Bulking Up and Gaining Muscle
There are thousands of products, newsletters, and books out there that promise to show you the secret of how to “gain muscle fast” and they ALL want your money but I’ll give you the secret for free – gaining muscle is as easy as 1-2-3:
book read my review
What do you need to buy? A $10 used set of dumbbells from from craigslist or a garage sale is perfect, your muscles don’t know if they are lifting used rusty old dumbbells or new, expensive, shiny, chrome ones! If you cant find a used set then you can buy a new weight set but don’t pay more than $1/lb!. You can make your own pullup bar with $5 of metal toprail from a hardware store or buy a no-mar, door mount pullup bar.
Please remember, lifting weights without maintaining proper nutrition is a waste of time! If you dont understand my nutrition section then consider the book Bodybuilding Revealed which has the best coverage of bodybuilding nutrition I have seen (Read my review).
Gaining mass, is really simple but it takes a LOT of work. Later I will tell you about how to eat right and lifting weights but first, lets talk about expectations.
Ten minute video explaining how to bulk up and gain weight.
There is a LOT of bad information out there and people have a very warped view of what are reasonable expectations for putting on muscle thru weightlifting. Gaining muscle is a very slow process despite what the media and advertisements would have you believe. Please check out my muscle gain calculator to see what kind of yearly muscle gain you can expect – answer 5 simple questions and get a prediction of your yearly muscle gain.
How To Bulk Up And Gain Muscle
Step 1) Lift Weights With Intensity
You have to lift weights to get stronger and gain muscle. Mass follows strength, you cant get bigger without getting stronger. Here are workout plans for beginner, intermediate or advanced bodybuilders. Now lets talk about the dedication required. You muscle gains are roughly proportional to the effort you put into lifting weights – up to a point, and that point is reached when you overtrain. You cant gain 20lbs of muscle in a year by flitting around the gym now and then. If you want maximum gains, you need to work really hard - it means 5 days a week of intense lifting. Just being IN a gym an hour a day does nothing, chatting your buddies while standing near weights doesn’t make your muscles grow – you need intense, focused workout sessions. Check out my section on “Focus” to see what I mean by that.
Step 2) Get Good Nutrition
Believe it or not, lifting weights is the EASY part of gaining muscle, nutrition is the hard part. The #1 reason bodybuilders have poor results is not because they don’t work out hard enough but because their nutrition sucks. Most beginning and intermediate bodybuilders think they have “good nutrition” when they really have horrible nutrition. “Taking” a protein shake after a workout does not constitute good nutrition! It can take up to FIVE days for the muscles to rebuild after a workout and during that time you need a constant intake of protein. That protein shake after the workout is a good start but you have to keep the good nutrition up for the 5 days after the workout and if you workout 2x a week that means you need good nutrition every single day! Your body can’t store protein up so just having a huge steak with dinner will not work if you want to maximize gain muscle, you need to take your protein in 4-6 small, even doses spread evenly through out the day to insure your recovering muscles always have the amino acids they need to rebuild. Nobody said bodybuilding was easy. If you can’t eat 6 real meals a day then protein powder (or organic protein powder) mixed in milk or water can make a quick and inexpensive meal replacement in a pinch, remember though, real meals are always better! Just to reiterate, nutrition is just as important as lifting weights when it comes to adding muscle mass. Don’t bother tearing your muscles down unless you plan on giving them the constant supply of nutrients they need to rebuild! If my free healthy recipes dont appeal to you then consider buying this bodybuilding cookbook (read my review).
The first thing you need to know about nutrition are some numbers. I suggest that you consume 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day so if you weigh 180lbs, you eat 180g protein during the day. Next question is how many calories should you eat, my calorie calculator asks you 5 questions to accurately determine your metabolism and give you the precise number of calories you need in each of your 6 meals.
Eating more than this will not make your muscles grow faster, you will just get fat!!! This is really important so I’m going to say this gain. Eating more than what this chart shows will NOT make you stronger or give you bigger muscles, it will just make you FAT. This is the bulking myth – you don’t need to get fat to get strong. OK, there is one exception to this and its for very advanced or pro bodybuilders. They need to bulk and cut to continue to make gains but for 95% of people lifting weights, bulking and cutting is more trouble than its worth. As long as you are getting your six evenly spaced doses of protein as shown my this chart, your muscles will have the building blocks they need to grow bigger and stronger– eating more will not help.
Lets take a quick look at what happens if you are not careful with your diet and eat junk food. Our 140 hypothetical BBer needs 23g protein six times a day. Lets say that for each of his meals he eats a big mac which has 24g protein. Each burger has 24g protein so his muscles will grow well but man-o-man look at the calories! Remember I said that this 140lb BBer needs six 350 cal meals, well the Big Mac is 590 calories, almost 200% too much. What this means is that our 140lb BBer would gain 3lbs fat per week or 12lbs of fat per month! Can you say sumo wrestler! You really need to watch what you eat! Here are the most common nutrition mistakes made by bodybuilders:
- they get enough protein so their muscles grow but they eat too many calories so they get really fat
- they eat the proper number of calories but don’t get enough protein so their muscles don’t grow much
- they get enough protein and the proper number of calories but don’t distribute their protein intake into 6 evenly spaced small doses so their muscles don’t grow optimally
Don’t let this happen to you! If you are going to all the work of lifting weighs 5 days a week, make sure you give your nutrition the same effort so your muscles can grow.
If you have the time and devotion, you can gain muscle AND lose fat at the same time but its REALLY hard! Your protein requirements remain the same but the number of calories per meal drops so its even harder to find acceptable meals so your nutrition becomes much more strict. If you are losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time it will be very difficult to buy anything at a fast food restaurant or in TV dinner form which satisfies these requirements – you need to cook your own meals. Here are some of my favorite quick healthy meals, if those dont appeal to you then consider buying this highly recommended bodybuilding cookbook (read my review).
Step 3) Get Enough Rest
There are two types of rest you need, lets start with sleep. Night time is a very important time for building muscle. Your growth hormone spikes during REM sleep so its really important to get a good nights sleep as you want to maximize that growth hormone production. Another big reason to get enough sleep relates to dieting. If you have a caloric deficit, and dont get enough sleep you end up burning muscle instead of fat! How much sleep is enough? If you awake naturally without an alarm clock, that is enough sleep. If an alarm wakes you then you have not gotten enough sleep. Getting enough sleep can also reduce the chance of overtraining.
Speaking of overtraining, lets talk about the other kind of rest, the time between workouts. How much rest you need between workouts depends a lot on your experience level. Beginners can workout every day or every other day where as an advanced bodybuilder would have to wait 3-6 days between workouts. Please note that when I say that an advanced bodybuilder needs 3-6 days between workouts, I mean for a particular bodypart. For example if you are advanced and workout chest on Monday then you shouldnt workout chest again till Thursday at the earliest. Its fine to do legs on Tuesday, back on Wednesday though!
What about mass gain products?
But what about mass gain powders, mass gain shakes, and mass gain bars for sale at every gym around the world? Those help, dont they? You wish! If gaining muscle were as easy as eating lots of food then everyone would look like Arnold Schwartzenneger but what we see instead is that obesity is a national epidemic! Here is the naked, hard, truth. If you are getting good nutrition, and you are if you follow the advice here, then eating more food than that will cause you to add FAT and not muscle. If you are:
- so active that your bodyfat is dangerously low (under 5%)
- so busy that you dont have time to eat or forget to eat
- are never hungry
then you are one of the few who could actually benefit from a bulking product. Rather than spending lots of money on expensive, chemically tasting, and unhealthy bars and shakes, consider making your own bulking bars! You can do it in 5 minutes with all natural ingredients and they taste fantastic and can be eaten on the go.
So remember that to gain muscle requires three things:
To maximize your muscle gains, you need to do research and learn! This website is a great place to start but don’t stop here, I’m just one person with one point of view. Look on the internet, go to your public library (best option) or buy some of the recommended books.