A well thought-out weight training program is extremely important to anyone wanting to gain weight fast and build lean muscle. You can’t just go into the gym and start tossing around weights with no real plan and expect to see results. Yet this is what 85% of people do when they walk into a gym. No plan = No results.
Right now, I’m going to show you the fundamentals of putting together a solid weight lifting program that forces your body to increase your muscle size and strength. No more wasting hours in the gym with little to no results to show for it. So lets get down to business…
I want to start off by reminding you that although weight lifting is important to your success, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. There are other factors that are equally important to gaining weight building muscle. Following a proper weight gain diet, and getting enough rest are the other 2 key components that will bring you results.
Most beginners make the mistake of putting all their time and focus into their weight training, but then they completely blow their diet and they don’t rest properly. This simply leads to overtraining, and a lack of nutrients for your muscles to grow. It’s a complete waste, so don’t be “that guy.”
Here’s what we’ll cover in this section:
- How Do Muscles Grow?
- Weight Training Exercises
- Intensity & Progression
- Sets & Reps
- Training Frequency
How Do Muscles Grow?
In order to fully understand what you’re doing in the gym it’s important to understand WHY your muscles grow.
When you lift heavy weights and train to failure (to the point where you can no longer complete another rep) you are actually creating micro-tears in your muscle fibers. In other words you are breaking down your muscle fibers and inflicting damage to them. This is the first step to bigger, larger muscles.
When you leave the gym and feed your body the nutrients it needs (through the correct weight gain diet) your body will begin to repair the damaged muscle fibers and build them back up bigger and stronger than before to protect itself against future damage. This is called muscle hypertrophy. A fancy way to say muscle growth.
Weight Training Exercises
There are 2 main types of weight training exercises you can do in the gym:
- Compound Exercises: These are exercises that use multi-joint movements. These movements are responsible for the majority of muscle and strength increases. Examples include squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.
- Isolation Exercises: These are exercises that use single-joint movements. Examples include leg extensions, bicep curls, and dumbbell lateral raises.
If you want to build the most muscle possible you need to stimulate as much muscle fiber as you possibly can. Therefore you need to focus on compound exercises.
For example, when you’re doing a bench press, you’re not only working your pecs (chest muscles) you’re also working your deltoids, triceps, forearms, and lats. That’s the power of using compound exercises.
The core mass-building exercises you’ll want to focus on that will stimulate the most muscle growth all over your body are:
- Squats (Legs)
- Stiff-Legged Deadlifts (Legs)
- Bench Press (Chest, Triceps)
- Bar Dips (Triceps, Chest)
- Military Press (Shoulders)
- Pull Ups (Back)
- Bent-Over Rows (Back)
- Bicep Curls (Arms)
- Crunches (Abs)
- Calf Raises (Legs)
Notice that none of the exercises involve any fancy machines or involve any complicated movements. You don’t need to be a professional bodybuilder to figure these out. (Although these are the main exercises professional bodybuilders use anyway to pack on so much muscle weight.)
Intensity & Progression
Everything you do in the gym should revolve around this law of intensity and progression. First let me define these 2 phrases for you:
Intensity: The amount of effort your muscles exert on each set of any given exercise
Progression: Consistently increasing the amount of weight lifted or the number of reps performed on each exercise
Your primary goal when you walk into the gym is to go above and beyond your last workout. Simply put, you need to lift more weight or perform more reps than you did the week before. Otherwise you will not grow.
Is that straightforward enough? This is why it’s important that you carry a workout log into the gym with you. You need to know how much weight you lifted the week before, and how many reps you did, so you know what your goal is this week. You’ll know how many reps you need to do and how much weight you need to lift in order to grow.
I can always spot the novice in the gym. He’s the one walking around from exercise to exercise throwing weights around and not writing anything down. Guess what he’ll be doing next week? The exact same thing. Guess how much he’ll weigh? The exact same. And he’ll wonder why. It’s because he’s not progressively overloading his muscles from week to week. Every time he goes into the gym his muscles are laughing at him saying, “Haha, we just did this same thing last week. Looks like we don’t need to grow.”
Get my point?
Sets and Reps
There is a lot of debate over how many sets and reps will stimulate the maximum muscle growth. But I’ll present you with the most widely accepted guidelines, and the number of sets and reps I personally use that have gotten me great results.
Below are the guidelines to keep in mind:
# of Reps
As you can see, the most efficient range of reps to perform for muscle size is 7–12 reps. But that doesn’t mean you should train solely in this rep range and ignore the others. The only rep range I completely ignore is the Endurance rep range of 13 plus. I could care less about endurance. What I care about is muscle size and strength.[adrotate group=”1″]As you already know, in order to build muscle you must consistently lift more weight or perform more reps than your last workout. We already discussed this when we talked about intensity and progression. The only way to do this is if you get stronger from week to week. Therefore, I personally train within the rep range of 2 – 10 in order to promote both strength and size gains.
This brings us to the next question…
“How many sets should I do to build muscle?”
It will differ for each exercise depending on what muscle groups you are training. Your larger muscles may respond better to 4 sets while some of your smaller muscle groups like your biceps may only require 2 sets.
An example weight gain workout for bench press might look something like this:
Now we come to the easiest, yet the most overlooked and underestimated part of weight and muscle gain. Getting plenty of rest.
Remember, all you are doing when you’re in the gym is breaking your muscles down. You’re muscles grow when you are out of the gym eating and resting.
So it’s important that you get at least 8 hours of quality sleep each night in order to allow your muscles time to repair and grow larger. If you find yourself getting 5 – 6 hours of sleep a night like most people, you need to kick that habit.
I was one of those people. Personally, I’m a “night person” and I find that’s when I have the most energy for some reason. So I find it helpful if I get into bed and start reading something for a half hour before I need to get to sleep. I’m usually passed out within 15 minutes.
Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on 4 of the most powerful hormones which play a key role in building muscle. Testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone, and insulin.
We don’t have room to go into detail about all these hormones here, but just know that you’re really setting yourself back if you’re not getting enough rest.
Weight Training Frequency
When it comes to your weight training program, less is more. Each muscle group should be trained only once per week. This is to allow for the important recovery and growth period we just talked about.
Training 6 days per week may sound like a good idea because you’re really “blasting your muscles” right? WRONG. You’re breaking them down and not allowing them to recover. This is called over-training.
In my opinion, (and many other experts) the optimal weight training frequency is 3 times per week. A 3-day training split will allow you to train certain muscle groups on the same day then give them a full week to recover.
Here is a good 3 day training split that I use to make sure I’m only hitting each muscle group once per week:
Day 1: Back, biceps
Day 2: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Day 3: Legs
Keep all these principals in mind when you’re putting together your own weight training program. Know what your goal is when you get into the gym. To break down your muscles. Get in and out as quick as you can so you can get home to eat and rest. Follow these guidelines and you’ll walk back into the gym next week bigger and stronger than ever before.
If you’re serious about gaining weight and building muscle mass you should take a look at the weight training program I used to pack on 38 pounds of muscle in just 19 weeks: Complete Weight Gain Plan For Skinny Guys.