3 Ways a Muscle Grows

How a Muscle GrowsHere’s a simple explanation about the 3 ways a muscle grows. These areas are important to understand specially if your main goal is to build an impressive physique!

Once you clearly understand how a muscle grows as well as all the benefits weight training offers, you will be far more confident about the results you achieve from your weight-training program.

For most people building muscle is a slow, deliberate process that the body fights all the way. This is understandable since our body has been designed to survive a famine. This means it is in our body’s best interest to limit the amount of muscle we put on because muscle is one of the most metabolically-active tissue in our body (when it is recovering from exercise) and therefore burns up a lot of energy.

Furthermore, our body will do it’s very best to maximise the amount of fat we store because fat is a concentrated source of energy that it can draw from if it ever is faced with a famine.

Accordingly, in this article we will cover the 3 ways a muscle grows so you can understand the process and apply the necessary strategies to help you get the best results from your training in the gym!

Building muscle requires three basic steps; a stimulus, adequate nutrition, and recovery. If even one of these three steps is missing then muscle growth will be impaired. This is discussed in more detail in the article titled, How to Build Muscle.

Here’s the 3 Ways a Muscle Grows

  • Cell Volumisation
  • Filament Thickening
  • Capillarisation
  • Cell volumisation

    The first step you must know about how a muscle grows is how cell volumisation works. Cell volumisation results from an increase in the volume of a muscle cell (fibre). Since muscle is approximately 70% water, using nutrients that increase the water stored in the muscle is obviously going to contribute to it’s size.

    Furthermore, training techniques that deplete glycogen stores in the muscles (forcing the body to adapt to that particular ‘stress’), i.e volume-based training, will also promote cell volumisation and muscle size.

    Plus, cell volumisation promotes protein synthesis, which leads to greater filament thickening. We will examine filament thickening in a moment.

    Theoretically, if you can force the muscles to store more nutrients within each muscle cell, through osmosis more water will be drawn into the cells also.

    Four nutrients that are very effective at drawing water into the muscle cells are: carbohydrate, which are easily depleted through volume training; creatine; potassium; and the amino acid, L-glutamine.

    Filament thickening

    The next way in which a muscle grows is via filament thickening. This is where the contractile elements within the muscle cells, actin and myosin, become thicker and stronger as a result of an adaptive mechanism.

    This adaptive mechanism results from the contractile elements being exposed to a sufficient amount of ‘stress’, which results primarily from high-intensity exercise, and results in microscopic tears occurring in the protein filaments.

    The contractile filaments make up around 22% of a muscle cell (as mentioned previously, muscle is approximately 70% water) and the remainder is made up of connective tissue, blood vessels, salts and high energy phosphates.

    Every time a muscle cell or fibre contracts, the friction between the contractile elements causes the filaments to break down. If the muscle contractions during a workout are beyond the muscle’s normal capacities, the body will take steps to adapt to this stress by making the filaments thicker and stronger. Of course, protein from the diet is used for this purpose.


    The final way in which a muscle grows is capillarisation. This is where the blood vessels surrounding each muscle fibre (cell) increase in number. It results from performing high reps during your workout as well as aerobic exercise.

    It has an almost negligible contribution towards increasing muscular size but it does have one major advantage; recovery from exercise. Capillarisation may assist with the recovery process of the muscles because greater blood flow to the muscles means more oxygen and nutrients can travel to the muscles, therefore enhancing recovery after each exercise session.

    Therefore, in order to get the best possible results from every training session, it is best to do the following:

  • Use a variety of rep ranges
  • Perform aerobic exercise at the end of each session
  • Make a protein shake containing a fast-acting protein (i.e. whey protein isolate (WPI) or hydrolysed whey), creatine monohydrate (10 grams), L-glutamine (10 grams), high-glycaemic index carbs (glucose/ dextrose), and a banana (high in potassium) after each workout
  • For even more high-quality information about muscle growth, watch this:

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