You may be wondering how do muscles grow? This article explains the science behind building muscle and how your efforts in the gym actually bring about new muscle growth.
Knowing how to grow muscle is the easy part, but actually gaining a significant amount of muscle mass is no walk in the park as it requires a lot of hard work in the gym, and most importantly, in the kitchen. But anyway, let's begin to learn how muscles work!
The Muscle Growth Process Explained
Is it possible to build a house without knowing anything about carpentry? Of course not.
Knowledge is more powerful than any weapon you could ever have, and to accomplish anything satisfactorily, you need to have at least some basic know-how of the task at hand.
Your new mantra should be "Work smart, not hard".
Yet, even as thousands of weight training devotees flock to gyms all over the country everyday, trying to gain muscle and burn fat, they all ignore this simple mantra.
For example, just ask any of them the question: "How do muscles grow?" and I guarantee that their response will be a blank stare or a confused reaction of the sort.
Bodybuilding, like medicine, is a science.
You don’t need to complete a Ph.D. in biology to build large, powerful muscles, but a basic idea of the muscle building process will help you to efficiently meet your goals a lot faster.
The process of actual muscle growth is a complex one and involves a large number of biological steps. The good thing is, you don't need to know it all to build some serious muscle. All you need to understand is the basic steps behind it all.
So, how do muscles grow? Let’s take a look at the science behind the art. Let us find out.
As you train in the gym, you must understand that every single action and process within your body has a single purpose: to keep you alive and healthy.
When it comes to Mother Nature we humans have just one purpose: to pass on our DNA and procreate. We are the result of millions of years of evolution, and the human body has evolved to create natural alarm systems that sound in response to stress, to be able to ensure our survival.
For instance, you feel hungry if you don’t eat, thirsty if you don’t drink, feel pain when something hurts you, and you tan when you’re exposed to the sun.
The muscle building process is the same in nature. In scientific terms, the muscle building process is called "hypertrophy".
When you visit the gym, you put your muscles under stress by lifting weights. Your muscles come closer to failure with every repetition that you do, which means at one point, they will "give out" and you will not be able to do any more reps, no matter how hard you push yourself.
As they come towards failure, these reps create deeper and deeper inroads through the muscle fiber, resulting in what we call "micro-tears".
Basically, what you are doing is breaking down your muscle fibers by causing actual damage to the muscle. Your body reacts to this damage by repairing the muscles.
The muscle repair process is the key part in building muscle. Your body begins repairing muscle tissue when you stop putting stress on your muscles, in other words after stopping your workout.
The thing is, your body sees the damage to your muscles as a threat to its survival, so it will rebuild the damaged muscle tissue bigger and stronger than before to protect against future threats.
So this increased muscle size and strength is a natural evolutionary response to the micro-tears that your muscles have suffered due to the heavy weight training you performed. It's as simple as that.
How Do Muscles Grow? Hard Work!
To build large amounts of muscle onto your frame you must understand this basic concept of how muscles work. Since your body must perceive the weights you lift in the gym as a threat to its survival, you must realize that you need to train hard and with heavy weights for the most muscle building to occur.
Now you understand the basics of muscle growth, you can continue to pack on pounds and pounds of muscle mass. The moral of the story is, go hard or go home!
Hopefully this article has helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land. Information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly-structured, intelligently-crafted (based on science-backed principles) and overall well-balanced strength training and nutrition plan to effetcively build muscle as a skinny guy (AKA a lifting hardgainer). When you have a great program used by other successful hardgainers that have gone before you, you can't go wrong if you simply stick with it.
But here's the thing:
You don't just randomly stumble upon a highly-effective program that's designed specifically for hardgainers by simply browsing a popular fitness magazine, site, or forum (or asking your average run of the mill personal trainer at a local gym who is highly likely to be just repeating the same old ineffective, incomplete mainstream advice they learned in the classroom). No, instead, to create the best weight training and nutrition program for maximum results, you must be a little more selective in the program you choose to follow.
So, here are the 3 different paths you can take to guarantee you follow a finely-tuned, effective program that will leave nothing to chance and give you the best muscle building and strength gains of your life (again, if you simply execute and don't quit after a mere week 'cause you don't notice a change...).
See our flagship 7-step introductory guide to building muscle for beginners which covers all the basics you need to know, and guides you through designing and creating an effective program for muscle gain without getting fat. If you don't want to spend any money buying a pre-made program or finding a (good) personal trainer, and/or you're the DIY type who enjoys researching every little detail and knowing about how everything works and fits together, this is probably the path for you if you have the patience.
If you don't want to take the time to plan your own natural bodybuilding plan from scratch, following an already made, high-quality, credible program from a true expert in this field can save you a ton of time.
It can give you a great head start on your transformation journey and makes things a whole lot simpler as it's simply a matter of understanding what the program involves, how to do perform all the exercises, how to execute on the included meal plans (taking into account your own perferences as you'll want to tweak any pre-made diet plan for your own needs), and then simply executing week in and week out.
Sean Nal's popular hardgainer program is the one I currently recommend most, as it's the most complete, easy to follow program for beginners that I've seen (and I've experimented with many over the years). It's also the exact program that initially changed everything for me and I owe a fair part of my overall hardgainer success (going from 132lbs/60kg to 220lbs/100kg - mostly muscle) to being fortunate enough to having stumbled upon this program when I was struggling with gaining weight and building muscle. See my full review of Sean Nal's program here.
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer
This isn't for everyone though as a quality trainer who knows what they're doing, and most importantly has got great results themselves (ideally starting out in similar shoes to you) can be quite costly. This is the path you should probably really consider if you have any type of serious injury though.
Whichever path you choose, never forget the single most important thing: never give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and self-confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but if you really understand that last sentence, you're not gonna need it, friend. I wish you nothing but success.
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)