We may used to think that in order to build muscle, all we had to do was lift weights! So what better way than to visit the gym right? Unfortunately during this time of COVID-19, it can be risky to go because of the possibility of exposure to the virus. As a result, you might even consider getting some weights of your own at home but then realized later how expensive it can all become. Although weights are most well known for building muscle, they are actually NOT the only method! To get some ideas, it helps to understand the process of how muscles are even built.
How Are Muscles Built?
After each workout session, you most likely experienced the infamous “soreness” feeling and that is how you can tell you had a great workout! Why does this soreness happen though? It is because in addition to the lactic acid produced when you were doing your workout, your muscles are also essentially experiencing micro tears within them. Yes, it does sound like what you heard.
Your muscles are essentially being torn at a very microscopic level. BUT, your body is sophisticated enough to go through a repair process by generating new muscle fibers. When the muscles heal, they essentially heal back thicker and stronger. This means we also get bigger muscles!
Pros and Cons of Our Body When Building Muscle
Our muscles are also complex enough that it will continue to adapt to whatever stress you pose it with. This can be both a good and a bad thing.
- The Good
- Whatever stress you throw at your body, your body will adjust itself to meet the demands.
- In the process, they will grow stronger.
- The Bad
- Unfortunately, your body will also get used to the your exercise routines.
- As a result, your progress can even slow or plateau.
How to Keep Your Growth From Plateauing?
When building muscle, we need to keep our workouts challenging by trying to confuse our body. It takes about 2 to 3 weeks or so before our body starts to adapt to whatever workout we do. Once it does, that is when the results will plateau. Therefore, before that occurs, there are 2 things to keep in mind to make your workouts challenging.
- Using a heavier weight or creating more resistance when you get used to the lighter weight
- Your muscles will NOT be used to the heavier weight yet so it will be worked out more.
- Time under contraction
- Spending more time contracting your muscles means it will be worked out more too.
- Rather than 1 second per repetition for each exercise, try 2 or 3 seconds. Do that for every repetition and you pretty much also double your workout.
What Other Equipment Can One Use to Build Muscle?
So we might not be able to visit the gym as often as we like and we might not even have the funds to own our personal gym with all weights. A good alternative to lifting weights would be something like resistance bands. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)
Resistance bands might not seem like much due to their light weight but they function in a unique way. Here is how they compare with lifting weights.
- Lifting Weights
- The difficulty comes from the actual weight that you are using
- To increase the difficulty, you either add another plate or use a heavier dumbbell
- The weight difficulty is constant
- Will have to change the weights depending on the type of exercise
- Resistance Bands
- The difficulty increases the more you stretch the band (almost at an exponential level)
- There is more flexibility in the types of exercises you can do
- Although you will build muscle, you might not bulk up like how pure weight training will
How to Use the Resistance Bands?
Essentially, your goal is to find ways to imitate your usual weight lifting motions with pulling motions. You can either:
- Stand at the midpoint of the resistance bands and pull the bands or
- Hook/loop the resistance band over a secure object and then pull it from there.
Here is a YouTube video on some basic resistance bands exercises for specific muscles.
Important Key Reminders When Building Muscle
Like with any equipment (and especially weights), there are some key things to keep in mind:
- Resting days
- This will provide time for your muscle to recover.
- Exercising the same group of muscles consecutively can lead to MANY micro tears that will add up which will lead to a more dangerous tear. This type of tear will lead to injury and possibly even permanent damage to the muscle.
- This is the vital to your muscle recovery and repair
- Consumption of Protein
- Protein is like your building blocks for muscle. If you need more muscle “A” today since you worked out, your body will gather the building blocks to repair and build up muscle “A”.
- Protein sources can come from food sources or protein powder (Branched chain amino acids, or BCAA)
- Increased Hydration (with Electrolytes)
- You will most likely be sweating during your workout. You should increase your fluid intake to replace what was lost.
- Water is great but sometimes your electrolytes may be thrown off balanced (depending on how much you sweat). Perhaps a combination of water and drinks like Gatorade/Powerade will do wonders.
Avoid overstretching the resistance bands. In the past, I have pulled a cheap resistance band (the hardest level of thickness) that I got from eBay beyond its stretching limit. It actually snapped! With time, even if we purchased the most difficult level of bands, we will eventually reach a point where that will become “easy” for us.
Rather than stretching the band past its limit every time, it would be safer to use MULTIPLE bands at once. This would definitely increase the difficulty for you without the risk of the band snapping and hence I recommended this version. It allows you to add on bands and is very customizable.
Going to the gym to lift weights can be difficult during this time of COVID-19. Building your own gym at home with your own weights can be quite an expensive investment as well. But the good news is that lifting weights are NOT the only method to building muscle.
By understanding how muscles work, you can find other methods to build them up. One of those ways is through the use of resistance bands. Although they can seem “easy”, they can make them more challenging depending on your level of physique. Remember to use multiple bands instead of just one and stretching it beyond its limit. Now you can practically build muscle without having to go to the gym!
In addition to the bands, you can also try gymnastics rings, which helps with building the main muscles and other muscles that you might not have used as much before. When all these muscles get strong and big, they will all add up and help lead to a bigger overall build.
Did you enjoy this article on how to build more muscle without having to go to the gym? Please leave a comment below!