One of the most-asked questions in the bodybuilding world is how to achieve better results faster when it comes to building muscle. The most common response is that it takes time and patience, but there are some ways to build more muscle fast – or at least faster.
Naturally shortening time between sets, adding more reps per set and even adding more sets to your workout can all add to your hypertrophy – but only up to a point. Overdoing it can be as bad as skipping the workout, as the body needs to be able to recover sufficiently between workouts. Overtraining can lead to injury, burnout, demotivation and even muscle loss.
That’s where these techniques come in handy, as you only add them once or twice a week, and only on one or two of the exercises you’re doing that day. So let’s take a look at drop sets, super-slow reps and forced negatives, each of which can help you build muscle faster when added to your workouts prudently.
Drop sets are an add-on to your final set of an exercise. You’ve completed your 4 or 5 sets and as you finish that last set, with as little break as possible you reduce the weight by 10 – 20% and do as many more reps as you can. When that’s done, immediately remove another 20% of the weight and rep out again. Again, only do this on one or two exercises per workout.
Another tip for building more muscle quicker is to slow down your reps – a lot. Try for 2-3 seconds when you’re contracting the muscle, and 4-6 seconds when you’re returning to the starting point, with no pause at the top or bottom of the exercise. Super-slow sets stop you from using momentum to keep the target muscles working harder and let you focus entirely on feeling each rep and the muscle you are targeting. This increased mind-muscle connection and increased time under tension will go a long way to helping you build muscle, even if you have to use slightly lighter weights to maintain proper exercise form.
The third technique for today is forced negatives. The negative part of any exercise is the half from fully contracted muscle back to the original starting point. On a curl, for example, it’s the lowering of the weight back down to full extension, while on a lat pulldown it’s letting the bar or handle go back up to the top. Since it takes a greater weight to fatigue the negative than the positive, finish your last set and then increase the weight beyond your capacity to lift it and focus strictly on the negative.
This is a more advanced method, and you need to be very careful to avoid injury. You’ll need a spotter or workout partner to help you with the lift in exercises like bench press or barbell curl since the weight is 20% over your max, and then they can let you lower the weight slowly and under control on your own – although they still need to spot you on the bench press.
This last method is also a great help if you’re weight training at home and only have dumbbells to use. In the gym there’s no problem as you get stronger in dumbbell curls – you just move up to the next weight. But training at home usually means you’ve only got so many dumbbells and soon no way to increase the weight. So after you’ve used super-slow sets you can move on to forced negatives by using one hand at a time for the negative, while using both hands to raise the weight.
Do your dumbbell curls to failure and when you can’t get another rep, use both hands to raise the weight and lower it as slowly as possible using just one arm. This technique can also be used with bent rows, triceps extensions etc., but please don’t try it with squats as there is just too much chance of injury, even with a spotter.
So use these techniques to build your muscle mass faster with your home workouts – or even in the gym. Keep on track and make sure your sleep and nutrition are also on point for the best results. And be sure to post your results on social media, both to show you your progress over time and to inspire your followers!
Doug Champigny is a certified personal trainer and certified fitness instructor who competed in his first bodybuilding competition at the age of 61 and is now enjoying the sport of powerlifting. To help you get started building more muscle faster, be sure to check out his video demonstration of over 30 dumbbell exercises you can do at home or in the gym. For ongoing fitness advice, follow Team Champigny on Instagram.