Attention all you “hardgainers” out there, are you ready to learn how to build lots of muscle in a short amount of time? Ready to find out the secrets professionals have been using for decades? Want to learn the one essential supplement that will boost muscle gains and give you an unbelievable muscle pump?
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The keys to success…..
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Muscle Gain = Enough Food + “Progressive Overload” + Recovery
Wow and I mean WoW!
Ok, so I played it up a bit, but were you excited or actually let down to learn that is the secret? What exactly were you expecting to hear? Sadly this is the mainstream culture we live in today promising unbelievable results in no time at all. The old saying always holds true, “if it is too good to be true it usually is”.
But have no worries, as I am going to give you the real story of how people are putting on muscle (well at least the ones not using any additional anabolic hormones).
Can You Handle the Truth? There is No Quick Fix.
Ok, that was done in my best Jack Nicholson voice impression (thank goodness you couldn’t hear that over the web). But that is the honest answer, there is no “quick” fix to put on lots of real muscle.
Sadly I don’t think people want to hear that, some may actually keep looking for a quick fix while doing nothing right now. We overlook people who have spent years (and I mean lots of years) building up muscle and expect to just find it in a can or something. A person who keeps looking for the magic answer is just wasting their time.
It is time for people to get realistic about their muscle gains. First step is to realize how much muscle they can really put on, what their real weight is going to be and the time it is going to take. Here is a good part from an article by Lyle McDonald on how much muscle one can genetically gain.
So as you can see from above, a real novice (one who has not really put on much muscle yet) can make some great gains of 2+ pounds of muscle (not just weight, which includes fat) per month. After that it will tend to slow down and become harder as the body will resist putting too much on.
Also another good point is about how much a person really should weigh. I’ve heard people say that they want to be 220 lbs and ripped, and yet they are 180lbs and a bit chubby. Time for a little math. Say you are 180lbs at 20%BF, that means you have 144lbs of lean mass. If you think you can be 220lb and 6% BF, that means you will need 207lbs of lean mass. So we are talking about gaining 60+lbs of muscle? Well that may take a long while.
The reality is that while people want to weight more, they usually neglect to think about actual muscle gain. That and most bodybuilders/athletes/actors (or whoever you are comparing yourself to) are probably alot lighter than you think they are, or also have more bodyfat than you realize.
So understand that your journey for building muscle is a slow and steady one, and that you should be in it for the long haul. I mean imagine if you had this attitude 2 years ago with steady training and eating, what you could be today. So being in it for the long run mentally is the first step to getting there, otherwise you can be like all the others out there spending lots of money on things advertised for quick gains….and we know how that turns out.
Eat More…and more…
So you are skinny right now, so what? I’ve heard too many people wear the “hardgainer” badge with honor. Well if you ever plan on really adding muscle, time to throw the badge away and just get to work (namely with a fork). Ask many “bigger” people and they may tell you at some point they were also a skinny lad, but then did what it took.
You are not lacking more protein powders, nitric-oxide, or any other fancy supplement. Real food has been doing the job for ages so no reason to think it still doesn’t work. Just take a look at this outtake from an article entitled “Complicated” at Elite Lifts.
If you really want more insight into the nutritional background of strongmen and bodybuilders, I strongly suggest also reading this article at Weston Price on it all.
Remember, the fork is your greatest tool to use outside the gym (or you can eat with your hands if you like too). If you do not eat enough, you will not gain real muscle even with tough workouts. Plain and simple. Stick to real foods and stay away from the supplements (as you don’t need them!).
Don’t Make it Complicated or Look for the “Holy Grail” of Workouts
Above we talked about the key to building muscle as being “progressive overload”. What does this mean? Simply that you are continually putting your body under a stress over time that is progressing and overloading your body with increasing volume/weights/tension. Your workouts are going to signal for your body to continually adapt to the ongoing stress and build more and more muscle. If you keep the same workout with the same weights, your body has no reason to adapt any further.
Here is the key, there isn’t just one way to achieve this. Ask 10 bodybuilders what kind of workouts they do, and you will probably get 10 different answers. Maybe one does HIT style, or German Volume Training, or 5×5s, or 20 Rep Squats…and the list goes on and on. What they will have in common is somehow they are adding weights/volume/tension over time. This is what is signaling the new muscle growth.
It is a simple concept that gets lost out there in the search for the perfect workout program. Too many are suffering from a severe case of information overload, and information is easy to come by nowadays. People are reading new workouts every month, week or maybe even every day. Whether it be on the internet or with the latest monthly issue of Flex. People are getting sidetracked and never sticking with one program long enough to allow the golden rule to apply of progressive overload.
So find a workout you will enjoy (as enjoying your working is important) and stick with it for at least 12 weeks. No changing it, no adding things, just stick with the plan and progress with either more reps or weight each workout. I don’t care if it is a simple 3×5 or 3×10 plan, it will work if you really challenge yourself and progress over time! Don’t make this more complicated as it needs to be, all you need is a plan, a pen and a book to write down your weights/reps. Then next time in, you beat it by a rep or with an additional 5lbs….and continue onward and upward.
Here are some additional basic tips on workouts:
Stay Healthy and Don’t Get Injured
Smart training means knowing how to take it slow and steady and not put yourself in worse condition. That means keeping optimal health for the immune system and your muscles/joints.
Staying healthy means a strong immune system and making sure you are not suppressing it. Eating real foods and staying away from sugar and processed crap is a good start. Also making sure to get plenty of sleep it vital as well.
Being smart in your workouts also matters. As once you do something to injure yourself, everything comes to a halt (I’ve been there and know what it is like). So instead of continually making progress on your gains you are now on the sidelines waiting to heal up. You will only set yourself back and depending on the injury, it could be for a while.
Remember that part of growing muscle means being consistent (and progressively overloading), which is hard to do if you aren’t able to lift any weights for the next 6-12 weeks.
Forget the Post Workout Insulin Spike
Great quote from somewhere on the net, and it is so true. What is means is that what you eat in a day (total macronutrients, calories) is more important that the “science” of nutrient timing. Namely the “post workout” window and insulin spiking.
But what about restoring muscle glycogen you may ask? Well unless you are a full time athlete in training or need to go again with muscle glycogen in the next 6-12 hours, it is not needed. Your muscles will be fully restored within 24-48 hours anyways with a proper diet.
In fact in a study (The effect of high carbohydrate meals with different glycemic indices on recovery of performance during prolonged intermittent high-intensity shuttle running; Erith S) with professional soccer players, it was found that there was NO difference in performance on 2 consecutive days with one group consuming high GI carbs and another low GI carbs after their workout.
So insulin sensitivity and muscle glycogen is not a factor really anymore, what about a certain window for more protein synthesis? What we do find is that increased protein synthesis lasts much longer than some immediate post workout window (so no need to chug down that sugar/whey shake right in the gym).
So what is the end result?
Focus More on Your Lifestyle
Muscles do NOT nor will they EVER grow in the gym. Not possible, as you are there creating a muscle catabolism environment, just so they will respond by growing over the next 48+ hours. Which can mean only one thing, you grow muscles only when you are not in the gym.
So this means your lifestyle outside of when you train will either help or hurt your muscle growth potential. If your lifestyle is full of stress, alcohol, little sleep and excessive/intense activity you can bet you will be wasing more muscle than building. But if you get plenty of sleep, control your stress, keep inflammation low and keep activity lower intensity, then you can allow your body to build more muscle (not too mention help reduce chances of any injuries as we have seen above being important).
One of my favorite activities nowadays is just walking (outside, inside, anywhere) as I covered the benefits to it in a previous article on how to get bigger muscles by walking.
So If You are Still Not Gaining, Do the Checklist
Whenever things look like they are not working, just go over the things below and ask yourself:
There is your simple checklist. Most people fail to make progress because of those 4 things. That is where most all of your gains will come from, not from different grips on the bar while you curl.
Coming Soon, New IF Muscle Building Plan
Right now I am in the process of tweaking a new IF plan for building muscle that will be released sometime early next year. If you want more inside scoop on using IF to also add some muscle, make sure you are on the IF Life mailing list at the site here (as that is where I will be giving the updates from). Just enter your email and you will be good to go (plus you get all the free ebooks now and access to other mini-courses I have planned for early 2010).