Muscle strength is essential for good health. And, striving to gain muscle strength becomes increasingly vital as your age and start to gradually lose muscle mass and gain fats.
A 2014 study conducted at the University of California reveals that Muscle mass correlates with lifespans. In the study, researchers followed 4000 healthy adults for over a decade. The findings were clear; those with the highest muscle mass enjoyed the longest lifespans and vice versa. This correlation remained even after the traditional disease markers had been accounted for. The study also revealed that muscle strength is a more reliable predictor of early death than obesity.
Besides, having strong muscle improves your cardiovascular health, cardiorespiratory fitness, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of cancer, diabetes, mild depression, and joint pain.
Here is what you need do to gain muscle strength and forestall the age-related decline:
1. Conduct Multi-Joint Exercises
The most effective way of building lean muscle mass is through performing multi-joint (compound) resistance training exercises like pull-ups, bench press, squats, and lunges.
You can build muscle through other types of exercises, but you should first create a strong foundation through multi-joint efforts. Besides, research shows that compound exercises spur the highest upsurge in testosterone levels.
2. Increase Weights Gradually
For your muscles to grow further, you need to challenge them. However, you should be prudent when increasing the weight you lift. If you increase weight too slowly, your gains will plateau. If you do it too fast, you’ll increase your likelihood of getting injuries. Therefore, you need to strike a balance. If your last reps feel like your first reps, it’s time to shift to a heavier weight.
3. Include Low-Weight High-Rep Exercises in Your Regimen
Lifting heavy weights and engaging in explosive exercises such as sprinting impact your first-twitch (type II) muscle fibers. Research, however, shows that slow-twitch (type I) fibers (the type that your body relies on during endurance activities like running a marathon) great growth potential.
Ensure that you on work building them. Once a week, target your slow-twitch fibers by doing high-rep, low weight work (for instance, you can do 4 sets of 20 reps for each exercise).
4. Get Adequate Sleep
You should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each day. If you don’t get adequate sleep regularly, you’ll accumulate sleep debt. Research shows that sleep debt can lead to an increase in protein/muscle degradation and limit protein synthesis/muscle growth.
Additionally, if you don’t get adequate sleep, you won’t be able to fully utilize the human growth hormones which spike during sleep.
5. Set Aside Time for Recovery
Muscles strengthen in between exercises. You should, therefore prioritize recovery. Dedicate at least one day of the week to rest and recovery.
Besides, avoid overtraining. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t push your body to the limit. But, you should limit intense training to about three days spread throughout the week – don’t do it back-to-back. If you push your body to its limit daily, your muscles won’t get a chance to recover and grow.
You can get the most out of your recovery days by engaging in light cross-training (for instance, cycling or hiking) and activities like yoga or foam rolling.
6. Include Carbs in Your Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Meals
In 2001, a study conducted by the University of Texas researchers revealed that weightlifters who drank a blend of carbohydrates and amino acids pre-workout improved their protein synthesis compared to those who took a similar drink after working out.
According to Dr. Kevin Tipton, a nutrition and exercise researcher who was part of the study, “Because exercise boosts blood flow to tissues, taking a carbohydrate-protein drink before your workout will likely improve the amino acid uptake in your muscles.”
Conversely, research reveals that you’ll rebuild your muscles faster during your downtime if you eat carbohydrate-rich meals. Carbs-rich post-workout meals increase insulin levels, and as a result, slow the rate at which your body breaks down protein. So have a peanut-butter sandwich, a banana, or even a sports drink after your workout.
7. Eat More Proteins
Amino acids are the building blocks of the body. If you don’t include enough protein in your diet, you won’t have enough nutritional resources to repair and build your muscle tissues.
You don’t need to overdo it, but if you’re striving to get stronger and to build muscle, here is a rule of thumb:
- Decide on the bodyweight you want to achieve. Then, for each pound of your target weight, eat 0.8 to 1 gram of protein. For instance, if your target weight is 160 pounds, the quantity of protein in your daily diet should range from 128 to 160 grams. Ideally, the protein should come from whole foods.
Studies reveal that including an adequate amount of proteins in your diet helps you to gain muscle strength as well as accelerates fat loss.
This works for both genders; women and men. Results of a clinical trial that included premenopausal women showed that those who combined a high-protein-diet with resistance training lost considerably more weight compared to those who only dieted or only exercised.
You can lose weight and build muscle with a wide range of diets, as long as they contain enough protein. Just talk to professionals and experiment to find what works for you.
In a Nutshell
Gaining muscle strength comes with immense health benefits. For you to gain or keep muscle strength, you should gradually increase the amount of weight you lift, focus on compound exercises, get adequate sleep, and include the right balance of carbohydrates and protein in your diet.