If you’re already familiar with the layout of your gym, you’ve probably spent a good time looking at people built like Bada Lekan and Franz Lusternberger and wondered how they got so big.
Building muscle is not such a simple science. Not if you’re trying to get BIG big. Just turning up at the gym 3 times a week and working around a circuit of machines might get you some newbie gains, but after a while, you’re going to get frustrated at why you’re not growing.
If you’ve been wondering how to build more muscle then we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll take a look at 12 science-backed tips for building muscle that will help you become the mass monster you’ve always dreamed of being.
1. Prioritize Compound Movements
One of the biggest mistakes many people make when they’re trying to build muscle is incorporating too many isolation exercises. Look, isolation exercises make for great accessory work. We’re not saying you should ditch them entirely, but if you’re looking to build more muscle then you need to make compound lifts your priority.
If you’re wondering how to get strong then you should be prioritizing these types of exercises:
- Barbell squat or other squat variations
- Barbell bench press
- Standing overhead press
- Bent over rows
The reason compound movements like these are so effective at building muscle is that they recruit more type II muscle fibers at once. This is because they’re multi-joint exercises and can be used to work different muscles at once.
Take the deadlift for example. The first part of the movement uses the quads to get the bar off the floor and to the knees. Then the glutes and hamstrings take over to achieve lock-out.
Throughout the movement, the entire core is being used to stabilize, especially the lower back. The deadlift also recruits the shoulders, upper back, and arms.
Recruiting more muscles at once means you can move a heavier load. The heavier the load, the more the body has to grow to keep up with the increasing demands you’re putting on it. This is why so many bodybuilding programs for beginner and intermediate lifters focus on compound lifts such as the 5×5 method.
We Said “Prioritize”
The studies that compare multi-joint compound exercises to single-joint isolation exercises point to the same thing. Compound exercises make you stronger, but they both help you build muscle at a similar rate.
We’re not saying that isolation exercises have no place in your workout plan. Isolation exercises provide a much safer option for working muscles to fail. You can safely fatigue your legs on a leg-extension machine, but if you try to squat until failure you run the risk of injuring your lower back or maybe just passing out in the rack!
The trick is to make the compound lifts the main focus of each workout. This way you’re prioritizing building strength. The stronger you get, the bigger you’ll get. Then once you’re done with the compound lifts you can work to fatigue with isolation exercises.
2. Follow a Program
Going into the gym and doing whatever you feel like might be great for the days you’re feeling motivated and well-organized, but at the end of the day, consistency will always be your greatest ally in the gym.
If you’re looking to build muscle then you need to find yourself a workout program that is geared towards gaining size and easy to follow. The easiest way to build muscle is to use progressive overload training. The best way to make the most of progressive overload training is to follow a program so you can track your progress.
Building muscle doesn’t require complicated programs that require you to spend three hours in the gym at one time. If you’re a beginner or intermediate gym-goer then simple is better. Three easy-to-follow programs that can help you to build muscle fast are:
- GVT (German Volume Training)
- 20 Rep Squat Program
These programs are a great place to start if you’re looking to build more muscle mass.
3. Get Enough Protein
Protein contains amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle. Without enough protein, your hard work at the gym is going straight down the toilet. Protein is essential for rebuilding muscle tissue after workouts.
If you don’t get enough protein, your body doesn’t have what it needs to build muscle, it’s as simple as that. Bodybuilders who are preparing for competition have been found to respond best to 2.3-3.1g of protein per kg of lean body mass.
I know what you’re thinking, is that a lot and how do I work that out? To make it easier, most people trying to build muscle will aim for 2.2g of protein per kg of body weight. Can’t eat enough protein? That’s okay, you can supplement with some ready to drink protein shakes or go ahead and make your own.
To make it even easier there’s an online calculator that will work out exactly how much protein you need to eat. The upper end of the CDC’s recommended range is a great place to start for more muscle mass.
4. Eat More
The next tip on how to build more muscle is simple: eat more. You might think you’re eating a lot, but you probably need to eat more. When it comes to building muscle food is just as important as your time in the gym. If you want your body to grow then you’re going to need to give it more calories than it needs or wants.
The amount you need to eat to grow can be quite daunting for first-time bodybuilders. If you’re serious about getting big as fast as possible then every meal you eat should leave you feeling uncomfortable. Quite often mealtimes will feel harder than the workouts!
The good news is, that if you love food, you’re going to be getting a lot of it. All of the evidence points to the fact that you need to have an energy surplus if you want to grow and get stronger. While there is no scientifically proven amount of calories everyone should consume to get big, most trainers recommend a 300-500 calorie surplus if you’re building muscle.
5. Don’t Focus Too Much on Your Physique
This is where a lot of people trying to pack on muscle come unstuck. As we’ve already covered, building muscle means taking in a calorie surplus. When you’re trying to get big you’re going to have to wave goodbye to that precious six-pack.
When you’re building muscle there is going to be a degree of gaining fat too. That is why bodybuilders have a bulking and a cutting phase. It is possible to stay shredded while building muscle, but it’s going to take much longer.
The first reason for this is obvious. Your calorie surplus will be minimal so there’s only so much growth the body can do.
Secondly, if you’re not eating to get big then you’ll find your strength plateaus sooner rather than later. Trying to work through a progressive overload training program on a calorie deficit is a recipe for failure and potential injury.
You need to eat to build muscle. So worry about your body fat percentage and your six-pack after you’ve accomplished your muscle-building goals.
6. Ease Up on the Cardio
This one is short and simple. If you’re looking to build muscle then you need to cut down on your cardio. Long cardio sessions burn way too many calories and they’ll eat into the energy that you need for lifting weights.
If you’ve ever seen any videos of pro bodybuilders getting their cardio in, they’re usually just walking on a treadmill at a brisk pace. Compound lifts will get your heart-rate pumping so you don’t have to worry too much about your overall fitness.
Avoid doing any strenuous cardio before a workout, and keep cardio sessions to three times a week for 30-40 minutes.
7. Sleep More
Good quality sleep is crucial for building muscle. Inadequate sleep has been linked to reduced physical performance as well as loss of muscle mass.
Sleep is where the muscle-making magic happens. When we are sleeping our muscle recovery is enhanced through protein synthesis and the release of human growth hormone.
Everyone is slightly different when it comes to sleep, but the Sleep Foundation recommends healthy adults should get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
8. Don’t Underestimate Rest Days
If you’re the kind of person who loves being in the gym then taking rest days can be difficult. While many professional bodybuilders will brag about never taking them, they do have the advantage of being on anabolic steroids.
Without anabolic steroids or SARMs, your body is going to need time to recover. These precious rest days are what allow you to come back to the gym stronger and continue making progress. Trying to train every day will just result in strength plateaus and possible injury.
Everyone is different when it comes down to rest days. Some people train for five days straight and then take two days off. Some full-body split programs recommend taking two days off between workouts to give the body time to recover.
There is no definitive answer as to the placement and amount of rest days for building muscle. A lot will come down to your level of experience in the gym as well as your diet and sleep quality.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that there is at least one day (but no more than three) between workouts that stress the same muscle or muscle groups.
9. Consider Performance Enhancers
PEDs are often seen as a bit taboo, but they’re something we should cover. Of course, it all depends on what your goals are. It’s a personal decision at the end of the day, and you should be capable of making an educated one.
There is absolutely no doubt that using anabolic steroids or SARMs is the quickest way to build muscle. But, they do have their drawbacks.
Most professional bodybuilders would advise that if you’re not looking to compete then the risk of taking PED’s is not worth it. Misuse of anabolic steroids or SARMs can lead to serious health complications.
The Benefits of Anabolic Steroids and SARMs
You can’t have a serious discussion about PEDs by just saying they’re all bad. They serve a purpose, and when used under the supervision of medical professionals they can wield some impressive results.
Anabolic steroids and SARMs such as Ligandrol (LGD-4033) and Testolone (RAD-140) work by increasing the amount of testosterone in the body. This has several benefits when it comes to building muscle including:
- Decreased recovery time
- Increase in muscle size
- Increase in red blood cell production
- Maintain and increase bone density
- Enhanced protein synthesis
- Regulate cortisol production
- Nootropic properties
- Increase strength
If you think about it, that is essentially a list of everything you need to pack on muscle mass. Not only do anabolic steroids and SARMs help the body to recover and build muscle, but the increase in testosterone also increases aggression.
This might sound like a bad thing, and it can be, but when it comes to weight training, a little bit of extra aggression is good to have around the gym.
The Risks of Anabolic Steroids and SARMs
While the benefits of PEDs might seem like a no-brainer, there’s a reason why everyone in the gym isn’t using them. For a start, anabolic steroids are illegal. It is possible to prescribe testosterone for TRT, but that’s only if you’re found to have naturally low testosterone levels.
It’s also worth noting that TRT is a lifelong commitment. Once you artificially increase your testosterone levels your body stops producing it naturally. It can bounce back eventually, but for many people who have used testosterone for a prolonged period, without it, their natural testosterone production is permanently impaired.
SARMs on the other hand are legal in most countries. But they’re not regulated by any governing body, so you don’t always know exactly what you’re taking. One study on the content of various SARMs products found that 25% of the products tested contained substances not listed on the label.
Other than legal complications and the chances of you finding a good product, there are several other risks with taking anabolic steroids and SARMs:
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Liver Toxicity
- Mood disturbances
- Natural testosterone suppression
- High blood pressure
- Kidney problems or failure
- Nerve damage
- Hair loss
- Fluid retention
The Differences Between Anabolic Steroids and SARMs
As you can see, the potential risks of taking anabolic steroids or SARMs are intimidating. As a general rule SARMs are much milder than anabolic steroids. This is because they target the androgen receptors exclusively.
When used in low doses, SARMs have minimal side effects in comparison to anabolic steroids. Milder side effects do also mean that they are less effective at building muscle though. It is possible to take higher doses so that they have a similar effect to anabolic steroids, but with this comes increased side effects.
Should You Consider PEDs for Building Muscle
At the end of the day, it’s your choice, but there are a few things that are important to consider. A man’s testosterone levels will peak at around 18-20 years of age. This will slowly start to decline at around age 30.
This means that unless you’re looking to be a competitive bodybuilder or if you’re under 30 there is no reason to be using anabolic steroids or SARMs.
If you’re over 30 years of age and feel like you’ve reached your natural potential then it might be worth visiting your healthcare provider to get your testosterone levels checked. If they are low, you might be offered TRT. Alternatively, you could try SARMs if you are looking to build muscle without committing to TRT.
PEDs shouldn’t be used as a shortcut. Many people start too young, and way before they’ve reached their natural potential. If you’re considering using PEDs you need to ask yourself if you’ve done everything you can to build muscle.
10. Increase Your Testosterone Naturally
As we’ve just discussed, testosterone is the key to building muscle. The more testosterone you have in your body the easier it is going to be to build muscle. Not only that, but testosterone also plays an important role in your well-being, sleep, and energy levels.
There’s a reason why professional bodybuilders artificially increase their testosterone levels. The normal testosterone range for an adult male is around 300-1000 nanograms per deciliter, whereas the average professional bodybuilder has around 3500 ng/dL. It’s the super physiological doses of testosterone that allow bodybuilders to get so big.
The big question is, is there anything you can do to raise your testosterone levels without actually injecting testosterone? The answer is yes!
Firstly, getting adequate rest, minimizing stress, and eating enough food while strength training will help to boost your natural testosterone levels. If you’re still looking for an extra boost there are a few supplements available that have been proven to help boost testosterone levels. These include zinc, Tribulus Terrestris, and vitamin D.
11. Train With a Partner
We get it, building muscle is the perfect past-time for the lone wolves amongst us. There’s nothing better than shutting the world out and getting down to business. However, if you’re training to build muscle then training alone presents some limitations.
As we’ve discussed, the easiest way to build muscle is to demand more from them, forcing them to grow. Herein lies the problem. If you’re prioritizing the big compound lifts then you’re limited in how much you can push yourself.
Whether you’re trying to increase the weight on the bar or the number of sets, at some point you’re going to come up against failure. The problem being is that most of us are hardwired not to do something likely to result in injury. Especially if it means being trapped under a bar loaded with plates.
When we train on our own there’s an element of self-preservation in play. If something feels too heavy, you’re not going to try to lift it. Even if you do there’s going to be some hesitance, and hesitance doesn’t build muscle.
By training with a partner, you have a safety net. This allows you to try and push out extra reps and go for heavier loads.
Take the bench press for example. You could hit ten reps and find yourself at a sticking point at the bottom of the lift. A partner can help you through this sticking point so you can complete additional assisted reps.
If you’re looking to build muscle fast it’s worth teaming up with someone with similar goals in the gym as you. Not only can you help each other make progress safely, but that additional friendly competition might just help you out too.
12. Supplement Creatine
Of all the available OTC supplements for building muscle, creatine takes the top spot as an absolute necessity for building muscle.
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is stored predominantly in the muscles and brain. It can be sourced naturally from red meat and seafood, but at levels far below what you’ll get in a creatine supplement.
Creatine is stored in the muscles as phosphocreatine. This is used to produce a high-energy molecule called ATP. ATP is essentially the body’s energy currency – the more you have, the better you can perform at exercise.
Numerous studies have found creatine to be highly effective at building muscle and increasing strength when taken at a dose of 3-5g a day.
This Is How to Build More Muscle
Building muscle is somewhat of a science, but that doesn’t mean you need to make it complicated. If you’re looking to build more muscle then these science-backed tips can help you to start packing on more muscle mass.
Consistency is paramount so pick a program and get to work. Remember to prioritize rest, sleep, and food just as much as you do your precious hours in the gym.
Dumbbells Review has everything you need to help you on your muscle-building journey. From supplement reviews to exercise recommendations. So be sure to keep up to date to make sure you’re doing everything you can to maximize your gains.