First, I want to make sure that there is no confusion with the title of the article. When I say “building muscle fast”, fast is relative in comparison to the rate at which you will build muscle if the muscle-building factors I am going to discuss are not in place. The fact is building new muscle is NOT a fast process. It takes weeks, months, and years of hard work and dedication, both inside and outside of the weight room. This slow “rate of return” on muscle-building is one of the main reasons people give up on building muscle all together.
We live in a society where if we want something we want it RIGHT NOW. Well, a lean muscular body just cannot be obtained that quickly. Building your ultimate physique is like an ongoing art project that takes years and years to complete. However, the time and effort required is far outweighed by the masterpieces we are able to create.
So, even though it is going to take some time to build your masterpiece, adhere to these four essential ingredients for muscle growth so that you can get the job done in the most effective and efficient manner as a natural bodybuilder.
1) Train heavy and with as much intensity as possible
If you want to build the most amount of muscle in the least amount of time then stick to the basics and train heavy! We have all seen the guy in the gym loading up the machines until they simply cannot hold anymore weight. He goes through his workout routine swinging the weights around like a madman using terrible form and way too much momentum. Just about everyone stares and some of the faint of heart even leave the weight-room in fear. This guy obviously either 1) has no idea what he his doing or 2) has an ego that is farther ahead in development than his muscles. But you know what? I’ll bet you a box of meal replacements that the guy is carrying around some pretty decent muscle.
Even though his form is very poor, lifting all that weight forces overload upon his muscles and overload is the single most important factor in stimulating muscle growth in the weight room. Now, before you go out and try to do one arm curls with the 100 lbs dumbbells (unless you are Skip LaCour who really can do this), let me make it clear that I am NOT advocating that you train like our friend I described above. The point is that even with less than perfect form, lifting heavy weight with intensity will produce muscle overload and muscle growth. Your goal should be to train heavy while using proper execution and allowing for some momentum. The best muscle building exercises to train heavy are the basics, such as squats, dead lifts, barbell bench presses, and barbell curls.
The best training program I have found that enables you to continue to make gains by overloading the muscles is the Max-OT or Maximum Overload Training Program, created by Paul Delia, President of AST Sports Science. Max-OT is centered around basic compound exercises using heavy weight and progressive overload. The workouts are relatively short (30-45 minutes) which is why INTENSITY is very important. These short intense workouts build muscle in a more efficient manner compared to longer workouts and also eliminate the concern for decreased testosterone and increased cortisol levels that can occur with longer workouts. You can sign up for the free Max-OT training course at the AST website (www.ast-ss.com).
2) Feed your body to grow all day long
Alright, we have stimulated our muscles to grow in the most effective and efficient manner with heavy weight training. However, that is only half the battle. No, actually that is only like 20% of the battle. At least 80% of your success in an attempt to build muscle is based on how well you feed your body the 23 hours that you are not in the gym. Science has proven it, I have seen it in myself, I have seen it in my clients, and anyone else who has made the commitment to make nutrition a priority has seen it as well. Once you begin to practice proper nutritional habits on a consistent basis the results from your workouts will improve by leaps and bounds. The key word here is consistency. You can’t eat right for a couple of days then have a day where you miss two meals and eat junk food for a few others. You must eat properly on a consistent basis to really obtain the powerful benefits that proper nutrition has to offer.
There are many different nutrition plans that can help you build muscle and I am not going to go into the details of any specific plan. However, I will give some general guidelines for eating to build muscle.
o Include a source of lean protein with each meal
High quality protein provides your muscles with the proper nutrients to build muscle. Examples include chicken, turkey, egg whites, lean beef, tuna, and meal replacements, such as Ny-Tro Pro 40.
o Eat enough calories to put your body in a positive nitrogen balance
A positive nitrogen balance is needed in order to build muscle. This is obtained by consuming enough high quality protein (at least 1 gram per pound of body weight) and enough carbohydrates so that the protein you consume goes towards building muscle and does not get converted to glucose for energy. Just because you need a lot of nutrients to build muscle does not mean that you must eat massive amounts of food. Eating high fat low nutrient food just because you are “bulking” will do nothing for building muscle and everything for making any definition you have disappear quickly!
o Limit saturated fat but include some “good” fat in your diet
Diets low in saturated fats protect against many problems such as heart disease and high cholesterol. However, if your total fat intake is too low then testosterone levels will decrease and your body will become less efficient at performing many mandatory functions. You need a certain level of “good” fats containing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Examples of foods containing these “good fats” include flax seeds and flax seed oil, olive oil, canola oil, and CLA, or Conjugated Linoleic Acid.
o Eat frequent smaller meals throughout the day
Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day ensures that your muscles are constantly supplied with the proper nutrients they need in order to grow. Breaking up your normal 3 meals per day into 6-8 smaller meals per day is the one nutritional strategy that will have the biggest impact on the amount of muscle you are able to build. Eating this way also increases your metabolic rate helping you to stay leaner, keeps blood insulin levels stable, and increases energy levels throughout the day.
o Drink lots of pure water throughout the day
Our bodies are made up of 1/3 water and our muscles are 70% water! Water plays a vital role in proper hydration, transport of nutrients through the body, digestion, the flushing of toxins from the body, and other important functions of the body. All of these things help equal more efficient muscle growth.
3) Get plenty of rest between workouts
New muscle tissue is not formed from weight training unless proper nutrients are provided to the body as discussed above AND enough recovery time occurs before the muscle is placed under the stress of an intense workout again. In addition to the recovery time between workouts your body needs sleep to allow your muscles as well as all of your other body functions to operate properly.
How much sleep is enough and what is the optimal time to wait before working the same body part? There are many different opinions and theories on both of these subjects, and the “right” answer can be debated all day long. I would say that the “right” amount of sleep each night is however much sleep it takes for you to have enough energy to train intensely and stay awake and alert to perform all of your daily tasks. As far as the optimal time to wait before training the same body part again, this is going to vary based on a number of factors including how long you have been training, how many sets and reps your performed during your last workout, and how intensely you trained during your last workout, just to name a few.
Personally, I have found that I perform and feel my best by getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I also have gotten very good results by training each body part once a week very intensely as prescribed in the Max-OT program.
4) Live a healthy lifestyle and provide the right environment for muscle growth
If you are really serious about building muscle then you must structure your lifestyle in a certain manner. This is not always easy because so many of the normal activities in society involve things that can sabotage your muscle-building efforts. With office parties, lunches, and dinners, family cookouts, happy hour, etc. it can be difficult to stay on your bodybuilding diet plan. Eating un-healthy foods and drinking with your friends are enjoyable activities but they will not help your muscle-building efforts.
Sure, its tough to pass on these activities, but everything worth having in life has a “price tag” on it and the “price” for having a lean muscular body is to train when you are supposed to train, eat when and what you are supposed to eat, and rest when you are supposed to rest. It would be great if we could work out when we felt like it, try to eat pretty good most of the time, go out drinking on the weekends, and still build muscle and stay lean, but life just doesn’t work that way.
The good news is that you don’t have to become a boring hermit who never does anything fun. Go out and do things with your friends. As long as you train, eat, and rest like you are supposed to there is no problem. It helps to find people who have similar interest and healthy goals like you do. Instead of having others trying to tempt you to stray from your workout or nutrition plan, you will be able to encourage each other and help each other succeed.
Follow the rules above with consistency and dedication and you will build muscle. Even if you just build 4 lbs of solid muscle a year, which is very reasonable, after 10 years of training that is 40 LBS and after 15 years that is 60 LBS! It won’t happen overnight, but if you are patient enough and persistent enough you can build your own masterpiece physique. Train hard, eat right, rest, and reap the benefits of not only more muscle but a healthy life as well.