3 Essential Steps to Build Muscle Strength and Size
The fastest way to build muscle strength and size is good old-fashioned strength training, done right. Over time, strength training challenges your muscles by breaking them down so they repair and recover bigger and stronger than before. (Find out how muscles work.)
To be optimally effective, strength training must be combined with proper nutrition and rest. Although there are some strategies to accelerate the process, there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work and follow the plan.
Without proper nutrition, you will compromise any muscle strength and size gains you hope to achieve. Simply stated, your body needs the raw material that food provides for growth.
It's essential to eat sufficient calories (see my "calories" article), as well as carbs and protein, 30 to 90 minutes before and after working out. Aim for 0.8 grams of lean protein per pound , whole grain and high fiber carbs, and healthy fats found in olive oil, nuts and salmon. (Discover 10 muscle-building foods.)
You'll need to work out three or four days per week to reach your goal. Here are some guidelines to get you on your way:
Favor compound movements over single-joint movements: compound exercises, like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press and Inverted Rows, involve more than one joint and engage multiple muscle groups. Triceps Extensions and Biceps Curls are single-joint isolation exercises. Compound exercises require greater muscle activation, recruit larger muscle groups and stimulate strength and size gains.
Lift heavy weights: if you want to build muscle fast, you need to push your body to use as many muscle fibers as possible during exercise. Lifting heavy weights allows you to challenge your muscles, which is the key to making strength and size gains.
For any given exercise, use a weight that you can lift for at least 10 to 12 repetitions per set. If you can perform more repetitions than that, the weight is too light and you will fail to make gains.
Try supersets: we emphasize supersets at the Athletic Performance Training Center. By pairing push and pull exercises, you are able to work twice as many muscles in a time-efficient manner to help build overall muscle strength and size. (Learn more about the benefits of supersets.)
Several different rest factors must be considered in your training:
- Get a good night's sleep, seven to eight hours each night
- Do not rework a muscle group until it has the chance to recover for 48 hours
- Rest between sets to allow your muscles to recover and so you get the most out of each set. If you are building strength and size, it's best to rest between 90 seconds to 3 minutes between sets (except with supersets).