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7 Muscle-Building Strategies for Guys

Experts share strength-training tips that yield results quickly.
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1. Commit to some form of strength training.

Unfortunately, there are no easy shortcuts to good health, says Kent Adams, PhD, FACSM, CSCS, director of the exercise physiology lab at California State University Monterey Bay.

"You don't have to train like a maniac," he says. "Just start a reasonable, individualized resistance training plan." 

For tips and workout plans, visit the web sites of organizations like the ACSM or the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you don't have access to free weights, head for the weight machines or a cable system. Other alternatives include resistance bands, plyometrics, and calisthenics. 

At a minimum, perform lunges, squats, and other exercises that work your quads and hamstrings, along with extra cardio activity that will prompt your legs to begin building muscle.

No matter which strength training method you choose, however, be sure that resistance levels (the amount of weight you use) and the number of repetitions you do are high enough to fatigue the muscle. Failure to do so, Adams says, will hinder growth. The ACSM recommends three sets of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise. 

To speed up the process, make the most of your workout, and keep your heart rate and metabolism elevated, try "super-setting," says Lisa De Los Santos, a Cooper's-Institute-certified personal trainer at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California.

She suggests one set each of two or three opposing muscle exercises. Rest, then do a second set of each exercise before moving on to the next group.

2. Alternate muscle groups.

Weight training creates tiny micro tears in muscles, which then repair and rebuild during periods of rest. Serious injury can result if muscles are not allowed adequate time to repair.  

The ACSM recommends a three-day split as follows:

  • Day one: Chest, triceps, and shoulders
  • Day two: Lower body (quads, hamstrings, gluteals, hip abductors and adductors, and calves)
  • Day three: Back, biceps, and abs

Feeling sore? Take an extra day or two -- or work a new muscle group. Don't forget delayed-onset muscle soreness, which can hit as late as 48 hours after a workout.

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