If you have ever struggled with seeing results in the gym despite all the hard work you put in your workouts or if you have envied the chiseled physiques of your fellow gym members who seem to have it all figured out, then all you need to get there are a few muscle building guidelines for men ensuring complete muscle growth—the reason you’re at the gym in the first place.
I will try to make this the most helpful post you have ever read on this topic and the core of all information below will be based on how intensely focused and committed you are to your goal of muscle building and achieving the ultimate physique you have always dreamed of.
Once you understand these simple guidelines for building muscle and incorporate them into your training program, I promise you’ll see results you will never forget. Learn and follow them, and you’ll make significant progress in your efforts to build both size and strength.
You Need To Have A Muscle Building Plan
Think about this before you even step foot in the gym. Many people believe that just showing up at the gym and doing random exercises will lead them to achieve their dream body. Well, it might help with improving your fitness levels, but when it comes to muscle building, a well laid out plan of action is where it all starts.
All successful lifters and bodybuilders do that. Some keep their planned notes in their journals, some use a fitness app like MyFitnessPal to keep track of their workouts and progress. This behavior might seem small but its impact on achieving results is significant.
On the other hand, if you do not have a plan of action, forget about getting to your goal of building muscle. Period.
Your workout plan is the first thing you need to have ready beforehand that will guide you through your workout for that particular day. I will explain to you the 4 most important components of your plan below:
- For instance, If it’s legs you need to train for the day, your plan should list down all the exercises, sets, and reps for the legs that you will follow as a guide to take you through your workout.
- Further, you should be mixing and matching the different exercises you select for the muscle group you will train for the day to hit that muscle from all different angles as possible. This will maximize your potential for muscle growth and bring you closer to your goal of muscular hypertrophy (growth and increase of the size of muscle cells as a result of physical exercise such as weight training).
- To make your plan better, you also need to prepare a. s to how your existing plan for building muscle is going to impact your next workout and the next after that and so on (focusing on the bigger picture). Every single workout sets you up for the next one. This will bring you one step closer to your goals.
- You need to build your strength gradually as a base foundation for your muscle hypertrophy goals. You have to commit to being willing to improve on the compound exercises like the bench press or weighted squats that target multiple muscle groups at the same time. Moreover, you need to work on progressive overload to build your foundation of strength. Simply put, to get bigger and stronger, you must continually make your muscles work harder than they’re used to by increasing the resistance, reps, volume, or training frequency.
Remember, you form new habits by regularly practicing a workout routine that is both easy to do and compounds into remarkable results (in this case, muscle building) if you are willing to stick with them for years. With a goal in mind, you need to have a map for getting to your goal and it starts with knowing what steps you are going to take from one workout to the next.
Your Effort and Training Intensity
This comes down to the overall effort you are exerting when you pick up the weights and start an exercise. What is your effort level when you are doing an exercise and completing a set number of repetitions for that exercise? Are you stopping and putting down the weights just because you hit a number. That’s a major mistake! Doing so you are leaving gains on the table.
Instead, let your effort guide you and push as hard as you can on that given set. Doing so will increase your workout intensity level to the benefit of muscle growth. Even doing an extra 1-2 rep when you think of going beyond a number will help you give your best effort towards the muscle group you are training for.
Focus on your effort, not the reps. Push with every bit of effort with the rep count as secondary.
If you are not stressing your muscles enough to create overload and if all your exercises combined are not creating a stimulus for muscle growth, then you are only doing a couple of warm-up exercises by raising your body temperature which is not going to help you build muscle.
The use of compound lifts to build up a strong base is a must to set the stage for growth. Your use of other techniques (like volume training) should still equate to an overall overload if the end goal is to get bigger.
That said, if you want to see noticeable results and ultimately build muscle through your hard work in the gym, you need to bring the effort and intensity to every single workout that you do. When it comes to training for more muscle size you need to realize that your effort will dictate everything.
A great technique and time-tested way to increase the workout intensity is to add set intensifiers or training to failure which is a prerequisite for muscle growth.
Workout set intensifiers are an excellent way to increase training density and overall volume. There are a lot of set intensifier techniques that you can use like adding supersets, drop sets, or rest-pause sets. This works because every single rep that you can add and every bit of extra effort that you can put in the set will be a stimulus for muscle growth and overload.
I highly encourage you not to quit when you think that the set is over because you will be surprised at how much your body is holding back. Let your mind take control and be in charge and you will be surprised to see that how many more reps can come out of your body so the takeaway is to use more of these set intensifier techniques to bring more out of each workout which will eventually give you maximum muscle growth.
Keep Your Rest Periods Short Between Sets
The next question comes to, once your set is done is what are you doing with your time?
If your goal is to build muscle with maximum gains and promote hypertrophy (muscle building) then you got to keep those rest periods between 60 to 90 seconds between each set. Resting too long is counterproductive to muscle gains.
Resist the temptation to take your phone out for checking social media, personal messages, taking selfies, or doing any other thing that distracts you from your training. If you sit around and let far too much time pass between sets then you are decreasing the effectiveness of your workout.
Respect your inter-set rest times!
The only thing you should use your phone for in the time you have between sets is to set a timer for your rest period and as soon as your timer is up, get back to your next set or exercise. Rest times should serve to keep your muscles stressed for the entire workout. The majority of people in the gyms use the time in between sets to look at their phones and jump on social media that takes them out of the frame of mind necessary for building muscle. Be prepared and ready for the next set so when the timer hits, you are ready for the next set.
However, the length of the rest between sets depends on your training goal, the amount of weight that you’re moving, and your fitness level which will be different for people with less training experience as compared to advanced lifters. Since our goal here is muscle building, the best rest period is 60 to 90 seconds between sets.
On the other hand, to increase strength and power as quickly as possible, the best rest period is 2 to 5 minutes between sets.
Most people make the mistake of training for building muscle and resting between sets for strength and vice versa. This is a big mistake and nowhere productive to your hypertrophy goals. You need to have a plan for your rest periods just as you have for your overall workouts to get exceptional results.
Rest periods do matter and they can make the difference when trying to improve performance, prevent injury, increase strength, or build muscle.
Maximize Your Post-Workout Recovery
Rest and recovery is the most crucial part of the whole muscle building equation which has a major impact on your gains and overall performance allowing you to train much more effectively.
Every natural lifter knows that the only way to build bigger muscles is to allow your body to recover between workouts. This simply can’t happen if you aren’t prioritizing it. You can get all the above and everything else right but if you screw up your recovery, you are never going to build muscle.
If you want to make the fastest gains possible, you need to optimize what you do after each workout. Otherwise, your hard work will essentially be “wasted”. Muscles grow between workouts, but only if provided enough time and proper nutrition to generate growth.
A high protein diet is another crucial part of the post-workout recovery process that will lead to an increase in muscle mass if done right.
The increased protein intake can come from either animal or plant-based sources which are equally beneficial for muscle growth while also being rich in amino acids and other vital nutrients.
Traditional bodybuilding diets include a lot of animal foods as complete sources of protein like fish, meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy due to their high protein and calorie content.
On the other hand, the vegan diet or the vegan bodybuilding diet has risen in popularity in recent years as an increasing number of people adopt this way of eating for its purported health benefits and ethics surrounding the treatment of animals. A few examples of plant-based foods rich in protein are whole grains, lentils, legumes, soy, peas, nuts, and seeds.
There are many methods of recovery that you need to take seriously so be sure to do the following:
- Getting enough sleep is important for muscle recovery as well as general health. Every individual should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to help with muscle recovery and maximizing muscle gains.
- Make sure you’re eating enough foods every day while keeping your nutrition and calories aligned with your goals to maximize muscle recovery and muscle growth.
- Eat enough protein every day. For most people, that comes out to be about 1 gram per pound of body weight per day.
- Always leave at least one full day of rest in between training the same muscle group.
- Consider supplements like whey protein or a plant-based protein drink that helps you gain muscle and strength faster, and recover better from your workouts. The harder you can train in your workouts and the faster you can recover from them, the more muscle and strength you’re going to build over time. Make better and faster gains by using the right supplements for your goals. To support my daily protein needs, the high-quality whey protein I have been using for almost a decade now is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder. It not only provides you with a lot of protein per scoop but it also tastes great with a better mixability and digestibility with an amino acid profile particularly suited to muscle building.
- Manage your stress levels through a meditation program and positive self-talk that can help process a calm, clear attitude and assist you to recover both mentally and physically.
All the above steps will dramatically impact your ability to recover from your workouts so make sure you’re getting your recovery right.
What Works in Muscle Building
There is a lot of misinformation on the internet when it comes to the topic of bodybuilding and most of the information is misleading or contradictory. There are a few golden rules that always work no matter what. As a conclusion to this post, I will list these ‘absolutes’ that will help you build muscle naturally and in the fastest way possible if followed consistently:
- Increase Strength Using Progressive Overload: More strength is more muscle. The stronger you become and the more you lift in the gym will accrue to a bigger gain in muscle mass with time. The heavier the weights you lift, the stronger your body becomes, and the bigger your muscles grow.
- Mind-Muscle Connection: It’s not always about the amount of weight lifted BUT how you lift it. When doing a particular exercise, try to think & focus on the muscle you’re working on which will lead you to actively lifting the weight through a conscious and deliberate muscle contraction.
- Compound Exercises: Do more of these exercises to target multiple muscle groups at the same time for maximum muscle gains. These include squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, and rows among others.
- Increase Workout Frequency: It is proven through research that training a muscle twice per week is far more superior and effective than training a muscle once per week when your goal is muscle building and hypertrophy.
- Patience & Consistency Is Key: Achieving any weight training or bodybuilding goal requires long-term commitment, discipline, and consistency. You won’t get there overnight. A planned approach to lifting is superior for long-term muscular and strength gains than simply training as hard as possible each time you hit the gym.
As James Clear (Author of Atomic Habits) describes, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems”, illustrating that if you want better results, then goal setting isn’t enough. Focus on your building your systems instead that will ensure your success. The systems explained above are about the small changes that will bring you one step closer to your muscle-building goals. “Getting 1 percent better every day” counts for a lot in the long-run. Add them all up, and you’re more likely to make faster progress towards your goals.