For most people exercise is a way to get fitter through weight loss and losing extra flab. However, the more fit amongst us, or those who may be thin, the ideal exercises are those that help in building muscles and bulking up.

The difference between the approach for weight loss and weight gain is not very stark. Both require a specific training plan, and focus on nutrition. However, the elements within these two pillars vary. Which is why it’s crucial to understand the difference and not just follow popular wisdom when it comes to bulking up to build muscles.

Get in balance
Concentrating on exercise without focussing on the importance of right nutrition is a big misstep. The right diet gives you the ingredients that will help you gain muscle mass. Without these the weight station at the local gym will not do wonders for your body. Focus on a balanced diet of proteins, the building blocks of muscles; carbohydrates, which give you that extra energy, and healthy fats, which are crucial for your increased metabolism. Vitamins and minerals which aid in bone development and keeping your muscles and joints fortified are also crucial.

Bulking up to build muscles does not mean you put in extra hours at the gym at the cost of rest of your life. Over-training is one of the most common errors in those looking to bulk up. If you are just beginning your workout to gain muscle, you need not lift weights from the first day. Start slowly with body-weight exercises that get your muscles used to the strain and build strength little-by-little. Everyone starts off at a different level when it comes to training, so find a program that’s customised for your fitness level. For beginners, mobiefit BODY, which offers a Benchmark Test before setting a training plan, is ideal. Keep your focus on getting the form, posture and technique correct before progressing to weights.

Take your time when transitioning to weight-training
Take your time when transitioning to weight-training

Calorie intake
In order to gain weight or build muscles, you need to up the calorie intake, but don’t feed your body hollow calories. Find out what your daily calorie requirement is from a nutritionist – it will vary depending on your age, gender and current Body Mass Index. Do not start with weight gain supplements immediately, unless it’s been advised by a trusted nutritionist. Not all products are created equal, and some may do more damage than good for you. It’s easier to test the waters with supplements for 3-4 days before going on a consistent dosage. This should help weed out any allergic reactions one might have to the supplements.

Avoid overeating
This is extremely crucial. In an attempt to get your minimum daily calorific requirement, you might end up binge eating, which is a slippery slope. You could easily end up gaining fat instead of muscle weight. Taking supplements without consultation may have adverse hormonal effects on your body especially if you are on any medication, which may also make you fatter, instead of bulking up to build muscles. Get an expert to chalk out the right diet which has sufficient protein, fibre, minerals, vitamins, and carbs.

Eat frequently
Eat when you are hungry is the mantra for right muscle building. You would need to consume a lot to keep up with all that gym work, so eat at least once every three hours. Skipping meals is a big no-no. It forces your body to dip into energy reserves, which in turn means you will have less to do your workouts. Secondly, your diet should include different food groups. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone for your nutrient intake. Eating the same kind of food every day harms your gut microbial diversity, which in turn makes it harder to digest food, and upsets your stomach when you try something new. Choosing a variety of food groups leads to the intake of more nutrients, all of which are significant for the weight gain process.

Hit the weights
Exercise is the key to healthy weight gain, but correct technique and plan is important as well. Here are some good exercises to start off with, when weight-training:

1. Crossover Lunge with Weights
Standing tall and holding weights in each hand, bring your left knee up to your chest. You will feel the stretch under your thigh and into your glute. Release and, with control, step that same leg backwards diagonally, behind your stationary knee. Keep your shoulders and hips square so you feel a good stretch in your hips. Now stand tall and use your stationary foot to help push back up to standing. Repeat 10 per side for 3 sets.

2. Box Step Ups
Using any sort of step up (bench or stairs) place one foot up so it forms a 90-degree angle with your hips and knee. Holding a weight in each hand, stand tall and drive your lower foot forward and up in front of you, raising that leg to a 90-degree angle. Do not jump up. Return your trailing leg back to the floor. Repeat 10 on each leg for 3 sets.

A box step up can be done with a bench or any raised platform wide enough for your feet
A box step up can be done with a bench or any raised platform wide enough for your feet

3. Shoulder Shrugs
Standing tall with weights in each hand, rise up on your toes while lifting your shoulders up to your ears. Come back down. Make sure you are using heavy enough weights to feel this in the top of your shoulders and in your calves. Repeat 15 times for 3 sets.

4. Single-Leg Dumbbell Row
Holding a weight in your left hand, brace your right hand on a chair. Hinge forward so your back is parallel to floor. Extend your left arm down and your left leg behind you. Slowly bend your left elbow and draw the weight up until your elbow is even with your torso. Do not let your hip lift as you draw your elbow back. Hold; then lower your arm. Do 10 reps. Switch sides. Complete 3 sets.

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