Gym regulars have chased the much-coveted bodybuilder physique since forever. Packing on muscle, bulking up those biceps and training for size becomes the focus of bodybuilding. But does muscle size always equate to muscle strength and quality?

What is Muscle quality?

Muscles of equal size and volume do not necessarily have equal strength and power. In other words, you and a friend may have the same thigh circumference, but tire out after a different number of squats or leg presses. This capacity of a muscle to produce force per unit of volume is called “muscle quality,” or MQ.

Think of a muscle as being made up, broadly, of two major types of tissue: one that contracts (contractile tissue) and one that does not (non-contractile tissue). MQ is determined by the relative amounts of these tissues in your muscle. The greater the proportion of a muscle’s contractile tissue to its non-contractile tissue, the greater the amount of force it can produce for its size, and the greater its muscle quality.

We tend to equate big muscles with being strong and powerful. But new research has found that the large, defined muscles might not necessarily equate to strength.

The Importance of Rest

Sleep and muscle growth go hand in hand. Most people probably don’t even consider how sleep can affect building muscle. When you’re sleeping, your body enters a higher anabolic state. This basically just means that your body uses the time when you’re sleeping to repair and rejuvenate all of the tissue in your body, including muscle tissue.

Getting a good night’s rest is important every night, although it is even more important on the days you train. You should be aiming for anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night.

If you sleep any longer than that you may be resetting your body’s natural clock and may find it much more difficult to fall asleep on time the following night.

Eating Smart

Building quality muscle requires an increase in calories, that means in order to gain weight you should consume more calories than you burn each day. But if you go overboard and eat too much you will kick start the fat storing process. So the key is to eat just enough to facilitate the muscle gaining process without adding fat along. Let’s get straight to the diet:

  • Meal 1: Wake-Up Meal/Pre Breakfast
    Nutrient Groups: Fast Protein + High GI Fruits
    What to Eat:
    This meal remains same for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. A glass of protein shakes along with a medium sized fruit, preferably banana.
  • Meal 2: Breakfast
    Nutrient Groups: Protein + Low GI carbs + Healthy Fats
    What to Eat:
    Vegetarians: Paratha (3 medium pieces)/Paneer Bhurji + Greek Yogurt/ Low-fat yogurt + sprout salad (1 medium bowl)
    Non-Vegetarians: Eggs, Oatmeal, Milk, and Nuts
  • Meal 3: Mid-Morning Meal
    Nutrient Groups: Protein + Slow acting carbs + Veggies
    What to Eat:
    Vegetarians: Roasted chickpeas (1 medium bowl) + Small size fruit + mixed vegetables salad
    Non-Vegetarians: A bowl of Brown Rice, Chicken, and Broccoli
  • Meal 4: Lunch
    Nutrient Groups: Protein + Slow acting carbs + Veggies
    What to eat:
    Vegetarians: Mixed veggies sabzi + Brown Rice (1 medium cup) + Broccoli/Cauliflower (1 cup cooked)
    Non-Vegetarians: Fish, Brown Rice, Mixed Veggies
  • Meal 5: Mid-Afternoon/Pre-Workout Meal
    Nutrient Groups: Protein + Low GI carbs
    What to eat:
    Vegetarians: Whole grain toast with almond butter or avocado + Baked sweet potatoes (1 small bowl)
    Non-Vegetarians: Sweet potato and Protein powder
  • Meal 6: Post-Workout Shake
    Everyone who is aiming to get lean body mass or even otherwise willing to gain muscles must have proper post-workout nutrition to improve their strength considerably. A good post-workout shake can help in achieving your daily protein requirement which you may not able to get from your other solid meals.
  • Meal 7: Dinner
    Nutrient Groups: Protein + Fibres + Few Low GI carbs
    What to eat:
    Vegetarians: Avocado and White Bean Salad with cheese dressing
    Non-Vegetarians: Chicken, Broccoli salad with flax oil dressing

Workout Schedule

  1. Choose how many days per week you will train.
    One of the best schedules is to train four times per week. With that in mind, shoot for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday with Wednesday and the weekend off.
  2. Next, choose your frequency.
    Training your entire body twice per week with a simple upper/lower split routine makes the most sense for a basic plan. That means chest, back, and shoulders on Mondays and Thursdays, and arms and legs on Tuesdays and Fridays.
  3. Exercise selection is next.
    You will want to choose no more than two exercises for larger body parts such as chest, back, and legs and no more than one for smaller areas such as arms, shoulders and calves. Just be sure they are those big, compound exercises instead of the smaller isolation moves.
  4. Determine volume (sets).
    Your total amount of volume need not be too high. Strive for an even playing field, and shoot for four to five sets per exercise. That should have you in and out of the gym in about an hour.
  5. Choose a rep range.
    Traditionally, pure strength training follows a lower rep range of 2-6 reps, depending on your goal, anywhere from 4-12 reps will be ideal.
  6. Don’t forget about rest periods.
    This factor is one of the most influential in your training. Proper resting long allows for less fatigue and more time wasted in the gym.
  7. Commit to it.
    Without commitment, all of the planning you painstakingly laid out will be for nothing. Make a promise to yourself that you will see this through for at least six months.

Packing on lean muscle mass isn’t rocket science. It’s rather basic, really. All it takes is a commitment from you, some discipline, and the practice of day-to-day consistency.

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