Let’s say you want to gain 5lbs of muscle. What’s the best way to go about doing this as quickly as possible?
If you ask this question to a bunch of different fitness professionals, you’re likely to get a lot of different answers. For example, some people will tell you to focus on legs and glutes because they are the largest muscles. Or back. Or an underdeveloped area of the body (like your delts). Others will tell you to hit a certain number of reps per week, twice a week, on each body part.
All of these answers have some truth. But what if we wanted to get specific and focus on where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck on muscle growth?
The Biggest Muscle Groups by Size:
At any given time, all else being equal, you should be able to gain muscle fastest in these muscle groups, from largest to smallest:
- quadriceps – 29.8%
- glutes – 20%
- calves – 14.1%
- hamstrings – 12%
- delts – 6.3%
- pecs – 4.3%
- lats – 4.1%
- triceps – 3.9%
- traps – 3.6%
- biceps 1.8%
As you see, your quads are over 10x as big as your biceps. And you are likely to gain muscle in your quads at roughly 10x the rate as your biceps. Does that mean you shouldn’t work your biceps? No. But it definitely means that you *should be* working out your quads! Let the biceps join the ride.
How You’ll Gain 5lbs of Muscle
While it varies from person to person, your muscle growth will distribute similar to the distribution above. So if you want to gain 5lbs of muscle, about 1.4lbs of that will come from quads, 1lb from glutes, .7lb from calves, .6lbs from hamstrings, .3lbs from delts, .2lbs from pecs, lats, triceps and traps each, and .1lbs from biceps.
How You’ll Gain 10lbs of Muscle
Again, gaining muscle will depend on genetics as well as which muscles are already overdeveloped or underdeveloped but we can get a general idea of where your 10lbs of muscle will come from. In 10lbs of growth, you’ll gain about 2.8lbs from quad work, 2lb from glutes, 1.4lbs from calves, 1.2lbs from hamstrings, .6lbs from delts, .4lbs from pecs, lats, triceps and traps each, and .2lbs from biceps.
Variables in the speed of muscle growth
How fast you grow muscle depends on a lot of things. For example, if you’ve already been working out a long time, you’ll grow muscle more slowly. If you’re just getting started, you can expect to grow muscle more quickly.
However, to grow muscle quickly as a beginner, you’ll probably need to add more protein to your diet. Most people just getting started aren’t getting nearly enough protein. So definitely keep that in mind.
But back to the point of this post: what’s the best path to growing muscle fast?
Recommended tips for gaining muscle fast:
- Hit all major 10 muscle group at least twice a week for ~30 reps per workout (60 total per week)
- In each workout, do at least one compound lift that hits that muscle group, and one accessory lift that hits the same group
- Eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. More if possible. This could be your biggest bottleneck. It’s not easy to eat this much protein.
- Take 5 grams of Creatine every day with your preworkout or protein drink.
- Take 10-15g of Casein before bed
By taking this approach, you allow muscle to grow in parallel all over your body, rather than on isolated parts of your body. And you make sure your body has the tools it needs to grow muscle (protein).
Yes, you will typically see the most muscle growth relative to the size of the muscle. So quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings, back and chest are going to be the vast majority of your muscle mass growth since they are the largest. 10% growth in your quads is much greater than 10% growth in your tricep.
Still, to maximize overall muscle growth, don’t leave out your other muscles. Letting them grow in parallel is the way to go. Why not get that growth in your quads and your triceps at the same time?
Workout Suggestions for Maximizing Muscle Gains
Day 1 – Quad Heavy
A) Partial barbell squat pyramid
B) Pec Flys
C) Incline DB Press
D) Leg Extensions to failure/burn
E) Walking lunges with weight
F) Calf Raises
Day 2 – Glute Heavy
A) Hip Thrust Pyramid
B) Seal Row
D) Kettlebell Swings
E) Rear Elevated Split Squats
F) Bicep Curls
Day 3 – Hamstring Heavy
A) Conventional deadlift pyramid
B) BB Military Press
C) DB Shoulder Shrug with twist
D) Leg curl
E) Good mornings
F) Tricep Kickbacks
Day 4 – Quad Heavy
A) Leg Extensions to pre-failure
B) Full squats
C) Box step ups
D) DB Bench Press
F) Calf Raises
Day 5 – Glute Heavy
A) Romanian deadlift pyramid
B) Bent over row
C) Face pulls
D) Goblet Squat
E) Lunges to the side
F) Hammer Curls
Day 6 – Hamstring Heavy
A) Single leg deadlift with Kettlebell
B) Plate front raise
C) DB Lateral Raise
D) Stability ball hamstring curl
E) Leg curl
F) Dips or overhead tricep extensions