Build Muscle

The Ultimate Guide On How To Build Muscle And Keep It

Written by:

Jordyn Snyder

Last updated:

A man building muscle at the gym

Building muscle is a goal shared by many fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and individuals seeking to enhance their physique and overall health. While achieving muscle growth requires effort and dedication, the rewards are numerous. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key principles and strategies to help you build muscle effectively, the benefits, and everything else you need to know to avoid muscle damage and get larger muscles. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gym-goer, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools to achieve all your muscle-building goals.

The Difference Between Muscle Mass Vs. Muscle Strength

Muscle mass and muscle strength are two related but distinct concepts in the realm of physical fitness. While they are interconnected, they represent different aspects of muscular development and performance. Here’s a breakdown of the difference between muscle mass and muscle strength:

Muscle Mass

Muscle mass refers to the amount or volume of muscle tissue present in the body. It is primarily determined by the size, number, and thickness of muscle fibers. Building muscle mass typically involves muscle hypertrophy, which is an increase in the size of muscle cells. This can be achieved through resistance training, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, which create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. During the recovery process, the muscles repair and adapt, leading to muscle growth and an increase in overall muscle mass.

Muscle Strength

Muscle strength refers to the ability of muscles to generate force. It is a measure of the maximum amount of force a muscle or a group of muscles can produce. Strength is influenced by factors such as muscle mass, muscle fiber recruitment, neural adaptations, and the efficiency of muscle contractions. Building muscle strength involves training the nervous system to efficiently recruit muscle fibers and generate more force. This is often achieved through resistance training, focusing on heavy weights or high-intensity exercises that challenge the muscles to work against significant resistance.

In summary, muscle mass refers to the size and volume of muscle tissue, while muscle strength pertains to the ability to produce force. While increasing muscle mass often leads to improvements in muscle strength, they are not interchangeable terms and different training 

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A strong man building muscle while weightlifting

The Benefits of Building Muscle

Building muscle through regular resistance training offers numerous benefits for overall health, fitness, and well-being. Here are some of the key benefits of building muscle:

Joint Support

Strong muscles provide better support and stability to your joints, reducing the risk of injuries, such as strains and sprains. Building muscle around the joints can also help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with certain conditions, like arthritis.

Builds Stronger Bones

Resistance training has been shown to increase bone density and improve bone health. Building muscle helps to stimulate bone remodeling and strengthen bones, which can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, especially as you age.

Boosted Metabolic Health

Building muscle has been associated with improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, reducing the risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes. It can also help regulate blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, contributing to better overall cardiovascular health.

Burn More Calories

Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissue. Building muscle can increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body needs to maintain basic bodily functions. This can help with weight management and make it easier to maintain a healthy body composition.

Increased Strength

One of the most apparent benefits of building muscle is improved strength. With stronger muscles, you can perform daily activities with greater ease, lift heavier objects, and participate in sports or physical activities more effectively.

Enhanced Mental Well-being

Regular exercise, including strength training, has been linked to improved mental health. Building muscle can boost endorphin levels, reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression, and enhance overall mood and well-being.

A woman building muscles doing squats

How to Build Muscle Effectively

Building muscle the right way involves a combination of consistent resistance training, proper nutrition, and adequate recovery. Although there are some more in-depth strategies to help you build muscle effectively:

Proper Form

Focus on maintaining proper form and technique during your exercises. This ensures that you are targeting the intended muscles effectively and reduces the risk of injury. If you’re new to resistance training, consider working with a qualified fitness professional to learn the proper form.

Eat Protein

Aim for an adequate protein intake of around 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram) per day, spread across your meals. This can help support muscle protein synthesis and provide the necessary building blocks for muscle growth and repair. Consuming enough lean proteins are also a great way to get extra calories and assist with things like sore muscles and other health benefits. The most important part of this though is to ensure you have balanced meals and even if you’re choosing a plant-based diet, it’s important to make sure you’re still getting all the key nutrients.


Building muscle takes time and consistency. Aim for regular workouts, typically 2-4 times per week, and stick to your routine over the long term. Consistency and adherence to your training program are key factors in achieving optimal muscle growth. Even if you need to switch to lighter weights during weight training or lower the sets per exercise, as long as you’re still exercising you’ll see improvements.

Resistance Training

Engage in regular resistance training exercises that target major muscle groups. This can include weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, resistance band workouts, or using weight machines for a full-body workout. Aim for a balanced routine that includes both compound exercises (which involve multiple muscle groups) and isolation exercises (which target specific muscles).

Progressive Overload

Gradually increase the intensity and challenge of your workouts over time. This can be achieved by progressively adding a heavier weight, increasing repetitions or sets, or adjusting the difficulty of exercises. By continually challenging your muscles with tasks like increased time under tension, you stimulate growth and adaptation for lean muscle mass.

Sleep At Least 6-8 Hours

Allow your muscles time to recover and adapt to the training stimulus. Adequate sleep and recovery are crucial for muscle growth. Include rest days in your training schedule and prioritize quality sleep, as it plays a significant role in muscle repair and growth. It’s recommended to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep every single night for the best muscle recovery.

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A man building muscles of the back at the gym

How Fast Can You Gain Muscle?

The rate at which you can gain muscle varies depending on several factors, including your level of training. Those who are new to resistance training or have had a significant break from training may experience relatively faster initial muscle gains. It’s a good rule of thumb to expect that in the first few months of training, it’s not uncommon to see noticeable improvements in muscle mass and strength.

Though it is important to note that later down the road, for more seasoned lifters, you can experience a sort of plateau even with a naturally active lifestyle. 

There are also gender differences. Typically, males tend to gain muscle faster than females due to differences in hormone profiles, particularly higher levels of testosterone. However, both genders can make significant progress with consistent training.

Then there is genetics. Obviously, a healthy lifestyle goes a long way, but genetics play a huge role in determining how easily you can build muscle. Some individuals have a naturally higher potential for muscle growth, while others may have to put in more effort to see substantial gains. However, regardless of your genetic predisposition, consistent training and proper nutrition can still lead to improvements.

The effectiveness of your training program and your nutrition can also impact the rate of muscle gain. A well-designed program that incorporates progressive overload, works up to high-rep sets, targets all major muscle groups for full-body training, and includes appropriate rest and recovery can optimize muscle growth. The same goes for your diet. If you’re not eating the proper amount of whole foods, protein, and sticking to the correct calorie intake you could see a severe decrease in the ability to gain muscle.

A man building muscles, focusing on biceps

Why Am I Not Gaining Muscle?

If you’re not seeing noticeable muscle gains despite your efforts, several factors could be contributing to this including, inadequate surplus calories, insufficient protein intake, inconsistent or ineffective training, lack of sufficient intensity during a workout, inadequate recovery, lack of patience, no muscle recovery time, and underlying health issues. Genetics and individual response play a huge role in how easily and quickly individuals gain muscle as well as fat gain.

If you’re unsure why you’re not gaining muscle, it may be beneficial to consult with a qualified fitness professional, personal trainer, physical therapist, or healthcare provider who can evaluate your specific situation, provide personalized guidance, and help you identify any potential issues or medical conditions that need to be addressed when trying to achieve a lean body mass.

What Are The Signs of Muscle Growth?

When you’re making progress in building muscle, there are several signs and indicators that you can look out for. These things include increased physical strength, visible changes in muscle definition, the way your clothes fit, improved muscle endurance, reduced body fat percentage, and improved mind-muscle connection.

It’s very important to note that these signs are subjective and may not be experienced by everyone in the same way or to the same degree. Additionally, muscle growth is a gradual process, and results may take time to become noticeable. It’s essential to be patient, consistent, and monitor your progress over the long term. It’s also a great idea to take progress photos and write down your measurements and/or weight to see the muscle size and body composition change.

Can You Build Muscle Without Weights?

While traditional weight lifting using dumbbells, barbells, or resistance machines is a common approach to strength training and muscle building, there are alternative methods that can effectively stimulate muscle growth like bodyweight movements, compound movements, calisthenics, resistance band training, isometric exercises, and nutrition.

These alternative methods can provide effective muscle-building benefits, especially for beginners or those without access to weights or a gym. It’s important to design a well-rounded training program that targets all major muscle groups, incorporates progressive overload, and allows for proper rest and recovery to maximize muscle growth and in some cases healthy weight gain.

About Jordyn Snyder