How Can I Gain Muscle?

Overview

The formula for gaining muscle is the same for everyone: create a muscle-building stimulus in the gym through resistance training and then take in enough nutrients for the body to repair damaged muscle tissue. As an adaptation to the stress of training, our bodies rebuild the muscles bigger and stronger. However, the amount and type of training needed to create a growth stimulus, as well as the amount of nutrients needed for repair, will differ for each individual. For example, hard gainers typically have faster metabolism and must eat more, especially carbohydrates, to gain muscle mass. Manipulating a few training variables and ensuring proper nutrition while strategically adapting your approach based on your unique body is the best way to gain muscle.

Step 1

Follow a resistance training program three to five days per week. Train each of the major muscle groups with compound, multi-joint exercises, such as the barbell squat and bench press. According to fitness authors Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman, mesomorph body types (medium to large bone structure with a medium to slow metabolism) respond well to heavy, power-component straight-set training. Hard gainer or ectomorph body types respond better to endurance component training, such as drop sets and extended tension techniques.

Use both power and endurance component training to target as many muscle fibers as possible. For the chest muscles, for example, do one to three sets of bench presses followed by one or two drop sets of flat bench dumbbell flies (see Exercise Guide under Resource). Drop sets are done by completing one set to exhaustion and then decreasing the weight slightly and doing another set to exhaustion with no rest in between.

Step 2

Use nine to 12 repetitions on each set. According to Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman, this hypertrophy or muscle-growth repetition range is the best for increasing muscle size. Lower reps–from three to five, for example–trigger central nervous system adaptations for strength and power gains. Higher reps target endurance muscle fibers, increasing the number of mitochondria (cellular energy factories) and capillaries (oxygen delivery). The medium rep range of nine to 12 leads to the fastest gains in muscle size.

Step 3

Drink a post-workout shake immediately after your weight training workout. The “Muscle Nerd” Jeff Anderson recommends 50 g of whey protein; 100 g high-glycemic carbohydrates (fruit juice or dextrose); and 30 g healthy fats, such as flaxseed oil or medium-chain triglycerides. Hard gainers may need to take in even more carbohydrates after their workouts to trigger muscle gains. For individuals who store body fat easily, 100 g of carbs may be too much. In this case, try 60 or 30 g to prevent unwanted body fat gains.

Step 4

Drink a protein shake immediately before bed to supply the body with nutrients for muscle repair during sleep. Mix 30 to 50 g of whey protein with 1 or 2 Tbsp of healthy fats, such as flaxseed oil or natural peanut butter. Because we do not take in any nutrients while sleeping, the nighttime can be a period of catabolism, or muscle breakdown, especially for hard gainers. Our bodies repair damaged muscle while we rest, so it is natural to give muscles the raw materials they need to rebuild bigger and stronger. Add casein protein or a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese to this bedtime meal to allow a slow digestion, trickle effect of muscle-building nutrients.

Step 5

Take in 1 g of protein per pound of your body weight. Twenty-five percent of your daily protein can be taken in your post-workout shake (30 to 50 g for most men). Subtract the protein in your bedtime shake from the daily total and then divide the remaining amount between five or six small meals, spaced two or three hours apart throughout the day.

Each meal should also contain low-glycemic carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice, whole-grain bread or pasta or sweet potatoes. Be sure to get a serving of healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado or nuts and seeds, at each meal.

About this Author

Andrew Bennett enjoys exploring health and fitness through his personal workouts, as well as researching the latest about the subject. As a natural body builder, Bennett enjoys the ongoing pursuit of health and wellness in all aspects of life. He writes articles, blogs, copy, and even award-winning screenplays.