Building muscle can be a very slow task, especially if you don’t go to the gym with a plan. Luckily, men have been building slabs of muscle since the mid-1800s, long before the advent of the Internet, anabolic steroids or the tons of supplements we have at our disposal today.
How did they do it? By sticking to the basics. Of course, this doesn’t mean we have to use only the basics, but it does mean that we have to stop being overwhelmed by conflicting information and follow simple, proven principles that have worked for generations.
How to Build Muscle Fast
1. Keep Rest Periods Short
Unless specifically following a proven powerlifting routine that mandates resting for one to three minutes in between sets, you should ideally limit your rest to no more than one minute, and ideally at 30 seconds.
Short rest periods, while likely to take a heavy cardiopulmonary toll on your body, provide the stimulus needed for muscle restructuring to kick in following the end of your work out. Your muscles will subsequently rebuild stronger, and be better suited to handle the task at hand the next time you lift weights.
2. Lift Heavy Weights
One of the greatest bodybuilders of all time Ronnie Coleman famously said “everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights” which sums up one of the primary reasons people don’t make gains.
Unless you are constantly challenging your body by lifting heavier and performing that one additional rep, there is no stimulus for your body to get bigger and stronger in response. I’m not advocating that you let common sense fly out the window, but often even minuscule additions can add up to big gains over time.
Invest in a pair (or two) of micro weights, which may come in the form of magnets that simply attach to a standard weight plate and can add a few grams, to a kilo or more to your maximum lift. Not everyone will be able to add a 5-pound plate to an exercise every single time, micro plating helps.
3. Focus on Your Back and Legs
This means that virtually every single time you work out the core of your plan should revolve around your legs or back. Yes, far too many people have a dedicated chest day, when in fact the chest should be a secondarily trained body part.
By alternating workouts with the back and legs, every single time you can trigger a massive surge of anabolic hormones after your work out, and supply the stimulus necessary for continuous muscle growth. In fact, if you compare two people side-by-side with everything else being identical, the individual working out muscles of the leg and back alone will have bigger arms than someone who trains arms specifically.
4. Eat A Hearty Meal 90 Minutes Before Your Workout
The three most important times to ensure you consume enough would be breakfast, and before and after your workout.
Eating a meal high in fat, and with a moderate amount of protein and carbs before your work out all but ensures you have a kick-ass session. Fat consumed at this time results in a massive testosterone surge, translating to increased strength output during your workout.
At the post-workout period, carbohydrates and proteins are more important, and far less so fat.
5. Stretch After Your Workout
While stretching is advised both before and after your workout, the type of stretches used are vastly different. After your workouts, stretches are primarily static in nature, with the goal of stretching muscle fascia to accommodate muscle growth and also assist with re-oxygenation of the worked muscle group, helping to clear byproducts of metabolism.
Stretching before your workout is typically done dynamically, with some people opting to do light calisthenics or cardiovascular activity to the same effect.
6. Don’t Necessarily Train To Fatigue
I think the number one way training has changed in the past 50 years is the mantra that you must train to fatigue every single time. This is absolute garbage, as fatigue does not indicate muscle damage, nor the potential degree of muscle growth you will experience.
Rather, training to fatigue will help to improve lactic acid buffering, a good trait but not one that is a prerequisite for muscle growth.
Most of your sets should not be done to failure, except the final set on some movements. Don’t think this makes sense? Try to do heavy squats to failure without a spotter and your training days are as good as done.
7. Incorporate Rest-Pause Training
The rest pause is an underused and underappreciated intensity technique that can help dramatically build muscle and bust through training plateaus.
Rest-pause training involves using a weight slightly heavier than you normally would, and failing at a low rep range. For instance, say you are only able to get four reps on your first attempt, you follow this up with a 15 to 20-second break, after which you perform another set for as many reps as you can, rest again and knock out another set.
And the end, you add the three values to get one completed rest pause set. Since your muscles were not fully recovered to perform another full set, you experience extensive muscle breakdown and subsequent growth after your work out concludes.
There are many more tips that you can take advantage of that will translate to greater muscle accrual, but in terms of those that directly involve the time spent in the gym, you will be hard-pressed to find better than those mentioned above.
Back it up with solid testosterone boosting nutrition, natural supplements and a good sleeping pattern and you should see your gains skyrocket!