So you want to get huge, do you? Not just larger than you are now—we're talking objectively massive. You want to stand out from all those anonymous gym rats and get so big no one would ever need to murmur those dreaded words, "Do you even lift?"
You want it to be obvious from a hundred yards that you've devoted more time, effort, and sacrifice into the pursuit of muscles than all but an elite few.
Great! Let's make it happen. Don't just trust that eating a bunch and adding another set of squats is enough. Once you've made up your mind to do this, you need to know the rules of the road.
1. Train consistently and consistently hard!
This is where it all starts: consistent, hard training. From now on, every workout counts, so go at it with a vengeance! As time goes by, your goal should always be striving to use a little more weight, or do a few more reps. You should routinely take sets to failure—not necessarily every set, but the final set of a movement is a no-brainer.
As a rule, never walk out of the gym feeling like you could have tried harder. Half effort will give you half results. Do all you can.
2. Systematically take time to chill
Knowing when to back off—even take a few days off training—can help you progress. You can't drive a car pedal to the metal all the time without blowing a gasket or throwing a rod. Train nonstop at 100 with no plan to dial it back, and you're begging for an injury or sickness.
Every 6-8 weeks, plan on taking a full week off, or at least bringing your training down a notch. That means less volume, no added intensity techniques, and not taking any sets to failure. Give your body the deep rest it needs, and it just might respond by leaping into growth during this week.
3. Work the big lifts
Many lifters try to add mass by simply adding more isolation movements on top of what they're already doing. But now more than ever, you'll get the most bang for your gym time by doing lots of big compound movements.
Isolation movements and machines have their place, but if you're after maximum mass gains, focus every week on bench presses, squats, deadlifts, military presses, and barbell rows. Some people think these exercises are just for getting stronger, but that's because they do them for low reps.
Work these lifts in the 8-10 rep range regularly, with good form, and you'll start using more weight and gaining more muscle mass. Then, hit a few select isolation moves for a serious pump and walk out of the gym feeling immense.
4. Mix up your rep ranges
Doing 8-10 reps per set is a tried and true way to grow. But for more hypertrophy, or when you're an advanced lifter, it's good to mix it up with both heavier sets of 5-8 reps and lighter sets of 12-15 reps. For the quads and calves, push to 20-50 reps occasionally. Different muscle fibers respond differently to changes in load and time under tension.
Either incorporate various rep ranges in the same workout, or cycle your training weeks so rep ranges change weekly. If you land on a specific rep range that delivers better results, stick with it as long as it works.
5. Use good form—most of the time
Good form is… good! But every now and then, it's okay to loosen it up a bit so you can squeeze out just a few more reps with a solid weight.
Always start your set with strict form, and then, as you approach the end of a set, don't be afraid to cheat a bit. Use some body English or momentum to get the weight up, then focus on the negative portion, which should still be strict.
Of course, this approach is better suited to certain movements than others. One-arm dumbbell rows, curls, and lateral raises? Sure. Squats and deadlifts? No thanks. Just do as many reps in good form as possible and call it a day.
6. Get yourself to a real gym
There was a day when gyms were the domain of serious lifters, and when benching 405 for reps or stripping down to practice posing was no big deal. Nowadays, corporate gyms have rules against tank tops and deadlifting, and "lunk alarms" for anybody who dares to grunt with effort!
Needless to say, these places are not conducive to getting huge. Do some research and see if there's a "real" gym nearby where you can toss weight around without feeling like you're disturbing the peace. These gyms probably have more free weights and better machines. Just as importantly, they have people who want to get big, just like you do.
7. Find a great training partner
Once you have a great place to train, your gains will come faster if you have a great person to train with. This person doesn't necessarily have to share your exact goals or be as strong as you are. At the same time, the absolute best partnerships are those that have a touch of friendly rivalry.
When you're closely matched to your partner, you never slack off because you don't want to be shown up! The main qualities you're looking for is someone who shows up on time, knows how to spot you properly, and is able to be motivating without being obnoxious. Once you find someone like that, gains are sure to follow.
8. Listen to your body
If you're constantly paranoid about getting injured, you'll never learn to push yourself. On the other hand, when lifters get injured, it's usually because they ignore that little voice that told them something was off—some muscle complaining, or shoddy form they were hoping the lifting gods wouldn't notice.
Listen to your body! If you feel an odd or sharp pain when doing an exercise, stop immediately. If it still hurts doing something else, abandon the workout and take it easy on that area for a while: You won't regret it! What you will regret is getting injured, stalling your progress for weeks, months and, in extreme cases, years.
9. Invest in recovery
If you have the time and money, invest in regular chiropractic adjustments and deep-tissue massages. A good chiropractor can keep your spine and hips aligned, while a good massage therapist can break up scar tissue and adhesions to maximize blood flow and range of motion. Both practitioners can keep you working out at peak capacity—and that's how you continue growing.
10. Watch your sack time like a hawk
Everybody knows your body needs rest to grow. So why is it that some people sabotage their results by partying or watching TV deep into the night?
If you legitimately can't get 8 hours of sleep because of work, school, or family demands, do the best you can. But know that rest and recovery is absolutely essential for muscle growth. The old-school greats knew this—and they responded by creating the most perfect recovery booster of all time, the daily "muscle nap."
You can train like a beast, but without enough rest, you'll constantly feel shortchanged. Who grows the most? Babies! So do what they do and sleep as much as you can!
11. Don't skimp on the protein
Scientists have been arguing for decades about the protein needs of athletes. Luckily, millions of bodybuilders have spent those same years proving that high-protein diets are the best way to support lean muscle tissue growth.
So, how much protein do you need? A lot of lifters swear by 1 gram of protein daily per pound of body weight, though some take as much as 1.52 grams. For a 200-pound man, that would require a range of 300-400 grams of protein per day. That's a whole lot of protein, but you're trying to put on a whole lot of muscle!
Of course, your budget—and your guts—may scoff at that kind of intake, but make sure you're at least getting 1 gram per pound when you're looking to gain, spread across at least four meals a day. And if you need to get out the scale to familiarize yourself with what 30 grams looks like, do it!
12. Get enough carbs and healthy fats
Protein is the most important of the macronutrients, but you need all three macros in your daily diet to put on the most mass. This isn't the time to go keto! Both for workout fuel and growth fuel, eat lots of carbohydrates like rice, potatoes, oats, and fresh fruit.
Carbs will help fill your muscles with glycogen, the fuel they need for contractions. Know what standard amounts like 50 grams looks like, and then dose accordingly!
You also need healthy fats for general health, to maintain good hormone levels, and because they're the most efficient source of calories out there! Seriously, each gram contains nine calories, as opposed to four calories per gram of protein or carbs. Get those from raw nuts, whole eggs, salmon, avocado, olive oil, and almond butter. Eat!
If you don't believe you can grow, you won't. Doubting your ability to succeed can prevent you from working out as hard as you can, and from eating as well as you should.
"Why bother?" you might tell yourself, "I'm not going to get any bigger anyway!" Don't go there! Believe it's possible. Believe you can achieve your goals even if it takes more hard work and time than you planned on. Adopt that belief deep in your heart, and it will manifest in your physique.
14. Keep the right company
I'm not just talking workout partners here. Be selective with the people you surround yourself with. Are they ambitious go-getters, or shiftless slackers with no goals and no drive? Do they encourage your efforts and support you, or do they mock you and put you down?
For every person without goals—every person too scared or lazy to go after their dreams—there's someone else determined to work hard and make their hopes and dreams come true. Your odds of succeeding at anything, including gaining mass, go up when you are in the company of positive, driven, hardworking people you can support—and who can support you, too.