It’s official: Skinny is out, and swole is in. It truly is a wonderful time for a bodybuilder to be alive, as once upon a time, muscle-bound physiques were frowned upon and were considered nothing more than circus freaks. Nowadays however, it seems as if everybody wants to be as ripped and muscular as possible, and yes, that includes the gals as well. The girlswholift hashtag is one of the most popular on all of social networking, and people do appear to be far more accepting of bodybuilding and the building of muscle, than they were a decade or two back. Now, people who drink protein shakes are not accused of taking steroids, and girls that lift weights now know that they will not miraculously turn into the incredible hulk by doing so. Building muscle, and bodybuilding in general however, is very complex, and there is always a great deal still to learn. If you’re looking to brush up on your muscle building knowledge, or if you simply want to know what you’re letting yourself in for before picking up your first set of dumbbells, here’s a look at some surprising facts about building muscle.

Focus on the negatives

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In life, generally we should always try to focus on the positives, as a negative outlook is not constructive in the slightest. When it comes to weight training to build muscle however, you can make an exception. You see, studies have found that in order to elicit maximum rates of muscle hypertrophy, you will need to recruit as many muscle fibres as you possibly can. In order to do this however, you need to be slow and controlled on the negative part of the lift, which is known as the eccentric portion. Studies have found that slow and controlled eccentric movements of a lift will recruit more muscle fibres. If you’re exploding the weight upwards and bouncing it down quickly, you are not putting enough stress on the muscle fibres, so they won’t grow. When lifting, try to be slow and controlled on the negative part of the movement.

Bare feet are useful for heavy compounds

If you’ve ever been in a gym and have seen people squatting or deadlifting in bare feet, there is a reason for this. No, they aren’t just trying to draw attention to themselves in order to appear to be ‘hardcore’, they are instead doing so to get their heels in the correct position. With heavy compounds, to make the exercise effective, and to keep you safe, you must ensure you have the correct posture and the correct form at all times. Wearing shoes will force your heels into the wrong position, which is why people train barefoot.

A little soreness is good, too much is not

Forget about when people say things such as ‘no pain, no gain’ as this is simply not the case at all. When you train, after you finish, it is perfectly normal to experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for the next day or so, as this shows you that you have indeed targeted the muscle groups you intended to hit. If however, you find yourself feeling constantly sore, and constantly stiff and aching, this is a sign of overtraining. If you are overtraining, you will simply not give your body the chance to recover properly after training, so you will not build muscle. What’s more, in extreme cases, your body may enter a catabolic state in which it eats away at muscle tissue for energy. This ironically means that by exercising to build muscle, you may actually be destroying it and losing it. If you are always sore, tired, and aching, give yourself a few days/weeks off from exercising, and try to allow yourself at least two entire days of rest each week.

Stress means less

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When it comes to building muscle, if you want to pack as much size and mass onto your frame as possible, it is essential that you relax and stay calm. Studies have found that individuals who are overly stressed, will find it much harder to build muscle, and it all comes down to hormones. When we are stressed, our bodies secrete a stress hormone known as cortisol, which can actually be catabolic. The more cortisol in your system, the harder you will find it to build and maintain muscle. Exercise is considered a stressor by the body, so it secretes a little cortisol during training. If you are overly stressed and agitated however, elevated cortisol levels can be damaging. Stress can also affect your sleep, and your motivational levels, so you won’t actually want to train in the first place.

Supplements do not work miracles

Have you ever wondered why some people out there spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on supplements every single month, yet when it comes to their diets, they simply eat whatever they want, whenever they want? Yeah, us too. Needless to say, people that live like this are clearly misinformed when it comes to bodybuilding, because there is literally no point in spending money on supplements if you are not willing to clean up your diet. You can’t out train a poor diet, so do not think that copious amounts of whey protein, creatine, and amino acids will suddenly help you strip fat and build muscle, if you are not paying attention to what you are eating and drinking. If used in conjunction with one another, that is where the results really make their presence felt.

Protein timing is vital

Protein supplements are very complex, they contain quality ingredients, and they undertake a lot of manufacturing. Needless to say, they are not all that cheap. If you spend hundreds on protein supplements, getting your timings right each day is vital. For example, optimally, whey protein should be consumed instantly after you finish lifting, along with dextrose and added amino acids perhaps. Casein protein, a slow-release protein, should be consumed late at night. The reason for this is that as it is a slow-release protein, it feeds your body with proteins and amino acids whilst you sleep. Whey protein would be used far too quickly, and for post-workout, casein protein would not be absorbed quickly enough.

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