If you’re looking for the best ways to build muscle mass, you’re in the right place. Here are 15 proven ways.
1. Lift Heavy Weights
Muscle needs stimulation to grow. While pumping iron on lower weights, for higher reps, is great for getting a pump (blood in the muscle, causing it to swell and look huge), if you really want to get big, you need to lift heavy weights. Focus on compound moves such as the bench press, squat, deadlift and shoulder press.
2. Increase Protein Intake
Muscles need to repair following a workout. The idea is to damage the muscle so that it can repair stronger, and bigger. This is done via a process called protein synthesis. Therefore, adequate protein should be consumed to ensure this happens at an optimal level.
3. Get Some Sleep
Sleep is important when looking to build muscle. Sleep regulates many hormones, including growth and stress hormones. Studies show that lack of sleep impairs leptin (the hunger-busting hormone) and increases cortisol (the stress hormone). Lack of sleep also reduces growth hormones.
4. Don’t Over-train
Hitting the gym six times per week might sound like a great idea. However, unless you have been training for a few years already, this level of exercise will burn you out. Muscles won’t have enough time to repair and grow, and you run the risk of injury.
5. Intermittently Fast
Opinions differ on the effectiveness of intermittent fasting. One thing is certain: if you’re looking to reduce your calorie intake, there is no better way. Calorie restricted diets help increase glucose uptake by muscles. This is stored as glycogen, which can only be used by the muscle for fuel. By reducing your eating window to 4-8 hours, it is far more difficult to eat a high number of calories. Insulin response has been shown to improve while fasting, and growth hormones have increased in other studies, too.
6. Consume enough BCAAs
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids. Hundreds of studies support the positive effects of BCAAs in muscle building. Particularly, Leucine is highly effective in activating signal pathways associated with protein synthesis. If fasting, it is important to supplement with BCAAs to prevent muscle breakdown.
7. Set Goals
If you don’t set goals, it is unlikely you will succeed. With nothing to aim for, it can be easy to lose focus, miss sessions at the gym and lose interest. With a goal to aim for, once it is reached you can set a new, more challenging goal.
8. Track Your Progress
Following on from setting goals, you should track your progress. Tons of apps exist to help you keep track of your reps, volume per workout, which days you have trained etc. By tracking your progress, you can monitor how far you are from reaching your goals.
9. Work muscle groups 2-3 times per week
Training muscle groups once per week will not yield the best results. Again, unless you have been training for a few years (where you’ve reached the stage of training each muscle group on its own day, meaning once per week is all you can do), you should be aiming for around twice per week. You could perform an upper/lower body split, twice per week, push/pull/leg split twice per week, as an example. This means each muscle group gets enough rest to grow but isn’t neglected for too long.
10. Don’t Skip Leg Day
No one gets out their legs to show off how big they are. However, while training your arms to annihilation might seem like the most important thing you can do, you mustn’t neglect your lower body. Not only will training your legs provide a stronger base for other exercises, but it means that when your legs are on show, they are not going to look completely out of proportion with the rest of your body.
11. Eat more on training days
Whether in a surplus or deficit, when it comes to building muscle, at some stage you must consume excess calories to build muscle. If in surplus, you might be eating more every day of the week, but you should still eat less on rest days to prevent unnecessary fat gains. If you are re-comping, eating more on training days allows the muscle the fuel to grow, while burning fat on low-calories rest days.
12. Change up your routine
If you’re getting bored of your routine – change it up. There are literally thousands of exercises which can be performed, so there is no excuse to keep doing the same routine for years on end. Every 8-12 weeks, amend your routine. This doesn’t have to be changing the exercises entirely: changing the order, rep range, rest periods, or what split you’re on will all work. Without changing it up, muscles become accustomed to the routine and don’t adapt, which means they stop growing as fast.
If you want to build muscle and burn fat at the same time, you are thinking about a body re-comp. While it is difficult to successfully complete, it is not impossible. By training four times per week, eating a surplus on workout days and a deficit on rest days, re-composition is the fastest way to transform your body.
14. Stay Safe
Lifting weights can be dangerous business. To ensure you stay safe, you should only lift heavy weights with a spotter present, or with a squat rack with safety bars. This will also allow you to lift heavier weights, which in turn, will help you pack on more muscle.
15. Don’t get injured
This might sound obvious, but not getting injured is probably the best thing you can aim for! Trying too much, too soon, or not warming up properly can lead to injury. This, in turn, will lead to days, weeks – and in some cases – months out of the gym. In just 6 months, you are likely to lose any muscle you have spent the past year building.