I’m sure you will have seen those advertisements that promise to reveal the industry “secret” of how to gain muscle mass fast and all for just a monthly subscription fee. Or perhaps you’ve come across a fitness individuals promoting their own muscle building workout plan for maximising growth. It’s important to be realistic when it comes to muscular growth, but unfortunately many individuals have unrealistic expectations when they first begin strength training.
Realistically, how much muscle can you gain in a month and is there such a thing as the best muscle building workout or muscle building program?
How to Build Muscle Mass Fast
The issue with fast muscle growth is that, unfortunately, the body takes time to adapt. It takes multiple exposures to the stress of training for the body to gradually change. Patience is a virtue and that is true for every type of gym goer, regardless of their goal; whether it be fat loss, injury rehabilitation or body composition based, it is going to take time and work.
The Calorie Surplus
The “secret” to how to gain muscle weight is simply participating in regular resistance training whilst being in a calorie surplus. It is not to do with your training intensity, protein intake or lack of supplements; although these are important and can have an impact they are not the main driver of growth. You can train as hard as you like and increase your daily protein intake, but unless you are in a calorie surplus, you will not gain size.
But what is a Calorie Surplus exactly? A calorie surplus is simply where you consume more calories per day than your body requires. A good starting point for creating a calorie surplus is to consume 250 calories more than your body requires. For example, if you calculate that your body burns 2500 calories per day, you must consume 2750 to efficiently place yourself in a calorie surplus. Once this surplus has been created it must then be maintained for a prolonged time period for significant growth to occur.
The reason that the body requires these additional calories for muscle building is so that the body can repair fibres quickly and effectively after a resistance workout. As a result of the stress of strength training and consequent recovery, size and strength will increase. One of the results of being in a calorie surplus for a long period is an increase in body fat. This should not be a cause for alarm, this is perfectly normal and is actually a good sign that you are effectively in a calorie surplus.
Providing you stick to a calorie surplus, the average male can expect muscle growth of 1-2 pounds each month whilst the average female can expect growth of 0.10 – 0.25. The driving force behind the differences between the genders is the hormone testosterone. Men have a significantly higher level of testosterone than their female counterparts which allows men to grow at a faster rate.
Workout program for mass
Another question that often gets asked is in relation to the best workout or exercises for maximal growth. Ideally, any program we follow should have a variety of “big” compound exercises. These are exercises which utilise a number of different of muscle groups across a number of joints. An example of a compound exercise is the squat. It involves movement through the knees and hips and requires contraction of the the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves to drive the movement. Other examples of compound exercises include: deadlift, lunge, bench press, overhead press, and bent rows.
The opposite of compound exercises are isolation exercises which just focus on a single muscle group. The most obvious example of an isolation exercise is the bicep curl where we are focussing on movement of just one joint (the elbow) and placing the stress on one muscle group (the biceps). Other isolation exercise examples include: leg extensions, leg curl, tricep pulldown and lateral raises. Isolation exercises are useful exercises for targeting specific areas but should be used much more infrequently.
In summation, a calorie surplus, frequent compound focused strength training and patience will allow you to build 1-2 pounds of muscle (for men) or 0.10 – 0.25 pounds (for women) each month.