How to Build Muscle- The Definitive Guide
How to build muscle as fast as humanly possible…
That’s what we all want to know.
Most of us don’t have the genetics of an NFL running back or pro bodybuilder.
So it’s not going to happen overnight. And no matter what you do or take you will never look like those guys if you don’t have the same parents.
You gotta accept that and be willing to put in the time and effort.
If you’re reading this you’re probably something like me…
- Genetically cursed
- Over the age of 25 (or a Gen X’er like me)
- Narrow shoulders
- Wide hips
- Small joints
- Pipe cleaner arms
- String bean calves
- Pencil neck
- Always getting injured
- Never getting anywhere in the gym
I bought into all the hype and lies and thought that if I just followed the typical training advice (from bodybuilding routines to 5×5) I could look like Arnold or The Rock one day.
That’s impossible. I don’t have anything close to their genetics.
But I did gain 38 pounds of muscle and finally rid my body of crippling joint pain that comes with most training programs.
I’ve helped thousands of others do the same and I can help you too.
Here’s the short, sweet, simple truth about what really helps guys like us build muscle.
Rule #1: Overload is King
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.
You can also do more reps with the same weight.
You can increase the quality of reps and really master the movements you’re doing.
You can be more explosive and dominate your sets.
You can get better at maximizing tension and learning to feel every inch of every rep.
You can do more work in the same amount of time or less time.
You can do more total work/volume. This is very important for building muscle as you progress past the newbie stage.
Rule #2: You Have to Use Compound Lifts (That Don’t Wreck You)
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.
That said, the typical hardgainer advice of doing nothing but squats, deadlifts and bench presses is not a plan you want to follow if you want to stay injury free.
The old school 5×5 style workout like that works for guys with great leverages who are built for those exercises. A lot of skinny-fats try those workouts and get nothing but joint pain and injuries from them.
We need to use variations of the big lifts in order to stay safe.
I’m talking about exercises like:
- Squats- goblet, front, safety bar, buffalo bar, back if you can handle it
- Deadlifts- trap bar, rack or Romanian
- Presses- with an angled or neutral grip bar, using chains, dumbbells
- Cleans- with a log, sandbag or heavy medicine ball
- Farmers Walks
- Rows- all varieties
- Sled 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.
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
- Single leg squat and lunge variations
- Pushup variations
- Inverted rows
- Plank variations for core strength/stability and to protect your lower back
- Iso hold gymnastics exercises
- Glute ham raises
The combination of big lifts and bodyweight exercises will produce an athletic, muscular physique that every guy wants.
Rule #4: To Build Muscle You Need to Train More Frequently
I don’t mean you have to train every day.
I mean that you 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 us.
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.
One of my favorite go-to splits for gaining size and strength is the following:
Monday- Heavy Upper Body
Wednesday- Heavy Lower Body
Friday- Rep Upper Body
Saturday- Rep Lower Body or Strongman Training
Note that “Heavy” is a relative term.
I repeat: you shouldn’t be 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 lifts that allow for greater loads to be lifted. Then, on the second day you focus more on bodyweight and dumbbell exercises that are easier on your joints.
If you want to add an extra day to pump up the arms on Saturday I have no problem with that.
Rule #5: TRAIN FUCKING HARD
Most people have no idea what hard work is.
Those people never get results.
Unless you truly love going to the gym and giving it your all you’ll never get much bigger or stronger. If you’re just gonna go through the motions and phone it in don’t even waste your time. It’s not worth it.
Only those who absolutely love this shit, those who go to the gym and bust their asses with passion and intensity will make significant gains.
If you’re constantly doubting and second guessing your program, always looking for a better workout, over analyzing everything you do because you’ve read too much conflicting info on the internet, you will always be small and weak. That’s just how it is.
Believe in what you’re doing and know that doing anything you aren’t truly passionate about is a complete waste of time and energy.
Rule #6: 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
- Doing at least 20 minutes of mobility work per day
- Doing at least 20 minutes of self myofascial release (foam rolling, LAX balls, etc.) per day
- Doing some low intensity conditioning and/or restorative yoga on off days
- Taking contrast baths and showers
- Getting a massage once a month or as often as you can afford to
Rule #7: You Have to Eat For Health, Longevity and Performance 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.
I used to believe in that approach for young, skinny hardgainers. Then I smartened up and realized that if you’re not healthy you’ll never get optimal results.
Eating pizza, burgers and ice cream 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.
Your diet should consist of:
- Starches like rice, potatoes, quinoa, and gluten free oats
- Grass fed meat
- Organic eggs
- Wild caught fish
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.
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.