Strength training has been shown to build muscle and improve bone density, two things that promote good health, longevity and mobility as you age. So, if you’re not already focused on building more muscle, now’s the time to start.
You don’t have to push heavy objects around the gym to build muscle (though that is one way to do it). There are many ways to get the job done. Below, we’ve rounded up 16 ways to build more muscle this year, from dialing in your nutrition to changing how you train:
1. Lift weights. This tried-and-true workout is one of the quickest and most effective ways to get stronger, build muscle and burn fat, so it’s a real triple threat.
2. Pump up the volume. Your training volume, that is. By increasing the amount of reps and sets, you encourage hypertrophy, which is the technical term for muscle growth.
3. Increase the weight. Mix things up on occasion by increasing weight and reducing reps. This promotes strength gains, which help you knock out more reps down the road.
4. Do compound exercises. These moves — think squats or deadlifts — work multiple muscle groups at the same time, which gives you more bang for your buck compared to isolation exercises like biceps curls.
5. Eat protein. For years, we’ve been told to ingest about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. But more recent research suggests we should actually get more. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 1.2–1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is a better target when trying to build muscle.
6. Down some pre- and post-workout fuel. In addition to getting enough daily protein, studies show consuming protein and carbs immediately before and within 60 minutes after working out can aid protein synthesis and recovery.
7. Take a day off between muscle groups. Muscles grow when they’re resting, so take at least one day off between training the same muscle group to allow your muscles to heal and grow.
8. Focus on eccentrics. Lowering into a squat or lowering the bar on a bench press is the eccentric portion of the exercise. According to the European Journal of Physiology, eccentric training is the most effective for muscle growth and strength. So, take your time on the eccentrics, and feel the results.
9. Work your biggest muscles. While everyone likes perfectly sculpted abs and biceps, your chest, legs and back contain some of your body’s biggest muscles. Don’t neglect them.
10. Get enough sleep. It helps your muscles repair themselves and grow. Most adults need between 7–9 hours each night.
11. Reduce your rest periods. Moderate rest periods of about 60–90 seconds hit that sweet spot of tiring your muscles, while still leaving enough in the tank to lift heavier weights. That’s a good combo for muscle growth.
12. Boost your calorie intake. Those muscles need to eat, and you can’t starve your way to muscle growth. In addition to eating an adequate amount of protein, be sure you’re getting enough overall calories.
13. Start your day with pushups. It doesn’t take a lot of time or even any equipment to build muscle. Do a few pushups before you shower each morning, and you’ll help your cause.
14. Try supersets. Trainers love supersets for their ability to efficiently build muscle. They let you rest one muscle group while working another, which saves time and keeps your heart rate up.
15. Have a bedtime snack. Research shows eating 30 grams of a protein-packed snack like cottage cheese before bed supports metabolism and muscle recovery.
16. Plan your workouts in advance. When exercise is on your schedule, you’re more likely to show up. So, make a plan to strength train, stick to it and the results will follow.