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How To Build Muscle: The Definitive Guide To Getting Big

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If you’re serious about learning how to build muscle, you have more information available today than ever before. The internet is the greatest knowledge builder of all time, the problem however, is the signal to noise ratio. And the vast majority of that signal is white noise.

The reason there is so much garbage out there is because bodybuilding sites need consistent content to fuel their rankings. That’s why you see thousands of articles on “muscle confusion” and “optimal nutrient timing”. Then you have the supplement companies blasting out advertorials (ads disguised as editorials) on the necessity of buying their reverse-osmosis-microionized protein powders.

And the forums aren’t much better. They’re filled with more broscience than a jersey shore locker room. The problem with learning bodybuilding on the internet is that most sites are either a bastion of inductive reasoning or are too scientific for the average guy to apply.

When it comes to learning how to build muscle mass, the problem isn’t finding the information, it’s finding the right information. In fact, information overload is one of the core problems of the modern age, not just in bodybuilding, but across all disciplines.

With that in mind, I wanted to put together this article to cut through the noise so that you never have to waste your precious time reading another bullshit article again. Because getting big is simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. It takes time, discipline and commitment. But knowing what you need to do to make it happen is easy. Because  there are only four things that work. I promise you, if you focus on these four things you will get big, no ifs ands or maybes:

How To Build Muscle

1) Maintaining A Caloric Surplus

To get bigger you need to eat more. When you overexert a muscle you create microtears, for that muscle to repair and grow, you have to eat more nutrients then your body needs to accommodate the new muscle. Most guys know this already, what they don’t know is that you don’t need to eat all that much.

When guys on every forum tell you to eat big and grow, what they mean is eat big and take drugs to grow. When you eat big without drugs you’ll put on muscle but you’ll also put on fat.

As a natural trainee, unless its your first 6 months of training, you need to eat a lot less than most guys tell you. You need to eat according to the amount of muscle you’re looking to put on. For example, a natural trainee, in his third year of lifting should only expect to put on 5 lbs. of muscle a year.

1 lb. is 3,500 calories, 5 x 3,500 calories is 17,500 calories, divided by 12 months and that’s a caloric surplus of 1458 calories per month or 48 calories per day, that is a not a ton of extra food. This is why you see so many guys get fat on bulks, because they’re eating too much, then they cut weight and lose a lot of muscle, 2 steps forward, 1 step back. And you’re fat for half the year, not a good look for a playboy.

After your initial first couple years of gains, they will be slow and hard to come by without performance enhancement. Only guys on steroids can get away with eating big because gaining ten pounds in a month on superdrol is completely possible. To see how to bulk while minimizing fat gain check out this article.

2) Getting Adequate Protein

Muscles are primarily made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Muscles repair themselves after a workout when amino acids and other nutrients travel to them from your bloodstream.

That’s why weightlifters need more protein than the average guy to repair the damage caused in each workout and build stronger muscles. With that said, just like with maintaining a caloric surplus the amount of protein guys need to build muscle is less than you think.

I know every forum in the world says you need a gram of protein per lb. of bodyweight but that’s actually not true. With the exception of maybe elite level bodybuilders carrying 90 lbs. or more of lean muscle, you only need at most, 120 grams of protein per day.

I’m speaking from experience here, having built and maintained 50 lbs. of lean muscle on under 120 grams per day. I’ve also choked down over 200 grams of protein per day in the past with no noticeable effect on muscle growth but a noticeable effect on my kidneys, gut and wallet. If you don’t believe me check out these four studies or this book by Brad Pilon on how much protein you really need:

3) Utilizing Progressive Resistance

Muscles grow through hypertrophy, that means they only grow after being pushed to their maximum contraction or muscular fatigue. This causes microtrauma or tiny damage to the muscle and with enough calories the muscles heal and become stronger.

This means you need to continually be pushing your muscles to their peak contraction for them to grow. You should look at the amount of weight you lift as merely a measurement of the strength of your muscular contraction because the strength of your muscular contraction is all that matters.

You need to push your muscles to fatigue each time you step in the gym, otherwise you’re wasting your time. When I step in the gym I’m only focused on one thing, breaking records, that means lifting more weight than I did the previous week.

Unless you’re breaking records your set is useless for muscle growth, its only useful for maintaining the muscle you have. All that matters is how hard your muscles contract, which means all that matters is how much you can lift. If you can bench 400 lbs. on a machine you’re going to be big, whether you’re properly recruiting your stabilizer muscles is irrelevant. All broscience debates are irrelevant.

Machines vs. free weights? Irrelevant
High volume training vs. low volume training? Irrelevant
Eating before a workout vs. eating after a workout? Irrelevant
Pyramid training vs. reverse pyramid training? Irrelevant

Getting Stronger Is The Only Thing That’s Relevant!

4) Taking Performance Enhancing Drugs

How To Build Muscle Mass

If you want a body that looks good with your shirt on and off you need drugs, period. You can look lean and ripped naturally with your shirt off, but with your shirt on you’ll look skinny/fit. You can look muscular naturally with your shirt on but you’ll look fat with your shirt off.

You can’t be big and ripped without drugs, period.  Every guy that looks noticeably good is on drugs, all athletes, action movie stars and men’s health cover models use PED’s. When you make a living off of your body, you can’t afford not to be maximizing every advantage.

As a natural bodybuilder you can expect to gain about 35 to 50 lbs. (50 lbs. is unlikely) of lean muscle over 3 to 5 years, to find your exact natural genetic potential check out this article here. The best drugs available for natural trainees are creatine, which increases the amount of weight you can lift and stimulants like caffeine, which give you extra energy in the gym.

If you’re aiming to look like the guy on the cover of Men’s Health magazine then you need real drugs, those guys carry about 60-70 lbs. of lean muscle which is more than anyones natural genetic capacity. You’re also looking at about 5 to 7 years of proper training to build this kind of physique. Common steroids used are testosterone, deca durabolin, and dianabol, all of which raise the anabolic hormone levels in your body allowing you to put on muscle rapidly.

To look like an elite bodybuilder, a guy with 100 lbs. or more of muscle you need elite level muscle building genetics, 10 + years of insanely dedicated training and a pharmaceutical textbook full of drugs. Don’t believe these guys get their physique from whatever bullshit supplement they’re hawking. The entire bodybuilding industry is built to sell supplements that don’t work, endorsed by guys who take more drugs than Lindsay Lohan.

These guys are not only on steroids but hgh, t3 and the most anabolic and dangerous drug of them all: insulin. While I respect the discipline of these guys but I don’t think aiming to be an elite bodybuilder is a good goal for our purposes. The money is shit, you turn off a lot of girls with your physique, you damage your body and it takes a lot of time away from liberating yourself from wage slavery.

I’m not promoting or condoning steroids, I just want you guys to understand the realities of bodybuilding and be able to manage your expectations accordingly. As a libertarian I think every man should be able to decide what he wants to put in his body as long as he’s done his homework, understands the risks and is following the laws of his country.

My Experience

I’ve tried every routine in the book, almost all of them led to injuries in the gym from overtraining. If you’re a natural ectomorph like me, your joints and tendons can’t handle the strain of a lot of weight training. Once I got rid of the bullshit and focused on the four fundamental things above I started to really grow. I realized I just needed to eat a bit more, make sure I get enough protein, break records in the gym and take my supplements.

I designed a minimalist routine that is easy on my joints, prevents injuries and gives me the most reward for the least effort. My routine hits the sweet spot, the point after which you get diminished returns or even results that are counter-productive. A great example is training 7 days a week, for some guys that might be ok, but for me that just leads to injury and excess muscle tightness. Being in the gym twice a week is perfect, no injuries and consistent growth.

I use low volume training at a high intensity because its more efficient than high volume training and easier on my joints. I use compound movements because they’re more efficient than isolated exercises. I use intermittent fasting and stimulants because they give me more energy in my morning workout.

I do one set on each exercise only because the first set is all that matters. I only worry about one thing, lifting more than the previous week. I only do one upper and one lower body exercise per day because I always want my muscles to be fresh and its easier on my joints.

When you truly push a set to fatigue your muscles will be worn out, that means you won’t be able to break a record on a different exercise because your muscles will be spent. For example if I crush a set of weighted chins, I know that if I do a set of weighted dips in the same workout I won’t be able to break a record on those dips. I’ll only be able to do about 93% of my 1 rep max because my arms aren’t fresh. That means that set of weighted dips is useless. To see my exact routine check out this article here.

Here I am now at 5’10”, 170 lbs. 32 years old with 50 lbs. of muscle on my frame (yes I was actually 120 lbs. in high school)

Me At 170 lbs

Conclusion

Learning how to build muscle is simple: focus on these four things, tune out the white noise and make it happen!


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12 Comments

  1. Abhishek
    October 18, 2014 at 1:34 am

    Great article. Gaining or loosing weight doesn’t have to be rocket science.
    I have lost 20Kg in 1.5 year. I had a very simple routine that consisted of Squats, dead-lifts and bench press. I worked out only 3 days per week. My only goal in the gym is to break my PRs in these three exercises. I usually avoid isolation exercises because the endless reps are boring as hell.

  2. October 18, 2014 at 3:12 am

    Hey great article! This workout routine is very similar to what I do, and wouldn’t you know it we’re about the same exact size. I’m 5’11, 170, 30 years old.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. October 18, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks man and great work. Absolutely, that was pretty much the bulk of my routine with a few substitutions to preserve my back. Yep, just keep breaking those prs man.

  4. October 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks man! Great minds think alike :)

  5. October 29, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Hey Will, very good post. I agree on everything except the Performance Enhancing Drugs. If you train 4 times a week, eat right and avoid alcohol (most of the time), you should be able to get a body, after a few years, that lets you appear well with and without shirt. Of course you need to work hard for these years and there are no shortcuts, except steroids.

    You are a 100% correct that all these bodybuilders promoting their whey protein are on juice, such as most actors or guys on the ‘means health’ cover.

    Just like you I’m not promoting or condoning steroids, but I still think an awful lot is possible on a natural basis.

    Anyway, great post and very interesting blog. Keep it up!

  6. October 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Thanks a lot Rob! Absolutely agree, the 40 pounds of muscle you can get naturally is a lot better than looking skinny.

  7. November 8, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Nothing revolutionary (pun intended) but solid advice!

    “the strength of your muscular contraction is all that matters.”

    –This I think is heavily overlooked / misunderstood by most gym-goers. Sure, by all means, do heavy compound lifts, but the contraction is key.

  8. November 8, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Pun well delivered :)

    Absolutely, most guys in the gym don’t understand the basic science behind what they’re doing. Great site btw.

  9. November 9, 2014 at 5:16 am

    Thank you Will.

  10. Donald
    June 8, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    How much calories did you eat? Bodyweight in pounds multiplied by 18 or 20?

  11. Donald
    June 8, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Are you on steroids while doing this diet? I cannot believe that 2000 calories is enough for an ectomorph with that weight.

  12. June 17, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    I wasn’t at the time, if you don’t believe me, just look at the bodyweight calculator, most guys are overweight because they overestimate how much they really need.

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