As an avid gym-goer you have probably been asked, or asked the question yourself, “what is the secret to building muscle mass?” Many have sought out this answer high and low (and no I am not talking about the incline on the bench), without finding the real undeniable answer. The most enigmatic answer in the history of bodybuilders and weightlifters
Well folks, today I am going to give you the answer to this age-old question. Are you ready for it? There is no secret! That’s right. There is no secret to building quality muscle mass. I mean this in the sense that, there is not one definitive answer to this question. It’s much more than just a simple black and white answer. There are a multitude of things that contribute to one gaining considerable amounts of muscle.
Training is probably the number one aspect people look into; especially initially. You have to lift weights to build muscle right? There’s a lot of truth to that statement. That’s also a blanket statement. It’s not quite that straight forward. Do you think you would build your pecs by going to the gym every day, grabbing the 5 pound dumbbells, laying down on a flat bench, doing 3 sets of 10, and then going home? Probably not. Building muscle through weight training takes consistency over a very long period of time.
There are obviously different modalities that contribute to muscle mass. Maybe more so than any other aspect, training can be effective through many different styles. Dexter Jackson does not train the same way as Dorian Yates, but they are both Mr. Olympia’s. Dorian said, “The obvious answer is the pervasiveness of the “more is better” mentality that most of us have. It’s always tempting to do a little more. It’s significantly easier to put 90 percent into three to four sets. And I’m not saying it isn’t effective. There’s no denying it does work— just look at the physiques of the top guys who train that way. I simply feel my way, one set to failure, is more effective and more efficient.” Steve Kuclo is a top level pro and he said “A lot of guys just go too heavy because they think muscle growth is all about lifting as heavy as you can. They don’t understand how critical it is to get the best pump possible.” Both have world class physiques; both have very different training theories. While I side more on the ideals of Yates, it shows there is more than one way to do things. Whatever style you choose to adopt, you have to consistently give it a go for a long period of time.
Maybe more so than training, nutrition has its place in attempting to attain significant amounts of muscle. For the average person first getting started into bodybuilding or weightlifting, this is the most overlooked aspect. Eat big to get big right? Kind of. Eating in a caloric surplus over an extended period of time will yield muscle growth. It really is as simple, and as complicated as that last sentence.
The most important thing to do is figure out where your maintenance calories are. There are many different ways to do this, but the easiest and most common is to take your body weight and multiply it by 15. So for a 200 pound person their maintenance calories for a day are 3000. So for this individual to gain mass, they would need to create a surplus in calories. Typically to gain one pound week (definitely not all going to be muscle), you need a surplus of 3500 calories, or 500 calories a day. I even caution myself making such a broad statement such as this; there are many different variables that could affect that number.
It’s truly not enough to just throw out a caloric number. Your daily macronutrient intake has a lot to do with the aforementioned as well. Protein should be number one on your priority list. Aim for roughly 1.2 to 1.8 grams per pound of body weight. After you have figured out your protein intake you can start to figure out your other macros; carbohydrates and fats. I am not confident enough to make a claim on carbs and fats needed; as everyone is so different when it comes to these. Some people respond better to higher fats and lower carbs, while some people respond better to higher carbs and lower fats.
It’s very easy to put on scale weight with no regard to the quality of the weight you are putting on. We are trying to build lean muscle mass here, not just a number that shows on a scale. Diet will be the key to ensuring you put on muscle and not just fat mass.
The recurring theme here is consistency. Consistency in the gym. Consistency on the diet. Consistency with your supplements (which we did not discuss and will save for a future discussion). As Jay Cutler said, “It’s Consistency. Stay with it. You have to do this day in and day out. It becomes a lifestyle.”