So, you want to learn how to build muscle? Well, that is what this post is about.
Provided below are the basic rules you should live by if you want to build muscle and keep it on throughout your life.
The rules below helped me to build muscle and to overcome my hardgainer genetics to put on over 30 lbs of muscle. They have also been essential to helping many of our clients over the years build the physiques they've always dreamed of.
What you need to know as you learn how to build muscle:
- Everyone can build muscle and improve their body; however, how much muscle you will be able to build will be limited by genetics. Not everyone has the potential to look like Arnold.
- Bodybuilding advice is for bodybuilders, most of which are on a lot of drugs. The stuff you see in bodybuilding magazines will work to some degree, but it is not optimal for the average guy looking to learn how to build muscle.
- You don't have to eat 6 meals a day. That is a lie created by protein powder companies and the dairy industry.
- You also don't need to eat 2 or 3 times your body weight in protein everyday. In fact, doing that would likely be detrimental to your health long term.
If you want to learn how to build muscle the right way, stop reading magazines at the the grocery store filled with monsters on steroids and start following our rules for building muscle.
Essential Rules for Building Muscle
How to Build Muscle Rule #1: Focus on Getting Strong
You won't build muscle by using the same weight week in and week out. You have to incrementally increase the weight you use each week to trigger the muscles to grow.
However, don't rush into the gym and start loading up the bar as heavy as you can; that is a recipe for injury. Start with a weight you can handle and increase by 2.5 to 5 lbs a week. If you do that consistently, over the course of the year you will dramatically increase strength.
How to build muscle tip: Keep a log so you know what your starting weight for each lift was the previous week.
How to Build Muscle Rule #2: Do More Compound Lifts
Compound lifts allow you to use the heaviest weight possible and engage the most muscle fiber on each lift. This is key if you want to build muscle.
For example: a shoulder press engages your shoulders, upper chest, triceps, lats and core. A lateral raise only engages one to two heads of the shoulder.
Can you see why the compound lift is better for building muscle? The same comparison applies to squats vs leg extensions, etc.
Compound lifts also stimulate the production of testosterone and other anabolic hormones in a way that smaller lifts just don't.
Build your workouts around presses, squats, deadlifts and carries and you'll build muscle fast.
How to Build Muscle Rule #3: Do More Pull ups
Pull ups use a ton of muscle and are hard as hell. The pull down machine is tempting, but jump up and start doing pull ups, chin ups and other variations. Your back will thank you by growing.
How to Build Muscle Rule #4: Focus on Time Under Tension and Training to Failure
Workouts don't need to last 2 hours to build muscle; they simply need to provide a sufficient stimulus for triggering a hormetic adaptation. If the muscle is challenged, the brain will signal the body to grow.
Think of it like building a callus. If you rub the skin it will become sore and inflammed. Rub it over and over and the brain will send a signal to the body to build up skin cells in that area to protect it forming a callus.
Building muscle works the same way.
How to build muscle tip: Use super-slow repetitions when you can; that is, 7 to 10 seconds down and 7 to 10 seconds up. This will stress the muscle to an incredible degree and create a level of fatigue you probably have never felt lifting before.
If you're interested in learning more about super-slow training, check out the article I wrote for Awake and Alive or Body By Science by Dr. Doug McGuff. Links below.
How to Build Muscle Rule #5: Structure Your Workouts Properly
How you structure your workouts is just as important as the exercises you choose to do during those workouts. Also, if you want to build muscle you need to be lifting heavy 3 to 4 times per week.
Sample Workout Schedule:
Week 1: Monday - Upper body; Wednesday - Lower body; Friday - Upper body
Week 2: Monday - Lower body; Wednesday - Upper body; Friday - Lower body
How to build muscle tip: Try to train each muscle about every 4 to 5 days. This will allow the muscle to fully recover prior to your next workout.
How to Build Muscle Rule #6: Become a Recovery Master
This can't be stressed enough; you only grow when you rest. I repeat, you only grow when you rest. The biggest mistake most people make is thinking they need to lift more to grow.
Not only is that completely wrong, it is also incredibly dangerous and one of the leading causes of overtraining and injury.
If you want to learn how to build muscle, you have to learn to make rest and relaxation your priority. Not your training. That sounds crazy, but it's true.
"Train hard-Recover harder"
The primary reason is that our bodies produce most of their anabolic hormones when we sleep and rest. If you constantly break yourself down your body can not keep up and repair fast enough to grow.
Train too much over a long period of time and you'll destroy your immune system and wear out your joints.
If you want to build muscle you need to focus on doing more of the following recovery protocols:
- Get 8-9 hours of sleep per day
- Consider fasting once a week for 24 hours to give your body complete rest
- Drink plenty of water (with lemon and sea salt when you wake up)
- Meditate, pray, or practice positive thinking to help reduce stress hormone production
- Do mobility and stretching work like Yoga and foam rolling daily
- Walk or do some other form of low impact cardio to circulate blood and nutrients a few days a week
- Take cold showers and/or sit in a sauna a few days a week (see our articles on cold showers and saunas benefits - links below)
- Eat plenty of vegetables and superfoods like Pine Pollen to help fuel the bodies 1000s of chemical processes required for building muscle
- Eat plenty of protein, but don't over do it. Too much protein has been shown to create more biological stress. However, protein is essential to building muscle, so focus on getting a sufficient amount at each meal
Conclusion: If you're learning how to build muscle the best place to start is to learn as much as you can about the 6 basic rules of building muscle we outlined above.
For each rule listed above there are hundreds of pages of research and countless articles dedicated to them. Take the time to learn as much as you can about each one, as knowledge is your greatest tool for building muscle.