How to build muscle, burn fat and improve your physique.
If you want to improve your physique and live a longer, happier, healthier life then it’s essential you build lean muscle. I come into contact with so many people who say they want a shaped and toned look and are confused when I say building muscle is the answer. Most women are afraid of getting bulky and most men say they don't want to get as big as the Rock.
Having more lean muscle and less body fat on your body is what gives that 'toned' and 'shaped' look that people refer too. Muscle has shape to it and less body fat exposes the shape of the muscle which is what improves overall physique. Building muscle will also change the shape of you body as it is metabolically taxing and requires more energy to keep it. This raises resting metabolism, and you’ll naturally burn more calories at rest. Basically the more lean muscle you have the less body fat you'll carry.
Not only does building muscle change your aesthetic physique, there are longevity and performance benefits too. Having muscle helps increase speed and power, it improves posture, prevents age related muscle loss and is literally a reservoir for anti ageing hormones. Yes, studies show that people stay younger for longer with more muscle on their frame.
Lifting weights is a training modality that helps build muscle. Regular resistance training can also improve your daily movement as well as increase longevity. This is because the body goes through a natural degeneration process where bones, joints and muscles become weak. Lifting weights builds bone density, strengthens tendons, ligaments and builds a stronger frame. This will benefit you later in life as you’ll be less likely to have or a fall and break a hip, and you’ll be more likely to catch your fall if you do. It will also teach you how to move better as you'll put the body into different positions and work on specific mobility and stability issues that will keep you more mobile and away from injury.
So maybe these few paragraphs have convinced you that lifting weights and building muscle will drastically change your physique and assist you in living a longer, healthier life? If not, then have a read of my blog where I dive a little deeper on the subject.
How do you build muscle and improve the shape of your body?
I am actually trying to build muscle at the moment. And it’s a lot harder than I thought. To be honest I was actually quiet confident/cocky and thought it was going to be easy. I’m not overly happy with the shape of my body and I’m working towards building muscle in my chest, arms and back. I've even entered a transformation contest and hired a nutrition coach to help me stay accountable and focused on my goals.
What are the reasons you want to change your aesthetic physique? Maybe it will give you more confidence and better self esteem? You might be carrying extra belly fat that just won't shift, or you feel small and weak compared to other people. Having a new body will give you a new sense of confidence that will carry over into other areas of your life. Like meeting the opposite sex, doing better at work, taking your shirt off at the beach and feeling better in social situations.
This blog is aimed at helping you to get results. I’m going to provide you with some simple and effective tips that will help change your body.
OK lets get to it!
I’m going to start with the thing that everyone can do, and most people can do very easily. To be honest, this may also be the most impactful thing you can do. Not only to improve your physique but overall health. Quality sleep increases hormonal production where the body undergoes a set of house cleaning duties which repairs tissues, restores vital organs and replenishes immune cells. Sleep resets insulin sensitivity (how you handle carbohydrates) and spikes human growth hormone which helps metabolise fat and is essential for muscle growth. Which means quality sleep literally helps you burn fat and enables the body to better handle carbohydrates.
Focus on sleep quality, and have a read of my blog for some tips on how to get the best nights sleep.
Focus on heavy compound lifts.
Performing a heavy compound lift requires the use of multiple muscle groups and recruits more muscle fibres which increases work capacity and requires more energy. You’ll be burning more calories in a shorter amount of time, and gain strength in the process. This is because there is a hormonal response that’s responsible for increasing bone strength, tissue healing, stimulating muscle growth and fat loss.
EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) is also present after lifting sub maximal weights. This spikes metabolism after exercise and you continue to burn calories up to 48 hours AFTER training.
Some effective compound lifts to try are the squat, deadlift, bench, lunge variations or a heavy pull exercise. Go heavy but stay safe. Focus on form and hit your first lift of the day in a 4x5, 5x5 or 6x6 rep range.
Training frequency is how you spread training across the week and is vitally important. This lets you organise your training so you actually do it, and schedule in recovery days to let the body adapt, grow and come back stronger.
Studies show that in order to see results you need to train a muscle group 2-3 x a week. This could be training full body three times a week, or a 4 day upper/lower split. When structured correctly muscle groups will be hit at least two times during the week which will stimulate muscle growth.
Feel and contract the muscle.
This is so important and often over looked. Whether you want to gain strength, build muscle or become ‘toned’ then it’s paramount you contract the muscle you’re working. Most people just move heavy weight rather than stimulating the muscle group they are using. It’s relatively easy to move weight around, but it takes a lot more skill and concentration to actually stimulate and recruit the muscles you’re using.
Muscle fibre activation is more important than how much weight you can actually lift. You’ll be better off using a lighter weight with good form, stimulating the correct muscle fibres, than lifting heavy weight with bad technique and no activation. Stimulating the muscle fibres is know as the mind muscle connection and is a neurological adaptation where you try to recruit as many muscle fibres as possible during each rep.
Leave you’re ego at the door, use a lighter weight and fully contact the muscle on each rep. Think and feel the muscles you are using, whether that’s in a squat, lunge or dumb bell curl. I guarantee you’re muscles will grow and become stronger if pay attention to this.
A simple way to think of training volume would be the total work performed. This would be the total amount of weight lifted over a certain number of sets and repetitions of an exercise. You can increase total volume by lifting more weight using the same rep and set scheme, you can lift the same weight for more reps or you can perform more sets per session. This is important as muscle grows and becomes stronger to increased training volume.
Hit your accessory lifts in the Hypertrophy range of 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
Eat Protein at each meal
Protein is a macro nutrient that contains amino acids. Amino acids are tiny building blocks contained in cells, muscles and tissues. These help muscle tissues repair, heal and grow after intense exercise. This is important as you want to keep as much muscle tissue on your body as possible. Remember! More muscle = less body fat, increased metabolism and you’ll burn more calories at rest.
But it isn't as easy as eating protein and growing or maintaining muscle, as muscle tissue break down is constantly occurring. The rate at which muscle tissue grows or breaks down depends on an individuals physical activity, age, genetics and nutrition. An individual is more prone to muscle breakdown from regular exercise which is why eating protein at regular intervals will replenish these lost stores. This will tip the balance in your favour promoting muscle growth which will improve your physique, athletic performance and enhance recovery.
Aim for 0.8g to 1g of protein per pound of body weight. Or eat 1 to 2 palm sizes of protein at each meal.
Carbohydrates restore muscle fuel which improves performance, (enabling you to train harder) aids in muscle growth and speeds recovery. Carbs won’t make you fat. The mistake people make is eating the wrong type of carbs at the wrong times. Eating boxed cereal, croissants and breads for breakfast, and pre made sandwiches or baguettes at lunch with a sedentary lifestyle is what leads to weight gain. Fruit, veggies, gluten free oats and root vegetables are high quality carb sources. If you can tolerate them then these should make up the majority of your carb sources.
If improved physique is the goal then timing your carbs is also important. An effective protocol for an office worker would be. Light veggies with high fat/protein for breakfast, salad and high protein for lunch and starchier carbs for after training. Or place the majority of your carbs after your training session, whatever time of the day that may be.
A high fat/protein meal in the morning can improve cognitive function and focus, high protein during the day will bypass the afternoon slump, and more starchier carbs after training will aid in muscle growth, repair and improved recovery. This is because muscle cells are more ‘open’ after training and will absorb glucose and nutrients into the muscle cells rather than it floating around in the blood stream and possibly get stored as fat.
Fat is an essential nutrient that provides energy for cells, maintains natural hormonal balance, improves metabolism, supports the nervous system and can even turn on certain genes to help you burn fat.
Eating the right ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is important. Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti inflammatory effect and omega-6 fatty acids have a pro inflammatory effect. A ratio 1:1 omega-3 to omega-6 is a nice balance for most people.
Including high quality fats such as avocados, fatty meats/fish, nuts and seeds, (chia, flax, sesame) and oils (coconut, flax, olive, grape seed) is essential and should make up the majority of fats in your diet. Stay clear of trans fats, vegetable oils and other refined oils as these contain free radicals that damage cells, enzymes and even your DNA.
If you want to see results then consistency is king. No matter what! Doing things sporadically will get you nowhere fast and will provide mediocre results at best. Being consistent with training and nutrition provides results that last. There might be times you feel your progress has stalled or isn't going anywhere. Keep consistent! Doing the small things on a consistent basis is what builds habits and leads to long term results.
Schedule in training days that you won't miss, find ways to hold yourself accountable, whether thats through a friend, a financial bet or hire a coach. Set a clear goal and have that in mind when things are tough or you feel disheartened.
If you’re serious about improving your physique then get hold of me for a free 30 min strategy call.
Lifting weights won't make you bulky and it is extremely hard to put on large amounts of muscle and become huge! I guarantee you will dramatically change the shape of your body, build stronger bones, regulate your metabolism and hormones as well as live a longer life if you focus on building muscle.