Nearly very athlete wants to build muscle during the off-season. But packing on valuable muscle may elude you if you are doing it wrong. (Learn about Dwight Freeney's muscle-building workout.)
Building muscle is not as complicated as many make it out to be. There are no special exercises or magic foods. If you stick to the basics, you will set yourself up for dramatic muscle gains. Commit to this for an extended period of time—no, you can't magically build muscle in two weeks—and you will see serious gains.
Perform Progressive Strength Training
Muscles are amazing at adapting to stress, so they must be consistently challenged. Doing an exercise is not enough; your training has to progress. (Learn how to increase weight and reps.) Once you are able to complete an exercise with a given resistance for a certain number of repetitions, adjust the weight or volume (reps and sets). Keep a record of your workouts so you can build off your previous results.
Choose Basic Exercises
All exercises are not created equal when it comes to building muscle. If your goal is to build muscle in record time, you need to get stronger. Physiologically speaking, as a muscle gets stronger (produces more force), the cross sectional area grows larger (hypertrophy).
Your workout plan should include exercises that engage all the muscles in your body. Stick to compound exercises that work multiple joints and muscle groups, like Squats, Deadlifts, Leg Press, Bench Press, Chin-Ups and Dips. You can supplement these exercises with Curls, Leg Extensions and Shrugs.
Allow for Recovery
You do not get stronger and build muscle when you work out. The actual growth occurs when you are recovering between workouts. If your goal is to gain strength and build muscle, limit strength training to two or three times per week. Avoid the temptation to do more exercises or train every day. Instead, focus on adding weight to the bar and giving your max effort each rep.
Eat Nutritious Foods
The body needs fuel to build muscle. That fuel comes from food. Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups. Pay attention to lean cuts of protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains. If your goal is to gain lean-body weight, increase your food intake. Just remember that you can't force feed growth, and you may start to store excess body fat. (Learn more about muscle-building nutrition.)
Sample Muscle-Building Workout
- 4-Way Neck - 15 each exercise
- Shrugs - 2-3x12-15
- Squats - 1x20 (choose your 10 rep max and don't stop until you get 20)
- Bench Press - 3x5
- Seated Row - 2-3x8-10
- Standing Overhead Press - 3x5
- Barbell Curl - 2-3x8-10
- Deadlift - 1x20
Sample Post-Workout Meals
- Big glass of chocolate milk
- Peanut butter or turkey sandwich
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