HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE THE EASY WAY: A GUIDE

There’s a dirty little secret when it comes to building muscle at the gym. An unspoken about fact that a lot of people know, but few talk about. An easy way to do it. A not so complex method that I’m about to reveal right here, in this blog post. Do you want to know what it is?

The secret to building muscle at the gym is that there is no great secret. In fact, it’s actually kind of easy to do.

Oh sure, it can be hard, and it does take time. But it isn’t complex. And it isn’t technically difficult to ascertain. All that is required from you is a little know-how, and a lot of commitment (and to read this article in full, of course. But that’s a no brainer).

I’ve been working out consistently at the gym for over ten years now. I reached my muscle building goals years ago, but enjoyed the process so much that I pushed through those and am now in the process of eternally chasing the next goal. It took me years to figure out how to reach these goals though, years that I’m now going to save you.

So, whether you’re new to the gym or an old-school lifter looking to remind himself of the process, read on to learn how to build muscle in the gym. It really is that easy.

DRINK WATER

Let’s start with an easy one, one that you really should be doing even if you aren’t working out. That’s right. The first step in any muscle building program is to drink as much water as you can. Seriously. Don’t measure it. Don’t ration it. Just drink the damn stuff.

The effect that drinking water has on muscle growth is two-fold.

The first is short term effects. Drinking water is not only good for your body and mind, but for your muscles too. If your body, and your muscles, are dehydrated, it’s going to restrict overall movement and lead to a deprivation in electrolytes, which in turn will cause you to cramp up. Since muscles are controlled by nerves, without proper hydration your muscle strength and overall control will become greatly impaired. In laymen’s terms, without water, you won’t be able to properly use the muscles you’re trying to grow in the first place.

The second effect is long-term, which is what going to the gym is all about. For your muscles to properly grow, they require specific nutrients to be constantly fed into them. Think of veins pushing blood through your body. It’s kind of like this. If your muscles don’t get these nutrients, they will wither and die. Water is a literal life source for your muscles, and drinking plenty of this nourishing liquid will greatly aide in transporting nutrients throughout your body and right into your muscles.

Drinking water might not affect your muscle growth directly, but it provides them with the tools they’ll need to get the job done later on. So, don’t neglect it. Drink up.

EAT PLENTY OF PROTEIN

This should be an obvious one, but I’m always surprised to hear the push-back. Where overall diet protocols and macro balancing is important when it comes to building muscle, nothing is more vital than the amount of protein that you ingest per day.

When you eat protein, your muscles quite literally absorb it in a process called ‘muscle protein synthesis.’ This is the process by which protein turns to muscle… sort of. There’s more to it than that, but for the purposes of this article just know that the more protein eaten equals the more chance of your workouts serving their full purpose.

But there’s a catch. Where eating all the protein might sound like a good idea, it’s also important to know how much protein you should eat. Your muscles can only absorb so much of a good thing, and if you overeat, that excess protein will just go to waste.

It’s recommended that you eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, you need to eat 180 grams of protein. Some people suggest slightly less, some suggest slightly more and really, depending on your workout, body type, and goals, you can experiment with these amounts to find what works for you. But, if you are just starting out, eat 1gram per pound of body weight and you’ll be hitting that protein sweet spot.

Oh, and one more thing. Do this every day too, even the days you don’t work out. Even those hungover days where you can’t eat. Always, no matter what, make sure to hit your protein intake. Missing this is the number one way to ruin progress.

EAT IN A CALORIC SURPLUS

This one goes hand in hand with the above point. Although for a slightly different reason.

When it comes to building muscle, most people are far too concerned with the weights they lift, rather than the food they eat. The truth is that your diet will probably have a far larger impact on your muscle gain than any amount of lifting that you do. Period.

If you want to gain muscle, you need to eat in a caloric surplus. This simply means that you need to eat more food than what your body is burning. A part of this will be protein (1gram per pound of body weight) but the rest will be carbohydrates and fats. There are specific amounts that you should be eating, but for now, that isn’t really important. What is important is that you’re eating a lot of them.

When you eat in excess, those calories that you do burn will give you energy which will help with your workouts in the gym. They will also help nourish your muscles, ensuring that they get all the nutrients required to grow. But there’s also more to it than that.

The excess calories, those turned to fat, will actually help increase your strength. You might not look as toned as you want to, but putting on excess weight will make you stronger, which will increase your lifts, which will help build muscle. So, when it comes to eating and the gym, less isn’t more. More is more, so get to it.

TRAIN IN BOTH HYPERTROPHY AND STRENGTH

Now that you’re eating in excess, it’s time to talk about strength and hypertrophy training.

Strength training is any kind of weight training that operates in a 4–6 repetition range. This means that when you are committing to your next exercise, the maximum amount of repetitions you do will be 4–6. Sticking in this rep range helps to build the strength of your muscles, making them more dense and more thick.

Hypertrophy training is the opposite of this. For hypertrophy training, you will be working in a repetition range of 8–12. So, rather than picking up the heaviest weight that you can, you’ll be lifting a medium-weight for excess reps. This helps to pump your muscles up, giving them that swollen, puffy look that you often achieve after a really good session.

The important point here is that you can’t do one or the other. If you want to properly build muscle, you need to commit to both types of training (more on that later). The easiest way to think of it is like this. Strength training makes your muscles strong, while hypertrophy makes them big. You need to train in strength, so that you can increase your hypertrophy lifts and thus make your muscles bigger.

Again, it’s no great trick or formula. It’s just basic lifting.

TRAIN EACH MUSCLE TWICE A WEEK

For me and my journey, this was the step that really changed my life. When I first started working out, it was a classic ‘gym bro’ workout. I’d do chest on Mondays, back on Tuesdays, shoulders on Wednesday, legs on Thursday and then on Friday I would do a little bit of arms and abs and maybe one more chest exercise for fun. At the time I thought I was ‘pumping’ my muscles up, and then giving them a week to recover. What a fool I was.

For optimum muscle growth, you must train each muscle at least twice a week. You won’t over train. You won’t over work the muscle. For an amateur gym-goer who is spending an hour or so in the gym a day, this is impossible to do.

And although hitting each muscle group twice a week might sound hard to do, and rather exhausting, it honestly couldn’t be easier. What I like to do, is divide my workout into four days. On two of those days, I do upper body workouts. This is my chest, shoulders, arms and back. On the other two days, I commit solely to leg and abdomen workouts. I then divide those days down further, by rotating between strength and hypertrophy. So Monday and Tuesday might be upper and lower body strength training, while Thursday and Friday will be upper and lower body hypertrophy training. Just an hour for each one, nothing excessive.

By hitting each muscle twice a week in both strength and hypertrophy lifts, I ensure that I maximize muscle growth while also giving my muscles enough time to recover. Workout smarter, not harder.

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

As Youtube sensation, Greg Doucette screams almost daily in his videos, ‘Workout harder than last time!’ In essence, this is what progressive overload means.

If you want to truly see your muscles grow from week to week, you need to be constantly putting them in a state of progressive overload. You need to work them harder than last time, so that you tear through the muscle tissue and force it to repair itself. That’s how muscles grow.

There is an easy way to do this, one that doesn’t require you to nearly kill yourself at the gym each and every single time. In fact, the following method might even make your gym sessions appear easier than they previously were. Crazy right!

The easiest way to progress in your lifts is to write them down and then don’t stray. That’s all. There’s this myth that you need to be doing new exercises all the time to trick your body and get the most out of each workout. Don’t do this. Instead, write down what you did the previous week and try and improve on that.

But even when it comes to ‘improving’ this doesn’t have to be some grand thing, or even apply to every exercise. Let’s say that you’re doing a bench press and you do 4 sets of 5 reps at 80kg. The next week, you might do 3 set of 5 reps at 80Kg and then the 4th set can be 82.5kg. The week after that, do 2 sets of 5 reps at 80Kg and then do 2 set of 5 reps at 82.5Kg and so on. Each week, improve slightly, just an inch.

The important point here is this: if you aren’t improving in your lifts, then you aren’t gaining muscle. Slow and steady wins the race here, and is in fact better for you in the long run.

AND FINALLY, BE PATIENT

Nothing you do in the gym will matter if you aren’t patient.

As stated, I’ve been working out for over ten years now and although my body has improved vastly from what it was when I started, this didn’t happen overnight. And even though I have achieved my goals, I’ve set new ones which will take several more years to reach. And when I do reach those? I’ll set some more, adding a few extra years to the process. That’s the reality of the gym.

As a natural weight lifter, one who has well and truly gone beyond the ‘noob gain’ stage of his lifting career, I know that at most I will only gain between 1–2kg of muscle a year. Seriously! Even if I worked out every day, never strayed from my diet or regime, got plenty of sleep, drank all the water, and had amazing genetics, I’d still only put on 1–2kg of muscle a year.

This might sound made up. You’ve read the articles about Chris Hemsworth gaining 8 kilograms of muscle to play Thor, or Brad Pitt only eating chicken and broccoli yet still managing to put on 5kg of lean mass. Surely, they wouldn’t lie! Well, they do.

When we put on muscle, we also put on fat. The more muscle we have, the better this fat looks on us. So, when Chris Hemsworth put on 8kg of muscle, this was probably more like 2kg of muscle and another 6kg of fat. But, as he’s a big guy with massive shoulders and a barrel chest, this fat sits evenly on his body and appears as if it is muscle.

The gym is a long, slow process. Some people hate it. Some people love it. Some people do it simply because they want to look better naked. Regardless of how you feel, what your personal resolve is, just know that everyone is in the same boat. We’re all doing our best to be consistent, make those minimal gains over long periods of time, while trying desperately not to tire of the process.

I bring up patience as the last point because it really is that important. If you go into this thinking that you’re going to make huge changes over short periods of time, I’m here to tell you that you’ve chosen the wrong goals. Rather, know that you’re in this for the long haul but that you’ll be happier and healthier because of it.

Now, enough reading. Go out there and start lifting. As said, this is a long term process, so you might as well start early.

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