Have you wondered how fast you can put on muscle? While common belief is that building muscle is a slow process, a study from the University of Oklahoma, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, set out to thoroughly examine that question.
The purpose of the study was to use weekly intense training and frequent testing to determine the precise time it takes for “skeletal muscle hypertrophy,” or muscle growth, during a resistance training program.
- Participants: the study involved 25 healthy, sedentary men
- Duration: the study lasted for an 8 week time period
- High-Intensity Resistance Training: the study’s training program entailed the participants to train 3 times a week with 3 sets of 3 exercises, involving: leg press, leg extension, and bench press exercises. The routine was set to have the participants training until momentary muscle failure occurred. This was achievable in most cases after 8 to 12 repetitions in each set where specific weights were chosen for the participants.
- Testing Measures: the study involved a weekly Computed Tomography (CT) scanner recording of the participants’ whole muscle Cross-Sectional Area (CSA) of their thigh to measure both muscle size and strength.
Here’s what the study’s results included:
The graph above shows the weekly participants’ recording of muscle growth and strength measured by the CT scanner. The top dotted line is the recorded muscle size, and the bottom solid line is the measured strength.
Essentially, the graph shows that from the pre-testing (P1 and P2) to week 8 (W8) there was a total increase in muscle size (CSA) of 13.8 cm(2) or about 9.6%. However, it is important to note that the initial increase in muscle size after the first week is due to swelling associated with muscle soreness. But the researchers, knowing this possible outlier in the study, didn’t actually believe their recordings were significant until week 3, when the measurements were actual hypertrophy.
Overall, these findings suggest that training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy can occur early in a training program, and that it doesn’t necessarily take the traditional view of 6-8 weeks of hard training before you first see muscle growth. The study specifically shows that in as little as 3 weeks, significant muscle growth can start to happen.
Although the study found that muscle growth can happen a lot quicker than traditional belief (of 6-8 weeks), the high-intensity resistance training involved for such results is incredibly tough. Each set required the participant to have momentary muscle failure, where there were 3 sets 3 times a week. So if you really want to put muscle on quickly with fast results, you have to work hard.
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