Every mechanism and process in our body is complex, and it’s not any different with your muscles. We can build them with regular and properly performed strength training, or stay physically inactive with an underdeveloped musculature. On the other hand, everyone has their limits and even with great genetic predispositions and training discipline, it will become much harder to build muscle the more advanced at lifting you become. There is a genetic ceiling to the amount of muscle mass we can add in a natural way.
There are three basic mechanisms of muscle growth – muscle tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage.
When lifting weights, what you DON’T want your muscles to do is take a break during the lift. For example, while on the bench press, many lifters bounce the bar off their chest as well as lock their elbows out at the top of the movement. This is wrong, regardless of how many people do it, because muscle tension is reduced at the bottom and top of the movement. Don’t avoid it, because constant tension is what you need. Otherwise, you’ll be using only 90% of your range of motion.
You’ve felt the effects of metabolic stress every time you felt pumped in the gym or felt the burn of an exercise. Metabolic stress affects muscle growth by causing cell swelling around the muscle. The swelling helps to contribute to muscle growth, without increasing the size of your muscle cells. The muscle gets swollen along with connective tissue growth, with the help of muscle glycogen. This type of growth is called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and is one of the possible ways for people to get larger muscles without strength increase.
Whenever you exercise, you achieve muscle damage. It sounds bad, but it’s not, because this process forces your muscle fibers to repair themselves. It is then, during the repairing period, when the muscles become denser, stronger, and bigger. Thus, finding ways of inducing muscle damage is crucial for muscle growth. A straightforward simple solution is to grab your bodybuilding clothes, and go and lift heavier weights. Unfortunately, this can’t be done forever, so new methods for increasing muscle damage should be employed.
Muscle Growth and Hormones
Hormones have a role in regulating the activity of satellite cells, which makes them another component largely responsible for muscle growth. The two most vital hormones that promote muscle growth are testosterone and IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor).
Testosterone stimulates other anabolic hormones, activates satellite cells, inhibits protein breakdown, and increases protein synthesis. The IGF-1 enhances protein synthesis, repartitions the uptake of amino acids into skeletal muscles, facilitates glucose uptake, all of which helps with regulating the amount of muscle mass growth.
The last part of the muscle growth equation is – rest. In order to grow, muscles need to rest. If the body in not provided with adequate nutrition or rest, the anabolic process can actually get reversed, putting your body into a destructive or catabolic state.