see a reason to grow. On the other hand, if you strength train too often, your muscles won’t have enough time to recover and you might do more damage than good - kind of like painting the second layer of paint before the first layer is dry.
That's why, the ideal amount to train each muscle group is 2 times per week. If not activated regularly, they’ll simply stay as they are.
How to do it:
Aim to strength train 2-4 times per week. This gives you the ideal amount for both building muscle and recovering between workouts.
Furthermore, make sure to hit each muscle group 2x per week. This means, if you're training 1-2x per week, do full body workouts. If you're training 3-4x per week alternate between upper body workouts and lower body workouts.
#2 Apply 'progressive overload' 📈
Applying ‘progressive overload’ means gradually increasing the volume of your workouts by upping the weight, reps, sets or exercises in your workouts.
The reason for this is because your body gets stronger as you build muscle, and the same training volume simply won’t be challenging enough for you. For example 10 reps of 20kg squats can feel tough at week 1, but a lot easier at week 3. Here you can either increase the volume by upping to 12 reps, 25kg or adding an extra set.
Progressive overload helps us avoid hitting a plateau. While it’s great to feel like the barbell is getting lighter, it's really important to push yourself. The more comfortable your muscles feel with the exercises, the less likely they are to continue growing.
How to do it:
Aim to apply progressive overload at least every 2-4 weeks. This can be done by:
Doing 1-3 more reps each exercise
Adding an extra set of a certain exercise
Increasing the weight you’re lifting
Adding a new exercise to your workout
Add an extra workout per week (However, remember recovery)
#3 Be strategic with your cardio 🏃🏼♀️
Cardio is great for improving your overall health, and is recommended no matter what your fitness goal is. However, as mentioned in tip #1, we want our main focus to be on strength training, as this will help us build muscle.
If you want to include cardio, be strategic with it - doing too much or at the wrong time will leave you too tired for your strength workouts. Cardio burns energy, and we want to save this for your strength workouts. Too much cardio might burn the calories your body needs to build muscle, and therefore hinder your muscle building journey.
How to do it:
Aim to do cardio after your strength workouts or on a separate day. This way, you’re not hindering your strength workouts.
To maintain as much muscle as possible, aim to keep it at a low intensity for 15-45 minutes at a time. Low intensity cardio could be going for a run or stepping up on a cardio machine in the gym.
Step 2: Your nutrition
#1 Eat enough calories 🍛
We all know that calories = fuel.
Not only are calories what fuel your day and workouts, but they also help build up your muscle tissue after you've done a workout. That’s why you need to make sure you’re eating enough if your goal is to build muscle. Aim to eat 200-500 calories above your calorie maintenance.
If you don't regularly eat enough, it's going to be harder for you to build muscle. Why? Let's compare it to building an extension to your house - in order to build the extension you need the extra materials for it. If not, you won't have anything to build with. The same goes for building muscle - if you don't eat the extra calories your muscles won't have any nutrients to build themselves up stronger with.
Your calorie maintenance depends on factors like your activity level, age, gender & current muscle mass.
For women, calorie maintenance is typically 1800 - 2300 cals. A moderate surplus will therefore be 2200 - 2700 calories.
For men calorie maintenance is typically around 2300 - 2800 cals. A moderate surplus will therefore be 2700 - 3300 calories.
How to do it:
The best way to know if you’re eating enough to build muscle is to track your calories, weight and strength progress.
Aim to eat 200-500 calories above your calorie maintenance and keep and eye on your progress.
Your weight should stay the same or go up slightly, and you should see improvements in your strength. If you’re not seeing any progress in muscle or strength, up your food intake with another 100-200 cals.
#2 Focus on protein & carbs 🥯
You’ve heard it before. A high protein diet will give you all the nutrients and building blocks your body needs to build muscle. It will also help you feel full for longer and avoid big dips in sugar levels or energy.
Protein will help repair muscle tissue after every workout and build them stronger for the next session. It's ideal that we get protein spread out throughout the all of our meals in the day instead of getting it all in 1 or 2 meals. There's only so much protein our body can absorb in one sitting.
As well as getting enough calories & protein, you also need to work enough carbs into your diet. They are what give you energy to have great workouts. A little extra carbs will allow you to squeeze in extra reps and therefore lead to better gains in the long run.
How to do it:
Aim to get in 15-30g of protein for your 3 main meals. This could for example be 180g tofu, 200g of cooked chickpeas, 2.5 eggs or 120g chicken or soy mince substitute.
Furthermore, aim to include whole grain carbs for at least 2 of your main meals. Great carb sources could be oats, brown rice, potatoes, wholegrain pasta or bread.
Step 3: Tracking your progress
No matter our goal, it's helpful to track our progress to make sure we stay on track. Building muscle is a slower process, but the reward for all your hard work and consistency is amazing! When building muscle, here's what you can expect in terms of progress 👇🏼
Your physique will change when you focus on building muscle. You'll notice your arms & legs getting more toned, and you might even see a few abs pop through. Enjoy the process and take progress pictures every now and then to compare the changes to your body.
Your weight might not change much or even go up a little. That's okay and all part of the process. It can be helpful to track your weight every week to make sure it doesn't increase too much or too quick, but don't focus too much on this. Instead focus on fuelling yourself and having energy for your workouts.
Your strength should definitely increase over time. If you're following a personalised training plan or otherwise tracking your workouts, you will notice the difference. Not only will you be able to lift heavier and heavier, but you will build a strong body, core and joints so you avoid injuries, niggles and pains. Goodbye lower back pain. Goodbye not being able to carry the groceries home. Goodbye low energy. Time to feel amazing in our body!
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Hi, I'm Sarah Louise 👋🏼
I am one of the personal trainers on trainn, as well as the founder & creator of it all.
My aim is to take you on a personalised fitness journey to a body you love and a lifestyle you can maintain. Real advice. Real results.
After coaching thousands of clients for nearly a decade and gathering lots of experience, I have designed methods that are proven to make your results stick with you forever.
Take your fitness to the next level, regain confidence and create a consistent routine through personalised workouts, weekly goals, healthy habits & expert advice. All unique to you.
Start your fitness journey today