Five Ways to Build More Muscle in Less Time
We’ve all seen ads on tv or online for supplements that “Build 200% more muscle in 2 weeks!” Some of the ads may catch your attention and some of the claims may be so outrageous that they’re almost laughable. But what if there truly was a way you could increase the amount of muscle you have in less time, without taking any sort of dangerous supplement? As a personal trainer, one of my favorite lines to tell my clients is to “work out smarter, not harder.” In the interest of working out smarter, here are five ways to build more muscle in less time by making minor changes to your workout routine.
#1. Use Compound Movements
A compound movement or a compound exercise works two or more muscle groups at the same time in order to stimulate more muscle groups in less time. An example would be to do pull ups instead of bicep curls. A pull up will not only hit the biceps, but they’ll also hit the muscles of the upper back. Compound movements will recruit more muscle fibers and allow you to lift more weight. So instead of doing leg curls and leg extensions to work the quads and hamstrings, just doing squats will target those same areas and others more effectively in less time.
#2. Use Free Weights
Are you one of those gym goers who just go from machine to machine? Ever wondered if there’s a more effective way to build muscle? There is! By using machines, your body does not have to use as many muscle fibers to hold the weight or your body in place. By switching to dumbbells, these muscle fibers will be activated and your body will be forced to improve. In addition, using dumbbells takes up a lot less time and less space. In fact, a good set of dumbbells in your home is all you need and costs a fraction of the amount of an entire circuit of machines. For every machine, there is a dumbbell equivalent, so learning the free weight version of the machines should be an easy transition. If you’re unsure about how to use the dumbbells, consult a personal trainer and always have a spotter.
#3. Do Circuit Training or Super Sets
Let’s say you’re on the bench press to work your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Between each set, you’re sitting on the bench, waiting 1-2 minutes before your next set so your muscles can recover. Why not use this time to do another exercise that works other muscle groups? While you wait for your chest, shoulders, and triceps to recover, you could do some pull ups to work the muscles of the upper back and biceps, or you could do some lunges to work the legs. Working out other muscle groups while others recover is a great way to save time and keep the heart rate up. You can work opposing muscle groups like chest vs. back, or you can work upper vs. lower body to save yourself some time. This will literally cut your workout time in half!
#4. Challenge Yourself
When performing a set of ten reps, ask yourself, “Could I have gotten 5 more reps?” For most, the answer is yes. Muscles only get stronger when they are challenged, so if you’re just going through the motions and not challenging yourself, strength gains will be minimal if you see any at all. Try increasing the weight by small increments and see how many reps you can get. If it is still easy to complete your set, then more increases are needed. Some instances may be difficult to increase in weight. For example, if you’re doing a set of 10 with 5 lb dumbbells, and it becomes too easy, going up to a 10 lb dumbbell may be too much for you, since it is twice the amount of weight. If there are no increments in between 5 and 10, try doing 12 or 15 reps until you are ready for the 10 lb dumbbells.
#5. Have a Plan
Walking into a gym and wandering around until you figure out what exercise to do is a recipe for a poor workout. Go into the gym with a plan every single time. By having a plan, you’ll avoid wasting time walking around looking for an exercise you want to do. Having a plan also helps you stay organized and can give you a more effective workout. Coming in without a plan may cause you to neglect certain muscle groups over time which can cause imbalances and worse yet, injury.
The Bottom Line
These five strategies will dramatically increase your fitness results in less time. If you’re tired of putting in the time and effort and having nothing to show for it, it may be time to implement these five strategies today. They may seem like minor changes, but give them a chance for six to eight weeks, track your progress, and I guarantee you’ll see excellent strength gains.