More on Muscle Building – Reader Q&A

I got a very common question from a reader about gaining muscle from the Building Muscle 101 post. I wanted to re-post it here as many may not have seen it and other readers may also be thinking the same thing or able offer up some more great tips for our readers.

Here’s the Question:

Hey guys, I’m trying to gain like 20lbs muscle.I’m 155lbs and about 6 feet.I’m maxing out benching at 250lb. I do chest one day a week, back and shoulders another day, arms a different day, and a whole circuit the next. With a polo shirt on, i look pretty small… seriously (my body type is matt damons)… (i need to bulk up!) Shirtless, yeah, i’m semi-cut – but nothing anyone will write home about. I have always (ALWAYS) outlifted my larger counterparts (pound for pound). But, i’m not seeing results… I am a lean eater, a healthy eater, I run occasionally but i would LOVE to put on some muscle for once in my life. I feel like it may be my diet (i eat healthy/small portions), or the fact that i run occasionally, but i just want a muscle BUILDING program that shows some significant results. ANY help is much appreciated man

My response to his question was the following (long winded I know…but I promise to sum it up nicely below as well):

Pretty much sounds like you got the strength part down…now you just need to eat more and workout less (but up the intensity per session, keep them brief but effective). Putting on the lbs is possible eating healthy. First I would say make sure you are at least getting 0.8-1 gram of protein/lb of bodyweight (since you sound lean anyways). Of course also some fruits and unlimited non-starchy vegetables, healthy carbs (no sugars, breads, pasta or processed carbs) and healthy fats (esp MUFAs, Omega 3s and health Sat fats). But it does come down to if you are not seeing muscle gain…then you need to up your food intake. Looks like you are working out 4x a week too…that is alot. You should be able to workout only 2-3x a week and still put on plenty of muscle. Most people workout too much, don’t lift the proper volume/intensity to stimulate muscle building/fat burning hormones, burn way too many calories with activity levels and then wonder why they are not gaining. A serious lifting program of 3x10s (with a couple warmup sets), 30-60 sec rest, with alternating compound movements 2-3x a week will do plenty for size and gains. For example: Squat/Bench(although I would rather do weighted dips)/Overhead press is workout A, Deadlifts/Pullups/Bent Row(or sub in Power Cleans) is workout B….then alternate workouts A & B during the week only for a total of 2-3 workouts (A/B or A/B/A & B/A/B weeks). You can do your additional secondary exercises and arm exercises on main workout days AFTER you have done the main heavy compound movement that spike your muscle building hormones…don’t do an arm day…those never work. You will get plenty big arms from heavy pushes and pulls…like weighted dips and pullups. You can also mess around with the reps doing a week of 5×5 or 3×8 or 3×10. Don’t over-complicate it and just keep it simple and effective by seeing the progress and adding weight little by little to the main lifts. Remember that you grow outside the gym…not in it. So get your workouts done quick, and then go eat and recover….and grow. When in doubt…if you are not gaining….eat more (no sugar, healthy proteins/fat/carbs) and workout less. Or just do like the Powerlifters do for more size…drink a gallon of whole (not skim) milk a day in addition to your regular meals (no guarantees on how much fat you may also put on in this process). Not something I would recommend full time…but if you are cycling it short term for a mass gain and can handle it with no ill side effects, then it can be a useful tool. Forget supplements….whole food is always your best friend first…and where 90% of your results come from….so spend your money there.

As mentioned before the Building Muscle 101 post really covers all the basics in more detail that anyone should go over and follow when trying to build muscle. Here’s the quick and easy check list if you are asking how to gain muscle:

So of course my advice is not the only good one out there, so other readers feel free to share your tips with Dan also in the comments section below. Remember to keep it simple and positive (motto of the site), as most of us are just over-complicating the process and exposed to way too much confusing information….that we forget the basics are where 90% of our results come from….so stick to the basics and the results will follow….and when in doubt tell yourself:

Related Posts: See the Fat Loss 101 post for more info on important hormones like GH and Cortisol that also play into muscle building. Also it is easier to build muscles once you get down to a lower BF%. If you are interested in Intermittent Fasting while gaining muscle, see IF 101 – How to Start post. If you do not know about IF and want to know why it is becoming a popular lifestyle choice for many, you can see my post on Why I do IF.

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