Anyone starting their weight lifting journey at the gym wants to grow muscle fast! These 5 essential tips for beginners are all you need.
Tip 1. Grow Muscle fast with light weights.
All too often I see newbies lifting weights their bodies can’t handle.
And I get it!
I really do, I too was young once, and did exactly that!
I expected to see massive growth because I was lifting massive weight!
Unfortunately it didn’t translate.
Here’s why light weights should be used and the benefits!
Understand tendons and ligaments.
- Tendons and ligaments attach muscle to the bone. When contracting, your muscle pulls on the tendons which yanks on the bone producing movement.
- Think of tendons and ligaments as elastic bands, providing an elastic response, a stretch-shortening recoil helping you jump, run, lift, and absorbing impacts.
When you lift heavy, that weight translates to tendons and ligaments!
So what, you might say, they can take it!
But, did you know.
Tendons receive less blood flow than the muscles.
Blood that carries nutrients and cells used to repair the damage done from weight lifting.
In one study it took 2 months of training to induce structural changes in the Achilles tendon.
Other studies have shown it takes weeks to months for those changes to occur, compare that to muscle adaption which can take as little as 8 days.
Lighter weights thus put the tendons under less stress whilst they adapt and grow stronger!
Trust me, you don’t want to snap those at the best of times, especially the beginning of your weight lifting journey.
Form, form form.
A benefit of using lighter weight for maximum muscle growth is form!
When the weight is too heavy, you tend to call on other muscle groups to help execute the lift.
What you want to do, is build your mind muscle connection, i.e. connect with the muscle ,the exercise works.
With lighter weights, you can concentrate on the contraction, without losing the form and using momentum to complete the rep.
The mind muscle connection is vital, especially on more advanced compound movements that require multiple muscle groups to be involved, such as the deadlift.
With a great mind muscle connection when executing, say the deadlift, you will feel the muscle involved throughout the lift, from the quads, through the entire posterior chain from the hamstrings, glutes and back.
Get the form and mind muscle connection in the early weeks / months of your training and your muscle growth will explode!
Still not convinced?
Thanks to a study in 2012 by Stuart Phillips and his colleagues, 18 male subjects trained legs on the leg extension machine 3 times a week for 10 weeks
They were separated into 3 groups.
- Group 1 performed 3 sets at 30% of their 1RM for 30-40 reps
- Group 2 performed 1 set at 80% of their 1RM for 10-12 reps
- Group 3 performed 3 sets at 80% of their 1RM for 10-12 reps
The results showed that those lifting lighter weights with more reps, grew their quads equal to those lifting heavier weights with less reps.
This study came under a lot pf fire, as it used untrained individuals, whose muscle adaption / growth would pretty much respond to any resistance exercise!
However, for this post, it perfectly shows, you can grow muscle fast whilst lifting lighter weights.
Finally, if you are still not convinced, let me pass you over to the man himself Ryan Humiston:
Tip 2. Stick to the basics
The next essential tip for muscle growth is KISS.
Keep It Simple Stupid.
With all the “experts” on TikTok and Insta showing you 326 bicep curl variations or 212 leg exercises, it can be hard to know which exercise to do.
So let me help.
Go old school.
Yep, back when I started ====warning incoming old man, dad speech ======
We didn’t have YouTube or TikTok, there was no such thing as the internet! I had to wait till the end of each month to go buy the latest muscle magazine and read the latest workout.
The exercises kept to the basics.
If you are starting out, the basics are all you need, I would recommend sticking to as many isolation exercises as possible, and then progressing to compound movements.
Lets look at some of the basic movements.
Legs: leg extension, leg curl, leg press, lunge
Chest: Bench Press, Dumbbell press, dumbbell flyes
Back: Bent over row, dumbbell row, lat pull downs and/or pullups.
Arms: Bicep curls, EzCurls, Tricep extension (rope), skull crushers
Shouders: Shoulder press, lateral raises, rear delt raise
Tip 3. Plan your workouts.
For most starting our on their bodybuilding journey, it is often too easy not to plan and track your workout, after all the gains come quick and it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, you notice a difference.
The benefit of putting this in place at the beginning is, it’s a great habit to get into, but ultimately you have to know where you are going and where you have come from.
Planned workouts ensure
- No overtraining, you can work in rest periods
- Its all too easy to constantly train, however, the muscles require rest, whether in the form of a rest day per week, or in the beginning of your journey training for an extended period and then a day or two rest, either way, rest and replenish with good sleep and nutrition.
- Tracking of your lifts allow progressive overloads
- Progressive overloads take the shape of a gradual increase of weight, reps or sets over a period of time, tracking makes sure you are consistent and progress is a constant manner.
- Shows what works, what doesn’t
- When tracking your workouts, you get to see what works, when you made the larger gains, either in weight lifted, or weight, size, or measurement, of course it will also show stages where progress was slower.
For anyone new to bodybuilding and therefore in need of building a plan I would always suggest 1 of 3 things
- Self development – If like me you love learning, researching and practicing what you’ve learnt, there is more than enough information out there, courses are great for foundational knowledge, experts (not dodgy YouTubers) actual experts are perfect for additional tips, and of course, putting into practice on yourself is the final piece of the puzzle
- Personal Trainer – For someone who has neither the time or inclination to learn this stuff, I’d highly recommend finding yourself a personal trainer, face-to-face is perfect for those just beginning on their weight lifting journey, this way you get adjustments, cues and tips from an actual human being, which lets face it, is always best 🙂
- Apps – Finally if cost is an issue, rather than pay for a personal trainer, look online for Apps, again, use decernment and avoid those newbie YouTuber fake trainers.
Tip 4. Muscle requires nutrition to grow
The penultimate tip is often neglected by beginners wanting to grow muscle fast, or atleast the importance is overlooked.
Nutrition when it comes to muscle growth, is a BIG subject.
The basics however are simple.
The practice is where the wins are made.
The Basics of nutrition for growing muscle fast
A subject far too big for this post, but lets give you the basics.
Rule #1 – Understand Calories, and more importantly your calories.
To lose or gain weight comes down to calories. consume more than you require, and you gain weight, eat less than you require, you lose weight. Simple!
Now you understand this, can you tell me on average how many calories you consume a day?
If the answer is no, don’t panic!
Create a food diary, each day enter the food you eat and the amount of calories consumed.
For most of us we have a rough daily average, we are creatures of habit, and most of the time consume a similar amount a day.
Now you know you daily, weekly calorie intake, average it out. i.e. if your weekly calories consumed equals 14000 calories (lucky for me the math is simple) you consume on average 2000 calories a day!
Now go back to Rule #1, if you reduce you calories by 10% a day, down to (2000 – 200 = 1800) you will lose weight.
If you however add 10% (2000 + 200 = 2200) you will gain weight.
Rule #2 – Understand macros.
Macros are simply Fats, Carbs and Protein.
To keep it simple,
- Fats are essential to keep the body functioning.
- Carbs provide energy
- Protein repair cells and muscles
For most a split of 40/40/20 will provide a good base to start gaining muscle and have energy for the workout and day!
So your daily diet should contain 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fats
Rule #3 – measure your progress
Finally, to REALLY be sure, you should measure your weight, whilst monitoring your diet.
Some trainers recommend a daily weigh in, personally I would say this is only necessary if you are intermediate, or someone entering a competition OR really focussed on a transformation.
For most beginners, a weekly weigh in is sufficient.
Most beginners if following these tips will see a physical change in a short period of time, so a weekly weigh in with the daily cheeky check in the mirror, should be enough to gauge if you are on the right path.
If you want to know more about macros, I highly recommend this video by the late, great mountain dog himself – John Meadows
PROTEIN – To help supplement protein uptake, I would recommend consuming a protein shake, purely for the ease, cost, taste and benefit they bring.
Rather than go into a rant about protein shakes, check out my other blog post here.
Tip 5. Repeat.
The last tip is the easiest.
Yep, gaining muscle, requires hours and hours of eating, sleeping, and training.
Repeat, repeat and repeat.
Hope this helps.
If you are struggling to go to the gym, read this post How to stay motivated to go to the gym
Any questions, leave me a comment.