It’s Actually Not Difficult To Grow Muscle
For most weightlifters, growing muscle is their number one goal. It’s not always a quick process because there are many variables at play, and a frustration generally shared by many is that it can be very difficult to gain a significant amount of muscle mass.
Whether you’re in it to develop pure strength, you’re after the less tangible benefits of strong bones and an increased lifespan, or you’re chasing that aesthetically pleasing muscular and toned physique – the aim for most is to try to pack on muscle as quickly as possible. After all, who wants to spend hours in the gym or at home working out for no results?
So how do you build muscle fast? Gaining muscle isn’t actually that difficult – it’s simply about knowing how to go about it in the right way. By following a few basic principles used in conjunction with one another, you will almost certainly be on the path to gaining muscle and filling out that t-shirt before you can say Gold’s Gym.
The Three Main Ingredients For Muscle Gain
When it comes to building muscle there are three main ingredients, plus some nice little additions that we’ll come onto later, to help ignite growth.
It’s important to understand just how muscle is built within the body. Contrary to what you may believe, muscle isn’t grown in the gym – it’s actually a product of the damage you inflict during your workout that leads to muscle growth.
Firstly, to build muscle you must lift a weight that your body is unused to handling in order to damage the muscle fibres that are there to start with. This can be achieved by incorporating heavy resistance training in the form of a weightlifting program into your fitness schedule. The traditional approach is to break down your training across four or five days during the week and focus on different body parts, performing three to four sets of between four and six different exercises until you reach failure on each set (when you’re unable to perform another rep with good form). This is known as hypertrophy training and is excellent at breaking down your muscles in order for them to repair and become bigger and stronger.
Secondly it’s important to lock-in good nutrition as the choices you make when it comes to food will be an important element to your success in adding muscle size and strength. If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ it’s true – but apply that to your whole body. A key nutrient here is protein which is seen as the fuel to growth. Get enough of this into your diet and your body will have the fuel it needs to grow the muscles you have damaged through training. Take a look at my article on the best foods to gain muscle for more information on consuming the right foods to help maximise growth.
Thirdly, but just as important, is rest. This is probably the most underrated and overlooked factor when looking to build muscle and a lack of it can have a real and significant impact on muscle growth, particularly if you’re looking to pack it on fast. Your body repairs itself whilst you are asleep, which is when muscle growth occurs, so you need to make sure you are getting an adequate amount of rest in between your workouts for your body to repair and prepare itself for the next round. You’re also more likely to avoid injury if your body has had sufficient time to recover since your last gym session.
So now we’ve briefly covered the three main ingredients to muscle growth, let’s explore a few other tweaks you can make to your training to start building that weightlifter’s physique in as little time as possible.
How To Rev Up Your Results
Focus on getting stronger
The best bodybuilders of all time were strong and knew that more strength equals more muscle. Remember the bit where I spoke about hypertrophy above? Aim to perform exercises on each muscle group focusing on a different part each session, that you can perform between six to ten repetitions before reaching failure. Then focus on either adding an additional rep to that exercise the next time round, or adding weight to the bar. Whether it’s an extra one or two reps or a slight increase in weight – even if it’s just half a pound more – your body will continue to adapt and grow as you increase the stress on it. Basically if you’re not lifting more today than you did last month or last year, you’re not building muscle. Continue to challenge your body and it will continue to adapt.
Perform compound exercises
Try to do exercises that work a number of muscles at the same time such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses and barbell rows. You’ll be able to lift heavier weights to trigger muscle growth and your body will have to work harder which will also lead to increased calorie burn which in turn will help to burn fat at the same time as building muscle.
Increase your training frequency
The more you train a muscle, the more you trigger it to grow and get stronger and the quicker your technique grows and the heavier you can lift. Start working out three times a week instead of just once.
Decrease rest time between your sets
Try to keep rest to between 30 to 90 seconds in between sets. When lifting for hypertrophy, rest periods of up to 90 seconds encourage a rapid release of the muscle-building hormones Testosterone and HGH (Human Growth Hormone) while also ensuring you really fatigue your muscles. Research that was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2018 suggests that regardless of rep and sets, fatiguing those muscles is a must to encourage hypertrophy.
Eat more protein
Remember when I said nutrition was important? When it comes to nutrition, protein is a major contributor to the growth of muscle mass. Just as training breaks your muscles down, protein builds them back up. A good basis on which to work is to consume between 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound, or 1.8 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram, of bodyweight per day. You can find protein in a variety of foods such as chicken, red meat, eggs, fish, and Greek yogurt, as well as quinoa, soya, beans, lentils and nuts. For more information, I’ve written a blog post on some of the best muscle-building, protein rich foods which you can check out here. If you find you can’t consume enough protein in the food you eat then consider supplementing your diet with a protein powder. There are many available, but the best ones I’ve tried are the whey and soy-based protein powders from MyProtein that come in a variety of flavours and sizes offering a really convenient way to hit your daily protein intake.
Focus on a calorie surplus
Hand in hand with eating more protein is the total amount of other nutrients you eat during the day. You should aim to eat between 250 to 500 calories extra per day, with around 40% of that being protein, 40% carbohydrates and around 20% fat (although you can toggle the fat and carbs to suit). This will ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to not only fuel your workouts but assist in recovery and repair.
This is important because if your body senses it’s in a calorie deficit (consuming fewer calories than you’re burning off in the gym) it will downshift your body’s tendency to build new muscle and you won’t grow.
You can calculate how many calories your body needs by using a TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator. Your TDEE is an estimate of how many calories your burn per day when exercise is taken into account. It is calculated by first figuring out your Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories your body needs for basic functions at rest) and then multiplying that value by an activity multiplier. This one on tdeecalculator.net is one I’d recommend and will also display your BMI (Body Mass Index) BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) Macros, and many other useful stats.
Get enough sleep
To really enable your muscles to recover you need to dedicate a good amount of time to sleep, with eight hours considered the ideal. When you sleep your body releases HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which helps to build muscle and lower your levels of Cortisol – the stress hormone which, when coupled with a lack of sleep, is your enemy when it comes to muscle growth.
According to a study carried out in the Journal of the American Medical Association, sleeping for just five hours compared with up to eight hours per night for just one week, reduces muscle-building testosterone levels by a huge 10 to 15 percent. So try to aim for between seven to nine hours per night if possible.
Try using supplements
Supplements can be a useful addition to your nutrition and will help to give your body the fuel it needs to create the perfect environment for muscle growth.
Consider using Creatine and HMB which have both been shown through various studies to increase your body’s performance, helping you to lift more, as well as prevent muscle breakdown and speed up recovery. In addition to a high protein diet, adequate rest and an effective weight training routine, when it comes to accelerating those gains in the gym these are two supplements I would recommend. Have a look at MyProtein at their Creatine and HMB supplements, which includes advice on when to take them, how often and what with, to optimise results.
Stay Focused And The Gains Will Come
Start incorporating the above into your routine – both in and out of the gym – stay committed and don’t stray from your goals. Like anything worth having, building muscle requires dedication and focus. Don’t worry about trying to get everything right straight away – many bodybuilders years into their progress are still learning and adapting to keep the gains coming. Concentrate on working hard in the gym, eating enough protein in a calorie surplus, and getting enough sleep, and then try to pad the rest around it.
If you are just starting out, or you’ve been training for a while and have hit a bit of a plateau in the results you’re seeing, then there are training resources and programs out there to help ensure you’re doing everything right in order to accelerate your progress. But make sure they’re reputable and written by experts who KNOW what they’re talking about.
One I can personally recommend is The Muscle Maximiser program, developed by Kyle Leon – a highly regarded nutrition expert and trainer. If you need a little extra help getting started with nutrition and exercise plans – custom-made to take out all the guess work and speed up your results even more, Kyle’s program will give you everything you need to ensure maximum success in the shortest time possible. I’ve written a review about his program and given it my own rating, so feel free to check it out.
Above all however, stay focused, work hard and the gains will come. If you have any questions or would like to share your tips, advice or the progress you’ve made, leave a comment below. I’d really love to hear from you!