Gaining muscle is the reason most people join a gym.
People give up four, five or even upwards of eight hours a week to dedicate themselves to pursuing this goal.
Many of us are hoping to be stronger and keep our bodies functioning well so we can more easily cope with the physical demands of life and aging.
Some of us just want to look like Hollywood superstars.
Whatever your goal, companies have made millions out of the desire to build muscle.
You don’t even have to go into a specialist “health shop” like Holland and Barrett anymore. Just walk into your nearest Tesco or Asda and you’ll find at least half an aisle dedicated to muscle building supplements promising pounds of lean muscle.
Hint: It’s not the supplements that will get you muscle building results
When I was very new to the gym, I saw someone in the changing room who made me stop in my tracks.
I had just finished my workout, and so had this other guy. I remember catching sight of his back as he was getting something out of his locker.
It was the most defined back I had ever seen in my life. I could see at least five times as many muscles in this guy’s back as you can normally see in someone’s back. You could see where different muscles separated, and I could also see what I thought were actual muscle fibres. When he moved, you could see different muscles contracting and lengthening. It goes without saying that the muscles were BIG too.
I resolved with myself right then and there that I would find whatever supplement this guy was using that had allowed him to build so much lean muscle.
I thought there were some protein powders out there that would help you pack on THICK SLABS of muscle, and others that would focus more on gaining “leaner”, more defined muscles.
The supplement industry had me completely sold.
For the next few months I spent about £100 a pop on supplements in pursuit of bigger, more defined muscles.
Let me tell you, I didn’t start seeing any results until I stopped taking supplements.
You see, that guy I had been inspired by in the changing rooms had only done two things:
- He had built a fair amount of muscle in his back
- He had reduced his bodyfat levels so that HE was leaner. The muscle was not leaner.
So how does building muscle actually work?
It took a while for all of this to click for me. I didn’t understand it at first.
Here’s what I looked like when I started going to the gym:
I didn’t change much in the first year and a half.
I made lots of mistakes and paid attention to all of the wrong things. Then I started doing the right things. That’s when I started to change.
Four years after starting, I look like this:
You can build muscle and transform MUCH faster if you focus on the right things!
There are two critical things which you MUST get right if you’re going to build any muscle.
- You must be making progress with your training program. This means getting stronger in the gym over time by forcing your body to adapt to a new stimulus (Progressive overload).
- You must be in a calorie surplus (You need to be eating enough. Often more than you think!)
If you are not doing both of these things, you will not make any gains.
At the very beginning when you’re still new to the gym, you may build some muscle without a calorie surplus, but this phase does not last long and it won’t be enough to get an impressive physique.
These two factors will account for 75 – 90 % of your muscle-building results.
The other factors that are important are:
- Getting enough protein.
- Recovery from training and getting enough quality sleep.
Let’s explore these factors one by one in more detail.
Click to the next page to learn more about how to set up an optimal training program for building muscle.