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Building Muscle – how long does it take?

Man flexing muscles he has built

For many of us, body transformations aren't just about shedding unwanted pounds. It’s also about building muscle and creating a dream physique.   

While all kinds of exercise help build muscle, the most noticeable results come from strength training.   

However, these workouts need to be done correctly, and they also need to be accompanied by a healthy diet and plenty of rest and sleep.   

So, here’s everything you need to know about how to get physically stronger and build up that muscular physique you desire.

How long does it take to build muscle?  

Building muscle takes patience and time, it won’t happen overnight.  

However, as long as you’re training correctly, eating the correct amount of calories/macronutrients (protein, Fats and Carbohydrates) and getting adequate rest and recovery you can create a noticeably different physique in just a few months:

It isn't particularly easy to measure the amount of muscle you are creating so visual representation is usually the best way. Besides this it would be carried out by using some sort of Body Fat testing device such as Skin fold callipers or impedance machine. This will allow your body fat:lean mass ratio to be calculated as a Percentage.  

Visual representation can be difficult  if you are not reducing body fat as it is typically hard to see muscle definition at higher body fat percentages. In every individual this percentage can be different for many factors. Just because you are getting stronger in the gym does not also mean you are gaining muscle. 

If you’ve been training for months and months and you’re still not seeing the results you want, it might be that you’re not giving your body a chance to rest, not getting enough sleep, or not using weights that challenge you enough. 

Despite what most people think, having DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) for long periods of time is not actually a good sign. It usually means you are not recovering fast enough. This could be from one of the above factors. It is also not the sign of a good workout if you can't walk the following day.

What are the best exercises for building muscle? 

With strength training, it’s important to understand what your body requires to build muscle. There are numerous factors involved here, training age, genetics, frequency, mechanical tension, metabolic damage, volume and intensity being some of them. That being said, try not to overthink the process. If you set yourself a training programme, stick with the exercises and try not to make frequent changes. This way you will make progression on these movements which will allow your body to make adaptations around them. It is important to rest as this is when your body actually recovers. Try to set yourself a minimum of 3-4 days training with 2-3 days rest. This will give all your muscles ample time to recover.

When building any muscle, it’s also important to progressively overload your body. As you get stronger, the original set of dumbbells that you started with will start to feel easier and lighter. At this point, you should either add more weight, do more reps or move with more intensity to keep the exercise challenging. This way you’ll keep making progress with your muscle building efforts.

If you adhere to some of the above you can expect to see changes in your physique. Not everyone builds muscle at the same rate but don't get disheartened by this or demotivated. Be patient and understand that we are all very different. It is also important not to compare yourself to any other individual. 

Here are some great exercises for building a strong and powerful body: 

  • Squats – whether done with bodyweight or with gym equipment this full-body exercise works the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core.  
  • Push-ups – requiring no equipment at all, this movement hits the chest, shoulders, abs, and triceps. 
  • Split squat/lunges  – try this one during your lower-body days. It targets the glutes, hamstrings and quads.
  • Bench Press/Dumbbell Press – A little like the press up but a slight bit more isolation on the pecs, shoulders and triceps.
  • Bent over row – Another movement that hits numerous muscle groups in the body.
  • Deadlifts – One of the most complicated exercises you can perform but bang for buck one of the best. Always get a professional to analyse your technique with this one.
  • Resistance machines  – These are a safe way to gain some movement patterns in the gym. Try to understand what the machine is working as well as how it works. Don’t be afraid to ask someone how to use them and about technique. 

How long does it take to build muscle for women?  

There’s a common theory that men build muscle more quickly than women. This is because men’s bodies contain more testosterone, the hormone that is known to aid muscle development.  

However, recent studies have found that both men and women’s bodies respond in similar ways to strength training.   

As well as testosterone, muscle growth is also affected by body size, body composition, different hormones, and age.  

How much protein do I need to build muscle?  

As mentioned above, a healthy diet is essential for muscle building.  

Protein is the key element and you’ll need to eat around 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. The amount of protein you consume should also vary from strength-training days to cardio and rest days. 

Recommended protein based foods

While some people like to consume protein shakes pre or post workout, you can also get plenty of protein from healthy foods such as:  

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Dairy products, such as cheese
  • Soybeans
  • Pulses 
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Vegetarian or vegan? Here’s our list of top 10 meatless proteins that you can supplement in your diet. 

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