We all want to see our hard work in the gym come to life overnight. Although it may not be possible to see results in a matter of hours, there are some things you can do to hit your goals a little faster.
Put simply, it’s all about your workout routine – and challenging your muscles from all angles. At first, a new style of strength training may feel pretty brutal, but as your mind and body start to adapt. You’ll quickly start to gain strength.
But how long does it take to build muscle? How quickly will you really see the results of your hard efforts in the gym?
We take a closer look.
Building muscle with fitness and nutrition
While we’d all love to bulk up overnight, building muscle takes time – as well as the right nutrition and fitness regime. In just a matter of a few months, you can start to notice muscle building, when done right.
Studies have shown that carbs and protein in bodybuilding nutrition is often emphasized over that of dietary fat. By now, you will have most likely seen article after article stressing the importance of solid nutrition – and for good reason.
Whether it’s anabolic foods or eating protein before bed, your diet matters in the bodybuilding world. Especially if you’re looking to build muscle, minimize fat gain and support your workouts. For starters, protein is incredibly important for any dude looking to get stacked, since it can play a crucial role in helping you lose weight, as well as support muscle gain and recovery.
So, how long does it take to build muscle?
Gaining muscle can be a relatively slow process, especially if you’re new to working out. However, it’s likely you’ll start to see changes in your body composition in around three to four weeks. Sure, you might not be totally stacked in that time, but there will be a visible difference.
For real, visible results, you’re looking at around 12 weeks of consistent hard work at the gym (or at home), as well as a decent diet plan. However, the results you can see can depend on your goals and the type of strength training you’re doing, too.
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If we look at muscle building in closer detail, it’s important to note that our muscles are made up of two different types of individual muscle fibers: Easily referred to as ‘type one’ and ‘type two’.
Type one muscle fibers
Often called slow-twitch muscle fibers, type one are aerobic – Which means that they’re resistant to fatigue, while focused on smaller movements that are easier to sustain over long periods.
Type two muscle fibers
Unlike type on muscle fibers, type two are fast-twitch – They get tired more easily, but they do allow for more powerful movements. This type also contains more blood supply than type one.
When it comes to building muscle, endurance and aerobic exercise work type one muscle fibers harder, building more of this type, while strength training is focused on type two muscle fibers.
But what does that really mean? Well, if you’re wondering how to build muscle fast, strength training is where you should be.
The best way to build muscle
Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to overnight success when it comes to building muscle. However, the right strategy can help you to gain muscle definition a lot faster. In order to build muscle, you need to be working out your entire body. But we’re not talking about one go-hard-or-go-home session in the gym.
Instead, focus one day on your upper body, one on your core and one on your lower body. By switching between muscle groups, you can focus your efforts in one area, while the previous day’s muscles are allowed a rest. Remember, in order to build muscle, you need to allow your body time to rest and repair – that’s where the magic happens.
That also means getting a good night’s rest. The American Center for Sports Medicine recommends at least eight hours of sleep each night, with a minimum of 48 hours rest in between intense workout sessions.
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The best exercises for building muscle
Of course, a whole-body approach to building muscle is key, but what exercises should you actually be doing?
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Functional strength and mobility is incredibly important here, which is why some of the following exercises work brilliantly at targeting different muscle groups:
- Lateral lunges: glutes, hamstrings, and quads
- Bent over row: back, shoulders, and arms
- Glute bridges: abs, hamstrings, and lower back
- Reverse lunge with rotation: whole body
- Squats: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and abs
- Push-ups: chest, shoulders, abs, and triceps
- Single leg Romanian deadlift: whole body
- Planks: whole body
If you’re new to strength training, aim to train three times each week, with at least a full day of rest in between. This is crucial for giving your muscles the chance to repair, and therefore, grow. If you’re just getting started and want to build muscle fast, don’t go diving in at the deep end, however!
Start off by choosing 4 to 6 exercises, starting with 8 to 10 reps of each. Be sure to have 1 to 2 mins rest between sets, while executing the right technique (this may require a trainer if you’re unsure) and drinking plenty of water.
When you hit a point that the exercises above aren’t quite cutting it, you can start to increase your reps or increase the weight. Looking to build muscle fast? Increasing the weight you’re lifting will be the way to go.
But it’s not all about weights and machines in the gym, as the following items can help enhance your fitness levels and support you in gaining muscle quickly.
- Yoga mat
- Therapy ball
- Yoga block
- Resistance bands
- Weighted medicine ball
- Bosu ball
- Low wood box or step
How to build muscle fast
While 30 minutes in the gym is enough to build muscle and maintain strength, if you want to get seriously ripped you’re going to need to opt for a 60 minute plus workout. However, the duration isn’t the most important factor here – as the number of sets per week and the mechanical stress that occurs.
To encourage muscle growth, aim for 10 – 20 sets per week, per body part. Don’t forget cardio, too. While building muscle with cardio may be slower than strength training, it is still an important part of your workout plan.
Don’t forget about progressive overload. Gradually add sets, weight, or reps to increase stress on the body and to keep building muscle.
Struggling to gain muscle?
There are a number of things that contribute towards muscle gain – and even muscle loss. Of course, lifestyle factors may have a part to play, alongside your age, gender and protein intake.
Also Read: Can you speed up muscle growth?
If you find it difficult to gain muscle, it could be due to the following factors:
- Age – As we get older, our bodies naturally start to lose muscle mass. If you’re looking for a way to fight this decline, regular resistance training can help.
- Gender – Men and women differ in metabolism, muscle fiber types and speed of muscle contractions. It has been said that men may be able to build muscle faster, while women may recover more quickly.
- Protein – As we touched upon earlier, protein is crucial for muscle growth. To gain muscle you need 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
- Hormones – Hormones are responsible for controlling many physiological reactions in your body including energy metabolism, tissue growth, and growth or decline of muscle protein. From testosterone to cortisol and human growth hormone (HGH) they all have a part to play in muscle growth.
- Progressive or volume overload – Although results vary depending on sex, age, and muscle groups worked, research has shown that continuously increasing the amount of weight and reps while strength training may help build strength and muscle mass.
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If you’re looking to build muscle quickly, it’s important to allow your body enough time to rest and repair, as well as following a healthy and varied diet plan. Don’t overwork your muscles, as little rest in between can actually sabotage your efforts in the gym.
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