9 Science-Backed Ways to Grow Lean Muscle Fast
Spend years in the gym to build some muscle? Nobody's got time for that.
While building muscle does take time before you see obvious growth, if you have been putting in the work without any progress, it's a sign your approach is wrong.
A workout is a terrible thing to waste, so even if you are seeing progress, there's no reason why you couldn't see a little more.
Related - How to Gain Muscle Mass Fast
So here are nine science-backed ways to boost those gains.
Ways to Build Muscle Quickly
1.) Try More Volume
Your training volume can make a huge difference in how much muscle you build. Training volume is simply the number of reps multiplied by how many sets you've done.
Volume is a primary determinate for muscle hypertrophy, so try to increase your volume and drop the amount of weight you are using.
“Compared to training for strength, intensity is going to drop during the hypertrophy phase of a program, with intensity sitting between 50 and 75 percent of the person’s 1RM, the maximum weight he or she can lift for one rep,” says Ava Fitzgerald, C.S.C.S., C.P.T., a sports performance coach with the Professional Athletic Performance Center in New York.
So in order for your muscles to get the volume you need to make your muscles grow, she recommends performing three to six sets of 10 to 20 reps per set.
2.) Decrease Rest Times
There used to be a time in the gym where people went in and put in work. They didn't stand around taking selfies and playing on Facebook between sets. You were there to work.
So if you're guilty of touching your phone between sets, set a timer for 30 to 90 seconds depending on your lifts for a rest period. When you want to build muscle, these shorter rest periods force a quick release in muscle-building hormones — this includes testosterone and human growth hormone.
This also helps make sure that you are truly fatiguing your muscles.
Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that fatiguing your muscles is a pre-requisite for hypertrophy. This is irrespective of rep and set scheme.
So don't be afraid to feel the burn... maybe that's why Arnold liked it so much.
3.) Eat More Protein
You've probably heard the saying "you break muscles down in the gym and build them in the kitchen," but do you know why?
According to research from the University of Stirling, the harder your workouts are, the more important protein intake is to recovery. The study suggests that lifters should eat 0.25 to 0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per meal.
So for a 175-pound lifter, you should aim for 20 to 24 grams of protein at every meal. You can get that much in three to four eggs, a scoop of protein powder, or a cup of Greek Yogurt.
4.) Focus on the eccentric phase
There are two phases in a lift — the concentric phase and the eccentric phase. The concentric phase is considered the hard part of the lift, while the eccentric phase is the easier part of the lift.
Take squats for example.
You unrack the weight and as you are going down, this is the eccentric phase. The concentric phase starts when you start to stand up with the weight.
The European Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that eccentric work is far better at triggering hypertrophy. This means we can increase our eccentric efforts by doing two things — slow down and increase the time under tension, or integrating eccentric-only variations into your workout routine.
So if you were to want to include an eccentric-only variation to your squats, you will want to unrack the weight and as you reach parallel, you will want to stop the lift there. Doing squats in a power rack with your safety catches set properly would work best.
Physiologically, our muscles are much stronger moving eccentrically than concentrically, so overloading your weight on eccentric-only variations can really pay off.
5.) Eat More Calories
If you've been working on losing weight, you've been in a calorie deficit. On the other hand, if you want your muscles to grow, you're going to need to be in a calorie surplus.
Research suggests when your body senses it is in a calorie deficit, it downshifts your body's tendency to build more muscle. In short, getting swole isn't your body's main priority when it isn't getting enough food.
Aiming to eat 150-500 extra calories per day of nutritious whole foods will make sure the weight gain is from muscle and minimizes fat gain. The bulk of these extra calories should ideally be from protein.
In a 2014 Pennington Biomedical Research Center study, participants who are a high-calorie diet with a lot of protein stored about 45% of those calories as muscle. Participants with a low-protein diet with similar calorie surplus stored 95% of those calories as fat.
6.) Try Casein Before Bed
Casein protein absorbs slowly into our bloodstream, which means it keeps our muscles fed with amino acids a lot longer than other types of protein such as whey.
In one Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise study, participants who consumed casein protein immediately before they went to bed boosted their levels of circulating amino acids for 7.5 hours.
This means they were building muscle while they sleep. Try some cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, milk, or a casein supplement.
7.) Try Supplementing With HMB
HMB is a natural compound produced in our bodies. HMB, also known as, beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate prevents muscle-protein breakdown, encourages muscle growth, and speeds exercise recovery.
It's hard to increase HMB levels significantly with food alone, and that's why you see a lot of supplements.
One study that lasted 12 weeks found resistance-trained individuals who took HMB in tandem with a high-intensity workout routine significantly improved muscle strength and size compared to those who only lifted.
Another great thing about HMB is if you've pushed yourself a little too hard, it can help prevent the effects of overtraining.
8.) Try Some Creatine
One of the longest-studied supplement in the industry, creatine doesn't directly build muscle.
Creatine increases your performance with high-intensity workouts. This natural compound effectively helps promote muscle growth, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Another study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that supplementing with creatine can help you lift 14% more reps than you can sans supplements.
Try out some creatine monohydrate — it's the most thoroughly researched form of this supplement, and really cheap.
9.) Sleep More
You break down muscle in the gym and you rebuild it at home. This means you need to give your body fuel to grow, and the rest it needs to repair.
Cutting yourself short on sleep can drop testosterone levels up to 10 to 15 percent, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. When you sleep, our bodies release human growth hormone — facilitating muscle growth and keeping your levels of cortisol in check.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 need to sleep seven to nine hours per night.
Seriously, make it a priority to get to bed to recover.
Wrapping It Up
Here are nine science-backed ways to build muscle — which one are you going to start implementing first?