I feel like things have gotten convoluted as far as what you REALLY need to do to build more muscle. Every day there is some huckster trying to tell you the NEWEST and QUICKEST way. Screw that. Here it is, plain and simple, in 8 steps.
1) Lift ALL the weights Yes, ALL the weights. Not just machines, not just free-weights, not just rubberized ones on a platform, not just your bodyweight…ALL the weights. You will not find any research that says one way is always better than another. You WILL find that variety is key to solid muscle gains and strength as well.
2) Lift ALL the rep ranges Yes, ALL of them. From 1-100. I keep most of my reps around 8-15, but I will hit a 1RM occasionally just for shits and giggles. I often program in sets of 50-100 reps as well. If you’ve never done 100 reps of squats, continuously, with 100 lbs, you’re missing out on one of life’s great moments in human survival. Using all these rep ranges also allows for using a variety of equipment, tempo, advanced strategies (supersets, drop sets, eccentric focus, etc).
3) Do A LOT of sets When Bryan Krahn was up for The Fitness Summit we hit 64 sets of arms in 45 minutes! He thinks it was only 40 because I lied to him and he uses Canadian math. We did 8 sets of 8 exercises with moderate weight in an 8-12 rep range. You know what it felt like when we were done? Like we did 64 mother-effin’ sets of arms! This is when programming your workouts becomes key. Nick Tumminello has a kick ass way of programming workouts that make them more efficient. I stole a lot of his ideas from Strength Training for Fat Loss and modified them only slightly for myself and my clients. Working out this way will also help with No. 5 on this list.
4) Eat ALL the food I mean food variety. Dudes and dudettes focus on eggs, chicken, and shakes. That’s cool, but you would have to eat a ridiculous amount of eggs, chicken, and shakes to get the calories to build quality muscle. Remember: more protein doesn’t equal more muscle. OPTIMUM protein intake is important though. Go for 2-3 GRAMS per KILOGRAM of LBM. This is obviously adjusted as your LBM increases. If you don’t know your LBM, you should. Knowing your body fat percentage and lean body mass is important for No. 5 on this list.
Equally important is food variety. You need the calories to hit your goal. Don’t know what that is? Go find someone competent (there are a handful out there) to figure it out for you. You don’t need to OVEREAT, just eat for your goal. Don’t overcomplicate this either. There are “strategies” and “systems” but if you just eat lots of quality food (and sometimes not-so-quality food), bust your ass with the weights, and you will gain muscle.
5) Don’t get too fat This kind of goes with number 4. If you are a dude, you can sit at 10% (generally six-pack worthy), if you are a dudette, you can sit around 18% and still build muscle. No need for those ridiculous bulking phases of the 90’s. After all, what’s the point of building muscle if no one can see it? If you are a fatty now, you might want to get on a cutting phase until you hit something closer to those percentages. I have not had a client yet that couldn’t maintain these percentages and add muscle at the same time.
6) Rest A lot of people fuck this up. We live in a society of energy drinks and stress. Program rest times into your life. Not just from your workouts, but life. I know…you’re like, Ethan, but…blah blah family blah blah work… SHUT UP! You watch too much tv! Shut it off and chill out with your own thoughts for a few hours instead. Take a walk. Commune with nature. Do some yoga. Whatever hippie shit calms your mind. In the end your pituitary gland, your muscles, and your brain will thank you.
7) Be patient Building muscle takes a long time. It is contrary to what your body wants to do. Muscle requires more energy, which requires more calories, which requires more hunting and gathering. It is against nature. Be patient!
Don’t focus too much on “6 week programs”. At most, unless you are on the Mexican muscle juice or brand new to lifting, you will get about 1 pound of muscle in 6 weeks….at best. Your first years lifting will be the years of your greatest gains. Take advantage of this. After 3 years, it slows down considerably. This is not a bad thing. If I continued to gain the same as I did my first year, I would be over 700 lbs. My grocery budget couldn’t handle it.
You know when people talk about working out as a “lifestyle change”. That’s not bullshit. If you are serious about it, you need to become workout guy or girl for the rest of your life. Does this mean balls-out every day? No. This means putting in the time though. I have been lifting for 26 years…the majority of my life. I am 41 years old and in better shape than most 18 year olds. But that’s the lifestyle I chose…to care about not being a fat weak slob. I want the other parents at my son’s school functions to stare. I want his friends to ask me if I can lift a truck.
8) Repeat for the rest of your life Consistency is key. Period. Done.