Written By Ben Bond
The Foundation To Muscle Mass
Building muscle mass is an extremely simple process that many people attempt to over-complicate in order to create ‘new and improved’ programs and sell them. In truth they are often too complicated and will therefore have very little impact for untrained athletes and may instead only be effective to experienced bodybuilders. In truth there are only 3 things that are totally essential in order to build mass: eating key nutrients, training correctly and supplementing smartly. If these 3 aspects are in order, mass gaining will be no problem for you.
Being in a calorific surplus is essential in order to gain muscle. This is due to the body’s demands for calories increasing as a result of training and therefore a surplus of calories will allow the body to recover effectively as well as using the excess in order to form new muscular tissue.
Protein is an essential ingredient for muscle building due to resistance exercise increasing the rate of protein synthesis and breakdown in muscle for at least 24 hours post work. Therefore protein should be the centre piece of every meal in order to gain muscle. It is recommended for muscle building purposes that 2.2g of protein per kg of body-weight should be consumed, so if you’re 100 kg and looking to build muscle you should consume 220 g of protein daily.
Eating lots of carbohydrate is also very important. Simple carbohydrates post workout are great as they spike your insulin levels that will have been reduced during exercise, returning them to their normal level, and replenish glycogen in depleted muscle cells allowing them to remain in a state of anabolism. Simple carbohydrates also help to push the amino acids in your post workout shake into your muscle cells allowing protein synthesis to occur.
Complex carbohydrates are also essential for mass gaining and provide a prolonged energy release throughout the day, preventing your muscle cells from becoming catabolic. You can split your macronutrients between as many meals as you like a day but I would recommend 6 if you’re looking to gain mass as these will be large enough to leave you feeling like you’ve eaten something but you shouldn’t feel bloated and heavy.
Lifting within the correct rep range when training is essential in order for muscle gain to occur. A set with 1-5 reps tends to result in strength gain and is what many powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters use when training. Anything between 6-14 reps will result in muscle gain, however the most effective rep range for most people tends to be 8-12 reps. It is therefore key that if muscle gain is your priority that you lift within this rep range.
Compound exercises, such as squats, that involve the movement of more than 1 joint, are also commonly neglected in many mass building program but these are in fact the most effective exercises to gain mass. This is due to 60% of muscular tissue in the areas being worked being activated in comparison to 40% in an isolation exercise. For example, 60% of your triceps muscle is activated in a bench press by comparison to 40% in a push-down. Not over-training is also essential as this will result in you having to take time off training due to injuries occurring and hence taking steps backwards from where you have reached.
Over-training can occur when you try to include too much volume in a workout at which point you results from training will actually diminish. A simple way to avoid this is training with maximum intensity for no longer than an hour. This way you will avoid over-training and maximise muscle gains, your testosterone levels will not deplete as much in this time frame allowing you to maintain a highly intense workout. However, anything longer may result in a serious fall in testosterone causing intensity to flag as well as your recovery rate from the workout.
Taking the correct supplements is key for muscle mass gain. Your standard supplement stack should contain: whey protein, a multivitamin, omega oils and BCAA. Whey protein and BCAAs are essential in order to get the extra protein and amino acids in your diet for the increasing demands placed upon your body.
Casein protein is largely overlooked by many people in the supplement industry and is as important as whey protein in order for muscle gain. A ratio of 2:1 whey to casein in your post workout shake is proven to be more effective for muscular recovery and hence muscle gain post workout. This is due to the body’s elevated protein demand during recovery lasting up to 24 hours post workout, therefore the sustained release of casein allows the body to meet the extra demands to carry out protein synthesis and repair muscular tissue.
Creatine is also an essential addition to your supplement stack in order to build mass. Creatine is the most highly tested and well documented supplement in the industry and will not cause any of the negative dogma that is associated with it if taken in the correct dosage and if cycled correctly. It works by providing more creatine phosphate to your muscles that can be used in respiration in periods of short, highly intense exercise such as resistance training. This will allow more powerful muscle contractions and increase strength endurance, further allowing more effective hypertrophy.
I would recommend taking creatine for 8 week cycles and taking 8 week time periods between cycles so that your body doesn’t develop resistance to its own creatine. For the first week load up on it taking four 5g douses a day and then after this loading phase take 5g post workout. Weight gaining supplements may also be a useful addition to a supplement stack for an ectomorph or a ‘hard gainer’ as they are a very good and easy way of getting extra calories into your diet that are essential to putting on mass.
Eating lots, training correctly and supplementing smartly are the 3 main essentials for muscle mass gaining. Sleep is also very important for muscle gain as the body can only grow and recover at rest and sleep supplies the perfect opportunity for this. When you sleep growth hormone and testosterone are released by your body massively aiding growth and recovery of muscular tissue.
However, none of this will be effective if you fail to be consistent as this is the true to key to gains of any kind in anything. If you are persistent, attack everything and use these 3 aspects as cornerstones of everything you do then you will gain the muscle mass you desire.