1. Eat more

“Extra calories combined with training leads to growth,” says Sean Hyson, C.S.C.S. It’s really that cut and dry. More muscle comes from more food. The right kind of food, that is—like the 9 best foods for effective clean-bulking.

2. Power up with protein

Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. They assist with the rebuilding and recovery process. Shoot for 1-1.5 grams of protein per lean pound of body weight. We like these 12 protein-filled foods for your physique.

3. Don’t cut carbs

Numerous studies have pointed to the benefit of protein supplements in muscle building, but many of them also mention carbohydrates as a hormone-balancing component that maximizes your gains after workouts. Here are 7 more reasons to keep the carbs.

4. Use dumbbells

Andrew Sakhrani, C.S.C.S., a Montreal-based strength coach, encourages occasionally swapping out barbell work with dumbbells. Why? “Dumbbell presses open up the chest and recruit more muscle fibers.” This works for other exercises, too.

5. Work your back

It’s easy to focus on your arms and chest. However, too much training on those areas can lead to imbalances and injury, most of which can be avoided by doing plenty of rowing/pulling work.


6. Sleep

“Most of your growth hormone release in a day comes during sleep,” says Hyson. Stick with eight hours as a guideline. Here’s everything an athlete needs to know about sleep and recovery.

7. Pump up the volume

Bodybuilders, widely known as the biggest guys on the planet, have an age-old training method that has withstood the test of time: volume training. They typically do five or more exercises per body part, four sets of 8-12 reps, amounting to approximately 200 reps per body part.

8. Go heavy

Circuits might get the blood flowing, but heavy lifting skyrockets testosterone levels throughout the body. Hyson recommends using the heaviest load possible for “sets of five or fewer reps.”

9. Move with multijoint exercises

The foundation of a big, muscular body comes from big, compound lifts, defined as motions that incorporate at least two joints. One example: the chinup/pullup. “The chinup is the original biceps curl,” Sakhrani says. This principle holds true for all muscle groups, he adds.

10. Ease off your workload at times

Sometimes, the best way to increase your strength is to throttle back for a few days to give your body a chance to rebuild and recuperate. Decrease the weight, up the reps, and slash the last two sets. By scaling back occasionally in sequence with your workout routine, you allow for full recovery.


11. Change things up

Although we follow workout “routines,” there’s always a need for variety. A workout shouldn’t just be a weightlifting challenge—there should also be a level of complexity and variation to each move. Alternatively, try to work in a little bit of high-intensity interval training or cardio moves into each workout to make sure your body is constantly adjusting. Here are 11 reasons you’re not breaking training plateaus.

12. Work your legs

Big powerlifting moves like squats and deadlifts stimulate your body to release high levels of testosterone, resulting in total-body growth. These two moves alone will add muscle everywhere.

13. Use your bodyweight

Remember, Bruce Lee was ripped and his muscles certainly weren’t small. He always touted the importance of body-weight exercises.