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Are you too skinny? Do you feel that your metabolism is so fast it’s impossible to build muscle and grow big?
You work out a few times a week, maybe even eat clean and you make sure you get your eight hours of sleep every night.
You’ve tried different diets, you’ve tried different workouts. And still, you’re skinny.
If that’s you, then here’s some good news. You’ve come across the ultimate guide on how to build muscle fast.
The Guide To Build Muscle Mass Fast
This guide has the theory and the practical advice backed up by scientific research on how to make your muscles grow faster.
Because here’s the deal. Your metabolism and your genes haven’t doomed you into a life of being skinny. If you’re skinny, all it means is that you’ve not been working out or eating properly.
Some skinny people have grown really big by following the principles explained in this guide. Read this guide, understand the theory, follow the advice and you will never have to hear, “Bro, do you even lift?” ever again.
Specifically, this guide will explain the following:
1. It will give you an understanding of what muscles are and how they grow. Don’t skip this section. You might think it’s not important to understand the theory, but it is.
It gives you a deeper understanding of everything you do in practice and it will guide you if you try something new. Plus, it distinguishes you from the amateurs who don’t take building muscle seriously.
2. This guide will not give you a specific, detailed workout plan. Here’s why: it doesn’t work. Everyone is different and responds differently to certain types of workout.
Instead, this guide gives you the key workout principles that you have to incorporate into your workout plans. It’s a framework that gives you the freedom to do what works best for you, within the boundaries of proven principles.
3. Next comes the most important part and the part where most people fail, Diet. The guide will show how and when you should eat for maximum muscle growth.
Again, these aren’t meal plans, but principles to give you a framework and the flexibility to find out what works for you.
4. The final section will briefly cover key supplements for you to consider, depending on the budget you have available.
After reading this guide, you should have enough information to start your program and see your biceps bulging in a few weeks. Good luck!
Table Of Contents
Understanding Your Muscles
1. About Muscles and Fibers
There are three types of muscle in the human body: skeletal, smooth and cardiac muscle.
Cardiac muscle is the muscle around your heart.
Smooth muscle is located around your organs. Both cardiac and smooth muscles are involuntary. You cannot control them.
Skeletal muscles are the muscles attached to your bones. These you can control. And grow. So these are the ones we mean when we talk about growing muscle.
Scientists say there are between 600 to 800 skeletal muscles in the human body. Just for walking alone, you use 200 muscles.
Each skeletal muscle consists of two types of fibers. Type I fibers are the so-called slow-twitch fibers and are mainly used for endurance activities.
Type II fibers are the fast-twitch fibers, used when a task requires more than 25% of your maximum strength.
Most people have an equal mix of slow- and fast-twitch fibers. However, a gifted marathoner might have more slow-twitch fibers, while Usain Bolt will have more fast-twitch fibers.
Additionally, fast-twitch fibers are usually twice as large as slow-twitch fibers and have the capacity to grow even more. Slow-twitch fibers can grow too, but not as much.
Muscle fibers follow two main principles:
A. The All-Or-Nothing Principle:
A muscle fiber is either working at its full capacity or it’s not working at all. There is no in-between. Even for an activity as simple as smiling, all the muscle fibers that help you smile are working at their full capacity.
B. The Size Principle:
The smallest muscle fibers start a task first. This is why slow-twitch fibers are usually involved for easy tasks while fast-twitch fibers (which are larger) only come into play as the task becomes harder. And the closer to your maximum strength, the bigger the fast-twitch fibers involved.
This explains why muscles grow fastest when you do reps with heavy weights. More fast-twitch fibers will be involved and will grow under strain.
2. How Does A Muscle Contract?
A muscle contracts when it receives a signal from its motor neuron, which in itself is triggered from the part of a cell called the sarcoplasmic reticulum.
Your neurons can be trained to contract your muscles better. Someone who isn’t very muscular but can lift heavy weights is someone whose neurons are good at contracting muscles.
Additionally, muscles can get better at performing a certain movement. That’s why muscle gains usually happen early on and slow down afterward because your muscles activate better doing that particular movement.
This is also why it’s good to shake up your workout by varying reps, weight or do different exercises every few weeks.
3. How Do Muscles Grow?
Your muscles grow when you rest. After an intense workout, your body repairs or replaces the damaged muscle fibers by fusing muscle fibers together and forming new protein muscle strands (myofibrils).
These myofibrils increase in thickness and in number, which results in a bigger muscle.
Additionally, studies increasingly show the importance of satellite cells in muscle growth.
These are little cells in your muscles that contribute directly to the growth of myofibrils.
The more you can activate these cells, the more your muscles will grow. This is partly determined by your genetics.
Some people are wired to activate more muscle cells during a workout than others.
That’s the theory. In practice, you build muscle fast by putting them under more stress than they’re used to.
This disrupts their status quo and shocks them into growth.
Here are the mechanisms for how this happens:
A. Muscle Tension
If you apply more stress on your muscles than what they’re used to, it will causes changes in the chemistry of the muscle and will activate more satellite cells.
It will also strengthen the connection of your motor neurons with your muscle cells, so they become better at contracting your muscles. This is why it’s important to lift progressively heavier weights.
B. Muscle Damage
Feeling sore is localized muscle damage. It will release inflammatory molecules and kickstart your immune system, which in itself activates satellite cells.
So feeling sore is good, although soreness will subside as you become more experienced with the intensity of your workouts.
C. Metabolic Stress
When you feel the burn of an exercise or when your muscles are pumped up, that’s metabolic stress. It contributes to muscle growth without necessarily increasing the size of your muscle cells.
Larger muscles without an increase in strength. That’s called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (if you want to impress your friends).
The above should give you a good theoretical understanding of what muscles are and how they grow.
Although this knowledge is not entirely necessary to know how to build muscle fast, it gives you that deeper understanding and reasoning behind your workout.
It also distinguishes you from someone who takes muscle growth less seriously.
A. Workout Principles
This guide won’t give you specific workouts, because that’s not the right approach to gain muscle mass fast. Too many articles suggest specific workouts without realizing every person is different.
Instead, you should have a few key principles that guide you in planning your workout.
There’s no need for your workout to be complex and full of weird exercises. The following key principles will help you grow muscles better than any of the latest fads. So here goes.
1. Train Consistently and Train Hard
Some of these principles might sound like obvious points, but although most people know them, few people actually follow through on them. So to begin with, you need to train consistently.
If you decide on three gym workouts a week, go three times. Don’t go once and overcompensate the next week by going five times. Go three times. Every week, for weeks on end. Three times.
Next is that you should give it your all for every workout. Don’t half-ass a workout, because you’ll get half-ass results. Your workouts should be intense.
Always try to add a bit more weight or another rep. Go to muscle failure a few times during the final set of an exercise. Take 30 to 60 seconds of rest, but no more. Every workout should count.
2. Limit Your Cardio
However much you might love a good run, cardio doesn’t help grow your muscles. In fact, it does the opposite. Running shrinks your muscle fibers to make them more efficient.
There’s a reason elite marathoners are thin as paper. Even running and lifting isn’t efficient. Your type I fibers might grow because you lift, but your type II muscles won’t because you run.
This being said, some cardio is good for your heart and keeps you healthy. So don’t completely scrap cardio if you like it.
But keep the intensity to an absolute minimum. And after your cardio workout, eat some protein and carbs to limit protein breakdown.
3. Lift Heavier Weights
Muscle growth requires progressively heavier weights. Shock your muscles away from their status quo by lifting something heavy.
Remember, the all-or-nothing and the size principle dictate that the heavier the weight, the more large muscle fibers will be fully involved.
Lifting heavy also ups the production of testosterone, which in itself helps with muscle production and recovery.
4. Choose Compound Exercises
Your muscles will grow fastest using the compound exercises that you all know: squats, deadlift, bench press, military press, dumbbell row, lat pulldowns, shoulder presses.
These exercises are more effective than similar exercises on a machine, because machine exercises work an isolated muscle, while compound exercises work many different muscles at once, both small and large. Compound exercises should be the core of your workout.
5. Keep Good Posture Each Exercise
It’s important to really master your technique when doing your compound exercises. Not only will you exercise the right muscles, but you’re also much less likely to injure yourself.
So pay attention to your posture, both in the actual rep and during the negative portion of a rep.
This being said, if you’re pushing for muscle failure, it’s okay to loosen your form slightly to get those extra few reps.
Don’t be too tight on form as you’re pushing your boundaries. Except for squat and deadlift. Never slack on good posture and form on those two.
6. Take Time To Recover
This principle comes in two parts. Firstly, it’s important to give your body plenty of rest in the form of sleep. It is vital to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours a night.
Your muscles grow when you rest, so if you’re serious about making your muscles grow faster, you should sleep.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that stress is a muscle growth killer. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which stops muscle growth. So apart from getting enough sleep, make sure to avoid stress as much as you can.
Secondly, it’s important to give your body time to recover, in your workout schedule otherwise your progress will slow down or completely stop.
Every 6 to 8 weeks, schedule an off-week where you either do nothing or where you only do some light exercise. Your muscles will rest, grow and you’ll be ready for another 6 to 8 weeks of heavy exercise after.
These are the key principles you should follow during your workout. Some might be obvious and you might already know these, but you’ll notice that few people really live by them.
These key principles are tested and have helped many thousands of skinny people gain muscle mass fast.
B. Diet Principles
The importance of diet in growing muscles cannot be underestimated. Many bodybuilders and fitness buffs would agree that it’s the most important part of building muscle fast.
Similar to the workout section, this guide won’t give you meals. Instead, it will give you the main principles to follow that will help you build your meals and achieve your goals.
1. Eat Enough Calories
The biggest reason why skinny people don’t grow muscle fast is that they don’t eat enough.
If you’re looking to really build muscle, you should calculate your natural required intake using one of the many calculators online and add 1,000 calories on top. It’s not easy, but it is what’s required to build muscle fast.
Additionally, you need all 3 macros. Keto dieters needn’t apply, because carbs are as essential as fat and protein.
Carbs supply glycogen, which serves as the fuel for your workouts. Stay away from junk carbs such as sweets, biscuits, and cake, but eat good carbs such as wholegrain bread, brown rice, porridge and wholemeal pasta.
As a final point, try to eat every three hours. Making sure your muscles receive enough fuel is vital for having them recover and grow well.
2. Eat Quality Protein
First, a disclaimer: calories come first, then protein. Many articles put too much emphasis on protein and not enough on making sure you eat enough calories.
You also have to be careful, because protein makes you feel full quickly during a meal and keeps you full longer, so you might be tricked into thinking you’ve had enough calories while you haven’t.
This being said, protein is the key macro for growing your muscles, but also to keep your muscles from shrinking.
It’s best to eat between a gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 170 pounds, you’ll need around 170 grams of protein.
The better the quality of your protein, the more of it will be used for muscle building. Think lean meat, fish, eggs, whey, and milk.
3. Eat Healthy Fats
Eating your daily amount of calories might be difficult, but healthy fats are an efficient way to add to your total amount of calories. Each gram of fat has 9 calories, compared to 4 calories for each gram of carb or protein.
Monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat should comprise 30% of your diet. Think all types of nuts, oily fish, and extra-virgin olive oil. Additionally, these healthy fats are proven to have good effects on your brain, vision, and heart.
4. Drink A Shake Before Your Workout
Studies have shown that lifters who drink a protein shake before their workout improve their protein synthesis more than lifters who drink the same shake after their workout. The workout itself might lead to a better intake of amino acids, a building block of protein.
Try to get at least 10 to 20 grams of protein and around 30 to 40 grams of carb in your shake. Don’t make it a meal. Liquids are digested better and faster. Drink your shake 30 to 60 mins before your workout.
5. Keep Yourself Hydrated
You might not immediately think so, but drinking water is important for building muscle too. This is particularly true when waking up. Your body is in a dehydrated state and you need to drink as soon as you can.
Water helps remove waste from your body and helps form the structures of protein and glycogen, both of which you need to grow that chest.
6. Drink Milk Before Bed
Okay, it needn’t necessarily be milk. But eat some carb and protein 30 mins before you go to bed. It will slow down the protein breakdown that inevitably happens overnight.
So a glass of milk with some dry raisins or a bowl of cereal will help speed up your muscle growth.
C. Supplements To Consider:
Although the above should give you the basics on how to build muscle fast, if we’re really talking about the fastest way to muscle growth, supplements can help.
All of the below will not harm your health, although they need to be taken only in addition to an already great diet.
Creatine is considered the #1 supplement for muscle growth and is possibly the best-known supplement in the world. It can safely increase your muscle mass, strength, and endurance (see studies 1, 2, 3).
It’s recommended to start with 20 grams a day, split into multiple servings, during your loading phase, after which you move to 3 to 5 grams a day.
2. Fish Oil
If you don’t eat enough fish, fish oil is almost a necessary supplement. The EPA and DPA that fish oil provides have numerous health benefits.
If you want to find out more about them, this article gives an in-depth explanation of fish oil and its many benefits.
3. Natural Testosterone Supplement
Testosterone is the most vital hormone for muscle growth. It increases protein synthesis, slows down protein breakdown, activates your satellite cells and fires up other anabolic hormones.
Strength training releases more testosterone and more testosterone stimulates growth hormone responses. So muscle training and testosterone work in a self-reinforcing circle.
Testosterone supplements are helpful at any age, but particularly so if you’re over 30 when testosterone levels generally start declining.
These supplements help you recover faster and build bigger, stronger muscles. If you want to dig into more of this, this page links to all the testosterone research you can think of.
You may also want to see my comparison of Top 3 Testosterone Boosters.
Conclusion – Now You Know How To Gain Muscle Mass Fast
We’ve covered a lot! Not only do you now know what muscles are composed of and how they grow, but you have an understanding of the key principles for your workout and the key principles for your diet.
Additionally, you’ve been recommended three good supplements for muscle growth.
You should now know how to build muscle fast. It needn’t be more complex than this. No difficult exercises, no complex meals.
In a few weeks, your muscles will show that “bro, you actually lift.”