The One Thing That Will Help You Reach Any Fitness Goal: Part I
No matter what your main fitness goals are, whether that be getting more athletic, losing some fat, gaining good weight or preparing for the 1st annual Pokemon Go national championship (because you will need some crazy stamina for that), accruing more muscle mass will almost always help.
Not only will it help, but no matter your main goal, gaining some muscle should be a priority.
The only time I would suggest that gaining muscle would not be appropriate is if an athlete is already lean and is on the brink of pushing the limit on their weight class…if their sport requires they stay within that weight class.
Besides that, gaining muscle should be a must!
This doesn’t mean have to shoot for wearing a thong and stand on stage (but if you want to by all means go ahead) .
What it does mean is you should absolutely not be afraid of gaining some lean tissue (muscle), and should in fact try to do so…no matter your goals!
Let’s go over how gaining muscle will undoubtedly help you achieve your health and performance goals.
1)“I want to look beastly in my extra small t-shirt” (for the Bros)
Ok, hopefully you don’t rep the extra small t-shirt, but in any case if you want to fill your t-shirt and make it look good, gaining some muscle will help.
And while this point is directed more towards our brosephs, for the ladies who want to look a little more “toned” (<— I hate that word by the way), some muscle will help with the defined look you are going for…look to the next point for more on this.
I hope that is obvious and why I won’t spend anymore time on this point.
2) “I want to tone up, not get man arms.”
It is funny because for those of us that have been in the fitness field for some time now, we are sick and tired of reading articles about how strength training, even hypertrophy training (training for muscle gain), will not result in females becoming overly muscular and manly looking. For us this is old news.
Just yesterday I had one of my female athletes tell me, “I don’t want man arms” so this is still obviously a common misconception for some of the ladies.
So to clear this up, it is very difficult for females to gain massive amounts of muscle as they don’t have enough of the hormones to support it…mainly testosterone.
Even some of the strongest strength training females, those who toss around sufficient amounts of weight on a regular basis, do not look overly muscular. In fact, the muscle that they carry looks very, for lack of a better term, “toned”…I just threw up a little typing that.
For example, take my wife and TOP Fitness athlete Jamie. She can deadlift twice her bodyweight, bang out 12+ chin ups and regularly pushes large amounts on the sled.
This is a picture of her during our recent vacation to the Dominican Republic. And I’m not just saying this because she is my wife (although it will hopefully win me some brownie points), but she looks good!…Very athletic and lean, not manly and “too muscular.”
So please ladies, don’t be afraid of gaining too much muscle and looking “manly.”
3) “I want to be an absolute savage on the field, court, ice, etc.”
The main athletic quality that separates one athlete from another when skill is equal, is power.
Power is defined as strength x velocity, or how quickly you can express your strength.
For that reason, a stronger athlete has a greater potential to be more powerful (explosive). So gaining strength should be of high priority.
The thing about strength is that much of the strength gain we experience is a product of our central nervous system adapting and becoming more efficient. This is especially true for those of us that are new / relatively new to strength training (less than 2 years of consistent training).
But after one becomes a trained individual, a big player in our ability to gain more strength is the cross sectional area of our muscles…in other words, how big our muscles are.
This does not mean that a more muscular individual will always stronger, but it does mean that they have the greater potential to be stronger. A stronger individual then has more potential to increase power and explosiveness.
Bottom line is that more muscle may not directly result in being stronger and more explosive, but it will give you more to work with to get stronger and more explosive…a good thing if you are looking to be a beast of an athlete.
4) “I don’t want to get injured.”
You may have heard that muscle is “armor for the body,” and I would have to agree.
The more muscle you have the more soft tissue there is to absorb contact forces and prevent direct blows to the underlying skeletal and internal organ systems.
I think it is pretty clear from these pictures that when I was injured and roughly 140 pounds I would have been lucky not to break a rib if the wind blew too hard. Whereas now at 185 pounds it would take a little more to do the same damage…if you missed it click HERE to read about what happened to me.
Along with having a more effective barrier from outside forces, more muscle means greater potential for strength, and when joints are placed in compromising positions, you will have a greater ability to get out of those positions, or at least avoid the extremes.
One thing I have to emphasize though is that even if you have a sufficient amount of muscle mass, if you are moving wrong to gain that muscle you will likely experience an overuse injury. So movement is still king!
Also, while more muscle will give you a better chance to avoid or reduce injury, please don’t be that dude that walks around like you have an S on your chest…someone may want to test that out.
With that said, more muscle will help you prevent or mitigate certain injuries…pretty important and helpful when it comes to being successful in sport, and being able to enjoy life!
5) “But I want to lose weight!”
While some of us do need to lose overall body mass, when many of us express that we want to lose weight, we are actually talking about reducing body fat.
Whether you have 30 plus pounds to lose, or you are just trying to get rid of some extra body fat that is providing a light cover over your six pack abs, gaining muscle WILL help.
The reason is, the more muscle you have, the more metabolic tissue you have to burn calories throughout the day.
This is why more muscular individuals can typically eat more without experiencing gains in body composition (body fat) when compared to a less muscular individual of the same weight.
If you were to google “how many calories does one pound of muscle burn” you will typically find estimates from 30-50 kcal (calories) per day. This number is likely inflated, so lets just go much lower and say it is 10 calories per pound per day (which is too low but I’d rather give the worse case scenario).
That means an individual that has 5 pounds more muscle will burn an extra 350 calories per week…even if they were to just sit down and do nothing but watch the “boob tube” all day (my what my parents used to call the TV).
Therefore, the goal should be to gain as much muscle as possible while burning body fat. This is better termed body recomposition (gaining muscle and losing fat).
This is not easy as muscle is best gained in a caloric surplus, while fat is best lost in a caloric deficit…but it can absolutely happen!
The takeaway is that carrying more muscle will allow you to burn more calories throughout the day. That means you are burning more calories when you are not training…sounds pretty good especially when your goals include losing weight or getting leaner.
Stay tuned for part II
Now that you know gaining muscle is a good thing, and should be a focus no matter what your goal is, keep your eye out for part II where I will explain how to most efficiently gain muscle. We will talk about the factors that effect muscle gain and how to set up a program to maximize them.
I will also briefly touch upon how to integrate muscle gain within your program when your main focus is on other outcomes that were discussed above (performance gain, fat loss, injury prevention, etc.).
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To your health and performance,