While any type of exercise is great for your mind and body, strength training exercises are the best way to gain strength and build muscle, and to see results more quickly than other types of workouts.
Building muscle won’t happen overnight, but consistent strength training combined with balanced nutrition, you can start to see results in up to 12 weeks.
Muscles are made up of two different types of individual muscle fibres: slow-twitch and fast-twitch.
- Slow-twitch (type I) muscle fibres are aerobic, they’re resistant to fatigue and focused on smaller movements that can be sustained for long periods.
- Fast-twitch (type II) muscle fibres get tired more easily, but allow for some sudden, powerful movements. Fast-twitch muscle fibres contain more blood supply than slow-twitch muscle fibres, contract faster (hence the name), and have a greater potential for muscle growth than type l fibres.
While cardio and endurance training build mainly slow-twitch muscle fibres, strength training builds both. This means that you’ll see results with muscle growth faster with strength training than with any other type of exercise.
Building muscle fast
The key is to consistently mix things up so that you shock the body and challenge your muscles. If you’re a beginner, you might start with 2 strength sessions per week. If you’re more experienced, I’d recommend doing up to 3 strength sessions for those muscle gains.
Just make sure that your sessions contain a variety of different workouts; you can try supersets, pyramid workouts and more. You also need to make sure you’re not allowing yourself to get too comfortable, and to increase the weights you’re using when it’s all getting a little too easy (i.e. focusing on progressive overload).
Other factors to consider while you’re building muscle is to make sure you’re getting adequate sleep, adequate water, and to make sure your nutrition is balanced. I wouldn’t recommend going ultra-low carb if you want to build strength and muscle, and good quality protein is a must.
It’s important to make sure you’re working on the entire body for strength and muscle gains, as focusing only on specific areas can lead to imbalances that will cause problems later on. Along with poor form, muscle imbalances are a major cause of exercise-related injuries.
You need to be willing to experiment and find out what’s best for you, but focusing one day on upper body, one Full Body & core day, and one day on lower body is a good weekly plan. Beginners may prefer to do two full body strength workouts per week, which is also a great place to begin. Ideally, you’ll still be doing some cardio during the week, so make sure you have adequate rest days.
Note that the duration of the workout will generally be 30 minutes to 60 minutes, but it’s more important to focus on the mechanical stress that occurs in a given session. For strength, under 6 reps is ideal, while for hypertrophy (an increase in growth of muscle cells), aim for 6-15 reps. On that basis, those wanting to build strength spend the majority of their time lifting very heavy weight for low reps. Please remember to never go so heavy that you lose proper form.
Exercises for building muscle
Compound movements that use several large muscle groups are important, as you’ll really notice those strength and muscle gains quite quickly. Some exercises include (just to name a few):
- Glute bridges: abs, hamstrings, and lower back
- Squats: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and abs
- Push-ups: chest, shoulders, abs, and triceps
- Lateral lunges: glutes, hamstrings, and quads
- Bent over row: back, shoulders, and arms
- Single leg Romanian deadlift: whole body
You can build muscle with any type of exercise, but if you want to see those gains and be able to lift heavy, strength training is the way to go.
Make sure you’re consistent with your training and that you focus on progressive overload, while keeping good form. Pay attention to your nutrition and aim for good quality protein and carbs, and get adequate amounts of rest.
You won’t see immediate changes in your body, as it can take a few months for notable muscle gain due to working out, but you absolutely will get there!
Enjoy those gains! If you’d like to workout with me, keep an eye on my YouTube channel so you can check out the new workouts I upload each week. You can also sign up to my newsletter to receive my free monthly workout calendars.