Putting on an unusual amount of muscle takes an unusual amount of effort. While the basic strategies are the same for everyone, there are an unlimited amount of training programs and diets to choose from to get there. There are so many variables involved and so much information available, it becomes easy to lose sight of what is really important to the bottom line in your pursuit to building muscle. What becomes important is focusing your efforts on the correct initiatives and establishing a solid and effective core program to include the key elements to growth. When, and only when you have established a solid core program do all the other factors become important.
To explain the point, think of a drag racing car. How much horsepower you can get out of the motor, the type of transmission you put in it, and the amount of weight you reduce from the vehicle are all enormous factors in how fast it’s going to run. However, you can master all of these factors to the Nth degree, but if the car doesn’t have the right tires and suspension to catch traction, none of those factors make a difference. Likewise with regards to building muscle, there are a million “B” level initiatives that, while are important, aren’t important until the “A” initiatives are all in place. “B” initiatives would be things like how many sets, how many reps, when you work out, whether you take this supplement or that supplement and how much of it, where you position your hands on the bar, what types of carbs you eat, what your protein sources are, cardio protocol, etc etc etc. So often, we get so caught up in relative minutiae that we lose sight of the bare-bones basics that really determine how much muscle we pack on.
So what are the “A” initiatives to packing it on? If you meet these four keys below, you are 100% guaranteed to succeed, without exception, regardless of other factors.
Muscle Stimulation – First and foremost, the muscles need to be given a reason to grow. This is not as basic as saying “lift weights.” Rather, this is saying that every day, every workout, you must elicit a particular growth response from your muscle. This means pushing the limits, reaching for more. Doing 3 sets of 10 reps of 135lbs on the bench, week after week will not elicit that response continually. The response comes from progressive overload. That is, continually forcing your muscles to and beyond their maximum ability. This can be accomplished in many different ways, be it with more weight, more reps, set time interval variation and many more. The important thing is that it happens. A great way to ensure this is to log workouts to keep track of what you are doing day to day. If a couple months pass and you see that your training load is not improving, it’s time for some adjustments.
Maintain a positive nitrogen balance – On a 30,000 foot view of dieting for growth, this is all that matters. A positive nitrogen balance means your body is ingesting more nitrogen (protein) than it is consuming and expelling. This is achieved through monitoring weight, body fat and manipulating the diet to certain levels to create a surplus. As we grow and age, this is a moving target. A 22 year old, 170lb you will not require the same amount as a 28 year old 190lb you. Over time your expenditure and utilization will change, and you must adjust accordingly. The goal is to create a surplus large enough to facilitate muscle growth, without flooding the system with unneeded calories that will create both body process inefficiencies and fat storage.
Create an anabolic environment – Anabolism is a set of metabolic pathways that tell the body to build and create muscle. This is, in effect, a set of instructions your body is following. Anabolism can be achieved through natural and/or artificial means but is imperative to growth. The more anabolic a body, the more it will grow in any given period of time. Several factors affect anabolism. Natural means include testosterone boosting supplements like D-aspartic acid, tribulus, TestoFX, and others. Meal timing, proper rest, and the correct foods all play a large factor. Despite what some macronutrient-only focused diets tout, not all foods, even at the exact same macronutrient content elicit the same hormonal response as others. The correct foods at the correct times make the body more anabolic and grow more. This is often a matter of experimentation with particular foods as they relate to the individual.
Time – Last but not least, building muscle takes time. This is where consistency comes in. To put on any significant amount of muscle, it will take years and not weeks or months. To stay at it month after month is what separates a big solid freaky bodybuilder from a more pedestrian bodybuilder. You must be willing to go through this process for considerable time with a goal in mind. Very few people are willing to put in the time for massive muscle, so if you are willing to put in the time, you can separate yourself. A typical regional show will have 5-10 heavyweight bodybuilders, versus 85 physique competitors at the same show. The difference is time and hard work. The more often or sooner you break away from the building program, the less muscle you will put on.
Building muscle is a complex process that has more variables and tricks than one can count. Bodybuilders are perhaps the most disciplined lot of people on the planet and work ethic is often not the limiting factor. Rather, losing sight of the big picture is one of the most common impediments to success. Keeping focused on the “A” initiatives above all will set you up for assured growth. Only once these are in place does everything else like supplementation, specific workout protocols and micro-diet factors become important.