Lots of men (and women) dream of getting stronger and bigger, but only a little percentage of them actually achieve a bigger, more impressive physique. Training for muscle mass can be very hard and frustrating and lots of people give up due to this. Of course I’m not saying it’s all that easy and can be achieved overnight, but when you know how to train and just as important (or maybe even more) know how to recover and get the right nutrition it’s possible for anyone with enough devotion.
The three key factors
Through my experience with fitness and everything I read about it I found three key factors that contribute to gaining muscle mass: the way of training, recovery and nutrition. Training enough is important, but too much training unavoidably leads to muscle damage and a decline in growth. Too many people neglect the other two key factors which are just as important if not more important. Let me break each factor down for you to give more information. Because too many people focus solely on the training part I will save that one for the end and start with the recovery factor.
The recovery part of training is a very, VERY important part of the muscle growth process. Without proper recovery you will not gain much progress if any at all. So what’s needed to recover from your training? First of all you need enough sleep, when you’re growing you need more sleep then you would normally need. Sleeping 8-10 hours is the best idea, but I understand that this might not be possible for each and every one of us. If you cannot afford to sleep for this long every night I strongly advise you to take short naps for half an hour to an hour, one or two times a day. Stretching and performing light activities (such as walking, swimming or cycling) on your off-days are also a great ways to speed up your recovery and will relief the pain from sore muscles.
So for the nutrition part I think the most important things are to state that you must never skip breakfast and eat a lot, like really a whole lot. Of course I’m not saying you should snack all day and take fast food whenever you can (although it doesn’t hurt to get some every now and then, studies showed it can even help build muscle just don’t do it every week). I’m only saying that when you eat quite healthy overall it’s needed to eat a lot if you want to get bigger. If you don’t eat enough your muscles won’t have enough nutrients and the growth will be less than optimal. To get back at skipping breakfast, after sleeping for 8 or more hours your body will be in a catabolic state and the first thing you want to do is get it back in an anabolic state and start growing again. For that same reason it would be optimal to never go for more than three hours without having anything to eat!
So finally we get to the actual training part, as there are many training scheme’s and programs out there already I will be giving you a few tips I found very valuable when I tried to gain muscle without going into too much detail of a particular program.
First tip and also the most important one I think I can give you is to keep making progress as long as you want to continue growing. When you think you’re big enough and just want to maintain your current physique it is ok to stop making progress but until this point you should try to perform better each and every work out. To explain this in short: muscle growth is due to the body adapting to new demands, if you keep doing the same exercises with the same weight your body won’t be needing to adapt thus resulting in less or no growth.
Second tip I will be giving you is about the number of exercises and reps to do for each of them. If you take a few compound exercises (preferably with free weights or your body weight) you won’t need a lot of exercises to cover the whole body. Dead lifts and squats are two basic exercises I recommend to use, add some other exercises you like for the upper body to create a full work out. Now for the number of reps, we’re trying to get big here; this means we needn’t do many reps as this will result in muscle conditioning and definition more than growth. What I would suggest is 2 sets of 5-8 reps for each exercise. Make sure you use enough weight so it’s not possible to do more than 8 reps in the second set. If you can you should add more weight and start over with 2 sets of 5 reps. If you think this is not enough to grow give it a try sometimes, you’ll be amazed with the results.
If you want a more complete guide including exercises and more nutrition advice I would recommend to take a look at the Muscle Gaining Secrets from Jason Ferruggia. His work has been very inspirational for me and made me achieve great progress.