How to Gain Muscle

If you can't seem to gain muscle then you need to read this article.

When you lift in the right rep range, realize what might be holding you back and modify your workouts then you can easily pack some extra meat onto your bones.

By the end of this article you will be ready to start building some real muscle.

High Reps vs. Low Reps

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they want to build muscle is that they focus on the wrong rep range. A rep (or repetition) is the number of times you do an exercise before you take a break. So if someone says they're doing a set of 20 reps on the bench press, then they'll bench the weight 20 times before they put it back on the rack.

But do you really think that benching a weight 20 times is going to help you pack on a lot of muscle?

If you want tiny muscles that are trained for endurance and not strength or size then by all means stick to that 20 rep range. But if you want to work your biggest and strongest muscle fibers you'll want to stick to doing exercises in the 1 to 5 rep range. And if you want a little more size than strength then you can venture into the 6 to 12 rep range. But this isn't me just naming off random numbers, there's a reason why these rep ranges work.

You have different types of muscle fibers; some that give out quicker than others. Your biggest and strongest muscle fibers are called fast twitch muscle fibers and they give out pretty quickly. There are two types of fast twitch fibers (Type IIa and Type IIx) and the Type IIx muscle fibers are where your brute strength really comes from. But the problem is that these muscle fibers give out really quickly so when you do high reps most of your reps don't target these fibers at all. So if you want size or strength then you need to target the correct fibers in order to get the results you want. So now that you know that you need to stick with lower reps, we need to look at what else might be holding you back.

3 Top Reasons Why You Can't Gain Muscle

If you want to make any gains at all, no matter what your goal is, you need to be getting enough sleep! Your body can only repair itself while you sleep and these "repairs" mean progress for you. So if you're not getting enough sleep then you're going to be sore longer, not build as much muscle and you may end up getting nowhere with your workouts. So scheduling your sleep time is just as important as making sure that you do your workouts.

But when you are awake you need to be sure that you're eating enough to be able to build and support your new muscle. Your body needs to draw calories from somewhere to create this new muscle and it's up to you to make sure you consume these calories. You'll need protein to repair your muscles but you also want to ensure that you eat a well-balanced diet to keep your body running smoothly. And when you do build new muscle, you'll have to maintain this higher caloric intake or you won't be able to hold onto your muscle. Those are two things you might need to get more of but here's something you want less of.

You need to be sure that you're not overtraining, which can boost the release of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that's released whenever your body is stressed to the max and it will REDUCE your muscle tissue and actually increase abdominal fat! So you need to keep this hormone under control by not spending hours in the gym at a time. 45 minutes of intense weightlifting is more than enough time to gain muscle; after that you risk the release of cortisol. So how can you shorten your workouts?

Use These Techniques to Gain Muscle Faster

First you'll want to lower the volume that you're doing in each workout. You don't need to do 10 sets for every exercise that you do. Lower the overall volume you do in each workout and increase the quality of each of your lifts. When you get to the 7th or 8th set of you exercise I'm sure that your form starts to get a little sloppy, especially if it's the last couple of exercises in your workout. So if you drop a few sets per exercise, you can save time and actually make each of your exercises more effective through using consistently perfect form.

After you do that you'll want to drop all the isolation exercises from your workouts. You want to stick with more functional, compound exercises that will work more muscle fibers at the same time. Exercises like squats, deadlifts and bench presses allow you to work your body in a more natural way while hitting more than one muscle at once. And by working multiple muscles in one exercise you're able to shorten your workouts.

And since you've saved so much time by implementing the two changes above you can now increase the intensity of your workouts. You're going to have a lot of extra energy when you switch to a shorter workout like this so use that to your advantage. When you feel like you can handle more weight, then toss a few more plates on the bar and pump out each rep with explosive power while practicing good form! Make sure that every rep counts in your workout and you'll be sure to gain muscle a lot faster than before.

These methods are proven to help even the skinniest people pack on some extra muscle. When you stick to low reps and modify your lifestyle and workouts then you can gain muscle at ease! You're now ready to add some lean slabs of muscle to your body.

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How Do YOU Gain Muscle? 33 comments

Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 6 years ago

Great advice.

To add on, I make sure I take enough protein, about 60g a day (about 20g for each meal), that's the recommended intake for woman.

dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Great article. Lots of good information. thanks.

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Thanks for the suggestion, Ingenira! I tried to sway away from giving a set number for people because some people live by the gram per pound protein model while others don't think we need that much at all. But as I quickly mentioned in the article, protein is definitely important in your daily life, especially when dealing with muscle.

Oh and thanks for being a frequent reader, dallas93444!

brandonakelly profile image

brandonakelly 6 years ago from Wilmington, NC

I'm a very firm believer in quality over quantity and staying in good form. This is a great article for an introduction to weight lifting, good stuff.

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

I agree brandonakelly, a ton of poorly performed reps aren't even close to the effectiveness of a few reps performed with perfect form.

Thanks for reading!

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Spendid hub and great advice. Well done

The Academy profile image

The Academy 6 years ago

The quantity of protein you should consume daily should really vary with your lean bodyweight. I have always worked off 2g of protein per 1kg of bodyweight for maintenance, upping to 3g for gains. Good luck all.

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Yeah The Academy, I didn't mention amounts because there have been many disputes over how much people really need. But your figures seem to be about what the normal recommendations are.

Oh and thanks for reading, Hello, hello,!

Grant's World profile image

Grant's World 6 years ago from Canada

Bendo13 great information. Hope your doing well bro.

Merry Christmas from Canada.



Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Thanks for reading, Grant's World!

Things are good here, hope it's the same where you're at... Merry Christmas to you too!

carljsp profile image

carljsp 6 years ago

useful information specially 3 Top Reasons Why You Can't Gain Muscle is true i think.......

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Glad you got something out of it, carljsp!

Ahmad 5 years ago

so now wat u think about jackie chan!he says that I perform many reps.and u can see his body in fearless hyena!and then think to right again and also watch jackie chan training documentary on YOUTUBE.COM


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

You can do high reps if you want small muscle fibers that last a long time. And sure, if you get your body fat percentage down low enough you'll look nice and cut BUT it's a different type of muscle fiber.

You don't build brute strength with high reps, Ahmad... what you build is endurance strength, you "grease the groove" and you work on speed.

So the type of training someone like Jackie Chan might recommend is for someone who doesn't want to get tired quickly (like a fighter that needs to last), someone who wants to be able to snap out a movement in perfect form without even thinking about it and someone that wants to use speed and momentum to make up for their lack of true brute strength.

Ahmad 5 years ago

thanx man u do well!!!!!!!!!!!!

BenJAMMIN2 profile image

BenJAMMIN2 5 years ago from United States

Solid article for hardgainers. Nice work. However, I would like to add that isolation execises are not bad for gaining in mass if used in moderation. 1 workout with high volume isolation exercises for every 5 heavy workouts will help to get blood flow to those heavily damaged muscles and can help deload the CNS to help slingshot you into your next week of training. But yes you've got it right for the most part, heavy rep compound training is the way to go, as heavier lifts have also been proven to increase testoterone production and a short workout will help to keep cortisol levels to a minimum. Keep on typing Bendo13, this is good stuff.

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

That's true, BenJAMMIN2... I just wanted to get people to focus on the basics first and have them build workouts that not only help them reach their goal but also to get them out of the gym as soon as possible.

It's so easy to confuse people when it comes to fitness goals... but you can definitely spark new growth by changing things up every once and a while. I've been known to use isolation exercises as supporting lifts for compound exercises to give myself a break from those lifts for a week or two. That's what Dynamic Plateau Training is all about.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Squats and lunges for the legs ... I swear by them! No pain no gain is the truth!!! Great hub!! Voted UP!!!

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Glad to see you're getting in some good workouts, Sunshine625! Thanks for the vote!

luke 5 years ago

only just found your hubs and learnt more in 2hrs of reading then what i have learnt in 12 months thaks heaps for keepin it real mate, cant wait to try a few things out. just one question mate i split my workouts into, shoulders(mon),legs(tue),chest and triceps(wed),back and biceps(thurs)and then rest fri,sat and sun just wondering if i should add a rest day inbetween my workout days and if the workouts are in the right order or if i should swap them up a bit. cheers mate

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

That's awesome, luke... glad I could help!

It depends on how you like to train though... do you like to workout until failure? Some people do to spark muscle growth, but personally I would probably make Wednesday a chest/back day and Thursday biceps/triceps so that you can go a little harder without the different types of exercises holding each other back. Since, I'm sure you know, you work your triceps during a lot of chest exercises and your biceps during a lot of back exercises like rowing.

The best spot to add a rest day, especially if you make the change I mentioned above, would be in between chest/back and bicep/tricep. You should be alright going from shoulders to legs and then legs to chest/back, but you might need a little break to hit your arms again the next day.

luke 5 years ago

yeah that sounds great, because i guess your essentially workin your biceps and triceps twice a week. i am lookin at building size and in one of your other hubs you sugested the 9 to 12 rep range to accomplish this. If i am going to preform the schedule you have amended for me i was wondering how many sets at this rep range and how many exercises per muscle group i do, just so i am not over training (eg. for wed when i am doin chest/back does 4 exercises for chest and 4 exercises for back with a 4(set)x 10(rep) for each exercise sound to much) if that makes sence. or what would you reccomend? thanks so much for your time cant wait to try my new schedule.

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

That sounds pretty good, luke but why don't you start out with 3 exercises each first (your 4 sets of 10 sounds fine). But try each of your workouts by doing 3 exercises for each muscle group and see how long it takes you to do each workout. If it's way under an hour then feel free to bump it up to 4 exercises each, next time around.

But you've got the right idea!

luke 5 years ago

thanks heaps mate,i will definatly try that out and let you know how i go. cheers

IJR112 profile image

IJR112 5 years ago

If I'm doing bench press, every third time I like to do 3 reps at a high weight, the next session I'll do 6-7 reps at a lower weight, the next session I'll do 10 reps at a lower weight. Then by the time I go back to doing 3 reps, I usually can bench more than I did the previous time. I think this is the way to go versus always benching with low reps. I can't explain why, but it's definitely worked for me.

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

No problem, luke... I look forward to hearing your progress!

Are you talking about switching things up each week, IJR112? If that's the case then it can be good to change your reps to avoid stalling out, but you can't expect to build brute strength by doing high reps all the time. Which is why it's good to see that 2 out of your 3 workouts include rep ranges that really focus more on strength.

Either way, you're still working your chest each time and your body doesn't know what to expect so it's constantly improving to keep up. So that's probably why you can go up each time. But if you properly set up your workouts, you can stick to the low rep range and be fine for quite some time without any changes at all.

What you're doing now is focusing on brute strength, then the next time you're focusing on strength and a little bit of size and then the next time you're focusing more on size. So you're putting your mucles through a pattern where each time it has to build up in a different way.

MosLadder profile image

MosLadder 5 years ago from Irvine, CA

This is a subject that continues to fascinate me, even though I'm not trying to build like I was in my teens anymore. Today, I have to consider whether or not I'll be able to lift a pan to cook dinner after some 16-odd sets of hard lifting! Good stuff Bendo13, voted up.

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

It's a good subject to be into, MosLadder! Enjoy your post workout meal!

Anthony Gonzalez 5 years ago

Hey Bendo13 I'm trying to get stronger for football. I need advise on this, is this a good number of reps and sets? What i do is 5 sets of 8-12 reps. Also if i do 12 reps than i add more weight every time. and if i don't get pass that weight i stay on that weight.

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Hey, Anthony... if you want brute strength, to be used in bursts (which is pretty much perfect for football), then you want to aim for lower reps.

Try out 5 sets of 5 at a higher weight and that will really target your strongest muscle fibers. These fibers give out pretty fast, but they can handle the most workload. And they are the fibers that let you burst off the line fast to sprint, tackle, catch the ball or whatever you need to do.

mr.rain 4 years ago

how i wish i cud also biuld a muscle like that,,how i wish

Alex1991 4 years ago

Hi I'm just starting to work out, I'm an average Joe and have no idea where to begin on getting in shape and soon becoming muscular, any pointers?

Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 4 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Hey Alex1991, are you already doing everything I mentioned above? Those are the basics that are going to help you pack on some muscle. But if by getting in shape you mean losing weight, you need to focus on one goal at a time.

You can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, but you won't move toward either goal as quickly as if you focused on one at a time. So, pick the initial goal you want to go after right now. Do you care more about being "in shape" or really muscular, right now?

Whichever you choose, go after that goal first when it comes to your workouts and your nutrition. Set a specific goal to reach like losing 20 pounds or increasing your bench press by 15 pounds... that way you know when you want to switch gears, and go after the other goal.

And then you can just climb your way up to your ideal body, by setting new specific goals which are focused on either getting in shape or gaining muscle.

You have plenty of pointers above, and you now know to aim for one goal at a time... so, you should be headed in the right direction. I also have a free newsletter you can sign up for on my site (Dynamic Plateau Training) if you want some other tips that will help you get started.

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