Who doesn’t want a superhero physique? It’s hard not to watch the latest Marvel movies and not, well, marvel at the actors’ physiques.
But how do these actors and actresses get so fit, so quickly? Sure, some of them have a basic foundation of fitness and muscle mass, but many of them seem to transform in less than a year.
The key is educating yourself on both your nutrition and your fitness regimen. We’re here to help you understand the essentials of muscle gain. Keep reading for everything you need to know about how to build muscle mass fast.
- Learn Proper Form
Before you get started on this leg of your fitness journey, you need to hit the brakes and learn how to lift properly. This is especially important if you’re new to lifting weights or it’s been a while since you were regularly training. Just because you lifted weights in high school, for example, doesn’t mean you can do so safely now.
There are several fundamental lifts (bench press, deadlifts, squats) that can cause major injuries, aches, and pains if done improperly. Some of the most common weightlifting injuries include lower back pain, bulging discs, tennis elbow, and runner’s knee.
Taking time to perfect your form will benefit you in three ways.
First, lifting with proper technique will minimize your injuries. Second, lifting correctly will maximize your results, as you will get more out of each lift. And third, you won’t get gym veterans staring at you disapprovingly because you’re lifting wrong.
- Research the Best Exercises
Next, to fast-track your fitness regimen for maximum muscle gain, you need to focus your workouts on the most effective exercises. The best exercises to build muscle mass are compound exercises.
Compound movements or exercises are lifts that use multiple muscle groups and multiple joints. For example, squats engage your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles while using your knee and hip joints.
Compound exercises call upon the most muscle fibers and allow us to lift heavier loads. They also create balance and symmetry. Here are the major compound lifts:
- Bench press
- Military/should press
- Bent-over barbell rows
- Barbell snatches
- And more
Isolation exercises, on the other hand, only use one muscle group and one joint. Great examples of these would be bicep curls, leg curls, leg extensions, and tricep extensions. These lifts do serve a purpose but should be the second priority in your fitness regimen.
- Hire a Weight Lifting Coach
Regardless of if you’re doing bodybuilding, powerlifting, weightlifting, or Crossfit (yes, they’re all different), you should invest in a lifting coach. Not only will a coach or trainer be able to show you how to lift properly, but they also have years of experience creating workout programs.
A weightlifting coach will also hold you accountable for your training schedule and your nutrition plan. Furthermore, they’ll provide motivation and drive during your workouts. These are essential elements for optimizing muscle gain.
At the very least, hire a trainer for the first few months. Once you feel comfortable working out on your own, go solo. Alternatively, you can reduce your sessions to still have accountability but less micromanagement.
- Think of Food as Fuel
Before we get into the specifics of your workout regimen, we need to talk about something equally important—your diet. One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to build muscle mass is failing to consume enough calories. How much you eat plays a vital role in muscle gain.
Think about it this way. Your body needs a certain amount of calories (or fuel) to maintain your current weight in reference to your physical activity habits. If you have excess weight to lose (body fat), this probably won’t be a problem.
However, you should not try to lose weight while building muscle mass. When you start lifting weights, if you don’t consume enough calories, your muscles won’t have enough fuel for maximum growth and strength gain. As a result, your progress will be stunted.
Use a BMR calculator to determine how many calories you need per day based on your age, height, weight, and activity level. If you can find a calculator that includes your body fat percentage (and you know what it is), it will be more accurate.
Pre and Post-Workout Meals
For the best muscle gain, consume a pre-workout meal full of simple carbs, some fats, and protein. A great example would be a banana with peanut butter and a protein shake. Eat this meal about 45 to 60 minutes before your workout.
Your post-workout meal should consist of complex carbs, protein, and limited fat. A good post-workout mean would be the classic bodybuilder dinner—chicken breast with brown rice and veggies. Eat this meal within an hour of finishing your workout.
- Focus on Food Quality and Supplementation
Next, let’s talk about the quality of your food. What you put in your body has a direct reflection on the overall success of your fitness regimen. Food affects:
- Your performance
- Your feelings while you workout
- Your energy levels
- Your mood
- Your focus
- Your progress
- And more
Though you need to make sure you’re eating enough calories, it’s also important that you’re getting your calories from quality foods. For example, if you’re getting all of your calories from fast-food, frozen pizzas, and Pop-Tarts, you’re going to have some issues.
Yes, you will have success in muscle gain and increased strength. However, you’ll also pack on excess fat. Moreover, you’ll start to feel like garbage, both while working out and while at rest.
The staple of your diet should be whole foods. It’s okay to have a cheat meal once or twice a week, but you should look at your body as a performance car. You wouldn’t put garbage fuel in a Ferrari, why put it in your body?
Instead, keep your diet as clean as possible. Here’s a simple list you can follow:
- Lean proteins (fish, turkey, chicken, game meat)
- Nuts, nut butter, and seeds (be careful of fat content here)
- Beans and lentils
- Brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta
- Whole-grain bread
- Avoid dairy products (cheese, sour cream, ice cream, creamer)
- Tons of fresh fruits and veggies
A common saying in the fitness world is that you cannot outwork a bad diet. Superhero bodies are made in the kitchen as much as they’re made in the gym.
Finally, consider investing in some quality bodybuilding supplements. For ultimate muscle gain and recovery, we recommend the following:
- Whey protein powder (pea or soy are good non-dairy options)
- Creatine (helps repair and build muscle)
- Pre-workout (helps with energy and focus)
- BCAAs (help expedite your bodies recovery process and reduce soreness)
Finally, if you’re looking for the extra edge, buy SARMs from a reputable online store. These supplements are great for muscle growth, strength gain, and recovery.
- Follow a Regimented Program
A fitness regimen is only as good as your workout program. Working out without a program is like trying to find a new destination without a map or directions. You may stumble upon some good results, but it would mostly rely on luck or chance.
A good program can last anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks, including a de-load period. A de-load period is an active rest cycle that lasts one or two weeks.
During this time, you should be performing the same types of lifts with much less intensity. This gives your body ample time to recover without going into a state of atrophy (muscle wasting).
- Use Progressive Overload
Not all programs are created equally. However, if they’re governed by the same set of rules, they will almost all be effective to build muscle mass and increase strength.
What are these rules? Every successful program depends on three factors:
- Hard work
- Progressive Overload Theory
If you don’t know, progressive overload is the concept of small changes over time for big growth. The most well-known example is that of a young farmhand and a baby cow. The calf could not walk on its own accord, so the man had to carry him up a steep hill every day for food and water.
As the weeks wore on, the cow got bigger. Naturally, the man was forced to work harder, and thus, he grew bigger and stronger. Fast-forward several months, and you find a full-grown cow carried by a massive, muscular farmhand.
Progressive Overload in Training
Bodybuilding and weightlifting work the same way. You must force growth by incrementally increasing your workload. Now, you can do this in several ways.
- Increase weight
- Increase reps
- Increase sets
- Or some combination of two or three
For reference, let’s say on your first week of working out, you did 3 sets of 10 for bench press with 100lbs The next week, you could aim for 3 sets of 11-12 reps. On the other hand, you could increase the weight to 110lbs and aim for 8-10 reps.
Using the same example, here is a sample of progression over six weeks using an increase in weight:
- Week 1 – 3×10 at 100lbs
- Week 2 – 3×8-10 at 110lbs
- Week 3 – 3×6-8 at 120lbs
- Week 4 – 3×10 at 110lbs
- Week 5 – 3×8-10 at 120lbs
- Week 6 – 3×6-8 at 130lbs
Alternatively, you could use a rep progression method, as follows:
- Week 1 – 3×8 at 100lbs
- Week 2 – 3×10 at 100lbs
- Week 3 – 3×12 at 100lbs
- Week 4 – 3×8 at 110lbs
- Week 5 – 3×10 at 110lbs
- Week 6 – 3×12 at 110lbs.
In both instances, you can see how you “reset” halfway through. This helps you avoid dropping down to only a few reps or doing too many.
- Write Everything Down
One of the best ways to ensure your fitness regimen is working is by cataloging everything you do. Buy or create a workout journal where you can write down every set. You must record how many reps you do on each set and how much weight you’re using.
This is vital for ensuring muscle gain and consistent increases in strength, particularly when following a progressive overload program. You need to know how much weight/how many reps you did previously so you can aim for higher performance.
You can also use this journal to track your journey over time. After a few months, look back at the weights you were using. You’ll be blown away at how much progress you’ve made.
- Avoid Plateaus
One of the biggest issues that arise after several months of working out is the dreaded progress plateau. The problem is that our bodies quickly adjust to new things. As you workout, your body adapts by adding muscle mass and strength.
While this is obviously key to reaching your fitness goals, it also means that your fitness regimen will quickly become less effective. Your body learns how to cope with the demanded workload, even when using progressive overload theory. This is unavoidable, to some degree.
Changing Things Up
However, there are certain things you can do to minimize plateaus. For example, don’t recycle the same program once you’ve finished it. Move onto something new. If you liked the program, you can come back to it after doing something else for a while.
While you shouldn’t change the fundamental exercises like squats and deadlifts, you can change how you perform them. We’re referring to reps, sets, and weight loads. If your last workout routine focused on sets of 8-12 reps, change it up to heavier loads with reps of 5-6.
Additionally, consider experimenting with different lifting techniques. Tempo sets, for example, are incredibly effective. If a lifting tempo is 4-0-2, it means you lower the weight for four seconds, immediately change direction at the bottom of the lift, and raise the weight to the final position for two seconds.
You can also try drop-sets, pyramid sets, burnouts, and more.
Looking to Ramp Up Your Fitness Regimen?
Building muscle doesn’t happen overnight. Nor does getting shredded or having the perfect beach body. If those things were easy, everyone would look fantastic all the time.
But those things aren’t easy. Getting fit and building muscle takes time and dedication. However, following the principles listed above will fast-track your progress.
And if you’re looking for more health and fitness tips, be sure to check out some of our other articles while you’re here. Our blog is dedicated to helping people like you live their happiest and healthiest lives. Whether you’re looking for tips on how to ramp up your fitness regimen or want to know more about acupuncture, you can find what you’re looking for on our site.