How to Gain Muscle Mass in Three Simple Steps

Updated on January 26, 2018
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David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.


How to Gain Muscle Mass

If you want to know how to gain muscle mass as quickly as possible this article will answer that question for you. Obviously the first thing you need to do is is to make sure you are training in the right way. But there are other factors that are equally important. And if you don't get these right you won't gain as well as you could. Or you may not gain at all. So, if you want to maximize your results, the best way to gain muscle is to follow these three simple steps...

1. Lift Heavy Weights

You will build the most muscle mass in the shortest time by concentrating on the big compound exercises. Lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, bent-over row, standing press, chin-ups and parallel bar dips stimulate more total muscle when you perform them, and so they will build muscle faster than anything else.

You also need to use the most productive rep range for muscle gain. For most people, most of the time, this will be about 5 - 8 reps. This rep range will build solid, dense muscle, together with a good deal of strength. You can create additional growth through sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (expansion of the fluid components of the muscle cells) by using higher reps from time to time. And lower reps will build more strength, which can be translated into more muscle growth when you return to doing higher reps with more weight.

Progressive overload is a key factor in building muscle. This means you should be aiming to increase the weight you are using on each exercise as often as possible. The stronger you get the bigger you will be able to get.

However it is important to avoid overtraining. So make sure you get your workouts finished within about an hour, and train no more than 3 or 4 days per week. For beginners and hardgainers the best way to gain muscle is to do a full body workout three times per week. But if you are more advanced you may find a two-way split system (e.g. upper/lower body split) produces better results. And although you need to train hard to get the best results you should usually stop short of failure. Training to failure too often puts an enormous strain on the central nervous system, and could stop your gains dead.

2. Eat Lots of Food

To gain muscle mass you need to eat at a calorie surplus. But just how much you eat will depend on your current body composition, and is a very individual matter. If you are very overweight, you should concentrate on losing most of your excess body fat first. But if you are skinny and lean you will need to eat a lot of food.

This should be good quality food however. You won't build an impressive physique by eating pizzas, cakes and ice-cream. Protein intake is very important and is derived from meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese. Carbohydrates are also necessary, and should come from whole food sources such as whole grain products (especially rice and oats), potatoes and sweet potatoes. On top of this you should eat plenty of vegetables, some fruit, and make sure you get a good supply of healthy fats from oily fish, avocado's, olive oil etc.

The actual number of meals you eat per day is not that important. Some authorities swear you need 6 or 7 meals per day, whereas others say you can gain just as well on two. My suggestion is that you have at least three good meals per day, plus a post-workout shake on training days. And if you feel you need additional snacks, have them.

If you eat enough of the right kinds of food, you will make the gains you are looking for.

3. Ensure Adequate Recovery

Muscles grow when you are resting them; not when you are training them. So to ensure you can gain muscle at the fastest possible rate you need to make sure you get enough rest and sleep.

During sleep your body produces more anabolic hormones, which stimulate muscle growth. So make sure you get at least 8 hours sleep each night if you want to get the best results. Also taking a nap during the day could give additional benefits.

You can't build muscle effectively if you are constantly on the go either. So you need to limit your activities in other areas. Playing sports too often or going for long cycle rides will only inhibit the muscle building process. And although a small amount of cardio can be beneficial, you should not overdo this.

Try to avoid undue stress as well, as when you are stressed you secrete more cortisol which tends to break down muscle, so this will not help you achieve your goals.

So now you know how to gain muscle mass in the most effective way. Follow these three simple steps and you'll be sure to achieve the gains you are looking for.

© 2018 David


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