Build Muscle and get a six pack. The two most common goals of people starting out on their fitness journey. But how do you actually make that first one happen?
Well, if you're searching for the answer to that question then reading this article means you can end that search for good. Because this is your ultimate training and nutrition guide to build muscle fast.
First of all, let me congratulate you. Because starting on the journey to improve your physique is awesome. Whether you're a complete newbie or have been going to the gym for years, taking your physique to the next level is only going to bring you a ton of benefits. Not only will you look better, you'll feel better and enjoy all of the long-term health benefits that come with it. To put it another way, if you build muscle you're going to be irresistible to the opposite sex and goddamn it you're gonna feel good about it. Of course, I'm joking on that last point (kind of).
Sometimes Google doesn't have the answer...
And now you've made the decision to build muscle and look all sorts of awesome, you're trying figure out how the hell to actually do it. Google normally has the answer to all of the world's questions, so naturally this is your start point. But, this time Google isn't the saviour you'd hoped for. You find endless pages of articles and YouTube videos that seemingly have the miracle solution. But which one do you pay attention to?
And then there's the supplement companies and magazines. Pick up the latest copy of any one of the dozens of glossy magazines adorning the shelves and you'll find about 50 different ways of training to build muscle. In addition to that, you'll also find an equal number of adverts pitching the latest pill or powder with the claim that you'll build muscle faster than ever before! Sounds almost too good to be true right? And 100% of the time it is!
So in this article, you're going to get real, actionable advice that will mean you WILL build muscle in the fastest and most effective way possible.
What's the article going to cover?
Over the next few paragraphs you'll discover:
- How much muscle you can expect to build, naturally and how long it might take.
- The right approach to your training.
- The right approach to your nutrition.
- The importance of recovery.
And, as usual, it'll all be backed up scientific research and real world experiences. So you'll rest assured that these techniques work.
So let's dive into the detail, get you the answers you're looking for, and start to build muscle fast.
Simon. How do I know you're solution works and will help me build muscle?
This is a great question and one to cover right off the bat. Because let's face it, the best way to be sure this solution is going to work for you is to see real proof it delivers results.
With that in mind let's use yours truly as that example. This is a picture of me before I took my training seriously and started to build muscle and get the physique I have today.
Without doubt I was pretty skinny and very far from inspiring anyone to build muscle and get in the best shape of their lives, but I had a plan. And that plan is what this article is all about.
After 9 Months
After 9 months of following the solution in this article, I'd packed on muscle and cut body fat to show a significant improvement. Proper training and nutrition had more of a significant impact on my physique than even I thought would be possible.
After 2 Years
And that was all the motivation I needed to keep on going and see just what was possible. So after another bulk and cut cycle, I'd build even more muscle and get even leaner. And this is the result of 2 years of hard work.
As a result of that hard work and dedication I'd made some great progress and was ready to sell some tickets to the gun show!
And this brings me on to the first step of how to build muscle fast.
Build Muscle Fast - Rule #1: Consistency and patience
Undoubtedly, you expected the first rule of how to build muscle to be about the right sort of training programme or maybe the best nutrition strategy. And don't get me wrong, those things are important. But in my experience consistency and patience are two rules you need to absolutely buy in to from day one. Because at the end of the day, if you don't have these elements in place from the get go, you will fail. I guarantee it.
And if there was a crazy training programme or a magic (legal) wonder supplement that meant you could build muscle by the boat-load in a matter of weeks, then I'd be pushing you aside and filling my pockets full of the stuff.
But the reality check is that it doesn't exist. Unless you want to inject yourself with some of that famous 'magic juice' (which I don't recommend) then you need to come to the realisation that it takes time to build muscle.
This might all fly in the face of what you've been reading in your favourite glossy fitness magazine. But the fact of the matter is that the training programmes in the magazines are a sign of what is flavour of the month with the editor in chief, rather than what's the right approach for you to build muscle. And then there's plethora of supplement adverts on every other page. Each one promising you "mass gains" and "insane results". You may even of bought some of them and spent a pretty penny turning your kitchen cupboards into something that resembles the shelves of your local pharmacy.
And if that describes you, ask yourself this question, "what results has it got you?".
Now it's time to break the cycle
Jumping from training programme to training programme based on the latest edition of some magazine is a sure fire way to stunt your progress. And if you're focusing on a lot of unnecessary supplements in the absence of good nutrition, you've got the recipe for a cycle of frustration. Not to mention a significant dent in your bank balance.
So it's time for you to break the cycle of frustration and stop doing the shit that brings you no results despite your hard work. You need to cancel that subscription right now and throw all of those bullshit supplements in the bin where they belong.
Consistency and patience are the two 'supplements' that, in my experience, will make all the difference in your efforts to build muscle. And best of all they are 100% free!
And with that notion at the forefront of your mind, let's redefine what we mean by "build muscle fast".
How much muscle can you realistically expect to build?
The rate at which you are able to gain muscle largely depends on your current situation, because there are a number of factors at play. For example, if you're totally new to weight lifting and correct nutrition, then you are likely to build muscle pretty quick (as long as you do everything right). Conversely, if you've been lifting for a number of years and have a decent physique already, then your ability to build muscle is going to be much slower.
So with the stars aligned and every element in place from day 1 you could probably expect to build 1-2 pounds of muscle a month. And I know what your thinking, "that's not a lot!". But it's the truth and the reality of what's achievable naturally. Again, if you're opting to take the 'magic juice' then you're changing the ball park completely. Also, those newbie gains I mentioned earlier may mean your growth is a bit quicker than the 1-2 pounds.
The bottom line is that you need to think about your goal of building muscle as a long-term objective. It's definitely not something that will happen overnight, despite what the magazines try to tell you.
So the answer is to mentally plan for slow and steady growth over time.
Consistency is king
Second of all, whatever time-frame you give yourself to build muscle, you'll need to be consistent. All too often I'll hear of people switching up their training routine every week, or changing their approach to their diet, or maybe just fall off the wagon completely and not even get to the gym. And we don't want that to happen to you! So you need to get in the mindset of sticking with your training and nutrition day in day out, week after week. Because it's that consistency that breeds results.
Top Tips for consistency
If you're looking for a few tips on maintaining consistency, here's a few that have worked for me over the years:
- Establish a clear goal before you start and make the goal public. This helps increase accountability.
- Set a clear plan for training and nutrition. Understanding what you need to train each day and having macros mapped out removes guesswork and deviation.
- Understand your why. Why do you want to achieve your goal? Write it down and keep it visible. Because it'll serve as a good reminder when it gets tough.
- Become self-aware and get to know your habits. Because understanding your bad habits will help you change them for better ones.
And just for clarity, when I talk about being consistent, I don't mean you have to be perfect all the time. That's largely unachievable and can often lead to the same cycle of frustration as you beat yourself up over that one transgression.
Consistency over Perfection is the mantra you need to live by from now on.
Build Muscle Fast - Rule #2: Lift heavy shit
The common theory in the bodybuilding community is that you need to lift in the 8-10 rep range to build muscle. An this is true, but it's not the full picture and it's probably not optimal or where you are right now. Let me explain further.
First up the fact you're reading this article probably mean you've not reached the pinnacle of your physique just yet. No doubt, you're looking to build muscle and either enhance what you've already got, or start from scratch. And if that sounds like you then working exclusively in the 8-10 rep range won't bring you the results you want.
Why's that? Because you need to build a foundation of strength for 12-18 months that will enable you to maximise muscle growth both in the short and medium term. And it's for this reason that I start most people off working in the 4-6 rep range when they join my online coaching programmes. It's the approach that generates a massive amount of progress in a relatively short space of time.
And don't think that you won't be getting that look you desire through this approach. The gratuitous topless pictures I showed you earlier are a direct result of working in the 4-6 rep range. So whether it was bench presses or bicep curls, squats or shoulder presses, I was pushing the heaviest weight I could for 4-6 reps. Only after 2 years of this approach did I start to incorporate other rep ranges.
What the science says
If my own experience isn't evidence enough that the ideal rep range to work in is 4-6 then here's a bit of science to back up the theory.
When you look at the study you can see it shows the effect of low–moderate volume, high intensity training vs traditional high volume, lower intensity training.
The study was carried out on 33 trained men over an 8 week period. The men were split into two groups:
- High Volume & Moderate Intensity: 4 workouts per week, 4 sets per exercise all in the 10-12 rep range at 70% of 1RM
- Moderate Volume & High Intensity: 4 workouts per week, 4 sets per exercise all in the 3-5 rep range at 90% of 1RM
The group working in the lower rep range increased both strength and muscle significantly compared to the higher rep range group. This was determined to be as a result of higher amounts of mechanical stress (as opposed to the metabolic stress of the higher rep range group) of training with heavier weights. Additionally, training with heavier weights stimulated more of the participants Type II muscle fibres, leading to greater adaptation and muscle growth.
In addition to all that science, I wrote an entire article on the subject of rep ranges, which you can read here. You'll find everything you need to know. For me, there's no doubt, going heavy is the most effective way for you to train.
So train heavy to build more lean muscle, because science says so!
How to use the rep range effectively to build muscle
When you hit the gym for the first time after reading this article, simply find a weight you can lift for 4 reps. That's your starting weight. Then each time you set foot in the iron paradise your objective is to do one more rep (if you can do more that's great). Because that one rep signals progress. And it might take more than a week, but you know you're moving forward and getting stronger.
Once you reach 6 reps that's the time to up the weight. And you don't have to whack 20kg on the bar, just enough weight to put you at 4 reps again. Then just keep repeating the process.
That's 'progressive overload' my friends.
And the key point to takeaway here is that strength is the foundation that leads to maximum growth. You'll not only look great, but you'll be stronger than ever before as an added bonus.
And let's face it, no-one ever complained about being too strong. EVER!
Build Muscle Fast - Rule #3: Compound lifts are king
Just by reading those glossy fitness magazines you already know there's a myriad of exercises for each muscle group for you to choose from. And some of them are great, some are ok, and some are just damn near pointless. Therefore exercise selection is key if you want to build muscle. Because sweating your way through a workout that is designed around ineffective exercises is a massive waste of your precious time.
The basic rules of bodybuilding haven't really changed that much since the days of Arnie and co. Yes, science has given us a greater understanding of what is optimal, but the principles remain the same.
And it's the basic compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, and military press are still the best way to build muscle. These stalwarts of the gym have been, and will always be the go to exercises for those that want to build lean muscle.
So keep it simple and stick to compound lifts wherever possible.
These compound exercises should be the staple of each and every one of your workouts. They recruit more muscles, activate more muscle fibres and allow you to move more weight. And the more weight you lift, the stronger you'll become. And the stronger you become, the bigger your muscles will be (in very simplified terms).
It sounds like a really simple process. And it is!
Remember. Lifts that build mass need to make up the majority of your workout. Isolation exercises might give you a nice pump, but they're not doing much to build size.
When you're selecting your exercises, pick at least 3 compound lifts per workout. This number will vary depending on the muscle group you're working. For example, you're going to struggle to find compound lifts for biceps.
Build Muscle Fast - Rule #4: It's not just abs that are made in the kitchen
It's got to be one of the most well-known cliches that "abs are made in the kitchen". And that's totally true but it's equally true for those of you that want to build muscle too.
Of course the right training is critically important, but without the right nutrition strategy in place then you simply won't grow. To put it another way, all of that training in the gym will count for nothing if you're not fuelled correctly. And this is why you need to pay attention to the golden rules of Muscle Club.
The first rule of muscle club is..."You need to be in a calorie surplus."
And the second rule of muscle club is..."You need to be in a calories surplus."
Did I mention you need to be in a calorie surplus? Essentially progress can hinge on whether or not you understand this fundamental part of the process
Calories in vs Calories out
Ultimately, the guiding principle to remember is energy balance. Calories in vs Calories out is what really matters. After all, if you're not in a calorie surplus (consuming more calories than your body needs) you won't gain muscle is fast as you'd like. It's simple maths. And the only possible exception to the rule is when you fit that newbie category (goddamn you newbies are lucky). Because 'newbie gains' are definitely a thing and you can build muscle while also cutting body fat. So make the most of it if you fit in that bracket.
But if you're not in the 'noob gains' category then a calorie surplus is going to be your best bet to build muscle. And the important thing to remember here is that this isn't an excuse for you to head to McDonald's every day and systematically work your way through the menu. No. And nor is it a license to treat that all-you-can-eat buffet as a competition.
In fact you're still going to want to keep a close eye on those calories. Because at the end of the day piling on a shit load of fat is pointless. You're only going have a miserable time getting rid of it. Instead, limit your surplus to c.10% above your maintenance calories. That's lean bulk territory and will be optimal for most people.
Unsure how to work out how many calories you need to build muscle?
If you want to learn how to create the perfect meal plan to build muscle, here's how. You can download my FREE eBook ‘7 Steps to Correct Your Nutrition Plan’ by clicking here. Everything's explained in full start to finish, including calories, macros, meal timing, and supplementation.
The eBook will guide you through a simple 7 step process to help you get everything mapped out. So there's no need for guesswork and frustration. You'll be able to get started pretty much straight away.
You'll find in the eBook that calories and your macro breakdown of those calories are really important. And people often get even more confused, lost, and give up figuring it all out at this point. But it needn't be that way. Even though the fitness industry has a propensity to make things mind bogglingly complicated, it's actually quite simple.
All you need to do to get those macros just right is apply the following rules, which I go through in more detail in the eBook.
- 0.8 - 1.2g of protein per pound of weight (multiply the number you get by 4 to get the calories you need from protein).
- 0.3 - 0.5g of fat per pound of weight (multiply the number you get by 9 to get the calories you need from protein).
- Put all remaining calories to carbohydrate.
Then it's just a case of turning the numbers into food and you're on the right path to success.
Build Muscle Fast - Rule #5: Stop searching for a magic pill or powder
When it comes to supplementation, as usual I like to keep things as brief as possible. And the reason for that is simple. I don't want you to get distracted by supplementation, because it is never the answer.
If you follow rules 1 - 4 of this article you'll get 99% of the way to packing on some serious size. Supplements, when used correctly, are there it add an element of convenience and a marginal amount of incremental gains.
So if you've nailed every single one of the previous rules what supplements could take to enhance what you're doing?
First up is a good protein powder. And this is from a pure convenience point of view. Because protein is just protein, whether it's from meat, eggs, fish, or powder it all does the same thing. For me, the powder is great for a post workout shake when I want a hit of protein on the run. Or as a top up to my regular food intake if I'm struggling to hit my protein number for the day. Contrary to popular misconceptions, it doesn't do anything magical, so don't base your diet around 5 shakes a day.
Second, I'd recommend Creatine. Weightlifters, Bodybuilders, Scientists, and supplement companies have known it for decades. Creatine is an effective supplement to support muscle and strength gains. For the best results add 5g to your post-workout shake. And stick to the simple monohydrate powder, the other version are more expensive for no benefit. There are myths about kidney damage and increases in body fat are unfounded and should be ignored.
In all honesty, you'd be far better off spending the money on a slap up meal with the family. Enjoy life instead of spending your hard earned money on worthless supplements!
And if you still want to find out more then go read the eBook right now. It covers all you need to know and what supplements are worthwhile taking. So grab it for free now.
Build Muscle Fast - The final word
In summary, the bottom line on all this is that there is no miracle solution and no quick fix. Essentially, it comes down to time & consistent application of the right methods. If you have this winning formula nailed, then your ability to build muscle will increase significantly.
So here's what you need to do right now:
- Set a goal
- Make a plan
- Centre your training on heavy lifting
- Focus on compound lifts
- Set yourself up with a calorie surplus
- Save your money and don't buy shitty supplements
Oh, and one thing I should mention is that proper rest is crucial. So make sure you're getting as much sleep as possible (8 hours plus would be ideal).
So there you have it. I hope you found the article useful and you're now well on your way to build muscle fast!
Simon - IPF