How I Built Muscle

When I first started training with the weights, I really had no clue how to build muscle. I just did exercises and routines that I found in magazines and didn’t put that much focus into my nutrition because I didn’t understand it’s importance in building muscle.

After doing research online and reading tons and tons of bodybuiding books, I learned quite a few things over the years about gaining muscle mass. I thought I’d share some of the things that I learned and applied that I believe helped me in my quest for building muscle:

-I didn’t go crazy with cardio. Actually, I didn’t do any cardio at all! Only weights, 5-6 days a week with a bodybuilding split.
-Increased protein intake. I started having a protein shake immediately after workouts, and also before bed, as well as increasing my intake of lean meats, eggs, and fish in order to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
-Lifting heavy. In the beginning, I trained with reps in the 8-12 range, but in the last few years I started lifting heavier with reps in the 3-6 range. I focused on big, compound lifts with fewer isolation exercises.
-Tracking workouts. This helped me to make sure I was getting stronger and increasing my weights progressively. I kept track of exercises, weights, reps, and rest time in between sets. I really think this helped tremendously.
-Eating more REAL food. This made a huge difference in my physique. I used to eat almost everything out of a can or a box, thinking that it was healthy if it said on the label that it was! I finally learned how to cook fresh meat and started eating more vegetables, more healthy fats, and less processed foods.
-Learning the importance of pre and post workout nutrition. I studied about what foods to eat before and after workouts in order to maximize muscle building. I never trained on an empty stomach, and made sure to get in a fast digesting protein and carbohydrate source within 30 minutes of training.
-Progress pictures. It’s sometimes hard to see how your body is changing because you look at yourself every day. I wouldn’t have been able to tell such a huge difference in my physique if I didn’t have pictures that I took over the years, showing how my body has changed. The scale is not the best way to measure progress, whether your goal is building muscle or losing fat.
-TIME and patience. These two things are key. It has taken me over 12 years to build the muscle that I have today, and I’m still working on it! Don’t give up on the weights if you aren’t seeing the results fast enough. Keep at it, and the results will come if you are doing the right things. Just. be. patient.

Compare Yourself to YOURSELF  

Just like most women, I am totally guilty of comparing my body to others in the past. I used to look at pictures of fitness models, and they just looked so perfect… I just wanted so bad to look like that!

Comparing yourself to others can sometimes be motivating by making you want to eat healthier and train harder to reach your goals. BUT what I’ve found is that it can actually be super discouraging, because it just causes you to focus on your flaws and imperfections.
One thing that helped me was when I stopped comparing myself to others, and started comparing myself to myself.
When I would start to get discouraged or down about they way I looked, what helped me was to look back at old photos to remind myself of how far I’ve come and how much progress I’ve made over the years. 
Back in 2006, I was super skinny! And what’s funny is that I actually thought I had muscle. On the days when I still feel like this scrawny little girl, I just look back at this photo to remind myself of how far I’ve come!
It’s hard to see the changes in yourself sometimes because they happen so slowly and over a long period of time. That’s why progress photos are important. I didn’t notice the changes in my body composition until I looked back at photos and compared them to myself now.
It’s always an ongoing journey, of course, but I have a LOT more muscle than I did 6 years ago and am leaner and more defined than just 2 years ago. And it’s NOT all about looks-I’m also MUCH stronger than I was back then, and I eat much healthier.
It’s all about making improvements on yourself, not constantly comparing yourself to others! Focus on being a better version of yourself, not trying to look like someone else.