Build Muscle and Strength in 15 minutes a week

  • 7 Jun 2011
  • Reading time 9 mins
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Learn how to build muscle and strength in just 5 minutes, three times a week, by Antony Haynes, sports nutrition expert.

Although true good health involves a lot more than simply having a strong physique, there need not be a contradiction in aiming for both, as having strong lean muscle is in fact one of the key determinants of healthy aging. As we age, we progressively lose skeletal muscle mass and strength, leading to the loss of functional capacity and an increased risk of developing chronic diseases. Fortunately, this muscle loss can be reversed and associated health risks decreased. What’s more, you are never too young (or old!) to start.

The ability of the muscle protein machinery to respond to anabolic stimuli (which promote growth) is preserved up to very old age. [1]. Watch the video here. So what are the exact health benefits associated with an increase in muscle size? Strength training boosts your metabolic rate. Muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells so increasing your muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic rate. That means you will burn more calories, even when you’re standing still! Your metabolic rate is also to do with how quickly the liver breaks down glycogen or fat for fuel. Resistance exercise speeds this process up.

Resistance training reduces age-associated muscle loss. As we age muscle mass naturally decreases. Strength training not only decreases the rate at which this occurs but has been shown to improve function in daily activities, improve balance and reduce the chance of falls and injuries, especially in the older population. [2] Muscle-building exercise promotes the release of growth hormone and testosterone. As the circulating level of these hormones go up, the stress hormone cortisol goes down.

Cortisol is a major promoter of insulin resistance which is linked to metabolic syndrome and increased cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia risk. A recent study at the Institute of Sports Science reports that a combination of resistance and aerobic exercises produced greater circulating levels of growth hormone and greater improvements in metabolic syndrome factors in healthy middle-aged women than aerobic exercise alone. [3] Strength training increases insulin sensitivity. When you exercise your muscles want glucose so exercise stimulates insulin receptors to become more sensitive, reversing insulin resistance. This means that regular exercise helps your blood sugar to become more balanced because insulin starts to work properly.

There is lots of evidence that increased physical activity improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of diabetes, even without weight loss. It also lowers your glycosylated haemoglobin which is one of the key measures of health blood sugar balance. Building Muscle Muscle-building exercise is called ‘resistance training’ since muscle only builds when you are resisting some force, such as lifting a weight. Alternatively, resistance can be provided by working against your own body weight or from resistance bands. While most of us find it hard to gain muscle but easy to lose, the only way to truly shape your body is by building muscle. For men, this often means larger muscles, but for women, muscles become more dense rather than larger. Of course you don’t have to develop the physique of a body-builder. Both men and women can develop toned, lean muscles which won’t add ‘bulk’ to the frame but will allow them to reap the benefits of strength training and prevent sagging skin and fat.

Naturally diet is important to provide the nutritional building blocks to enable muscle growth. Physical activity and/or exercise stimulate post-exercise muscle protein accretion in both the young and elderly [1], so it becomes all the more important to ensure adequate protein intake from your diet. More on this later.

Why LESS Training Means More Muscle
What first led me to consider doing LESS training was an account of the training programme of the remarkable Albert Beckles in a muscle mag in 1984. The following year, 1985, Lee Labrada won Mr Universe and I read how he would engage in shorter workouts than many of his contemporaries. I was intrigued by the notion that doing LESS but in a smart way could produce the same or even better results than by doing MORE.

Modern living provides us with so little time, it can be a challenge to achieve everything we need to as well as maintain physical fitness. So, the ability to achieve noticeable muscle development and better health in as short a time as possible is a very attractive proposition. In fact, you don’t need to spend half your day in the gym to build muscle. There’s no need to spend hours devoting yourself to the rigours of training. Noticeable gains can be achieved at home, practising simple isometric exercises and requiring very little equipment – just a set of springs that cost about £10. See my video to see how this works for the upper body, and below for how to apply the same technique for the lower body.

Understanding Isometrics
Isometric exercise has been around a long time, and is thousands of years old, with examples from the static holds in certain branches of yoga or Chinese martial arts (kung fu). It remains the best way to achieve greater strength and muscle mass ......

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