All through my younger days, I wanted so badly for there to be magic formula or pill that would help me sprout muscles in an instant. I had this vision of myself swaggering into choir class–as if anyone could swagger into choir!–with my arms and legs bursting from my clothes.
Instead I played a lot of video games, guitar, and did a whole lot of hanging out. I also ate a ton of candy and drank soda like it was water. A lot of the coaches and some of my friends who were more muscular told me I was a “hardgainer.” That’s someone who can’t seem to put on weight or muscle no matter what they do.
I assumed it was true. It was easier that way. I didn’t have to work hard and I could pretend that there was nothing I could do about it. Like just about everything in life, it’s easier (and more natural, some might say) to talk and wish than to take action.
In the last few years I’ve gotten a lot more serious about my strength training, as you know if you’re a regular reader. And I know that some of you regular readers are ironheads like I am, so I would like to quickly share what I’ve learned about building muscle in the last year. I’ve put on over 30 pounds of lean mass since September of 2009. The funny thing is, it wasn’t hard! It wasn’t a magic pill, but it doesn’t feel like it took much more effort than a pill would have.
The best way to build muscle, according to the anecdotal evidence of yours truly, rests on these three points:
Really muscular people have a different relationship with food. Lots of guys who try to pack on weight think they are eating a lot. But if they could see what some of the bodybuilders eat, they would realize how wrong they are.
I generally eat between 4,000 and 6,000 calories a day. I drink about half of that. The greatest thing ever is this shake:
- 16 oz of whole milk
- 1.5 cups of oats
- a banana
- some protein
- peanut butter
Each shake is about 1100 calories. You have to eat or you can’t grow. It’s that simple.
2. Lift more weight
The only major thing I changed in my lifting was to focus on how much I lifted during a session. The total pounds lifted during a workout. Once I quit worrying about how much weight was in my hands or on the bar or how big of a kettlebell I was using, things got a lot easier for me. Whether I trained for 10 minutes or 100, I just tried to make sure that I lifted more total pounds each session than the one before it.
And I got bigger and then some.
3. Sleep sleep sleep
This is the hardest one for me. I have a toddler, I have Tourette’s, and I love caffeine. I’ve always been a night person. I don’t like to go to bed. But there is no denying that I have made my best progress–both physically and mentally–when I am getting 8-10 hours a night. Lots of guys are able to do #1 and #2, but they leave out sleep. If you don’t rest as much as you can, you won’t grow as much as you can. You can still make progress–I have–but not the maximum possible, or so my legend goes.
Is this new, earth-shattering news? Probably not. There simply aren’t that many ways to build muscle. But this works. It really does. Are any of you training specifically to gain weight right now? How is it going?
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