Everywhere, Instagram stars are declaring 'strong is the new skinny' and 'muscles are in'. It might seem like a marketing ploy, but the truth is that there are many health benefits. In fact, if there's one thing you do for your physical fitness this year, it should be to build strong, balanced muscles. However, if you want to build muscle safely and efficiently, it's important to understand the theory behind it.
What Are Muscles?
Muscles are a soft tissue made up of two protein filaments. These slide along each other, causing the tissue to contract and relax.
Muscles are more than just superficial. We need muscles to maintain posture, hold organs and glands in the right place, keep the heart beating, digest food and move in any way.
The main type of muscle we mean when talking about 'building muscle' is skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscles are the muscles we can voluntary move. Their main purpose is to help to control the movement of the bones, with the aid of ligaments and tendons.
What Are the Benefits of Muscle Mass?
There are dozens of benefits of exercising and increasing muscle mass – many more than you might think. They include:
This combination means that almost everyone can benefit from putting on some healthy muscle.
The Downsides of Insufficient Muscle
Insufficient muscle mass and poor strength, on the flip side, can be bad news for your health. They are associated with issues such as:
Although it can be a bit hard to tell which comes first, the health issue or low muscle mass, it becomes a spiral of poor health.
How Do You Build Them?
Muscles are not built just in the gym, despite what your trainer might try to tell you. In fact, there are many different exercise types that can build different muscles. What you choose depends on your preference and your goals.
On a cellular level, muscles are built up in response to stress on the muscle. This then prompts the body to increase the volume, or size, of the muscle cells.
One of the main theories of muscle building is micro-trauma. When you put sufficient stress onto the muscle in question, it causes micro-tears in the muscle. Basically, you push the muscle to the point of being uncomfortable. The body then uses special cells to repair the muscle by replacing the tissue. They then add extra tissue to protect the muscle from more damage.
However, this does not mean more pain means more gain. Too much strain can turn a micro-tear into a full tear injury, which requires weeks of rest to repair.
The majority of people attend a gym and follow a muscle-building, or hypertrophy, training program. However, if this isn't your cup of tea, it doesn't mean that you can't build healthy muscle mass.
Looking for a non-gym way to build muscles? Try some of the following ideas:
Supporting Your Muscles
Building muscles is not just about exercise. There are two other vital pieces to the puzzle, which are nutrition and sleep.
This means that quality sleep is crucial to muscle building and recovery. We've already covered some tips on how to get a good night sleep. Following these will aid in the healing process. However, one bonus tip that aids with both sleep and muscle recovery is to drink tart cherry juice. Tart cherry juice relieves muscle soreness after exercise, as well as being a natural source of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
While you're building muscle and exercising, your body also has a greater demand for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. This is because exercising increases the amount of oxidative stress put on the systems of the body. Adding in plenty of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices will aid in recovery and keeping you well.
By building up strong, healthy muscles, you will be on your way to a longer, healthier life. Who wouldn't want that? So, get out there and move your body today.
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