12 Simple Muscle Building Tips


Here’s a quick list of a dozen simple muscle building tips that you can start using immediately.

1) As a Newbie Always Do Full Body Workouts

As a newbie you need frequent exposure to strength training for two reasons. The first is that you will be too weak to do any kind of damage that will demand longer recovery.

The second is that you need to learn the lifts. When learning anything you want to do it more often than less.

2) Do Some Strongman Training

Picking up heavy shit is what it’s all about. Don’t relegate yourself to nothing but barbells and dumbbells. Sandbags, logs, heavy medicine balls, stones, tires, sleds, and farmers walk implements all make a great addition to any regular training regimen.This type of training builds real world strength and turns you into a beast.

3) When in Doubt do More Chin Ups, Dips and Pushups

These are still three of the best upper body mass builders around and nothing is bound to replace them any time soon. Use chains or weight vest for added resistance or find ways to make them harder, such as doing advanced variations on rings.

4) Do 3-4 Big Workouts Per Week

Most guys will make great progress with a max of four big strength training workouts per week. By big I mean workouts that include exercises like standing presses, squats, deads, bent over rows, etc.

More than that may lead to recovery issues for some people.  Also, remember that mental recovery is just as important as physical.

You will usually be more excited and fired up to go to the gym three or four days a week than five or six. Especially if this is something you plan on doing for the rest of your life.

5) Schedule Your Sessions Optimally

If you train four days per week it’s best to not have two back to back training days more than once. So train on Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat or Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat. If this option if physically impossible for you don’t let it be a deal breaker.

6) Go Heavy

As the great strength coach, Ethan Reeve once said:

I have yet to find a better way to get strong than lifting heavy.”

Load up the bar, keep adding weight over time, and you will get strong.  Eat enough calories while doing that and you will get very big as well. A simple muscle building tip that works every time.

7) But Not On Everything

Having said that, it should be noted that certain exercises aren’t meant to be done heavy. Some of these are split squats, external rotations and neck work.

Exercise caution with any movement that puts you in an unfavorable joint position. But for the big exercises like presses, squats, rows and deads, go heavy.

8) Do Soft Tissue Work

The rumble roller is your friend. Use it often and you will see a great improvement in tissue quality and will feel better all around. Same for tennis balls, lacrosse balls and other forms of self massage.

Getting a smokin hot stripper looking chick to assist from time to time is also highly recommended.

9) Use the Appropriate Number of Total Reps Per Workout

A lot of people like specifics. They want numbers. I don’t always believe in that but to appease them I will say this… Twenty five to fifty total reps per body part, two to three times per week will lead to significant mass gains in most lifters.

Any more than that is not usually needed.

10) Use the Appropriate Number of Total Reps Per Set

All reps are not created equal. One set of 25 is not the same as five sets of five. Heavier weights will bring about an earlier recruitment of the fast twitch fibers and create more microtrauma.  In simple terms you will build “real muscle” faster with lower rep sets.

11) If Maximal Size is Your Only Goal Do Some Pump Sets

Higher rep sets (10 for our purposes here) will lead to size gains through increased glycogen/water/energy storage. This is usually considered “non functional” tissue and training like this can also lead to more soreness and systemic fatigue. But if you are only training for size and strength and not a power sport, who cares?

Getting a pump has some anabolic effects so use both rep ranges to get the best of both worlds (but only if you’ve trained properly for at least a year or two).

12) Use the Right Squat Stance

To find your optimal squat stance get in the exact same position you would play linebacker or guard a guy in basketball in. That is usually pretty damn close. Note the angle of your upper body.

That is the angle you want to be at while squatting down. If you are more upright than that you will be very weak and there will usually be too much stress on your knees. If you are leaning forward any further there will be too much stress on your lower back.

 

 

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41 Responses to 12 Simple Muscle Building Tips

  1. smitty May 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    Good tips bro!

  2. Todd Hamer May 18, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    Anytime you quote Ethan Reeves I will listen!!
    Hamer

  3. Petur Stefansson May 18, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Jason, these are fine tips. I just love to read your articles.

    Petur.

  4. Feliks May 18, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    “Twenty five to fifty total reps per body part, twice per week will lead to huge mass gains in most intermediate to advanced lifters”

    That make sense, but then how come you recommend no more then 2 sets of 6-8 reps per exercise in your intermediate/advanced workout phase. At most that’s 16 reps per workout, half the volume that is quoted above.

  5. Nick May 18, 2009 at 5:35 pm #

    For those of us that aren’t American and have no idea what position to play linebacker in, can you give a description please?

  6. Joe Hashey May 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm #

    Anytime you reference linebackers I will listen!!

    Hashey

  7. jasonferruggia May 18, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

    Thanks Petur.

  8. jasonferruggia May 18, 2009 at 6:24 pm #

    Feliks,
    Muscle Gaining Secrets is for skinny hardgainers. That is not what I recommend for everyone else. Even for them I don’t recommend that in the advanced programs.

  9. jasonferruggia May 18, 2009 at 6:25 pm #

    Nick,
    An athletic stance that you would play most sports in. Picture a guy running at you full speed and you need to tackle him. How would you stand? That is the stance you want to squat in.

  10. jasonferruggia May 18, 2009 at 6:27 pm #

    Joe,
    I hear ya. As long as we agree that LT is the greatest of all time.

  11. Rob Duggan May 18, 2009 at 10:44 pm #

    Whad up Flav. What I feel is the most important tip for most cats out there; ‘the foam roller is your friend’. Well, my friends, its true. Especially, using a tennis or LaCrosse ball… Excruciating and Amazing! The importance of soft tissue, alignment work, and flexibilty is waaay underated. Guys, and gals with 10-20 years of hard, heavy training know what I’m talkin about! Good stuff, Jay.

  12. Mahesh May 18, 2009 at 11:06 pm #

    There are nice tips for muscle building.

  13. navjot May 19, 2009 at 5:18 am #

    i am very weak from muscles,,so plz give me the tips to increase the muscles power…

  14. Crook May 19, 2009 at 6:30 am #

    Tip 13: Train @ Renegade Gym– http://www.therenegadegym.com

    If you want to get bigger, stronger and healthier and live in Central/ Northern NJ, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not training here. Not many places where you can train to a blaring, nasty mix of metal/ hip hop, chalk in the air with 15 strong guys all there for one reason– to kick some ass for an hour. Yet as smoked as you are after training, when the 7pm crew comes in and you see them dialing themselves up for their training session, you want to jump in and do it all again.

    You owe it to yourself– get out of your basement or that public gym and get to Renegade— you can thank me after 90 days when you see your accelerated gains.

  15. John May 19, 2009 at 6:38 am #

    Hi Jason-
    Have been doing a lot of CB’s TT programs and stumbled across your site through his. Have been doing a lot of fat loss programs and have dropped from about 20% BF down to 8% and from 206 to 163. Here are my questions.

    First, I see you talk about sprinting and intervals. Is it ok to be doing these while on a mass building program? I’m currently doing CB’s Meatheads v2.0. I know he says to eliminate these while on the mass program. Wanted to get your thoughts since it seems like you’re saying it’s ok.

    Second, you recommend not lifting more than 2 days in a row. This program is 4 days and my current schedule looks like this…Monday/Tues/Thurs/Fri Should I split up one of the back to back days or stick with this schedule?

    Look forward to hearing from you! Lot’s of great stuff on this site!

    Thanks!
    John

  16. jasonferruggia May 19, 2009 at 7:44 am #

    Rob,
    Unfortunately I ignored this for years and underestimated its importance. Now that I have started paying greater attention to it I feel way better than I have in years.

  17. jasonferruggia May 19, 2009 at 7:47 am #

    John, I have no problem with sprints on a mass gaining phase. It hasn’t hurt football players, who have been doing both for years. Every summer I have football players gain 15-30 pounds while running a few days per week. It’s not a problem.

    I prefer Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat but if you can’t do that and have to do Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri it’s not the end of the world.

  18. Jamie Sulc May 19, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    Great stuff as usual Jason!

  19. MIke May 19, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    Interesting about the 25-50 total reps per bodypart twice a week. I’m not a hardgainer but I’ve seen some really good progress from MGS, but now I’m intrigued about what kind of program you would write for a person of good muscle-gaining genetics. It’d be cool if you did an article on here or on the MGS blog about that – or even write a new eBook/ chapter in MGS.

  20. Brian May 19, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    “all reps are not created equal” ha. yet another dead on article.

  21. Al Jakich May 19, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    Is the picture at the top of the article Vince’s Gym? Looks like it to me. You should do an article on Vince & his dungeon like gym.

  22. Tony May 20, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    Jason,

    Your 12 tips are the kind of “no-nonsense, cut-through-the-crap’ tips that actually help people instead of confusing them. Hardly hear anyone ever mention the foam roller. And “when in doubt do more chin-ups, push-ups, dips” is simply something most trainers can’t or won’t say. Good stuff!

  23. florentino s. bantad May 24, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    many thanks for the info. i love it. i’m 56 yrars old. what can u recommend, i’ve been lifting weights for several years just to firm me up, is that ok?

  24. Neil June 5, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    I agree 100% with these. Recovery is way overlooked IMO. I also love and recommend exercises that use your own bodyweight.

  25. Mike Howard June 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm #

    Excellent tips, Jason! Very concise and to the point. The foam roller has been a good friend – offering mostly tough love : ).

  26. John Geise August 4, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    Jason,

    I feel like I’ve been wasting y time. I keep hitting plateau’s every time I’m about I *THINK* I’m getting stronger. I’ve been doing full body routines.

    DAY 1:Dead Lift (Hammer Strength. So its a fixed motion = / ) Flat Bench and Inclined DB’s, Weighted Dips, One Arm DB Row, Inverted Rows, weighted Pull Ups, Squats….

    Super Setting back and chest 2 -3 sets each. Between 3-8 reps.

    On day 2.. Push Ups (3 variations 9 Sets Total) Pull Ups (3 variations 9 sets total) and Jump Squats.. I throw Bi’s and Tris in occasionally.

    I feel like I’m over and under training. Is that possible? What do you recommend for a 2 day a week full body routine?

    Thanks in advance….

  27. jasonferruggia January 8, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Mike, I have a new program coming out soon that will address this.

    Al, yes that is Vince’s gym.

    John, do less volume and split it up into three days.

  28. Vishwa January 9, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    Hey Jason,
    I’m from india. I should say that i’m a hardgainer and have been training since 6 years. And have wasted my first 3 to 4 years of training without proper knowledge and guidance about dieting and weight training. I have been following your blog since 2 years and have incorporated even the minute tips that you have advised. I’m grateful to say that it changed my ability to lift weights and also my overall torso. I’ve gained 5 to 6 lbs of muscle in just 3 months which i was struggling to achieve in 3 years. I’m making considerable gains now and then, which entirely depends on my office work load. My weakest part is the calves and forearms and i don’t know how to jack them…i mean low intensity or high..love volume or high… Please advice!

    A word for you Jason, “It doesn’t matter how much money we earn or knowledge we gain in our life but what it matters is …how many people you earn in life makes you the most wanted one”

    Well..your advice and knowledge has changed my life!! And i’m sincerely grateful for it. :)

  29. Michael January 11, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    Nice post. Great, common sense advice with no bs or fluff. Thanks

  30. Daniel March 1, 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    Hey Jason, do you recommend using a more tricep specific exercise too in a workout too like close grip bench or will it get enough work from bench press and overhead press? At the moment I do squats, bench press, overhead press and chin ups 3xweek for about 4 sets which comes to around the recommended reps per body part per workout.. but if I add in anymore exercises my workout will surely be beyond the 45 minute mark.

  31. Daniel March 2, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    Actually, after a workout i’ve realised I can fit in some close grip bench press, do you still recommend I do it or will my triceps be stimulated enough through bench press and overhead press? Thanks for your time :) much appreciated.

  32. ryan March 6, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Jason,
    any particular foam roller you recommend? There are hundreds of different ones out there, all different sizes. What brand and size do you recommend based on your experiance? Also, do you foam roll every day as a warm up before you train or do you foam roll at night/morning?

    If I am on a 3 day a week training regimen, how often should I do cardio in an effort to maximize my size and strength gains? Is 1 day a week (sprints) too little? I have found if I do anything more I feel weak in the gym.

    Also, I have been incorporating alot of your diet ideas into my daily routine and have seen amazing results, mostly I have a ton more energy. I went from drinking almost a pot of coffee a day to 1 cup per week, and am drinking only water, no pop, no sports drinks. I have had minor acne on my face and back for my whole life, and now in my late 20′s my skin is completely clear and like a babies! Its amazing really.

    love the website man

  33. jasonferruggia April 25, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    @ Vishwa- Great to hear about your progress! Calves and forearms typically need higher volume than other body parts. Calves, especially. However, if you are a hardgainer I would work on gaining overall mass first and foremost and then worry about specializing in a couple of years.

    @ Michael- Thanks.

    @ Daniel- You could add in close grip benches.

    @ Ryan- I like this foam roller here: http://www.flexcart.com/members/elitefts/default.asp?m=PD&cid=143&pid=1468

    I like foam rolling before and after training.

    Great to hear the dietary changes and paying off for you.

  34. james June 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    You said for beginner and intermediate full body workouts are better, but in the beginner blast off you recommend splits, could you clarify? thanks.

  35. Tracy Langford August 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    As always, great tips. I like to do 10-20 pushups after every sprint during conditioning.

  36. The Warrior December 26, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    This is classic Ferrugia! This one article helped me out tremendously and made it very easy for me to explain my philosophy in strength training and building mass, i merely had to reference this article. Can’t thank you enough Jason!!!!

  37. Raymond - ZenMyFitness December 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I finally found out about all this in the last few months and it’s helped me immensely … I’m going to add in foam rolling this year which I haven’t done before… also get more massages.
    Raymond

  38. Keith October 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    If not you could probably do full body. These are still the best upper body mass builders around and nothing is bound to replace them any time soon. More than that may lead to recovery issues for some people. You will usually be more excited and fired up to go to the gym three or four days a week than five or six. Especially if this is something you plan on doing for the rest of your life. Eat enough calories while doing that and you will get very big as well. A simple muscle building tip that works every time. Exercise caution with any movement that puts you in an unfavorable joint position. Use it often and you will see a great improvement in tissue quality and will feel better all around. Getting a cute girl to assist from time to time is also highly recommended. Any more than that is not usually needed. Heavier weights will bring about an earlier recruitment of the fast twitch fibers and create more microtrauma. That is usually pretty damn close. Note the angle of your upper body. That is the angle you want to be at while squatting down. If you are more upright than that you will be very weak and there will usually be too much stress on your knees. If you are leaning forward any further there will be too much stress on your lower back. I just love to read your articles. That is not what I recommend for everyone else. Picture a guy running at you full speed and you need to tackle him. As long as we agree that LT is the greatest of all time. I know he says to eliminate these while on the mass program. Now that I have started paying greater attention to it I feel way better than I have in years. Hardly hear anyone ever mention the foam roller. Recovery is way overlooked IMO. I also love and recommend exercises that use your own bodyweight. Some of them were totally new to me. The coolest thing about your articles is that. I think Chad Waterbury came up with same thoughts lately. I have to admit I am a bit relieved.

  39. Eric June 23, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Thanks Jason, great insight!…Whats are your thoughts on cleans and snatches?good muscle builders?

  40. harry June 25, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    Great post. Thanks for the great share. I love sprinting up a stairs from the place where i live after a jog as it just felt so wonderful (the after effect!!)

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