If you're like most adolescent boys and girls, you're probably dabbled a little bit with working out at a gym, whether it be part of P.E. in school, an afternoon routine with friends at the YMCA, or maybe a drop-in session at the neighbourhood gym. If done regularly and properly, bodybuilding can do wonders for your energy levels, self-esteem, and physique. While the motivation to undertake such a commitment should come entirely from within (ignore the magazines – you're wonderful just the way you are!), sometimes such motivation can come from the simplest of pleasures.

Boys, maybe you want your biceps to be a little larger (increased muscle mass), so that you can impress the girls at the beach. Girls, perhaps you want your abdomen a little more firm, or tighter, (increased tone) so you can fit into that great dress you bought. While both of these people would find themselves at the same gym, their strategies for achieving their goals would be drastically different.

Did You Know?
There are three types of muscle in the body: Cardiac muscle – responsible for contracting the heart and circulating blood to the body

Smooth muscle – lines blood vessels and intestines; contracts to change blood pressure or aid in digestion

Skeletal muscle – attached to the bones of the body, allowing movement; the only muscle group under voluntary control

When bodybuilding for increased muscle mass, the most important thing to remember is that you are actually trying to lift so much weight (remember to use a spotter!) that you actually cause some damage to the muscle, ripping some of the miniscule fibers that combine to make the full muscle. Your sets are designed so that you are lifting the weight to the point of exhaustion, where you couldn't possibly do another repetition. In order to heal properly, the muscle actually builds around these tears, recruiting new amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to fill the gaps, and increasing the size of these fibers a little bit at a time. This is one of the major reasons why a proper diet is essential if undertaking a bodybuilding routine; without a sufficient intake of protein, you will not have the necessary resources in your body to repair the muscle and achieve your goal.

Did You Know?
The cells that form skeletal muscle are arranged in groups of hundreds to thousands of long strings in each muscle, much like the individual fibers in a rope, to help with durability and overall function In addition to proper nutrition, this intense exercise requires time for your “injuries” to heal (usually 1-2 days); as a result, a bodybuilding routine designed to increase muscle mass will often work different muscle groups (e.g. Upper body, lower body, and core) on different days, giving plenty of time for recovery of each group before working them again.

If muscle tone is what you are looking for, the last thing you want to be doing is damaging your muscle in between sessions. A well-toned muscle will have a basal level of contraction above and beyond that which would exist in an “untrained” muscle. This level will be far below the maximum contractile ability of the muscle, but will give the toned look that people so often desire. The best way to achieve this is to work the muscles hard and frequently, so that they get used to being in a contracted state; this can be done rather effectively with low repetitions (using heavier weights), though some people do prefer to try and get muscle tone through high-intensity, aerobic-style activity as well.

Did You Know?
Building muscle mass requires damaging the muscle slightly, so it rebuilds around the tear, creating a larger muscle; Toning muscle mass requires training the muscle to maintain a small amount of contraction, making the muscle look firm or tight Whatever your desires or goals in undertaking a bodybuilding routine, it is important to have a properly designed workout routine, tailored to your specific vision of what you want your body to look like. This can be done with some research (and maybe a bit of trial and error) on your part, but if you are just starting out it might be a good idea to seek the advice of a friend or a trainer at your favourite gym. Whatever you wind up doing, make sure you stay safe, and don't forget to keep your body well nourished.

Learn more!

Training for Muscle toning

Muscle Tone Approach vs Muscle Mass Approach

Muscle Tone vs Muscle Mass

Muscle Structure I

Muscle Structure II

Andrew is a native of Vancouver, with a B.Sc. in pharmacology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), and is currently doing his Ph.D in cardiovascular physiology at UBC. He is an avid photographer and hiker, having hiked the 77 km West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island twice, among other conquests. In addition, he is an frequent player of video games, owning several different systems. His favorite games, while numbering too many to mention, include God of War, Metroid Prime, and Super Mario Galaxy.

Andrew H

I am a native of Vancouver, with a B.Sc. in pharmacology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), and am currently doing my Ph.D in cardiovascular physiology at UBC. I am an avid photographer, hockey fan (Go Canucks!) and hiker, having hiked the 77 km West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island twice, among other conquests. In addition, I am a frequent player of video games, owning several different systems. My favorite games, while numbering too many to mention, include God of War, Metroid Prime, and Super Mario Galaxy.


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