I get some sporadic emails from guys who request advice on how they can pack on some muscle after theyâ€™ve read my article on lifting weights.
Itâ€™s always surprising to me because AFTER you go through the whole process of absorbing all the information on gaining muscle, sifting through whatâ€™s right and whatâ€™s wrong, experimenting, etc., the information thatâ€™s correct looks to be like common sense and because of that, you assume everyone else already knows about it, but when I think way back to when I first started with all this, I remember being so lost with all the information out there that I figured imparting the knowledge Iâ€™ve learned in one article would be helpful to those people just starting out.
Below is what I could pull from memory, but I think itâ€™s still a pretty solid foundation when it comes to building muscle via lifting weights. It should be enough to help you start putting some muscle on your body.
Please keep in mind I might have left some things out as itâ€™s been many years since Iâ€™ve done this research, but Iâ€™m pretty sure the information here covers a lot of the stuff you need to know.
If you’re single, your life will change when you do this. I guarantee it. And if you’re married, your wife will thank you if you do this as well ;).
Please consult your doctor before going on any exercise or diet program.
Most sites will start off talking about exercises, supplements, nutrition, etc., but I decided to start off with the most important concept when it comes to gaining muscle.
I cannot stress how important the following concept is because it lays the whole foundation of everything that weâ€™re going to talk about.
What youâ€™ll find is most people get all hyped up about the idea of transforming their body. They go sign up for a gym membership, buy the supplements, buy the workout clothes, lift weights for one week, then quit. What were they lacking?
Consistent motivation is the foundation.
Notice that itâ€™s not just motivation, but consistent motivation. Thatâ€™s what they are lacking.
So above ALL ELSE, above the gym membership, the supplements, the diet, the exercise, you MUST give yourself REASONS to build your body, ones that will create CONSISTENT MOTIVATION.
That is the key to transforming your body.
No fancy gym, no amount of supplements, no amount of food or correct exercises will get you there.
They are all lying on the foundation of CONSISTENT MOTIVATION that you, and you alone must create.
A house built on a weak foundation will crumble.
A house built on a strong foundation will be able to weather anything.
Trust me when I say that this is half the battle (actually more than half) and if you can nail this, youâ€™re pretty much all set.
Master this and youâ€™re almost there. Everything else will take care of itself.
Hereâ€™s the other half of the formula for gaining muscle:
1. Lift big.
2. Eat big (and smart).
Be consistent in all three.
Thatâ€™s it. Itâ€™s that simple.
So letâ€™s dive into the details.
1. Training (Lift Big)
Create a weekly schedule and try to lift at least 3 times a week. You can alternate training days with â€śrestingâ€ť days. For example, you could lift on Monday, rest Tuesday, lift again on Wednesday, rest Thursday, etc.
Youâ€™re going to want to devote each training day to four things.
1. The muscle group you want to target.
2. The exercises youâ€™re going to do for that muscle group.
3. The number of sets per exercise.
4. The number of reps per set.
Youâ€™ll want to shoot for 3 sets of 4-6 reps for each exercise you plan to do.
A set is simply defined as a specific number of consecutive reps.
When you lift once and bring the weight back to its original place – that counts as one rep.
You do 6 reps, thatâ€™s 1 set.
When you first start out, youâ€™re going to have to experiment to see which weight is a good one to start off with for each exercise.
You want weights where you can do 4-6 reps only for that particular exercise. That means on the 6th rep, you are huffing and puffing like an animal. Itâ€™s important to follow through on those last reps because thatâ€™s where all the magic happens.
As for the type of exercises to do, thatâ€™s pretty easy information you can find at bodybuilding.com. Bench, deadlift, shoulder press, squats (you will HATE squats when you first start out, but youâ€™ll learn to love them. They are by far the most mentally and physically draining of all exercises) are a few that come to mind.
Concentrate on each rep. DONâ€™T CHEAT. Do it with proper form (when you go to bodybuilding.com, youâ€™ll find instructions for proper form as well).
WRITE YOUR SCHEDULE DOWN. This includes the days you plan to train, the muscle groups you plan to train that day, the exercises you plan to do for each muscle group, the weights you plan to train with for each exercise, and the number of sets and the number of reps/set you decide to do.
Hereâ€™s a simple template you can use for your chest routine.
Day 1: Monday
Muscle Group: Chest
– Barbell Bench: 140 pounds (3 x 6) (3 sets of 6 reps/set)
– Dumbbell Bench: 45 pounds (3 x 6)
– Dips: Bodyweight (3 x 6)
Try to up your weight every two weeks if possible. Add 5 pounds to your weights. 5 pounds may not sound like a lot, but when youâ€™re starting out and you add 5 pounds to your bench, it can feel like a million pounds (I know that sounds ludicrous on paper, but when you actually do it, youâ€™ll realize just how heavy 5 pounds can be.)
Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
Drink water frequently in between workouts. Keep yourself hydrated.
Stretch before, during, and after workouts.
Inevitably the question of free weights vs. machines will arise and the debate is endless so hereâ€™s my take on it.
I first started out with machines.
Then I moved to free weights.
And the result?
Iâ€™m never going back.
The difference between machines and free weights is as big as night and day. Free weights are the way to go (provided you donâ€™t have any existing injuries â€“ thatâ€™s why you should always consult your doctor first).
Free weights require you use more muscles/exercise so youâ€™re actually working out other muscles while working on your main one because you have to â€śstabilizeâ€ť yourself while lifting.
When you do free weights, make sure you have a spotter with you at all times. The last thing you want is 120 pound barbell on your chest because you couldnâ€™t pull out that last rep. Having a good workout partner is essential.
Music is also good. Throw some motivational music on your iPod and get lifting.
2. Nutrition (Eat Big and Smart)
After you pummeled your body at the gym, your body is going to need to rebuild its muscles and it needs proper nutrition to do that. This is where protein comes into play.
You generally want to get in 1 gram of protein/pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 140 pounds, then youâ€™ll want to intake 140 grams of protein/day.
Realistically, your body will probably only need 80% of that, but itâ€™s just easy to remember the 1 for 1 ratio. When you aim for that, you will naturally get the correct number of calories and carbohydrates you need as well.
Spend some money and buy some whey protein in order to make some shakes you can drink after you workout. Whey protein shakes are great for post workout nutrition because your body absorbs the whey quickly.
Youâ€™ll want to get in some glucose and protein in your body after you work out to make up for all the energy youâ€™ve used and to provide your body with the building blocks it needs. A post workout shake is the quickest way to do it.
Hereâ€™s an easy recipe for a great tasting smoothie.
1 cup of skim milk.
1 scoop whey protein powder.
1 cup of strawberries.
1 peeled banana.
1 cup of raspberries.
As for your pre workout meal, youâ€™ll want to eat mostly carbs to give you the energy you need. Oatmeal is often a good source of carbohydrates.
Try to workout early in the morning if at all possible because youâ€™ll have the entire day to nourish your body + it will give you the energy you need.
Youâ€™re going to find yourself VERY hungry when you start off doing this.
Eat frequently throughout the day, 5-6 small meals in order to provide a steady stream of nourishment.
Prepare your meals in advance. Do a weekâ€™s worth of cooking on Sunday if possible.
Stay away from fast food. Try lean chicken breast, rice, pasta, fish, tuna, eggs, broccoli, fruit, etc.
If you must eat junk food, then reserve one day per week as your â€ścheat dayâ€ť and go bananas on it. What youâ€™ll find though is that when you wait that long each week to eat your sweets, it wonâ€™t seem that tempting anymore. Your cravings will disappear.
And always remember to keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
After you lift weights for a couple of weeks, youâ€™re going to have some of the best sleep in your life. Youâ€™re going to sleep like a baby.
Insomnia will be a thing of the past. You wonâ€™t face the daily battle of getting up in the morning. You open your eyes, youâ€™re good to go
Try to get in some decent shut eye, 6-8 hours/day is always best.
Quality sleep is important because that’s when your body rebuilds itself.
What You Have to Look Forward To
I know what I wrote may seem like a lot to do, but once you get in the groove of it, it becomes second nature. It becomes part of your daily routine.
Youâ€™re going to find yourself looking at the nutrition label of everything that you eat.
Youâ€™re going to find yourself mentally adding up the number of grams of protein you ate that day in order to see how much more you need.
Youâ€™re going to find yourself smiling when you step on the scale and when you look at the mirror.
Your mind will become sharper.
Youâ€™ll have more energy throughout the day.
Youâ€™ll have more â€śdriveâ€ť.
Youâ€™ll sleep easier.
Youâ€™ll be more confident.
Youâ€™ll be more assertive.
Youâ€™ll feel like you can do much, much, more.
Youâ€™ll be incredibly focused.
Youâ€™ll be less depressed.
Youâ€™ll be happier in general.
And in the midst of experiencing all these benefits, youâ€™ll begin to wonder why you didnâ€™t start sooner ;).