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Top 10 Mass Building Tips

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Muscle

Top 10 Mass Building TipsYou 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 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, and playing sports 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) Use Big, Compound Exercises

Squats, deadlifts, military presses and loaded carries should always be the bread and butter of your training programs. Show me a guy who can trap bar deadlift 405 pounds for ten 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 165 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) Adhere to the Overload Principle

Over the course of time you have to continually force the body to adapt.

The same workouts, done repeatedly, will stop yielding results rather quickly.

You need to challenge yourself to do more. Overload comes in many forms. You can:

  • Add weight to the bar
  • Do more reps with the same weight
  • Do more work in the same amount of time
  • Do the same amount of work in less time
  • Do more work in less time
  • Do higher quality sets
  • Be more explosive on your sets
  • Learn to feel the muscle through every inch of the range of motion.

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.

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.

6) Never Underestimate the Power of Bodyweight Training

While squats, deads and presses are great you should also include bodyweight exercises in every one of your training programs. They recruit a shitload of muscle and help you learn the concept of maximal tension.

Instead of machine rows do ring rows.

Instead of lying dumbbell presses do ring pushups.

Instead of crunches do ab fall outs on rings or an ab wheel.

Instead of leg curls do glute ham raises.

Instead of pushdowns do dips.

7) Make Some Changes to Your Program Every Few 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.

If you’re painfully skinny then force feed yourself if you have to.

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.


Leave a Reply

35 Responses to Top 10 Mass Building Tips

  1. Deven July 15, 2009 at 9:24 am #

    Some great tips here! I follow 9/10 of them… I have yet to find a training partner, unfortunately. I have tried, but yielded no results. I am loving my results already, but would still love to find a training partner to push me further. When I read: “If you are benching 225 right now, you better be benching at least 275, if not 315 by this time next year” I always think “That’s it?” I don’t know why.. I just feel like if the person has a year, there should be far more improvement than that. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I am a novice and my dead has gone from 80 to 240 in a matter of 2 months… Great tips and a great program! I urge everyone to pick up MGS if you have not already. Also, following every recovery tip giving shows tremendous improvement for each one.. I just ordered my foam roller after using the gyms a few times and loving how I felt after and my Holosync disks are on their way… Thanks for changing my life, bro.

  2. Andy Campbell July 15, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    Great stuff as always Jay. I am a firm believer in #2 and #10 now. For a while I was half-assing it myself and letting workouts get to an hour, an hour and 15 minutes. Completely unnecessary. I keep a stop watch on and time myself through the entire workout and for rest periods. By keeping an eye on that the last two weeks my workouts have been consistently under 50 minutes, with most between 40-45 minutes. And there is no substitute for a great training partner(s). My greatest gains have come from working with others.

  3. CDUB July 15, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    Great stuff as always Jason! For those interested or doubters of MGS… works. PERIOD. Nuf said.

  4. Brian G July 15, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    An oldy but a goody.

    The bench and military are where I need to improve. Already squatting and DL’ing twice my weight.

  5. Kat July 15, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    Love #10. Never underestimate how the people/environment around you impacts your training. Huge! I wish I could still take naps…

  6. Greg July 15, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    Simple, straightforward and absolutely no B.S. There is room for absolutely zero excuses with this program and that’s why you have to love it. Do the work, make the commitment and get the results.

    I’m digging the meditation c.d’s from centerpointe/Holosync. Now, I just need to find a good training partner and the right place to train and I can put on another 10 pounds.

  7. jasonferruggia July 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    That’s a great attitude and awesome progress. Congrats on that. Glad you are doing so well with MGS.

  8. jasonferruggia July 15, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    That’s key, ya gotta hit it hard and get out.

    And of course you have to have the right environment.

  9. jasonferruggia July 15, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    Thanks CDUB and Brian.

  10. Edwin Sanchez July 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    I have the Arnold Schwarzenegger enciclopedia of moderm Body building .In this book Arnold mention the double split Training. And seems that he takes a l and half hour in each of the trainign sessions. And he recomended for mas and definition .Your recomended for training maxim thirty five or forty five minuts and hig reps with heavy weights. Or the trainign that you mention is only for mass? Thank you for your very interesting articles.

  11. Krishnadas July 16, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    Very good inspiration, Jason! A question — you write:
    “Someone who can military press 225 for reps is going to have big, round shoulders”

    225 for how many reps? Somehow the number fell out.

    Thank you!

    • Jason Ferruggia August 10, 2012 at 8:24 am #

      Krishnadas- I just meant multiple reps. Five or more.

  12. Deven July 17, 2009 at 7:31 am #

    @ Krishnadas: I feel like if they can do military press that much AT ALL, and have perfect form whilst doing so, willl have big round shoulders regardless of the reps.. Hahah. Just my 2 cents.. I could be wrong…

  13. manish bajaj July 18, 2009 at 11:39 pm #

    i m a marine engineer so in my schdule i donot use to get much time
    for sleeping i get 5 hours & for exersice just after my duty i directly do exercice for about 30min
    this is my case
    now how can i gain mass ???

  14. Andy Campbell December 10, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    This never gets old man – thanks for putting this link on Twitter. Its always good to review this list and make sure you are staying on track.

  15. Matt March 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Jason’s talked about this one before; consuming healthfats throughout the day. I like the have a variety so I keep a bottle of olive oil and cococut oil at my desk and I have a tablespoon 2-3 times over the course of a day

  16. Sam- Look Like An Athlete April 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Great tips. It was a few years ago that someone at the gym told me to work out in less amount of time. I was willing to try it as I was getting tired of 90 minute workouts back then. As soon as I went to 60 minute workouts my body loved it and started looking more muscular.

    These days I keep my weight training at 30 minutes and switch my rep ranges every 6 to 8 weeks. I try to change the types of exercises I do every 2 weeks (dumbbells with barbells or
    hammer smith).

  17. Matt- Muscle Building April 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    I’ve been applying your tips for a month from now and it helps me a lot in gaining muscles. I will continue doing your tips and hope i may be able to get the best results as i continue doing these tips. Thanks for the help!!!

  18. JOSEPH July 6, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Finally ,a man who tells the truth on strength training!I will be 65 and have trained all my life(50 years) like you suggest!!!!If you young’ins follow his ideas you will end up with a high testosterone level when you are a Senior citizen and still be able to push heavy iron.My last lady friend was half my age-she thought I was in my late 40’s,I was 63 when I met her.She said I had no right to be strong and fit as I was at my age,and it scared her!A physical from a doctor revealed my testosterone level was for a strong man in his 30’s.Put your time in now and reap the benefits later,honestly.Excellent site and info,you are never to old to learn from a Master.

  19. Niko September 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Drink plenty of water throughout the day. There is not a system in the body that can function without adequate water. When properly hydrated the body functions at it’s optimum level.

  20. Manuel V May 30, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Hey Jason! I’m a college student from México, and the gyms down here are even worse than in the US, and the trainers and general fitness knowledge is probably 5-10 years behind…can you imagine that?
    So I’d love to open a Badass oldschool gym and I was wondering if you could give me a few tips: equipment, certifications, music, posters, anything!
    I’m willing to work hard and study whatever I have to! Thanks!

  21. Ralph May 30, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Ever since I’ve been following these types of principles, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my workouts (now doing 3XM). Combining yoga in with my resistance-based workouts has been really great though.

    I think that there is some truth to being sure to address flexibility along with strength training. You have to be flexible to be strong and strong to be flexible…

  22. The Get in Shape Girl May 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    I’m 100% with you on #3. I’m really ready to get back to hitting the weights hard. Even though I’m a chick these rules totally apply to me and I’m ready to apply them. your wife should come out with a product for girls like us.

  23. Kim September 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Interestingly I had a conversation with my trainer yesterday about my goals as I’ve just started lifting a few months ago. I said I wanted to build muscle and was told I’d need to increase my sessions to 90 mins which is something I’m not prepared to do (working fulltime, small kids at home etc). After reading this I don’t feel so bad saying no I’m not doing 90 mins. Thanks heaps.

  24. NB April 12, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    #2 is wrong. Science proves otherwise in regards so stop putting this in every other blog post of yours. Research shows that longer sessions will raise your cortisol response which will actually BOOST anabolic effects of your workout. New research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology has shown that the higher the cortisol response you elicit from training, the greater the anabolic effect of your session will be. Additional research in the Journal of Applied Physiology and Chronobiology International showed that it’s okay to have high cortisol flux during training because it lowers cortisol levels during inopportune times—i.e., in the presence of insulin—for up to 24 hours. Where you need to worry about cortisol is in your everyday life from stress and chronic stress.

  25. Ryan May 8, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    Jason thanks alot for the article? The best advice I’ve heard ever period. I’m a novice in many respects, just having started out with dumb bells and pull up tower yesterday I purchased a weirder weight bench and 200lb weights, from this I have a Nike resistance band and pretty much that’s it. If I eat heavy and turn this workout into my focal point I can’t go wrong. Never before in life have I been so focused, for the first time in my 36 yrs have I cared about working out. Anyone can email me at [email protected] looking forward to sharing my progress with you… Thanks again Jason

  26. Ryan May 8, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    Btw I’m 156 lbs six foot one and looking to pack on 45 lbs any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated, thanks everybody

  27. Jhony May 27, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    Thnx for this article..

  28. captain arshad July 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    hi ,

    my bodyweight is rihgt now 93 kg i want to muscular with in one month and safe and neat body no steroids nothing just like a supplements what u diciede supplement s and workout my lower portion is good i have fat lower stomach and back and side little bit thats u good advice inshallah thanks .

  29. Fitness Guy August 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    tracking is what I am terrible at. I do find as a 46 year old guy that keeping the workouts intense and short has made a huge difference. Also changing up the routine has always been soemthing that I do well. I hope I am not the only one, but I find that my motivation comes and goes and I don’t usually get those 4 workouts a week in more like 3 workouts or so.

    Oh, and the eating like a man and sleeping, I always think those are the most important outside the gym things you can do. Getting that recovery so that I can go at it harder next time

  30. Himmat September 4, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Hi Jason

    According to #6, you should not be doing more than 12-16 sets even if you are doing 2 or more muscles in the same session? thanks

  31. Orville September 10, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.

    I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently. I am quite sure I’ll learn lots of new stuff right here!

    Best of luck for the next!

  32. kirk March 14, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    hi guys, i’m 42 & i started a workout routine,
    my only prob is squats, they make my lower back pretty soar, im not piling weight on the bar & im paying close attention to form, just looking for some input. thanks, kirk

  33. Kreg Garcia March 22, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    It’s going to take a lot of discipline to pull this one off but if you are into it then you’ll do wonders to your body. The important thing is that to remember this is no contest, make it fun, you’ll be surprised.