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August 8, 2012

How to Build Muscle Regardless of Your Body Frame

build muscleMost of my male patients want to build muscle.  Many of them are overweight and want to lose body fat while gaining muscle mass, but a few are on the skinny side, and they too, would like to add some muscle bulk to their thin frames. Both groups have tried various ways to increase muscle size and strength, but with limited success falling short of their desired goals.

There are some excellent tips in this FoxNews article. First, you can see there’s more to gaining muscle than simply lifting weights and doing other forms of resistance exercises. How you eat and what you eat is just as important.  Nutritional supplements are a must if you really want to impress someone with your body frame. Supplements can help not only with muscle development, but also in improving your recovery following a workout.

The Workout

There are many exercise programs out there that will help you add strength and size. Bill Phillips also has a time-proven program that can be found in his book, Body for Life.  Lighter weights and performing high volumes (both sets and repetitions) is great for muscle endurance, but to add strength and size you need to lift heavier weights.

Regardless, of the program you select it’s important that each muscle group be exercised until fatigue – the last 2 or 3 reps should be a struggle and you should feel that burning sensation in the muscles. Be sure to use good form though, and seek the help of a personal trainer if you’re not sure you’re doing a lift properly.

By lifting to fatigue you will stimulate your body to release growth hormone and testosterone.  This leads to strength gains and facilitates recovery from the workout.

It’s important to change-up your program periodically as you will hit a plateau in improvement if you continue with the same program. Muscles get used to the same routine, and you may find yourself getting bored doing the same thing week in and week out.

Not being motivated or dreading the workout are good indicators that it’s time to change your workout. To keep improving you need to challenge your muscles in different ways.  So change-up your program every 4 weeks or so.

By really stressing each muscle group (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs, and core) once a week you will gain muscle strength and size.  But, as the FoxNews article says to get better results some will need to exercise each group twice a week. So you can work out twice a day exercising 2 groups of muscles in the morning and 2 in the evening and doing that 3 times a week.  Or you can exercise each group 2 days a week.

Obviously, you need to pick the one that fits into your daily routine.  Some find exercising each muscle group twice a week too physically taxing (certainly more challenging as you get older).  One suggestion is to exercise some groups twice a week and some once a week and rotate them from week to week.


The gains in strength and muscle adaptations from resistance training (and cardiovascular training) occur after the workout. It’s vital that muscles fully recovery before you challenge them again with another workout.  It takes time for the body to repair the micro-damage to the muscles from the previous workout.  If there is not enough recovery time you may find yourself regressing, and increasing your risk of injury while getting frustrated.

Nutrition is important to the recovery phase. The more you lift the more high quality protein you will need. Protein is needed to build muscle and is the building block for hormones. Consuming protein frequently throughout the day is wise. In addition to eating meat, eggs are the best source of complete protein, and the concern about eggs increasing your cholesterol levels is a myth.

Whey protein, branched-chain amino acids supplements, arginine, and glutamine have all been shown to help muscle recovery and induce strength gains in addition to the supplements listed in the FoxNews article.

Lifting weights will help you look more muscular and leaner.  But, you will also become more functional and will increase your chances of living an active lifestyle as you age.

See related articles.

“Kettlebell Beginner Workout”

“Get Fit with Body Bar Exercises”

“The Benefits of Body Weight Exercises”

“Exercise Plans to Fight Aging”




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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

    1. We recommend consuming more protein – protein shakes are terrific for providing the building blocks to build muscle. Creatine can also be effective. If you are low in testosterone having that optimize either with testosterone replacement therapy, or for those younger (under age 40) some supplements like Tribulus terrestris and muira puama might be worth trying.

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