The Best Muscle Building Shortcut?

The Best Muscle Building Shortcut?

Shortcuts. They make life easier. Why drive in the slow lane when you can use hacks and tips to speed up your progress?

My DM box is full of questions that are seeking shortcuts.

If I change barbell row from eight-rep sets to five reps, will it speed progress?
Will performing an A/B split three times a week improve recovery and speed gains?
If I move to German Volume Training can I pack on more muscle mass in a shorter period of time?

Honest questions, but you need to know there are no shortcuts. This statement will probably incite a few of you but hear me out.

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Even when you have the right variables in place, building a quality amount of muscle and strength takes years. Your program, or the little nuances within that specific program, won't matter as much as a consistent effort applied over time.

Bottom line, there are no shortcuts. Anything worth achieving over time requires a lot of hard work and a lot of patience. The real magical shortcut is knowing there are no magical shortcuts.

If you want to become a doctor or an entrepreneur that makes a solid living, or good at stand up comedy, the same rules apply. You must work hard and "grind." You must pay your dues.

Now, certainly, there are misfits among us; prodigies that came out of the womb playing Mozart of the violin by age six, or the 14-year-old that is so intelligent that they enter college early.

These folks don't count. You are not one of the gifted ones.

What you need is time. What you need is strength. What you need is volume. What you need isn't a shortcut at all, but rather a long walk on the right road.

The Right Road

The right road isn't about seeking shortcuts; it's about embracing the struggle. Strength is forged in battle, not when trying to find a way to avoid the battle. Do you really think you can avoid life's problems and challenges for the rest of your life?


To be strong you must learn to be strong in the middle of the storm. In the gym, there is no avoiding the inevitable. To build muscle you must:

Remain consistent. Sounds silly to even mention this, but consistency isn't that easy to maintain. How many of you haven't missed more than a week or two away from the gym in the last five years?

I've been involved with online forums and lifting groups since forever, or around 2002. During that time I've made so many good friends. But here's the thing...

These folks would come and go; they would hit the iron hard for weeks or months or even a year then disappear. If I was a betting man I would wager that at least 75% of folks don't remain consistent over a five-year period of time.

This is just my guess, so feel free to yell at me if I'm wrong.

Without consistency there is nothing. You'll move 10 feet forward and nine feet back.

Get a lot stronger. This point messes with people's heads. Most folks are "stronger" than they were when they first hit the gym, but are not as strong as they need to be.

Progressive overload involves pushing you far beyond mediocre strength levels. 

Now, don't get upset. This article is about building a quality amount of muscle mass and not simply about achieving a "fit physique." There is certainly nothing wrong with being happy about adding 10 pounds of muscle mass. 

Not everyone wants a maximal amount of muscle mass.

But for those of you that do, meaning the people reading this article, mediocre strength levels won't cut it. Multiple sets of 50-pound dumbbell bench presses won't cut it. My wife can nearly do that.

Sorry if that unsettles you. It's not an insult but rather a reality.

You need to push harder, dig deeper, and get a lot stronger.

Exercise selection. Don't avoid the hard compound lifts. This attitude is cancer. Hit the body hard with a few compound movements and then move on to less-taxing exercises like machines, bodyweight work, isolations, etc.

Exercise selection isn't rocket surgery. Go hard and heavy when you are fresh, and slowly lighten the load and intensity as you are running out of steam.

Anyone that wants to pack on mass muscle must get strong on a good variety of dumbbell and barbell exercises.

Nail your food. Just as workout consistency is king, remaining consistent with diet is also very important. I like to set minimums for both calories and protein intake. These minimums are levels that you must never sink below.

Certainly, a day or two with lower calories or protein isn't going to hurt anyone; that's not what I'm saying. My point is to help keep you consistent.

Remaining consistent with diet 90% of the time will only help. If you keep undereating protein and calories or refuse to have even a cursory understanding of where they are landing each day, then you risk slowing your progress.

Final Thoughts

This article does not exist as a complete guide to the muscle-building process. My point and the one I hope you remember is that nothing can replace hard work applied over time.

Work hard. Get insanely strong. And stay in the damn gym. Stop missing workouts.

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