TODAY, I am going to show you exactly how to go about building muscle. If what you’re doing at the moment isn’t working, please pay attention. What I have to say might be just what you need to get better, faster results.
Step 1: Get Real
The first step is to make sure you have realistic expectations about how much muscle can be built and how fast you can build it.
You’ll come across a lot of wild claims about how much muscle it’s possible to gain naturally, as well as the length of time it’ll take to build it.
Here’s the truth:
If you have 20-30 pounds more muscle than an average, untrained, fully-grown man of your height and frame, you’re doing extremely well. Women can cut those numbers in half. That’s about as much as most people can realistically expect to gain over the course of their training lifetime.
Am I saying that’s the absolute upper limit for every single human being that has, or ever will, set foot on this planet?
No. But I am saying for most people, it’s going to be there or thereabouts.
How long will it take to get within shooting distance of your maximum muscular potential?
Most people will need to train for somewhere between 3 and 5 years before they get anywhere close to their physical limits as far as muscle size is concerned. That’s 3-5 years of hard work, proper training and good nutrition.
It’s not something you can do in 30 days, 12 weeks or even 12 months.
Claims that you can gain 18 pounds of muscle in two weeks, 34 pounds of muscle in 28 days, or whatever else, are total BS.
Eat enough food, and it’s possible to gain a large amount of weight in a relatively short period of time. But most of that weight is going to be in the form of fat rather than muscle.
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who combined great genetics and a Herculean work ethic with more than a little pharmaceutical assistance, was very happy when he gained 25 pounds (11.4 kilograms) in weight over the course of a year.
Here’s what he wrote in Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder:
“Many people regret having to serve in the Army. But it was not a waste of time for me. When I came out I weighed 225 pounds. I’d gone from 200 to 225. Up to that time, this was the biggest change I’d ever made in a single year.”
To repeat, that was 25 pounds in weight, and not just muscle.
If one of the greatest bodybuilders in history is saying that 25 pounds was as much as he ever gained in one year (and not all of this was muscle), there’s no way that a drug-free, genetically average guy can expect to do the same thing in a fraction of the time.
Step 2: Training Frequency
One of the most important decisions you can make when you’re setting up your training program is how often each muscle group should be trained.
Training a muscle once a week can and will make that muscle bigger. However, for most people at least, it’s probably the least effective way to train.
If you want your muscles to grow as quickly as possible, you should be training them at least twice a week.
Why is that?
There’s a ceiling, or upper limit on the amount of stimulation your muscles can respond to in any given workout. And the closer you get to this ceiling, the smaller the return on your investment of time and effort becomes.
As an example, let’s say that doing 6 sets rather than 3 sets per muscle group speeds up growth by 25%. But going from 6 sets to 9 sets might increase growth by 10%. A further increase from 9 sets to 12 sets might have no effect at all, with those extra sets representing so-called “junk volume.”
In this particular example, you’d be better off doing 6 sets twice a week, rather than 12 sets once a week.
In short, when you train a muscle group directly only once per week, the muscles might spend a few days “growing” after the workout. But if you leave an entire week between training each muscle group, you’re missing out on an additional opportunity to stimulate growth.
Step 3: Train Hard and Push Yourself
Many people take the view that muscle growth is triggered by progressive overload. That is, adding weight to the bar, or doing more reps with the same amount of weight, is the key to building muscle.
But it’s actually the other way around.
Your ability to add weight to the bar, or to do more reps with the same amount of weight, is the result of your muscles adapting, rather than the cause of it.
Put differently, your muscles don’t grow because you’re overloading them. You’re able to add reps and weight because your muscles have adapted. If your muscles hadn’t adapted, they wouldn’t be able to do the extra work.
Think about it.
Let’s say that you go to the gym on Monday and bench press 100 pounds for five reps, with that fifth rep being the last one you’re able to do. On Wednesday, you go back to the gym and try the same thing again. This time, you’re able to do six reps.
The reason you’re able to complete that extra rep is because your body has adapted. If there had been no adaptation, and your body literally hadn’t changed in any way, you would still only be able to lift 100 pounds for five reps.
So, what is it that stimulates growth? What makes your muscles bigger?
The key stimulus for growth is to train hard and push yourself in each set.
There’s no need to overcomplicate things by using a rating of perceived exertion or reps in reserve. Just take each work set to (or very close to) the point where you’re unable to do another rep using good form.
That will send the “make me bigger” signal to your muscles, and you’ll come back to the gym with a little more muscle than you had before.
Step 4: Be Flexible with your Choice of Exercises
Some say that certain exercises, such as the squat, deadlift, bench press and so on, are “essential” for building muscle. These exercises work large numbers of muscles, making them a very efficient use of your training time. I like them a lot.
However, they’re not always the most “joint friendly” options out there. The last thing you want is to feel constantly nagged by various aches and pains in your knees, elbows, shoulders or back.
If you find that a particular exercise makes your joints flare up, don’t be afraid to ditch it and find a similar one that doesn’t. There is no single “must do” exercise that can’t be replaced with something else.
Your muscles can be stimulated just as well with alternatives (many of which I show you in my MX4 training program) that don’t cause the same level of pain or discomfort.
Step 5: Sets and Reps
As far as sets go, there is a “dose-response” relationship between the number of sets you do for a muscle and the speed at which that muscle grows.
In other words, the more sets you do – up to a point at least – the faster your muscles will grow. However, there is a point at which doing more sets becomes counterproductive.
In other words, there’s a theoretical “optimal” number of sets per muscle group, above and below which gains in size will be slower than they otherwise would be.
As a rough guide, 10-12 sets per muscle group per week is a good starting point. Then, you can adjust the number of sets upwards or downwards based on how your body responds.
As far as reps go, conventional wisdom has it that training with light weights and high reps builds muscular endurance, but makes little contribution to gains in size.
Heavy weights and lower reps has long been the accepted “best way” to build muscle.
That’s because lifting heavy weights places tension on a large number of muscle fibers, which in turn sends the “make me bigger” signal to those fibers.
However, lifting heavy weights isn’t the only way to put a large number of muscle fibers under tension.
Training with lighter weights and higher reps – where you “go for the burn” and your muscles feel like they’re pumped up and about to explode – generates a large amount of metabolic stress, which has also been shown to increase the activation of muscle fibers.
In fact, lighter weights and higher reps do a surprisingly good job at stimulating muscle growth, which gives you a lot more choice about the type of training you do.
For example, joint issues or injuries may mean that lifting heavy weights causes pain in your shoulders, elbows, knees or wrists.
The solution is very simple. If going heavy on certain exercises causes you pain, just go light instead. You can make the switch from heavy weights and low reps to low weights and high reps without missing out on any gains.
Maybe you just prefer using lighter weights on certain exercises, and heavier weights on others. Again, you can do so quite happily without worrying that you’re putting the brakes on muscle growth.
As long as you train hard and push yourself, high reps (15-20), medium reps (12-15) and low reps (5-8) can all be used successfully to build muscle.
Step 6: Stick With It
Once you have a decent training and nutrition program set up, the key to long-term success is to stick with it.
Forget about the latest muscle-building bandwagon that everyone else is jumping on, no matter now tempting it might look. Don’t worry about complicated training routines, exotic muscle-building supplements or fancy diets.
There’s no need to become an expert on every single diet and training method known to man. Just choose one path and stay on it. Only allow yourself access to the information you need in order to stay on that path, and be ruthless about blocking out all the other noise and distractions.
Concentrate on training hard and eating right. Set challenging but realistic goals for yourself and work as hard as you can towards achieving them. Do that and the size will come.
Need a workout plan that does all of this?
For a complete science-based training program that will give you more muscle than you have right now without wrecking your body or beating up your joints, check out MX4 at the link below now: