“Are you ready to build muscle?” is a question that wouldn’t often cross the mind of most gym goers, or personal trainers for that matter, but it is an important question to ask to ensure that you are able to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself.
When taking on a new personal training client for any goal, our first focus is to accurately assess all relevant factors relating to their personal training goal, and provide realistic expectations of what they can achieve, how long it will take, and what they need to do to get there.
So what things do you need to consider before diving head first into trying to build muscle?
Do you have any muscular imbalances?
This is an important question to answer. Having a quality personal trainer who can detect any imbalances between muscles will help prevent you suffering injuries in the future. If one side of the body is stronger and is contracting far better than the muscle on the other side of the body, this can lead to the weaker muscle being over worked and potentially cause damage.
The other concern is that aesthetically, if you are contracting and developing one side of the body better than the other, then you will develop a physically out of proportion physique which is far from ideal.
Focusing on contracting both sides of the body equally and correctly in an exercise will help prevent any imbalance issue. Also, a good tip is to only work to the strength of your weakest side, and always train your weakest side first with any isolateral (single sided) exercises.
What is my body fat %? Am I insulin sensitive?
Apart from the obvious adverse effects of high body fat levels, the higher your body fat % is the harder it will be to build muscle mass.
Having higher body fat mass is associated with poor insulin sensitivity. This will mean that the proteins and carbohydrates you consume won’t effectively enter your muscle cells, and can therefore end up stored as body fat. This will limit your ability to build muscle mass and increases your chances of further increasing body fat mass.
Before embarking on building muscle, reducing body fat mass and improving insulin sensitivity will go a long way to helping your muscle building endeavours.
Some ways to improve insulin sensitivity include improving sleep duration and quality, magnesium supplementation, limiting carbohydrate intake, eliminating high G.I carbohydrates, limit fructose intake, and reducing stress. Consuming vinegar or cinnamon with a high carbohydrate meal can help offset the impact of insulin and maintain your cell’s sensitivity to it.
What is my goal and how long do I have to achieve it?
Setting a realistic expectation of what you can achieve in a relevant time frame is an important step to take before committing to any training program. Nothing will discourage someone quicker than falling short of their goal or being unable to achieve what they set out to do. Starting off with an unrealistic expectation of results is a fast way to giving up on your program.
A realistic expectation of lean mass gain is between 250g-500g per week. Now this is going to depend on how long you have been training, how much muscle mass you have developed, your age, and also your gender, but for the average person starting out should be able to achieve that kind of progress with the correct training and nutrition plan. It may not seem like much, but it will lead to a 3-6kg increase in lean mass in 12 weeks, which will make a massive difference to anybody’s physique.
Everybody jumps right into their training with good intentions, but a little bit of planning and consideration beforehand will do you a world of good in the long run.