What makes muscles grow? things you need to know about muscle building

We have over 600 muscles in our body. They make up between ⅓ and ½ of our body weight. They help us, hold us up, and bind us together along with connective tissues. Whether your hobby is body building or not, muscles always need your constant attention. Because the way you treat them on a daily basis determines whether they will grow or wither. 

Think that you are standing in front of a door, you are about to pull it open. Your brain and muscles are perfectly made to help you achieve this goal. First, your brain sends signals to motor neurons inside your arm. When the neurons receive this message they spark, causing muscles to contract and relax. Muscles pull on the bones in your arm and generate the needed movement. The bigger the challenge becomes, the bigger the brain’s signal grows, and the more motor units it rallies to help you achieve your task. 

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What if the door was made of solid iron? 

At this point, your arm muscles alone won’t be able to generate enough tension to pull it open. So your brain sends signals to get help from the other muscles of your body. Then you spread your feet, tighten your belly, and tense your back. That will generate enough force to open the solid iron door. 

Your nervous system leverages the resources you already have. That means getting the help of other muscles to meet the demand. While all this is happening your muscle fibers undergo another kind of cellular change. As you expose them to stress, they experience microscopic damage. But, it is a good thing.

In response to those damages, the injured cells release inflammatory molecules called cytokines which activate the immune system to repair the injury. This is when the muscle-building starts to happen. When the damage is greater to the muscle tissue, your body will need more to repair itself. The resulting cycle of damage and repair eventually make muscles bigger and stronger. Because they adapt aggressively to greater demands.

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Since our bodies have already adapted to most everyday activities, those activities generally don’t produce enough stress to stimulate new muscle growth. So to build new muscles, a process called hypertrophy, our cells need to be exposed to higher workloads than they are used fact, if you don’t continuously expose your muscles to some resistance, they’ll shrink. It is a process called muscular atrophy. 

But, in contrast, exposing the muscles to more tension, especially while the muscle is lengthening, also known as eccentric contraction, generates effective conditions for new muscle growth.   

Muscles rely on more than just activity to grow. Without proper nutrition, hormones, and rest, your body won’t be able to repair damaged muscle fibers. And also protein in our diet preserves muscle mass by providing the building blocks for new tissues in the form of amino acids. Adequate protein intake along with naturally occurring hormones, such as insulin-like growth factor and testosterone, help shift the body into a state where tissue is repaired and grown. This important repair process mainly occurs while we’re sleeping, resting. 

Gender and age affect this repair mechanism, that is why young men with more testosterone have more muscles than older men. Genetic factors also play a role in one’s ability to grow muscles. Some people have more robust immune reactions to muscle damage, they are better able to repair and replace damaged muscle fibers. Which increases their muscle-building potential. 

The body responds to the demands you place on it. If you tear your muscles up, eat right, rest and repeat, you create the conditions to make your muscles as big and strong as possible. 

It is the same for life too. Meaningful growth requires challenge and stress.     

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