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Reflection in mirror of man lifting weights

Fast Track to Bigger Muscles

You can pump up your physique in less time than you might think if you're willing to sweat. With the right moves, you can work toward power pecs and better biceps in just two workouts a week. If you're not active now, tell your doctor before you start a fitness program.

Two positions of hammer curl

Bigger Arms: Hammer Curl

Start with this move to build biceps you can show off in short sleeves. Hold dumbbells so they face your outer thighs. Exhale and bend your elbows. Raise the dumbbells until their tips nearly reach your shoulders. Inhale and lower slowly.

Trainer demonstrating preacher curl

Bigger Arms: Preacher Curl

This twist on the curl better isolates the biceps. Rest the back of your arm on a support pad while holding a dumbbell, palm facing up. Slowly raise the dumbbell, then lower it to the starting position. If any move feels wrong, check with a trainer so you do it right.

Trainer doing tricep pushdown

Bigger Arms: Triceps Pushdown

Grasp the handle with your palms facing down and hands 6 inches apart. Keep your upper arms near the sides of your chest. Start with your forearms parallel to the floor. Push the cable down by making your arms straight. Do this until your elbows are all the way out, but not locked. Pause and slowly return to the starting position.

Trainer showing up position for benchpress

Bigger Chest: Bench Press

This classic move hits all your chest muscles. Grab the bar with a closed grip, and slowly lower it until it lightly touches your chest. Exhale and press back to the starting position. A trainer can suggest the best load for you. Start with just the bar. Add weight once you can control the bar slowly. 

Trainer showing up position for benchpress

Buff vs. Mr. Universe

What's the right weight for you and the right number of times to lift it (reps)? It depends on your goals and fitness level now. A good start is 3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise. The last few reps should be tough. A mid-level workout is 4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Man doing front shoulder raise with dumbbells

Strong Shoulders: Front Raise

Do this move standing or seated on a bench or exercise ball. Hold the weights at your sides. Raise one straight arm to the front, up to shoulder level, while turning your palm toward the floor. Slowly lower it back down. Stand straight and keep your wrists in line with your arms. Work one arm at a time so it’s easier to keep your back straight.

Man doing lateral shoulder raise on stability ball

Strong Shoulders: Lateral Raise

This classic move targets the deltoid muscles. Start with the weights by your sides. Contract your abs to support your back. Sweep both arms up to shoulder level to form a "T." Keep your arms relaxed and elbows unlocked. Rotate your elbows slightly outward to focus on your shoulder muscles. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting spot.

Flexed back muscles in wide-grip pulldown

Tapered Torso: Wide-Grip Pulldown

This back exercise develops the latissimus dorsi muscle or "lats." It also makes your waist look narrower. Sit on the pulldown machine and grasp the bar wider than shoulder-width. Lean back slightly and contract your abs. Now bring the bar down to your upper chest. Pause and slowly return the bar to the starting position.

Abdominal exercise – kettlebell twist

Abs: Kettlebell Twist

This move can help lean abs really pop, especially once you've lost any extra belly fat. Sit on the floor, knees bent and heels down. Lean back, keep your back straight, and tense your abs. Place the kettlebell on the floor, switching from one side to the other. For faster results, hold your feet off the floor, but only if you can still use good form.

Super set of bicep and tricep exercises

Quicker Results: Super Sets

To build stronger muscles in less time, do sets of two different exercises with little or no rest in between. At first do super sets that work opposing muscle groups. Example: a set of biceps curls and a set of triceps pushdowns.

Compound set of chest exercises

Quicker Results: Compound Sets

After you've been lifting weights for a few months, you can switch up your routine. Compound sets involve two different exercises for the same muscle group without resting in between. A chest-building example: Do a set of dumbbell bench presses and then a set of pec flys. This exhausts the muscle quickly and thoroughly, which helps it grow. 

Correct position on leg press

Lower Body: Leg Press

Every gym has a guy shaped like a lightbulb. He's the one who neglects his lower body. If you don't want to be that guy, work your major leg muscles on the leg press machine. Place your feet on the plate with knees bent at 90 degrees. Grasp the handles and slowly push the plate out until your knees are straight but not locked. Pause and slowly return to the starting spot.

Trainer demonstrating squat with barbell

Lower Body: Squat

Squats target both your inner and outer thighs. Use a barbell heavy enough to challenge your muscles but light enough that you can still control your form. Hold it behind your head with your feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core, then squat down as far as comfortable. There should be no knee or back pain. As you come back up, raise your hips and chest together.

Trainer showing Romanian dead lift with barbell

Lower Body: Dead Lift

This is one of the best workouts for your hamstrings and glutes. Start in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the bar in front of you. Lower it to just below your knees. You can lower it further if you can keep a flat back and stable spine. Slowly return to the starting position. Keep the bar close to your body to protect your lower back.

Man doing calf raises on step

Lower Body: Calf Raise

Stand on one foot with the arch and heel hanging off of the edge of a step or platform. Hold onto something if you need help balancing. Drop your heel all the way down below the step, and then rise all the way up on your toes. Hold dumbbells to make it harder. If you can balance without holding on to something, you’ll work your core muscles, too. You'll also build more stable joints in the other leg.

Step-up, step-down with kettlebell for muscle conf

Keep Your Muscles Guessing

If you stop getting the results you want after several weeks of working out, it's time to mix things up. You need to challenge or "confuse" your muscles often to keep them growing. You can do this by putting a twist on your basic moves. Do a biceps curl with a reverse grip, for example. Or find a bench for the step-up move shown here. Change up your workout at least every 4 to 6 weeks for the best results.

Man sweating after intense workout

High-Intensity Training

When you train hard, you won't just zap calories during your workout. You’ll burn them even after the session. Exactly how long and how many calories you'll fry afterward depends in part on how intense your workout was. But over time, the effect can really add up.

Healthy lunch box and bottle of milk

Eat Right: Before You Lift

Give your muscles the right fuel. If you really want to get ripped, eat protein at every meal and snack. Good sources are lean meats, eggs, cheese, and milk. Also get whole-grain carbs like oatmeal for lasting energy. Eat a snack of protein and carbs right before and after you work out to keep your energy level up, build muscle, and burn more fat.

Smoothie with whey protein and frozen berries

Eat Right: After You Lift

Get some protein as soon as you can to help your muscles recover. Include a wholesome carb like fruit, too. One quick option is a smoothie made with protein powder or yogurt and frozen berries.

Young man drinking water in gym

Stay Hydrated

Muscles are about 75% water, so liquids keep them healthy. If you don’t get enough, it could affect your workout, your focus, and your health. The best choice is simple, calorie-free water.

Man holding vitamin suppliements

Muscle-Building Supplements

Some products, like creatine, are popular among athletes and body builders. But they don't replace a good training plan and a proper diet. If you're thinking about trying them, talk to your doctor first. He can check on any possible side effects.

Weight-lifting gear and steroids

The Truth About Steroids

Never take them to build muscle. It's illegal and can cause many health problems, including:

- Acne
- Breast growth in men
- Heart disease
- Liver disease

Bodybuilder and regular guy lifting weights

Reality Check

How fast you bulk up depends in part on your genes and age. Your parents gave you your basic body shape and the ease you have in getting big. Even so, most men can improve their muscle mass and strength with a good weight-training program.