Ever wondered how long it takes to lose muscle mass? Here’s your answer: you’ll lose about 30% of your muscle strength after just two weeks of inactivity. That’s according to a Danish study published in July of this year, which found men lost both strength and muscle mass in that short period.
Younger guys lost more muscle mass on average than older men, but the point struck home: the longer you sit, the more you lose.
There’s really no secret to keeping your muscle mass other than consistency. You need to be in the gym, regularly, and switch things up when things get stale. A slog? Yes – but that’s the key with keeping muscle. Stay at it, gents, and make it exciting. Have a new workout playlist every few months, and check yourself out to monitor your progress.
As a rough guideline, multiply the time you were out by three to get back where you were before.
Just Two Weeks to Lose Strength and Muscle Mass
The study found that guys who were physically fit lost a significant amount of both physical strength and related muscle mass in just two weeks. That loss was linked directly to the degree of fitness; men who were the most fit lost more, in both younger subjects and older guys.
That muscle loss was equally detrimental to men regardless of age. For young guys, it was the equivalent of ageing 40 to 50 years, according to the researchers, because muscle mass declines normally with age.
As a rough guideline, multiply the time you were out by three to get back where you were before.
Inactivity seems to accelerate that process in a major way. The young men in the study had roughly two more pounds of muscle mass in each leg than their older counterparts. But all men lost muscle when their legs were immobilized for two weeks. The former lost an average 17 ounces of muscle – that’s roughly a pound.
Older guys lost about 9 ounces of muscle mass. But all men lost mass and fitness, regardless of age. And that’s the crux of muscle-building; you get out of it what you put in. Sit on your tail and you’re faced with the unenviable task of starting from scratch.
How To Get Muscles Back
If you lose muscle mass, you’ve got to hit weights. That’s reinforced by another finding from the study, which found that guys took back fitness, but not muscle strength, by cycling three to five times a week for six weeks after their inactivity.
A daunting task? Sure – but you can do it. Grab your iPod and load up some heavy-hitters to get you mad, stoked and otherwise motivated to do your time in the weight room with these following habits for long-term muscle growth:
Hit the Gym Early – This sets you up for muscle growth for several reasons, not the least of which being you’ll boost your metabolic rate for the rest of the day. This also gives you more time to put your protein uptake to good use, which should feed muscle growth and bust fat.
Stick to the Basics – Forget the abs, pretty boy. When you want to get muscle mass, focus on the body parts that really matter. Think chest, legs and lower back at first, with shoulders and arms coming soon after that. You’ll have plenty of time to bulk up your cosmetic muscles later.
Try a (Legal) HGH Supplement – You’re going to hear a variety of claims with muscle supplements. Some folks say protein powder is the way to go, others claim multivitamins and creatine are the greatest inventions since sliced bread. Our take? We’d avoid creatine, which is linked to testicular cancer, and try an HGH gym supplement like HyperGH 14X.
Tune Out Distractions – You’re not in the gym to socialize. Admittedly, it’s hard to not compare yourself to other guys – and yes, some will have bigger guns than yours – but the only person you’re in competition with is yourself.
Get Adequate Rest – Your body needs time to recuperate and control inflammation induced by your workouts. Relax, this is part of the muscle-building process. But you know your body, so look for chronic muscle or joint stiffness. If you’re still sore three days after your workout – and this is common in the first week after a hiatus – take a day or two to let your body catch its breath.
Go Heavy (Some of the Time) – Arnold Schwarzenegger says it’s easy to spot the bodybuilder who doesn’t lift heavy. Add a few extra plates and push yourself. It’s only by blasting through barriers that you’ll see the big gains.
Stick With Your Program – Once you design your workout, stick with it. That may be chest and biceps one day and shoulders/triceps the next. Whatever your muscles targetted, and the reps/sets you want to do, stay with your program for at least two months.
…Until You Hit The Wall – You’ll know it’s time to vary up your gym routine when you no longer see results from your workout. Take a cue from your body here and start a new program when the gains get smaller.
Three Power Exercises
Muscle mass starts with power moves. Think movements that use most, if not all the muscles in your upper or lower body. That’s exactly what you get with these three power moves that pack pound after pound of rock-hard muscle.
Arguably the best of all resistance movements, deadlifts work pretty much every muscle in your body. Chest, legs, shoulders – you name it – and it’s especially good for your lower back.
How to Do it: Deadlifts are a very basic movement, but you need to watch your form because it can strain your back if you’re not careful. To do a deadlift, stand facing an Olympic bar on the ground with your grip wider than your shoulders. Lower your torso and grab the bar, hands same width as your feet. Hold the bar with one hand overhand and the other an underhand grip.
Are you ready?
With your back in and your butt out, and your knees bent slightly, push down on your legs and lift up the bar, then lower it down. The whole movement should take about four seconds.
Other Notes: The bar is too heavy if you have to arch your back to do this. Lighten the load a little – and remember to keep your back in. Go here to learn more about deadlifts and safety.
Squats are up there with deadlifts for their muscle-building potential. Combine them with deadlifts in the same workout and you’ll feel like a monster.
How to Do it: You can do squats a variety of ways, but the most common method is to do them with an Olympic Bar placed about shoulder height in a power rack.
To do it this way, place your hands on the bar wider than shoulder width and rest it on your rear shoulder blades. Lift the bar off the rack, walk backward, and with your back in and butt out, lower the bar so your knees hit a 45 degree angle. Then raise back to starting position.
Other Notes: Like Deadlifts, form matters with squats. Personally, I no longer do squats with this method because I feel it compresses the spine too much, but there are countless ways to do squats with less of a hit to your back. Try goblet squats or do them with a trap bar instead.
Bench may not work your lower body like the previous two exercises, but it’s the epitome of upper body strength. Do bench press right and you’ve got awesome muscle mass in your chest, arms and shoulders – which goes a long way for building natural sex appeal.
How to Do it: Lie back down on a bench and grab the bar with your hands placed just wider than shoulder width. Now, with your feet placed flat on the floor, lift the bar off the rack, lower it just off your chest and raise it back up.
Other Notes: Some guys prefer to arch their back when lifting heavy on bench press. However you do it, always use a spotter with heavy weights.
5 Bands to Blast in the Gym
It’s a lot easier to build muscle mass with the right music. You need to get in the right frame of mind to hit the weights. So get angry – try watching a YouTube compilation of hockey fights before leaving your house. Then blast these bands on your iPod workout list to vent, lift, and just kill it in the weight room.
Just hold the rage ’til you’re in the weight room tough guy. We want muscle mass…not road rage.
Killswitch Engage – I’m sorry, but there is no better band to get you raging and lifting heavy than Killswitch Engage. The Massachusetts-based group just kills it with singles like My Curse and Always, with a decidely cathartic, even hopeful tinge to their lyrics. For maximum punch, listen to Unbroken when you start your workout.
Powerman 5000 – Rob Zombie’s little brother Spider One has fronted these boys from Boston since the early 1990s. Think gods and monsters with a blend of anticonsumerism rolled blasted through every molecule in your soul. That goes well with the powermoves we’ve talked about. Want the best bench ever? Do it to Bombshell – WOW.
Disturbed – There’s a time and place for everything, and Disturb’s role is to get you mad. The band fuses heavy metal and hard rock with angry lyrics and enough power to get you riled up and going hard on bench, squats and heavy stuff in general. Frontman David Draiman looks pretty scary in his own right and is no stranger to power lifting. Are you Down With the Sickness? You will very soon.
Five Finger Death Punch – Vocalist Ivan Moody could pound a hole in your skull with his baritone voice that bellows the Las Vegas group’s brooding and discontent. You’ll find the aptly named War is the Answer is a nice way to transition from perfectly normally to completely nuts. Match it with deadlifts and you’re in for a treat.
Linkin Park – OK, so we’re getting away from anger and carnage hear, and yes we’ll say that dreaded word, ‘mainstream’. But you can’t be angry all the time, and Linkin Park is good for those pleasing metal riffs mixed with a little electronica when you need to tone the intensity down a notch. Heck, if Michael Bay likes them, they can’t be terrible.