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IF you are a naturally skinny person, building muscle or attempting to bulk up can feel like a near-impossible task. And while your lack of progress may be frustrating and could very well prod you to throw in the towel, personal trainer and fitness instructor Gisel Harrow said that you should consider revisiting your weight gain and muscle-building programme.
“Not everyone who is exercising is trying to lose weight — some are actually trying to gain weight but in a healthy way. And just as with weight loss, weight gain comes down to caloric intake versus caloric output. However, in terms of actually building muscle and bulking up there are methods that can help you put on muscle in the healthiest and most efficient way,” Harrow said.
She reasoned that food consumption remains one of the fundamental pillars of weight management. Harrow explained that in order to achieve the desired fitness goal, a diet supportive of weight gain and bulking up must first be decided on. Among the dietary adjustments to consider would be eating more frequently, and choosing healthy calorie options such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins which also act as fuel for the body. She said while you want to gain weight these healthier options are important, because you don't also want to encourage a toxic build-up in your body caused by unhealthy fats, especially.
Another of the most essential workout methods to incorporate when trying to bulk up is more compound movements. Harrow pointed out that these moves involve the utilisation of multiple muscles and multiple joints at the same time.
“Compound movements recruit and break down more muscle fibres, so that in the recovery phase more are building and growing than if you were to do just isolate muscle moves. Some exercises which encourage these types of movements include squats, lunges, deadlifts, cleans, pull-ups, bench press, walking lunges, and plyometric moves like jump squats and box jumps (using body weight), and can be performed with moderate to heavy weights, as appropriate,” Harrow advised.
She instructed that when you are carrying out these exercises you should try to stay in an appropriate repetition range of eight to 15 repetitions, and sets of four to six. This will work the muscles to fatigue/failure then, with proper rest and balanced eating, the muscles will recover and grow.
A third recommendation from Harrow involves limiting the amount of cardio you include in your exercises. She said cardio is more effective for weight loss but is essential to every exercise regimen, because they are found to be very effective in preparing the body for a workout. Therefore, in an effort to prepare the body as well as to lose some fat without sacrificing your muscles, Harrow said you may want to limit cardio-related activities during your warm-up.
Another tip Harrow shared is that you should stop believing that because you want to gain means that you must train harder. Instead, she said what you need to do is focus on training better — which essentially means organising a group of movements that will stimulate muscle growth and activate many muscle fibres, even with a few exercises.
Other factors to consider include rest — which encourages the release of growth hormones and also encourages the recovery of muscles after exercise, managing your growth and progress by weighing yourself, and revisiting your exercise regimen to analyse what works or needs replacement.