Building muscle is a process that takes time, consistent effort in the gym, and a diet to fuel muscle growth. The rate at which you grow muscle can vary, however, we will discuss 10 ways to build muscle FAST.
When looking to build muscle fast, you want to make sure you are training frequently, training in a variety of rep ranges, and eating enough calories to fuel recovery and muscle growth. You can also prioritize protein and other supplements in your diet to optimize your recovery and nutrition.
If you are looking for a workout program that can help you build muscle fast, and progresses week to week to push your progress quicker, be sure to check out the FitBod app (click for free workouts).
Factors That Determine How Quickly You Can Build Muscle
Below are a few key factors that can determine how quickly you can build muscle, with most of them being something you cannot control (except for body composition).
Genetics plays a huge role in your ability to gain muscle quickly, and where you tend to carry your muscle mass. This is something that you cannot control, however, you can be aware of what areas genetically you have trouble growing and spend more time developing them.
For example, if you find it hard to grow your upper body, you can spend 6-8 weeks training the back and chest with more volume (training them 3 times per week) than other muscle groups (you would train them twice per week).
While genetics plays a very large role in your ability to gain muscle quickly, almost anyone can become more muscular than their current state with hard training, proper diet, and time.
Age does play a role in muscle growth rates, with males showing the highest muscle growth rates in the late teens and 20s when sex hormones are at their most elevated levels.
Women tend to build muscle in similar age ranges, however, some may find it more difficult to gain muscle as quickly in their 30s-40s as hormone levels start to change (decreases in growth hormone and testosterone).
While you cannot change your chronological age, it is important to understand that you can build muscle at any age. Research shows that even elderly populations can increase muscle growth.
As you age, focus on training hard, staying safe and healthy in the process, and do not try to compare yourself to a younger you.
Odds are (especially if you have been consistently training for years), that you are stronger than a younger you, or at least have not lost as much strength and muscle as you could have if you didn’t train.
Training age refers to how many years you have been consistently training.
Beginners often build muscle quicker than more experienced lifters, mainly because beginners have fewer overall muscle tissue, to begin with.
While training age is something that you have influence over, it is not something that you can do a whole lot about as your goal is to continue to train over long periods of time (necessary for long-term muscle growth).
The more trained you are, the slower the rate of muscle gain will be. Understanding this is just part of the process, so if you find yourself getting frustrated about gaining muscle slower than when you did when you started, that’s why.
Body composition is the one thing that you have control over. The ability to manipulate this comes down to calorie intake, calorie expenditure, exercise, and lifestyle.
If you want to maximize how fast you can build muscle, you need to start from a place of relatively low body fat levels.
The lower your initial body fat levels are (as long as they are not too low that they negatively impact hormone function), the more primed your body is to use the excess calories ingested to build muscle tissue and support hard training.
This isn’t to say individuals with higher body fat levels cannot gain muscle, they just need to be aware that they may find their body wants to gain fat just as quickly.
A potential solution for this is to cut body fat first to get down to a more reasonable starting point and then gain muscle slowly to not gain excessive body fat in the process.
How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?
The rate of muscle growth is highly dependent on many of the factors discussed above. While it is highly individual, the below guidelines can help you determine how long it will take you to build muscle, and how much muscle you can expect to gain per month.
It is important to note that the below muscle growth rates are estimates, and highly individual. The key is to focus on the fact you are improving in your workouts (getting stronger, doing more reps/sets), and having some sort of progress.
- Beginners (training consistently for less than a year) should aim to gain up to 1-1.5% of their total body weight per month in muscle. This means that beginner males weighing 200lbs, could aim to build 2-3lbs of muscle per month (24-36lbs in a year).
- Intermediate lifters (training consistently for more than a year) should aim to gain up to .5-1.0% of their total body weight per month in muscle. This means that an intermediate female who weighs 150lbs could aim to gain .75 to 1.5lbs of muscle in a month. This may seem slow, but over the year this could result in roughly 8-12lbs of pure muscle gain.
- Advanced lifters (training consistently for more than 5 years) should aim to gain up to .25-.5% of their total body weight per month in muscle. This means that for an advanced male weighing 200lbs, they could aim to gain .5-1lb of muscle in a month. Again, this may not seem like a lot, but this could result in 5-10lbs of muscle gain over the year.
How To Build Muscle Quickly: 10 Tips
Below are 10 of the best ways to build muscle quickly:
1. Eat Enough Calories
When looking to build muscle, you need to make sure that you are eating enough calories to fuel hard training, recovery, and muscle growth.
Everyone’s needs are individual, however, you will want to make sure you are eating 5-10% more than your total daily energy expenditure. This will allow you to train hard, live your current lifestyle outside the gym, and still have enough calories to build new tissue.
You can use this TDEE calculator to determine your caloric needs to maintain your current weight.
If you are lean and looking to add muscle quickly, increase your calories by 5-10% and check out this bulking guide.
If you are not as lean yet and want to build muscle, start a lifting program and monitor your progress. You can always adjust your calories as needed by referring to this article.
2. Train With Weights Over Cardio
Cardio doesn’t necessarily kill your muscle gains, however, it does very little to help promote muscle growth directly.
If you are looking to gain muscle, you need to train with weights. Cardio can help to increase your overall endurance to allow you to train hard with weights (if you notice you are always out of breath), however, cardio should not be your primary focus in your workouts.
Aim to lift weights at least 4 times per week if you want to gain muscle fast. This will allow you to train each muscle at least twice per week.
Cardio should be used sparingly, and should not conflict or compete with resistance training for training time or your training energy.
3. Train with Heavy Weights
When looking to build muscle, you want to make sure you are training with loads that are challenging enough to do the trick.
Training with heavy weights (5-10 rep range) is a great way to stress a lot of muscle tissue at once and also increase strength. When increasing both strength and muscle, you enable yourself to progressively overload the movements (adding more weight or volume) and continue your muscle growth for months.
Aim to train in the 5-10 rep range for at least one movement per muscle group. You don’t need to exclusively train heavy though, as there are many benefits to training in moderate and lighter rep ranges as well.
4. Lift Light Weights, Too
Lifting lighter loads can increase muscle growth and blood flow to a tissue and is a great way to round out a well-written muscle-building program.
When you train with lighter loads, it is important that you train close to or very near muscular failure.
Training with light to moderate loads for muscle growth is ideal when using machines, free weights, and isolation exercises as this allow you to concentrate on a muscle specifically and train it without fatiguing other areas.
Aim to train moderate to light loads in your program as well. A good program should include a variety or rep ranges to maximize both muscle building and general strength gains. If you need help with a program, check out the Fitbod app and get training today!
5. Train a Muscle to Near Failure (Most of the Time)
Training hard is a necessary part of building muscle, however many people are left to ask, how hard should they really train.
Research has shown that short-term bouts (few weeks or progressively increasing intensity) of training to or near failure can help promote muscle growth, increase motor unit activation, and potentially increase growth hormone secretion.
When training for muscle growth, you want to make sure you are training with an intensity that stresses the muscle tissues and allows you to accumulate enough volume to signal muscle growth.
This is often a moving target and can vary from individual to individual, however, the effort put into each set should remain constant.
For most people, you want to train at a level of intensity that has you leaving 0-2 reps left in the tank after any given set (i.e. you finish your set and say to your self “I probably could have only one 1 or 2 more reps).
As well, your form should not suffer, as training to failure or near failure means you are still with proper form and control.
6. Don’t Always Train to Failure With Very Heavy Weight
There is an exception to the train to failure or very near failure rule discussed above, and that is when using heavy loads.
If you are using a weight where you cannot perform more than 5 reps with (more strength-building rep ranges), training to failure can have a negative effect.
This is because it will be very difficult to accumulate enough training volume to stimulate muscle growth.
Additionally, the heavier the loads the more stress is placed on the connective tissues and bones, which when done to fatigue and in high volumes, and heavy loading, can result in overuse injury or injury.
When training with heavy loads (a weight that you cannot do more than 5 reps with perfect form), aim to keep 1-2 perfect reps left in the tank at all times. This will ensure you can move with good form, not overly stress the connective tissues and bones, and not be subjected to a sidelining injury.
7. Supplement with Creatine
Creatine has been shown to increase short-term strength and power (5-15%), sprint performance, and maximal effort muscle contractions (5-15%).
Increases in those areas can enhance your ability to train hard, lift more weight, and perform more intense training which can lead to more muscle growth.
When looking to supplement with creatine, aim to ingest 5g per day of creatine monohydrate.
8. Train a Muscle 2, Even 3 Times Per Week
Research suggests that training a muscle directly three times per week can help build more muscle than training it once or twice per week.
By training a muscle more frequently, you can increase muscle protein synthesis and keep natural anabolic hormone levels elevated throughout the week and be in a more readily state of muscle growth, for longer.
If you are looking to maximize muscle growth, train each muscle at least twice per week. If you want to take an additional training day to devote to a particular area of concern, train it three times a week.
If you need help developing a program, check out the Fitbod app!
9. Drink Carbs During Your Workouts
Drinking carbs during a workout (or in the workout time frame) is a great way to increase muscle growth, start the recovery process, and refuel the muscle bellies with the necessary glucose.
Research suggests that ingesting carbohydrates during or immediately after resistance training has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, initiate the muscle recovery process, and can also help increase performance during training.
Most people could aim to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates during a hard, weight training session that is 60-90 minutes long.
10. Progress One Training Variable, Every Session
Progressive overload is a key component of muscle growth and strength development. When training in the gym, you want to make sure that you are progressing in at least one area, every workout (with the exception of deloads).
Below are some ways you can progress your workouts, which can be done by adjusting the loading or manipulating other variables, all of which can improve performance:
- Increase the weight on the exercise by 2-3%, and perform the same amount of reps and sets as the week prior.
- Keep the same weight as the week prior on a given exercise, but perform a few more reps per set, or add one extra work set than the previous week.
- Keep the same amount of loading, sets, and reps on a given exercise, but slow down the movement to increase the total time under tension
- Increase the range of motion at which you are training a movement, such as trying to squat lower with the same weight you did in previous weeks.
Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.
Frequently Asked Questions
How quickly can you get muscular?
Most people can see muscle growth in 8-12 weeks, as muscle itself takes some time to build. A general rule of thumb is to aim for .5-1lbs of muscle growth per week for beginners. More advanced lifters or lifters who have been training for a while may find that their rate of muscle growth is even slower, such as .25-.5lbs of muscle gain per week (muscle gain, not weight gain).
How Much Muscle Can You Build in Two Weeks?
It is unlikely that you will gain a significant amount of muscle in two weeks, especially if you are a non-beginner. Two weeks is not enough time to have your hard work in the gym translate into the creation of new muscle fibers and cells. In a two week period, it is safe to say that most people will gain 0-1lbs of muscle, with beginners seeing the most amount of growth.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.