How to build muscle fast?

One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “how can I build muscle fast?”. Truthfully, putting some quality muscle on your bones (and maintaining that muscle) is a process that requires a bit of time. I remain a steadfast believer that real muscle is best built gradually and not overnight.

On the other hand, there’s little doubt that life has its moments we want to look our best for. Weddings, vacations, that work pool party and other similar situations can leave you in a pinch with little time to put your best foot forward.

Although I recommend making strength training a regular part of your exercise routine to gradually build quality muscle, I feel compelled to offer my strategy for those times when you need to tone up quickly and build muscle fast.

What It Takes To Build Muscle Fast

There’s no secret to building muscle for a tight and toned physique. If you’re hoping to find some carefully guarded secret workout or foolproof supplement that will make it happen overnight then you need to stop reading right now.

There are plenty of people out there ready to sell you the false promise that muscle can be built quickly and easily. Don’t waste your money. Building muscle, quickly or gradually, requires work.

If you’re ready to put in the necessary work to build muscle fast then keep reading and get ready to get after it. Toning up in record time takes work, dedication and sacrifice. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

How to build muscle fast?

To begin, there are three things you need to understand about building muscle fast:

  • Your workouts need to be focused and intense.
  • You need to eat…a lot.
  • Adequate rest is essential.

If you’re thinking that the above points hold true for all muscle building efforts you’d be right. But when trying to build muscle fast they become even more important. There’s little time for an off workout, a day without time to eat much or late nights out with friends.

A Plan to Build Muscle Fast

Strength Training

Building muscle fast means intense strength training workouts that catapult your muscles into growth. You need to push yourself to failure on each and every set while using heavy weight and low to moderate repetitions.

How to build muscle fast?

How, exactly, do we define a “heavy weight”? Glad you asked. What is heavy to one person may be light to another and vice versa.

When I discuss using heavy weight I am talking about a weight that you can lift anywhere from four to eight repetitions. If you’re able to lift a weight for more than eight reps its too light. Any less than four reps and its too heavy. You’re shooting for a combination of strength and muscle gains and the sweet spot for that to occur is right in that four to eight rep range.

The following guidelines can be used to help guide your workouts:

  • Structure your workouts to train each muscle group no more than twice a week. Your body builds muscle while you rest. If you want to build muscle fast you need adequate recovery time. Simple as that. If your workouts are focused and intense you can make significant gains in strength and muscle while training each muscle group no more than once a week.
  • Two intense sets of each exercise is all you need. Studies have indicated that over 95% of potential strength gains occur within the first two sets of any given exercise. Two intense sets taken to momentary muscle failure will produce the intended results and help prevent over training.
  • Avoid difficult or complex exercises. Instead focus on favorite or simple exercises that target major muscle groups and allow you to lift more weight. To build muscle fast you must train hard and then rest well. Choose exercises that allow you to really feel the muscle being worked. You can learn new exercises when you’ve got the time to build muscle more gradually.
  • If possible, train with a partner. No secret here. If you have a spotter, you can move more weight and build muscle faster. A partner will also help motivate you and reduce your risk of injury. At the very least grab someone nearby to spot you on your toughest sets keeping you safe and helping you crank out a couple extra reps.


Naturally, achieving a toned body requires healthy eating habits but when you’re trying to add lean muscle in a hurry the importance of quality nutrition is magnified. You’ll need to pay close attention to both what and how much you eat.

How to build muscle fast?

It’s muscle you’re after, not fat, so the quality of your food is equally as important as the quantity. I’ve seen people eat anything and everything they can get their hands on in order to put on some muscle. Not a great strategy! Yes, you need to consume some serious calories but not all calories are created equal.

When working to build muscle fast try following these simple pointers:

  • Aim to eat 500 calories more per day than you burn. If you don’t consume more than you burn you’ll never build muscle. Still, there’s no need to go overboard and pack on a bunch of extra weight. Your calories should come from quality food sources such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables and complex carbs.
  • Shoot for 40% of your daily calories to come from quality protien. Another way to guage this is to set a goal to consume one gram of protein for every pound of body weight. It’s not as easy as it sounds! Investing in a quality protein powder is an excellent way to enable adequate protein cosumption and build muscle fast.
  • Make sure to eat a balanced breakfast every day. Start your day, and your body, off right with a breakfast of complex carbs, protein and fruit. Foods like oatmeal, whole grain cereals and breads, egg whites and a variety of fruits are excellent breakfast choices.
  • Eat a protein rich snack before turning in at night. Your body uses protein to build and repair cells while you sleep (including muscle cells). If it runs out of protein it may actually turn to your muscle cells to borrow the protein it needs. What this simply means is that your body will break down your muscle during the night if it doesn’t have enough protein. The slow digesting proteins found in dairy make cottage cheese, string cheese or a glass of milk excellent bedtime snacks. A small protein shake will do the trick too.
  • Fuel your muscles with a quality post-workout meal. I can’t overstate the importance of this one. Consume a quality meal rich in protein, nutrients and vitamins within 45 minutes of your workout. During this time your cells are open and ready to fully utilize the fuel you provide. Shoot to include at least 20 grams of protein but no more than 40 grams (studies have shown the body will not absorb more than this at any one time). The natural sugars found in fruits help the transport of vitamins and nutrients throughout the body so try to inclue some fruit. This is an excellent time to utilize quality supplements. A shake made of low-fat frozen yogurt, fruits, and protein powder is an excellent post-workout meal.


Step one in any timely tone-up campaign is to rest. Over trained and tired muscles simply aren’t capable of the gains you’re looking for. If you’ve been exercising consistently make sure to take one to two weeks off in order to let your muscles fully recover and prepare for some intense resistance training.

As you begin your strength training sessions it will be important to give your muscles plenty of time to rest and recover.

How to build muscle fast?

These simple tips can help ensure you provide your working muscles with adequate rest to have them looking great in no time:

  • Give each of your muscle groups a minimum of 48 hours rest between workouts. Without proper time to recover your muscles won’t get any bigger, stronger or firmer. You should feel stronger with each workout. If you feel weaker for a workout that is a good indication that your muscles have not fully recovered. Resist the urge to push through this and rest instead. Muscle grows while you rest between workouts. Once it is fully healed it will be ready to be trained again.
  • Make friends with your pillow and get at least eight hours of sleep nightly. The importance of a good nights sleep is no secret. Still, many people are sleep deprived. Not only do you need your sleep to give your body time to rebuild itself, you need energy throughout the day and to fuel your intense workouts. If that’s still not enough, consider that studies show a direct correlation between weight gain and inadequate sleep. Get your zzz’s.
  • Limit your cardiovascular training during this time. There’s no need to cut it out completely but be sure not to go overboard. Intense aerobic exercise has been shown to limit the body’s ability to build muscle quickly. Keep your cardio sessions short and train at a low intensity while you’re trying to build muscle fast.

The “Build Muscle Fast” Workout

This simple workout can be utilized for those times when you need to look hot in a hurry.

How it works: For all exercises follow these basic rules.

  • Choose a weight that you can lift for eight repetitions for your first set. The eighth repitition should be very difficult, if not impossible, to complete.
  • Rest for two minutes after your first set and increase your weight by 5-10% for the second set.
  • Complete your second set by doing as many repetitions as you can with the increased weight.
  • Perform only two sets for each exercise using the guidelines above.
  • Rest two minutes between each exercise.
Day 1
Legs, Chest, Back, Core
Day 2
Biceps, Triceps, Core
Day 3
Legs, Shoulders, Core
(Alternative: Leg Press Machine)

Bench Press
(Alternatives: Dumbbell Press, Chest Press Machine)

Lat Pulldown
(Alternative: Pull Up)

Incline Bench Press
(Alternatives: Incline Dumbbell Press, Incline Chest Press Machine)

Seated Row
(Alternatives: Lawnmower Pull, Bent Over Row)

Chest Flys
(Alternatives: Cable Cross-over, Dumbbell Pull-over)

Core Plank
(Alternative: Crunches)

Straight Bar Curls
(Alternative: EZ-Bar Curl)

Straight Bar Pressdowns
(Alternatives: V-bar Press-down, Rope Press-down)

Close Grip Bench Press

Dumbbell Curls
(Alternatives: Hammer Curl, Concentration Curl)

One Arm Pressdowns
(Alternatives: Tricep Kick Back, Overhead Extension)

Cable Curls
(Alternatives: Resistance Band Curl, Machine Curl)

(Alternative: Bench Dip)

Step Ups
(Alternative: Walking Lunge, Split Leg Squat)

Leg Curls
(Alternative: Straight Leg Deadlift)

Calf Raises
(Alternatives: Hip Sled Toe Press, Seated Calf Raise)

Shoulder Press
(Alternatives: Dumbbell Press, Cable Shoulder Press)

Lateral Raises
(Alternatives: Cable Side Raise, Bent Arm Side Raise)

Upright Rows
(Alternatives: Bent Over Lateral Raise, Reverse Fly)


Want more intensity? Try these simple solutions for stepping it up a notch:

  • Utilize supersets. Instead of performing each exercise individually combine one bicep exercise with a tricep exercise. For example, perform 8 reps of straightbar pressdowns followed immediately by 8 reps of straight bar curls.
  • Use a partial range of motion. To squeeze out an extra rep or two lift only through your strongest range of motion. When performing a curl, for example, instead of letting the weight all the way down stop halfway and then contract your bicep again to lift the weight back to the top and really squeeze the muscle.

This workout hits every major muscle group in the body. Complete each one of the days above 1-2 times per week. The exercises featured are simple, power movements that stimulate a large amount of muscle fiber for maximum muscle gains and are carefully divided so that you train one group of muscles while resting another.

Of course, if you have exercises that you are more comfortable with by all means, use them. When trying to build muscle fast it makes little sense to spend time learning new exercises or using ones that just don’t do it for you. Choose exercises that allow you to really stress the muscle you’re trying to work.

Apply the tips and strategies found on this page to your chosen exercises, take care to not over train and you should be able to build muscle fast.