Let’s face it, the fastest way to build muscle is to take illegal steroids, spend countless hours in the gym and gorge on humongous amounts of food and protein supplements.
We’ll get to the fastest way to build muscle in a sane and natural way in a moment. But first, let’s dispense with the idea of illegal steroids.
Men and Women alike risk:
- Severe acne, oily skin and hair.
- Hair loss.
- Liver disease, tumors and cysts.
- Kidney disease.
- Heart disease, heart attack, stroke.
- Altered mood, irritability, aggression, depression or suicide
- Huge distended bellies
And just for the guys, we can add:
- Breasts (“bitch tits”)
- Painful erections
- Shrunken testicles
- Decreased sperm count
- “Man Face” caused by male hormones, extreme dieting
- Facial and body hair
- Enlarged clitoris
- Shrunken breasts
- Drier, coarser skin
Still, some people will take those risks in the quest to get big. Testosterone Nation says at least 30 professional bodybuilders have died prematurely due to things caused by the use of steroids.
Plus, the effects don’t last if you stop taking them. You’ve probably seen pictures on the web of pro bodybuilders while on steroids and then what they look like when permanently off the juice.
If not, Google for it. It’s shocking. They basically shrink back down to mere mortals and in some cases show the irreversible damage caused by the hormones.
Natural is the Only Sane Way to Build Muscle.
Let’s set the expectations:
- Realize you’re not going to look like one of the 300 pound pros – be glad you will be healthy
- You can definitely pack on some quality muscle, look and feel great
- You can do it without illegal drugs
There’s nothing wrong with considering legal supplements, as long as you use them according to directions and heed any health warnings. Check out this post for my recommendations on the two that have been generally proven to work best: Whey Protein and Creatine.
The post talks about men over 40, but these two items can work for women and younger/older men as well. Neither of them is a steroid or hormone, so there aren’t the side effects noted above.
How to Train
Recent study after study has shown that higher reps with lighter weight is the fastest way to build muscle. The evidence is becoming overwhelming. This is especially true for those of us training without steroids. And for people who are north of 40 in age.
The absolutely huge poundages that you see pro bodybuilders throwing around are not possible or advisable for drug-free mortals. Plus it’s just not necessary.
The Formula That Works is Easy
Try to screen out all the hype on the web and the fitness industry for a moment and view this with fresh eyes. There is absolutely nothing complicated about building muscle.
It does NOT require a complex course of action covered in a thick book with a ton of jargon, 12 DVDs, expensive equipment, compound movements, HIT, Cross Fit, giant tractor tires, rope rigs or coaches preaching at you.
Lighter Weights, Higher Reps
The old school belief that only heavy weights can build muscle is being pushed aside by growing evidence that the fastest way to build muscle is with lighter weights and higher reps. This doesn’t mean light weights. It means a level of resistance that takes you to failure in the 8 – 12 rep range.
If you’d like to see further backup, please see this post. There are several links at the bottom of the article to both scientific studies and articles in popular bodybuilding magazines. It’s compelling stuff by objective experts and all agree — lighter weights/higher reps is best.
My own life experience
I’m in my early 60’s and have been resistance training for nearly 5 decades. I’ve never used illegal steroids. At the same time, I’ve never been super lean, ripped or shredded, either. I have managed to build muscle mass and keep it.
Over the years, I’ve done just about every method and style of training, from Olympic to Power to Bodybuilding and hybrids in between.
For many of those years, my goals were at least partly ego-driven. I wanted to lift ever-heavier amounts of weight to prove I was stronger. It was always the way. Progressive resistance meant progressively heavier weights.
You can get away with training that way for a long time in your life. But there comes a day when your joints can’t handle it and your body just can’t recover like it used to do.
Here’s me pushing heavy weight on the leverage bench in my mid-50’s. I screwed up the math in the video, but it’s a total of 520 pounds x 7 reps. My ego loved it, my shoulders are still complaining.
Once it became obvious the days of heavy weights were over, I was forced to either adopt a new, more sane method of training or give up my lifelong passion.
The result? I had to try lighter weights, higher reps. Today, I have more quality muscle than I did at any other age. And I’m not beating myself up anymore trying to lift ever-heavier weights.
I adopted the 8 – 12 Rep to Failure method, using weights only heavy enough to cause failure in those final reps. And only increasing the weight when I could do more than 12 good reps in the first set.
Turns out, I could have been doing that style all along and spared my shoulders a ton of grief. Oh well, live and learn.
There is a Trick to making lighter weights work
There is definitely a trick to this style of working out. It really requires that you get your head in the game and dialed into what you’re doing.
It is critical with this method to properly calibrate the amount of resistance so that you are able to do 8 – 12 repetitions per set and no more. Lighter doesn’t mean super light. Your goal is muscle exhaustion or failure on each set. That won’t happen by waving around super light weights.
Maintain high quality repetitions. No cheating or swinging the weights around. Your goal is to keep constant tension on that target muscle and exhaust it. The key is to feel that muscle, especially as you bring it to failure.
And ‘failure’ doesn’t mean passing out. It just means you can’t do another clean rep without a cheating movement. Don’t cheat.
That can be easier said than done. After all, our minds are involved in this process, as well, and it is our mind that will determine if we’ve exhausted the muscle or not.
You’re focus is not increasing the amount of weight you use. It is on taking the target muscle to “failure” in each set. You can adjust the number of reps and the amount of resistance as you work through your sets.
You are not focusing on numbers. You are focusing on the feeling in your muscle.
You want to get into a mental groove called the Mind/Body Connection. Feel the pump. The amount of weight and the number of sets are just tools to get you to the pump.
One day, 12 reps might seem impossible. On another, you might find yourself doing 15 or more to reach exhaustion in that first set.
Decrease the number of reps as necessary to finish the final sets. If you can only do 5 reps on the final set, so what? As long as you feel the pump, you’re good.
Rest as briefly as possible in between sets.
Why Does This Work Fastest?
The muscle fibers ‘tear’ on a microscopic level. This damage is repaired while we sleep using the good nutrition we’ve put in our bodies as fuel. This is also where supplements like Whey Protein and Creatine come into play.
Exercise + Good Nutrition + Rest & Recovery = Muscle Growth.
It’s not about “No Pain, No Gain.” Forget pain.
If you’re working hard enough, you will feel a bit sore. Think of that soreness as the “Pump.“ Get to know it as a good feeling. It’s a signal your body is sending blood into the muscle fibers with healing nutrients to build and repair them. Pump is good. Pain is bad.
If You’re Ready to Get Started
Try this workout. It will work the entire body over a 4 day period. You can do this workout at home with something as simple as a set of resistance bands, or a nicely equipped home gym or commercial operation. The equipment doesn’t really matter that much. It’s all about that mind/muscle connection.
A Note on the Featured Photo: It’s a classic Ford Coupe built up with a lot of muscle and fast. Like the car, I’m a life-long Detroiter. Not as old as that Ford, but still in good shape and running strong.
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