Let’s face it: packing on muscle seems simple on the outside, but it takes quite a bit of know-how and consistency to get it right.
I mean, eat big and train hard sounds like good advice, but what the hell does it mean?
“Eat big” can mean a thousand different things for different people, there’s nothing specific or actionable about it.
Same with “train hard”. You hear it and get motivated to hit the gym, but how do you quantify “hard”, anyway?
Today, we’ll go in much more detail and review some proven ways to build muscle faster:
1. Train muscles more often
It used to be common knowledge that to build muscle, all you needed to do was follow a bro split and eat a lot of food. However, as more and more research piles on, we’ve come to the understanding that you neither need to eat as much as you think nor should you follow the typical bro-split.
You see, with most bro-splits, the big issue is that you only get to train a muscle once per week. There are two big issues with that:
a)You need to cram a lot of training volume in each workout
Training volume (which we can measure in hard sets) is a key driver for muscle growth. Doing more naturally leads to better results, to a point. Say, for example, that you do 18 working sets for your back each week. If you are to do all of that volume in one workout, you’d accumulate a lot of fatigue in your back and as the workout progresses, your performance will continuously drop. This would lead to less total work being done.
Now, if you were to split these 18 total sets into two sessions, you’d be able to do even more work and the same number of sets without getting as fatigued. This would lead to faster muscle growth.
b)You are missing opportunities to stimulate your muscles
When you train, muscle protein synthesis is usually elevated for up to 36 hours and it takes your muscles roughly 48 hours to fully recover. Now, if you train a given muscle once every 7 days, you are leaving much more time for recovery than your body really needs.
These extra days can be used to attack the different muscles again, cause more damage and stimulate more growth.
2. Train harder
If you’ve spent some time in the gym, you’ve probably noticed a common trend:
People don’t train hard. In most cases, they put more emphasis on socializing, browsing through their phones or doing half-hearted sets.
In life, as well as in training, you get what you give. You reap what you sow. You might think that you’re training hard enough, but be honest with yourself: are you, really?
Do any of your sets feel so difficult that you’re anxious to begin them? Do you ever train a muscle so hard that it burns like hell? Have you ever genuinely pushed harder than you thought you could?
Be honest with yourself. If you can’t honestly say that you’re training hard enough, start putting more effort into your workouts.
3. Time your rest periods
There is a delicate balance between resting just enough and resting too much. You need to be conscious of that and time your resting periods closely. This point directly ties in with the above one, because you might be putting a good amount of effort in each individual set, but if you’re resting too much between them, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
On the other hand, not resting enough is also bad because it hinders your performance on each subsequent set and decreases the total work that you do.
Here are some general guidelines for resting periods:
- For sets where you do 1-6 repetitions, rest between 3 and 5 minutes.
- For sets where you do 6-12 repetitions, rest between 1.5 and 3 minutes.
- For sets where you do 12-20 repetitions, rest for 60-90 seconds max.
4. Vary exercises every so often to keep things interesting
One very important aspect of effective training is enjoyability. Simply put, doing the same exercises over and over again is effective, but gets stale after a while. That leads to boring workouts, lack of motivation and less effort being put into them.
To counter that, you should regularly rotate most of the exercises you do. A good guideline is to switch them every 4-6 weeks. Have 5-8 exercises for each muscle group and regularly switch between them.
This allows you to keep the novelty factor into your training and enjoy your workouts more.
Furthermore, there is a theory that your body adapts to given exercises over time and further progress becomes more difficult. By changing the exercises, you modify the stress response and this can lead to faster muscle growth.
5. Eat enough food and protein
While training is very important for building muscle, nutrition is another crucial factor. Simply put, even if you’re doing everything correctly with your training, you still might get suboptimal results due to bad nutrition.
First, you need to establish a caloric surplus for muscle growth. It ensures that your body has adequate energy to repair itself and grow stronger. A good way to know that you’re eating in a caloric surplus is if you are steadily gaining body weight.
Second, you need to eat enough protein. Aside from adequate energy (in the form of calories), getting enough protein is the other piece of the puzzle. Protein provides the building blocks that your body needs to repair muscle tissue and make it bigger. Simply put, you might eat enough calories and gain weight over time, but if there’s little or no protein in your diet, your body won’t be able to synthesize muscle mass.
A good rule of thumb is to eat roughly 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you currently weigh 190 lbs, aim for 190 grams of protein daily.