Before starting any exercise regimen, consult with a qualified medical professional. We are not doctors, as such, do not take any of the information herein as medical advice. We are not responsible for any injuries or adverse effects as a result of any of the advice or theories presented in this article.
Your self improvement journey may have begun somewhere else, but almost every self improvement journey eventually also ends up at health and fitness. For some, losing excess body fat is the primary goal. For others, it’s packing some muscle on a thin frame. If you find yourself in the latter group, and want to be as efficient as possible about your work outs, keep reading. We’re going to give you the four key secrets to building muscle mass, fast.
1. Lifting Heavy
While some of the more recent workout research suggests that repetition range is not as important for mass building as has previously been thought; we remain skeptical. The decades of anecdotal evidence and our own personal experience has noticed, at the very least, it is easier to build substantial muscle mass by lifting heavy weight. Furthermore, heavy lifting is more likely to improve your muscle coordination down to the neural level: which is more beneficial for strength. (The simplified explanation is: our bodies our efficient, they aren’t going to “recruit” the large muscle fibers that burn a lot of energy to do work lifting a weight unless they have to, so those muscle fibers are more likely to remain unused and untrained).
Now, for muscle growth, we don’t want to get too extreme, because we also want to make sure we work all the muscle fibers down to the failure point which helps stimulate growth. The tried and true sweet spot for beginners, in our opinion, is the 6-8 repetition range. This range is a nice balance between achieving good motor neuron recruitment (your brain telling your body: “hey guys, this is heavy, I need you all to work together to move this weight!”) and the muscle fatigue necessary for efficient muscle hypertrophy (growth) and to burn out the large muscles so that your body is also forced to recruit the smaller ones into action on the later reps, fatiguing them as well.
This latter point is why a burn-out set (a lot of reps on lower weight to failure) is also a plausible technique to maximize muscle growth. However, if you are medically able to, stick to lower reps of a heavy weight, to failure, to maximize muscle growth.
2. Eat More
The most common reason skinny guys don’t manage to put on significant muscle mass isn’t their workout regimen, it’s their diet. Eating more food, especially more protein, is an absolute necessity for gaining muscle. Recent research has demonstrated that when you eat is not as important as once thought, but we still recommend eating at least 20 grams of protein, if not more within two hours of a workout. We also recommend eating at least 1.2x your body weight (in lbs) in grams of protein a day to ensure you’re getting sufficient protein for optimal muscle growth.
In terms of caloric intake, if you started working out and aren’t noticing very substantial gains within two months, the answer is more. For the typical 20-something to 30-something year old man, anything under 3000 calories is likely not enough for best results.
Gaining muscle mass efficiently almost always involves also gaining some fat. This is a constant challenge for many who want to maintain good looks year round; however, it simply isn’t the best way to pack on the muscle. Focus on bulking for a period of time, and then cut the excess fat later. The bulk cycle, then cut cycle approach is the one professional bodybuilders have been using, and continue to use, for decades: because it works.
3. Sleep More
Muscles don’t grow during our workouts, they grow while they repair themselves and “prepare” themselves for the next workout. Sleep is vital to maximize the healing process, which is where muscle growth actually occurs. If you do not get enough sleep, you stand to lose some gains you could have easily achieved with more sleep. We know that in the busy world of today, getting a solid seven to eight hours of sleep is not easy, but we encourage you to try your best if you want to get the most out of your workouts. However, we will mention something very important: do not use lack of sleep as an excuse not to go to the gym. Getting your workouts while not getting enough sleep is still going to help you gain muscle faster than not working out because you aren’t sleeping enough!
4. Be Consistent
Building muscle mass requires more than working out right, eating right, and sleeping right. It requires doing these things consistently, over a long period of time. Being consistent is the last key but it might be the most important key of them all. Make working out part of your weekly, if not daily routine, and you will get results. It really is that simple: if you consistently work out (and don’t starve yourself), you will get in better shape. Even if you don’t pay that much attention to your sleeping patterns, even if you eat a little less protein than we recommend, even instead of heavy weights/low reps you lift light weights for many reps, if you’re consistent, you will see results.