Build muscle: how it works

Muskeln aufbauen: So funktioniert es

In today's society, an aesthetic and fit body has already become a must. Many fashion magazines and influencers on social media present and boast about their athletic physique, both men and increasingly women. But a fit body is not just an advantage for aesthetic reasons. It also brings many health benefits, whether mental or physical.

But having a toned physique can be a tough proposition, especially when you don't have a good genetic makeup for it. No matter what many "fitness coaches" trumpet about how to lose weight or build muscle as quickly as possible, there is no getting around training hard and, if necessary, changing your diet in order to achieve an aesthetic, well-trained body.

Well-toned men (and now women too) are considered attractive and sexy in contrast to those with an average body or a larger figure. With muscles you appear much more self-confident and influential on those around you. But the road to a muscular body is no picnic.

Depending on how muscular you want to be, hard training is required, especially in the strength area. The most important aspects of muscle building are listed below.

Muscles build up when the muscle cells are overloaded, for example through strength training. This creates small micro-tears in the muscle cells, which are regenerated and made to grow by absorbing proteins. By loading the muscle, it becomes stronger, so to speak, and is able to handle more weight in future workouts. A muscle must therefore constantly be confronted with new stimuli. (2)

However, one must distinguish between hypertrophy and strength-building and strength-endurance training. Depending on which goal you are pursuing or how you want to look physically in the end, you have to optimize your training style and the number of repetitions during strength training.

When training for strength building, the optimal number of repetitions is three to five repetitions per set. You generate big strength gains and the body tends to get bulkier. In strength-endurance training, the number of repetitions can sometimes exceed 15 and go up to 25. The muscle becomes more resilient for longer and the metabolism is stimulated even more, which is why it is sometimes counted as cardio training.

When doing hypertrophy training, you should be in the rep range of at least six to a maximum of 12 reps per set. If you look at a bodybuilder's training, you'll find that most of them follow hypertrophy training for muscle building.

It is essential that if the muscles are constantly subjected to new stimuli, be it through heavier weight, the number of repetitions or the intensity, the muscle is stimulated to grow. Ideal training is characterized by a healthy mix of all three training methods.

Woman doing squats

In training, the hypertrophy zone is the most ideal for building muscle. This is at a repetition number of six to about twelve. (Image Source: Alora Griffiths / Unsplash)

But the thing is not over with the training alone, because in order for the muscles to grow, attention must also be paid to the diet. In order for the muscle to regenerate and grow, the calorie intake must be increased by 200 to 500 (in some cases even more). In addition, an increased intake of proteins must also be taken into account. The optimal value is: 1.5 - 2 grams of protein per body weight. Do you weigh z. B. 70 kg, an optimal amount of protein would be 140 grams.

In addition, factors such as adequate sleep and stress avoidance play an enormous role in muscle building. If you sleep too little, the muscles cannot regenerate properly and if you have too much stress, the cortisol level in the body increases, which is also counterproductive for muscle growth.

No. No matter how hard you train, building muscle requires a calorie surplus, which logically you don't have when dieting. Among bodybuilders, a distinction is made between the build-up phase or mass phase and the definition phase.

Salmon with vegetables

Muscle building is not possible on a diet because there is no surplus of calories, which is necessary for the muscles. (Image Source: Caroline Attwood / Unsplash)

The training differs little between the two phases, however, the bulking phase increases calorie intake to stimulate muscle growth, while the cutting phase does exactly the opposite, namely reducing calorie intake below calorie requirements to lose body fat, to show the muscles. (4)

While the muscles are stimulated and trained during strength training, the cardiovascular system is trained during cardio training, which means that endurance and the heart are strengthened. It is also an ideal workout for stress and especially fat loss. The combination of strength and cardio training can be very effective in some cases.

Man ties shoelaces

In principle, there is nothing wrong with incorporating cardio units alongside strength training. What is important, however, is the calorie surplus from the diet. (Image source: Alexander Redl / Unsplash)

Sometimes, however, strength training clashes with additional cardio units and can even be counterproductive for muscle building. Since you burn calories during strength training and also do endurance training, the calorie consumption can suddenly skyrocket, which is actually not a bad thing.

However, if you don't take in more calories than you use up, it becomes very difficult or impossible to build muscle. If you still want to combine strength training with cardio training, you should make sure you eat more so that you have a calorie surplus. (6)

Fats should rather be used adequately in the diet. However, they are also important macronutrients for muscle building because they are primarily responsible for the metabolic process in the body, including the formation of the muscle building hormone par excellence, namely testosterone. Healthy fats are mainly poly or mono-saturated fatty acids, such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado or nuts. (7)

macro nutrient Examples of food
protein Meat, fish, legumes
carbohydrates rice, cereals, fruit
Fat nuts, oils, cheese

The cliché of the bodybuilder eating pounds of meat every day is a thing of the past. You don't need to consume huge amounts of meat or animal products to build muscle, as this also works perfectly with a vegan diet.

It is important that there is a calorie surplus and that enough proteins are consumed. The best vegan foods for muscle building are:

  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.)
  • quinoa
  • amaranth
  • soy
  • tofu
  • nuts
  • Vegan protein powder


  • Muscle Building: Top Tips for Bigger Muscles | nu3 source
  • How often should I train to build muscle mass? - clever fit Source
  • Build muscle and lose fat - that's what everyone Source wants
  • SURF BASICS - build muscle without a gym - can that work? Source
  • Cardio to build muscle: friend or foe? Source
  • Fast Muscle Building Meal Plan in 7 Steps Source
  • Progressive Overload: How to get more muscle and strength Source
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