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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Need a visual?
For bench press, this would mean controlling the weight down (eccentric) until it barely touches your chest, and then lifting it (concentric) back until you almost lock out your elbows.
Similar idea for squats. Ass to grass. Controlled all the way down, almost locking your knees out at the top.
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.
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?
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.