Want to pack on mass? No problem, just hit the weights, add more calories to your diet, and repeat. But if it’s specifically lean muscle mass you want to add for a shredded, muscular physique, you’ll need a more specific plan of action.
From the foods you eat to the duration, frequency, and types of workouts you perform, each component will significantly impact your ability to achieve your lean, muscle-building goals. The following 10 tips will steer you in the right direction in your quest to get jacked and shredded.
Hitting the gym twice a week is fine if you want to maintain the muscle you already have, but if you’re shooting to add some size you should consider increasing your training frequency to 4-5 times per week. Even though these sessions may need to be a bit shorter to allow for recovery, the increased exposure to a training stimulus can be helpful in packing on mass.
While it’s true that sets in the 8 to 12 rep range are very effective for gaining muscle, keep in mind that your body is an adaptive organism that needs to be challenged to change. So rather than sticking with a set and rep scheme for the entire season, consider doing some lower-rep strength work for four weeks as well as some higher-rep (20- to 30-rep sets) strength-endurance work for a training block. The variety can help stimulate muscle growth.
Compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and pullups use a lot of muscle and deliver a lot of mass-building benefits very efficiently. Plus, you’ll be able to load the bar with more weight during these exercises and, last we checked, moving more weight is a key component to adding more size.
Just because you should focus on the big lifts doesn’t mean that there’s no room in your program for isolation movements like biceps curls or calf raises. These exercises allow you to add volume to your program (another key component in building muscle) and bring up lagging body parts. And since you can’t overload them with the same weight you can in a squat or deadlift, they are not as taxing on your nervous system so you’ll be able to recover from them much more quickly.
While your time in the gym is certainly responsible for creating a training effect, your time outside the gym is responsible for repair and growth. On top of making sure your nutrition is on-point, be sure to get solid, consistent sleep (8-9 hours per night) and try to reduce outside stress as much as possible. You’d be amazed at how much these factors truly affect your ability to improve your body composition.
While supplementation may not be necessary for everyone, it can definitely be helpful in plugging up some nutritional holes and improving performance. Things like creatine, fish oil, multi-vitamins, and workout shakes have shown to help with strength, performance, and recovery. And while the effects of supplements are far from magical, if you have not tried any of these strategies before, they may be worth looking into.
While it’s important to change your training frequently enough to stimulate adaptation and avoid plateaus, it’s just as important to stick with a training program long enough to reap its benefits. Allowing your body to improve its strength and efficiency by consistently exposing it to similar movement patterns over a period of time is important. It’s called “training” for a reason.
It’s very difficult to become a great powerlifter in a room full of marathoners. You must find a place to train that’s not only equipped for your goal, but is also full of like-minded people who are training hard. You’ll see your enthusiasm to train and your results sky-rocket if you find the right training environment. Even better, make one of those like-minded people your training partner and you’ll be more likely to show up for every session and push yourself that much harder.
This goes for gaining mass, losing fat, getting a scholarship, or being great at your job—the attitude that you bring to any task will go a long way in helping you succeed. In fact, a mediocre program done with a committed, enthusiastic attitude will trump a perfect program done half-assed. So walk into the gym happy, determined, and ready to tear the head off a lion, and you’ll pack on size before you know it.
You know that protein is the building block of muscle and that you need a lot of it, yet most people wildly under-consume the amount of protein they need on a daily basis. Shoot for .8g to 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight if your goal is to pack on some quality size.
BY DAN TRINK, CSCS