It's hard not to believe the lies...
Bad supplement companies and personal trainers may well have you believe that bulking up is a tough and intense process where you have to use their special product or technique otherwise you won’t grow.
Fortunately for you, putting on muscle is a much more straight forward process.
I imagine, however, that you’re more interested on putting on lean mass opposed to just weight.
Anyone can train their butt off and then eat everything they see but they’re also the people who are constantly swaying between cutting and bulking.
The drastic measure that they implicate for their goals leave them in a perpetual state of limbo.
Instead, being patient and consistent will allow you to build some quality muscle while keeping fat gain to a minimum.
There are two main factors that influence any body composition change; training and diet.
Your training will create the stimulus for growth where as your diet will provide the energy and building blocks for recovery.
If one of these isn’t correct then you won’t put on as much muscle as possible and have a hard time recovering or put on fat and create that soft look.
The first thing to realise is that the primary driver behind muscle gain is strength.
If your strength isn’t increasing then you will not grow.
Simple as that.
Progressive overload (increasing the weight you are lifting over time) should be the main focus of anyone’s routine.
Not only will you then build muscle but you’ll also be able to impress people with how much weight you can actually lift.
Someone who can bench press twice their bodyweight isn’t going to have a bad chest in the same way that someone who can do pull ups with 30kg strapped around their waist will have a muscular back.
The second main contributing factor towards growth is volume.
You need to be increasing the total volume that your body can handle.
Volume refers to how many sets and reps you are completing multiplied by the weight you’re using.
So if you’re deadlifting 100kg for 3 sets of 5 reps then you’re total volume will be 1500kg.
As you can see, increasing the amount that you are lifting is a huge factor of increasing your total volume.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should go all out every single session and do as many reps with the highest weight you can manage on every single exercise.
That will only lead you to feeling sore, lethargic and mentally drained.
Instead we’re going to be looking at something called the MED or Minimum Effective Dose.
MED means doing as little as possible to get the maximum amount of results. It’s the smallest amount of effort required to create a massive stimulus.
Full body training allows for you to create the muscle building stimulus in a given muscle more than once per week.
This stimulus creates what is known as MPS or Muscle Protein Synthesis where the body will utilize amino acids from proteins for growth and repair.
MPS lasts up to 72 hours (3 days).
Instead of destroying your chest on Monday and then having to wait a whole week before training it again, training it twice per week will give it more of a reason to grow.
This is because the response from your muscles telling your body to grow will end on Thursday so why not create a second stimulus on that day?
Training 3 or 4 days a week for no more than 75 minutes is the perfect amount of time for beginners, intermediate’s and a lot of advanced lifters.
In these sessions you should focus on building strength on big compound movements while using strategic assistance exercises to bring up any lagging muscle.
If you prefer to workout four times a week then I'd recommend using an upper body / lower body split such as:
Each macronutrient (carbs, fat and protein) within the diet has a specific purpose so it’s important not to miss out or exclude any of them.
To work out how many calories you should be consuming a very simple and effective method is to take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 17.
This tends to be the sweet spot where people can eat enough food to grow with minimal amounts of fat spill over.
From this overall caloric amount you then need to work out your macro split i.e. the amount of carbs, fats and protein.
I recommend eating one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight and setting fats at 30% of your overall calories with carbohydrates making up the rest.
Protein equals four calories per gram, fat is nine calories and carbohydrates are also four calories.
Go and grab a calculator and we’ll look at an 150lb individual as an example.
This means that the macronutrient split of an 150lb individual looking to gain muscle should 150 grams of protein, 85 grams of fat and 296 grams of carbohydrates.
Where these macronutrients come from doesn’t matter so much for body composition but will matter for health reasons so always try to aim for nutrient dense foods such as vegetables, fish, meat, nuts and fruit.
If you gain more than 0.5lb per week then I’d lower your calories by 100 and if you’re gaining less than increase them by 100.
Like I said at the start, building muscle is not complicated but it is a long process.
You’re not going to turn into your favorite cover model overnight, no matter how much you pray.
Be patient, be consistent and enjoy the journey.