I get a lot of emails from guys who were in the same situation that I was in when I first started training. Guys in their early 20’s or late teens asking for advice about how to gain lean muscle mass, and I completely understand your frustrations; I was under 150 lbs of skin and bone only a few years ago.
I was a skinny kid in high school and college, but oddly enough I worked out like a mad man. I did the workouts in the bodybuilding magazines, ate what I thought was a lot of food, but never saw any gains whatsoever until someone helped me understand what I was doing wrong. So, I was where you are right now, and ya it sucked busting my butt and never gaining a pound!
When I first started training – unsuccessfully for the first few years – I was working out a minimum of 5 days a week, and more often than not reaching 6 or even 7 days in the gym. This was way too much lifting for me to be able to gain size. My body had nowhere near enough time to recover. As soon as I dropped my workout splits to 3 or 4 days a week I began seeing results immediately.
Consume more calories than you burn.
For those of you who are still in high school – and even college – my guess is that you are a lot more active now than you will be in 5 or 10 years. You also have a higher metabolism. There’s just more movement in the run of a day for you in the form of sports, gym class, chasing girls (literally in some cases), that all contributes to your overall calorie expenditure on a daily basis.
Add in 5 or 6 workouts a week and it’s going to be nearly impossible to get enough calories into your body unless you start eating butter for breakfast, lunch and dinner! So slow it down a bit. When I lost the mindset that “more is always better”, and adopted the belief that “quality is better than quantity”, I began seeing dramatic gains. I went from gaining no weight for the first 22 years of my life to gaining over 32 lbs in 8 months.
Compound vs Isolation
Walk into a gym and you’ll see more guys doing biceps curls than pretty much any other exercise. If you’re just starting out, don’t even think about doing isolation exercises until you’ve added a base. Any press (bench, shoulder, incline bench) is going to work your triceps as well as chest and shoulder, so don’t worry about losing any size in your arms, rather you’ll gain size because you’re lifting with more weight than you would be with isolation exercises.
Lower Body, Upper Body 1:1
Heavy lower body exercises like squats, deadlifts and leg presses result in growth hormone released in your body. So concentrating on your lower body as much as you do on your upper body will have a positive effect on your overall gains, not just your legs. Split hips and quads into two different days when you’re on a 4 day split. Hips being exercises like deadlift, hamstring curls, and Romanian deadlift, while quads exercises are squats, leg press and any other variation that will primarily target your quads.
Splitting them up will allow you to attack your lower body twice during the week from different angles, while working different muscles but still lifting a good amount of weight.
What are some other tips you’d add to the list?