Build Bigger Muscles and Better Definition
The word “hardgainer” comes up a lot among the skinny guys at the gym trying to gain muscle. You will see these individuals day in and day out at the gym doing everything they can to put on even 1-2 pounds of muscle. I used to be a part of this group, believing that it was impossible to gain muscle. I made all the excuses: my metabolism is lightening fast, I run too much because of basketball, my back hurts so I don’t want to do squats or deadlifts, I eat tons of food but still can’t gain weight, etc., etc.
The truth is, all of those statements above may have been true, but that did not stop me from putting on 30 pounds of muscle in a little over three months. I went from a scrawny 165 pounds to a muscular 195 pounds in one summer.
So what made this transformation possible and how can you do the same thing? Lets take a look:
Your Muscles Grow From Overload
In order to have your muscles grow, you must challenge them each day in the gym. If you are not challenging your body and muscles, you are giving them zero reason to adapt and grow. If you stick with lifting your regular 185 pounds on the bench press and never bump up in weight, there is no reason for your body to adapt to lift more.
The first rule you must understand in adding more muscle is to train for strength gains. The more strength you have, the more muscle you will force your body to put on. Think about this for a second: if you could bench press 300 pounds for 10 reps, squat 350 pounds, deadlift 400 pounds, and shoulder press 150 pounds… You would have one muscular physique.
In order to set out and reach these goals, each day in the gym you must be pushing your body to get bigger and stronger. If you were to head into the gym and struggle with doing 5 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press, your body would work hard to adapt in order to perform better on that weight the next time in the gym. Now this does not mean to go out and try some crazy weight that you cannot do, but this does mean to work with a challenging weight each time you lift.
When you place stress on your muscles, you are literally forcing them to grow. Your body wants you to lift more. It does not want to let you down by halting your progress. Especially in the beginning phases of lifting, you can see great improvement weekly if you push hard in your workouts. As you progress, it may become harder and harder to gain massive amounts of strength but it is certainly possible to always be getting stronger.
Lifting in Overdrive
When my transformation took place, I cannot tell you how grueling the process was. Day in and day out, I trained incredibly hard to achieve the goals I had set. Every rep and every set meant something to me, so I pushed my body to the limits. Getting fit and putting on muscle is no easy task. You will have to get uncomfortable, endure pain (the good kind of course), get exhausted, and push through.
Along with hitting your workouts hard, you must learn to allow your body to recover when outside the gym.
The reason I was and am still able to push so hard each day in the gym is because of my recovery and eating. If you do not allow your body to recover, you will never get the results you are looking for. Your body grows while outside of the gym, during your recovery periods and from the foods you eat, not while in the gym.
The gym is meant to push your muscles hard and break them down so they can rebuild and grow. Lifting in overdrive and recovery go hand in hand. You cannot do one effectively without the other.
Training Like You Mean It
When you are training to add muscle mass, each rep and each set must mean something to you. There is no way you will put on muscle by going half speed in your workouts (unless you are some kind of genetic freak). When you are in the gym training, everything you do should revolve around getting maximum results. This means the number of reps and sets you do, the amount of rest you take between exercises and how intense your workouts are.
After properly warming up and preparing your body to lift hard and heavy, take a look at the numbers below in order to get the best results from your workouts:
Sets: For each exercise, you should have 3-4 “working sets.” This means after you have warmed up, you should then perform 3-4 sets that are solely focused on gaining strength and muscle. For the entirety of your workout, you should complete anywhere from 6-12 total working sets. Some may be able to get away with doing more, but a comfortable number would be to stick with 6-12.
For example, if you were to do a leg day your workout may look something like this:
(Note: The sets below are for after you are fully warmed up.)
Barbell Squats: 3 sets
Deadlifts: 3 sets
Leg Press: 3 sets
Barbell Split Squat: 3 sets
As you can see, the total number of sets done is 12 (3 sets X 4 exercises). This will be plenty of sets in order to help your muscles grow.
Reps: The next key in building muscle is your repetition range. In my experience, working with 4-8 reps works best. This allows you to push yourself very hard and use a heavy weight. When training to add muscle, it is ok to train to failure (just be sure to have a spotter.) Training to failure will force your body to adapt and get stronger for next time.
An example for training to failure would be this: If you were to do 6 repetitions on the bench press, you should choose a weight that you can complete all 6 reps on your own but cannot complete 7. If you can only perform 4 reps with that weight, then it is too heavy. If you can perform more than 6 reps then the weight is too light.
Note: If you do not have a spotter, choose a weight where you will have at least one rep left when you re-rack the weight.
Rest Periods: When it comes to your rest periods, your goal should be to allow your body enough recovery so you can give 100% effort on your next set. Resting anywhere from 1-3 minutes is enough time for your body to recover for the next set.
Total Workout Time: We have discussed this before, and it stays the same even when trying to put on muscle. You do not have to spend hours at a time in the gym in order to build muscle. Your workouts should never last longer than 60 minutes and this includes warm-up and cool down periods. The bulk of your training session should last anywhere from 30-45 minutes, and it should be very focused and intense throughout.
Times Per Week: Our bodies can recover a lot faster than we give them credit for. Our bodies were made to adapt to the things we throw at it, so we can handle quite a bit of stress before actually going into over training mode. That said, we have already discussed the importance of recovery and how seriously you should take it. When trying to build muscle, you can go 4-6 days per week in the gym depending on your fitness level and your bodies ability to recover.
If you find 4-6 days is too much, then cut back and go three days per week to start. If you are training 4-6 days per week, split up muscle groups giving each group at least 1-2 days rest before training it again.
The Importance Of The Right Exercises
I remember working at my very first gym back in college and witnessing gym-goers doing all kinds of wrong exercises. I remember one specific gentleman that would come into the gym and train his triceps for about two straight hours. He would do every tricep lift imaginable and you know what happened? Nothing, his arms never grew and he never gained any weight.
In order to see results in the muscle building category, you have to focus on doing the right exercises. There is a time and place for isolation movements (bicep curls, leg extensions, tricep pull-downs, etc.) but the majority of your workout must be focused on doing the big compound movements. A few examples of compound movements are below:
- Bench Press (flat, incline, decline)
- Overhead Press
- Bent Over Row
- Weighted Pull-Ups
- Dumbbell Press
It All Comes Down To Nutrition
You have heard me say this before, but nutrition is the key to any good muscle building program (or any good program for that matter). 80% of the results you see will come from your nutrition. You can be doing everything right in the gym, but if your nutrition is not on point you wont see your desired results.
Many times when people complain to me about not being able to gain weight, the first question I ask is: “how is your eating?” When you are trying to gain muscle, you must eat a lot of good foods. If you expect to gain muscle by eating salad for lunch and dinner, guess again. In order to put on muscle you must eat, and eat a ton!
There are three macro-nutrients that need to be addressed when it comes to how to eat for gaining muscle: protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Protein: When it comes to protein intake and gaining size, a good rule of thumb is to eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. For example, if you were a 200 pound male, you would want to consume at least 200 grams of protein per day. If you go over the 1 gram per pound of body weight, don’t worry.
You are going to need to up the protein intake in order to fuel your muscles to grow and recovery. Focus on getting protein with every single one of your meals. Spreading out your protein intake over 5-6 meals throughout the day will ensure your body is getting the fuel it needs.
Fats: Good fats are very important when it comes to staying healthy and having energy. The key here is to consume good fats (ones that will help burn unwanted fat). You can include some healthy fats with each meal throughout your day and see great results. Some healthy fats include avocado, coconut oil, grass fed butter, nuts, and seeds.
Carbohydrates: By far the most disputed marco-nutrient out there. In order to gain significant muscle, carbohydrates must be part of your diet. A good rule of thumb here is to eat 1-3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day. Now depending on your body weight, body fat percentage, age, and activity level will determine just how many carbohydrates you can handle.
If you are unsure of where you should start, it is better to start by adding in less carbohydrates and bump up if needed. For example, if one gram per pound of body weight is too little you can easily bump it up to 1.5-2 grams per pound of body weight if necessary. If you start consuming too many carbohydrates in the beginning, this may lead to gaining unwanted fat. Therefore, start with a lower amount of carbs and bump up when needed.
When trying to add muscle, the best time to consume your carbohydrates is within 30 minutes after a workout session. This is when you should be consuming the majority of your carbs for the day. For example, if you needed to consume 200 grams of carbs each day to meet your daily allowance, you should consume 100-150 grams of those carbs post workout.
Choosing the Right Carbs:
Choosing the right carbohydrates is going to be key when trying to add size while not having to worry about putting on fat. Here are a few of the carb sources I recommend:
- Jasmine rice
- Sweet potatoes/potatoes
- Steel cut oats
When and How Often to Eat
You should consume at least 5-7 meals per day (or eat every 2-3 hours), really focusing on consuming a large majority of your calories around workout times. This means eating 2-4 hours before your workouts and within 30 minutes of finishing. Doing this will allow you to properly fuel your muscles while aiding in recovery and growth.
In order to gain serious muscle mass, you must be eating a lot of food. Not only that but you need to make sure you are eating the right foods so you are gaining muscle mass instead of unwanted fat.
Doing What It Takes…
The process of putting on serious muscle mass is incredibly challenging. That said, it is certainly not impossible. If I can go from a scrawny 165 pounds to now weighing in at 205 pounds, anyone can do it. You just have to dedicate yourself to working incredible hard and smart, and stay motivated throughout.
Start by getting better each day in the gym and taking your nutrition and recovery time very seriously. By doing just that, you will be well on your way to having bigger muscles and a well defined physique.
Here’s My Program For Gain Muscle Without The Fat <= Results In Just 49-Days!
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