The biggest muscle building mistake you can make is doing routines from muscle magazines. Most of those guys don't train naturally, are genetically gifted and never started training that way. Doing their routines won't make you build muscle fast.
The average person needs a different approach. One that builds muscle fast and prevents physical & mental overtraining from doing too much, too soon. Here's how to build muscle: the definitive guide to building muscle.
1. Get Stronger. More strength is more muscle. Get into strength training. I recommend weight training because it allows you to start light and add weight endlessly. Body-weight exercises work too. Start with an empty bar. Learn proper technique. Add weight each workout to keep pushing your body out of comfort zone.
2. Use Free Weights. You can lift the heaviest weights using barbells. More weight is more stress, thus more muscle. Dumbbells are great for assistance exercises, but not for your main lifts. Stay away from machines.
- Safe. Machines force you into fixed, unnatural movement patterns which can cause injuries. Free weights replicate natural motions.
- Efficient. Free weights force you to control and balance the weight. This builds more muscle than machines, which balance the weight for you.
- Functional. Strength built on machines doesn't transfer to free weights or real life. No machine balances the weight for you in real life.
- Versatile. You can do hundreds of exercises with just 1 barbell. Saves a lot of money and space, especially if you want to build a home gym.
3. Do Compound Exercises. Isolation exercises are ok once you've built base strength & muscle mass. But if you're starting to build muscle, exercises that hit several muscles at the same time are better.
- No endless Biceps Curls -> Pull-ups, Chin-ups & Barbell Rows
- Also no Triceps Kickbacks -> Bench Press, Overhead Press, Dips
- And definitely no Leg Extensions -> Squats & Deadlifts
4. Train Your Legs. Squats work your whole body, they're the most important exercise. You'll look totally different once you can Squat 300lbs. That's a free weight Squat with hips coming lower than knees.
All your muscles tense when doing Squats & Deadlifts. They work your body as 1 piece and let you lift heavy weights. Don't lose time with Biceps Curls. When you can Squat & Deadlift heavy weights, you'll have bigger arms.
5. Do Full Body Workouts. Don't do those muscle magazine workouts. Body part splits with isolation exercises is fine once you've built a foundation. That's once you can Squat 300lbs.
You can't Squat that much or never did Squats? Check StrongLifts 5x5. It takes 3 workouts per week of about 1hour each and includes compound exercises like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Barbell Rows, Overhead Press, Pull-ups, Dips, etc.
6 Get Recovery. Pro athletes workout 5-6 times per week. But they didn't start that way. They added workouts as they got stronger & bigger. You'll overtrain if you jump into their routines. As a beginner you need more recovery.
- Rest. Muscles grow when you rest, not when you workout. Start with 3 full body workouts per week and focus on intensity, not gym time.
- Sleep. Growth hormone releases when you sleep, building muscle. Aim for 8 hours sleep. Nap post workout if your lifestyle allows.
- Drink Water. Avoids dehydration and helps muscle recovery. Drink 2 cups water with each meal, and sip water during your workout.
- Eat. "Eat like a horse. Sleep like a baby. Grow like a weed". Your training is useless if you don't eat enough calories for recovery.
7. Eat Whole Foods. You'll achieve a lower body fat, so the muscles you've built show better. And the vitamin & mineral content helps recovery. Stop eating food coming from a box. Eat whole foods 90% of the time. Check my StrongLifts Diet.
- Proteins. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, ...
- Carbs. Brown rice, oats, whole grain pasta, quinoa, ...
- Veggies. Spinach, broccoli, tomato, salad, carrot, ...
- Fruits. Banana, orange, apple, pineapple, peers, ...
- Fats. Olive oil, fish oil, real butter, nuts, flax seeds, ...
8. Eat More. Training is more important than diet for muscle building. But you do need to give your body the food it needs for optimal recovery. Most guys don't eat enough, you got to eat more to build muscle.
- Eat Breakfast. Get calories from the first hour. Read how to build the habit of eating breakfast. Try these 7 breakfast recipes.
- Eat Post Workout. Get proteins and carbs post workout to help muscle recovery and replenish your energy stores.
- Eat Every 3 Hours. 6 meals/day. Gives your muscles a steady intake of protein, speeds up muscle repair & recovery, boosts your metabolism.
- Eat BW in lbs x 18kcal. Track your daily calorie intake using FitDay. You need at least your body-weight in lbs x 18kcal to maintain weight.
9. Gain Weight. You'll never look muscular weighing 140lbs at 6". No matter how much training you do. Check the guide on how to gain weight for skinny guys. Here's the most important part.
- Eat Calorie Dense Foods. 100g raw spinach is 25kcals. But 100g raw rice is 380kcals. Eat pasta, oats, olive oil, mixed nuts, etc.
- Get Stronger. Increase your Squat to at least 300lbs. Muscle size is directly related with strength gains. You got to get stronger to build muscle.
- Drink Whole Milk. If you don’t bother gaining some fat, drink 1 gallon whole milk daily on top of your current food intake. You can gain 25lbs in 1 month if you combine this with 3 weekly Squat sessions.
10. Get Protein. Proteins have the highest thermic effect. You need 1g protein per pound of body-weight daily to build & maintain muscle. That’s 160g of daily protein if you weigh 160lbs/72kg. Eat whole proteins with each meal.
- Red Meat. Ground round, steaks, deer, buffalo, …
- Poultry. Chicken breast, whole chicken, turkey, duck, …
- Fish. Tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, …
- Eggs. Eat the yolk, it's full of vitamins.
- Dairy. Milk, cottage cheese, quark cheese, yogurt, whey, …
If you weigh 160lbs: 1 can of tuna at lunch, 300g quark as snack, 300g meat at dinner and 500ml milk through the day gets you 160g protein. Read also how to get your daily protein when you're a vegeterian/vegan.
Persist. Get stronger, track progress and persist until you've built the muscles you want. You'll see the biggest change in physique after following this method for 2 months. For a free muscle building guide, get StrongLifts 5x5 FREE eBook.