You don't have to aspire to bodybuilding to benefit from lifting weights and building muscles. In fact, in a period of just two months, you can achieve a muscle gain transformation while also seeing the variety of health benefits that come with it.
Though it takes longer than two months to become a full bodybuilder, you can still strengthen your muscles significantly in a short period of time and notice a difference. Gain muscle by adding more weight to your lifting routine, training multiple joint and muscle groups at once through compound exercises, eating a lot of food and getting plenty of routine sleep.
Add More Weight
In just 10 weeks, or around two to three months, it's possible to see a 3-pound increase in lean muscle weight after routine training, according to a study published in ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal in August 2015. And building muscle and strength-training isn't just helpful for looking good; it also has countless health benefits that go beyond your muscular system.
The same study noted that muscle-building can improve your resting metabolism because trained muscles actually use more calories than untrained muscles. It can also lower your body fat, the risk of Type 2 diabetes and blood pressure. Within your three-month workout plan to gain muscle, it's also possible to see a difference in your mental health. Weightlifting has been associated with improved cognitive function, self-esteem and depression.
Because muscles are connected to bones and puts stress on those bones — which triggers bone cells to grow — lifting weights has also been shown to strengthen your bones and prevent bone loss as you age, according to Harvard Health. For older people, building muscle can also protect the bones that are more likely to fracture and even provide more balance and stability to prevent falls.
The first and possibly most straightforward step to a two-month muscle gain transformation is simply to add more weight to the lifting routine you have. If you're starting out as a beginner, first plan which lifting exercises you should do. Start with doing several sets of dumbbell incline presses, bicep curls, dumbbell squats and forearm curl-ups, and increase the weight when you're ready.
Train With Compound Exercises
You can also focus on weightlifting routines that are compound exercises rather than isolation exercises, which only target one muscle at a time. Compound exercises work a variety of joints and muscles in one exercise.
Try horizontal push compound exercises, which include regular bench presses, barbell and dumbbell presses and push-ups. These will strengthen your pectoral muscles in your chest, deltoids in your shoulders and even your back muscles. Horizontal pull exercises, which include barbell row, work all your back muscle groups as well as your abs. Other compound exercises include vertical pulls and hip-dominant exercises.
Consume More Protein
The second part of your two-month muscle gain transformation is diet. Your diet will be key in your workout plan, because your muscles require calories and protein after training in order to be replenished and grow bigger.
Harvard Health notes that, in particular, you should pack your meals with more protein to give your muscles the fuel they need. A study published in Sports Medicine in January 2016 found that protein helped increase lean body mass and muscle gain. That's because, when you train and lift weights, tiny tears occur in the muscle fibers and trigger the immune system to repair them with amino acids. Protein aids in this recovery process by fueling amino acids to repair and grow muscle cells.
Be sure to eat protein right after your workouts. Good sources of protein to spread throughout breakfast, later meals and snacks include protein powder added to smoothies, shakes or oatmeal, chicken and other types of meat. You can also add Greek yogurt, fish, eggs, nuts, lentils and other legumes to your diet.
Recover and Get Enough Sleep
While you may think that cramming in as many workouts as you can will help you build muscle in two months, it's equally (and possibly more) important to allow your body to recover. It's during sleep that your muscles actually grow and repair.
Adults should get about seven to eight hours of sleep a night, according to Mayo Clinic. To improve your sleep, go to bed around the same time every night and give yourself plenty of time to fall asleep. Wake up at the same time each day to maintain sleep hygiene. Without sleep, rest and food, you may not see the gains you want in a short period of time.
- ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: "Build Muscle, Improve Health: Benefits Associated With Resistance Exercise"
- Harvard Health: "Strength Training Builds More Than Muscles"
- Harvard Health: "Lift Weights to Boost Muscle"
- Sports Medicine: "Effects of Whey Protein Alone or as Part of a Multi-ingredient Formulation on Strength, Fat-Free Mass, or Lean Body Mass in Resistance-Trained Individuals: A Meta-analysis"
- Mayo Clinic: "How Many Hours of Sleep Are Enough for Good Health?"