Maintaining Mass and Building Mass

Muscles are a complex system of chains of cells that work together to help the body move. Their unique structure of protein cells enable them to contract and squeeze together, pulling the body in coordinated action. Muscle's ability to change in size and strength through activity and exercise separates it from other body systems. This power to increase the size or strength of muscle is referred to as hypertrophy, and is one of the key elements of exercise for fitness. Today, we can take advantage of this process to improve our power and appearance, which has made exercise an incredible tool for health tool.

Benefits

There are several advantages to hypertrophy and increasing muscle mass and strength. Most basic, having increased strength makes everyday life easier. Every movement relies completely on the muscles of the body. From getting out of bed in the morning, walking to work, carrying a bag, to even sitting up straight, muscles control everything. Improving your muscular fitness makes it possible to do all of these with less effort and for longer periods of time, without fatigue, strain, or tiring.

Increasing muscle mass has the benefit of lowering risk of injury throughout exercise as well as daily living. Working out following principles of corrective exercise , can improve and strengthen muscles all throughout the body. This can work to decrease muscle imbalances which can cause pain and increase the potential for further injury. Balanced strength training can also improve posture, further increasing your resistance to injury, as well as aches and pains. As an additional benefit, stronger muscle throughout the body can serve as protection against injury from impact. Strength training can also improve bone density, and the strength of tendons and ligaments, which become more resistant to damage. Increased muscle mass may also provide some added protection of certain areas of the body against blunt force trauma.

Furthermore, added muscle can do wonders for mental health and self esteem. Improving body composition through added muscle and decreased excess fat, can help you feel stronger and better. This can work to improve body image, and help you see yourself in a better light. It also serves as a motivator to continue exercising, enacting a positive spiral of improvement.

Physiology of Increase

Muscle fibers are unique in their ability to change size based on their activity levels. Bigger muscle fibers have more surface tension, and are capable of exerting larger amounts of force and power.

There are two main ways that muscles experience growth in strength and size. The first is through an increase in the size of muscle fibers themselves. Through activity and exercise, more protein chains can be created, making muscle fibers thicker. While this does not necessarily increase the size of the total muscle, it does work to improve the strength and moving power of the fibers and muscle as a whole.

Total muscle size can be best boosted through an increase in a protein-containing semifluid substance around the muscle fibers. Type IIb, fast twitch, muscle fibers are the ones that grow the most through this process, as they are naturally already larger than Type I slow twitch fibers. This increases the size of each fiber by raising the volume of the fiber, along with its cross-sectional area, but not necessarily its strength. This type of growth leads to higher protein levels throughout the muscle, which grant it a greater ability to grow and heal. When muscles are used in exercise, stress is applied to the muscle, which results in microtrauma and small tears to the muscle fibers. In response, the body works to repair the tears and rebuild the muscle by filling in proteins from the semifluid. 

Exercise

Understanding the way the fibers grow can help you figure out the best way to exercise based on your goals. Size gains and growth are best achieved exercising with heavier loads. This activates Type II muscle fibers, which are larger and have the most impact on increased muscle size and definition. Using heavy weight for fewer repetitions can lead to growth from increased protein containing fluid, which may increase size, but not necessarily gains in strength. Gains in strength can be achieved by exercising with higher repetitions. Using lighter weights in this way can help improve aerobic efficiency which leads to higher endurance and reduced fatigue.

There are a multitude of other factors that can also affect your strength and size gains. Things like the amount of time your rest between sets, the speed at which you perform your reps like when utilizing utilizing eccentric contraction, and how often you exercise the same muscles, can all change the way your muscles react to stress from exercise. Making sure to get enough rest between working out the same muscle by following a good progression plan can help keep growth stabilized. Experimenting with these variables can help you find or create the right total program for you.

Diet

What you eat also has a massive impact on muscle development. Muscle is primarily composed of proteins, and the nutrient protein in the food we eat helps to support its function. Because of this, it is important to make sure to consume enough protein to support growth and maintenance. The building blocks of muscle, protein chains known as known as myofibrils, and the protein-rich semifluid surrounding the fibers, all need adequate protein levels in order to support hypertrophy. While there is no magic number of how much protein to consume, the general recommendations are anywhere from 60-200g of protein each day, depending on your goals, along with your body weight and composition. Talk to a nutritionist or dietician to find out what’s right for you.

Increasing and maintaining the strength and size of your muscles is a complicated process made easier by knowing the science behind it. While some trial and error is involved to find the right way to exercise for your body and your goals, the most important thing is to get up and get moving. Any activity can help to strengthen the muscles, which is the basis of improving their function. Have fun, and enjoy the process of hypertrophy and mass gains.