If you’re new to weight training and want to gain lots of knowledge over a short space of time, then we’d recommend tuning into this article. In the 5 minutes it takes you to read this post you can avoid common mistakes and jump the queue when it comes to building muscle!
This post has been written by the head coach of LEP Fitness, Nick Screeton, who to date has completed over 11,000 x 1-1 personal training sessions. Nick has helped hundreds of clients build muscle and to get into the best shape of their life! He’s also written over 1,000 articles for various fitness magazines, websites, and for the LEP Fitness blog.
Guaranteed Muscle Building Results…
If you apply the 10 muscle building secrets, or even just a handful of the tips, you will 100% get bigger, stronger and turn heads when you’re walking down the street!
Without further ado, let’s jump in…
10 Muscle Building Secrets For Beginners | Speed Up Your Muscle Gains
#1 Compound Lifts (Maximal Muscle Gains!)
Have you heard of compound lifts? They feature all the time in magazines such as Men’s Health and Muscle & Fitness. A compound lift is a single exercise that targets multiple muscle groups all at once.
For example, the bench press exercise targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Another excellent compound lift is the ‘deadlift’ which works the legs, lower back, upper back, and core all at the same time! These exercises are the most effective ones to choose from when it comes to building muscle mass as quickly as possible.
The three most valuable compound lifts, when done correctly, are:
- Bench press
- Pull up
These three exercises alone hit the entirety of the body. If you do these exercises once per week and continue to add weight to your lifts every 1-2 weeks, you are going to get stronger and increase muscle mass from head to toe!
In terms of reps, Nick recommends doing anything from 3-10 reps and doing 3 sets of each exercise with a 2-minute rest in between sets.
WARNING: before doing the above exercises, make sure to hire an expert personal trainer to teach you the correct technique. If you don’t lift with perfect form, the above exercises can do more harm than good!
#2 One Day On, One Day Off, Full-Body Workouts!
If you’re new to weight training, it’s best to do full-body workouts, which are ideal for increasing muscle mass and boosting testosterone.
For example, your weekly routine could look like this:
- Monday – Weights (Full Body 1)
- Tuesday – REST
- Wednesday – Weights (Full Body 2)
- Thursday – REST
- Friday – Weights (Full Body 3)
- Saturday – REST
- Sunday – Weights (Full Body 1)
- Monday – REST
- Tuesday – Weights (Full Body 2)
- Wednesday – REST
- Thursday – Weights (Full Body 3)
- Friday – REST
- Saturday – Weights (Full Body 1)
- Sunday – REST
I would recommend picking 3-4 exercises per workout, for example, a beginner muscle-building program could look like this:
Weights Workout 1:
- Deadlift 5 reps x 3 sets
- Bench press 5 reps x 3 sets
- Pull-ups* 6-10 reps x 3 sets
- Front plank 60s x 3 sets
*use assisted pull up machine, or bands.
*2 minutes rest in between sets.
Weights Workout 2:
- Incline DB press 6-10 reps x 3 sets
- Bent over BB row – 6-10 reps x 3 sets
- Military BB press – 6-10 reps x 3 sets
- Back squats – 6-10 reps x 3 sets
*90s rest in between each set
Weights Workout 3:
- Close grip bench press – 8-12 reps x 3 sets
- Seated cable row – 8-12 reps x 3 sets
- Bulgarain split squats – 8-12 reps (each leg) x 3 sets
- BB Bulgarian Deadlifts – 8-12 reps x 3 sets
*90s rest in between each set
#3 Eat At Least 120g of Protein Per Day
Protein is the building block for a muscular frame, and you won’t build muscle without it!
In an ideal world, you would be consuming 2g of protein per kg of body weight each day, so if you weigh:
- 60kg = 120g protein per day
- 70kg = 140g protein per day
- 80kg = 160g of protein per day
- 90kg = 180g of protein per day
BUT at the very minimum, you need 120g of protein per day, ideally spread out over 3-4 meals — for example, 40g of protein for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (120g).
Protein-rich foods include chicken, turkey, steak, mince, eggs, protein bars, protein shakes, nuts, and oily fish.
An example diet plan to hit 150g of protein could look like this:
- Breakfast – 4 large eggs omelette cooked in butter (38g protein)
- Lunch – 250g chicken, 70g rice (uncooked weight) and veg (45g protein)
- Snack – Grenade protein bar (22g protein)
- Dinner – 250g steak, with homemade chips and veg (45g protein)
Total = 150g of muscle-building fuel!
#4 Fats & Protein For Breakfast (Muscle Building Fuel!)
Fats are super essential for improving your strength in the gym. They will enhance both physical and cognitive function. While carbs are still an important food when it comes to building muscle (as they help you get a good muscle pump!) – fats and protein are the best way to start your day!
Lots of famous and well-respected coaches in the fitness industry advocate this method, especially renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin (aka ‘Strength Sensei’) who advocates eating nuts and meats for breakfast!
For example, high fat and protein breakfast ideas:
- Eggs and bacon
- Steak and eggs
- Bulletproof coffee
- 30-40g of nuts (brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts)
#5 Zinc & Magnesium
Zinc will increase testosterone, and magnesium will aid recovery and improve your sleep – both of which are imperative when it comes to building muscle.
The recommended daily allowance for Zinc is 40mg per day, although Charles Poliquin says on an episode of the Tim Ferris podcast that he gets his guys to take 200mg per day! Listen to the full podcast here (it’s a great listen!)
Charles also says that he would sometimes take up to 3-4g of magnesium per day, which is far higher than the recommended maximum dose, which is 1g!
My favourite type of magnesium is magnesium glycinate – I take 1g one hour before bed, and it helps me sleep well. I also take Zinc Picolinate (2 caps – 100g) at the same time. Both of these supplements will help you get stronger in the gym and recover quicker in between workouts – which leads to more muscle gain!
#6 Nail Your Sleep!
The best way to increase testosterone is to improve your sleep. As mentioned above, magnesium and zinc will help you sleep, BUT some other key sleep tips are:
Switch off all electrical appliances 1 hour before bed (no phone, TV, laptop!) – instead, read a book – check out my book recommendations here.
Wear blue light blocking glasses – this will help to block out light that interrupts your circadian rhythm and negatively impacts sleep. I wrote a post on my experience of blue light blocking glasses last week, check out the full post here.
Turn your room into a dark cave – the darker your room, the easier it is to fall asleep. Darkness makes you tired and keeps you asleep. Ideally, you want to install some blackout blinds, BUT if not, buy a sleeping mask!
Take a warm bath – this will help your muscle relaxes, and will also help you drift off into a peaceful sleep.
Use an old fashioned alarm clock – leave your phone downstairs, or in another room (out of sight out of mind!) – going on your phone before bed, or during the night is the worse thing you can do! It will raise your cortisol (stress hormone) and negatively impact sleep. This will then affect performance at work, in the gym, you name it! Get your phone out of your bedroom!
#7 Mobility Work
If there’s one thing I see in commercial gyms all of the time… it’s people failing to warm up properly and neglecting overall body mobility. It’s fascinating to see how many people struggle to squat to 90 degrees, or keep their back relatively straight while deadlifting, or even the ability to touch their toes!
Mobility work is critical, and you don’t have to spend hours doing it to reap the rewards. In fact, just 5 minutes before your workout will lead to significant improvements to your strength, posture, and overall performance. Here are two exercises I always do before weight training:
The above two exercises mobilise the entire body – helping to free up the lower back, upper back, hamstrings, core, adductors, quads, hips, you name it! I recommend going for 20 reps on each exercise and doing 1-2 total rounds.
BONUS TIP: Another effective way to warm up and improve your workout is to do what’s called ‘muscle activation drills’ before you train. I will typically do 3-5 activation exercises straight after my mobility work. For example, the next time you are due to do squats, do your mobility work beforehand (see video above) and then do the following six glute activation drills:
Watch how much better you squat, not only will you be able to go lower, but you’ll also feel the exercise more in your glutes. Glutes are the powerhouse muscles in your legs, and the stronger your glutes, the stronger your squat!
#8 Rest Days
You don’t grow muscle in the gym, your body repairs and heals outside of the gym, and recovery/rest days are extremely important. Lots of beginners think more is better, and often this is not the case. The aim should be to build up the intensity before adding volume and extra training days.
For beginners, I believe four weights workouts per week is plenty. Each workout choose 3-4 different compound exercises and do 3 sets of each exercise. This will be more than enough to see plenty of muscle growth!
On your rest days, you can still train, BUT stay away from the weights. For example, you could do some LISS cardio or HIIT cardio – read about the pros and cons of each here.
You could also do foam rolling and mobility work on your rest days. This is something I do for around 20-30 minutes. I find it helps me to recover quicker between workouts and relaxes any tight muscles I have from heavy resistance training.
#9 Core Work
For a strong squat and deadlift, you need a solid core. A strong core also prevents injury, so it’s super important to add in core training at least once per week.
NOTE: there’s a difference between ‘ab training’ and ‘core training’ – ab training involves exercises such as sit-ups and crunches, and focuses on making the abs look good. Whereas core training is about improving the functionality of the abs, doing athletic movements to improve performance. I prefer doing core training. Here are six excellent core exercises you can try in your next workout:
#10 Hire A Personal Trainer
If you really want rapid results, then bite the bullet and hire an expert. An excellent personal trainer will get you results in a fraction of the time! A good coach will guide you and stop you from making mistakes both in the gym and outside of the gym with your diet, etc.
Even if you just hire a personal trainer for ten sessions, you will jump the results queue and feel more confident in your training. I wrote a post on how to find a personal trainer in your area, which is worth checking out. The main thing to look for is the trainers ‘results,’ i.e. can they back up their claims? And also look for testimonials and any reviews online before investing your hard-earned cash.