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How To Build Muscle Mass By Tanning

by Shawn LeBrun
Personal trainer
N.A.B.F. Bodybuilder


If you want to learn how to build muscle mass, I want you to first work on getting a tan. (Although that may be tough for us living here in the frigid northeast!)

I can see it now, people are going to be lined up at their local tanning salon, telling the clerk they need to start building some muscle.

Well, let me save you from stares of confusion from the salon owners. You're not going to build muscle from sun tanning. But the cause and effect relationship between the sun and tanning perfectly illustrates a point I want to make about how to build muscle mass.

I must get 3 or 4 emails each day from people wanting to know why they're not building muscle as fast as they'd like. They tell me that they're working each muscle group as often as possible. Well, the thing is, there's no law in weight lifting that says if you double your time, you double your results. Usually, if you double the amount of time you lift, you actually lessen your results.

It's because weight lifting is closer to the "Less is More" theory than the "The More The Better" one. So I want to show you how getting a tan actually answers why you do not want to weight train a muscle group more than once each week. Getting a sun tan is a cause and effect relationship. The sun is the cause and the tan is the effect. In other words, the sun is the stimulus and the tan is the result.

When you get a tan, what is actually happening is that your melanocytes are producing melanin pigment in reaction to ultraviolet light in sunlight. Ultraviolet light stimulates melanin production.

The pigment has the effect of absorbing the UV radiation in sunlight, so it protects the cells from UV damage. You have to expose yourself to UV for a short period of time to activate the melanocytes. By repeating this process over 5 to 7 days pigment builds up in your cells to a level that is protective.

But what happens when you get too much sun? That's right, you get a sun burn, something you do not want to happen. Too much of the stimulus leads to a negative result. So the key is to find the right amount of sun for the desired effect. Too little sun results in no tan and too much sun results in a sun burn.

How does this relate to learning how to build muscle mass? Muscle growth happens by overloading a muscle with heavy weight and then allowing it to rest and recuperate. So in this case, the lifting of heavy weight is the stimulus and, if the environment is properly set up, the result is lean muscle growth. The proper "environment" for muscle growth is rest and proper nutrition (high protein, moderate carbs, plenty of water).

If you train a muscle group (biceps, triceps, etc) more than once each week, it does not get a chance to recuperate and will not grow or become stronger. It's like going back out in the sun too much. Overexposure to the sun leads to a burn. Overexposure to lifting leads to overtraining. When overtraining occurs, muscle growth and strength gains come to a screeching halt.

So to maximize muscle growth and keep that "anabolic window of opportunity" intact, you definitely want to train a muscle group once each week. Too much weight training (stimulus) will produce negative results. If you do not allow your muscles to rest, recover, and get ready for the next workout, you're doing the same thing as if you went back out into the sun too much. Too much of something can produce negative results as much as too little of something. There's a proper balance you must strive to meet in order to gain the most muscle possible.

More sun will not necessarily help you get a better tan. It could cause you to burn. And more lifting will not help you to gain more muscle, it could cause you to overtrain.

The key is to find balance, that "just right" amount that leads you to the result you want.

So now you know how to build muscle mass... start working on your tan ;-)

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