Passive muscle gain (massage, ice therapy, electrostim)

Passive muscle gain (massage, ice therapy, electrostim, etc)

Will passive techniques like massage, ice therapy, and electrical muscle stimulation (electrostim) help you gain muscle?  Definitely!  Should you do them?

Like everything in nutrition and bodybuilding you cannot answer a single question in isolation, you need the full story.  Is peanut butter a good snack for a bodybuilder? It depends!  You cannot answer a nutritional question like that in isolation!  You need to know everything else the bodybuilder has eaten that day and everything else they plan to eat for the rest of the day to answer what would make a “good snack”.  Same thing with these passive muscle gain techniques.  For 99% of you the answer is no, you should NOT use them because when you look at the complete picture they will decrease rather than increase your rate of muscle gain.  Wait, you say, this makes no sense what so ever.  Please read further!

The muscle gain pie

I have covered in gory detail on my website here about what reasonable muscle gain expectations are and discussed the muscle gain calculator where you can calculate what kinds of muscle you can expect to gain in a year depending on your experience level and dedication level.  Here we are going to look at the concept of max muscle gain rate as a pie chart.   15 pounds (7 kg) a year of muscle gain is a good estimate for natural lifters in their early twenties with less than 2 years lifting experience. BUT this 15 pounds a year assumes you do everything right and few people do.  Lets look at the “muscle gain pie” and see the factors that add to muscle gain.


Lifting Weights. Clearly lifting weights (dark blue in chart) is the #1 thing that causes muscle gain – duh.  Most people make the mistake of thinking that weight lifting is the ONLY thing that helps you gain muscle and these people will forever be “hardgainers” because you can see from the above chart that they will only be getting about 1/3 the gains of people who are doing everything right (the ‘fastgainers’).

Perfect Workouts. Lets look at other very important factors.  Even with the stupidest workout plan on the planet a newbie would gain muscle BUT doing a really, really good workout like Candito Linear strength training workout or a solid 3 day a week full body bodybuilding workout with perfect form, perfect amount of weight, and 100% intensity gets you the additional perfect workout gains (bright orange in chart).  Again, most people understand the importance of a good workout plan but people seem to stop here.  As you can see from the above chart, if you are working out and doing everything flawlessly in the gym (blue + orange above) but screw everything else up then you get about 60% of your gains.  Again, these people will forever be “hardgainers”.

Perfect Nutrition (yellow in chart) is far more important for muscle gain than people realize.  Many newbies doing get enough protein or enough essential fatty acids.  Newbies are also prone to doing crazy fad diets for cutting that end up causing them to lose all kinds of muscle. Optimal nutrition is a huge factor in gaining muscle which is why I strongly suggest that people use the free meal plans at CustomMealPlanner.Com because they are made with bodybuilders in mind.  Each meal plan you create at CustomMealPlanner will have a “Muscle Gain Rating” that will let you know how you are doing, not only that, they have a chart showing your predicted LBM over time.

Enough Sleep. Also far more important than people want to admit is sleep (forest green in chart).  Sleep is incredibly important for muscle gain and if you don’t get enough you are leaving gains on the table.  If you need to set an alarm clock to get up in the morning then you are not getting enough sleep, its that simple.  If you “don’t have time” to sleep enough then please read about time management.

So if you have a perfect workout plan, perfect nutrition, and get enough sleep you are nearly a ‘fastgainer’ because you will be getting 90% of your potential gains.  There are a few things left that will help you get the whole enchilada.

Enough Cardio.  Getting maximum gains in terms of both strength and muscle mass requires very grueling workouts.  Unless you are in excellent cardiovascular shape you will “run out of gas” before your muscles have been pushed to the limit.  Don’t let your weak lungs and heart limit your gains!  Please, do cardio!

Passive muscle gain (massage, ice therapy, electrostim) Finally, I am back on the topic of this page. You will see shortly why I needed to give you all this background information.  Yes, sports massage feels great and it can help you gain muscle.  Yes, ice therapy probably helps you gain muscle.  Yes electrical muscle stimulation can help you gain muscle – physical therapists (physiotherapists) use this in the rehabilitation of post-surgery patients all the time because it works.   These three passive muscle gain techniques will get you another 5% so that you get the entire muscle gain pie!

Should you use passive muscle gain (massage, ice therapy, electrostim)?

Remember I said that you cant answer any question in isolation and that for 99% of people these passive muscle gain techniques would lead to a decrease in the muscle gain rate rather than an increase, here is why.   Sports massage will take an hour plus driving time.  Ice therapy will take about 20 minutes plus driving time.  Electrostim takes at least an hour to do a few muscles and those who think they can simply work or study while doing it have simply not tried it.  If you do all three of these you are looking at an additional 2.5 hours on every workout day.

I have 35 years of experience in bodybuildng and have helped literally thousands of people get into shape.  Universally, the most common factor holding people back is lack of time.  They dont have time to workout consistently.  They dont have time to do cardio.  They dont have time to go shopping and cook so they end up eating garbage from the roach coach every day.  They dont get enough sleep because thats the only thing that they can cut out of their day.  Look at the forrest green (sleep) and yellow (nutrition) segments of the gains pie chart above – those combined give you 33% of your gains whereas the total combined benefit of these passive muscle gain techniques is only 5%.  Since most people are already complaining that they dont have enough time, where the heck are they going to find 2.5 additional hours every workout day?  They will just sleep less or skip cooking good healthy food!  They will be sacrificing 33% of their gains to get 5%!  Unless you have lots of money and lots of spare time, these passive muscle gain techniques do not make sense!