The 6 Best Workouts for Building Muscle Fast

by Jacob McMillen on 16 May 2014 1 comment

For a privileged few among us, packing on muscle is as simple as eating an extra steak and a few more brownies. These are the massive individuals who walk in the gym, do a few sets of five at light weight, and then spend the rest of their session offering awful advice to wide-eyed youngsters.

For the rest of us, gaining muscle takes a concentrated effort and a lot of food. When I decided to get big, it took me six normal-sized meals a day for two months in order to add on the first 10 pounds. Your metabolism is designed to maintain its current weight, so breaking upwards takes a significant calorie increase, just like dropping pounds requires a significant decrease. (See also: Fitness for People Who Hate to Exercise)

Okay, I'm going to say this one more time. If you want to get buff, you have to eat a lot. You can lift weights all day at the gym, but without a massive increase in your caloric intake, you will not gain muscle!

So now that you're eating tons of food, let's take a look at the six activities best suited for getting you super buff.

1. Heavy Weight Lifting

By far the best activity for muscle increase is a heavy-weight lifting routine. Five sets at 8-10 reps is a great place to start per exercise, and you should always be failing by your last set, or the weight is too low. After your first three weeks, if you are eating enough food, you can expect to increase your lift by around five pounds every week.

Focus on compound lifts that hit all your muscle groups, such as bench press, squats, deadlifts, and weighted pull-ups. Always make sure to have a spotter for heavy lifts and only lift what you are capable of. You will always see individuals more jacked than you at the gym. You will always see weaker individuals, too. If you're there for anyone other than you, you've already failed.

2. Bodyweight Exercises

Using weights isn't the only way to gain mass. Bodyweight exercises can be a much more versatile option for muscle building. Anything from a park bench to a roof beam can double as your gym, and come summertime, who wants to be trapped inside anyway?

If you choose the bodyweight route, pull-ups, push-ups, rope climbs, dips, and wall-walks should be staples in your routine. Keep in mind that muscle gain is easier with lower reps, so you'll want to find exercises that really utilize your entire weight.

3. Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a fantastic outdoor activity that can also increase your muscle mass. Rock climbers place constant demand on their entire musculoskeletal system, which accelerates muscle growth. The full-body nature of rock climbing is what separates it from similar activities that rely more on isolated movements.

Another upside is the lack of sustained cardio. While newbies will certainly break a quick sweat, rock climbing is a relatively low-cardio sport, which is important when attempting to increase muscle mass. If you've never climbed before, but are interested in giving it a go, I'd recommend starting off small and working your way up. It's a lot harder than it looks, particularly at first.

4. Rowing

Have you ever seen a rower? Then you already know what I'm talking about. Rowers tend to have built physiques for the same reasons I suggested rock climbing: high demand on your muscles relative to the cardio. Rowing is a great summer activity for the aspiring bodybuilder, as it puts you outdoors and in the water. What more could you ask for?

Keep in mind that rowing fails to significantly exercise your lower body, so unless you're wanting to look like Johnny Bravo, I'd recommend supplementing your rowing with a weekly session of heavy squats.

5. Swimming

Rowing is great, but why get on the water when you can get in it!? Swimming balances a fine line in terms of cardio, but it is undeniably a fantastic full-body workout. With enough food intake, swimming can be utilized for muscle gain.

There's really not much more to say here. You swim one direction and then back — and then back in the original direction — and then back again. Repeat until dead.

6. CrossFit

Let's be honest. I couldn't write an article about muscle gain without including a section on CrossFit. As a CrossFit participant myself, the program accomplishes its stated goal very well, which is to raise your overall level of fitness rather than excelling at any one exercise.

For the purposes of getting buff, however, there are much better options. The highly intensive cardio involved in CrossFit would necessitate a Michael Phelps-like diet in order to end the day calorie-positive. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. With enough protein, CrossFit is a viable muscle-building option, but for the hard-gainers out there, you'll want to stick with weight-lifting.

What workout routine has worked out best for you, in terms of muscle gain? Please share in comments!

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'Rowing fails to significantly work your lower body'!?!?! Seriously, you don't know what you are talking about