Everyone looking to build muscle wishes they could do one magical workout that will show them how to get muscles fast without the pain of spending hours in the gym. If you have been thinking that gaining muscle mass is a process that requires living in the gym in order to see huge gains I am here to tell you that this is not so.
(Photograph Courtesy of Reuben Bajada’s Permanent Muscle Program)
If you want to learn how to get muscles fast by cutting your workout time and by learning other useful tips simply read on and learn techniques that you can apply in your next workout.
The Bodybuilding Myth- Long Workouts Equals Growth
I still remember looking through countless weightlifting books and magazines and seeing the endless number of reps and sets. It looked tempting to follow that type of workout; after all if a professional bodybuilder was doing it then it had to be true, right?
Unfortunately this was so far from the truth and although I did not see this at the time I went ahead and tried it myself. Soon I found out that long workouts consisting of 20 or more working sets per muscle group was doing 2 things:
- Not giving me muscle gains as I was promised
- My strength was decreasing and my quality of workouts was falling apart
Along with the long workouts I remember seeing so many bodybuilders talking about doing 2 workouts per day, one in the morning and one at night… I never went that route, thank you.
Workout Like A Builder- The Fastest Way To Burnout
Unfortunately the two effects mentioned above: not seeing muscle growth and experiencing a decrease in strength are prime examples of the body reaching burnout. However, time and time again these same types of workout routines are being pitched to the public as being effective, when this is far from the truth.
One of the factors that were never mentioned in their success was the fact that many, maybe not all, are taking performance-enhancing drugs. There are dangers with going that route and I always felt that there was a better and safe way of building muscle.
The Steps To Take To Get Muscles Fast
Step One: Decrease Your Workout Time; Less Is More
As mentioned earlier, long workouts are a recipe for burning out at the gym. In fact, the growth you will see in your muscles will be minimal. In order to grow muscle faster it is best to reduce your strength training and overall workout time under 60 minutes. This goes against everything you have heard but it is true. Once you go beyond the time limit of one hour your testosterone levels and cortisol levels drop significantly. The longer your testosterone levels drop and the longer you put effort in strength then you will not see any gains.
Step Two: Perform In The Higher Rep Ranges
This may also sound counterintuitive. You have probably heard that higher reps equal toned muscle and lower reps add bulk. Well this is not so. If you want to get muscles fast the route you need to take is doing rep ranges in the “sweet spot” of 6-15 reps per set. Training with reps higher than this is simply not effective and anything lower than this will give you dense muscles but growth will be slower. The goal is to increase sarcoplasmic growth or sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in the muscles. This is done by increasing fluid in the muscle cells that gives it an increase in size. Rusty Moore goes in depth on this technique in Visual Impact Muscle Building.
Step Three: Reduce The Number of Sets
Remember the whole 20 plus sets I described above? Throw it out the window. The number of working sets you should have as an upper range for larger muscles groups (legs, chest, back, shoulders) is in the range 14 to 16 sets. You can also choose 3 or 4 exercises per muscle group and do 3 to 4 sets. This will keep you in the range of adequate sets. For smaller muscle groups (biceps, triceps, calves) the upper range should be at 10 to 12 sets but you can stay under this goal. Choose 2 or 3 exercises and 3 to 4 sets to stay within this range.
The following video from Reuben Bajada of Permanent Muscle Program shows him using the right combination of sets and repetitions for a biceps workout.
Step Four: Do Not Workout Every Day
One of the biggest mistakes is being in the gym 7 days a week. Follow the principles followed in step one and do less. Strength training in 3 to 5 days a week is a good approach.
Step Five: Allow Sufficient Rest Time Between Workouts
This is a very important point to make. Although I often hear advice like, workout the same body part twice a week I have always felt that if you really want to see your body gain muscle the best approach is to allow up to 7 days between workouts. So if you do a chest workout on Monday the next time you will work on it is the following Monday. Letting the muscle rest is the most important part in the muscle building process. Once you tear down the muscle you need to let it rest and recover so your body can grow and take on the next strenuous workout. Which brings us to the next step.
Step Six: Get Plenty Of Rest
Also a very important step, one that is more important than lifting weights. Rest as much as possible. This does not mean that you should skip workouts. However, along with step five where you allow enough time between workouts you also need to get sufficient sleep seven days a week if possible. Muscle growth happens when you rest, not when you are busy lifting heavy weight. Eight hours sleep per night is very important and naps throughout the day are excellent. A good one-hour nap per day is something I highly recommend.
Step 7: Do Multi Joint Movements
Doing biceps curls are a gym favorite with so many guys and I am not saying it is a bad thing but if you want to put on muscle you will need to do exercises that involve more than one joint. Your best options are doing squats, pull-ups, bench presses, deadlifts, lunges and military presses. These types of exercises raise your testosterone levels and this is very important in the muscle building process. Single joint movements like triceps extensions or biceps curls are good to do but should not be the emphasis of a muscle-building program.
Step 8: Avoid Plateaus By Changing Your Workouts
Doing strenuous workouts and putting your body through the strain of working out can be taxing on the body and can set it up for a plateau effect before you know it. By following some of the tips outlined above, like resting and allowing plenty of time between workouts will help with avoiding this plateau effect. One other way to avoid a plateau is by changing your workouts every couple of weeks. Instead of having your body get used to the same exercises, same reps, same number of sets, the best thing you can do is change the exercises you are doing, seek variety, change your number of reps slightly while staying in the muscle building range and change tempo of the reps.
Including forced reps where you take your last to beyond failure is not entirely bad. However, it is not something you should do every single workout. Going to failure is something you can do once in a while either to overcome a plateau or to shock your body. Keeping your reps short of failure is the best option in order to deal with the demands of lifting week after week.
Step 9: Change Your Workout Program Regularly
This is an extension of some of the steps mentioned above. Although it is tempting to stick with the methods like rep ranges, sets and types of workouts you do once you see how effective these techniques are, it is best to change your workouts. I recommend making a change every couple of months to your workouts.
Simply change your range of repetitions from the range of 6-15 in those 2 months and move on to heavier lifting and shorter reps (4-5) for the next couple of months. Using this method you will go from gaining muscle to building strength and muscle density. Moving back and forth using this approach will help your muscles grow in the long term.
What About Supplements?
The tips and steps I have outlined will help you bulk up fast in a natural way. Although supplements are mentioned often as a way to boost your gains the truth is that training and rest time are the deciding factor along with your diet.
Many muscle gain supplements are pitched in the market as having near miraculous qualities but they are not a deal breaker. In fact, the ones that are often mentioned really do not offer anything but a short-term pump. If you want to take supplements simple multivitamins, whey protein are the only things you need with creatine being an optional one as well.
By applying the steps mentioned above you will see that you will get muscles fast, or faster than using the same techniques that are often mentioned by professional bodybuilders.