How to Get Bigger - 25 Muscle Building Laws
Jason lived on the same floor of my dorm. He watched me transform my physique in only 8 short months. To Jason, this seemed like an impossible feat. I went from 154 and skinny fat to 170 pounds and noticeably muscular.
"What are you taking man?"
"Just trying to get stronger and eating a lot of food." I responded.
"Show me how to do it."...So I did.
In three short months, Jason added 12 pounds to his frame. He looked much better, and his arm size was up an inch. He continued to run, but was not utilizing progressive overload, a good exercise selection, and eating a much better diet.
Related: Realistic Muscle Building and How Fast to Gain Weight
Pretty much everything important I learned about building muscle occurred during my first year in the gym. The process of packing on size seems like rocket surgery, but in fact it's a lot easier than you think. You simply need to follow the right laws.
Break these laws, and there will be no gains for you.
How to Get Bigger
Law #1 - Get Your Butt to the GymConsistency is key. I can't tell you how many people I know that haven't just made the sacrifice and trained for a full year straight. If you don't get to the gym on a regular basis, there will be no change. Stop making excuses. Start finding ways to succeed.
Law #2 - Filter Out the NoiseEvery Tom, Dick, and no gains making Harry have all the training answers. "Do this for a better chest. Use this split for amazing gains, bro!" Nine times out of ten this advice only serves as a distraction. Focus on the basics presented in this article, keep your head down, and get to gettin'.
Law #3 - One Body Composition Goal at a TimeCan you build muscle and lose fat at the same time? I get this question a lot. The best way to think about it is like this. If you chase two chickens at the same time you're unlikely to catch either. Pick one major goal and sell out to it. It you feel too fat, drop some weight. If you feel too small, build muscle. Focusing on a single goal at a time will dramatically improve your chances of success.
Law #4 - Don't Avoid Challenging ExercisesEmbrace the most challenging barbell and dumbbell exercises and you'll develop a body that looks like it was challenged. Avoid difficult movements and you'll have a body that looks like you avoided the gym.
Law #5 - No Progression, No MuscleProgressive overload is king. If you want to change how you look you must get a lot stronger than you are now. No, we are not talking powerlifter strength here. But with that said, you can't expect to look fit and muscular if you're frail and weak. Using good form, push yourself in some way, shape, or form for more strength.
Law #6 - Make Every Set CountSet quality matters. Too many folks are focused on the wrong thing. Instead of worrying so much about how many sets to do, or what split to use, try making every set count. When you maximize each set, you maximize your workout. When you maximize each workout you maximize your progress.
Law #7 - Train For Progress, Not PainGym fads suck. Especially the current fad that equates punishment to progress. I see so many trainers beating the living snot out of people, using exercises that will do little to give these people the body they want. You don't need to beat the crap out of yourself with battle ropes and bosu balls to build muscle. You need a good variety of compound and isolation exercises that focus on good form and consistent progress.
Law #8 - Eating Healthy is Not Good Enough"Healthy eating" can mean 100 different things to one different people. It can mean a fad diet, a low-fat diet, eating only salads for lunch (that have 500 calories of dressing), or a million other things. A muscle building diet is a specific style of eating. It requires enough daily calorie intake to grow, and a protein intake designed to maximize recovery, repair, and the muscle building process.
Law #9 - Cardio After Resistance TrainingPerform your resistance training work first, and cardio last. To build a fit and muscular body, you want to attack your muscle building work while your body is at 100% energy. If you are exhausted from cardio heading into your resistance training session, your progress will slow and your form might suffer. This is a recipe for injury and a slowing of the muscle building gains train.
Law #10 - Stop Changing ProgramsProgram hopping is a disease. Lifters will attack the "program of the week," and when one variable doesn't feel right they will jump ship completely on a workout system. Look, no workout system will feel perfect to everyone. If a variable doesn't feel right, tweak it. At the end of the day, the workout you are using isn't as important as consistency and progression anyway.
Law #11 - Stop Deloading After Every Bad WorkoutBad workouts happened. Get over it. Having a sub-par training session doesn't mean you did anything wrong, it simple means you're human. There is no need to deload, change training programs, or panic every time you have a bad day. Stay the course and focus.
Law #12 - Think Lifestyle, Not Temporary ProgramBuilding muscle is not an eight or twelve week program. It's a lifestyle. You must be willing to adopt a new way of living to develop the body you are after. The old you practiced habits that forged a sloppy body. The new you must develop habits that can develop and sustain a physique you will be proud of.
Law #13 - Listen to Your BodyIf a specific rep range is too low and places strain upon your body, raise it. If a certain movement doesn't feel good, insert a variation. If four days a week beats you up too badly, train for three. If you feel weak or have tweaked something on a given day, don't push yourself and get injured. Play the long game.
Law #14 - Attack Antagonistic PlanesMoving a weight away from your chest is called a horizontal press (bench press, machine chest press). Pulling a weight towards your chest is a horizontal pull (dumbbell row, machine row). These are antagonistic movements. Pushing a weight overhead is a vertical press (military press, overhead dumbbell press). Pulling a weight down from above is a vertical pull (pull ups, lat pull downs). These are antagonistic movements. Make sure you attack antagonistic movements with equal intensity and fervor.
Law #15 - Don't Overkill Arm Work
We all want big arms. I get it. But destroying your arms isn't the fastest way to build big pipes. In fact, arm volume usually leads to swollen elbows and elbow tendinitis. Calm down, bro. Back off the arm volume each week. Instead of quantity, focus on quality - making every set count.
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