Gaining Muscle Mass In 5 Simple Steps
Gaining muscle mass is not only of importance in bodybuilding, but is also advantageous in some sporting disciplines, and also the goal of some recreational trainers to improve the aesthetics of their physiques. Gaining muscle mass is achievable for most, although it will require hard work and dedication. 5 simple steps for gaining muscle mass:
1) Ditch the isolation for integration. A successful mass gaining training routine will be composed mostly of compound exercises, which target several muscles during the execution of the movements. Examples of compound exercises include the bench press, over head press, row, chin ups, squats and deadlifts. These exercises stimulate several muscles during the lift, and therefore will lead to greater overall stimulus for muscle growth. Isolation exercises are exercises which specifically target one muscle, or one muscle group. Examples of isolation exercises include the barbell curl, dumbbell fly’s, leg extensions, and lateral raises. Your mass gaining routine should include the major compound exercises, with possibly a select few isolation exercises to supplement the routine as a whole.
2) Find your optimal repetition range, but do not stagnate. There is a misconception of mass gaining among some trainers who believe the repetition range must be reduced (5-8 reps) to gain optimal muscle mass. This is not true, and the repetition range should reflect the goal of inducing muscle hypertrophy (growth), which is commonly achieved with a repetition range of between 8 and 12 repetitions. We have a more extensive article covering why this repetition range is optimal for muscle growth, see – reps for muscle hypertrophy. It would be wise to experiment with various repetition ranges to see firsthand how you respond to the repetition ranges (as individuals may respond slightly different than others), although the 8-12 rep range would be a good starting point. It is important not to allow the routine to stagnate however, so a periodic change in repetition ranges will allow for a continual change in stimulus to the muscle tissue. A change of exercises, and also the days you train muscle groups, could also be implemented to avoid stagnation in progression.
3) Eat big. Gaining muscle tissue will usually require a surplus in calories, in order to gain body weight. Eating plenty of calories from wholesome sources will aid in mass gaining, and will supply the body with the nutrients needed to grow and to fuel the intense workouts. Monitor progression and tweak dietary intake if required. If you are gaining lots of weight, and seem to be adding unnecessary excess body fat, slightly reduce serving sizes. If little progression is being made, with no notable gains in body weight, gradually increase calorie consumption by increasing serving sizes.
4) Stick to the tried and tested supplements. Forget the marketing BS and stick to the tried and tested supplements, such as a quality protein powder, and creatine monohydrate. A whey protein can be consumed first thing in morning and directly post workout in water (40g). A quick digesting carbohydrate source may also be useful in a post workout shake, such as maltodextrin and/or dextrose (40g/40g). Creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester are well researched and documented supplements which may aid muscle gaining goals, although individual results differ greatly. Creatine is a supplement which is best tried to gauge your individual response. It would be wise to ask for advice and feedback on a popular bodybuilding forum regarding any of supplements you are thinking of purchasing.
5) Rest. Aim to have at least 8 hours sleep each night to ensure energy levels are optimal. Leading a stressful or active lifestyle may lead to insufficient gains in muscle mass due to lack of recovery, low energy levels, and suboptimal nutritional intake. If your lifestyle is active, try to tweak training sessions to reflect this, and aim to increase nutrient intake to ensure a calorie surplus.