Muscle Gain For Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide

Are you looking to build muscle but don't know where to start? Look no further! In this step-by-step guide, we'll cover everything you need to know to start gaining muscle as a beginner.

Muscle Gain For Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide
Rory Batt MSc

Rory Batt MSc

Nutritionist

Reading time:

11

min

Table of Contents

Muscle gain is the process of adding more lean mass, which is also known as muscle mass. It’s a process that can be influenced by what you eat and how much you train, and also the type of exercises you do. 

The technical term for muscle gain is hypertrophy, which is an increase in the growth and size of muscle cells, also known as myocytes. 

Muscle gain has lots of benefits, and it’s important for people of all ages for many different reasons. Having more muscle mass is really beneficial for metabolic health, as it helps keep weight off in the form of fat as the body's metabolic rate increases. 

It’s also key for healthy mobility, strength, fitness and performance, as well as helping to maintain healthy bones and joints. 

It’s also key to promoting a good physical appearance, as well as better mental health and self-esteem for many people, as exercising to increase muscle mass reduces depression and anxiety. 

Muscle mass is important for posture as well, because it improves strength and balance, which helps also reduce the risk of injury. 

Basically anyone can benefit from improving muscle mass, whether you’re an athlete looking to improve performance, or someone of slightly older age who is looking to maintain strength and mobility into their later years. 

Understanding the Basics of Muscle Gain

Muscle growth, also known as hypertrophy, occurs when the muscle fibers are damaged during exercise and then repaired and rebuilt by the body. The process of muscle growth is triggered by a combination of mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress.

Mechanical tension

When a muscle is subject to tension, such as during weightlifting, it causes small tears in the muscle fibers. These tears stimulate the muscle to repair and grow.

Muscle damage

The tears in the muscle fibers cause inflammation and damage, which also triggers the muscle repair and growth process.

Metabolic stress

The accumulation of metabolic byproducts such as lactic acid during exercise creates a state of stress in the muscle, which also triggers muscle growth.

The muscle repair process begins immediately after the workout and continues for several days. During this time, the muscle fibers are repaired and rebuilt, and new muscle protein is added. This process increases the size and strength of the muscle fibers, leading to muscle growth.

Progressive Overload In Muscle Gain

Progressive overload is a principle of strength training that involves gradually increasing the demands placed on the muscles. By consistently challenging the muscles with more weight or resistance, the muscle fibers will adapt and grow stronger. Progressive overload is a key component in achieving muscle gain.

Progressive overload can be achieved in a number of ways, such as increasing the weight lifted, increasing the number of reps or sets, decreasing the rest time between sets, or by changing the type of exercise. The key is to keep challenging the muscles by gradually increasing the intensity.

It’s important for muscle growth because it provides a stimulus for the muscles to adapt and grow stronger. When a muscle is challenged with a weight or resistance that it is not used to, it will experience small tears in the muscle fibers. These tears stimulate the muscle to repair and grow. By consistently increasing the weight or resistance, the muscle is continually challenged and stimulated to grow.

Types of Muscle Fibres 

In order to gain muscle, it’s important to target training to hit all the types of muscle fibres that make up muscle. 

Muscle is made up of two different types of fibres, and they both have unique roles in promoting performance. 

  1. Slow-twitch (Type I) fibers are also known as "endurance fibers" because they are designed for sustained, low-intensity activities such as long-distance running or cycling. 
  2. Fast-twitch (Type II) fibers are also known as "power fibers" because they are designed for high-intensity, short-duration activities such as weightlifting or sprinting. 

Slow-twitch fibers can be targeted by performing exercises at a lower weight and higher reps, with longer rest periods between sets.

Fast-twitch fibers can be targeted by performing exercises at a higher weight and lower reps, with shorter rest periods between sets. 

This is the reason why a well-rounded workout program that includes a variety of exercises, reps, sets and weight loads is important for muscle gain.

Factors That Affect Muscle Growth

Besides things like age and gender, which we have no control over, there are several factors which can affect the rate and degree of muscle growth.

Training intensity and volume

The intensity and volume of training can affect muscle growth. A higher intensity and volume of training can promote muscle growth, but it can also increase the risk of injury if not done properly.

Nutrition

Consuming enough protein and other essential nutrients is important for the repair and growth of muscle tissue. Eating a balanced diet that provides enough calories and nutrients is important for muscle growth.

Recovery

Adequate rest and recovery time is important to allow the muscles to repair and grow. Overtraining can lead to muscle damage and impede muscle growth.

Hormones

Hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone can play a role in muscle growth.

Stress

Chronic stress can negatively affect muscle growth by increasing the levels of cortisol, a hormone that can inhibit muscle growth.

How To Make A Muscle Gain Workout Plan

Building a muscle gain workout plan is an important step in achieving your fitness goals. The primary goal of a muscle gain workout plan is to increase muscle mass and strength. 

To achieve this goal, the plan should include a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups. These exercises should include mostly compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench press. 

Compound exercises are great for muscle building, as they target multiple large muscle groups at once. You can also throw in work with press-ups, chin-ups, and using the barbell for curls and work on the shoulders. 

It's important to include both heavy weights and high reps in your workout plan to target both fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers. The number of sets and reps will depend on your fitness level and goals, but generally, 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps is a good starting point for most exercises. 

The frequency of workouts should be 2-3 times a week, with at least one day of rest in between. It's important to note that rest and recovery are just as important as the workout itself. Adequate rest and recovery time is necessary to allow the muscles to repair and grow. 

Overtraining can lead to muscle damage and impede muscle growth, so it's important to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.

Nutrition & Diet For Muscle Gain

Besides training, diet is a super important factor in promoting healthy muscle gain. Without the right foods to fuel training, and promote recovery and muscle growth, efforts in the gym can fall short of your desired results. 

High quality protein is the main thing to get right. At least 1.2g/kg of bodyweight protein is needed per day for muscle growth. This can be in the form of meats and fish, or by combining plants such as beans and rice for a complete source of protein. 

Make sure to consume this throughout the day, as you need a consistent supply of protein, especially after a workout. 

Secondly, you need to be eating a surplus of calories (taking in more energy than you are burning) in order to engage the process that makes new muscle (muscle protein synthesis). 

Even if you are eating enough protein, you will not gain muscle unless you are eating a surplus of calories. 

To calculate your calories needs, head on over for a consultation and we can recommend how many calories you should be taking to achieve your goals. Generally its 10-15% additional calories from your break even calorie level. 

Carbohydrates and fats will make up the calorie surplus you need as well as some of the protein. It’s important you get enough quality fats and carbohydrates, as these are the fuels you will need to drive your training efforts. 

High quality fats like meat, fish, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese are great sources of energy, but also help promote healthy metabolism and keep levels of inflammation in check, which can hurt muscle gain. 

Shoot for whole, complex carbohydrates such as whole grain rice, oats and non-starchy carbohydrates like broccoli, beans and greens. These provide a host of antioxidants to the body which support healthy muscle protein synthesis.  

Supplements for Muscle Gain

Whilst the main results for muscle gain come from diet and training, supplements can help give you an edge to boost your efforts. 

The most popular ones can help you increase your training performance, as well as help support the recovery process more efficiently. 

Creatine

One of the most effective is Creatine monohydrate, which you can get naturally from meat, but supplementing can help get significantly more. 

Creatine works by increasing the body's ability to produce energy quickly, particularly during high-intensity, short-duration activities such as weightlifting and sprinting. This can help to improve muscle power, endurance, and overall performance.

Supplementing with creatine has been shown to increase muscle creatine and phosphocreatine stores, which can lead to an increase in muscle size, strength and power. Studies have shown that creatine supplementation can lead to significant increases in muscle mass and strength, particularly when combined with resistance training.

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is commonly found in supplements marketed for muscle growth and endurance. Beta-alanine is used by the body to produce carnosine, a molecule that helps buffer acid in muscles, allowing for improved performance during high-intensity exercise. 

Studies have shown that supplementing with beta-alanine can lead to increased muscle carnosine levels and improved exercise performance, including increased muscle endurance, power, and muscle mass.

Branched Chain Amino Acids

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a group of essential amino acids that include leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

BCAAs are important for muscle growth because they help to increase muscle protein synthesis, the process by which muscle tissue is repaired and rebuilt after exercise. 

Studies have shown that supplementing with BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, decrease muscle soreness and muscle damage, which can lead to an increase in muscle mass over time.

Overcoming Plateaus

Overcoming Plateaus in muscle gain is a common challenge faced by many fitness enthusiasts. Identifying a plateau can be difficult, as it often presents as a gradual slowing of progress rather than a sudden stop. 

Common causes of plateaus in muscle gain include lack of progressive overload, poor nutrition, and lack of recovery time. To overcome a plateau in muscle gain, it is important to focus on progressive overload, ensure proper nutrition, and allow for adequate recovery time between workouts. 

Additionally, incorporating a variety of exercises and adjusting your workout routine can also help break through plateaus. Consistency and patience are key, as progress may not happen overnight. By implementing these strategies, you can overcome plateaus and continue to see progress in muscle gain.

Common Mistakes In Gaining Muscle & How to Avoid Them 

Common Mistakes when trying to gain muscle include overtraining, not eating enough, not resting enough, and not having a proper workout plan. 

Overtraining can lead to muscle fatigue, injury, and even a decrease in muscle mass. To avoid overtraining, it is important to listen to your body and allow for adequate rest and recovery time. 

Not eating enough can also impede muscle growth, as the body needs a sufficient amount of nutrients to repair and build muscle. 

It’s important to have a balanced diet that includes enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats in sufficient amounts according to your individual needs to fuel sufficient gains. 

Not resting enough can also impede muscle growth, as the body needs time to repair and recover from workouts. Try to get enough sleep and incorporate active rest days into your workout routine to get more rest. 

Not having a proper workout plan can also impede muscle growth, as the body needs a progressive and structured workout plan to see progress. 

Consult with a personal trainer, or research to create a workout plan that is tailored to your goals and fitness level.

Summary 

We’ve talked about a lot today, but as a takeaway just bear in mind that muscle gain doesn’t just happen in the gym, but is a result of what your everyday life also looks like. 

Using the right training methods, such as hypertrophy training, and getting enough sleep, rest and nutrition is key to gaining muscle overtime. 

You can also use supplements to boost your performance and recovery, in order to support your efforts in the gym. 

Having a well structured plan that helps you achieve progressive overload as well as bust through plateaus is also important to stay consistent in your gains. 

We wish you the best of luck with your muscle gain journey. If you want to check out some of the best quality fuel you can give your body, check out some of our best providers for muscle gain on our marketplace. 

... more insights

Comments

Download and start your Meal Prep journey

Have access to the best Meal Prep in the UK

App Screenshot
App Screenshot
App Screenshot