Diet and Nutrition

Gaining Muscle Mass the Easy Way

How many high school and college age guys would like to add 20-30 lbs of muscle? I cannot say for sure, but I would venture to say it is in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S. and millions if you go worldwide.

With the advent of the internet and the subsequent glut of information available how can it be that there are so many young men who want to gain weight but are forever frustrated with their results? The answer lies in the simplicity of what one must do to gain weight and the marketing ploys of some individuals. You see, the sad truth of our culture is that things have to be new and radical, or have catchy names in order for people to buy them.

We need look no further than the developers of HST and Max OT.

They needed to come up with something they can bill as their own, something which is differentiated from the rest in order to capture your dollars (make no mistake; those programs are vehicles to generate profit).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with someone making a living in this field and I think both HST and Max OT are solid programs. Unfortunately, they really don’t address the problem of the masses of young men who are looking to gain a large amount of muscle and having a hard time of it.

Let’s break this problem down to its core and work our way back from there. If anyone, regardless of how thin and how much of a “hard-gainer” they are, consume enough calories and trains properly they will put on weight. They can add as much bodyweight as they like. I know you are reading this and thinking, “This guy is full of it, I train like a banshee and eat anything that is not bolted to the ground and I can’t gain one stinking pound!” Bear with me; I shall set you free from the chains of skinnyitude!

Progressive resistance training stimulates the growth of muscles. If you are consuming sufficient calories you will add muscle if you train in a progressive fashion and allow the body to recover and supercompensate from your sessions in the gym. The two key phrases in that sentence (consume sufficient calories and allow the body enough time to recover) are what trip-up a lot of guys out there. They are the bane of the skinny man’s existence.

How many calories do you need to eat? You want a formula, right? No luck here, a formula is generic, you are unique. Here is the deal, if you are not gaining weight you need to eat more (I said this was simple). Thin young men have fast metabolisms. Eating “clean”, you know; chicken, rice, fish, oatmeal and so on, will not get you big! Sure, you can eat those foods, but you have to eat so much of them in order to meet your caloric needs that you literally have to become like a grazing cow and just be munching all day. Nobody will keep this up; they will just decide that being huge is not in the cards for them. You have to loosen up the reigns a bit and eat some fat. This doesn’t mean you have to live at McDonalds like that guy in the documentary, but it does mean that you need to consume calorie-dense foods. Here is a brief list:

  • peanut butter
  • beef
  • whole milk
  • cheese
  • whole eggs
  • ice cream

Are you starting to get the idea? You can even indulge in some fast food from time to time. Hamburgers are a great source of protein and very calorie dense. You don’t want to live on these foods, but they can certainly be a tasty supplement to your diet.

You DO NOT need to eat 6 times per day. You DO need to eat a lot of food. The number of meals is not as important as the total number of calories you consume.

As some of you may already know, it is a lot easier to drink calories than it is to eat them. You need to consume high-calorie shakes throughout the day. These shakes combined with the calorie-dense foods mentioned above will make it possible to consume enough calories to grow.

Protein intake is very important if you want maximum size. High level strength athletes have known for years that you need plenty of protein to allow for the muscle growth you desire. Chances are that if you consume enough calories to put on weight you will concurrently be consuming sufficient protein. Most of the calorie-dense foods mentioned above are both high in protein and fat. Of course, if you are on a quest for size you don’t want to take chances. This is where supplemental protein comes into the picture. If you mix a high quality protein supplement (Nitrean or Opticen from AtLarge Nutrition) into your daily shakes you will be virtually guaranteed of consuming sufficient protein to fuel rapid growth in size and strength.

Training is equally simple. You need to use the BIG BOY lifts, the compound movements. Here is a brief list of compound movements:

  • Bench press
  • Standing or seated shoulder press
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bent rows
  • Chins
  • Dips

The above movements performed properly will pack the mass on you (assuming you eat enough). Compound movements work so well because they are efficient and they allow the use of heavy loads. They are efficient because one movement hits a lot of muscle and the value of lifting big weights is self-evident.

There is a lot of talk out there about training to failure or not. Training to failure is a viable technique, but I don’t recommend it as the way to train on a consistent basis (this is a BIG change for me). The way for young men to train in order to pack on the mass is hit each body part 2 times per week using the big movements and stopping short of failure. For the purposes of packing on the mass a specific number of reps are secondary to how you train. In other words you can train with 3 reps per set or you can use 10 reps per set (not to contradict myself, but I recommend you do not exceed 10 reps). Training hard and eating right will add mass and strength within the 3-10 rep range parameter. I recommend you train with the rep scheme with which you are most comfortable.

I know people get freaky about this stuff, but you really don’t need to. The important part is that you finish each set with some gas left in the tank. For each unique exercise you perform in your workout I recommend 1-3 warmup sets followed by 3 working sets. The working sets should be challenging, but not so much that you cannot complete the desired number of reps for each of the 3 sets without changing the resistance. So, if you are using 5 reps in your routine, your 3 working sets should be performed for 5 reps each with the same weight.

The key to progression on this routine is that you bump the weight by 5-10 lbs (your call) when you feel that each of the 3 sets has become easy enough that you can graduate and get 3 sets of 5 with the higher weight next time without training to failure. Don’t get too greedy! Make sure to stay within the confines of the routine and you will be rewarded with greater size and strength very quickly. This is a progression by “feel”. It is the only way to progress with maximum efficiency. I, nor anyone else, can tell you when you will be able to progress. Only you can ascertain that by gauging how you feel from workout to workout.

The first time you use a particular resistance for 3 sets of X (5 in the previous example) the weight should feel heavy, quite challenging (but again, remember, you should STILL be able to make the 3 sets of X without hitting failure).

Subsequent sessions with the same weight should get easier and easier. After 2-3 sessions (in most cases) you should be ready to progress. You will get a feel for this once you have done the routine for a few sessions.

Continuing with the “feel” theme you will find that from time to time your body will need a rest. You might start to get aches in your joints. You might just feel excessively worn-out or tired when training. When this occurs you can just lighten your loads and “go through the motions” for a few sessions. These sessions should be very easy, just enough to get the blood flowing. Once you have done this for 2-4 sessions per bodypart you should once again be ready for heavy training.

I recommend a 2 day split performed twice per week. You can vary this if you like but remember your body needs rest from the gym! Here is a SAMPLE routine (in terms of exercises):

Monday and Wednesday:

  • Bench Press
  • Chins
  • Seated shoulder press

Tuesday and Friday (alternate squats and deadlifts every other week):

  • Squats
  • Calf Raises

Abbreviated, yes, but also highly effective if practiced as I have recommended.

If you really, truly want to gain weight all you need do is follow the guidelines above, and then get back to me when you have put on 20-30 lbs of solid mass.

Now, get to it!

Written by Chris Mason

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