The irony of trying to get big muscles is, it’s often the guy who does the least that wins, whilst the guy who tries his ass off year in, year out, day in day out for hours on end doesn’t get very far at all.
Building big muscles is relatively simple, and, easier than you might imagine in many ways. But, there is most definitely a formula you need to follow, or you gains won’t be anywhere near their maximum capacity.
Train with intensity
Probably the biggest mistake most people make is they simply train either too long, too often, or not hard enough.
By not hard enough, I mean lifting weights which really don’t test them enough. The only way to grow muscle is to lift weights which cause your muscles to struggle relatively quickly… say, within 5 – 12 reps. Then you rest for 1 – 3 minutes to recuperate, then hit it again for the second set, doing no less than 3 sets.
If you can cruise through the sets feeling pretty unchallenged, you are lifting too light a weight.
Never think you have to train for hours. The idea of training is to train with near maximum intensity for a short period, and then get out and rest. Marathon training sessions of over 1 hour are really not needed, and will do the average steroid-free trainee more harm than good.
You should also never train too often. The body needs to recuperate, and can’t if you are constantly hitting the same muscles too frequently. You need to get on a program which allows for around 72 gap between working the same body part. An ideal regime for the beginner to intermediate trainee is 3 days a week, with rest days in between, or 4 days. Certainly no more than 5.
Eat like there’s no tomorrow
Food is the absolute key. You need to eat to grow, and eat the right foods. Complex carbohydrates and protein before training to give you energy, and after training to provide your body with recuperative energy so it doesn’t start cannibalizing muscle. Six protein-packed meals a day, spaced out around 3 hours a part is ideal, because it keeps your body in the nutrients it needs to provide growth.
Don’t neglect fats: dietary fats are an important part of your growth. Especially fats such as fish oils.
You should try to split you diet so you get 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fats, or around that number.
The ideal amount of protein is 1-2 gram per lb of bodyweight, and the amount of calories will vary a lot from person to person. As a general rule of thumb, use a BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) calculator to estimate how many calories you need to sustain the weight you currently are, and then simply eat a few hundred a day more.
How do you know your diet is effective? Simple: if after a few weeks of consistently eating what you are you don’t notice any growth, you’ll need to up the amount of food you eating; more calories.
You should also be very aware of the amount of fat you are putting on by measuring your body fat with callipers. It’s easy in the beginning to confuse excessive fat gains for great muscle building progress. As a rule of thumb, gains of more than 2lb a week in body weight probably contain excess fat, so keep watch.
Be as lazy as a king
Rest is very important. Without it, you’ll burn all the calories you need for growth off, leaving you even, or worse, in deficit and lose muscle. Whilst trying to build muscle you should really take it easy. Avoid other sporting activities whilst trying to build muscle – they’ll take away the calories you need for growth, and also simply overwork the muscles, breaking them down rather than helping to build them up.
Sleep is also an important factor in growth. Be sure to get an adequate amount of quality sleep, which from person to person may vary from between 6 – 10 hours.