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7 Muscle-Building Strategies for Guys

Experts share strength-training tips that yield results quickly.

1. Commit to some form of strength training. continued...

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.

3. Drink plenty of water -- before and after workouts.

Adequate hydration is essential to muscle building, yet few people get enough water, even without daily exercise. So in addition to the daily 8 to 10 glasses of water recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Karas suggests an additional 12 to 16 ounces before working out. He then recommends another 8 to 10 ounces for every 15 minutes of vigorous exercise.

Prefer sports drinks? Indulge only if you're exercising for more than an hour, when electrolyte depletion becomes more of a risk.

4. Eat a balanced diet.

Muscle building requires a careful balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein as well as plenty of vitamins and minerals, all of which are best absorbed through food. 

Avoid carbohydrate-heavy diets, which can cause insulin levels to spike and inhibit growth hormones that prompt muscle growth, says Karas. Instead, opt for five or six small, balanced meals every day. And if muscle building is your goal, don't use this time to diet.

"The body won't easily put on muscle if it is at a caloric deficit," explains De Los Santos.

Watch your fat intake, which should be no more than 30% of your total daily calories, and be sure to consume plenty of vitamin- and mineral-rich fruits and vegetables.

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