If you're reading this, you're probably eager to add some muscle to your frame. Whether you're coming off a sharp cut or just want to stack some mass on your body, it helps to have a stockpile of great gains-related tips in your arsenal. Below, you'll find an incredible assortment of muscle-building advice from some of the best athletes on BodySpace.
(Note that multiplying your bodyweight by 20 results in a high calorie estimate specific to building mass. Many maintenance calorie estimates are closer to body weight multiplied by 15. If the result of multiplying your bodyweight by 20 seems incredibly high given what you know about your body, you can err on the conservative side and multiply by 16-18.)
“Ask yourself: What do you want to be doing three months from now? Is that realistic? How much time are you willing to commit to strength training? What obstacles do you see getting in the way? What structures and supports will help you stay on track? How will you respond if you’re not making the progress you want? Answer these questions first before getting into the nitty-gritty of setting specific movement or weight goals,” he says.
“I would really focus on learning how macros work, how your body works and how it reacts to certain foods, and what your body requires each day to maintain your weight,” he advises. “Then you can start playing around with increasing calories [to bulk up], and decreasing calories when you're dieting.” Our beginner's guide to macros will definitely help.
Hugo Rivera, About.com's Bodybuilding Guide and ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, is a nationally-known best-selling author of over 8 books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men", "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women", "The Hardgainer's Bodybuilding Handbook", and his successful, self published e-book, "Body Re-Engineering". Hugo is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion. Learn more about Hugo Rivera.
Because the upper traps get some degree of stimulation during many shoulder exercises, Arnold trained them with delts. His main upper-trap exercise was the shrug, though he noted that maximizing the size of this muscle required a number of other movements, including power pulls, cleans, and upright rows. Because the range of motion in a shrug is fairly short, Arnold recommended backing off on the weight in favor of being able to fully shrug your shoulders as high as possible.
Your legs are even more important if you play sports. Strong legs will help you run faster, become stronger, and most importantly, lower your chance of being injured. I know this first hand. I used to train my legs sparingly because the workouts were so hard. I simply didn't feel like going to the gym on leg days and even if I did, I would just go through the motions and never train at a high enough intensity.
Use a split system. If you have never trained with weights, or have taken a significant break from weights, I do not recommend training at maximum intensity right away. Training to failure during the first crucial work outs will result in tremendous muscle soreness and you may never return. Start slowly by doing a full-body work out consisting of three or four sets of lighter weights for every major muscle group. After the first couple weeks, you can increase your intensity and move onto a split system. An example of a three-day split might be:
. Be very careful who you take advice from! I just cringe when I hear some of the bad advice I hear some guys dishing out to other people at the gym! Just because someone runs their mouth virtually non-stop and appears to sound confident in the words they are saying doesn’t mean that they are an expert! Most often, the people with the greatest levels of expertise are the ones who quietly seem to be progressing above, and beyond what the people around them are. You must also make sure that the person your taking advice from is on the same playing field that you are. In other words, if they are taking steroids but you are not, what works for them will not work for you. The body chemistry is drastically altered by the use of steroids. Chemicals can make up for many training and dietary blunders that you wouldn’t get away with without the use of chemical enhancements.
Many aspiring bodybuilders find that they need to increase their calorie intake to increase their body mass. Assuming you’re training hard, you may need to add a mini meal somewhere in your day. Or, you could increase both the frequency and quantity of your meals, eating more meals more often. To hold yourself accountable, keep a log of your meals and count your calories. Especially at the start, this can help you figure out what your new normal should look like.
Arnold wasn't just concerned with feeling the weight; he wanted to make sure the load induced muscle failure at a target range: "I make a point of never doing fewer than six repetitions per set with most movements," he notes," and nothing higher than 12. The rule applies to most body parts, including calves." Make sure to choose the right weight to fail within that rep range.
When lifting it is essential to focus your mind completely on the muscle group you are attempting to work on. This makes sure that you are actually using the target muscle to lift the weight rather than accessory muscles or even momentum. This skill will develop with time, and as you progress in making that mind to muscle connection, your workouts will become much more productive and efficient.