The goal of many athletes who start a strength training program is to build muscle as quickly as possible. At first this may seem like a difficult task, based on secret exercises or magical diet plans. In fact, getting your muscles larger and stronger is a simple process if you follow some basic guidelines.
If your goal is to build muscle in record time, you need to get stronger. As a muscle gets stronger and produces more force, its area grows larger, a process known as hypertrophy. Your workout plan should address all the muscles of the body with exercises such as:
Focus on Each Rep
The foundation of every successful workout is repetition. Reps are where the muscle encounters resistance, which is what causes it to grow in size and strength. Make sure to perform each rep in a controlled fashion. Bouncy or jerky movements reduce muscular tension and therefore inhibit strength gains.
Muscles are amazing at adapting to stress. Once you are able to complete an exercise with a given resistance for either repetitions or time, your muscles have effectively adapted and it's time to increase the weight and lower the reps. If you keep accurate records, you should see a gradual increase in weight lifted or repetitions performed.
Rest and Recover
If you want to reach your maximum potential, simply performing exercises is not enough. Why? Because 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 build muscle, it's best to strength train no more than three days a week and rest for at least a day between workouts.
Eat Good Food
The body needs fuel to build muscle, and that fuel comes from food. Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups. Focus on lean cuts of meat and other protein sources, fruits & vegetables, nuts and whole grains. If your goal is to gain lean body weight, increase your food intake. But remember, you can't force feed growth and you may start to store excess body fat.
Numerous studies suggest that lack of sleep or poor sleep quality hampers the body's ability to build muscle. Sleeping at least 8 hours each night has been shown to promote protein synthesis and lean muscle gains.
Ready to start bulking up? Check out STACK's Guide to Building Muscle.
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