I always recommend trying to get as lean as possible – ok, not ‘abs’ lean – before attempting to build muscle (bulk). The reason is simple: you will gain fat as you gain muscle, and also, you will be forced to eat enough to leapfrog the fat you carry before you provide your body with enough nutrition to grow muscle.
Now you’ve lost the fat, I’ll take you through what you need to do to build muscle…
Train with progressive resistance
Weight training is the most effective and efficient way of adding progressive resistance to training (what could be easier than adding another plate?). That’s why it’ll always be used.
It’s a universal law of building muscle that you must continually add more weight to the bar if you want to keep growing. Doing just more reps with the same weight will work only for a little while, and it’s simply not as efficient or effective as adding more weight, so don’t fall into the trap of more and more reps; training sessions should be kept short… intensity is the key.
Don’t under eat; eat enough, but not too much…
I’ve already told you that you will put on some fat while you build muscle. That’s because you are eating a calorie surplus. It’s inevitable that some of the calories you take in will be more than is used by the muscles and other body processes… and the body doesn’t like to waste those calories, so it will store them as fat.
The idea is for you to control your diet in such a way that you are eating enough to make slow, steady muscle gains, without putting on a lot of fat. You need to constantly measure body fat levels as they are far more accurate than scales in determining what is really going on with regards to gaining fat.
Many people fall into the trap of eating so much (because they are told to) that the scales go up and up and they put stones on within just a few months. Well, it’s almost impossible to put that amount of weight on in muscle without steroids in such a short space of time, so a lot of that will be fat – fat which will take months to lose (and will also cost you some muscle mass through prolonged cutting.)
Some people like to play their diets by ear, but a better way is to control how many calories you take in. The idea is to find out how many calories you need to eat in a day just to stay the same weight you are (BMR) and add a few hundred more calories in for your surplus to grow.
Unfortunately, I can’t possibly tell you exactly how much you will need to eat. Everyone is different, and even then, your own body’s requirements will be ever changing. Just shoot for enough to make you grow slightly, make a note of it, and optimize it so you can maximum muscle and keep the fat as low as you can.
Also, the body needs a good, balanced diet to function at it’s best, and this is even more important for growing muscle. Ensure you get 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight each day, along with a good measure of fats to boost testosterone (essential to growth) and enough carbs eaten at the right times to provide workout and recovery/growth energy.
You may wish to split your diet up into a ratio of something like 50% protein 25% carbs and 25% fats.
Rest and recuperate
Bodybuilding is a fantastic excuse to be lazy. You’ve got to be as lazy as possible once you’ve hit the gym. Why? Because eating and resting are what make the gains possible. You can’t be flying around the basketball court or track several times a week burning all of your energy off which your muscles need. Just simply rest.
Any other activities which you absolutely insist on doing will require you to eat more calories to compensate. But also, don’t forget that the muscles themselves will be broken down again, delaying their repair.
I re-iterate: train, eat and rest = growth.
9 times out of 10, no growth simply means you aren’t eating enough.