10 Years Of Muscle Building Wisdom In One Article…
Over the last 10 years I’ve gained around 40 lbs of muscle. The trouble is I could have built much more – but I made lots of mistakes along the way!
What has inspired me to write this post is that I want to help those of you looking to slap on some serious muscle mass, whilst preventing you from making the same silly mistakes as me!
50 Muscle Building Tips : Everything You Need to Know About Building Muscle!
#1 Progressive Overload
In order to build muscle you have to progressively lift heavier weights, there’s simply no other way. To force an adaptation you need to give your body a reason to change. If you continually lift heavier weights your body has no choice but to grow bigger/stronger muscles.
#2 Log Your Lifts
Pick up a workout log book and track your progress. You need to be recording your sets, reps, rest periods, etc and make sure that you are repeatedly lifting heavier weights and progressing on all your lifts.
Increase protein intake. You cannot build muscle unless you eat adequate amounts of protein. Protein is like the bricks needed to build a house! Aim to consume between 1.5-3g of protein per pound of bodyweight. Foods high in protein include: chicken, turkey, steak, mince, eggs, salmon, cod, tuna, and protein powder.
A great supplement to aid strength and improve performance. Creatine is extremely cheap but very effective and one of the most researched supplements out there on the market. Try taking 5g before your workout and 5g straight after your workout.
There are many different forms of creatine on the market, make sure to choose the best creatine supplement for boosting your performance. For example there is creatine monohydrate, hydrochloride, malate, citrate, nitrate, and AKG. It’s important to read up on the form of creatine that’s going to best serve your needs.
#5 Compound Lifts
Compound lifts use multiple muscle groups therefore you get more bang for your buck and you can lift much heavier weights. Let’s take the bench press, where you are not only working your chest but also your shoulders, and triceps (3 muscles in 1 lift!). Other compound movements include: pull ups, dips, squats, rows, and deadlifts.
#6 Rest & Recovery
Rest is equally important and needed to help repair damaged and fatigued muscles. The amount of rest needed differs from person to person, but if you notice that your performance is declining and strength is getting worse it may be time to take some extra rest.
#7 Training Frequency
You’ll need to be lifting weights at least 4x per week to get results. For beginners and intermediates (1-3 years training experience) 4x per week will likely be enough. For the more advanced lifter there’s a high likelihood that much more frequency will be needed (5-10x per week)
#8 Nutrient Timing
The timing of meals can play significant importance. Protein should be consumed with all meals and carbohydrates work well in and around workouts i.e. pre, intra and post workout. Fats are typically good for breakfast and on rest days.
In order to bulk up you’ll need to be eating lots of calories. It can be difficult to do this with so called “Clean Foods’ stuff like meat, fish and vegetables. I like to use a IIFYM approach when i’m bulking. Not only is this more sustainable it’s also much more enjoyable as you can fit all foods into your diet.
#10 Hire A Coach
Regardless of your experience we can all learn from others. Hiring a personal trainer or nutritionist can take your performance to the next level.
#11 Exercise Execution
It’s not just about lifting heavy weights, you’ve got to make-sure your technique is bang on point! Far too often I see guys swinging weights about and using poor technique. Learn how to lift properly and make-sure to keep form as strict as possible throughout each set. If execution slips a little on those last few reps that’s ok. Just don’t be one of those donuts who does the limbo when they bicep curl a weight that’s far too heavy for them!
#12 Strength Training
You must get stronger to build muscle. You need a combination of strength and hypertrophy training to build an impressive physique. If you continually get stronger across your compound lifts (squats, bench press, deadlifts, pull ups, dips, etc) you will get bigger. I would also recommend looking at this exercise encyclopedia for a variety of exercises that build muscle all over the body.
It’s no use doing a squat if you can’t go to 90 degrees or lower. Weight training will shorten muscles and can potentially cause injury and imbalances. Make-sure you include foam rolling in your warm up, and plenty of stretches at the end of your session.
#14 Water Intake
Hydration is key, if you are even just slightly dehydrated performance will suffer significantly. Make sure that you are constantly sipping on water throughout the day. You may have to go to the bathroom a lot but your body and muscles will thank you for it!
#15 Protein Powder
Using Protein powder is a really easy way to hit your protein intake each day. Sometimes it can be difficult eating meat and fish all the time! but with protein shakes they go down really easily. I’d recommend taking a protein shake after training and whenever you need a protein boost thought the day but either 1) don’t have time to cook a meal or 2) fancy something lighter on the stomach.
#16 Hypertrophy Training
This type of training is where you pump up your muscles. Usually this is done best after your strength work. The aim of hypertrophy training is to create cell swelling also knows as ‘the pump’. You can then drive nutrients into your muscle and make them grow bigger.
Get this wrong and your performance will suffer. You need to be getting at least 7-8 hrs of quality sleep per night. If you are struggling to sleep check out this post I wrote with 4 Awesome Sleep Tips.
#18 Leave Your Ego At The Door
Even if a hot chick walks through the door… stop trying to impress her! Nobody cares. It’s no use lifting a weight which is too heavy for you, all that’s going to happen is that you’ll fail to grow, get injured and the woman you are trying to impress just thinks… “what a douchebag!”
With the volume of food needed to build muscle you must look after your digestive health. Taking probiotics will help your gut stay healthy. Probiotics also help you improve many other health markers – Learn more about the health benefits of probiotics here. They are definitely worth picking up.
#20 Pre Workout Powder
I’m big fan of pre workouts, especially taken for small periods of time (4-8 weeks!). I use Jym by Jim Stoppani and it helps me focus and lift more weight. Just don’t rely on them too much and when you finish your 4-8 week cycle take a break for at least a couple of months.
A great fuel source to build muscle and encourage cell swelling through muscle pumps. During/after training carbohydrates are pushed into cells to create a good muscle pump, aid recovery and boost serotonin levels.
#22 Rep Ranges
Use a multitude of rep ranges i.e. 1-5, 5-8, 8-12, 12-15 and try and get strong in all of them. Typically I recommend starting off with lower reps (strength training) and then as the session progresses I recommend adding more reps.
A really great supplement to take to ensure you are getting a mixture of essential vitamins into your system: vitamin C, D, B12, Magnesium, Zinc, etc – all which will help the body function more efficiently.
A great recovery aid after your workout and also a good supplement to take to improve gut health. I’d recommend taking 5-10g of glutamine post training.
#25 Stay Below 15% Bodyfat
Although fat gain is inevitable when gaining muscle you don’t want to get too fat. I’d recommend trying to stay between 12-15% body fat. If body fat levels go higher than this it’s worth doing a mini cut (1-4 weeks) to lower body fat and boost insulin sensitivity.
#26 Digestive Enzymes
Again as mentioned earlier due to the volume of food required when bulking you want to help your digestive system run as smoothly as possible. I’d recommend taking a digestive enzyme sup with most solid meals.
Fats are essential for good hormonal function and help boost natural testosterone levels. Foods high in fat include: eggs, bacon, avocados, nuts, butter and oil.
#28 Eat Regularly (at least 4-5x per day)
In order to build muscle we need to be eating every 3-4hrs. I’d recommend eating at least 4-5 meals per day.
#29 Soft Tissue Work
Book in to see a sports masseur and look after your body by doing foam rolling pre and post training. When you train hard it’s inevitable that your muscle will get tight and form knots. Soft tissue work will help aid your recovery, remove toxins, and allow you to perform better.
#30 Structured Workouts
Structure your workouts i.e. have a set training plan for 8-12 weeks and don’t deviate of the plan (unless you get injured!). Structure your workouts based on what you need to work on i.e. if your legs are weak hit them first off in your training session. Prioritise what’s most important and work backwards from there.
#31 Work On Weak Areas
It’s no use just working on those mirror muscles like the chest, biceps and abs! You have to balance out these muscles. Commonly you’ll see lots of people neglect their posterior chain, muscles like the back, and hamstrings. Make-sure you develop weak areas to you prevent injury and develop a more rounded physique (not rounded posture!)
#32 Progressive Eating
Like progressive lifting you also have to look at increasing food over time. What once helped you grow muscle wont be enough as you start to build more size. When I started out training: 2,700 calories per day was enough. Nowadays, I need to eat at least 4,000 calories to increase my size. Build up your eating over time and you’ll continue to get stronger and bigger.
#33 Intra Workout Shake
A great way to get extra calories into your body and boost performance. An intra workout shake like vitargo or cyclic dextrin can boost performance. You could start by trying 20-30g during your workouts and then potentially add more if your body can deal with it.
30 sets or 10 sets? What’s better? Well it depends on intensity. It’s much better to go all out for 10 sets than it is to do 30 sets at 50% effort! Nothing beats high intensity and hard training. As they say…”Go Hard or Go Home!”
#35 Post Workout Meal
Your muscles are zapped after a workout and you need to help them recover. The post workout meal is one of the most important meals of the day. It’s a time when your body is craving fuel and nutrients. One of my favourite post workout meals is a blended protein shake: 50g whey protein, 2x bananas, 500ml unsweetened almond milk and 100g dairy free ice cream – it’s buff! Give it a shot.
#36 Goal Setting
How much do you want to be squatting this time next year? Are you going into the gym with clear goals? or just going through the motions? I can’t stress how important it is to have objectives to work towards. Whether that’s hitting a certain weight e.g. in 3 months I want to be 4kg heavier or whether it’s a strength goal – I want to deadlift 160kg for 5 reps. It doesn’t matter just make sure you have something to work towards.
#37 Warm Up
I always warm up before each workout for approx 10-20 minutes. I’ll do foam rolling and mobility drills and get in the zone to pump some iron. Check out this post I wrote about how to get in the zone for a workout.
#38 Get A Training Partner
Going to the gym with a lifting partner can take you to the next level. You’ll not only have a spotter but also it will give you some healthy competition and you can motivate each other to get out those extra few reps!
#39 Mix Up Grips
It’s good to use a mixture of grips: supination, pronation, hammer, etc – this will allow you to get strong in all grips and hit different parts of your muscles. Try using a mixture of grips next time you do pull ups and notice how each grip helps target a different area of the body.
#40 Vary Your Workouts
If you do the same workout over and over it will get boring! Although I don’t recommend changing your routine every session, I do advise changing your workout every 8-12 weeks. It doesn’t have to be completely different it could just be something as simple as switching a flat bench press for an incline bench press or a front squat for a back squat, etc, etc.
#41 Incorporate Bodyweight Exercises
You’ll grow your biceps and triceps far more by doing pull ups and dips than you will by doing curls and girly tricep kickbacks! Get strong on wide chins, close pull ups and dips and watch your arms grow like crazy!
#42 Speed & Plyometric training
I’m a big fan of speed and plyometric training, especially before squatting. Before going into my max sets i’ll either do some explosive squat or box jumps to stimulate fast twitch muscle fibres and get my muscle ready for big lifting.
#43 Be Consistent
So many people go to the gym but they never make any progress because there’s no consistency to their workouts or eating patterns. One week they train 5x, the next week they don’t train, one week they eat well, the next week they eat a load of cr*p, etc, etc!
#44 Rest Periods Between Sets
Generally speaking the heavier the set the more rest you’ll need before the next one. For example when I do deadlifts I may take 3-5 minutes between sets. When it comes to isolation training i.e. DB curls, my rest periods will be much shorter 45-60s between sets. The more taxing the lift and the heavier the weight, typically the longer you’ll need to recover.
#45 Use Different Training Techniques
To increase intensity try using techniques such as: rest pause, drop sets, giant sets, etc. These are great tools to use to annihilate muscles. Don’t go overboard but every now and then use these to promote extra stimulation and muscle growth.
#46 Pre Exhaust
Using exercises like chest fly’s before bench pressing can work really well. The aim of pre exhaust sets is to get blood into the muscle and prepare them for battle. Doing some warm up sets and pre exhaust movements is a good way to wake up the muscle, and also prevent injury.
#47 Develop Bigger Triceps
Too many guys spend time doing bicep curls but not enough time working on their triceps. The triceps make up around 70% of the arm, so why are so many focused on the other 30%? It doesn’t make sense!
For every bicep exercise in your plan make-sure you have 2 tricep exercises. To grow the triceps use exercises like dips, close grip presses, skull crushers and heavy overhead DB extensions.
#48 Training Volume
The amount of sets and reps done each workout is a really important factor. As a general guideline I’d say anything from 8-16 working sets per session is a good rule of thumb. You can add volume if training becomes too easy and pull back if strength is suffering. It’s all about listening to the body and asking this pertinent question… Am I progressing my lifts?
A great tool to build muscle. I like using machine towards the end of a workout when my mental focus and strength is on the decline. Machines lock you in place, making it easier to isolate the working muscle.
#50 Use Lifting Straps
You’ll be able to lift more when you use straps. Using them for pull ups, deadlifts and rows will allow you to lift much more weight. With most pulling exercises the forearms tend to fail before the back – so they are a great tool to use. Just don’t get to reliant on them and take time off every once in a while to ensure you improve your grip strength.
Thanks so much for reading! If you’ve benefitted from reading this post please leave your comment below and share this article with a friend who wants to build some muscle too!