It’s winter time and who doesn’t want to pack on a little muscle for when T-shirt weather is here in the Spring? Building muscle isn’t difficult if you’re smart about it, but many people waste their time trying to grow the wrong way.
Here are my top 12 tips for rapid hypertrophy. Gain muscle the smart way. Use science.
Nutrition and Caloric Intake
Nutrition must be spot on for the type of training you are about to embark upon. Building new muscle takes a lot of energy. Eat a meal immediately upon waking (can be a protein shake) and then eat a meal every 3 hours thereafter. There is a time for intermittent fasting, but this is not it. Reduce or avoid all sugar because it spikes an insulin response that will put your body on a roller coaster in more ways than I can mention here. Avoid fruit, unless eaten immediately post workout. Consume a massive amount of clean carbs immediately post workout. (I aim for 100 grams in the form of sweet potatoes.) This limits the amount of time your body is in a catabolic state and starts the process of reducing the cortisol spike that occurs after intense training. Protein intake must be 1.5 grams per pound of body weight. Science! (Pubmed) (I weigh 185, so I aim for at least 277 grams of protein every day).
Every meal should have protein, carbs, and massive amounts of vegetables. If you fail to eat enough, you will not grow, period. Most people are afraid of carbs because they are afraid of gaining fat. Nonsense. If you’re training right and avoiding sugar, you should be able to handle massive amounts of clean carbs with no increase in body fat. Speaking of fat, consume massive amounts of it in the form of avocados, raw nuts, grass fed butter, MCT oil, and olive oil. Do not consume any trans fats. Also avoid canola or vegetable oil. See my muscle gaining meal plan.
Make your own pre-workout drink because most of the stuff you can buy in stores is full of crap you don’t need. I purchase the individual ingredients. (Ask me in comments if you want to know my preferred brands) My pre-workout contains the following:
- 4 grams of citruline malate
- 5 grams of creatine hydrochloride. Why creatine is the king of muscle building supplements.
- 10 grams of (Beet Elite brand) beet root powder (Makes the rest of this stuff taste less disgusting.)
- 3 grams of beta alanine (Will make your face tingle.)
- 5 grams of BCAAs
- 6 grams of L-Arginine
- 5 grams of L-Glutamine
- 5 grams of D-Ribose
Every person’s body is different and has different needs. Do your own research. I’m not a doctor and I don’t make supplement decisions based on what doctors tell me. I choose to take the following supplements based on the books I have read and the medical studies I have researched on pubmed. You are responsible for your own body. Everything you put in your mouth has a consequence. Choose wisely. Don’t rely on what any one person says, and that includes what Jacob Koz says. If you want to know details about any of these supplements, just ask in comments and I’ll expand.
- Fish oil
- vitamin D3
- Chelated minerals (iron free)
- Vitamin C
- Taurine (important if you are using beta alanine because they compete for the same receptor)
Other supplements I take from time to time, but not always
- L-Tyrosine (helps with CNS recovery when learning new complex movements)
- Mixed tocopherols
- Vitamin B6
- Gotu kola herb
If you are serious about muscle gains, 8 hours of sleep per night is the absolute minimum. When I am training intensely, I find that I need 9 or more hours. If you’re getting less than 8 hours of sleep, you are wasting your hard training. The body repairs itself while you sleep. As a side note, meditation will help you build muscle.
Hypertrophy often comes with a price of lost mobility. If you neglect stretching and mobility work, you will pay eventually because you will develop an injury that will force you to stop training. Dedicate 20 to 40 minutes per day for stretching, self-massage, and foam rolling. Need tips on stretching? Read this. If you develop pain, find the root of the problem. Pushing through pain, especially joint pain, is a recipe for disaster. I am guilty of this. Ignoring joint and tendon pain has always led me to more pain and eventually, the need to stop training completely. (When muscles are burning in a workout set, that is good pain. Welcome it.) You should learn how to diagnose and treat your own pain.
Balance and Re-balance
Building muscle will invariably create imbalances that must be corrected constantly. Do unilateral exercises from time to time to make sure you’re staying balanced. (Examples: pistol squats, single arm dumb bell fly, single leg dead lift, single arm Arnold press.) Practice complex movements often so that you expose weaknesses before they become a real problem. Examples: any work on gymnast’s rings, handstands, box jumps, sprints, primal movements, crawling, rolling, flipping, somersaults, back hand springs, Turkish get ups, kettle bell swings)
The hormonal benefits of training your legs is tremendous. (Need tips on squatting?) Squat at least once a week. Deadlift at least once a week. Want bigger arms? Squat more. (I never got the arms I wanted until I started training legs twice a week.) If you are not training your legs, your upper body will not grow. If you do happen to get your upper body to grow, you’ll look like an idiot meathead with tiny legs. Don’t be that guy. Just don’t.
3 to 4 sets, 6 to 12 reps, Taken to Failure
Training for hypertrophy is different from training for strength. Keep your sets in the 8 to 12 range and keep it heavy enough that you fail every set. Take your sets to failure! Incorporate super sets into your upper body training. Perform core lifts early in your workout and use isolation exercises as finishers or burn out sets. Workouts should be grueling, sweaty, nausea inducing affairs. If done properly, a 60 minute workout should allow plenty of time to get the job done. Don’t screw around between sets. If you’re not losing your breath every set, then you’re not working hard enough. Muscle comes with a price. Pay it. Chat about it later, not between sets.
The body is sneaky. Within 6 weeks, it will adapt to any training regimen you can throw at it. When this happens, hypertrophy will slow to a crawl and you will hit a plateau. I see many people in the gym who diligently perform 3 sets of 10 reps day in and day out. They never gain any muscle because they are stuck in a plateau. This is why periodization is necessary if you want to continue to grow. You must shock your body often with a new regimen so that the body will continue to recognize a deficit in performance, thereby triggering adaptive change (bigger muscles). Change your set numbers every 6 weeks. For example, for 6 weeks perform sets of 12. Then go heavy and drop your sets down to 8, so that you’re failing on the 8th rep. Also change your exercises often. There are a dozen great exercises to train chest. Don’t get stuck on bench press for 2 months.
Lift heavy 5 to 6 days a week
Many people will scoff at my training programs because they often contain only 1 or 2 days off per week. Rapid gains are possible by training 5 to 6 days a week. The key is sleep and nutrition. Most people who are truly overtraining are actually under-sleeping and under-eating. Your body will handle the volume if you give the body what it needs.
Train 7 days a week
“Off days” should still contain some form of active recovery such as swimming, a long walk, a bike ride, or some type of warm up activity. All rest days should include stretching and mobility work. Don’t skimp on this. You’re investing a lot of time and money into your body. Don’t blow it by sitting around and stiffening up all weekend. Stay mobile and stay limber. Your muscles will recover faster if you remain active. Avoid steady state cardio the rest of the week. Here’s why.
Stay tuned for a 6 week program called “Shortcut to Size”, coming next month!
This article is for a subscriber who requested an article about gaining muscle. Want me to write an article about something specific? Email me.
The Morning Fat Bomb
Start every day with massive quantities of fat. This keeps you in ketosis longer and the MCT oil provides immediate fuel for the brain and body. MCT oil passes directly into the bloodstream via the hepatic portal. Since it is processed by the liver, it doesn’t have to undergo any digestive modification and can begin fueling the body immediately. Here’s my morning fat bomb recipe.
- 2 tablespoons of 100% coconut derived MCT oil.
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted grass fed butter (kerrygold is my fave.)
- 2 tablespoons of collagen hydrosylate (great lakes is my favorite brand)
- 1 cup of coffee, yerba mate tea, or pu erh tea. (See this article for science about the fat burning properties of these teas.)
- wisk the butter, collagen, and MCT into the beverage until frothy