It’s an age-old training question, one that has puzzled athletes for years: how can I build muscle and add lean body mass faster? (See STACK’s answer.)
Muscle building can seem like a daunting process, leading you to consider one of those dime-a-dozen supplements or other fancy products. Because one thing is for sure, a vast number of supplement companies and fitness-infomercial products claim to have the answer, but few have any real substance behind them. (Get the lowdown on the best supplements.)
Building muscle quickly doesn’t require spending an arm and a leg in response to those silly ad campaigns. You have the ability; it’s just a matter of going back to the basics and building a proper foundation. Don’t be fooled by gimmicks. You will be much better served by training smart. To start building muscle faster, follow the three tips below.
Drink More Water
Water makes up approximately 75 percent of muscle tissue. If you’re dehydrated, your muscles won’t be able to perform up to their potential, and you will feel sub-par in the gym. Not the best recipe for results, especially in terms of recovery. If that isn’t enough to convince you, know that water also plays a role in injury prevention. H2O makes up a good portion of the synovial fluid that lubricates your joints.
You can find a number of recommendations about how many quarts/ounces/liters of water you should take in daily, but the easiest thing to do is just have a water bottle with you at all times and sip it consistently throughout the day.
Stop Training So Much
If you are training to build muscle, your training program needs to reflect that goal. It simply isn’t feasible to gain max strength, build muscle, improve conditioning and lose fat all at the same time.
Take a look at your current training program. Chances are you’re including too much cardio and lifting volume per session. If you want muscle, you have to stimulate it, then let it recover. You don’t need to pound it into the ground with a 30-set workout and 20 minutes of cardio tacked on at the end. (How much is too much?)
For the best hypertrophic results, aim for three to four sets of 6 to 12 reps per exercise, resting around 60 seconds between sets. I recommend performing no more than three large muscle group exercises (chest, back, legs) and no more than two exercises for the smaller muscles (biceps, triceps, calves). Split the sessions up over three or four days.
Save cardio for the days you aren’t weight training, and keep it to 20 minutes max. Don’t worry; your heart will be fine.
Want a physique that exudes power, strength and definition? Start deadlifting. One of the best, if not the best, muscle-builder of all time, the Deadlift is rarely performed in most gyms. In an ideal fitness fantasy world, you would walk into a gym and see most of the people doing some form of deadlift. This is because the deadlift builds lean muscle! It’s that simple.
No, it will not pump up your pecs or biceps, but it will force your body to use everything it has (particularly in the posterior chain) to its maximum its ability. Back and leg development delivers the quickest results in terms of muscle growth, because they are the two biggest muscle groups in the body. The Deadlift happens to be one of the best back and thigh builders.
Deadlift form has lots of technical points, but here are the main ones:
- Position feet just outside hip-width and step right up to the bar, so it is nearly touching your shins.
- Push your hips and butt back and bend forward from the waist.
- Grip the bar with both hands, roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Pull your shoulders down and back and take a deep breath in.
- Pull the bar off the ground, powering the movement with your hips and contracting your glutes at the top. Exhale.
- Push your hips and butt back again as you lower the bar to the ground under control. Make sure to keep your back flat. No rounding.