Basics: Building Muscle 101

Gaining Muscle Intro

So, you want to gain some muscle? Well that’s great, in three weeks time when you haven't seen a difference in your physique will you still be wanting to? If not then gaining muscle is not for you. You have to be patient and committed and in time, i'm talking about years, you will gradually build your body up, and if you give it enough time you will have the body you have been dreaming of. If you are still here and wanting to gain as much muscle as possible let’s get on with the 101’s!

How do I gain muscle?

  • You gain muscle by progressively overloading your muscles (progressive overload) and being in a calorie surplus (This means you are eating more than what your body is using on a daily basis)

  • You need to be patient, building muscle takes a lot of time and effort so don’t expect to gain 2lbs of lean muscle overnight.

  • Failure will be apart of this and will happen to everyone, just think of it as you have to fail before you can succeed.

  • Find yourself a good workout program, do not make one yourself.

Progressive Overload? What on earth is that?

You may hear this term quite a lot if you are reading good information about building solid muscle, and its actually really quite simple. All progressive overload is, is when you go and workout (weight training) on a regular basis, using a good amount of volume, and you gradually increase the amount of effort, week to week, you use for each exercise whether that is increasing the reps, sets or the amount of weight you are lifting. This is why you may see some people writing down what they are lifting each workout, it is so they know what they need to improve upon and increase for their next workout, this is actually a really good technique and you should use it if you feel up to it as it really speeds your progress up as it almost forces you to push yourself further.

Progressive overload, once again, takes time! Take your expectations and lower them, considerably! For an example, let’s say we have a male who regularly goes to the gym using progressive overload and his diet and training form are both on point. Week to week, workout to workout, he would be looking to add an extra rep to his next workout. If we use weight instead he may be looking to increase his bench press by 1-5 kg in a workout or two’s time. Why do you think gym’s have those tiny weights like 1.25kg or 2.5kg? It’s because that is what you should be aiming to increase your lifts by.

Calorie Surplus

If you are not in a calorie surplus you will not gain muscle, there are exceptions, but we will not look at these so let's just assume unless you are eating enough calories to be gaining at least 1 lbs per week you probably won’t be gaining any muscle. Now just hit your macros and your calories to gain!


Generally speaking you should eat about 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 160 lbs you should be aiming to eat at least 128 - 160 grams of protein each day. Its that simple for protein. Some people like to do this for lean body mass instead of the total body weight, if you prefer this then calculate your lean body mass (weight - ( weight in pounds * body fat percentage)).

For example a 160 lbs male at 15% body fat the calculation would be:

  • 160 lbs * 0.15 = 24 lbs
  • 160 lbs - 24 lbs = 136 lbs for lbm (Lean body mass)
  • Or… 160 lbs * 0.85 = 136 lbs

However I would suggest just doing the 1 gram per pound until you learn how your body reacts to it.

Form / Technique

Your form is the way in which you perform an exercise. Good form is the only way you can prevent injuries from happening. Bad form is the one way to guarantee injuries. It’s not quite black and white, it takes time to perfect your form and there is always room for improvement for everyone no matter how experienced. It is much better to take your time and get your form as best you can at the beginning otherwise once you realise that you need to improve your form you will have to go all the way back to square one, and regain all your strength and muscle. For example, squats;

  • You should have your head, neck and chest pointing up, with your shoulders back.
  • Your lower back should be arched a little, feet roughly shoulder width.
  • Slowly lower yourself as if you are sitting back and pointing your bum out.
  • Your chest should not go beyond your feet at any point if it does you need to lean back more.
  • Now keep lowering the yourself until your upper legs are slightly lower than parallel to the floor (at least, go lower if you can!).
  • Finally go back up just like you came down.

DO NOT HUNCH YOUR BACK!! If, at any point, your back is hunched, even slightly, stop, take the weight off and only introduce it once you have learnt to arch your back whilst performing the exercise. This applies for pretty much all exercises and can cause huge problems if you don’t learn this.

Reps: Repetitions of an exercise in a row.

Sets: Sets of repetitions on an exercise, after each set you will have a rest.

Push yourself!

When you are training for building muscle as a priority you will most likely be wanting to train with volume and a weight of about 80% of your max. (A max is the most weight you can lift with one rep) Most people will say between 8-12 reps and 3-5 sets is enough volume but this is different for everyone and you will find what works for you. However you should not worry about this as when you find a good program it will have the reps & sets built into it.

Compound movements

Compound movements, in weight training, are the big lifts where you use more than one joint / muscle to complete the movement. These should pretty much always be the core focus of any muscle or strength building program as they are the exercises that you will build the most muscle and strength from. You have probably heard of the main three: Squats, Dead lifts & Bench Press. Some more pretty useful and important ones include: Pull ups, Military Press, Dips, and lunges. If your training program does not have these lifts in it then you should probably find yourself a new training program as no matter your experience at body building / weight training they should always have a place with a few extreme exceptions. When you do these movements be extremely careful to get your form correct as they can be dangerous if you do them wrong and could cause you serious injuries. As long as your form is correct, you have nothing to worry about. If your form is not correct, stay at either a very light weight or no weight until your form is correct.

Heavy is relative!

This is important to understand, going to a weight that is too heavy for you will just cause you an injury. Remember what is light for someone else may be too heavy for you, don’t feel bad about this everyone started somewhere and you will get there eventually. If you don’t know what you can lift yet then start light and work your way up, there by testing yourself and not jumping into the deep end. There is no excuse for lifting too much and causing bad form and a 6 month recovery from it. As long as you are lifting at a good weight for you, you will be working your muscle just as much as the person lifting a heavier weight than you. Don’t get me wrong you should be lifting a weight that is heavy enough to make you struggle and really push yourself by the last rep of it. If it is easy then you do need to push yourself more and increase the weight.

Leave your ego at the door, no really.

I could write about this but I don’t feel that I have to, just don’t bring your ego to the gym.

Just quickly...Failing

Gaining muscle is not a straight path to success you will have times where you feel like you don’t progress or even move back with your progress, don’t worry it’s normal and it happens, just stay patient and don’t give up and you will get there.

That's about it!

...For the 101 anyway, I kept writing more but removing as I am trying to keep this as just the essentials! Keep an eye out for more posts to get all the information i didn’t include in this one!

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- Will Mayger
Comment Bot Mr C Bot 25/12/2017
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