5 Great Exercises That Will Help Build Muscle

A recent New York Times article looked at the importance of getting stronger and to build muscle. It report that, according to researchers, only 6 percent of adults performed at least two strength workouts each week. Everyone knows that regular strength training is one of the best time and energy investments for better health. Compared to other countries, however, our physical inactivity and obesity numbers are simply embarrassing.

Why Build Muscle?

Because muscle starts to deteriorate when we reach our 30’s. After age 40, we lose on average 8 percent of our muscle mass every decade, and this phenomenon, known as sarcopenia, continues to accelerate at an even faster rate after age 60.

The good news is exercise scientists from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging found that doing just two strength training sessions each week can reverse age-related cellular damage that causes muscle atrophy.

Muscle Index

In 2014, researchers at UCLA Medical school found something very interesting. They followed more than 3,600 healthy subjects for about a decade. In that study they noticed a subjects muscle mass was closely linked to their lifespan. They found this out by pinpointing their “muscle index” or someones muscle mass divided by your height squared. “Those who were in the group with the highest muscle index had the lowest mortality, while those who had the lowest muscle index had the highest mortality rates.” Their published research “showed that muscle index was an even better predictor of premature mortality than obesity.”

To build and maintain muscle mass you need to engage in regular strength training. Here are what many consider five of the “better” exercises to perform in order to build muscle and maintain it as you age. Each exercise also offers progressions to try before attempting each exercise, if needed.

Deadlift

The deadlift is easily one of the best exercise you can do to build muscle. It’s a valuable compound movement targeting the back, hips, legs and grip. It’s also ideal for developing posterior chain strength. The movement, however, can be challenging for some. If that is the case, there are some suggested progression options for you prior to the deadlift.

Progressions: Hex-bar deadlift and Romanian deadlift

Squat

Considered the king of the compound lower body movements for building muscle at any age. Best advice, especially if you’re young or a training novice, master the front squat prior to progressing to a barbell squat.

Progression: DB Wall Squat, Front Squat, Partial Squats

Pull Ups

There is not a better compound back exercise you can do for the upper extremity. The movement recruits many muscle groups while offering multiple training variation like wide/close grip or assisted pull ups.

Progression: Inverted Row, Machine Assisted, Assisted (Band) Pull Ups, Chin-ups

Bench Press

Considered a favorite exercise for the majority of gym goers. It incorporates a large number of muscles to execute the movement. You can do it from an incline/decline position or use dumbbells, barbell, kettlebells or cables.

Progression: T-Push Ups, Incline/Decline Push Ups, Weighted Push Ups

Shoulder Press

A great compound exercise to build muscle for the deltoid group. It really works your entire body when performed from a standing position. Holding weight overhead also works the core.

Progression: Kettlebell Thrusters, Dumbbell/Barbell Push Press

One of the first things you might have noticed, all five of our suggested exercises are compound movements. Add some of these muscle building exercises into your next Jefit program. If they are not the answer to your current needs, try the suggested progressions to build up instead.

Use Jefit App to Record & Track Your Workouts

Jefit app was named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your sustainable fitness lifestyle.

Three Key Requirements for Muscle Growth to Occur

There are three key requirements in order for muscle growth to occur. To ensure muscles grow, known as hypertrophy, you need an appropriate training stimulus. In addition, proper diet with adequate protein and of course plenty of sleep. A fourth factor, not discussed here, is the important role that genetics play. We all know people who train hard, eat well and get plenty of sleep. They typically get stronger but don’t really pack on lean muscle. There are many variables that can effect (1) how much and (2) how quickly your body responds to training and eventually adds muscle. This will depend on age, gender, genetic and hormonal factors. There is a saying out there when talking about the role genetics play: “If you want an Olympic athlete then you need Olympic parents.”

Appropriate Training Stimulus for Muscle Growth?

How do you stimulate muscle growth? When a persons muscles are challenged they adapt and change over time. Changes are dependent on the type of activity and types of muscle fibers used, the load exerted on the muscle, and the velocity and duration of the contraction. (Marieb, 2004) The point is to push through all your workouts, especially a heavy day. Because muscular growth or hypertrophy can only be accomplished through these adaptations and changes. “It takes about 16 workouts to have a noticeable ‘superficial’ effect. There is simply no other recipe to do this in a healthy, orderly, and long-lasting manner.” Try using the Jefit, a workout planner & tracker app to record all your workouts.

Is the Current RDA for Protein High Enough?

This is a tough area for a lot of people. Their eating habits are just not where they need to be. In addition to eating well-balanced, highly nutritious meals, protein intake needs to be sufficient. If not, muscle growth to say the least, will be difficult if not impossible. The scientific research has shown different results over the years in terms of protein needs.

The question we should ask ourselves is – should we follow the suggested RDA of 0.8 grams/kg/day for protein intake or is it more in line with 1-2 gram/kg/day? The answer may depend partly on the volume of daily exercise you’re doing, if you’re a strength or an endurance athlete, and your age.

Adequate Nutritional Intake (Especially Protein)

A classic study was done in 1988 at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. I was actually one of the younger test subjects in that particular study. The team headed by Meredith and colleagues, looked at the protein needs of 12 subjects. Six were young (26.8 +/- 1.2 yr) and six were middle-aged (52.0 +/- 1.9 yr) endurance-trained men. All subjects consumed either 0.6, 0.9, or 1.2 grams/kg/day of high-quality protein over three separate 10-day periods. They did this while maintaining their training and a constant body weight. The results of the study estimated that protein requirement was 0.94 +/- 0.05 grams/kg/day for the 12 men. The data from the study showed endurance exercise was associated with a specific dietary protein requirement. These needs were actually greater than the current recommended dietary allowance of 0.8 g/kg/day.

Since then, there have been several studies on individuals who engaged in regular aerobic exercise. The exercise, more vigorous in nature, demonstrated a higher protein need more in line with 1.1 to 1.4 grams/kg/day. This by the way is about 38-75 percent above the current RDA range. There is good evidence that the current recommended protein intake may actually limit muscle growth. This was seen in a study published in the Journal Applied Physiology. Some researcher’s report an optimal intake more in line with a protein range of 1.5 to 1.8 grams/kg/day which is 88 to 125 percent above the suggested RDA. The best way to make this happen is by ingesting 25-30 grams/protein with each meal and of course supplement with a post recovery protein drink.

Optimal Recovery (Sleep)

You can have the two other two boxes checked but if adequate sleep is not happening, muscle growth will not occur. For those individuals training extremely hard, periodic naps may also be needed. As training intensity increases, more recovery and sleep is needed. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), we need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Are you getting that? When this happens on a regular basis for you, you can check that third box. Here are their guidelines for recommended amounts of sleep by the NSF.

  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour, compared to younger children, to 8-10 hours.
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category).
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours.
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category).

Key Take Aways

Increasing strength and building muscle can often seem like a full-time job. You will need all the help you can get to make this happen, especially on the fronts discussed here. By checking all three boxes (training/nutrition/sleep), your odds of finally adding lean muscle will improve greatly. Be well and stay Strong!

Use Jefit to Record & Track Your Workouts

Jefit is a strength training app used for planning & tracking workouts and helps all gym goers and athletes keep on track with their fitness goals. Not only does it offer you the ability to update and share your workout log with a supportive community, it has the largest exercise library that covers both weight training and cardio.

What is Your Healthy Body Fat Range?

It seems like every time we pick up a magazine or surf the web we’re overwhelmed with outlandish weight-loss claims. Let’s do a reset on this for 2021 and change the narrative. Rather than focus on weight loss like so many of us do, let’s start looking more at our percent body fat level. Do you know what your current body fat level is? You should know this number and monitor it over time.

The ideal body fat percentage for an adult varies depending on the age of the individual. Other variables that also come into play are gender, genetics, bone structure and their exercise level. College-age men typically carry 15% body fat while women have 23%, keep in mind that these numbers are for non-athletes.

Women:

  • 20-40 yrs old: Low fat: under 21 percent, Healthy: 21-33 percent, Overweight: 33-39 percent, Obese: Over 39 percent
  • 41-60 yrs old: Low fat: under 23 percent, Healthy: 23-35 percent, Overweight : 35-40 percent Obese: over 40 percent
  • 61-79 yrs old: Low fat: under 24 percent, Healthy: 24-36 percent, Overweight: 36-42 percent, Obese: over 42 percent

Men:

  • 20-40 yrs old: Low fat: under 8 percent, Healthy: 8-19 percent, Overweight: 19-25 percent, Obese: over 25 percent
  • 41-60 yrs old: Low fat: under 11 percent, Healthy: 11-22 percent, Overweight: 22-27 percent, Obese: over 27 percent
  • 61-79 yrs old: Low fat: under 13 percent, Healthy: 13-25 percent, Overweight: 25-30 percent, Obese: over 30 percent

Stepping onto a bathroom scale does not tell you the real story about your overall health. Your bodyweight is not as important as how much body fat you carry. Once you can determine your body fat level, you then have a better understanding of the ratio of muscle to fat that make up your overall bodyweight.

For example, a women who weights 145 pounds and has 33% body fat, can calculate that she has “about” 48 pound of fat and 97 pounds of muscle, bone and fluid. A male, who is 205 pounds and has 25% body fat can determine he is carrying “about” 51 pounds of fat weight and about 154 pounds of muscle, bone and fluid. Once this is known, you can start using the Jefit app to keep track of how this number changes over time. In both of these cases, the goal would be to lose fat weight while maintaining or gaining muscle, depending of course what your goals are.

Monitoring your body fat is important, and in turn, offers great insight into the status of your overall health and fitness. As you see, it’s a valuable metric to follow and offers insight into understanding if a particular strength training program is actually working.

Use Jefit to Record & Monitor Your Body Fat and More

Try doing what millions of others have already done, use the award-winning Jefit app as their workout log. This in turn, will help you meet your fitness goals. By providing an extensive exercise library, you can pick and choose your workouts according to your goals. You can also join our members-only Facebook group where you can connect and interact with your fellow Jefit members. Share your successes, stories, advice, and tips so you learn and grow together. Stay Strong!

Want to Build Muscle? Then Try This Popular 3/7 Method

Many gym goers don’t mind working hard if they can ultimately add muscle via the routine they’re on. The popular, and fairly new, 3/7 strength training method does just that! Many of the training programs, however, circulating around gyms don’t always end up building muscle for different reasons. Gym goers, for the most part, understand the need for high intensity and volume (sets x reps. x load). Especially when a building phase is called for in a training plan.

The majority of individuals who workout like to use a traditional sets and repetitions based training program. Meaning, performing a Barbell Squat, is typically done, using 4×6, or four sets of six repetitions, with a few minutes recovery between sets. The 3/7 Method allows you to stay on one piece of equipment, performing more overall sets back-to-back, but in less time.

The Jefit team recently created two new strength programs (free wight and machine) using this type of training protocol. Click the title of each program below to be taken to the specific program.

3/7 Method Research Review

Personally, if you really want to know the efficacy of a strength training program, explore the research. If there are research papers published on a topic, like the 3/7 Method, that’s usually a step in the right direction.

In a 2019 study published in the European Journal of Physiology, the 3/7 Method compared well to a more traditional 8×6 program. Stragier and colleagues tested elbow flexor strength using 70 percent of 1-RM. The goal was to test the efficacy of a new strength training method on strength gain, hypertrophy, and neuromuscular fatigability.

The new training protocol (3/7 method) consisted of five sets of an increasing number of repetitions (3 to 7) during successive sets and brief inter-set intervals (15-seconds). This format was repeated two additional times after 150-seconds of recovery compared to a method consisting of eight sets of six repetitions with an inter-set interval of 150-seconds (8 × 6 method). Subjects trained two times per week for a period of 12-weeks. 

Young beautiful woman training in the gym. Concept of fitness, workout, sport, health

In a second study (2016), Laurent and colleagues looked at untrained subjects performing Smith Machine Bench Press, twice a week for 8-weeks. Subjects were assigned to one of three groups:

1.) A group that trained the exercise with the 3/7 method.

2.) A group that trained the exercise with 4 sets of 6 repetitions (with 2.5 minutes of rest between sets).

3.) A group that trained the exercise with 8 sets of 6 repetitions (also with 2.5 minutes of rest between sets).

Training Results

In the first study mentioned, the 3/7 and 8 × 6 methods significantly increased both 1-RM load (22.2 ± 7.4 and 12.1 ± 6.6%, respectively) and MVC force. The 3/7 method provided a better training stimulus for strength gain and muscle hypertrophy than the 8 × 6 method.

In the second study, each of the three groups used 70 percent of their 1-RM for bench press. Following the study, the researchers found the 3/7 method increased bench press strength to a greater extent than training with 4 sets of 6 repetitions. Compared to a moderate volume classical method (4 sets of 6 repetitions), the 3/7 method was superior. But, compared to a higher volume classical method (8 sets of 6 repetitions), the 3/7 method wasn’t as effective. However, the 3/7 Method was performed in about a third less time compared to the other groups due to the short (15-seconds) bouts of recovery between sets.

Hopefully these great results that we came across for the 3/7 Method, opens up some eyes and you hopefully give one of the programs above a try. Stay Strong with Jefit!

Use Jefit to Record & Track Your Progress

Try Jefit app, named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your sustainable fitness lifestyle.

3 Reasons Better Sleep Can Improve Your Fitness

Working to achieve peak fitness is an effort that never ends. As soon as you reach your goals, there is always going to be the question of either maintaining them, or setting new ones to hit. In among all of that, there are the marginal improvements you can make when it comes to getting the most out of your potential. For example: while we all know about the importance of diet and exercise when it comes to reaching your peak, how much attention do you pay to the – arguably equally important – issue of sleep?

Sleep isn’t just a way to recuperate energy at the end of a long day; the quality and the quantity of rest you get at this crucial time has major implications for your health, both physically and mentally. Also, when it comes to your improvements in the gym, you’d be surprised just how influential a decent night’s sleep can be in the mix.

If You’re Not Sleeping, You’re Not Gaining Muscle

The physical process of building muscle is, in its simplest form, actually kind of brutal. To achieve this goal, you are literally breaking down the muscle (micro tears), then letting it heal, forming stronger fibrous bonds. This healing does not happen immediately, but actually takes place overnight, particularly while you are sleeping. In other words, if you’re not sleeping, you won’t get the most of your muscle building workout. You’ll also find that the next time you hit the gym, you won’t be able to do quite as much as before.

Sleep and exercise exist in a tandem, in which each benefits the other and gives the best results for both. Not only that, when you get a good night’s sleep, your body will produce the optimum amount of growth hormone, which is essential in delivering the benefits you want.

Quality of Sleep Matters as Much as Quantity

You’ll surely know how it feels to wake up in the morning, having bedded down at a perfectly reasonable hour but then been assaulted by insomnia, snatching an hour of sleep here and a few minutes there in between tossing and turning and occasionally looking helplessly at the ceiling. Nothing feels quite right in the light of day after a night like that – you’ll be grouchy, your energy won’t be there, and even a gym session will not shake that weird feeling.

There are no sure-fire cures for insomnia, but there are a few things you can do to make it less likely. Leave your phone alone for at least an hour before bed; for that matter eliminate all TV and other screen time. In addition, meditation, has been shown to have a positive affect on insomnia. There are other things that you can do as well, but those are a few highly beneficial ones.

Exercise Can Help You Sleep: So That’s Good

While a good night’s sleep is beneficial for getting the most from your workout, there is a bit of good news to be had here. The reverse is also true – if you have a regular exercise routine, it should benefit the quality and quantity of sleep you are getting. As long as your diet regime is well-judged (so lots of clean proteins and as little caffeine as possible), your workout should burn plenty of excess energy, leaving you feeling pleasantly spent at the end of a day and ready for a night of uninterrupted sleep.

It’s great if your workout makes you feel pumped and full of fire, but that hyped-up feeling should be left in the gym. If you’re still experiencing the side effects of adrenaline while you’re getting ready to hit the hay, then there is a problem. A regime of light stretches at the end of every routine should allow you to get some equilibrium before you get in the shower.

Sleep is of vital importance to any fitness regime, and to all aspects of your physical and mental health. If you find that you are struggling for that essential restful sleep when you go to bed at night, then take every effort to find a way of improving things; including speaking to a doctor if it becomes chronic. Sleeping well is a foundational building block to everything else in life, and is the most important thing in any wellness routine. By following the above advice and working as hard as you can to establish that routine, you’ll see the best results both in the gym and beyond.

Use the Jefit App to Track Your Workouts

Try Jefit app, named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. In addition, the app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and has a feature to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your fitness lifestyle.

15 Facts About Muscle and Strength You May Not Know

As individuals begin to head back to the gym, the focus turns to building muscle and strength. Obtaining additional knowledge regarding both topics will only help your fitness cause.

Fifteen Facts Regarding Muscle and Strength

Muscle: Build and Preserve it as You Age

  • How fast can you build muscle? One study reported, that “high responders” were able to build an average of 4.5 kg of muscle mass (about 10 lbs.) after 12-weeks of a push-pull-legs strength training program (5x/week). The “low-responders” put on an average of 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs.) in that same time span. 
  • Do you know the three types of muscle tissue found in the body? Cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle, and smooth muscle are their names, and they come in all shapes and sizes. There are approximately 650 muscles in the human body. Some reports cite more because they count “all” muscle. For example, the biceps brachii muscle has two heads, does this count as one or two muscles?
  • The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body, the calf muscle can generate most force when used, and the jaw muscle exerts the most pressure.
  • Your muscles create at least 85 percent of your total body heat.
  • A meta-analysis published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reviewed 49 studies of men ages 50 to 83 who did regular strength training and found that subjects averaged a 2.5-pound increase in muscle mass.
  • Research has shown three decades of age-related strength loss and two decades of age-related muscle loss, can be recovered or reversed within the first couple of months of starting a strength training program.

Additional Fun Facts About Muscle

  • Starting around age 30, we begin to lose as much as 3 to 5 percent of your muscle mass per decade.
  • The average women’s maximal strength is about 60 percent compared to the average man. When looking at the upper body, women average 25-55 percent of men’s average strength. The gap closes in the lower body, where women are 70-75 percent as strong as men.
  • Muscle is more dense that adipose tissue (fat) and takes up less space on the body. In terms of weight, muscle = 1.06 kg/liter and fat = 0.9196 kg/liter. This makes muscle tissue approximately 15 percent denser than fat tissue.
  • Skeletal muscle makes up approximately 40 percent of total bodyweight. Some researchers suggest that number could be even higher. According to Shephard, in Biochemistry of Physical Activity, the skeletal muscles – when considered collectively – form the largest of the body organs. About 28 kg (62 lbs.) in a 70-kg sedentary man. In terms of a low/high number, men are comprised of about 40-50 percent muscle mass while women are in the range of 30-40 percent. The single number most often sited in scientific research is 42 and 36 percent respectively for men and women.

Lastly…

  • According to biochemist and former CrossFit owner, Robb Wolf, PhD., building and maintaining lean muscle is the best thing you can do to optimize longevity. “There’s this guarantee of losing muscle mass, losing the ability for maximum power production, as we age that begins in our 30’s,” he explains. Research shows, you lose 3 to 8 percent of muscle mass per decade after you turn 30, and even higher rate after age 60. The process called sarcopenia, or age-related muscle mass loss, that happens as you age; between the ages of 20 and 80, research has found you can actually lose 40 percent of your muscle mass

Strength: Use it or Lose it

  • Strength appears to peak between the ages of 25 and 35 and is maintained between ages 40-50. It then declines by 12-14 percent per decade after 50 years of age, according to research published by Doherty and colleagues.
  • According to research, individuals who do not strength train lose 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every 10 years. A by-product is a reduction in metabolism by about 50 calories a day. The loss of muscle becomes more pronounced as we continue to age. By the time we reach age 70, the muscular system has experienced a 40 percent loss of muscle tissue and a 30 percent decrease in strength.
  • An average women’s maximal strength is about 60 percent compared to the average man. When looking at the upper body, women average 25-55 percent of men’s average strength. The gap closes in the lower body, where women are 70-75 percent as strong as men.

In the End

Therefore, staying active and strength training regularly, early in life, builds a strong foundation, especially when trying to maintain muscle and strength later in life. The great thing is you can prevent the loss of muscle tissue and strength as you grow old. So it’s never too late to hit the gym and get involved in strength training.

Let Jefit Help Build Muscle and Strength

Try Jefit app, named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. In addition, the app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and has a feature to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your fitness lifestyle.

References

Davidsen, PK., et al. (2011). Responders to resistance exercise training demonstrate differential regulation of skeletal muscle microRNA expression.
Journal of Applied Physiology.

Shephard, RJ, (1984). Biochemistry in Physical Activity. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas Publisher.

Doherty TJ, (2001). The influence of aging and sex on skeletal muscle mass and strength. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 4:503-508.

Poon, L.W., Clayton, G., & Martin, P., et al. (1989). Individual similarities and differences of the oldest-old in the Georgia Centenarian Study. The Gerontologist, 29, 43.

Ivey, FM et al., (2000). The Effects of Age, Gender and Myostatin Genotype on the Hypertrophic Response to Heavy Resistance Strength Training. J. Gerontol: Med Sci 55A: M641-M848.

Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, and Hu FB, (2011). Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. New England J Med; 364:2392-2404.