4 Essential Muscle-Building Tips | STACK

4 Essential Muscle-Building Tips

March 24, 2013 | Drew Henley

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The great thing about sports research is that each year it provides us with improvements in training. Although some fitness fads lack staying power,  generally the new research findings keep us out of a rut and help us enhance our performance. Here are four new techniques we can incorporate to build muscle faster.

Follow these tips while staying on top of your strength program, and you will be able to build muscle fast to perform better in your sport. Although the tips will help, there is no substitute for time and effort. Nothing great is achieved in a single day, so just continue to build, brick by brick.

Focus on Big Lifts

Pounding out Bicep Curls and Leg Extensions until your limbs want to fall off may feel like a great workout, but you're just speeding your way to an injury.

Instead, focus on compound lifts like Squats, Deadlifts, and Multi-Joint Presses and Pulls through their full range of motion. The increased stress produced by these movements stimulates growth hormone synthesis while improving anabolic response and muscle building. (See also How to Build Muscle Fast With Complexes.)

If you are relatively new to strength training (less than two years of lifting experience), work your way up to heavy sets of four to five repetitions. More experienced lifters can build up to sets as heavy as one- to three-rep maximums.

Lift Weights Over Your Head

Lifting weights overhead requires nearly every muscle fiber in your body to keep you from collapsing under the bar. There are several variations, depending on your goals for the training session:


Olympic Lifts (Snatch and Clean & Jerk)
Overhead Squat
Push Press/Military Press
Turkish Get-Ups
Waiter Carries

Besides adding muscle mass, these exercises work the smaller stabilizer muscles of the hips and shoulders and provide a great core workout.

Keep Reps at 12 or Less

Anything more won't offer enough resistance to work your fast-twitch muscle fibers, those responsible for heavy lifting and powerful movements. Primary compound lifts should stay below eight reps to increase growth hormone production; and supplemental lifts (lower intensity, single joint movements like Curls) should work in the six- to eight-rep range to maximize hypertrophy (i.e., muscle growth).

Eat Like an Athlete

Michael Phelps may be renowned for his ability in the pool, but he's also envied for his metabolism out of the water. How many stories have we heard about Phelps taking in 8,000 calories a day just to maintain? And he doesn't fill up on junk food or greasy fries; he eats chicken, steak, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruits. Combined with his training program, the nutrients in these foods help his body recover and grow.

Here are two excellent pieces of advice about diet:

  1. Eat to fuel, not to feed. Make sure what you're putting in serves a purpose in your growth and recovery.
  2. Eat more food, mainly plants and animals. Notice the phrasing—"food," not "food products." You should be eating natural food and avoiding processed food. Stick to plants and animals for a relatively healthy diet.
Drew Henley
- Drew Henley is the creator of Henley Sports Performance, a strength and conditioning resource for athletes and coaches. A former Division I track and field...
Drew Henley
- Drew Henley is the creator of Henley Sports Performance, a strength and conditioning resource for athletes and coaches. A former Division I track and field...
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