Building Muscle: The Do’s & Don’ts

Hi, my name is Annette, and I used to be a hard-core cardio junkie.

Can anyone else relate?!

{thinking out loud for a second-so I’m linking up with Amanda!}

Most people know that doing a lot of cardio will burn calories, and when I was struggling with my disordered eating/emotional eating/binge eating habits, I knew this too, and I absolutely made sure I did tons & tons & tons of cardio. It did keep me from totally blowing up, yes, but did I get any stronger, fitter, more functional, or happier? H@%$ no.

Once I found my true passion in lifting weights & in teaching BODYPUMP, my time in doing cardio simply dropped off. I found myself looooving my workouts instead of dreading them, feeling more confident in my body & my lifting abilities, seeing some muscle & tone in my body (yay!), and feeling pretty much unstoppable.

After that started to shift, I never looked back to those cardio machines.

(Of course they’re great for certain things, and I do enjoy a good magazine-reading session on an elliptical once in awhile, but hours & hours on that stuff? Ain’t nobody got time for that when there’s muscle to be built!)

Basically my message before we head into muscle building is this: ladies, you do NOT need to run miles & miles or go on cardio machines for hours & hours to get fitter or more functional. Furthermore, you will most likely burn up the muscle you already have and feel even more defeated in your quest to weigh less (if that is your desire) or look more toned.

(And lest any avid runners start to hate me, you go ahead & run your little hearts out if you enjoy it! But don’t forget to lift weights/do resistance training too.)

I live what I preach: nowadays I do cardio 2x a week. I teach a BODYATTACK class & a Zumba class. That is IT.

Okay, so now that we’ve established the fact that lifting weights/doing resistance training can CHANGE YOUR LIFE (because it can & will), let’s chat about how to maximize your time doing that & help you walk away with better results, shall we?

Building Muscle: The Do’s & Don’ts

A few weeks ago I came upon an article  via ACE Fitness, and it was a very succinct list of what you should & should not do in the quest to build muscle. I thought it was well written, so I wanted to share a few points listed & add some thoughts to the list.

{see full article here}

Building Muscle: the Do's and Don'ts

DO: Contract your muscles against resistance and create some damage

DON’T: Lift light weights

building muscle: do's & don'ts

This is the first Do & Don’t listed in the article, and it absolutely should be. This is SO KEY. Basically it means that resistance creates change within the body (muscle fibers), and once your body is adapted to that certain movement or resistance, you need to add weight or make the move more challenging to create further change (read: results).

It’s actually quite simple when it’s put that way! My friends, go lift heavier weights than your kid or purse, do pushups using harder variations, etc.

Do: Create Metabolic muscle stress by choosing the right duration for your sets

Don’t: Perform the repetitions too quickly

Building Muscle: Do's & Don'ts

This point listed in the article reminds me of the science behind BODYPUMP (and what we do in that class) so much!

I often like to tell my class to get comfortable with being uncomfortable if they want results. (This is of course said after many safety/setup/followup cues are shared & technique is on par). Because that is exactly what you want for the muscles; you want them to almost scream at you (the muscles, not joint/bone/ligament pain) in the final set. The burn, that tension, is exactly what makes your muscle fibers thicker & stronger.

And remember, you want results right? Then you WANT thicker muscle fibers! So make sure in your resistance training workouts you are loading the muscle for long enough to create that change. Don’t just hurry through a training program!

For example, in BODYPUMP a perfect example of this is a 4/4 rep –4 counts down into the squat, and a full 4 counts to rise out of the squat–which is exactly why people try to hurry through that rep type-because it’s the slowest, and thus the hardest to complete! It sort of makes the muscles feel on fire (love that feeling, by the way), which is exactly what it means to create metabolic stress using timing.

Don’t just hurry through the reps in whatever resistance program you’re training in!

Do: Eat some protein & complex carbs (2:1 ratio) very soon after your workout

Don’t: Wait to eat protein & carbs, and/or don’t eat crap right after your workout

This is a tip that wasn’t included in the article, but is one I feel (and research agrees) is very, very key to optimizing muscle building. If you want stronger muscles, you have to feed them during the rest & recovery period (24-48 hours) and the best window within that time frame is right after your workout is completed (up to one hour).

When you do a resistance training workout, whether it’s lifting weights, doing a kettlebell workout, or doing a bodyweight circuit, you are creating microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. During the rest & recovery period, that is when those tiny tears are repaired & the fibers are built stronger. You must feed the muscles during that period! You can’t build a strong house if you don’t have the materials or even the right materials. Same for muscles.

Once again, if you want to look & feel better and want better results from your resistance training, you MUST feed the process.

(Bonus tip on this one: Drink a lot of water too! Water is obviously a key component to our body’s makeup and water is also a huge part of your muscles. Feed the birds muscles.)


Thankful Thursday

  1. I am thankful for frozen protein veggie patties (from TJ’s). They make lunch a snap!
  2. I am grateful for sisters who aren’t too busy for me. <3
  3. I am thankful for a dad who is such a good example of always desiring to learn more.


Have a WONDERFUL day, and go do some resistance training soon! :)

Were YOU ever a cardio junkie–if so, what made YOU change??! What is one area of YOUR body YOU want to build muscle?? <– for me it’s biceps! ….and then, which one of these tips are YOU going to implement right away then?! :) What are YOU thankful for today??

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  1. i’m going to start doing more body weight exercises at home to work on building [back] my muscle!
    Linz @ Itz Linz recently posted…Power of 3 WorkoutMy Profile

  2. Deb D says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the value of weight/resistant training. Love it and the results you get from it! Although I am one of those crazy runners who loves to run, too…. I love to do both! Btw…. There is a Trader Joe’s opening tomorrow close to the 9th street gym off of Ft. Union. (My own backyard) I’m so excited!!!

  3. Antoinette says:

    Great tips! I see so many women in the gym who are cardio bunnies and I always wonder if they are feeling frustrated with not seeing results from doing just cardio and if they know that weights will help them more. I think these tips need to be posted at my gym, right in front of the ellipticals.
    I’ve always been an intense exerciser so weight lifting was always my go to workout. I do love me some Hiit though

  4. Fiona says:

    LOVE This post! I’ve been on exercise rest for a month, and used to do two days of spinning plus a half hour of cardio before pump three times a week. With just walking for the past month, I am starting to see that maybe that 30 min sweat session before Pump isn’t needed..yes it helps me warm up the legs but maybe I could just do 10 mins ? (I sometimes feel like the warm up doesn’t QUITE get those quads ready! ) Once I started lifting weights more often then cardio, I was in love, my friends can do cardio all day every day, but weights for me is where my heart is :) Great post!

    • I used to do that too-re: doing cardio before teaching a PUMP class. I’m like ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ anymore! hah. But yeah, it’s not necessarily a need before a warmup, but I can see your point about wanting to get a bit of blood flowin’. 10 mins is definitely sufficient IMHO 😉
      annette recently posted…Friday Favorites {2/6/15}My Profile

  5. Yes, yes, YES! Totally been there, done that with the cardio thing. The only cardio I do these days is my one RPM class I teach each week along with some random walks around the neighborhood with Hunter. Not that anything is wrong with cardio, but like you said, including some strength training in there is crucial to rev up that metabolism, get toned, and build muscle. Excellent post, Girl!
    Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries recently posted…A Few Random Wednesday Facts + Chocolate GaloreMy Profile

  6. Yes! I 100% agree although I will add that unless I do fit in 2-3 days of solely cardio each week, I just bulk and gain mass rather than pretty lean muscles 😉 I was my “fittest” when I combined marathon training (running 3-4x/week) and weight training (BODYPUMP 2x/week) – It allowed me to build muscle and then lean it out with long runs :) I also like the tip of eat (mostly good foods) after a workout. While I love me a Pop-Tart every now and then (s’mores <3), it's probably not the best choice to fuel my muscles post workout, LOL.
    Becky @ Olives n Wine recently posted…Day 3 #TakeTheLeap 30 Days of Yoga ChallengeMy Profile

    • I don’t bulk up like at all, so I have to work really hard to look like I actually teach weight training classes. I think it’s genetic? But I totally see your point & that’s great you know what you gots to do to look the way you want <3
      annette recently posted…Friday Favorites {2/6/15}My Profile

  7. Betsy says:

    This was a really helpful post, thanks for sharing.

  8. Oh man that’s a tough one–I’ve read so much controversy about eating protein after work outs and such.
    I’ve always thought so but then this guy says you don’t really need it unless you’re a psycho crazy work out machine pro, and then a guy says you don’t need as much protein as we think(that protein powders are just out there to get money) and it’s even damaging….and another dude says we don’t need it right after a workout like they say.

    What thu?

    As for me? I build muscle FAST. And I don’t care about protein. And people in the day used to build muscle and didn’t know about the protein rules.

    So. That’s weird. Part of me just doesn’t like to spend a lot of money or follow rules haha 😉

    Great post Annette!
    Kirtley @ The Gist of Fit recently posted…The Dangers of Giving Up MeatMy Profile

    • there is always controversy surrounding sports nutrition especially from one random gym guy to another 😉

      When I studied sports nutrition in grad school, it was almost always proven in the research studies that (bioavailable) protein during the 1 hour after working out/resistance training is key. protein was never in huge amounts, but that a focus on having the proper ratio is helpful in fitness goals.
      annette recently posted…Friday Favorites {2/6/15}My Profile

  9. [email protected]_heart_kale says:

    I really need to get back to a better, more consistent workout routine. Before C I was so good about strength training regularly and less cardio. After she was born, now I feel like its more cardio (though I’m still trying to lose some pregnancy weight so I think its important for me to drop the #’s). I need to either map out a schedule or do something to balance myself out. Right now I’m takit spin 2x week, plus 1x week of body combat/attack/step and pump. Would like to take two- 3 pump but haven’t figured out how to sub out my spin so I can do it.
    Thanks for being such a positive roll model and great motivation!! ❤❤

    • Everyone is different, but pregnancy weight just eventually came off as I got stronger & built muscle up (hello, metabolism at rest!) via resistance training, so maybe think of it that way too? Just an idea! Cardio has its place of course, but in the long run, having more muscle to burn more fat later on & to help you be strong as a mom is, in my opinion, the way to go as a focus on for workouts & workout planning :) xo
      annette recently posted…Friday Favorites {2/6/15}My Profile

  10. I relate SO much …. I am so over cardio now and love me some weights!
    Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family recently posted…A Glimpse at the 21 Day FixMy Profile

  11. Hi Annette! Great post! I’m with you totally on cardio. I used to be on the treadmill several days a week doing cardio as my main workout. Now my cardio usually only occurs from teaching BODYATTACK a couple times a week. I LOVE that post-weightlifting feeling and would lift weights every single day, if I could. But of course, rest days are important too. Thanks for spending the time motivating other people out there to lift heavy things, with good form, and with good timing too!
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…PSA: What you need to know about health careMy Profile

  12. Great tips, girl! I’ve definitely gone through my cardio-junkie days, and while I’ve fallen off the lifting bandwagon a little bit, it’s actually something I really want to get back into because being strong and fit makes every other aspect of life so much easier as well.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. thinking out loud #116 .My Profile

  13. Even though I love cardio, I love strength training too, and I agree with this post!

    I am pretty good about following most of your tips, but lately I have been lifting heavier and rushing through the movements a little bit. Thanks for the reminder to slow it down!
    Angela @ HonestlyAngela recently posted…Everything but the Kitchen Sink…My Profile

  14. My problem is I love running and struggle with strength training :( I NEED to do better!!!!
    Rachel @ Blonde with a Chanse recently posted…Happy Birthday Rosalie!!!My Profile

  15. great tips! thankful for my baby girl taking long naps today and being able to get some work done :)

  16. Great tips! Running and yoga are my bliss, but I know the importance of strength training, so I make sure to do it 2-3 times a week. Plus there is nothing sexier than a strong back and tight booty, so squats, push-ups, and planks are always a must in all my workouts!
    She Rocks Fitness recently posted…Bringing it BACK…What I Ate Wednesday!My Profile

  17. YEP me too! I still run, but BODYPUMP changed everything. I’m so much happier now that I teach PUMP, CX and FLOW … running isn’t everything!

  18. hi…..just wondering if u have recommendations on the after workout meal. I normally lift on weeknights after a long day at work and have about a 20 min drive home, then unpack all my stuff from the day, shower, make dinner so im often not eating until later. def. not in an hour after. and I guess I don’t think much of what I eat other than that its healthy. most nights I do have some sort of protein, but not sure the ratio of protein to carbs. some examples of what you mean would be great. would it be better to have a quick snack after and then dinner later ?

    • I would definitely recommend eating a snack during your drive–a protein shake, a protein muffin (homemade of some sort) or a protein bar. You could also do something easy/portable food wise that is driving friendly like hard boiled eggs & sweet potato (just put them in containers), yogurt (keep it cold in a small lunch type bag), almonds & string cheese, or a half of a turkey sandwich.

      It’s best to eat SOMETHING with higher protein content after a workout than to eat nothing at all and then wait for a long while. You might even make healthier choices at dinner too since you won’t be as starving. :) Hope that helps!
      annette recently posted…Friday Favorites {2/6/15}My Profile

  19. If your trying to really put on size your going to need a high carb diet along with a decent amount of protein. If your looking to get more carbs in your system Peanut Butter & Jelly is key. The bread gives you tons of carbs and the peanut butter gives you your protein. Also working out is the biggest key to gaining weight and getting bigger. You want to do at least 20 reps until you feel the burn, but switch up your workout frequently or your muscles will get use to the workout you have been doing and wont get any bigger.

  20. I’m doing PUMP for weight loss purposes. I’ve got 10 kilos to lose. I do PUMP Monday-Wednesday-Friday.

    What would you advise, Annette?

  21. Building muscle is not an easy task. I know how important it is. After doing muscle building wrong at the first time, I actually build my muscles into wrong shape. And it took almost 1 year of hard work to fix the issue with my muscle look perfect shape from both side.

  22. Thanks for sharing your tips, Annette! Personally i manged to tone my muscle by increasing whey protein intake right after my workout sessions.

  23. If you workout focusing only on aerobic exercise, then you will miss the key component of overall fitness. Strength training increases can lean muscle mass, which helps your body to burn calories more efficiently and improves your quality of life.

  24. Hey Anette,

    Finally, an article about bodybuilding that actually gives solid and practical advice!

    You are right, nutrition is absolutely key and I think alot of people get confused as to when muscle actually gets formed (in a rest period)

    The other thing I would add is for people to keep switching up their workouts as the body adapts to the same old routine and it’s easy to hit a plateau!

    Danny S recently posted…7 Of The Best Bodybuilding Hacks You Will Ever HearMy Profile

  25. Great article about bodybuilding Annette. Building muscle can be a tedious task. I do a lot of mobility and also lift in the gym as well. Helps with my form really well. Actually started paddle boarding an hour a day to help with mobility and full body strength and core. Good tips in there for sure!
    David Hamburg recently posted…The Best Beginner Stand Up Paddle Boards 2016My Profile

  26. You should tone your arms, legs, and abs to burn fat with some simple body weight workout. Usually I do warm up with five minutes of light cardio, then I repeat each three exercise circuit three times. Finally cool down myself with five minutes of stretching.

  27. Agree that lifting lightweights doesn’t really do much for building muscle or even toning muscle. A little bit more effort definitely helps out!
    Tai Penn recently posted…A Complete Home Gym Building Guide: Create Your Own Personal Training SpaceMy Profile

  28. It’s great that you learned the power of weightlifting. Cardio does have its benefits, as you discovered first, but they don’t encompass those that you’ll find with weightlifting.


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