Hypertrophy — or the increase in muscle size — isn't reserved for bodybuilders or people who want their biceps to bust out of their T-shirts. Everyone can gain something from lifting weights.
That's because in addition to bigger and stronger muscles, hypertrophy also supports healthy bones and a steady metabolism. If you're wondering how to build muscle, know that with consistency, smart training and proper nutrition and recovery, getting swole isn't as daunting as it may seem.
The Basics of a Beginner Hypertrophy Workout
There's a reason you see bodybuilders at the gym use an astounding amount of weight. The best way to build bigger muscles is with heavy resistance training, especially single-joint isolation exercises, such as biceps curls, overhead triceps extensions, hamstring curls, lat pulldowns and bench presses.
Unlike compound exercises, which access multiple muscle groups and joints at once, isolation exercises target a single muscle group and work it hard: It should feel very challenging to bang out your final couple of reps.
For the best hypertrophy results, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends choosing a weight that's 67 to 85 percent of your one-rep max, which is the heaviest weight you can lift at once for any given exercise — with proper form, of course.
The closer you are to lifting 85 percent of your one-rep max, the fewer reps you'll perform.
Then, you'll stick to 6 to 12 reps per exercise for 3 to 5 rounds, resting for 30 to 90 seconds in between sets, per the ACE. As your body begins to adapt to your muscle-building routine, you'll need to gradually increase the weight you lift every three to four weeks.
Learn more about how long your hypertrophy workouts should be and how quickly you can expect to see results.
How to Build Bigger Arms
Biceps and triceps are essential for hypertrophy, but they aren't the complete picture when it comes to growing bigger arms. Your forearms and shoulders are also essential for better overall arm strength.
Compound upper-body exercises, like a biceps curl to shoulder press, access multiple arm muscle groups, like the biceps, triceps and the shoulders. But isolated work, such as overhead triceps extensions and biceps curls, will deliver the best results.
Check out four of the best arm exercises for hypertrophy, then sprinkle them into your weekly workouts.
How to Build Bigger Biceps
To achieve your T-shirt-busting goals, you want to hone your arm training on your biceps, arguably the most noticeable muscles in the arms. But that doesn't mean banging out daily curls.
"Since the biceps are a smaller muscle group, especially when compared to the triceps, it's recommended that you don't train them every day," says Dan Castillo, founding trainer at Grit Boxing. "In fact, you are already training them whenever you grab dumbbells, a barbell, etc. and bend your arms, so it's crucial to be mindful not to overtrain them," he says.
By that logic, just about any weight lifting includes some biceps work — but for your targeted arm days, make sure to incorporate what trainers say are the best biceps exercises.
Craft a muscle-building routine with the five best biceps exercises for mass.
How to Actually Get Abs
Scoring a six-pack is a two-prong approach: You need the same amount of dedication to diet and fitness.
"Visible abs are made in the kitchen and the gym," Libby Landry, CF-L3, CrossFit coach at CrossFit Invictus, tells LIVESTRONG.com. Skimp out on either portion of the equation and you're forever a member of the ab-seeker club.
On one hand, you'll need to do a variety of isolation exercises (like crunches and V-ups) and compound moves (like squats and shoulder presses) that target the different muscles in your core. On the other, you'll need to follow a healthy diet that's packed with lean protein and limits refined carbs.
Another hard truth: You can't spot-train belly fat. In order to get rid of belly fat and love handles, you need to burn fat head to toe.
This is where some cardio, particularly in the form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), can come in handy. Incorporating one or two HIIT workouts during the week can increase your metabolic rate, which will help you shed body fat more easily.
Sculpt your core with these 10 must-know tips for unleashing your abs.
How to Build Bigger Pecs
Your chest is an often-neglected area of your body, but you definitely want to train these muscles because they are essential for pushing movements (like push-ups) and for good posture.
Because your chest muscles are interconnected with your arms and shoulders, the good news is that you may already be doing a variety of arm and shoulder exercises that train the pecs. But for greater gains, isolating the pecs will ultimately help you create the chiseled lines and cuts you desire.
Learn a variety of chest exercises for hypertrophy and how to change your grip and incline to better target your pecs.
How to Build Bigger Glutes
Getting a bigger butt can be easier than building out the rest of your body because the glutes are already one of your largest muscle groups.
The trick is to work them out at least three days per week, training all three glute muscles — the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus — and giving them 24 to 72 hours to recover between butt workouts.
When you think of the best glutes exercises, squats may come to mind first. But you're going to want to vary your exercises for building bigger glutes: Include deadlifts, glute bridges, weighted lunges and more targeted exercises for the gluteus medius and minimus, such as clamshells and fire hydrants.
Get smart training strategies for growing a bigger butt and five of the best glute exercises for mass.
How to Build Bigger Quads
Your quads are another one of the biggest muscle groups in your body, so it doesn't take much work to show 'em off. Since many everyday activities, like walking, running and cycling, already challenge these powerful thigh muscles, experts recommend sticking to just two quad-focused workouts a week for hypertrophy.
Exercises like lunges, squats, split squats and curtsy lunges target your legs from the front, back and sides. These moves not only tax the quads, but they also strengthen supporting muscles like your hamstrings and inner thighs to give you overall bigger, thicker legs.
Discover the six best quad exercises for mass and how to design a workout for bigger legs.
What to Eat for Bigger Muscles
Your time in the gym is only as strong as your time in the kitchen.
Although you can gain lean muscle mass from a calorie deficit, the best results for hypertrophy rely on a light surplus of calories. Your body will use these extra nutrients to feed your muscles so they can grow bigger and stronger. But this doesn't give you license to overdo it on potato chips and ice cream.
To gain mass, go for quality calories: Fill up on nutritious foods that will ultimately inspire more growth. While protein is important for building muscle, carbs and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids are essential, too.
That said, protein is a good place to start when increasing your calorie intake. Protein is broken down into essential and non-essential amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue that your body uses to repair and recover.
Find out exactly how much protein you need post-workout for the best hypertrophy results.