In How To Gain Muscle Mass, we outlined the basics of getting started at the gym and making gains. This entry will be a more in-depth look at structuring your workout program and diet to match your fitness goals. Any novice or intermediate gym-goer that follows this guide should be able to make substantial progress.
First off, any solid routine should consist of 3-5 days a week at the gym that targets all the major muscle groups of the body, this includes compound lifts that really challenge the central nervous system and encourage muscle growth, namely the Big 3 lifts: the bench press, squat, and deadlift. A sample 4-day week structured around the Big 3 exercises may look like:
Monday: Chest & Tri
- Bench press 3×10
- Incline dumbbell 3×10
- Dumbbell flyes 3×10
- Tricep cable pushdown 3×12
- Skullcrushers 3×12
- Close grip bench 3×10
Tuesday: Back & Bi
- Barbell rows
- Lat pulldown
- Rear delt flyes
- Preacher curls
Wednesday: Shoulders & Core
- Lateral dumbbell raises
- Military dumbbell press
- Dumbbell shrugs
- Ab exercises
- Leg press
- Straight-legged deadlifts
- Hamstring curls
For any exercise that you don’t know how to perform correctly, Google works wonders in showing how they should be done, www.exrx.net is also a very handy website.
Obviously, you don’t have to adhere to this exact workout plan. In fact, we recommend that you customize your rep ranges and days that you go in order to suit your goals and schedule. You can even design your own plan from scratch, but make it a point to hit every major muscle group each week. If you aren’t careful, you can develop imbalances in your physique that will not only look out of place (we all know that one guy that never hits legs), but also cause potential joint and tendon injuries down the road.
We’ll further break down our readers into two general categories: guys that want to add muscle to their frame while staying lean, and guys that want to “cut” fat while maintaining their hard earned muscle. Beware, many guys make the claim that they would like to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, but we’d like to clear any misconceptions and state that it’s physically impossible to do both at the same time without the help of performance enhancing drugs. Intuitively, this makes sense; your intake must be at a surplus to your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) in order to gain weight and build muscle mass. Conversely, your intake must be at a deficit in order to lose weight and burn fat. Since it’s impossible to be in a state of surplus and deficit at the same time, you CANNOT simultaneously build muscle and torch fat!
Okay, back to the basics, so you’ve got your workout plan nailed down, but you won’t see any progress if you don’t have your nutrition intake in check. For you guys that want to pack on muscle mass without gaining too much around your midsection, you need to figure out your TDEE and consume several hundred calories in excess of that to gain weight and muscle.
You can use this Excel fitness calculator (email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a copy) we designed to help you find out roughly how many calories you should be eating on a daily basis to meet your dietary needs:
Also, understand that building muscle is a very slow process; it’s not possible to gain 20 lbs of solid muscle in only 3 months, but don’t let that discourage you! Someone who is a complete newbie to the gym may be able to gain 20 lbs of muscle within a year if they follow a solid nutrition plan, which are extremely impressive gains for anyone just starting out.
In order to further explain how to gain muscle mass, we will use an example. Let’s say your TDEE is 3000 calories per day. You’d like to gain 6 lbs of muscle in 3 months, for every 1 lb that you want to gain, you need to take in 3500 calories in excess of what your body expends in a given period of time. So to gain 6 lbs over 90 days, you will need to eat 21000 calories (6 x 3500) more than what your body burns off over that time period, which amounts to roughly 230 calories per day in addition to your TDEE, bringing in your average recommended daily intake to 3230 calories. Still with us? Good. The cool thing is that you don’t need to do any of these calculations on your own. In fact, we would love it if you utilized our nifty nutrition calculator to help you reach your goals. Again, email email@example.com and we will email you the Excel spreadsheet.
That’s the awesome thing about building your dream physique; it’s every bit a science as it is an art, and we’re excited to help you get started on your fitness journey. Also, as mentioned in our previous article, protein is key to building muscle mass, so make it a goal to hit 1 gram/lb of bodyweight for your daily protein intake.
For those that want to lose fat for summer and maintain muscle, the opposite holds true. If you’d like to lose a pound a week, you need to eat at a 3500 calorie deficit every week, so at a TDEE of 3000, you need to eat 2500 each day to lose 1 lb a week. Feel free to throw in a couple sessions on the treadmill after your workouts every week for additional fat loss. Protein intake is vital for building and therefore maintaining muscle mass when you are cutting weight, so be sure to hit at least 1 gram/lb of bodyweight, we can’t stress this enough. We recommend Gold Standard protein.
If, at any time, you think that progress is coming too slowly for you and are losing motivation, just remember that gaining muscle and losing fat is a lot like adding water droplets to a bucket. A solid workout session and meal will add one drop of water to the bucket, which will barely be noticeable. But after a hundred gym sessions, the accumulation of your hard work will be very apparent. So don’t be discouraged. Train with friends for additional motivation, feed upon the positive energy of group workouts and continue to push your limits. And remember, consistency is key!
Please feel free to submit any comments or questions below, and we’ll answer. Alternatively, you can reach out to me directly (see bio for contact information). We are always glad to help our fellow men come one step closer to reaching their dreams.