How Do Muscle Grow? The Basic Science of Muscle Building

A basic concept about muscle growth is, the more you exercise the more muscles you grow.

Note: Exercise, here is referred as the pressure or tension that you put on your muscles while working with heavy weights.

Individuals in the gyms work out with heavy weights to lose fats and build muscles in the process. But there is more to muscle growth than simple weight lifting that you need to know. It will help you to understand your body better and enhance muscle growth results.

We are going to talk about the processes between weight lifting and building muscles that actually leads to muscle growth.

Our body consists of different types of muscles; cardiac muscles, smooth muscles and skeletal muscles (this determines our strength, which is triggered during body building).

Understanding Skeletal Muscles- Functions in Muscle Growth

A human body has 650 skeletal muscles, which are attached to the bones and help in motor functions of our body. The Skeletal muscles consist of fascicles, which have bundles of muscle fibres, which are composed of thread like structures called myofibrils and sarcomeres. The myofibrils and sarcomeres form the basic units of contraction. (1,2)

A human body on receiving signals from the motor neurons contract skeletal muscles, which is triggered by the sarcoplasmic reticulum part of the cell. This helps to generate required strength to function accordingly.

The strength of an individual is determined by its availability to activate the motor neurons.

The activities, exercises or things that we do on a regular basis stimulates the contraction, the skeletal muscles go through, which further induces muscle growth.

The Physiological Processes involved in Muscle Growth

Working out with heavyweightscauses muscle tension and muscle damage, which results in tears in the myofibrils or the muscle fibres. After workout, our body starts to repair and replace the damaged muscle fibres and it goes through a cellular process activated by our Immune system.

Now, the myofibrils are surrounded by a layer of satellite cells (also known as muscle stem cells), which get activated when muscle damage occurs. The satellite cells multiply and fuse with the damaged myofibrils to regenerate the muscle fibres. This increases the size and count of the myofibrils (this process is known as muscle hypertrophy), which directly increases the muscle size.

Studies show that satellite cells play an important role in muscle regeneration and muscle growth. The ability of an individual to activate these satellite cells determines the rate of muscle growth the body experiences.

Once you learn this, your focus has to be on activating these satellite cells!!!

3 Main Factors that induce Muscle Growth

Individuals living a regular life, without introducing any kind of stress or pressure on their body are less likely to experience muscle growth. This is because, their body has already adapted to the amount of effort and stress needed for the things they do in their regular life.

Although the basic concept to muscle growth would be to put more and more stress on your body and get rid of the regular equilibrium of your body. But in order to see visible muscle growth, these following factors will have to be brought into play:

  • Muscle Tension

The first step towards muscle growth is moving the body from the regular lifestyle and putting more and more stress on the muscles. Best way of doing it is working out with heavier weights!!!

It is recommended to workout with heavy weights at a progressive rate to induce muscle growth. The tension in our muscle causes major fluctuations in the regular composition of the muscle. This further stimulates the growth factors, i.e. activates the satellite cells and stimulates the catabolic and anabolic activities in the body.

  • Muscle Damage

Individuals often feel post-workout soreness in their body. This is due to the muscle damage that the body experiences after intense resistance training.

To deal with this damage, our body releases the immune system cells ordering them to activate the satellite cells and begin the repair and regeneration process.

Thus, every time you experience the soreness, the satellite cells are activated to deal with the damage. Further, they add more muscle fibres to deal with the additional stress the body is dealing with during workout. This leads to muscle growth.

Note: Do you need to feel the soreness every time? No, it is not necessary to feel the soreness every time you work out to induce muscle growth. Instead your focus has to be on working out progressively to ensure the muscle damage to your muscle cells for the growth factors to work.

  • Metabolic Stress

Metabolic Stress is referred to the “pump” that individuals in the gym often feel after intense weightlifting training.

This too becomes a factor in muscle growth, as metabolic stress can swell up the surrounding muscle cells. Although, being considered a muscle growth factor, it doesn’t really increase the size of the muscle cells or increase the strength of an individual.

However, the state of metabolic stress or getting the “pump” does contribute to other stimulation that induces muscle growth.

5 Additional Factors that contribute to Muscle Growth

Exercise has to be on top of your list if you want to grow muscles, but there are several other factors that need proper consideration.

Along with exercise or physical activities, things like food and nutrition, hormones and adequate rest also become very important.

1. Nutrition

Muscle grows when the rate of muscle protein synthesis (muscle building) is higher than muscle protein breakdown. Thus, getting a good nutrition becomes very important.

It is recommended to focus primarily on Proteins for bodybuilders looking to gain muscles and enhance muscle growth.

Protein helps to preserve the muscle mass, as it provides muscle building blocks to build new muscle tissue by providing the essential amino acids. (3)

2. Hormones

Hormones like IGF-1(insulin growth-factor) or testosterone play a very important role in muscle growth.

Testosterone secretion in our body enhances and supports several functions. It increases satellite cell activation, prevents muscle protein breakdown, increases muscle protein synthesis, helps in secretion of other anabolic hormones, which results in improved muscle growth. (4,5)

IGF-1 hormone plays an important role in the glucose breakdown and absorption for energy. Thus, it enhances the muscle protein synthesis and regulates the muscle mass growth. It also supports the amino acid breakdown in the muscles to supply the skeletal muscles with adequate amount of protein to grow. (6)

3. Rest

The muscle growth process is triggered when our body is at rest. Every process mentioned above starts performing when the body is at complete rest.

The importance of adequate amount of rest is known to everybody; it not only keeps your mind and body active but also contributes to your muscle building goals.

It is found that the muscle repair and growth processes majorly occur during the night when we are at rest or sleeping.

4. Age and Gender

Age and gender also play an important role in muscle growth.

Men are more likely to experience increased muscle growth, as they have higher testosterone as compared to their female counterparts. (7)

Likewise, with older men when the testosterone secretion decreases, building or gaining more muscles becomes difficult.

5. Genetic

Genes too have an important role in muscle growth.

Genes determine the body’s ability to generate satellite cells, efficiency of the immune system, etc. that induces muscle growth.

Hence, it becomes easier for such individuals to deal with muscle damage. Their body responds more efficiently to repair and replace damaged muscle fibres and thus, enhance their muscle building potential.

You can definitely work on these factors to enhance muscle growth and build muscle mass. However, you need to understand despite doing all the right things; building muscles or getting visible results is going to take weeks, except of course the newbie gains…

Here are the additional factors have to be considered to ensure that you are on the right track with your muscle building process. Keep in mind, getting right nutrition, doing proper exercise and getting enough rest enhance muscle growth and give better results.

Also knowing the science behind how muscles grow really helps….