There is a lot of bad information out there on the subject building muscle and how to stay fit. We’re being told over and over again about how difficult it is for women to gain some muscle mass due to our hormonal setup. Learn the truth!

Consider how much body fat you want

The first thing you need to think about when determining which training cycle you’ll use is how much body fat you are comfortable sporting around. If you don’t mind carrying around a little extra weight while building muscle mass, you might be very comfortable with just diving right into a muscle-gaining program at the outset.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself frequently checking the mirror with disgust when you can pinch more than an inch or two on your waist, you’ll likely prefer getting lean first and then building muscle mass.

Consider how fast you want to build muscle

Building muscle mass takes calories. There is no way around this — you simply cannot build tissue of any sort without energy. And when there is more energy supplied than what is actually needed to build that muscle, the body also starts building — you guessed it — body fat.

Therefore, the best way to prevent extra body fat when building muscle mass is to limit the extra calories consumed.

Here’s the kicker, though: If you’re only eating 100 to 200 calories more than is required on a daily basis to stop any fat loss from accumulating, you won’t likely get very far. You’ll be lucky to gain a pound a month — and if this is the case, you’re going to be on one long muscle-gaining cycle. Some may be OK with this, but most want to see immediate changes.

Add to the fact that the body might speed up its metabolism to accommodate these extra calories and you might not see any weight gain at all — you’ll simply look the same as you do now.

Obviously, the more calories you eat, the better the chances of maximizing the muscle you’ll build. Everyone has a limit as to how much muscle they can physiologically build in a month’s time (for most men this is around one to three pounds with the rate slowing the larger you get), so if you want to max that out, you need to eat enough. You think you’re going to gain three pounds eating a measly 100 extra calories a day? That’s not going to happen; it takes about 2,500 to 3,500 calories a day to build a pound of body tissue, depending on whether this is fat or muscle mass.

Here are the fundamental points of muscle building. It’s a good refresher for those already on the journey, and a great place to start for beginner bodybuilders (at the bottom is a definition of terms for any beginners among you).

(1) Lift Weights – no doubt about it. Weight-training beats everything else for building muscle. Body-weight exercises (calisthenics), gymnastics, cardiovascular work, all may build some muscle for total beginners but only a little – then it stops. Why? Because you can’t add ever-increasing resistance with these other forms of exercise.

(2) Force Your Body To Adapt! Continuing from point one, your muscles will have no reason to grow if you don’t place them under ever-increasing demand. What this means is that the weight you can lift on any given
exercise should increase over time. No increase = no growth. This is the concept of Progressive Overload.

(3) Train For Hypertrophy. Hypertrophy means muscle growth. You want to specifically target this, as opposed to strength-training which has its focus primarily on strength gains with building muscle as a happy side-effect. Training for strength usually means a low rep range and compound-only workouts. While compound exercises are vital to a good workout, no-one is building bulging biceps with military presses and squats. Read on…

(4) Use Compound And Isolation Exercises. Compound exercises are crucial, they involve many muscle groups simultaneously and induce the release of growth hormone in the body. They can be defined as exercises that involve rotary motion around more than one joint. Key compound examples are squats and deadlifts.

Isolation movements have got a bum rap in recent years. These are exercises that involve rotary movement around one joint e.g. dumbbell bicep curls. While the ‘compound-only’ enthusiasts talk of hitting multiple body parts in one exercise, it must be understood that this is NOT to say that each individual muscle group hit is worked with sufficient intensity to stimulate growth. You may be involving the triceps with deadlifts, for example, but you will not recruitment enough muscle fibers in the triceps, nor bring them to a point of failure with this movement. This is why isolation exercises are a key component of any good muscle-building program.

(5) Train To Muscular Failure. The necessary recruitment and fatiguing of maximum numbers of muscle fibers comes in that last, almost-impossible, rep of a set. Stopping short of this point ensures that you don’t ‘switch on’ the growth mechanism for everyone but the beginner. Always remember that building muscle is a defense mechanism by the body. Basically this means that if there is not a good enough reason provided (i.e. sufficient intensity), you will NOT grow.

(6) Eat – Get enough calories. No matter what bodybuilding diet you are on, you need to eat enough to supply your body with what it needs to grow. Go here to see how many calories you need to build muscle.

(7) Get Enough Protein – No you don’t need astronomical amounts of protein to build muscle, but you do need more than the average guy. Use the following calculation:

Lean Mass Weight (Kg) x 2.75 = Daily Protein Requirement

(9) Keep Your Workouts Short. Steroid users can train for hours, natural bodybuilders can’t. Catabolic hormones are released in the body which actually keep the body in ‘muscle break-down’ mode. To minimize this, try to keep all weight-training sessions to a maximum of 45 minutes.

(10) Rest Between Workouts. If your priority is building muscle, what good could cardio do? I understand that you want to stay lean while you build muscle but this is best accomplished with a SENSIBLE bodybuilding diet. Leave cardio alone until you want to prioritize fat-loss. I’ve written a thorough article on the case against cardio here.

(12) Drink Water. To build muscle at the maximum rate you need to drink enough water. Use this general rule:

Body weight (lbs) X 0.6 = Water Intake in ounces.

Remember strength can decrease by up to 15% with a drop in hydration levels of only 3%!

Definition of Bodybuilding Terms

  • Reps – A single cycle of lifting and lowering a weight
  • Sets – A number of consecutive reps without rest
  • Hypertrophy – Muscle Growth
  • Compound – An exercise that moves the body through more than one joint movement
  • Isolation – An exercise that moves the body through a single-joint movement
  • Concentric – The part of the rep where the muscle contracts and shortens
  • Eccentric – The part of the rep where the muscle lengthens
  • Failure – The point at which you cannot possibly perform another rep

Eat The Right Stuff At The Right Time!

Protein should be your first priority since it’s the building blocks for muscle mass. Make sure you get some every time you eat. Aim for about 1 1/2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Carbs gives you energy and forces the protein into your muscle cells, but consume too much and you’ll have a hard time to get rid of body fat. By having about 1/3 of your daily amount of carbs about 1 1/2 hours pre workout and then the rest afterwards, you’ll have plenty of energy to train heavy, plus: no carbs get stored as fat.

Don’t forget about the good fats either! Have about 20-30 grams each day in the form of fish oil, CLA, flax seed oil etc. The best way to lose fat and not get hungry is eating about 1-3 pounds of green veggies each day. No, I didn’t make a mistake writing that! 1-3 pounds of veggies was right.

It takes a lot of energy for your system to digest veggies and that makes you feel full and satisfied. Try to eat that much starch… it doesn’t work. These are just a few things you should adapt to your regimen. Don’t forget though that you also need discipline, motivation, perseverance and patience… Get these in order and the results will come.

So, with all this said, can YOU do it? Can you build the body you want? Of course you can. I was a weed with a fat belly once too. If I can do it, anyone can!

Stay Motivated!