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Many people exercise to lose weight and become thinner and smaller, but there are also those who want to build muscle – and do it in a big way. It's usually men who are motivated to get bigger muscles, but more women these days are focused on building muscle definition too. What are the best ways to work out for bulking up?
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Genetics Play a Role
How much you can bulk up without “cheating” by using steroids depends on your genetics. Some people are natural mesomorphs and are able to build bulk rather quickly, while others struggle to get significant muscle definition. The type of workout you do and diet, other than genetics, are the two most important factors that determine how much bulk you’ll build. If you don’t have the genetics to build muscle easily, you'll have to work a little harder to get big muscles.
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What’s the Best Work Out?
To develop large muscles, do resistance training at least two to three days a week using heavy weights and lower repetitions. Choose a weight you can lift for a maximum of six times. At the end of the sixth repetition, it should be impossible to budge the weight again. This ensures that you’ve completely fatigued the muscle. Start out slowly in the beginning using lighter weights and gradually work up to heavier ones.
Do two to three sets of each exercise allowing a few minutes of rest between each set. Focus on exercises that target each muscle group you want to develop, but don’t work any muscle group more than three times a week. Always wait at least 48 hours before working the same body part again. Rest is essential for the repair process that causes muscle tissue to hypertrophy. It’s this repair process that causes the muscles to become bigger.
Aerobic exercise is important for the heart, but too much aerobic exercise can limit muscle development. Do short, high-intensity aerobic sessions twenty minutes three times a week, and avoid long-distance running or long aerobics sessions if you’re trying to build bulk. If you prefer longer aerobic session, keep the intensity no higher than a brisk walk.
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When you contract the muscle to lift a weight during weight lifting, it’s called a concentric movement. When you relax the muscle to let the weight down, it’s known as an eccentric movement. If you do the eccentric movement more slowly than the concentric movement, it stimulates the muscle fibers more and results in greater muscle development. The downside is it also causes more muscle soreness. Some experts now recommend that people who work out to bulk up slow down when doing the eccentric portion of a set, but be prepared, it can be challenging.
Finally, it’s important to be consistent with your training and gradually increase the weight you lift as the moves become easier. You’ll only continue to develop if you increase the challenge to your muscles. Don’t forget about diet. You’ll need about 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is higher than what a sedentary adult should eat, but you need more protein if you’re working hard to bulk up. Don’t take it to the extreme. Overdosing on protein won’t build muscle any faster, and it places an extra burden on the kidneys.
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The Bottom Line?
The best way to work out to bulk up is to challenge yourself without increasing weight, be consistent with your workout and diet. It’s important to be patient too. Building muscle takes time.
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European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. Volume 49, Number 3, 301-306.
Powers and Hawley. (2009) Exercise Physiology. Theory and Applications to Fitness and Performance. Seventh edition
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