If you're looking for quick muscle building, go no further than your local
gym, where doctors say that major strength gains can be had in just a few
Last year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American
Heart Association updated their recommendations for physical
activity. In addition to regular cardio workouts, Americans are now being encouraged to
perform resistance training at least twice a week, working every major muscle
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
Spero Karas, MD, assistant professor of orthopaedics in the division of
sports medicine at Emory University, says that testosterone, the male hormone
responsible for muscle growth, maxes out between the ages of 16 and 18. It
reaches a plateau during the 20s and then begins to decline. As a result,
muscle building after the adolescent years can be challenging, he says.
Fortunately, a little strength
training goes a long way -- particularly in the early days.
"When someone starts a fitness
program, especially after not doing anything for awhile, the initial
strength gains tend to be dramatic and quick," Karas says. "In the
first 12 weeks, it's not uncommon for a guy to see a 10, 20 or 30 percent jump
During the first weeks of a new training regimen, strength gains come from
the recruitment of new muscle fibers, which make the muscles stronger and more
Even though muscle recruitment does not result in more muscle mass, says
Karas, it will definitely make your muscles look bigger.
One reason is that muscles take in water and swell during training. Another
is that muscles burn fat, which tends to make the muscle look more
After the first three months of strength training, muscle gain is much
slower. At that point, you're aiming for an actual increase in muscle mass,
which takes time to develop.
"After you've maximized the recruitment, you've reached the plateau,
which is when the increase in strength and muscle mass becomes an arduous
task," Karas says.
Whether you're committed to the long haul or just want some muscle-building
tips, here are seven ways to maximize your gains.
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.