Training muscled man running

Published on April 16th, 2013 | by Joe Starks


Athletic Science: Gaining Muscle

The most common reason people go to the gym or start any sport in general is to gain some muscle, so that they can look or feel fitter (quite often both). However, gaining muscle is not as simple a matter as that. Just raising your exercise levels is not a guaranteed way to gain muscle and in some cases might result in the opposite. Also exercise should not be viewed as a muscle making tool, but more as a lifestyle choice, like which person you marry or what job you accept. You need determination, commitment and perseverance.

To gain muscle you need two things:

  • A balanced diet that supports both muscle growth and the basic metabolism. Overweight and underweight people also need to lower or raise their calories accordingly.
  • A muscle-growing fitness regime. Almost all exercises grow some muscle in former sedentary people. Some exercises though do it faster and in a more targeted way. For pure muscle growth strength training on special gym equipment is the quickest and most failsafe way to get the muscle you dream of. A whole-body sport can do the same thing just in a larger timeframe. Some whole body sports are martial arts like judo, karate, muai tai and dances like zumba, aerobics, rhythmic etc.

Taking up a sport should never be a light decision based on something you saw on TV or something a friend recommended. Especially if you wish to gain muscle mass you have to research what you really want from a sport and which sports can offer you that. Most people only focus on the physical part of gaining muscle, but here we will discuss the more complex mental part.

So the first thing you need to gain muscle is:


Gaining muscle is a slow and arduous process. Naturally, your body can only create muscle at a certain pace and under certain circumstances. People do not grow muscle at the same rate. Younger people (adults) tend to have faster muscle growth than the elderly and men are faster than women. Also people of the same age and gender can differ when it comes to gaining lean mass. Genetics determine how strongly your body reacts to muscle growing factors, which means that with the same exercise and diet two similar people might get a different muscle growth.

When you start your journey to become more muscular you must realize that it must last a lifetime and that reaching your goals will take some effort. To gain muscle you have to get way out of your comfort zone physically and emotionally. This is why you need determination and a clear goal. Make up your mind exactly how much muscle you want and how much you are willing to sacrifice for it. When you change your lifestyle so drastically some of your more sedentary hobbies will suffer. Going to the gym means you watch less TV, spend less time playing video games or whatever you’d be doing instead. Make sure the tradeoff is working for you.

Next you need:


Once you are determined and you have found the sport that will offer you the muscle growth you want you have to commit to it. Determination can diminish once some time has passed, that is when commitment comes to play. You have to eat your balanced muscle-growing diet even when you prefer some junk food and you have to keep up with your weekly exercise hours even when you are tired from a hard day’s work.

To be committed you should find a deep personal reason to gain muscle. Is it to be healthier and enjoy your children/grandchildren/spouse for a longer time? Perhaps you really always wished to play football, but you couldn’t perform? Even if you personal reason is to improve your self-esteem or to draw in the eye of potential lovers, these can be worthy goals if they are close to your heart. Do not commit to a new lifestyle for some general reason others would find passable. If it is something you really want it will make the hardship easier to endure.



There will be times when eating healthy proteins and avoiding excess calories will seem unbearable. Some days moving a single muscle might feel like a torment. To persevere through all these hardships you have to find the joy in gaining muscle and make sure you fully appreciate it. Find a sport that gives you just as much joy as a hamburger. Make sure you show your new body off to get social approval for your new lifestyle. When you lose control make sure that you have a plan B ready to get you back on track. It is a good strategy to write down a list of all the positive things you felt on your muscle gaining journey and look at it whenever you feel tempted to return to your sedentary life.


To gain the muscle you want, you need to prepare the mind before you commit the body. Make sure to visualize the reality of gaining muscle and not a fantasy. Muscle is built for work and work is needed to grow it. So to become muscular you have to fall in love with physical effort and enjoy its health and social benefits.

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