How to gain muscle mass

Date: March 06th, 2021

How to Gain Muscle Mass

Let’s analyze all the components of success: training, nutrition and rest.

  1. How muscles grow

There are three principles you should follow to gain muscle mass. Without this, muscle building is impossible.

Power training

Muscle protein synthesis rises 48–72 hours after exercise. The body builds up muscle fibers, and they increase in volume.

Increased load of training

Over time, the body adapts to the load and uses fewer and fewer muscle fibers to perform the same exercises. The muscles don't get the stimulus they want, and growth stops. Therefore, so that progress does not stop, you need to regularly increase the load.


Proper nutrition

In addition to training, muscles require a building material - amino acids from protein supplied with food. Carbohydrates are just as important: without them, you won't have enough hormones for muscle growth.

  1. Which training program to choose

There are two popular options - full body workouts and splits. Bodybuilders often prefer the latter, but the former are equally effective.

Full body workouts

In each session, you work all the major muscle groups. This has several advantages.

  • Suitable for beginners, they allow you to learn the technique of movements without the risk of injury.
  • Do a good job at burning fat.
  • It is possible to skip one day of training during the week: the muscles will still receive an incentive to grow in other training sessions.
  • You can include antagonist supersets and circuit training to save time.
  • After training, the muscles do not hurt as much as with splits.
  • The body gets a good load in just three days a week.

For a start, it's better to choose exactly the whole body workout. To benefit from them, do them regularly, such as three times a week. Rest in mind, however, will help your muscles recover. When progress stops, switch to splits.


Splits mean that you divide your body into several zones and train them on different days. For example, on Monday, do exercises for the chest, triceps, delts and abs. Wednesday - biceps, back, forearms and abs. And on Friday, you pump your legs: quadriceps, muscles of the back of the thigh, buttocks and calf muscles.

Splits are well suited for more experienced athletes and have a number of benefits too.

  • Specific muscle groups are maximally loaded at each workout. More workout volume means more growth.
  • You can train for several days in a row, without rest in between. This is a good option for people with a shift schedule.
  • A particular muscle group has a lot of recovery time, which is good for growth.
  • Splits use more muscle units per week, but overall body fatigue remains within normal limits.
  1. How many sets and reps to do

According to research, The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training, you can achieve maximum muscle growth by doing 8-12 reps per set.

Exercise 3–5Relationship between exercise volume and muscle protein synthesis in a rat model of resistance exercise sets with 60 to 120 seconds rest between them.

Pick up the weight in such a way that the last repetitions in the approach are given with difficulty, but without sacrificing technique.

  1. How to warm up

To warm up your body before exercising and reduce the risk of injury while lifting weights, do the following.

Joint warm-up

Twist your joints as you did in childhood in physical education. Do 10 rotations in each direction and 3-5 dynamic stretching exercises.

Short cardio

10 minutes on a treadmill, air bike, rowing machine. If all the machines are busy or not at all, do 100-200 jumps over the rope.

Exercises for the press

Do 1-2 sets of 20 repetitions of the bike exercise.


Perform 1-2 sets of 15-20 hyperextension times.

Warm up before each exercise with weights

Perform a bar movement 5–8 times before taking on a working weight. Then gradually increase the weight by 5–20 kg depending on your worker. For example, here's a warm-up ladder to the deadlift from 100 kg: five times with the bar, three times with 40 kg, twice with 60 kg, once with 80 kg, once with 90 kg.

  1. How much and what exercises to include in the workout

If you're doing a full-body workout, choose one exercise for each muscle group. If you prefer splits, divide your exercises over your training days.

In general, strength training should include 4-8 exercises, combining multi-joint movements (squats, deadlifts, bench press) with single-joint movements (biceps curls, lying dumbbell extensions, triceps extensions).

Multi-joint movements greatly fatigue the central nervous system (CNS), so it is better not to include more than 2-3 types in training. This will tire the muscles sufficiently and not overload the central nervous system.

  1. What leg exercises will help gain muscle mass
  • Back Squat

Place your feet a little further than shoulder-width apart, turn your toes slightly to the sides, straighten your back and bend a little in the lower back. Pull your pelvis back and sit down, keeping your back straight.

Squat full range until you can keep your back straight and your heels flat on the floor. When exiting the squat, make sure that your knees do not curl inward and your back remains level.

  • Leg press on the simulator

Lie on the simulator, press your lower back firmly against the back and do not tear it off until the end of the exercise. Grasp the handles. Place your feet on the platform, under its weight, bend your knees at right angles. Then, overcoming the resistance of the platform, straighten your legs. At the top, the knees should remain slightly bent.

  • Deadlift

Come close to the bar so that the bar is at the level of the laces of the sneakers. Grab the bar with a straight grip slightly wider than your shoulders, straighten your back and slightly bend in the lower back. Raise the barbell and straighten to full extension at the hip joint, and then lower it back.

Move the barbell close to your shins so as not to overload the lower back, make sure that your back remains level.

  • Rise on toes with a barbell

Place the barbell on your shoulders and rise on your toes, trying to keep your feet straight.

  1. What exercises for the back will help to gain muscle mass

Bent over barbell

  • Bent-over barbell row

Bend with your back straight to parallel with the floor or slightly higher, bend your knees slightly. Take the barbell with a reverse grip slightly wider than your shoulders and hold it in outstretched arms.

Pull the barbell towards your upper abdomen without changing your back angle. Drop and repeat

row of the upper block to the chest

  • Row of the upper block to the chest

Sit on a bench with your feet firmly pressed to the floor. Grasp the handle with a forward or reverse grip. The direct grip will load the back more, the reverse grip will load the biceps. Lower your shoulders and bring your shoulder blades together.

Pull the handle until it touches the chest and return it back. Do the exercise without jerking and swinging, keep the body strictly in one place, do not lean back, trying to reach the handle to the chest.

  1. What exercises for the chest will help to gain muscle mass

bench press

  • Bench press

Lie on a bench with your feet firmly pressed to the floor. Grasp the bar with a straight grip wider than your shoulders. Remove it from the racks, lower it until it touches the chest and squeeze it back.

Laying dumbbells lying

  • Laying dumbbells lying

Lie on a bench, press your feet to the floor. Extend your arms with dumbbells in front of you. Smoothly spread them to the sides, bring them to shoulder level or slightly lower. You should feel a stretch in your pectoral muscles. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Raise the dumbbells back and repeat.

In order not to injure your shoulders and elbows, do the exercise smoothly and under control, do not overdo it with weights.

  1. What exercises for the shoulders will help to gain muscle mass

brench press from the chest while standing

  • Bench press from the chest while standing

Keep the barbell close to your chest, elbows slightly forward. Raise the barbell and take it slightly behind your head: if the projectile remains in front, a large load on the lower back will be created. Lower the barbell back and repeat the exercise.

dumbbells to the sides

  • Dumbbells to the sides

Hold the dumbbells in your down arms. Spread your arms to the sides to shoulder level, lower them back and repeat.

  1. What exercises for biceps and triceps will help to gain muscle mass

These are isolated movements to work out the muscles of the shoulder - the biceps, located on the front surface, and the triceps on the back. Do them at the very end of your workout.

curl biceps

  • Curl biceps

Take the barbell with a reverse grip at shoulder level, hold it with outstretched arms. Raise the barbell to your chest and lower it back down. To pump your muscles well, do the exercise smoothly and in full range.

extension for triceps on the block

  • Extension for triceps on the block

Hang the rope handle on the block, grab both ends. Lower your shoulders and bend slightly at the lower back - this is the starting position. Straighten your arms while slightly spreading the ends of the handle. During the exercise, only the arms should move, the shoulders and the body are static. Again, no jerking or wobbling.

  1. How to increase the load

As we said above, in order for muscles to grow, you need to gradually increase the load, or rather the training volume, weight × number of repetitions × number of approaches.

To do this, you need to increase one of the above parameters. You can use the following scheme:

  • find the maximum weight for eight repetitions of the exercise;
  • gradually increase the number of repetitions with this weight until you reach 12 times in the approach;
  • take on more weight enough to drop again to eight reps.

You can also increase the number of approaches: start with three and gradually work up to five. The main thing is not to do everything at once. Increase either the weight, or the number of repetitions, or the number of approaches. This will ensure smooth progress and reduce the risk of injury to overworked muscles.

  1. How to eat to gain muscle mass
  • Do I need to increase the number of calories

If you are a skinny person with low body fat, add 15% calories to your daily requirement. For example, if according to the Mifflin-Geor formula you need to consume 2,000 kcal per day, increase this value to 2,200 kcal. If in two weeks of such a diet the weight has not gone up, add another 15%.

If you are overweight, you can do without weight gain. Better to include more protein in your diet and give your best in strength training. Muscle mass will grow more slowly than with a surplus, but you will not gain fat.

  • How much protein, fat and carbohydrates do you need

To gain muscle mass, you need to consume from 1.8 to 2.0 g of protein per 1 kg of body weight. That is, if you weigh 80 kg, you need to eat from 144 to 160 g of protein daily.

Remember: high protein diets are contraindicated in people with kidney disease. Therefore, before increasing the amount of this element in the diet, consult a physician or nutritionist.

To calculate your remaining macronutrients, follow a simple chart for gaining muscle mass: 25% of calories from protein, 60% from carbohydrates and 15% from fat.

For example, a person weighing 80 kg requires about 2,500 kcal. This means that 625 kcal should come from protein (152 g), 1,500 kcal from carbohydrates (365 g) and 375 kcal from fat (41 g).

Eat 3-6 times a day, include at least 20-25 grams of protein with each meal.

If you're having trouble getting enough protein from foods, you can make up the difference with protein powder. It does not contain carbohydrates or fats, it just needs to be diluted in water or milk.

For those who have difficulty gaining their daily calorie intake, gainers are suitable - cocktails with a mixture of proteins and carbohydrates. Both protein and weight gainers are available at sports food stores.

  • Should I eat right after exercise?

Not necessary. The main thing is that no more than 3-4 hours pass between two protein intake.

That is, if you had lunch 1.5-2 hours before training, and then worked out for an hour, you have at least another hour to get home and eat. At the same time, the anabolic response will be no less than if you ate meat right in the locker room.

  1. How to relax

Sleep is essential for building muscle. Its deficiency increases the production of cortisol, reduces the level of testosterone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). All of this decreases protein synthesis and increases muscle breakdown. Therefore, sleep at least 7 hours a day.

If you can't get enough sleep at night, take a nap during the day. A 30-minute nap reduces the harm from sleep deprivation and improves performance in sports