Lifting weights is widely considered the most efficient way to build muscle fast due to its ability to provide targeted resistance and overload to the muscles. When we lift weights, we create microscopic tears in the muscle fibers, which then repair and rebuild stronger during rest periods. This process, known as muscle hypertrophy, is key to building muscle mass. Below is a simple overview of the science behind muscle growth and the most effective weight training techniques for maximizing muscle gains.
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The Basics to Build Muscle Fast
Focus on compound exercises
Compound exercises target multiple muscle groups at once, which makes them more efficient for building overall muscle mass. Examples of compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that compound exercises like squats and deadlifts resulted in greater muscle activation compared to isolation exercises like leg extensions and hamstring curls.
And here’s what Bret Contreras, PhD, CSCS, author and strength coach told Men’s Health: “The squat, the deadlift, and the bench press are the main movements that will help you build overall muscle mass, and they should form the foundation of your training program.”
Lift heavy weights
To build muscle, you need to provide a stimulus that challenges your muscles to grow. Lifting heavy weights with proper form is an effective way to do this. Aim to lift weights that are heavy enough to cause muscle fatigue within 8-12 reps.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2014, investigated the effects of high- versus moderate-load resistance training on muscle size and strength in untrained men. The study included 19 young, healthy men who were randomly assigned to either a high-load group (lifting 75-90% of 1 repetition maximum, or 1RM) or a moderate-load group (lifting 30-50% of 1RM) and performed leg extensions twice a week for 8 weeks.
The results showed that both groups experienced significant increases in muscle size and strength, but the high-load group had greater increases in both measures. The researchers concluded that high-load resistance training may be more effective than moderate-load training for inducing muscle hypertrophy and strength gains in untrained individuals.
And here’s what Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS, author and fitness expert told Self: “Lifting heavy weights is the best way to gain strength and build muscle.”
Use progressive overload
Progressive overload involves gradually increasing the weight or resistance you use over time, which forces your muscles to adapt and grow stronger. Aim to increase your weight or resistance by 2.5-5% each week to continue making progress.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that progressive overload was effective for increasing muscle mass in young men.
And here’s what Eric Cressey, CSCS, author and strength coach told Men’s Health: “The key to building muscle is progressive overload, which means gradually increasing the amount of weight you lift over time.”
Train with sufficient volume
Volume refers to the total amount of weight lifted during a workout. To build muscle efficiently, you need to train with sufficient volume. Aim to perform 3-5 sets of each exercise, with 8-12 reps per set.
A study published in the Journal of Physiology found that muscle growth was greater when training with higher volumes (more sets and reps) compared to lower volumes.
This is what Nick Tumminello, CSCS, author and strength coach told Shape: “You need to train with enough volume to stimulate muscle growth, which means performing multiple sets and reps of each exercise.”
Allow for adequate rest and recovery
Rest and recovery are essential for muscle growth. Aim to give each muscle group 24-48 hours of rest between workouts, and prioritize sleep, nutrition, and hydration to support muscle recovery.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that adequate rest and recovery was important for muscle growth, as it allowed for muscle repair and adaptation.
And this is what Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS, author and fitness expert told Self: “Rest and recovery are essential for muscle growth, as they allow for muscle repair and adaptation.”
Remember, building muscle is a process that takes time and consistency. Be patient and stay committed to your training and nutrition plan to see results over time.
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