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Muscle Building Tips
by Justin Leonard
Written on October 28, 2000

What is the best way to pack on muscle mass? Packing on size is easy, as long as the proper techniques are applied. Keep in mind is that everyone has a different body type. Techniques or methods that work for others may not work for you. This next segment will briefly describe some of the insider tips needed to get huge. We'll begin with training techniques.

Start by training 2 - 4 days per week. Try not to exceed more than approximately 1 hour and a half for the training duration. If possible, keep your workout to an hour in length. This time frame is all you need. Anything longer won't make you any bigger. By limiting your workout time to 1 hour, you also significantly decrease the risk of overtraining. Try to keep repetition range to about 4 - 12. When it comes to reps, descend with control, but power the weight to the up position (come down slow and up fast). This will help build mass, increase power, and total strength.

Rest time in between sets should be anywhere from 1 - 3 minutes. Try to center your workouts around key exercise movements. For example, bench press, leg press, etc. Avoid training more than 2 muscle groups at a time. Typically, you want to train muscles that work with each other. For example, chest and triceps or biceps and back. This strategy is ideal and proven effective.

The best way to build lean muscle mass while burning fat is to perform cardio, either before or after a workout. Since the goal is to try to build mass, you only need cardio about once a week or once every 2 weeks max. Performing too much cardio can take away from quality muscle gains and cause you to get smaller in size.

For some, it might be best to do cardio first thing in the morning. Usually when people workout, it is mid-day or in the afternoon. By that time, they've eaten several meals packed with carbohydrates (the body's primary source of energy). Those high carb meals are most likely going to be used as a source of fuel for the body. If you limit your fuel (carbs), the body will be forced to burn fuel from its alternate source . . . fat.

Resting the body is just as important as dieting and training. Try to get about 6 or 8 hours of sleep a day. Resting is what actually causes the muscles to grow. Taking days, even weeks off from training will only benefit you. Be sure to experiment with rest periods to find out which works best for your body type.

An important thing to remember, especially if you're a novice or hardgainer is to be patient. Patience is the key to success when it comes to muscle gains. Do not overtrain. As stated before, spending long hours in the gym will not benefit you. It will only hurt you. Beginners tend to often make this mistake. They see such awesome gains early on. They then think, "The more I train, the bigger I'll get." This is a big mistake because the muscle aren't given a chance to grow. Overtraining actually tears the muscles down, causing them to "plateau" and get weak. Remember, success doesn't come overnight. Always keep a positive outlook on things and be patient.  

"The longer I'm out of the gym, the bigger I get.  Train less and get bigger!" 

- Justin Leonard, ISSA CFT


We all know what a sore muscle feels like. You can think of muscle soreness as a good thing. Muscle soreness is an indication of muscle growth. To feel soreness (usually the following day) as a result of training is perfectly normal. If a muscle is sore, do not train that particular muscle until it has fully recovered. It is ok to train muscles other than the sore muscles, just don't train the sore one. 

When working out, do not favor body parts. This can cause muscular imbalances. For example, having a big upper body and skinny legs is not balance. Proper balance is a necessity. If it gets to the point where muscular imbalance becomes a problem, try priority training. This concept involves training a lacking muscle first or with the most attention. For example, if the legs are not in proportion with the upper body, train them at the beginning of the week instead of training chest at the beginning of the week. For some, training a certain muscle twice a week may be the solution to muscular imbalances.

Gym safety is important. Safety spotters (human or machine) can be a tremendous asset. Do not be afraid to utilize someone who can spot or provide assistance. Always know your limits and don't push yourself over natural boundaries. Most people would be more than willing to assist as a spotter. You should begin all workouts using high reps and a light weight. Eventually, the weight load will increase causing the repetition range to become lower. When you get to this point, think wisely.

The ideal weight range during a mass-building training regiment is medium to heavy. Use only light weights for warming up or supersetting. Repetition range will vary depending on the muscle group. Typically, you want to keep reps to about 6 - 10 for bigger muscles, and 10 - 15 reps for smaller ones. Be sure to experiment to find which rep range works best for you.

A key concept to remember is that workouts should not be written in stone. The body actually becomes immune to workouts if workouts become repetitive. It is important to switch workout format/order so that the muscles don't get used to or adapt to what you are doing. Another way around this is to vary exercises, perform supersets, etc.

Try to focus on form, not the quantity of weight used. Do not use momentum to power the weight up. Instead, use accurate and proper form. In turn, you will avoid injury.

Nutrition for Mass

Along with training, the diet can play a huge factor in obtaining quality muscle mass. It's more important than you may think. To add size, calorie intake must be high. Depending on your body type, you should be consuming at least 3000 - 6000 calories per day. How much protein and carbs per pound should you eat per day? Don't worry about grams per pound and ratio numbers. Lets' be realistic, no one has time for that. Just eat, eat, and eat.

The diet below is a template. It can be used as a tool to help give you and idea of what a day-to-day mass-building diet would consist of. Your body may require more or less than that which is listed. The following is a sample high-calorie diet:

Meal 1: Oatmeal (about 2 cups cooked), toast with jelly, banana, multivitamin. This meal should be consumed around 9:00am.

Meal 2: Lean meat (chicken, turkey, lean red meat, turkey burger), at least 2 slices of bread, water-based beverage, fruit or vegetables. This meal should be consumed around 12:00pm.

Meal 3: Protein shake and snack (cookies, pastries, etc.). This meal should be eaten around 3:00pm.

Meal 4: Lean meat, potato or rice, and vegetables. This meal is similar to meal 2. It should be eaten around 5:00pm.

Meal 5: Protein shake, multivitamin. This meal should be consumed around 7:30/8:00pm.

Meal 6 (Optional): Any high calorie (carbohydrate) snack. Consume this meal prior to sleeping.

Try to eat at least 4 times per day. Calorie intake should be high as possible. Try to keep it as balanced as possible. All diets should be somewhat healthy. Remember, you have a heart to take care of. On the other hand, your diet shouldn't be a chore. Be sure to vary the types of foods you eat. Design a system to determine what days or times you eat junk food.

Don't worry about bingeing every now and then. It can actually benefit you . . . just don't get carried away. Some can binge whenever they want because of their high metabolisms. It may or may not work for everyone. Fats should be kept to a minimum whenever possible. The meal following a workout should be high in calories, primarily carbs. This will help to replenish calories and nutrients lost during training.

Mass building supplements can be a tremendous asset. Use them to fill in needed calories or nutrients in your diet if needed. If you decide to take supplements, start with half of the recommendation on the bottle and work your way up to normal recommendations.

Many experts say not to eat late at night. This is true if you want to lose weight, but it's irrelevant for a mass-building diet. Late night eating may or may not be best for individual body types. Experiment to find out which method works.

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