You want to build muscle.
That’s why you’re here.
So let’s cut out all the nonsense that doesn’t matter and get right to the heart of what really does.
Follow these top 10 mass building tips and you will definitely be on the road to getting bigger and stronger, faster than ever before.
1) Do 3-4 Hard Strength Training Workouts Per Week
Some guys can train more often than this but for most average people with busy, stressful lives four sessions does the job quite nicely. This is especially true if you are doing other physical activities such as hill sprints, jumping rope, etc. on a regular basis. When your goal is to build muscle, recovery time is just as important as training time. You grow when you are recovering; not when you are training.
2) Limit Your Workouts to 45-60 Minutes
The hormonal response to training is a very important consideration. To keep your anabolic (muscle building) hormones high and catabolic (muscle destroying) hormones low you want to keep your workouts under an hour. If you can’t get the job done in that time frame you are half assing it. On top of that, results are greatest when energy and mental focus are at their highest. That is during the first 30 minutes of your workout.
Get in, warm up, hit it hard, and get out.
3) Lift Heavy and Use Big, Compound Exercises
Squats, deadlifts, military presses, dips, pushups, rows and chin ups should always be the bread and butter of your training programs. Show me a guy who can deadlift 500 pounds for reps and I will show you a guy with an incredibly muscular back that didn’t require any bent over lateral raises or pullovers.
Someone who can military press 225 for reps is going to have big, round shoulders and is probably not going to need cable lateral raises. If you can squat 315 for 20 your legs will be jacked and I honestly don’t see what a set of leg extensions could give you on top of the squats.
Watch the Worlds Strongest Man Contest on ESPN 2 and tell me if you see massive gaps of missing muscle on any of those guys.
4) Always Keep a Training Journal and Strive to Get Stronger
Progressive overload is the most basic principle in weight training. Ignore it and you will get nowhere.
If you are squatting 225 right now, you better be doing at least 275, if not 315 by this time next year if you want to grow. Without keeping detailed records of your workouts you will never know what goals you are trying to beat.
Keep in mind however, that you can’t make progress at every single training session forever. That would be impossible and attempting to do so would lead to injuries. You will have a bad day from time to time so autoregulate based on how you are feeling each day and strive for long term progress.
But remember this, before you start getting caught up on supersets and drop sets and all that…
The guy who can overhead press 95 pounds for ten reps today is going to be a hell of a lot bigger when he can press 165 pounds for ten reps. It’s that simple.
5) Train in the Range of 70-85% of Your Max (1RM)
For the most part, any set done with less than 70% of your max won’t recruit enough motor units to induce optimal muscle growth. This means that if you can press 200 pounds for a max single you’d want your working sets to be the range of 140-170 pounds. Anything under 140 will really just be a warm up set, not a set that will produce size and strength.
Now, there is some gray area here because you do a get a training effect with sets in the 50-60% range but that is usually reserved for speed and power work.
Anything in the 80-85% range is usually enough to maximize motor unit recruitment right from the very first rep of the set, which essentially means you’ll be stimulating almost all of the available muscle fibers. For most people that is usually somewhere in the range of five to eight reps, which I have always said is the best rep range for drug free, genetically average guys who struggle to build muscle.
After that you could finish off with pump work in the range of 9-12 (or even as high as 15-20 if that represents your 70%). This will ensure that all motor units are recruited, that you have gotten the anabolic benefits of the pump and have maximized your growth potential from that particular workout.
6) Do No More Than 12-16 Top End Work Sets
If you’re training properly and understand that the name of the game is get stronger in a hypertrophy inducing rep range you’ll realize that there’s no reason to do too many more sets than this. And when you compare the training of most big, strong guys the volume ends up being somewhat similar. It may just appear different at first glance, on paper.
Beyond the beginner level most big, strong guys ramp their weights or “work up.” This means you do warm up sets and feeler sets until you get to your top end set of the day.
Some guys may write it as four sets (like Ronnie Coleman), other guys write it as one set (like Mike Mentzer or Dorian Yates) but in the end it’s usually the same thing and everyone is working up toward that top end set.
Very rarely do strong guys do multiple sets with the same weight for the same number of reps (unless it’s a new exercise you are trying to master like an Olympic lift). At least none that I’ve ever seen train or trained with, and that covers a lot of people.
If you were planning to do both a vertical and horizontal press and pull in one workout (military press, bench press, chin up, bent over row) along with some bi’s and tri’s and wrote down every single set you did from the time you walked in the door it would look like a lot more than that. But in the range of 70-85% you’ll really only end up doing a few top end sets for each of those lifts. Doing more than that can lead to overtraining and won’t really help with your main goal- long term strength progression.
7) Make Some Changes to Your Program Every 4-8 Weeks
Your body will eventually adapt to the same stimulus and you need to change things up once in a while if you want to avoid overuse injuries. This doesn’t have to be a massive overhaul but a few minor changes of exercises, grip width or rep ranges here and there will be enough.
Beginners should stick with the same program longer while advanced guys will eventually need to start making some changes every 1-3 weeks.
8) Eat Like a Man
Some guys who complain about not being able to gain size just aren’t getting the job done in the kitchen. I’ve been out to dinner with so called “hardgainers” who pick at their food like birds. You not only have to load plates in the gym but at the dinner table… and breakfast and lunch table too.
If you’re painfully skinny then force feed yourself if you have to. If you’re skinny fat you’ll need to be a little smarter and time your carbs better and lower them drastically. But you still need to eat. Only beginners and some steroid users can gain muscle on a maintenance caloric intake. The rest of us will have to do better than that.
Skinny-fats or guys over 35 may have to focus primarily on protein and healthy fats with smaller amounts of carbs. It’s not always fun or easy to eat that much meat, fish, chicken and eggs but it’s doable if you want it bad enough. Just commit to it and don’t make any excuses.
To avoid getting fat in your quest to pack on size use The Renegade Diet.
9) Sleep 8 Hours Per Night & Take Naps If Possible
Sleep is when you recover and grow. Deep sleep boosts your growth hormone and testosterone levels and also helps manage your cortisol levels and improve your insulin sensitivity. Without sufficient sleep your results will suffer dramatically.
10) Maximize Your Recovery Ability
The workout stimulates the muscles and supplies the signal for growth. Then you have to feed the body and let it recover. This is when the growth process takes place. If you have shitty recovery you’ll never grow. So do all you can to maximize your recovery ability. Take contrast showers or baths after training, stretch, ice, use foam rollers, meditate , eliminate stress, go for a walk or swim on off days, get massages and anything else you can think of to help you recover faster between workouts.
Bonus Tip: Find a Good Training Partner(s) & Gym
Who you train with and where you train can make a huge difference. You may think you are training hard at Ballys until you step into a real gym. You may think you are moving some big weights at Family Fitness until you start training around guys who really know how to train.
Finding good training partners and a good training environment can make all the difference in the world in your progress. When you have someone there to motivate you and to compete against your results will be amplified tremendously.
Since there are fewer and fewer real gyms out there today, getting one or two of your buddies and starting a garage or basement gym might be your best option.