Building Muscle and Gaining Mass

By GetFitFocus

bodybuilder doing a clean and press exercise
Photo by Corey Young on Unsplash

Generally, it’s best to get a six pack first before you attempt to bulk up. While getting a six pack requires you to be at a caloric deficit, building muscle and gaining mass requires you to be at a caloric surplus.

Once again, the goal is 3 workouts a week – about 30 to 40 minutes each. You really do not need to go above that. You can if you want to, but it isn’t necessary. Let’s look at an example of a 3-day split.

Monday – Legs/calves

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Chest/shoulders/triceps

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Back/biceps/forearms

That’s an excellent split and it’s manageable. There are so many different exercises to target each muscle. It would be best to do research and vary your workouts. Generally, these are the most crucial and effective exercises. If all you did were these exercises, you would be fine.

  • Legs – Barbell squats, calf raises, dumbbell lunges
  • Biceps – Hammer curls, EZ bar curls, incline hammer curls, bicep curls
  • Triceps – Skullcrushers, push-ups, triceps pushdowns, close grip bench press
  • Chest – Barbell bench press, incline bench press, dips, incline dumbbell flyes
  • Forearms – Seated wrist curls, wrist rollers, farmer’s walk
  • Back – Deadlifts, wide grip pull-ups, single arm dumbbell rows, snatches
  • Shoulders – Front/side/rear lateral raises, Arnold press

How many reps and sets?

All you need to do is 8 to 12 reps per exercise for 4 to 5 sets. Lift as much weight as you can to barely make these reps. You want to be challenging yourself. You do not always need to train to failure, but training to failure is a strategy that should be employed once every 3 workouts.

Training to failure means that on your last set of each exercise, you keep doing reps until a point where you just can’t do one more rep. Your muscles will be burning and all good form goes out the window.This will cause micro-tears in your muscles and when the scars heal, there’ll be more muscle tissue. Do note that you should take a 1 week break every 8 weeks. Do not exercise during this entire week. Let your body heal.

As far as nutrition goes, you should multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 20 to know how many calories you should be consuming. It’s a good idea to get most of your calories from clean food that is nutritious. But sometimes, that can be difficult and tiring. It’s perfectly fine to eat some junk food to meet the calorie count. This is known as a ‘dirty bulk.’

scrabble letters on an empty plate spelling weight loss
Photo by Total Shape on Unsplash

Will you gain weight?

Yes but you’ll also gain muscle. Do not worry too much about gaining fat. You can do a ‘cut’ later where you burn off the excess fat. You already know what you need to know to lose weight. Ideally, you should bulk for 2 or 3 months and then do a cut where you go on a caloric deficit and burn fat. Keep your diet clean during this period and do not do more than 2 or 3 high intensity workouts a week and keep them within the 15 to 20 minute duration.

You just want to boost your metabolism so that your body goes into fat burning mode. As long as your diet is on point and clean, you’ll shed the excess pounds but now you will have more muscle mass. Do not let yourself get too overweight before you decide to do a cut. Monitor your weight closely as some find it extremely hard to bulk up.

You can even workout twice a week and it may yield better results. Less is more and while it seems counterintuitive, this is what an ectomorph needs to do. As with all things, consistency is the most important thing. Since it’s just 3 times a week and the workouts are about 30 minutes long, it’s definitely manageable.

How much muscle can I hope to gain?

According to Lyle Macdonald’s Natural Lean Muscle Mass Gain Model… this is what you can expect and it’s a pretty accurate guide.

Year 1 – 20-25 pounds (2 pounds per month)

Year 2 – 10-12 pounds (1 pound per month)

Year 3 – 5-6 pounds (.5 pound per month)

Year 4 and on – 2-3 pounds (not worth calculating)

As you can see, it takes time to build muscle and as the years pass, it gets more difficult. So, tailor your expectations accordingly and stay the course. Consistency is the key. If you can’t be consistent, you can’t be anything. 

Here’s something that most gym trainers will not tell you. Before you even sign up for a gym membership or start training with weights, make sure you put yourself through about 8 weeks of solid bodyweight training. There are so many beginners who do bicep curls and hammer curls at the gym… but they can’t do a single pull-up. Ask them to do 30 push-ups at a go and they struggle.

Build a strong foundation by doing as much bodyweight training as you can. Your muscles and ligaments will get used to resistance training and you’ll be amazed to discover that even guys who are built like a house, struggle with bodyweight exercises such as the V-sit, muscle up, human flag, archer push-ups, etc. Go on YouTube and find as many different bodyweight exercises that you can and do them till you are good at them.

Now that you have a solid foundation in resistance training you’re ready for weights at the gym.

Don’t neglect your posture and flexibility

Make sure you stretch often and always maintain good posture. This will prevent chronic issues from arising. Get up off your seat for 5 minutes every hour and do some stretches.

This is very important. If you can, practice yoga and Pilates. This will be very beneficial in the long run. Resistance training will make your muscles tighter. There will be a loss of range of motion. To solve this problem, do some light stretching daily.
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