How To Gain Muscle

by Randell Allen on February 21, 2011

How To Gain Muscle

I often run into people who say they cannot gain weight no matter what they try. My response remains: anybody is capable of gaining muscle mass with the correct nutrition and weight lifting program.

In fact, whether you are the average person who hopes to gain muscle to balance out your physique or you are a professional bodybuilder or athlete, the protocol is exactly the same.

What is gaining muscle?

Muscle gain, also known as muscle hypertrophy, is an increase in the size of your muscle cells. There are two different types of muscular hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in volume of sarcoplasmic fluid within the muscle cells leading to an increase in muscle size.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy produces an increase in contractile proteins (actin and myosin), which also leads to an increase in muscle size.

Weight training leads to an increase in both sarcoplasm and contractile proteins.

How to gain muscle

Step One: Secure your calorie intake

The first step to gaining muscle mass is determine your calorie intake. You can lift everyday and Swarzeeneger as your trainer, but without sufficient calories, your will not gain much muscle mass.

You could end up losing muscle if you increase your training intensity, and not your food intake to match.

To determine your calorie intake, the simplest way is to use the Harris benedict equation to figure out how many calories you need to maintain your weight, and then add another 500 calories to your maintenance amount.

1. Determine your BMR

2. Multiply your BMR times the appropriate activity level

3. Add approximately 500 calories

As you gain muscle, you will have to increase your calorie requirements. As a general rule, for every 5 pounds gained, you will have to increase your calorie intake by 200-250 calories.

Step Two: Weight Train

Although Yoga and Pilates are forms of resistance training, only weight training will provide the necessary stimulus to promote long term muscle gain. Beginners will most likely experience some muscle mass over a 2-month period, the average is approximately 3 pounds, however with the right protocol, you can experience much bigger gains in muscle mass (up to a 1 pound of muscle per week). Click to read 10 Good Reasons To Exercise.

Step three: The appropriate rep range

The optimal repetition range is 8-12 for muscle gain, although there may be gains experienced in repetition ranges slightly lower or higher.

Tempo for repetitions

A good place to start is 3 seconds on the lowering phase (eccentric), 1 second hold at the bottom (isometric), and 3 seconds on the up phase (concentric). For example, for a bench press, 3 seconds as you lower the weight, 1 second hold at the bottom, and 3 seconds lifting the weight back up to the top. So, each full repetition is 7 seconds

Step Four: The appropriate set range

The recommended amount of sets per body part is 12 to 16 sets. For example, if you are working on your chest, you may perform four different exercise (dumbbell bench press, barbell bench press, incline dumbbell press, decline dumbbell press), 3 to 4 times. This would equal 12-16 sets for your chest.

Most importantly you must be “failing” at the 8-12 repetition range. Meaning, when you are at the end of the rep range you are not capable of performing another repetition. If you can easily perform a few more repetitions, you are not using enough weight.

For smaller body parts (biceps), you can perform 6 to 8 sets.

Step Four: Progressive Overload

Based on research, the average is amount of muscle gained over a two month period is 3 pounds, however to continue to gain, you must increase your intensity, frequency, duration, as well as, you food intake to continue to see substantial muscle gains.

A beginner may gain a 1 to 3 pounds of muscle performing 1 to 3 sets per body part, and training 2 to 3 days a week.

If you want to gain 15-20 pounds, you will have to work up to the 8-12 set range per body part, as mentioned previously in this article, and may have to train 5 to 6 days a week.*

Moreover, the amount of weight used should be increased by approximately 5% once reaching the 12-repetition range easily without struggle.

Step Five: Rest

Without adequate rest, not only do you run the risk of getting hurt or sick, you may even lose strength and size. It takes approximately 72 hours for muscles to fully recover from an intense workout. Making sure you give your muscles time to fully recover is a key component of gaining size and strength.

If you find yourself weak during a workout, check to make sure you have an adequate food intake, next check to see if you are giving yourself considerate rest.

What to look out for:

One common mistake when  trying to gain muscle mass is eating too much, gaining more than a pound a week, and gaining just as much body at as muscle.

Check out this article Are Carbohydrates The New Fat?

Ideally, you would obtain an accurate body fat measurement to use as a marker before you begin your weight training program.

Without knowing your optimal calorie intake for muscle gain, and simply eating as much as you can, you run the risk expanding your waistline more than your biceps.

It is common for your body fat level to go up slightly while gaining muscle. For example, for every ten pounds of muscle gained, you may gain a couple of pounds of fat. This is a decent ratio, but 10 pounds of lean mass gained and 10 pounds of body fat is not a good ratio.

Not working out hard or often enough is another reason for gaining excess body fat while gaining muscle. Most body builders train approximately 6 days a week to optimize muscle gain without gaining too much fat.


Keep in mind; if you stop lifting weights, you will probably lose muscle over time. The average rate for muscles lose is about a half pound of muscle per year after the age of 25. Also, after 2 weeks you will begin to lose your strength gains.

This is the reason why fitness must become a lifestyle in order to be successful. Inconsistency, will not produce good results.

It is okay to take systematic time off. A good week off from training is a smart move every 2 to 3 months. This gives your body time to rest recover.

* A sample routine for those serious about putting on muscle mass

  • Monday and Thursday – Chest-Shoulders-triceps-Abs
  • Tuesday and Thursday – Back- Biceps- Trapezoids
  • Wednesday and Saturday – Quadriceps- Hamstrings- Calves-Shin

NutritionX Los Angeles offers customized muscle gain program based on your body type. If you are interested in receiving guidance for your muscle hypertrophy program, use the contact form and enter your information to set up a free consultation.


1. How to Gain Muscle: Why some people want to gain instead of lose By Paige Waehner: Retrieve February 20, 2011

2 . 10 newbie tips for bulking: By Shannon Clark: Retrieved February 20, 2011


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

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Randell Allen May 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Thanks. I was always the smallest person playing on my sports team. I probably spent too much time trying to figure out diet and exercise. Thanks for reading and your comment!


xrumer drip feeds May 17, 2011 at 12:49 am

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Randell Allen May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Thanks….I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate it!


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