Although it's impossible to naturally achieve huge muscle growth in just a few weeks, there are some steps you can take to dramatically speed up your progress. Your exact rate of muscle growth is largely determined by gender, age, body type and genetics. Over the course of a year, you'd be doing well if you steadily gained 0.4 pounds of muscle per month, but there are some things you can do to stack the deck in your favor and make gains as quickly as possible.
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Exercise, Recovery and Nutrition
Complete one or two resistance training workouts per week, targeting your biceps, triceps and shoulders. Use free weights or cable weight machines to perform one or two exercises for each muscle group. Regular curls, hammer curls and chin-ups will target the biceps. For the triceps, body dips, dumbbell kickbacks and triceps extensions will be effective. Shoulder exercises include overhead presses, lateral raises, shrugs and reverse flies.
Do three to six sets of each exercise using a weight you can only lift six to 12 times using perfect form. A 2004 article published in the "Journal of Sports Medicine" concluded that the optimal load for muscle growth was between 80 and 95 percent of your 1-Repetition Max. A 1RM is the amount of weight you can safely lift for only one repetition, unassisted.
Add multi-joint compound exercises to your lifting routine. Limiting yourself to exercises that only target one muscle at a time is not the best way to gain size, even for that muscle. Doing compound exercises like pushups, squats and compound rows release more anabolic hormones which are key for protein synthesis within muscle cells.
Rest each muscle group for at least 24 hours, but preferably 48 hours or more before working it again. Full muscle recovery is key to muscle growth, so the belief that lifting more frequently will result in faster growth is flawed. Although it is important to stress your muscle fibers during a workout, the actual growth only occurs during the rest and recovery phase, and ideally, you want to give your body a full 48 hours to do its work.
Get a full night's sleep every night. Sleep is important for muscle growth because that's when the body produces hormones that stimulate protein synthesis.
Consume enough protein daily and vary your protein sources; 1.6 to 1.7 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is recommended. It's important to choose a variety of protein sources so that you get adequate amounts of all of the essential amino acids. The amino acid leucine is especially important to muscle growth. Healthy sources of protein include poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Building Muscle: Signals Induced by Exercise, Nutrition and Supplements
- American Council on Exercise: Sun's Out, Guns Out: Summer Arms Workout
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: Muscle Hypertrophy
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Gaining Weight the Right Way
- American Council on Exercise: Recovery: The Forgotten Training Variable
- American Council on Exercise Integrated Fitness Training Model for Functional Movement and Resistance Training