What makes muscles grow?
Muscles in the human body.
There over 600 muscles in the human body, they make up between one third and one half of our body weight, and along with connective tissue, they bind us together, hold us up, and help us move. Whether or not bodybuilding is your hobby, muscles need your constant attention, because the way you treat them on a daily basis, determines whether they will wither or grow.
Opening a regular door requires regular effort.
Say you're standing in front of a door, ready to pull it open. Your brain and muscles are perfectly poised to help you achieve this goal. First, your brain sends a signal to motor neurons inside your arm. When they receive this message, they fire up causing muscles to contract and relax, which pulls on the bones in your arm to generate the needed movement. The bigger the challenge becomes, the bigger the brain signal grows, and the more motor units it rallies to help you achieve your task.
Heavy metal door requires more muscle to open.
But what if the door is made of solid iron and thus quite heavy? At this point, your arm muscles alone won't be able to generate enough tension to pull it open. So your brain appeals to other muscles for help. You plant your feet, tighten your belly, and tense your back, generating enough force to yank it open. The nervous System has just leveraged the resources you already have, together with other muscles, to meet the demand.
Muscle fiber shredding is the key to muscle building.
While all this is happening, your muscle fibers undergo another kind of cellular change as you expose them to stress. They experience microscopic damage, which in this context is a good thing. In response, the injured cells release inflammatory molecules called cytokines that activate the immune system to repair the injury. This is when the muscle building magic happens. The greater the damage to the muscle tissue, the more your body will need to repair itself. The resulting cycle of damage and repair eventually makes muscles bigger and stronger as they adapt progressively greater demands.
Weight lifting is one way to expose muscles to greater workloads.
Since our bodies have already adapted to most everyday activities, those generally don't produce enough stress to stimulate new muscle growth. So to build new muscle (a process called hypertrophy), our cells need to be exposed to greater workloads than they are used to. As a matter of fact, if you don't continuously expose your muscles to some resistance, they will shrink (a process known as muscular atrophy). In contrast, exposing the muscle to a greater degree of tension, especially while the muscle is lengthening (also called an eccentric contraction), generates effective conditions for new growth.
Muscle growth also depends on healthy eating and rest.
However, muscles rely on more than just activity to grow, without proper nutrition, hormones, and rest, your body would never be able to repair damaged muscle fibers. Protein in our diet preserves muscle mass by providing the building blocks for new tissue in the form of amino acids. Adequate protein intake, along with naturally occurring hormones like; insulin, growth factor, and testosterone, helps shift the body into a state where tissue is repaired and grown. This vital repair process, mainly occurs when we're resting, especially at night while sleeping.
As with life, so is with muscles. Meaningful growth requires challenge and rest.
Gender and age affect this repair mechanism, which is why young men with more testosterone have a leg up in the muscle building game. Genetic factors also play a role in one's ability to grow muscle. Some people have more robust immune reactions to muscle damage and are better able to repair and replace damaged muscle fibers, increasing their muscle building potential. The body responds to the demands you place on it and thus, if you tear your muscles up, eat right, rest and repeat. You'll create the conditions to make your muscles as big and strong as possible. It is with muscles as it is with life, meaningful growth requires challenge and stress.
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