The human body is held together by muscles. It is the muscles that work our bones to get the action done. Not surprisingly, about 70% of our total body mass is muscle. We can’t function properly without muscles.
When it comes to gaining muscles, a wide misconception is that gains can be made without working out.
The idea of gaining muscle without a workout goes against the very nature of how muscular tissue behaves and the law of science itself!
In this article, we will discuss the different types of muscles found in the body, how our “muscles” work, how they develop, and how to make gains in a scientifically informed way.
Types of muscles in the human body
The human body is made up of three different types of muscles:
Think about the heart. It beats throughout our life. Starts beating the day we are born and keeps going until we die. The heat is made up of special muscles known as cardiac muscles. They are richly supplied with oxygen to avoid fatigue and keep beating. Another thing to note is that these muscles are involuntary, meaning we can’t control them willingly.
Cardiac muscle is the muscle you work when you do ‘cardio’- see the name similarity?
Next up we have the smooth muscles. They are also known as involuntary muscles. They make up various organs in the body. As evident from the name, these muscles are also not under our direct control.
These are the most abundant muscles in the body. They are the muscles that we think of when we think of muscles. They are called skeletal, because they are attached to the skeleton via tendons. They are voluntary and help us make movements.
Nature of Skeletal Muscles
The way we handle our muscles largely determines whether they grow or wither. This speaks of a deeper nature of skeletal muscles – they are constantly adapting to change.
For someone who does heavy, physically strenuous work daily, the muscles will grow and adapt to work harder. On the other hand, for someone with a sedentary lifestyle, the muscles become weaker and lean.
As we work our skeletal muscles, on a microscopic level, they go through tiny amounts of damage. This damage is then recovered by the immune process. In the process of recovery, the muscles become stronger. Also, regular strain on the muscle tissues engages the buildup process to make the muscles bigger and much better adapted to the increased physical work.
Hypertrophy and Muscular Atrophy
We have now established that skeletal muscles are sensitive to the amount of work that they are put through. If they are worked hard, they improve in strength, if they aren’t, they lose their strength.
Muscles can be improved in strength and size by the concept of progressive overload – technically known as hypertrophy. This entails that the more work is put in, the better the muscles adapt themselves to handle the situation.
In other words, working harder pushes the muscles to grow bigger and stronger. This is why we slowly increase our exercise weight.
The increased weight helps improve muscular strength by putting strain on the tissues. This helps build muscles even better.
The opposite of hypertrophy is muscular atrophy. If a bodybuilder does not work out for a long period of time, their muscles will slowly start to adapt to their new environment – they can now get by without maintaining as much strength – so they will. They are eventually going to lose all form and strength.
The two phenomena are constantly shaping our muscles. Guess what happens when you don’t work out? That’s right – the muscles lose their strength and start becoming weak again. The solution? Have a regular workout routine and try not to skin any days.
Factors affecting muscle growth
- Physical work: This is the number one factor that affects muscle growth. As we’ve talked about before, the more “work” we do, the better our muscles adapt to handle the work. We keep increasing the amount of work done, the muscles keep readjusting and becoming better and better. Hypertrophy can be used to improve muscle mass easily because of this.
- Protein intake: Amino acids are chemicals that are like the building blocks of muscles. The body gets amino acids from protein rich foods such as fish, seafood and lean beef. Proteins are broken down into amino acids and used to build bigger muscles. Of course proteins are of many different kinds and the body digests them in different ways. In the end however, as long as the muscles are getting enough amino acids, they will be good.
- Testosterone levels: There is a reason why younger men have an easier time building muscle than all other groups – older males, females and others. The reason is the relatively larger amount of testosterone that builds up in their body. The male hormone helps in rebuilding of muscles after a strenuous activity. This means people with higher testosterone levels tend to get buffed up more easily.
Importance Of Working Out For Muscle Development
Physical activity can be considered the “bread and butter” of our muscles. Stop giving it to them and they start to wither and die off. Having a regular workout plan ensures that your muscles are getting the adequate amount of physical activity that they need. If you are looking to gain, the physical activity will have to be increased.
Not having a work out plan leaves your muscles without adequate physical strain. This in turn means they adapt themselves to an environment without the need for physical work, thus losing their strength function.
Regularly working out pushes our muscles to their ultimate limit.
Thinking that the muscles can gain without working out is like saying that coffee will make itself in the brewer – there has to be a constant push from the outside both for good muscles and for a nice brew.
So, can you gain muscle without working out? The answer would be a straight no, simply because of how our bodies have evolved and how the muscles work.