How To Get Big

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If your own experiences are anything like mine, your search for answers to fitness questions usually leads to tons of conflicting information. I’m here to tell you why. Most “studies” are funded by people, corporations, and/or government agencies which have vested interests (i.e. making money) or are trying to promote a specific agenda.

Are you tired of wasting your time and money? Tired of following a bunch of bullshit advice that gets you zero results? Tired of being built like a bitch? I was.

And, guess what. I’m here to tell you the secrets… for free. I’ve been through the trial-and-error to see what works, and what’s bullshit. That way you don’t have to.

Nick Hagood - Bicep

These photos were taken a few years apart. Over the years I have learned what works and what doesn’t. I’m headed on to bigger and better size. If you want to learn how to achieve a tight waist and thick, ripped arms, keep reading…

1. Lift Heavy, Primarily on Compound Lifts

Lift heavy for YOU, which means lifting a weight that you can only perform 5 to 10 quality reps with. The most efficient use of your time will be spent working towards lifting heavier weight on variations of big compound lifts, such as:

  • Squats
  • Presses
  • Deadlifts
  • Pulls
  • Rows

Every now and then rotate in higher rep days of 12 to 18. You should focus on your primary lifts until you have gained a stable platform of strength and size. Then you can focus on bringing up any weak points. Excessive accessory and isolation work is generally only necessary if you feel a particular body part is lagging.

The exception to this rule includes rear delts, abs, forearms, and calves. Many men neglect these body parts, leading to muscular imbalances with the added bonus of looking absolutely ridiculous. Don’t be that guy.

Just entered the Big Boys Academy. #MasculinityRising

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2. Eat Big, Primarily Healthy Whole Foods

Diet is the most important factor for gaining mass, second only to working hard in the gym. To gain muscle, you need to supply your body with extra fuel, which means eating a lot more than you’re used to. If you’re not already lean (i.e. less than 10% body fat), I suggest losing weight until you are. If not, you’ll pack on muscle that’s hidden under layers of fat.

Eating a 250-500 calorie surplus each day should yield pretty good results. If counting calories isn’t your thing, just eat a ton of food. Be warned, however. Doing this is obviously less accurate and will make it harder to truly track your progress.

Either way, aim for ~0.5 lb of weight gain per week. Gaining more than 2 lbs per month usually means you are gaining more fat than muscle, unless you are BRAND NEW to training (e.g. “newbie gains”) or taking steroids.

Your diet should come mostly from healthy food sources, and should not be packed full of junk, fast, or processed food. This will aid in your recovery time, as well your overall sense of well-being. Do not buy into the supplement scheme. So many people believe that supplements are the most important part of your diet… and this is absolutely false.

Supplements are exactly that: supplements to your diet. They should not make up the bulk of your diet.

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3. Train Muscle Groups Frequently

Training frequency should be high if you are looking to put on muscle mass. Muscle groups should be trained roughly every three days, every two days if you can handle it. This will lead to faster gains as well as help with any Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) you may experience.

Example Training Frequency:

  • Sunday – Legs
  • Monday – Chest
  • Tuesday – Back
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday – Chest
  • Friday – Back
  • Saturday – Rest

4. Add Weight

You should aim to add more weight to all of your lifts roughly every two to three weeks, more frequently if you’re a newbie.

If you reach a plateau (i.e. stuck lifting the same weight week after week), you should throw in some progressive overload principles such as drop sets, rest-pause sets, and sets to failure.

If you plateau on the scale, you have reached a new maintenance calorie level, so you need to add more calories to your diet. Again, only add enough calories to continue gaining about 0.5 lb per week.

5. Cycle Time-Under-Tension & Full Range of Motion

Performing full range of motion 24/7 is not optimal for building muscle mass, because when a muscle is fully stretched the tension is removed.

When you perform an exercise with a FULL range of motion, it means progressing entirely through a particular movement pattern. Fully stretching the muscle during the negative/eccentric portion and fully contracting the muscle during the positive/concentric portion. This is really great for stretching muscles out and remaining functional with the additional muscle mass.

On the other end of the spectrum is time-under-tension, which includes techniques such as drop sets, rest-pause sets, and half/quarter reps. The focus here is to progress as far through a movement pattern as possible, while maintaining constant tension on the intended muscle group. The range of motion stops when you no longer feel it in the targeted muscles. This helps overload muscles faster and leads to more mass.

6. Stretch

Think stretching is for pussies? Then you might be a dumbass.

Stretching not only helps prevent injury, it also aids in muscle recovery by breaking up muscular tension. If that doesn’t interest you, performing corrective stretching before lifting can help you lift heavier with a fuller range of motion, leading to more gains in less time. Do I have your attention now?

7. Sleep

Seven hours of sleep. Minimum. That is, if you want to gain muscle mass efficiently while avoiding recovery issues. Of course you can get by on less, but less sleep is usually not optimal for most people.

Able to get 8 to 9 hours? Great. Short nap or two during the day? Even better.

Able to squeeze in a quick (20-40 minute) nap after your training sessions? Fantastic.

Sleeping Environment

Nick’s Training

How long have you been training?

6 years, 4 months. Although I dabbled with weight training throughout high school and college, I consider February 11, 2013, to be the day I started my fitness lifestyle.

There have been ups and downs, but through hard work, research, and personal experimentation I have completely changed my physique while learning how the human body functions.

The journey to the top is long, but rewarding, and I have no plans to slow down.

I’ve experimented with many different training styles and diets in an attempt to find what works best for me. It’s an amazing feeling to know how your body will respond to a particular training routine, and I want to help you learn how to do the same.

Why did you get started?

I got fat. Plain and simple.

I’d like to thank all the kegs and pizza senior year of college for that one. That and a lack of discipline and confidence.

When I graduated, I looked in the mirror and hated the swollen, puffy-faced man-child staring back at me… love handles and all.

So I busted my ass to change that reflection.

I cut from ~19% body fat down to ~7.5%. Since then, fitness has become a core part of my lifestyle and I am on a constant journey towards more size, strength, and mobility.

What is your typical body fat percentage?

During the summer I usually cut down to around 8.5% body fat, but I stay between 9—12% most of the year while lean bulking.

If I hit 12.5%, I usually start a “mini-cut” by adding in some additional HIIT and circuits to get back down to a more aesthetic range.

What types of training do you enjoy?

Bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman, and conditioning.

I perform many variations of movements in order to hit my muscles from several angels to encourage the most structural integrity and growth. This has the added benefit of avoiding monotony. Win-win.

I follow effective, challenging training routines, and I don’t follow the herd. You’ll never see me running on a treadmill for 45+ minutes…

Do you eat before training?

I usually have a small meal or snack one to three hours before training, since having a bigger meal makes me feel bloated and sluggish. I’ll train fasted if it’s first thing in the morning.

P.S. If you squat on a full stomach you may want to bring a puke bucket.

What do you do for cutting?

Intermittent fasting is one of the tools I use to lean out so quickly, and 18 to 20-hour fasts are a daily practice when I’m cutting. I’ll usually throw in a cheat day every two weeks, followed immediately by a 24-hour fast, which isn’t difficult after gorging for two hours at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.

This simple tool allows me to shred fat while retaining my muscle and sanity.

What do you do for bulking?

Eat big. It’s that simple.

If you want to be more precise, you can calculate your macros and aim to hit your calorie and macronutrient targets each day. Also, I generally feel best when I’m consuming clean, whole foods.

What supplements do you take?

I’m not too big on using supplements to replace food; however, I am all for using supplements that target various body functions and improve my overall health and well-being.

This is my current supplement regimen.

What training gear do you use?

I am a big believer in unassisted lifting during a majority of training, except in cases when you are using gear to protect your joints or to target a specific muscle group.

Here’s a few things I keep in my gym bag / closet:

  • Wrist wraps.
    • Unfortunately I have wrists the size of a ten-year-old girl, so I frequently use wrist wraps to protect them whenever I’m pressing in the 1-5 rep range. Luckily, smaller joints have the added benefit of aesthetic tapers between the muscle groups.
  • Lifting straps.
  • Chalk.
    • Sweaty hands = bad grip. Chalk = better grip.
    • Don’t forget a chalk bag.
  • Weight belt.
    • I add additional weight to this belt and perform heavier pullups and dips. It’s better for you functionally if you perform these natural movements, instead of adding more weight by using a lat pull-down machine, which is better suited for hypertrophy than a pullup.
  • Fat Gripz.
    • These are awesome for fully activating your forearms and will help add overall mass and strength to your arms, also translating into bigger gains in your other lifts. Just don’t use them all the time.
  • Lifting belt.
    • I’ve been using this fantastic belt from Pump Chasers for a while now when lifting heavier. I typically avoid using a belt for most sets outside of my heavier working sets. This helps you keep a stronger core while remaining safe during max effort attempts.
    • The King of Quality would go to Rogue Fitness for this one.
  • Neck harness.
    • I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have the body of a beast… with a pencil for a neck. I use a neck harness as part of my regimen every now and then. Having a thicker neck makes you harder to knock out too.
  • Knee wraps.
    • Knee wraps help to keep your knees tight and warm while squatting, and the elastic response allows you to lift slightly heavier weights. I have used them in the past when my knees have been hurting, but I have since solved that issue with mobility work. Also, knee wraps can tend to place more strain on the knee joint over time, although you’ll be able to lift more weight.
    • Now, I use knee sleeves for their compression and to stimulate blood flow while keeping the knees warm, without the excessive compression associated with knee wraps.
  • Foam roller & lacrosse ball.
    • I use both of these as part of my recovery routine. Gotta make sweet, painful love to those fascia.

What “gear” do you use?

All natural beef here. I don’t have experience with steroids, but I also don’t have anything against those that use them. Everyone has a choice to make when they get serious about this lifestyle, and whether you’re natural or enhanced, you still have to put in the same work under the iron.

The closest thing to a steroid that I’ve taken would be OSTA-RED, which is nowhere near a steroid. Read my full review for more information.

I also cycle RED-PCT every now and then for testosterone benefits. I absolutely LOVE this supplement. You can read its review here.

We’re all brothers here. I ain’t judging you if you juice. Just be safe and inform yourself as much as possible if you decide to start a cycle.

Do you ever plan on competing?

Possibly in a powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or strongman competition. Probably not in bodybuilding or physique simply because I don’t want to cut down to such a low body fat. My face started to look like Skeletor when I made it down to 7.5%… Not cool. Plus, when you are shredded as a natural, your hormones suffer.


Sometimes I feel like a walking pill bottle…

And it seems like steroids are the only things I haven’t tried at this point. I have no intentions to test them out either, in case you were wondering.

But back to the fact that I feel like an old man when I take my supplements. I mean, seriously. Look at this shit…

Nick Hagood's Supplement Regimen

I don’t take all of these on a daily basis, but here’s what’s in my supplement regimen. This isn’t even including my supply of protein.

It may seem excessive, but there’s a rationale behind each one. Below you will find a breakdown of my standard supplement regimen.

If you decide to try any of these supplements, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. I recommend shit that works for me and want you to benefit from the same things.

Daily or Frequently:

  • Machine Greens + Multi.
    • This supplement from MTS Nutrition allows me to maintain overall health by ensuring I get my servings of vegetables each day, and also has a multivitamin thrown in for convenience.
  • Fish oil (3 g).
    • Adding omega-3 fatty acids can help promote healthy cholesterol levels and joints, and support bone density and serotonin levels.
  • Glucosamine & Chondroitin with MSM (1.1 g, 1.2 g, 300 mg).
    • Supports healthy joint structure and function.
  • Vitamin D (5,000 IUs).
  • NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine) (600 mg).
    • NAC offers free radical protection and immune support, and is one of my prioritized supplements. 
  • Biotin.
    • I take biotin for skin and teeth health.
  • BCAAs (9 g).
    • I supplement 3 grams of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) pre, post, and intra-workout to improve performance and endurance, as well as reduce recovery time. I use a 2:1:1 ratio of valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
  • Creatine (5 g).
    • Creatine increases your levels of ATP, which helps you to lift more weight and increase strength over time.
  • Beta Alanine (4 g).
    • Beta alanine works by increasing your body’s levels of carnosine, which acts as a buffer against lactic acid buildup in your muscles. This allows you to lift heavier and for more reps. I recently began supplementing 1-2 grams of beta alanine with water about 15 minutes before lifting, and I am planning to add in an addition 1-2 grams throughout the day.
    • After about two weeks of supplementation, I was able to extend my volume by two or three sets, as well as reps, on some of my hardest and heaviest lifts. Also, the effects of creatine highly complement those of beta alanine.

On occasion… or when I’m feeling downright frisky:

  • Yohimbine (5 mg).
    • I will take yohimbine whenever I’m cutting to assist with weight reduction in areas that typically hold fat, like the love handles, lower abs, and lower lats. Yohimbine inhibits alpha receptors, which causes you to lose more fat. This isn’t a magic pill, but will offer results if coupled with proper training and diet.
  • Mass Gainer.
    • I absolutely love the taste of MTS Nutrition’s Caramel Machiatto Epic Gains Mass Gainer. This supplement is made from healthy macronutrient sources, and a great way to get in some extra calories.
  • Pre-Workout + Pump Enhancer.
    • I usually don’t spend money on pre-workout and have found that a cup of coffee works just as well in most cases. However, there are some formulas that are superior to others and offer more than just stimulants. Adding a pump enhancer can lead to some sick vascularity in the gym. I usually only take pre-workout if I plan on training heavy with a partner, or feeling low-energy.
  • Horny Goat Weed (1 g).
    • I love pleasing women in the bedroom more than anyone I know, but some days my energy levels are low and I just don’t feel like initiating. Taking one of these turns me into a ravenous animal within an hour, without increasing arousal until things get physical. It makes me more “hungry” and focused, without any side effects, and long-term partners can tell when I’ve taken it (and love it)!

Things I have used in the past, but don’t take regularly:

  • 5-HTP (1oo mg).
    • I used to supplement 5-HTP daily, about an hour before bedtime. I saw results immediately, the very first time I used it. In the past, I would wake up more the closer it was to bedtime, getting worked up and experiencing slight anxiety and racing thoughts that prevented me from relaxing and falling asleep quickly. 5-HTP cleared my mind and erased the constant thoughts from mulling over business, allowing me to prepare for the next day and fall asleep much quicker
    • I haven’t used it in a while because I was able to stabilize my sleeping patterns by using 5-HTP briefly and making adjustments to my sleeping environment.
  • Whey/Casein.
    • Whole foods provide most of my protein, which means I don’t have to wash as many shaker bottles.
  • Glutamine (5 g).
    • I supplement this less frequently of late considering I get plenty of glutamine from eggs.
  • Melatonin (9 mg).
    • During college I had terrible insomnia, and adding in melatonin would help me fall asleep quickly. However, take too much and it causes you to constantly wake and fall back asleep all night. I no longer use melatonin, and find that 5-HTP works much better, with other benefits as well.
  • Zinc (50 mg).
    • Zinc is a mineral that helps to increase natural testosterone production. I tested Zinc in the past and I believe it was helpful in raising my testosterone. Personally, if I didn’t eat before taking a dose, I would almost always throw up. Food for thought.