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Muscle Building Exercise: How To Know If Your Are Gaining Muscle

Updated on March 1, 2013

Tearing Your Muscles

To build muscle you need to strain your muscles causing some minor damage in the form of micro tears. When I lift weights the repetitions become more difficult until I need to stop. Doing multiple sets gives me time to rest allowing me to do more. The release of feel good chemicals also allows me to do more. These chemicals can make me feel stronger. However the exercise continues to weaken my muscles. It does not make the muscles stronger.

Pain and muscle tearing go together but it is important to pay attention to the level of pain. Ignoring the pain can cause injuries that will prevent you from using the muscle for a while. The goal in muscle building is to cause very minor injuries and the best way to tell if the injuries are minor is by the amount of pain and your exercise performance. A sudden increase in pain usually means stop.

My muscles do not usually hurt after a long distance bike ride even if I struggle to make it to my destination. Your muscles can tear without being noticeably sore. Sometimes your muscles just won't function as well as they did before. You experience muscle fatigue. When you can no longer continue in good form you should stop. Pain is more common when starting a new exercise routine.

Forcing yourself to work through pain or muscle weakness to do another repetition can backfire. It can cause injuries that prevent you from exercising for an extended period of time. If you overtrain by exercising too often your muscles can become weaker and smaller instead of bigger and stronger. You can't just do intense exercise everyday to build muscle.


After tearing your muscles through exercise a good night's sleep is what makes them stronger. Your body does most of its healing while you are in deep sleep. So the quality of sleep is important. You want to spend a lot of time in deep sleep and wake up refreshed. If you sleep for a long time and still feel tired it usually means the quality of sleep was poor or you really wore yourself out the day before. That is assuming you are eating enough healthy foods. A bad diet can make you feel tired.

To improve your quality of sleep practice being in the moment. When you go to bed don't think about a bunch of different things. Focus on relaxing your body and mind. The first step in building muscle is to tear your muscles and the second step is to give them a chance to recover. The amount of time it takes depends on the damage and how fast you heal.

I take at least 2 days off a week from intense exercise so my muscles can fully recover. There is no point in exercise to gain muscle if you are not going to give your body a chance to build muscle.


An increase in body weight can indicate muscle growth. If your body weight increases but your waistline does not then your are gaining muscle. The same is true If your body weight stays the same and your waistline gets smaller. Sometimes my body weight does not change very much even though I am becoming skinnier. My muscle weight increases as my fat weight decreases. Other times my muscle weight increases more than the fat weight decreases so I may gain a significant amount weight while becoming skinnier.

Your body weight is made up of a lot more than your fat and muscle. Weigh yourself while you are wearing the same clothes and do it at the same time of day for more accurate results. If the weight gain was because of muscle it will stay with you. It is common for you body weight to fluctuate a little because you are eating and drinking.



Fat can cover up your muscles making it difficult to tell how big they are. Gain fat and the muscles can seem bigger. Lose fat and the muscles seem smaller. If you are going to measure the size of your muscles you should get rid of most of the fat first. Otherwise it is better just to focus on your exercise performance so the results are not contaminated by the fat.

A good way to get rid of the fat and build muscle at the same time is to do a combination of weightlifting and intense cardio exercises. Your muscles may appear to get smaller but once the fat is gone you can more accurately measure the size of your muscles. Fat is soft and you can pinch it so it looks like you are stretching your skin. Muscle is hard.

If the size of your muscles have increased and you did not gain anymore fat then it means your have gained muscle. Losing a lot of fat while your muscles stay the same size could also mean you gained muscle.


I can increase the distance I can bike by biking and trying to improve. Since I can't double the distance I can bike without building muscle I know that I gained muscle if I doubled the distance I can bike. The results speak for themselves. Significant improvements in your exercise performance are a sign that you have gained muscle. If you made big improvements in your strength, speed, endurance or balance than you gained muscle. When I started biking long distance I knew I was building muscle because I was increasing the distance I could bike. I noticed my calf muscles were bigger and harder after I improved my exercise performance.

Focus on how well your muscles function instead of just measuring them when trying to figure out if you are building muscle. I sometimes do both but I pay the most attention to my exercise performance.



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    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Voted up. You just reminded me of what I need to do to get back to getting a good night's sleep - more weight lifting. I always sleep well after a good workout, more so than after a good cardio, though they both feel good.