Gaining Muscle Mass – Guidelines

My personal training clients often tell me they want more muscle mass.

To support this goal, and to foster self-responsibility, here is my summary guidance based on research, my 40 years experience with weight training, my work with clients and my formal Kinesiology education.

Recommendations and rationale:

1. Perform 3 to 4 workouts per week, with a split system of upper and lower body, or some other logical split (a. back and chest, b. arms and shoulders, c. legs and abs).

  • (Muscles respond to stress and rest. Research suggests that 2  to 3 intense workouts per week per body part will produce will results.)

2. Focus on large muscle groups (hips, legs, chest, back) and compound exercises (dead lift, squats and bench press).

  • (Muscle growth will come from working larger muscles. Adding an inch to your forearm will not be as significant as an inch on your thighs. )

3. Keep the reps per exercise between 6 and 10.

  • (Research shows that singles and doubles, as well as sets of high reps of 20 to 30 reps will NOT provide the muscle building stimulus of the 6 to 10 range.)

4. Perform more volume (reps x sets x no. of exercises). Do two to three exercises per body part, and 4 to 5 sets per exercise.

  • (Power lifters [dead lift, squats, bench press] are big, but they train for strength by doing doubles and singles. The bodybuilding method employs more volume with less heavy weights compared to competitive lifters, and uses more reps and sets)

5. Rest one to two minutes between sets.

  • (Offering 15 to 30 seconds of rest between sets may bring on too much lactic acid, and fatigue, not allowing the muscle to be challenged to contract with maximal tension. Your goal is NOT muscle endurance, but muscle size. Allow for some recovery to ensure you complete the required number of sets. Resting too much, as in Power lifting, for say 10 minutes between sets will not permit the volume of training required. )

6. Intensity is important. For example, on the third set of a group of three sets go to failure. The last rep should be impossible for you to complete on your own. Get help from a spotter to help you enough to keep the resistance moving and complete the rep.

  • (The more muscle fibers recruited during maximal muscle contractions will contribute more to the muscle growth and recovery process).

7. Use established advanced bodybuilding techniques to challenge the muscle contractions and workout stress.

  • (Bodybuilding techniques are well documented to support competitive bodybuilders: pyramid sets, super-sets, giant sets, forced reps, negative training, isometrics and rest-pause training – click here to read more about these techniques.)

7. Use proper technique to challenge the muscle contraction.

  • (Cheating to complete the “up” phase of the lift, and then “dropping” the resistance reduces the quality of the repetition and the muscle contraction. Keep good posture, take 1 to 2 seconds on the “up” phase, and allow 2 to 3 seconds on the down phase.)

8.  Change the exercises or the way you do them every 6 weeks: sets, reps, super-sets, giant sets, or forced reps with a spotter.

  • (Muscles adapt to external stresses. A muscle growth plateau will result if the workout stays the same.)

9. Reduce the amount of weekly physical activity, other than your muscle building workouts.

  • (Research shows that is difficult to build cardio and muscle building capacity at the same time, during the same six week period. Bodybuilders are not long distance runners. Too much cardio will wear you down, and reduce the potential for muscle growth).

10. Use a combination of free weights and machines.

  • (Free weights require more muscle fibers to do the exercise, yet machines permit maximal effort with safety. Some machines are designed with advanced engineering to accommodate the natural strength curves of the joints. Each joint, as it moves through its normal range of motion,  experiences varying degrees of challenge.)

11. Ensure your diet is rich with high quality protein.

  • (Protein is the key nutrient required to repair muscle fibers that are undergoing repair, recovery and growth. Get the minimum required amount of 0.8 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. If you weigh 70 kgs, or 154 pounts, get about 70 grams of protein per day. If you are in a caloric deficit, muscle growth will be hindered. Click here to see the article on Protein Supplements).

12. Be patient and work with what you have.

  • (Not everyone responds to the same workout routine the same – genetics and body type play a role.)

13. Get with the culture. Join a bodybuilding gym and / or get a workout partner that will push you.

  • (You become what you wish for and with whom you associate. Runners use a pacing partners to help them reduce their race times. Do the same in bodybuilding, get a partner that will push and motivate you to greater intensity.)

14. Book another session with Paul Youldon. There is nothing better than hands-on, personal supervision of your workouts. Get the feedback you need. Get the advice to help your goals.