How to Build Muscle- The Definitive Guide

how to build muscle massHow to build muscle as fast as humanly possible…

That’s what this definitive guide is all about. Getting big, strong, lean and built like a badass. It’s the summation of everything I have learned over the course of 25 years in the Iron Game.

These techniques helped me overcome horrible skinny-fat genetics and gain 43 pounds of muscle. They’ve also helped thousands of other in-person and online clients of mine achieve similar results.

If you work hard and smart, they’ll do the same for you.

Rule #1:  To Build Muscle You Have to Get Strong

You can’t expect to transform your physique by doing the same workouts over and over. You have to force adaptation to occur. The easiest way to do that is by adding weight to the bar. Get stronger in the range of 6-15 reps and you’ll get bigger.

If there is one thing I can’t stress enough it is the importance of setting rep PRs (personal records). Pick a few key exercises and write down what you can for 6-8 reps on each of them. Now work your way, over the next few weeks/months, up to the point where you can do 12-15 reps on those exercises with the same weight. That’s how you force your body to grow.

Once you get to the higher end of the rep range add weight and start over with 6-8. Simple, brutally effective; no advanced calculus degree required.

One important note here is that you can never sacrifice form for more weight. The reps have to be pristine, textbook reps where you are maximizing tension and feeling the target muscle work through every inch of the range of motion. Quality over quantity.

The bottom line is to get big you have to get strong.

Rule #2: You Have to Use Compound Muscle-Building Exercises

The exercises that allow you to use the greatest amount of weight are the ones that will help you build muscle fastest. You’re not going to grow with a workout comprised of machine exercises and isolation movements.

You have to overload your body with big, manly, testosterone producing exercises.

The best compound exercises for building muscle are:

  • Military Presses– barbell, dumbbell, log
  • Low Incline Presses– barbell or dumbbell
  • Squats– front, safety bar, Buffalo bar, back, belt
  • Deadlifts– trap bar, Romanian
  • Rows– 1 arm dumbbell, chest supported dumbbell, landmine
  • Loaded Carries– farmers, bear hug, zercher, racked, shouldered
  • Sled Work- pushing and dragging

Get strong on those exercises and slowly add weight and reps.

When you can move big numbers on those lifts for sets of 8-12 reps you’ll be a big dude.

Notice that I didn’t include regular, straight bar deadlifts from the floor on that list. That’s because that exercise takes way too much out of you and places a huge demand on your recovery ability. It also lacks the eccentric component so essential for muscle growth.

If you just want to get strong or improve your deadlift it’s a great exercise. But for the purposes of building muscle there are better variations. And many large backs have been built without conventional deadlifts.

The flat bench press is another exercise that doesn’t make the list simply because it’s too risky. If you slightly incline the bench the exercise becomes far more effective for targeting the pecs and removes some of the stress from the shoulders. The 30 degree incline press was a favorite of 6-time Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates for these very reasons.

compound lifts build muscle fast

Rule #3: Complement the Big Lifts with Bodyweight Exercises

Big compound barbell lifts are great but you’ll need more than that for a well rounded physique and injury free training. Those exercises should be complimented by an equal amount of muscle building bodyweight exercises like:

  • Chin ups
  • Dips
  • Single leg squat and lunge variations
  • Pushup variations
  • Inverted rows
  • Plank variations for core strength/stability and to protect your lower back
  • Glute ham raises

The combination of big lifts and bodyweight exercises will produce an athletic, muscular physique that every guy wants.

Rule #4: Use Perfect Technique

This should go without saying, but if you walk into any public gym you’ll see that’s not the case. The perfect rep has several components to it. They are:

    • Get tight from head to toe. Squeeze the bar (or dumbbell) like you’re trying to crush it. If you’re doing a standing exercise be sure to squeeze your glutes and brace your abs.


    • Control the lowering or eccentric portion of the lift in 2-3 seconds.


    • Stretch the muscle in the bottom position.


    • But don’t go so deep that you cause damage. You shouldn’t feel any joint stress.


    • Reverse the movement and start the positive/concentric portion of the lift by forcefully contracting the target muscles.


    • Don’t use momentum.


    • On big barbell exercises you should lockout at the top and reset.


    • On bodyweight and dumbbell exercises where you are trying to get a pump, you should stop just shy of lockout at the top and immediately reverse the movement.


    • Never just go into the gym and start hoisting weight.


    • Do that and you’ll get injured.


    • You’ll also severely compromise your results.



Rule #5: Get a Pump

This goes against the typical hardgainer rules where supposedly all that matters is doing a few sets of low reps on bench presses, squats and deadlifts.  Guys who do that usually end up fat and injured. They don’t grow as much muscle as they could, either.

There’s a reason every big dude on the planet does sets of 8-12 reps and leaves the gym with a huge pump. It works. In fact, it’s essential for muscle growth.

So after you get some heavy work in be sure to include a few (not a million) sets to maximize your pump. When it comes to training for the pump you need to remember that you want constant tension and continuous movement. No pausing for air or a break in between reps. No momentum or letting other muscles take over. Focus on the muscle you are trying to build and squeeze every ounce of effort out of it for a few hard sets of 8-15 reps. If you have been training properly for at least three years you’ll find that advanced pump-enhancing  techniques like drop sets and rest pause sets can be very effective. Just be sure not to overdo the use of them.

Rule #6: “Stimulate, Don’t Annihilate”

This is a quote from 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney. It means you should train hard but smart. Don’t kill yourself in the quest to get big and strong. When you leave a little in the tank, both at the end of each set and each workout, you increase your chances of making progress.

So don’t take sets to the point of failure where you’re turning purple and screaming like you’re getting interviewed by Mean Gene before WrestleMania V.

Work hard, but remember that you want to live to fight another day.

Recovery is like a hole and each time you dig yourself deeper you make it harder to climb out. The only way to fill the hole back in is with more food and more rest. If you overdo it in the gym you’ll need more rest. That means you won’t be able to train as often, at a high capacity. That means you won’t build muscle quite as fast.

Rule #7: Train With the Proper Muscle-Building Frequency

I don’t mean you have to train every day. Three hard strength-training workouts per week is plenty for most guys. If you’re busy, stressed, genetically average and steroid-free that’s all you’ll need to get the job done.

But you do have to train each muscle group more frequently than once per week like most guys do. Don’t listen to your favorite juiced up, genetic freak pro bodybuilder. What they do will be of no use to you.

The more frequently you can stimulate a muscle group, while making strength gains, the faster it will grow. I mean, duh, right? That should be pretty obvious to anyone.

Obviously your chest will grow faster if you train it 104 times per year instead of 52 times.

My favorite template for gaining size and strength is the following:

Monday– Heavy Upper Body

Wednesday– Heavy Lower Body

Friday– Rep Upper Body

Saturday– HIIT/ Strongman Conditioning

Note that “Heavy” is a relative term.

I repeat: you shouldn’t be regularly using low reps and heavy weights in the range of a 1-5 rep max. That will only beat you up.

By heavy I mean bigger, more stressful barbell exercises that allow for greater loads to be lifted for 6-10 reps. Then, on the second day you focus more on bodyweight and dumbbell exercises that are easier on your joints for sets of 8-15 reps.

The upper body gets two training days the lower body gets one, along with a lower body-focused conditioning/HIIT workout on the weekend. The lower body recovers slower than the upper body and gets more use throughout the week when you’re doing conditioning, playing a sport, etc.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Turn Into a Lazy Fat Ass

Despite some prevailing hardgainer myths out there, doing conditioning does not make you small and weak.  Skipping it makes you a lazy, out of shape, fat ass.

Conditioning work helps you stay lean and improves your recovery between strength training sessions. It’s hugely beneficial and has to be a part of your weekly routine. One or two low intensity conditioning sessions and one or two high intensity sessions will be perfect for helping you build muscle and stay lean and healthy.

My favorite choices are:

  • Running hills
  • Pushing sleds
  • Jumping rope
  • Walking/hiking/rucking
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Rowing (if your back can tolerate it)


To gain muscle mass you have to train with passion

Rule #8: Make Recovery a Huge Priority

Training is just the stimulus for growth to take place. You can train your balls off, all day, every day but that doesn’t mean you’re going to grow.

You grow outside of the gym when you’re recovering; not during workouts. If you can’t recover you won’t grow. Plain and simple.

So how do you ensure that you will recover properly from workouts?

By adhering to the following:

  • Not doing more than you can handle in the gym
  • Not training for more than an hour
  • Not using extreme levels of psyche on every set
  • Not stressing out about nonsense
  • Getting 8-9 hours of sleep per day
  • Meditating
  • Doing at least 15-20 minutes of mobility and self myofascial release work per day
  • Doing some low intensity conditioning and/or restorative on off days
  • Taking contrast baths and showers
  • Getting a massage once a month or as often as you can afford to

Rule #9: Eat For Health and Longevity First and Foremost, to Gain Muscle Optimally

Even if you’re a skinny dude you should never go on one of those all-you-can-eat, junk food diets. The old school approach to bulking up is dead. It has failed countless times and simply doesn’t work.

It’s unhealthy and makes you fat. No organsim that is unhealthy will grow at an optimal rate. The healthier you are the faster you will make progress.

I used to believe in the old school bulk approach for young, skinny hardgainers. Then I smartened up.

You have to fuel your body with high quality, real, wholesome food.

Eating pizza, burgers, ice cream and fast food is a really bad plan. Junk in, junk out.

If you put shit in your body you will look, feel and perform like shit.

Your recovery will be slower and you will be riddled with inflammation. So don’t let “bulking up” be an excuse to consume boatloads of crap. You know that cotton candy and soda isn’t healthy. You know that salmon and sweet potatoes are. Most of this is common sense.

Your diet should consist of a lot of the following foods:

  • Grass fed meat
  • Organic eggs
  • Wild caught fish
  • Starches like white rice, potatoes, and quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Fruit
  • Veggies
  • Water

Start with 16 times your bodyweight for total calories. So if you weigh 165 you’ll eat 2640 calories per day. If, after a few weeks, your weight isn’t budging, up it to 17x bodyweight. If you’re gaining more fat than muscle drop it down to 15x bodyweight. Always give things at least two weeks to assess.

Eat one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. That’s plenty. You could probably even get away with less.

Eat 1.5-3 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight (depending on bodyfat levels, insulin sensitivity and activity). Keep most of them around your workouts and at night.

Breakfast should be protein and greens. Eggs, yogurt, meat, whatever.

Lunch should be protein and greens. Chicken, fish or steak and salad is perfect here.

Dinner should be protein and all the starch you can handle. A huge piece of meat, a pile of potatoes or rice with some steamed veggies.

Snack in between meals on fruit and nuts and maybe a protein shake, if you so desire. Real food is always better, though.

Consume an extra serving of protein and starchy carbs immediately after training. If you can’t get enough carbs in around training and at night add some more to lunch. Then breakfast.

And one thing most people overlook is this…

The first step in the muscle building process is to get lean. You should be at least as low as 12% bodyfat before you change your diet up to focus on mass gain.

If you’re fat and you start eating for size you’re only going to gain fat. So get rid of the excess blubber first then worry about getting big.

Rule #10: Consistency Is King

All the above information is completely useless if you don’t apply it consistently. I’m not talking about a week. Or two months.

The person who makes the greatest progress is he who is consistently getting in three workouts per week. The guy who never misses a meal. The guy who always gets to sleep on time. The guy who spends a few hours per week on recovery techniques at home. And does all of these things 52 weeks per year, year after year. That’s how real progress is made.

You have to commit and you have to believe in what you are doing. You can’t be second guessing everything all the time. You can’t change your routine every other week. You can’t be on the internet constantly searching for a better program.

There is no magical supplement or yet-to-be-discovered secret training technique that will help you build 100 pounds of muscle in the next three months. Those things will never exist.

The only things that get results are passion, commitment and hard work. Every. Damn. Day.

Lift weights. Eat steaks. Run hills. Sleep. Repeat.

There you have it; everything you need to know about building muscle.

If you liked this post I would greatly appreciate you sharing it with someone else who might benefit from it. Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply

133 Responses to How to Build Muscle- The Definitive Guide

  1. JONESY October 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Great read Jay! Stay Vigorous!

  2. Gary Deagle October 20, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Nice guide. To some it may seem almost to simple, but no one says the truth can’t be simple.

    • Jason Ferruggia October 25, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      @Gary Deagle: Exactly.

      Matty C- Thanks. I agree!

      Roland- Appreciate it.

      Joe- Thanks for the comment. You are the man!

      Alex- Definitely.

      Atul- No. But when you are older and stronger it can be a good idea to group all big lifts together on two days and then have two days of lighter training with exercises that are more joint friendly.

      Christopher- We evolved to sleep when it’s dark. You’ll always get the best results doing that. Not that a nap is a bad idea.

      Alexey- No, it isn’t. A dynamic warm up of bodyweight calisthenics, mobility work, activation and prehab should take you about 7-15 minutes then you start with specific warm ups on what you are going to be training that day. The whole thing should have you in and out of the gym in about 60 minutes.

  3. Matty C October 20, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Very awesome Jason! I love reading information that isn’t over complicated. Simplicity, brevity and succinctness is the key!! ;-)

  4. Roland Byrd October 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Thanks for the well written and comprehensive guide.
    I think it’s easy to complicate things but you’ve done a nice job of presenting facts. This is good advice all the way around!

  5. Joe Giaimo October 21, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    These are like your own personal 20 Commandments. Pretty sure it should be published and at least be put up in Renegade. I’ve lived by these commandments the past 3 years and have never been stronger in my life. I advise all my teammates and people who I know to do the same and the ones who listen, are the ones who are like – wow it really works.

  6. Alex October 21, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Wonderfull post, right to the point and no BS.
    I just think you should also advise for strict form when advising progressive overload.. the way i see most people trying to impress others by loading the bar and swinging the weight, cheating the whole way and stimulating every muscle BUT the muscle they are trying to work is just simply crazy, wont bring any good results, and may bring a lot of injuries.. i see this even in very advanced bodybuilders, and i dont see this in any powerlifter i workout with, altough they are working with much bigger weights, curious..

    • Jason Ferruggia November 12, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      Dead on. Great point.

      • Al November 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

        Great stuff, thanks Jay.

  7. Atul purohit October 21, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Hi Jason,
    I am following your advice and ideas for more then five years now. So basically I am in touch with fitness industry long enough to develop some of my own theories and methods. I have a question for you. My question is

    Since you are a big supporter of strength building and compound exercises which definitely put too much stress on nervous system which isolated exercise doesn’t. So if we talk about your three day program Like 1 squat session, 1 bench press session and then one dead-lift session which is like father of all to exhaust your nervous system and all this with other compound exercises. Don’t you think it puts too much stress on hard gainer nervous system and hindering there growth?

    And i have met many hard gainer and analysed there body anatomy. Most of them either weak nervous system or impaired nervous system. And all this nervous system sucking compound exercises makes it worse.

    And man you are a really knowledgeable person. So this is just a discussion not a offence to your theories.

    Take care.

    • Jason Ferruggia November 12, 2014 at 8:59 am #

      You have to build up your tolerance slowly. And you can’t train to failure and use excessive levels of psyche. That makes a big difference. And use weights you can dominate.

  8. Christopher October 21, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    great post!

    I have a question about point 18,
    Is Polyphasic sleep very bad for building muscle? if so, how bad is it?

    thanks in advance

  9. Alexey October 21, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    This is truly an excellent post. Thank you…may I ask if there can be a subset in the section on workout length relating to appropriate warm-up procedure? Is the warm up included in the 45-60 minutes? Should it be simply light exercise on the actual lifts we do or a separate comprehensive set to stimulate everything? Would 15 minutes on the rowing machine or nordic track work?

    • Jason Ferruggia January 18, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      You want to do a dynamic warm up consisting of mobility and muscle activation drills. This doesn’t count toward total workout time.

  10. Mike T Nelson October 21, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Great stuff as always Jason! Simple and straight to the point! I am working on getting more sleep myself, as it is a constant battle (but getting better).

    Christopher, I am not Jason and I look forward to his response, but I have not seen much data on polyphasic sleep at all related to muscle building.

    My guess is that it would not be best since we know REM sleep is associated with strength gains (motor learning), and quality sleep helps with GH release and more parasympathetic tone also. Hormonally speaking, we are wired to sleep at night when it is dark for longer periods of time at once.

    Having said all of that, the human body is incredible in its ability to adapt; so try it out and see how it goes for you.

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

    • Jason Ferruggia October 25, 2011 at 9:59 am #

      @Mike T Nelson: Thanks, Mike. I agree.

      Adrian- Yes upper one day, lower the next. Four days per week.

      Adi- Training to failure isn’t necessary for performance, strength or size gains. Gymnasts and Olympic lifters don’t train to failure. It only slows down your recovery.

  11. Adrian October 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Awesome post! If I switch to a upper/lower split, how do I still use compound movements that work the whole body?

    • Matty C October 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

      @Adrian: Mate you should always be doing compound exercises in your upper lower splits anyway. Upper (Bench Press, military Press, Chin ups, Row variations), Lower (Squats, Deadlifts, good mornings, GHR’s, etc.). Keep away from that bodybuilding single joint stuff (leg extensions, hammy curls, tricep kickbacks, etc.).

      • Adrian October 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

        Thanks for the advice, but what I meant was, how do you give body parts the rest time with compound movements? As in, if you do upper body one day and lower the next, compound movements work the whole body, any ideas would be great.

        • Matty C October 24, 2011 at 5:15 am #

          @Adrian: Adrian, compound movements work ‘multiple’ muscle groups at the same time. I’m not sure what exercises you are referring to with your question in compound movements working the whole body – the deadlift is the only exercise I would consider to do that (apart from combined movements – squat thrusts, etc.). Examples of compound movements: Bench press because it requires triceps, pecs, lats, abs, etc. Squats as they train quads, hamstrings, gastroc (calves), glutes, psoas group, etc. Deadlift trains even more as you are incorporating upper body by holding the bar whilst using legs and hips to stand up straight (essentially).
          However, compound movements target some muscles more heavily than others (Bench is pecs/triceps, Squats is glutes/quads, Pullups is lats/biceps, etc.) so even though they train multiple muscles, some muscles are more heavily taxed.
          So to answer you question. Train 3 days per week (Mon, Wed, Fri – for example). Just focus on full body training (both upper and lower body in same training session). That way you’ll get the rest you need with a day in between each session. If you were to train a back to back day, then you’d focus your ‘primary’ exercises differently. Upper focus 1st day, lower focus 2nd day. Hope this helps. I apologise for not being as succinct as I would have liked.

    • Jason Ferruggia November 12, 2014 at 9:11 am #

      All the big movements will have you covered. Press on upper days. Squat on lower days. Chin and dip on upper days. Deadlift on lower body days, clean and press and do snatches on upper body days. Push a sled and do farmers walks on either day.

  12. Uncle Timbo October 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Excellent post!

  13. Raymond October 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    Comprehensive list –

    I wanted to add something to the list but it’s so well covered in just 20 points I couldn’t think what to add in.

    So for me personally the biggest point for me is rest and recovery, I don’t think I get enough of that as I always feel to busy.


  14. timothy lee ming kee October 22, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Jason ferugia, you are beautiful. Please support me.

    Sincerely and faithfully,

    Timothy lee mingle keep of kk sabah Malaysia

  15. bobby October 22, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Really great article all my knowledge and experience completely agrees with this!

  16. Adrian October 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Thanks Matty C, great advice, will give it a go :)

  17. Luke H October 27, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    Always right on the mark Jason. I maintain a website, but I do think this is number one when it comes to building muscle. I am still learning a lot from MGS. As per usual keep the posts coming.


  18. Gav November 4, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    Hey there, I’m in Australia.

    Good article. The only thing that threw me was you saying don’t train to failure. I have always done this and thought that it is a must for getting stronger. In order to maintain my workout intensity I feel that I must train to failure, I mean eventually, if you have a done a few sets, you won’t pump out the same number of reps ás the first set anyway, eg, you may do 10, then 8 then 6 etc – if you fail to reach 10 on set 3 then you have trained to failure by default and the only way to avoid and guarantee you do 3, 4, 5 sets etc with same number and still have 1-2 in the tank it to drop the weight? Surely this can;t be the case?

    Anyway, I’m mainly a bodybuilder, but of late have been getting more interested in functional/strength training – practical stuff with body weight etc – hence following your site/advice.

    • Matty C November 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      @Gav: Training to failure constantly taxes your CNS which results in longer periods of rest required. I think if you experiment with it, you’ll find out not training to failure is superior to get consistent gains. Eventually, if you are always maxing out, you won’t progress.
      If you are getting 10 reps on your first set and only 8 & 6 on next sets then you have two problems 1. Your rest isn’t long enough, 2. Your weight is too heavy for your purpose. Less rest increases intensity which requires a lowering of force. It comes down to simple science. But at the end of the day, you can question the concept (which almost all of the best strength coaches around recommend to not train to failure) or you can keep doing it your own way and see what happens.

    • Jason Ferruggia November 12, 2014 at 9:12 am #

      By failure I mean where you literally fail and the weight comes back down on you or you can’t complete the rep. Always be able to complete your last rep. And without taking ten seconds to do so.

  19. Alex Zinchenko November 8, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Straight and easy to follow guidelines. I wish more people understand and use these simple but effective principles in their training. Good job, Jason!

    – Alex

  20. Jason Ferruggia December 21, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Yup, never train to failure.

  21. Michelle December 24, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    I loved the simplicity of the top 20 things to do to make successful gains in the gym so much, I reposted the link on my page. We all really appreciate the work you to providing the rest of us with real information that cuts through all the crud out there. I stopped training to failure and shortening my workouts a long time ago (I used to be so proud of my 90 min gym sessions), and the gains I’ve made on my small body are great! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jason Ferruggia December 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      Thanks, Michelle! I appreciate the kind words and love hearing about your success.

  22. Mike Wedick January 17, 2012 at 8:37 pm #


    Your endorsement for higher training frequency (4+ days/week) has me thinking – I’m finishing up Phase 1 in 3XM, about to enter Phase 2. As I’m sure you are aware, this is a 4 day split over 9 days – would it beneficial to reduce this to a 7 day spread, thus increasing frequency to 4 times/week?

    • Jason Ferruggia January 18, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Mike, you could definitely do that. I have evolved my training methods greatly over the last few years and will be sharing more and more of it in the near future.

      • Mike Wedick January 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

        Cool, thanks for the feedback. I’ll be doing that (4 days/week) with 1-2 sprint days, fasted walks 7 days/week.

  23. Eirik Sandvik January 18, 2012 at 2:15 am #

    This is a very good article, Jason. Everyone should read this stuff.

  24. Ray January 18, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Wow. Great stuff, man. This everything one needs to know about building muscle.

  25. Jason Ferruggia January 18, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    It sure does, Jose. That’s why I have not revealed all the modifications to my training system here on the blog just yet. I’ve been sharing this stuff in the Renegade Inner Circle for the past year or two and experimenting on all of my clients.

    My training has evolved drastically. Because I have eliminated all methods and exercises that cause minor injuries, excessive spinal compression and joint degradation along with CNS burnout, while keeping everyone much further away from failure you are able to tolerate a lot more volume and frequency which leads to much faster gains.

    If you are doing stuff that beats you up and fries your nervous system while always training balls to the wall and going to failure you can’t train that often. Three to four days would be the max.

    But nowadays I have plenty of people training six times per week with no recovery issues, getting better results.

    I will start to unveil a lot more of this in the near future.

    However, that’s not to say that everyone needs to train 6 days per week. You can still get results with 3-4 days.

    • Jose January 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

      Thanks for the answer

  26. Chris Correia February 6, 2012 at 6:58 am #


    Overall, very good stuff/summary of important points.

    I have one question, though, regarding a matter that most articles that present “This is the way it is” overlook.

    Older trainees, and particularly those that take part in additional activities. And I don’t mean all of the guys in their 30’s who are no longer college athletes and who feel old.

    I mean me. Coming up on 52 years old. And particularly beginner (less than a year of real strength work) trainees. And particularly when we’re also engaged in other athletic and conditioning endeavors (martial arts, skiing, whatever).

    Granted, with martial arts being a primary endeavor, max strength and muscle building are not my top priority, but I emphasize those in cycles. So I admit to digressing . . .

    We need rest and recovery, man! Less workouts per week. Less volume. Less calories. For me, two days per week, basic compound exercises, 3×5, and just easing into extra calories, otherwise it’s too easy to get carried away and get fat.

    Just saying . . . don’t leave older guys behind! ;)

    • Jason Ferruggia March 11, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      Yes sir. But there are plenty of guys your age who are masons or roofers and do inordinate amounts of physical labor every day. The body will adapt if you slowly increase your work capacity over many months and years.

      • dan August 13, 2014 at 6:18 am #

        hey jason, i have been training for around 9 years, not three days a week from the age of 10, but from 10-15 i trained 4-7 days a week, and then began to slack.
        i’m just curious as when i was 15 i weighed around 10-11 st, and am now nineteen and weigh 9-10 stone, with me having trained since a young age, will this hinder my muscle growth? thanks in advance.

  27. Larsen February 9, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Hey jason Nothing is Working for me……………..full body / Upper-lower / Muscle group split type………………I have tried all the workout programmes……..But nothing works. Plz help me

    • Till March 23, 2012 at 8:37 am #

      Larsen: search for Jason’s article “how to gain weight” and APPLY the information in there – all of it, especially the food bit. Do this for three months with no exception and see how it goes. Anybody can gain weight, some people just need a TON of calories.

    • Jason Ferruggia November 12, 2014 at 9:13 am #

      You’ve gotta look at your diet and lifestyle, then.

  28. Rob Daniels February 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Jason, in your muscle gaining secrets program you suggest taking off a week after 8 weeks of hard training. If I’m in a mass building mode do I still eat the same number of calories per day during the rest week even though I’m not working out that week or do I ease off on the calories as well? Thanks.

  29. Carl February 12, 2012 at 10:37 am #


    Thank you for providing this excellent updated information. I understand the principles you have outlined, yet what I need at this point is an explanation of exactly how to put them into practice. In other words, I don’t know how to design a program where I train 5-6 times per week, while hitting muscle groups 3-6 times per week with varying repetition schemes while using proper rest periods and keeping my sessions in the 30-40 minute range. Do you currently sell a program I can buy that covers all of these details? I bought MGS in 2007 and it helped me greatly, but now I want to learn your newest principles.

    Your response to Jose’s post above also includes areas that would help me a lot such as where you talk about “eliminating methods and exercises that cause minor injuries, excessive spinal compression and joint degradation along with CNS burnout, while keeping everyone much further away from failure you are able to tolerate a lot more volume and frequency which leads to much faster gains”. Again I would like to buy a program that covers all of these points.

    Thank you very much for your help.

    • Jason Ferruggia March 11, 2012 at 8:13 am #

      Carl- right now these programs and discussions are only available in the Renegade Inner Circle

  30. Kevin Guzda February 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Hi Jason,

    I have Minimalist Training and Follow Basic programs from that. For years since I was 19 I also follow Brooks Kubik recommended routines and routines from Stuart McRobert and his Brawn books as well as John Christy I`m 38 now.. Actually the program I`m doing now is 3 days a week with 4 big lifts spread out 3 to 4 workouts (70`s Strenght and Mass) over 9 days like you highly recommend in Minimalist and is similar in philosophy to Brooks Kubik and Brawn.

    I do not train to failure and have made good gains. My question is this I have a family, job and other commitments. I love training and I am dedicated bu to be honestt I do not want to do more than 3 weight workouts in a week. Hitting each major movement once over a week to 9 days like you formerly suggested seems to work for me. I know you have evolved some of your training advice but is the “older” stuff in Minimalist still “solid”. I mean I am sure these methods still are time tested and work as you precribed them over several years so do I “need” to change and start working out so many more days per week . Thanks

  31. calem baines February 28, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    what a web site class

  32. Larsen March 10, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    Waiting for answer………………………….

  33. C March 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    I’m confused about some conflicting information. I bought your muscle gaining secrets which I have been following for 2 weeks. On MGS you mention that you should train no more than 4 days per week with 3 being the optimum. But here you say that you should train a bare minimum of 4 days a week. Am I doing enough with 3 days a week?

    • Jason Ferruggia March 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

      Yes, I mean that three strength days is sufficient but you should add one hard conditioning day like hill sprints or sled work in.

      • C March 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

        Hi Jason. Thanks for your reply.

        So I cans till get awesome results on 3 strength days?. I’m thinking of buying a stationary bike. Can you tell me if you still recommend the HIIT on the stationary bike before I make my purchase?



        • Jason Ferruggia April 11, 2012 at 8:55 am #

          C- Yes you can. Yes, intervals on a bike are okay if you absolutely can’t get outside and run sprints or push a sled

  34. Mo April 5, 2012 at 4:50 am #

    Hi Jason,

    I have been training for past 5 years and my Chest & Lats muscle are getting bigger than my arms. I’m not sure how to maintain my Chest & Lats muscle and make my arms bigger.

    Could please advice me with some relevant exercises and rep range to maintain the Chest & lats muscle and make the arms bigger!


    • Jason Ferruggia November 12, 2014 at 9:04 am #

      A lot of “hardgainer” types have that problem. But a lot of times it’s because your bodyfat is too high. Get ripped and it won’t appear that way anymore.

  35. Jim April 11, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Great article Jason. You hit all the major points right on. I like how you answered the big common questions about muscle building, but also the details that often get overlooked like relieving stress and getting enough recovery. I love the foam roller, I also use the hot/cold water technique which seems to help.

  36. Aakash Lengde April 12, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Nailed It! The guide that makes the workout truly worth the work put in

  37. David April 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    pretty much the best article ever.

  38. Robert April 14, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    In point 4 it speaks of conditioning sessions. Do these include things such as Rugby trainings, or 100m sprint trainings? Great website btw.

  39. Cass July 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm #


    I try to read everything you post on your site and I love your material – including this! Not sure if this question has been asked, forgive me if it has, but I know you train men and most of these articles are written with them in mind, but do the majority of the items in your articles about building muscle apply to women as well? (i.e., not training to failure, reps/volume suggestions, etc)?

    I look forward to your reply..and keep up the great work!


  40. Jeems December 20, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Hi Jason,

    Can I use MGS 2.0 to bulk up although I can only lift 3 – 5 lbs. dumbbells and
    have really narrow wrists like a girl? I emailed you but did not get a response so I am posting on your weblog. What if I worked out at the gym for six hours every day?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 12, 2014 at 9:06 am #

      Not a shot. You need to lift some serious weight.

  41. pratap January 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    Dear Jason, I am from India and 20 years 10 months old male and 5feet 11 inches tall. I have been following your blog for the past 3 months and have been immensely benefited. I need a small piece of advice from you. I have been suffering from knee pain occasionally from the past 8 years due to “Osgood Schlatter” which is a small extra bone on my right knee. I have consulted orthopedic doctors. They say that the extra growth diminishes with time and is not a serious problem but they don’t suggest squats. I have been going to gym for the past 17 months. I have reduced my weight from 128 kg to 112 kg. I want to continue this trend and get lean. But when I do exercises involving knees(running/climbing stairs/jumping/cycling/squats/lunges), they pain sometimes not every time. Almost every form of cardio I know involves knees(I have thought about swimming but that option is not available near to my residence) and I want to build my quads and hams without knee pain. Please help me out with this situation. Also, I have gone through your Renegade diet book. I am facing the problem of sufficient protein intake as I am vegetarian and I do not take any additional supplements. I also want to try the products you mentioned but they are not available in any of my locals stores. If they are available in any city of India, please let me know.

  42. RichR January 22, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Looking fwd to checking out the RIC.

  43. Frank Maree March 14, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Hi Jason,

    I just wanted an opinion from you on my workout that I am doing right now. I work out 5 days a week and rest 2, I do 4 sets 8-10 reps each day with HIIT on 3 separate days.

    On Day 1 Shoulders:
    Seated Barbell Press
    Lateral Raises
    Dumbbell Press
    Seated Rear Deltoid Raise
    10 Minute HIIT Training On Treadmill

    Day 2 Chest:
    Flat Bench Press
    Incline Chest Press
    Bench Flyes
    Decline Chest Press
    Push ups on Bosu Ball

    Day 3 Legs:
    Barbell Squats
    Leg Press
    Hack Squats
    Seated Calf Raises
    10 minute HIIT Training

    Day 4 Arms & Core
    Barbell Bicep Curls
    Skull Crushers
    Incline Seated Bicep Curls
    Cable Hammer Curls
    Close – Grip Bench Press
    Ab Crunches with legs Raised
    30 Second stability ball plank
    Stability Ball jacknife
    Oblique Crunches on stability ball each side

    Day 5 Back:
    Pull ups
    Seated Row
    Lat Pulldowns
    Stiff Leg Barbell Deadlift
    Bent Over Barbell Row
    10 Minute HIIT Training Session on Treadmill

    I run 3 days a week as well at about 5.5 to 6.0 for a pace for about 30 minutes. I just wanted to get your opinion or others as well, about losing belly fat or will this work out work as well. My diet plan that I am using, is that I have a Shakeology in the morning, Turkey or grilled or baked chicken for lunch, I also have a salad every other day for lunch or dinner, and for dinner salmon grilled or baked, brown rice, or baked potato, Grilled lean steak, with other of the same, Grilled Chicken of the same side this is on all different days. I was just wondering do I need to do a mid morning snack of a protein bar or nuts, for either mid morning or mid afternoon to help boost my protein intake and burn more fat or what I am doing okay.

    • Jason Ferruggia November 11, 2014 at 9:46 am #

      I wouldn’t do chest the day after shoulders. Try an upper/lower split or a push/pull/lower. Diet looks decent.

  44. CS May 21, 2013 at 6:04 am #

    Hi, I’ve subscribed to you e-mail list for some time. I developed an allergy to all food and so haven’t eaten anything other than eggs and brussel sprouts for 4 months. After this and 8 years of inactivity due to this mystery disease my muscles and fat wasted away. female 5’7″ 120 lbs now. I used to play soccer about 5 hours a day for 15 years. I built up and have a naturally muscular build for a woman. What I am wondering is given this sort of blank slate that i’m at now (because I have figure my illness out and am back to eating anything i want) what is the best course of action I can take to rebuild muscle and specifically to work on strengthening my connective tissue (which is very weak). Thank you for any help.

  45. Martyn c July 20, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    Hi Jason

    I train at home but I would really like chest development – what’s the best chest exercises to do and how many reps and sets? I have free weights and a bench.

    Many thanks

    UK, London

    • Jason Ferruggia November 11, 2014 at 9:47 am #

      I have an article on the site you can search called How to Build a Bigger Chest.

  46. Janni30 March 4, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Hi ! I just read 3/4 of the posts, and I just have to say that Arnold is not mentioned once. Is it just me or does he still have the finest body in the world compared to his best form 30 years ago? I know he ate a little steroids, but I think its even more challenging to master the propotions on the body through training, even though steroids was milder that time.

    Reason why I say this is that I belive he has some good advice gaining muscle too, but I am getting doubts when he recommends aiming to do 10 reps (“with steroids”)?

    I am anti drugs and believe that fish, chicken and nuts is enough for me, and I do support this drug-free article, maybe I came from the wrong corner here, but as a Norwegian I give it a shot! Ive recently Started training my upper body on machines, but looking for the optimal way of developing muscles twice a week to start with. With your experience I just try to make the right questions here on how to make bigger muscles faster:

    I am 197cm, and weight is average with a solid body.

    What muscles should I focus on to begin with?
    Is it okay to only use machines the first weeks?
    So I can start better off with 3 sets of max 8 reps?

    My training instructor at the studio made me begin with reps.12-15, according to what I have read here this is maybe too much to start with…

    I know that I have to just stick to a program and just do it first off, but I just wanna do it as right as possible this time, I need to have some guidelines from real ppl.and not only through what I read, I hate to read and to run/walk, but building muscle is the only thing I really can do and learn to like, otherwise I just work on my computer and watch movies like an off switch. I appreciate any advice, thanks!

  47. Asmar July 21, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    I like the way you have explained the tips, thanks for posting

  48. Jason Ferruggia November 11, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Finally got the comments back appearing on this page so if you guys have any questions or comments please leave them below.

  49. Jack November 14, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Hey Jay,
    Is it cool if I replace both squats and deads with the trap bar deadlift?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 14, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      Absolutely. I actually recommend that to a lot of people.

  50. Chris M November 14, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    I’ve added over 100 pounds to my squat and 150 to my deadlift. I prefer dumbbells and rings so I don’t bench. But I can’t move my overhead press. What gives?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 14, 2014 at 8:49 am #

      This is completely normal. The overhead press is the slowest lift to progress. If you’re only doing it once per week right now I’d up it to twice per week for a while. Maybe even three times, depending on your current split and training age. More frequency usually helps with the overhead press.

  51. MC Breeze November 14, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    I hate resting between sets. I like to keep moving. What’s the lowest rest period I can take and still get results?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 14, 2014 at 8:47 am #

      MC Breeze,
      I’m with ya on that and prefer a rapid pace. Keep moving and push it but just be sure you’re not forced to drop weight dramatically due to oxygen deficit. Build up your conditioning over time.

    • Jason Ferruggia November 14, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      I realized I didn’t give you specifics. But that’s because there are none. It’s individual. If you are doing 2-3 exercises in a row you may be able to get away with very little rest at all. If you’re doing straight sets you’ll need more.

  52. George Willis November 14, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Great post. What is the best single leg squatting exercise, in your opinion?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 14, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      I’d go with a rear foot elevated split squat. A lot of people will find that actually hits their quads better than a barbell back squat.

  53. Ill Will November 14, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    If you could only choose one recovery method to use forever what would it be?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 14, 2014 at 8:45 am #

      Ill Will,
      I’d probably go with the float/isolation tank. I’m a huge fan.

  54. MikeD November 14, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    Thanks for the great post. What are some good subs for the glute ham raise?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 14, 2014 at 8:44 am #

      Slide leg curls with furniture slides, Jungle Gym XT leg curls, gliding leg curls where you get in inverted row position and put your feet on a bench. From there you dig your heels in and leg curl your body.

  55. JCD November 14, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    I know you’re a big fan of farmers walks. How many days per week can I do them?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 14, 2014 at 8:44 am #

      You can do one heavy day and one lighter, long duration day. Go for about 30-60 sec on the heavy day and 90-120 on the lighter day.

  56. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    Thanks for all the great feedback, guys.

  57. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm #


  58. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm #


  59. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    this is a test

  60. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    comment test

  61. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    testing comments

  62. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    comment section test

  63. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm #


  64. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm #


  65. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm #


  66. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm #


  67. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm #


  68. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm #


  69. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm #


  70. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    let’s go

  71. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    do it

  72. Jason Ferruggia November 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    oy vey

  73. Shane Mouton September 29, 2015 at 5:15 am #

    Thanks for this read Jay! On Point!!


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