Lifting weights will get you big, but there’s much more to it than picking things up and putting them down. There’s what to train, when to train, how to train it; how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat it. Age, body type, and attitude also contribute to the end product you’re attempting to build.
From the experiences of being scrappy and scrawny to stacked and shredded, here are ten things you need to do to pack on slabs of muscle.
1. ADD 500 CALORIES IMMEDIATELY
If you’ve been lifting and lifting, and eating and eating, but still can’t gain, more than likely there are two things happening. The first is that you’re not eating enough, even if you think you are. Start tracking what you eat for a week, if you eat oatmeal in the morning, have 2 cups instead of 1. If you eat a single piece of chicken at dinner, eat two. Monitor your eating, and slowly eat more and more each week. The second snag that could be happening is that you’re metabolism is insanely fast (sucks to be a skinny dude), but that just means you need to eat more. Even if you don’t want to.
2. EAT MORE OFTEN
Three squares is how most of the the civilized world consumes food, but if you’re on a mission to building more muscle, eating more frequently can be a bit more effective. Slamming down extra calories in three meals can get tricky, and even downright sickening, make it easier, spread it out through five or six. Eating more frequently can also keep up a steady flow of essential nutrients like protein in the body and muscles throughout the day with less spikes and valleys.
3. POST-WORKOUT IS NO JOKE
Post-workout is a critical, and quite possibly the most important meal. After heavy lifting your testosterone levels have dropped, cortisol levels have elevated, and the body and muscles are craving food and nutrients. Without getting super techy, your body needs two things… and two things, fast. Protein and carbs. You don’t need fats here, one scoop of protein and two bananas should cover you. Stay tuned for more recipes on post-workout shakes and nutrition.
4. MAKE MONSTER SHAKES
Your post-workout shakes are one thing, monster shakes are another. Because you’re trying to eat more frequently and pile in calories, “Monster Shakes” can help fill that void. A monster shake is loaded with protein, carbs, and fats, and better for in-between meals. Go with one scoop of whey (about 100 calories, 25 grams of protein), two tablespoons of natural peanut butter (about 200 calories), one banana (about 100 calories, 27 grams of carbs), one cup of oatmeal (about 100 calories, 25 grams of carbs), 4-6 ounces of unsweetened almond milk (about 30-50 calories), plus water. You’re looking at a solid 500+ extra calories. (feel free to add more!)
5. DO FULLS OR SPLITS
Full body workouts are great because you can release a ton of testosterone. Go with compound movements like the squat, deadlift, and overhead press. Split routines can also be good; back and biceps, chest and triceps, etc. Stay away from circuit training and intervals, save that for fat-burning.
6. STRETCH AND ROLL
Stretching and foam rolling is far from a boring waste of time. No one really likes doing it, but it’s a necessity. Always get a few minutes of dynamic stretching (movement) and foam rolling various parts of the body before a workout. Static stretching can come after the workout, potentially even yoga. Getting injured sucks, it not only kills the body, but also your motivation. Be smart and train smart.
7. DO LESS IN THE GYM
Lifting more means more muscle, right? Well, no. If you’re banging away at 20+ sets per large muscle group, drop down to 12. Take 60-90 second rest periods. Small muscle groups, go with 9 sets. Your lifts should be all out intensity with solid rest periods. Get in the gym, get out, eat, and recover.
8. SLASH CARDIO
If you’re into running, it’s time to prioritize lifting weights. Cut back on your cardio workouts by 50% or more. At least until you start seeing the weight pack on. It’s very hard to be a consistent runner and hold onto muscle mass.
9. RESTRUCTURE YOUR ROUTINE
You can’t take on a routine, give it a couple days, or even a couple weeks and think it’s going to get results you want. And it’s even more challenging to get into a gym without some type of structured program and expect to see progressive gains. One-off workouts are great for traveling, or once you’ve learned your body enough, but when starting out, structure is needed. However, if things aren’t moving along after 4-6 weeks, it might be time to reassess your program and try something new.
10. EMBRACE PATIENCE
Bulking up is hard, and especially hard for guys with super speed metabolisms. Accept the fact that it’s going to take time, a lot of effort, a lot of food, and plenty of sacrifice. Stay clean, committed, and focused and you’ll get where you want to be before you know it. (I started at 16, I’m 29 now… whoa)