Building muscle isn’t easy. It requires planning, dedication and motivation so high, that whatever setbacks you experience you won’t let them stop you from reaching your goal. In fact, the more advanced you become as a weight lifter, the harder it becomes. You start hitting more and more plateaus, progress massively slows down, and everything you seem to try just doesn’t cut it. But fear not, here at BFG Muscle we have written the ultimate guide, showing you the top 9 tips on how to increase muscle mass fast.
This first tip is a little bonus but quite possibly the most important one. It’s something I have always lived by. “You only fail if you quit and stop trying“. You will experience set back with everything in life, and this is especially true when trying to build muscle and strength. There are so many things that can cause these setbacks:
- Hitting plateaus
- Life getting in the way
- Work getting in the way
- Lack of funds to buy the food you need
The list could go on and on.
I am not going to go anymore into this side of things. All you need to know is, good planning, focus, determination and increasing your knowledge (the purpose of this article 🙂 will make it so much easier for you to get the body of your dreams.
Design and create your weight training program and nutrition plan around these tips, and you will keep building muscle month after month.
These tips are all as equally important as each other.
Right, it’s time to crack on with the first tip.
1. You will train between 4 and 5 days a week only (for maximum results have consecutive rest days off)
Lets now take a look at MSR (Muscle-specific recovery). What does this mean? Its the amount of recovery there is between workouts of the same muscle group. For example, if you have just trained your chest, we would be looking at how many days rest there are before training chest again.
If you really want to maximise muscle growth and build some serious mass then this side of things is incredibly important.
I can’t stress this enough, but recovery is EVERYTHING. Making sure a muscle group is fully recovered before subjecting it to maximum overload again is extremely important.
It’s against human nature to think you have to do less to get more. This is why most programs you come across on the internet will have you doing tons and tons of sets and reps, while also training muscle groups multiple times a week.
People will naturally buy into this which makes it much easier to sell training plans. Unfortunately, most people really struggle to build muscle mass, due to most weight training programs having your train way too often.
The next point I want to make is of vital importance. You have probably heard it a thousand times before, but it won’t do you any harm to hear it again. “Muscles do not grow in the gym” Let me say that again “muscles do not grow in the gym”. The only time your muscles grow is when you are resting in between training sessions.
When you subject your muscles to overload, they then need that rest period in between training sessions to recuperate, grow and get stronger before you subject them to more overload.
Many things will happen if you don’t allow your muscle sufficient time to recover.
- Overtraining will happen
- You will impede your muscles ability to grow
- You will experience muscle breakdown
- You will hit never-ending plateaus
- You will become weaker
- Muscle mass will decrease
- You will experience reduced energy levels
- Motivation will soon disappear
- You will lose your appetite
Because of all the miss guided information out there, so many weight lifters confuse fatigue with overload. Feeling the burn or having pumped muscles is not an indication of muscle growth.
2. You will train between 45 minutes and 1 hour per session
You should aim to train between 45 minutes to 1 hour. Training much more over an hour is extremely counterproductive to muscle growth. In fact, your training sessions should be much closer to the 45-minute mark for optimal results.
Here are all the benefits that come with training between 45 minutes and 1 hour:
- When training we are looking at maximising the bodies key hormonal outputs that are associated with high-intensity training. By only training for 45 minutes to 1 hour, this is achieved.
- Training for much longer than 1 hour will make it impossible to maintain peak physical intensity and stay mentally focused.
- The secretion of catabolic hormones is increased when training for longer than 1 hour, which than leads onto overtraining. Training for 45 minutes to 1 hour keeps you in the vitally important ‘anabolic window’ that comes with high-intensity training.
Although you may enjoy spending hours in the gym whilst socialising with friends, if you want results then you have to work efficiently.
3. You will only train with big compound movements (apart from the odd exception)
Compound movements are exercises that involve the use of multiple muscle and joints. For example, with a squat you are working the quads, hamstrings and glutes through movement from the ankle, knee and hip joints.
Isolation exercise, on the other hand, involves just a single muscle group and joint. An example of this could be a bicep curl. You are only working the bicep through movement from the elbow joint.
So why are compound exercises far superior to isolation exercise when it comes to building muscle and increasing strength?
- When we are training we are aiming to achieve maximum overload. Well with compound exercise you are able to put so much more weight through the targeted muscle group then you can with an isolation exercise, there for achieving maximum overload. For example, you may be able to do 5 reps to failure with 120kg on the incline bench press. Well now try doing an incline dumbbell fly for the same amount of weight (please don’t actually try and do this). You would soon realise it’s impossible.
- Research tells us that compound movements produce a much greater increase in testosterone and growth hormone. Having increased levels in both of these gives you a huge advantage when it comes to building muscle and strength.
- When training we are always looking to stimulate the maximum amount of muscle fibres in one go and in the shortest space of time. Well doing compound exercises are by far the best way to achieve this.
4. You will train only 4 to 6 reps per muscle group
Apart from the very odd occasion where slightly higher reps can be used, you will aim to hit a minimum of 4 reps and no more than 6 reps per set. This may go against everything you have read in magazines and on the internet, but this is vitally important in order for you to build muscle mass and strength.
So what exactly do I mean when I say train between 4 to 6 reps?
Training between such a small and specific repetition range will take some trial and error at the beginning.
- You should be picking a weight that allows you to get at least 4 reps in your set. If you pick the weight up and you only manage 3 reps, then it means you have gone to heavy
- The weight should also only allow you to do a maximum of 6 reps. If you can manage 7 or 8 reps, then the weight is to light.
It has been proven time after time that training within this rep range is optimal for recruiting the maximal amount of muscle fibres, maximising the overload on muscle fibres and the perfect amount of volume for stimulating muscle growth.
Putting these benefits to one side, for now, another huge advantage to training within this rep range is that it’s so much easier to stay mentally focused over doing a set of say 12 to 15 reps.
Staying mentally focused is key in order to produce maximum muscle intensity, contraction and force for every single rep you do, making each rep, set and session more productive.
Building strength has scientifically been proven to have a huge correlation with muscle growth. So you will see that lifting heavy weights is of huge importance for building muscle and when you see your weights going up week after week, you will continually want to achieve greater overload, therefore, accelerating your results.
5. You will do only 9 to 12 sets when training just 1 muscle group per session
I won’t beat around the bush with the answer. How many sets to build muscle? 9 to 12 heavy sets on all major muscle groups. I personally always opt for the higher end and perform 12 sets per muscle group, However, on days I am feeling really tired or lack my usual energy levels, I will drop the volume to 9 sets.
We are aiming for enough sets to create the required volume to achieve maximum overload. If you don’t put enough volume in you won’t be able to maximally overload the muscles for growth, but if you put too much in, you run the risk of overtraining.
Also if you keep chucking set after set in, you will rinse through your energy stores, therefore not being able to contract the muscles fully, leading to you then not being able to produce maximum force in each set. This will stunt your muscles ability to grow.
So what is the common problems people face with this approach?
As most people learn what they know about training from professional bodybuilders in magazines and on the internet, they are generally used to a much higher amount of volume in sets and reps.
So when they start to train this way they always feel like they have not pushed hard enough and sometimes even feel like they have been lazy. This is normally down to the fact they are used to walking or even crawling out the gym with their limbs not working properly, out of breath like they have just finished a sprint at the end of a marathon and sweating buckets.
This is hard for most people to get their heads around, but this is not an indication you will get new muscle growth. In fact, you have probably done the opposite, and are leading your body into a state of overtraining.
6. You will rest between 3 to 5 minutes after each completed set
On every set, we are looking to produce maximum muscle contraction, maximum muscular force and maximum focus in order to stimulate the fibres for growth. Most programs seen on the internet or magazines advise having a 1 minute to 1-and-a-half-minute rest period. This is so counterproductive.
Yes, it may feel good to have that constant pumped feeling and burning of the muscles, but this is not an indication of muscle growth. A muscle has to undertake a huge amount of activity in order to contract fully.
Not only does the body need to get oxygen into the muscle, but a host of chemical reactions need to take place. If you are a bit of a science geek, then there is a ton of information you can read on what exactly these processes are.
When putting in maximum effort on each rep, it is impossible to create the same muscular force you did on the previous rep. This is because your muscles ability to contract gets less and less after each rep. When lifting heavy weights, if you were to use the most standard rest time of just 1 minute, your muscles would be nowhere near recovered enough in order to gain the required amount of overload and volume for muscle growth.
For example, your first set you hit your target of 6 reps which ended in positive failure (meaning you couldn’t have pushed out a 7th rep in good form), so this means to produce progressive overload, on the second set you need to move the weight up slightly.
If you had only taken a minute’s rest you most probably could have squeezed out maybe 1 rep and in some cases 0 reps. This rest time just isn’t sufficient enough for the muscles to recover in order for you to be able to create maximum force again.
Can you rest too long between sets?
This is a question I am asked a lot by my clients. My answer to this question doesn’t come from any scientific study but from my own personal experience and trial and error. The 3 to 5-minute rest period BFG Muscle teaches you is based on trial and error on myself and clients, to what allows us to lift optimally in the next set.
As you already know, taking less than this is counterproductive and can really affect performance, but also taking more than this has the same end result in reducing performance in the next set. I have found taking too much longer than 5 minutes, I lose my mental focus and intensity. Straight away if you are not mentally focused, you just physically will not be able to move the weights with maximum force, therefore not stimulating the muscles fully.
Also resting for too long your muscles will naturally start to cool down, dropping in temperature and blood being removed from the area. If this happens again you will not be able to create maximum force, plus increase the risk of injury.
Now I am not saying there is an exact science to this. So if you took 6 minutes’ rest between your first and second set and your second set was the best set you have produced, then why would you not try resting this long again to see if the same thing happens. If it does, then you are onto a winner there.
Too many people think after a weight training session you need to come out of the gym sweating and breathing heavy in order to get results. Well, these people really don’t have a clue.
The purpose of weight training is to build strength, and muscle, not give you a cardio workout. Treating weights like a cardio session most probably will increase muscular endurance, but it will really limit the amount of size you will put on.
Should you time your rest periods?
The answer to this question is yes and then no. Let me elaborate. Yes, you should time them when starting out with BFG Training, but eventually, you won’t need to.
In order to learn what the optimal rest time for you is, you will need to time them on a watch. However, as you progress you will start to get a feel of whether you have rested too long or gone into your next set to quickly. You will really start to understand how your body and mind should feel before carrying on. This comes with practice and it’s called auto regulating.
Once you understand this feeling, there will be some days you get to this point at 4 minutes, but then there might be other days you get to this feeling at 3 minutes.
However, I also understand that some people just need to have all the numbers in place and make sure everything is exactly the same for each workout meaning they will always time their rest periods. This is absolutely fine and if it helps you perform to an optimal level, then keep doing it
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7. You Must Create A Positive Energy Balance
There is so much science-based evidence showing how the amount of food you eat throughout the day can have an incredibly strong effect on building muscle.
I hear it all the time around the gym. people giving advice like, “if you eat enough protein then it doesn’t matter how much food you eat, you will still build muscle. Even when on reduced calories and in a deficit.
Unfortunately, if you followed this advice, then you will have an extremely hard time trying to build any kind of muscle mass. When it comes to building muscle, being in a calorie deficit, or even eating at a maintenance level is incredibly counterproductive.
Research shows that your bodies ability to synthesise protein is affected when there is a calorie deficit (negative energy balance)
The final thing to consider when trying to build muscle in a calorie deficit is the inevitable drop in energy and performance in the gym.
A big problem many have is the fear of gaining loads of fat. Unfortunately, when it comes to building muscle mass properly, adding a small amount of fat is inevitable. The key is keeping this down to a minimum.
You want to aim for around 200 to 500 calories over your maintenance level. If you are someone who puts fat on quite easily, then you want to aim for the lower end of around 200 calories. If you really struggle to put on weight then aim for the higher end of 500 calories.
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8. You Must Consume Enough Protein
Consuming enough protein is vital when it comes to building muscle mass. Out of all the macronutrients, protein is the only one that will directly build and repair muscle.
Basically you could be eating the best sources of carbohydrates and fats, along with consuming enough calories, but without sufficient protein, then all your hard work, both in the kitchen and in the gym will be wasted.
I have written a detailed article on protein, explaining exactly how much you should bet having on a daily basis. You can check it out here.
However, as a general rule of thumb, when bulking, I keep things incredibly simple and recommend 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
9. You Must Get Enough Sleep
If you aren’t sleeping enough, then this will have a major effect on your bodies ability to build muscle mass and recover properly after a gruelling weight training session.
Your body had the ability to produce it’s very own muscle-building hormones, namely HGH (human growth hormone) when you sleep.
Blood flow to your muscles increases and muscle growth and repair happen during the N3 stage of no-rapid-eye-movement sleep. It may surprise you but things like muscle growth and the repairing of tissue usually only occur when you are asleep.
I would highly recommend getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep tonight. If you are a serious competitive athlete then even more then this is better
How To Increase Muscle Mass Fast Take Away
Here you have it. 9 crucial steps you must take action on with your training, nutrition and rest in order to build muscle mass fast. These steps are not only based on my own years of experience but also backed by solid scientific research.
For serious muscle growth, you need to implement every step listed above. It’s vitally important you don’t just pick and choose which steps to implement above.
Without solid nutrition and recovery, then you won’t receive the required benefits from your training. The same goes for the reverse also. You could have the best diet and recovery plan ever, but if you are not training efficiently in the gym then you will still limit the amount of muscle you can grow.
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Hi, I’m David and I believe absolutely anyone can achieve the body of their dreams. I’m a qualified health and fitness coach and have been helping clients achieve their dream bodies for 15 years. Whether you are looking to get beach body ready, compete in a bodybuilding show or simply to improve your confidence and wellbeing, I can help.