Best Way to Build Muscle Fast: What Is the Process of Protein Synthesis and How Often Should You Train?
How often should you train for Maximal Muscle Growth
“How often should you train?” is a question we have all asked ourselves at one point or another. All of us would like to know the best way to build muscle fast, and how to achieve maximal muscle growth in the least amount of time. What if I said you could gain the same amount of muscle mass in one month that would normally take you three months to achieve? If I got your attention, then keep reading and I will share with you what the process of protein synthesis is all about as it relates to bodybuilding and how to use it to your advantage.
So what is the process of protein synthesis anyway? Personally I thought I knew the definition of protein synthesis. It’s really not something you talk about much at the gym. I figured the process of protein synthesis was the breakdown of proteins in the body to be absorbed into the muscle issue for muscle growth to occur. Knowing this, my only concern was to consume plenty of protein to go along with my hard training. So I would pound a muscle group once a week at the gym, maybe twice on occasion, and consume plenty of protein. My thinking was that as long as my muscles were sore, I could continue to consume protein and they would continue to grow until the soreness was gone. Boy was I ever wrong. You see, there was one very important element I did not know about, namely that protein synthesis has a time limit. But before we delve into that, let us get the true definition of protein synthesis.
Table of Contents
- What is the Process of Protein Synthesis?
- Higher weight training frequency
- Best way to Build Muscle fast - Double your gains!
- How often should you train?
- Avoid Overtraining
- My Personal Log: 3 month Test
What is the Process of Protein Synthesis
As defined by dictionary.com, the definition of the process of protein synthesis is as follows:
“the process by which amino acids are linearly arranged into proteins through the involvement of ribosomal RNA, transfer RNA, messenger RNA, and various enzymes.”
I could go on to explain how the DNA is transcribed into mRNA and then out of the nucleus and to the ribosome and then attracts the tRNA to attract amino acids, and the combination of both mRNA and then more about codon in mRNA and anticodon in tRNA and the lengthening of the amino acid chain and on to the stop codon and termination of protein synthesis and how this repeats, or something like that. But all I would be doing is giving you a headache, if I haven’t already done so.
So to keep it short and simple, the process of protein synthesis is the process in which cells build proteins. As it relates to bodybuilding or weight training, protein synthesis is activated by heavy resistance training.
Muscle Growth only occurs during Protein Synthesis
As mentioned earlier, soreness does not equate to muscle growth. A study by Crameri et al (2007) concluded that muscle soreness is primarily from connective tissue inflammation and not so much from muscle tissue damage or breakdown. With this in mind, we would be better served directing our attention at activating the process of protein synthesis and not so much on destroying our muscles with heavy and high volume exercises to create soreness. Hitting your muscles harder with more sets and more reps will not extend the period of protein synthesis.
A study by MacDougall JD, Gibala MJ, Tarnopolsky MA, et al 1995 showed that resistance exercises not only caused a rapid increase in protein synthesis within 2-4 hours, but also that it lasts up to 36 hours. This is very important information for those of us trying to maximize muscle growth in the shortest amount of time for the best way to build muscle fast. Since muscle growth only occurs during the process of protein synthesis, and from what we have learned, it would be wise to stay in a constant state of muscle growth or protein synthesis by working each muscle group every 2 or at least every 3 days for optimal muscle growth in the shortest amount of time.
If you only work a specific muscle group once per week and protein synthesis is only 36-48 hours, you are wasting 5 days of off time or non-growth time that could be better spent working out that muscle again. For a better understanding, let’s illustrate in the table below how downtime could affect your muscle building progress over time.
How many times do you train each muscle group per week?
The Best Way to Build Muscle Fast – Higher Weight Training Frequency
The following tables illustrate how a higher weight training frequency could double or even triple your results. Since the number of days differ for each month of the year, I have taken the liberty of using 30 days for each month to keep it simple. Muscle gain is also based on a scale of .5 pound gained on a once per week workout for one month, which included all muscle groups.
Non-Growth (off time)
Muscle Gain (lbs)
Non-Growth (off time)
Muscle Gain (lbs)
I believe from looking at the tables above, the message is pretty clear. Why waste valuable down time, when you can use it to your advantage and double or even triple your muscle building results. Who wouldn’t want to gain the same amount of muscle naturally in one month that normally would take you 2 to 3 months. Why not add the same amount of muscle in one year that would otherwise take you two or more years to gain. In this case, a higher weight training frequency would absolutely make perfect sense.
How often should you Train for Optimal Muscle Growth?
Some body builders may only train particular muscle groups once per week and still make enormous gains. How is this possible? Naturally, the process of protein synthesis only lasts about 2 days. However, protein synthesis can be extended beyond that time frame by taking insulin, GH, steroids or other anabolic drugs.
The best way to build muscle fast without drugs, knowing what we have learned, would be to train more frequently. Training each muscle group three times per week would allow for optimal muscle growth by keeping protein synthesis active.
You must modify workouts to a lower set volume when weight training frequency is higher. For example, if you were to train biceps three times per week, let’s say Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you could perform 3-4 different exercises with only 2 sets each. This may not seem like a lot, but our goal is to activate protein synthesis to stimulate muscle growth and not to destroy your muscles and with it your tendons and joints. This should only take about 15-20 minutes, which means you still have ample time and energy to add triceps and maybe even shoulders to your routine.
If you don’t believe 2 sets per exercise to be enough to stimulate muscle growth, a look at professional bodybuilder and 6 time winner for Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates’ workout routine might change your mind. His workout routine consists mostly of 1 warm up set and 1 working set per exercise. He uses many of the Weider Training Principles such as forced reps, rest-pause, descending sets, partial reps, and negative reps to complete what he calls a “one all-out-set”. That means using these principles to take a set to complete failure, where it is physically impossible to complete another rep. His belief, and here is the key, is that once you’ve maximally stimulated the muscle with “one-all-out-set”, performing any additional sets for that exercise is overkill since you have already created the stimulus for muscle growth or protein synthesis.
Did you know about the Process of Protein Synthesis before reading this article?
Avoid Overtraining when Weight Training Frequency is High
It is easy to over-train using this higher weight training frequency method. So knowing the signs of over-training is a must. Over-training is not only counter-productive in that you could actually stop growing or even lose muscle mass, but you could also increase your odds of injury. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or those listed below, you may be overtraining. If you continue training with the same set volume you are accustomed to, you will end up overtraining. Remember, with higher weight training frequency you must lower your set volume.
Symptoms of Overtraining
- Unable to complete your workout
- Losing strength
- Losing motivation
- Feeling tired and sluggish
- Losing muscle mass
- Trouble sleeping
- Sore joints or joint pain
- Feeling or getting ill more often
The Process of Protein Synthesis put to the Test
This article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t at least try this for myself and share the results with you. And seriously, why would I not give this a try? If there’s a possibility for me to double my gains…I’m all for it!
Unfortunately to date, I only have 4 weeks of data to share with you. I will however return after an additional four weeks to update my information and share with you my results. I have not chosen to work every muscle group with this method, but have chosen to train biceps, triceps and shoulders 3 times per week. Here is what I have experienced in the first 4 weeks.
Will you be putting the Process of Protein Synthesis to the test?
Week 1: I feel that my first week went quite well. I am training arms and shoulders on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Week 2: I just completed my second week and must say I was feeling as though my arms have shrunk a bit. I can usually gauge my arms by my shirts, and they are fitting more loosely than usual.
Week 3: My first 2 workouts were great. My pumps were solid and I was feeling pretty strong and energetic. Friday was a different story. I did not have the energy, but forced myself to complete my routine. I still feel as though my arms and shoulders have lost some thickness. Maybe I am still training too hard. I will try performing less sets or less exercises next week.
I did not feel burned out or weak on any of my exercises. I felt stronger and used heavier weights this week. My arms are starting to feel a little fuller. So overall, things are looking up right now. I Can’t wait to see next week’s results.
All three of my training sessions for arms and shoulders were awesome! Monday I had plenty of energy. I actually had plenty of energy all week. My strength on Monday was uncanny. I added anywhere from 15-30% more weight on a few of my exercises and felt great! I have received two complements this week, on how I look bigger and more defined. Personally, I am seeing more vascularity in my arms, especially when working out. My arms and shoulders have been feeling pumped all week and I can feel my shirts fitting tighter. All in all, I can say this is all paying off, and I am now seeing more progress than I did a couple of weeks ago. I did have some doubts not too long ago, but now I am feeling very positive and can’t wait for next week. It seems the process of protein synthesis in regards to workout frequency is definitely starting to prove itself - seven more weeks to go.
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If research is correct, then this could indeed be one of the best ways to build muscle fast. I know that I have wasted enough down time over the years, but it’s never too late to catch up. So let’s all put the process of protein synthesis to the test.
Now that you are aware of the process of protein synthesis and how changing your weight training frequency can help accelerated your bodybuilding results, you can now possibly double or even triple your growth in the shortest amount of time. If I have at least peaked your curiosity, or better yet motivated you enough to give this a try, then I have succeeded. On the other hand, if you take action and put this to the test, then you have succeeded…and I wish you the best results.
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© Copyright 2013 Mark LaRue All Rights Reserved
MacDougal JD, Gibala MJ, Tarnopolsky MA, et al.: The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise.
Can J Appl Physiol 1995, 20:480-486