Ah teenage boys and young men in the gym. A true staple of any fitness facility any time of day, any day of the week is either a lone single male or pride of males clashing weights onto the ground, and making grunting noises while flexing in the mirror and swiping right on Tinder again and again and again in between sets (You know who you are). All in the hope of building packing some serious meat onto their bodies.
The real shame is that is is a far too common sight for guys to be killing it in the gym day after day, week after week, month after month and for the progress to be very little compared to the amount of work they are putting in.
Well, as a former skinny, horny teenager who self taught himself how to go from a 11st 7lb rake to a 14st 1lb (At my heaviest) athlete in just under 2 years, I am here to tell all you young lads who want to bulk up just what to do.
On the left, December 2013 at 11st, 7lbs. On the right, 15 months later at 13st 5lbs.
First thing you want to sort out as a new lifter is your training. I know, I know every fitness guru under the sun has said that nutrition is massively important and trust me, it is, but when you first start lifting weights your muscles will be so unused to the stress they will be under that your response to just training will be phenomenal, should you get it right. This is what is called in the trade as ‘Newbie Gains’ and if you get it right you can put on a whole lot of muscle in your first 12 months.
Now there are many different approaches we can take to lifting weights and I wish I could tell you the magic formula, but the best type of training is the one you enjoy the most and works best for you. But as a general rule, if you’re new to this game and are just looking for size as a primary and strength would be nice also, then you’re going to want to make sure you cover the following points:
- Work each muscle group 1-2 times per week – Twice is better, but once might be more suitable for new starters due to soreness lasting longer.
- Focus of the form and don’t lift weights that are too heavy for you – At this stage you need to be learning how to lift correctly and getting used to what it feels like when you use each muscle. Oh and no one really cares if you can bench 20kg or 200kg, just lift what you can lift
- Compound movements should be involved in every workout – Don’t be the guy who does hours of chest flyes and single arm preacher bench dumbbell curls with really light weights. Ever see him make much progress? No, didn’t think so.
- Keep consistent – Going one week and then skipping the next isn’t going to help anyone. Stick with it.
- Keep in the 6-15 rep range for 3-5 sets. Going above that isn’t an issue as long as you’re still training at the same intensity, but 6-15 is a good guide.
Example splits (Each muscle group once per week):
3 days a week:
Monday – Push day (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
Wednesday – Pull day (Back, Biceps, Abs)
Friday – Legs (Quads, Hams, Calves)
4 days a week:
Monday – Chest & Triceps
Tuesday – Legs
Thursday – Shoulder, Calves, Abs
Friday – Arms
5 days a week:
Monday – Legs
Tuesday – Chest
Wednesday – Shoulders & Abs
Friday – Back
Saturday – Arms
While you’ll get a great response from just training, you will get even better results if you get your diet right. What we put in our bodies has such a massive impact on not only growth potential, but training performance too. You’ll also thank me when you get better sleep too. Here are a few golden rules to follow:
- Make sure you are eating enough! – Most of the time when guys can’t put on weight it’s because they aren’t eating enough. Go onto http://www.iifym.com, work out your required calories and macros (Protein, Carbs, Fats) and track all your food in the app MyFitnessPal. You’ll be amazed how much you’re not eating and how much of a difference it’ll make
- Eat enough protein – Around 1g per lb of bodyweight per day is about the maximum the human body can effectively utilise for muscle growth.
- Stick to whole foods mainly, with junk added in accordingly – Whole foods contain essential micronutrients (Vitamins, Minerals etc) which is great for optimal health and training performance
The world of supplements is one which is littered is guys with six packs telling you they got massive in 12 weeks from this one particular protein powder. In reality, photoshop, steroids and bare faced lies come into play here.
Supplements are supposed to work ALONGSIDE for diet and training and they will never replace either. But, some supplements can be used in addition to correct diet and training to boost your result even more:
- Protein Powder – Not a magic formula that will suddenly make you massive. Can be used for convenience and is n easy way for you to hit your protein target. Not necessary if you can eat enough meat and get enough protein from there
- Creatine – Long story short you do not need to cycle it, monohydrate is the best, you do not need to load it, it doesn’t matter when you take it and generally you should take 5g per day everyday. Easy, huh?
- Weight gainers – Food is much, much better, but if you’re SERIOUSLY struggling to get your calories in then go for it. But make sure you get a decent one as quite a lot are full of crap.
- Multivitamin – A good idea especially if you don’t eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.
So there you have it. A very, very quick fire guide to building muscle for newbies. Train hard, consistently and without an ego, eat enough food and track it and use sups wisely if you need them (For the record I don’t take any supplements and I turned out ok).
If you want further information on build muscle then you are DEFINITELY going to want to check out the upcoming Iconic Athletics Muscle Building Programme. 14 weeks of workouts, all the nutrition and supplement information you’ll need, learn how to enjoy life while building muscle (Tips on alcohol included) all for a low one off price.
Alternatively, you can get a tailored, personal service with online coaching. Bespoke programme, constant support, specific nutrition advice and all for a lower cost than a face to face personal trainer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.