12 Simple Muscle Building Tips

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

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

1)  Do Full Body Workouts as a Newbie

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.

Three workouts per week consisting of a lower body compound movement, an upper body push and an upper body pull would suffice as a good minimalist program. I’d add in some extra work for the upper back, and some loaded carries and sled drags.

2)  After  1-2 Years of Proper Training Switch to an Upper/Lower Split

There comes a time when full body workouts just aren’t as practical anymore. When more exposure to a certain stress will lead to joint issues. And when your warm ups will start to take way longer than you want. That’s when it’s time to split up your training.

And, truthfully, you could do this from day one. A newbie can get results by training on a more advanced plan. An advanced trainee cannot get results training on a newbie plan. That will only lead to joint and back pain.

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.

3) 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.

4) Never Outgrow Pushups

Pushups are a phenomenal exercise. From the day you start training until the day you die.  You never reach a point where you are too advanced for them because there is always another variation. And you can add resistance in numerous ways.

You can do pushups on rings, on medicine balls, Swiss balls, rotating handles, furniture sliders, or with your feet suspended in a TRX or Jungle GymXT.  You can do Superman pushups, archer pushups, fly away pushups, or divebomber pushups.

You can add resistance via bands, chains, weighted vests or a partner holding plates on your back.

Keep them in your program forever and reap the benefits of better shoulder health and improved core strength and stability.

5) Do 3 Big Strength Training Workouts Per Week

Most guys will make great progress with a max of three 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.

6) Go Heavy, When Appropriate

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 very slowly, over time, and you will get strong.  Eat enough calories while doing that and you will get big as well. This is a simple muscle building tip that works every time for everyone with less than five years of training experience.

The game changes for advanced lifters, however.

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, face pulls, all lateral raise variations, back raises, curls, triceps extensions, reverse hypers, external rotations and neck work.

Exercise caution with any isolation exercise or movement that really loads the stretched position.

Also note, that when you are advanced, simply adding weight to the bar is no longer enough to grow. In many cases that will just result in injury. Advanced lifters have to get more creative.

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.

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… Forty to sixty total reps per body part, two times per week will lead to significant mass gains in most beginner to intermediate lifters.

Any more than that is not usually needed.

10) If it Hurts Don’t Do It

You’d think this would be pretty obvious. But it’s not. Hell, I’ve ignored it myself countless times in an effort to be a tough guy and battle through the pain. That proves nothing to anyone. All it does is injure you.

No matter how many experts and jacked up guys tell you about the effectiveness of a particular lift only you can decide if it’s right for you.

It doesn’t matter if “everyone with big legs back squats.” If that exercise hurts your lower back that means it’s not for you. Maybe it’s not for you right now until you fix your mobility issues. Or maybe it will never be for you and safety bar squats will be more effective.

I can’t tell you the answer because I’m not at the gym with you. I can only tell you to be smart and listen to the pain. Work on whatever the cause is and do a replacement exercise in the meantime.

11) For Maximal Size You Must Get a Pump

A low rep, 5×5 workout is fine and dandy for beginners. But there is a reason that no big guys do that forever. It just doesn’t work that well, long term.

You can’t argue with science of hypertrophy (muscle growth). It tells us, unequivocally, that higher rep sets (8-15), longer time under tension (set duration), and cellular swelling (a pump) are requirements for maximal size gains.

It might be cool and cultish so say that you always go heavy and don’t mess around with pump work. But you won’t ever maximize your size gains if you do.

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.