For the average person who wants to build muscle, muscle magazine routines just won’t work. (After all, they’re for people who don’t need them in the first place!) What average men and women who want more muscle mass need is an approach that will get the job done—without overtaxing their bodies or their minds.
If you want muscles, the ten-step guide below is a surefire way to avoid over-training while getting the muscle mass you want.
1. Make strength training part of your fitness routine.
The stronger you become, the more muscle you develop. So get involved in strength training. A good at-home fitness system will allow you to use your body weight as you strength train. They will also allow you to ramp up your workout’s intensity by adding resistance with free weights, weight bars, and resistance bands.
2. Use free weights rather than machines.
More weight means more stress and—ultimately—more muscle. One of the safest ways to add more resistance to your workout is by using free weights. Unlike machines, free weights allow you to keep your movements natural, and that means you’ll be less likely to injure yourself.
Free weights also require you to exercise control and balance, and they’re incredibly versatile. Think of how many different exercises you can perform with a barbell! That versatility translates into cost effectiveness, particularly for those who workout at home.
3. Work multiple muscles at a time.
To build muscle quickly and effectively, exercise several muscle groups at the same time. Although isolation exercises are fine after you’ve established significant muscle mass, compound exercises are exactly what you need when you’re starting out. So instead of biceps curls, do pull-ups and barbell rows; instead of triceps kickbacks, try dips, overhead presses, and bench presses; and rather than leg extensions, do dead lifts and squats.
4. Don’t forget to train your lower body, too.
To look good from head to toe—and increase your strength and stability—be sure to work your lower body as well as your upper body. Squat and dead lifts are particularly effective. They actually work your whole body, and allow you to increase the challenge by adding more weight.
5. Do full-body workouts.
Hour-long, full-body workouts are best. Through compound exercises and the addition of more and more resistance, you’ll build the muscle mass you want– fast.
Professional athletes train hard five to six times a week. If an average person who’s not in top physical condition does this, however, he or she will over train. That actually impedes progress! One-hour, full-body workouts three times each week are enough.
Between workouts, your muscles will recover and grow strong. Recovery doesn’t just mean not exercising, however. It also means drinking plenty of water, getting adequate sleep, and eating a sufficient supply of healthy food. So have at least two cups of water with every meal and throughout your workouts. Get eight hours of sleep per night so that your body has time to release growth hormones into your system. And, eat the carbs and protein your body needs to restore its energy and grow strong.
7. Make whole foods your top choice.
If possible, make 90 percent of the food you eat whole food. This will help lower your body fat and show off your muscles. Also, whole foods are highly nutritious, with the vitamins and minerals your body needs for recovery between tough workouts.
Training is more important than diet for muscle building. But you do need to give your body the food it needs for optimal recovery. Eat about every three hours, and be sure to have breakfast and a post-workout snack. Most importantly, count your calories to assure that you’re at least taking in enough to maintain your current weight.
9. If you’re skinny, gain weight.
If you’re underweight, you’ll never look ripped—no matter how hard you train. You’ll have to gain weight. To do so, eat calorie-rich foods, like rice, pasta, and mixed nuts. Use olive oil and real butter, and drink whole milk. Increase your weights, too, to grow stronger and build muscle size.
10. Eat plenty of protein.
Also be sure to include lots of lean protein in your healthy diet. To build muscle mass and maintain it, you need to eat one gram of protein for every pound you weigh. So if you’re 170 lbs., eat 170g of protein each day. Protein will also raise your metabolism above its resting rate due to its thermic effect. That means that as your body processes and stores protein, it expends energy. Of all the foods you can eat, proteins have the highest thermic effect.