101 Muscle Building Tips

101 Muscle Building Tips

Muscle building is hard work: this list breaks it down for you.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · Mar 4th, 2018

Mindset Beginner
10 Mins


    If your goal is to build muscle, you need to start lean. So if you’re not in the 10-15% body fat range, you need to first read our 101 tips to get lean.

    Once you’re lean, it’s now the perfect time to build muscle.

    Let’s Start With Training This Time…

    1. 80% of your training should be based around compound lifts like squats, chin-ups, deadlifts, bench presses.
    2. No exercise is indispensable.
    3. Find the compound exercises that work best for you. You should be able to feel the muscle, move through it pain free and be able to load it progressively.
    4. Progressive overload is king. Always aim to beat your previous performance in some manner.
    5. It comes with a caveat: you need to always maintain perfect form.
    6. Always control the negative and explode on the way up.
    7. Don’t train for one rep max strength – you need to get strong for reps.
    8. Aim to get stronger in a wide variety of rep ranges.
    9. If you’re weak and skinny, spend 80% of your time in the 6-8 rep range.
    10. There’s rarely a need to do more than 3 sets per exercise if your goal is size.
    11. You can either vary your rep ranges within a workout, or across the week using a ‘heavy/light’ approach.
    12. Train the muscle, not the ego.
    13. Aim for maximum muscle stimulation and minimal joint stress.
    14. Focus on dominating a weight before adding extra load.
    15. If you can’t feel a muscle during an exercise, chances are you’re not stimulating it.
    16. Not all exercises are meant to be done heavy. Some of these include face pulls, lateral raises, curls and extensions.
    17. Get a pump. You can’t go wrong with going heavy and hard on compounds, and pumping up with isolation exercises after.
    18. If you’re a beginner or intermediate, track your rest periods. If you’re advanced, use your body’s feedback.
    19. Always keep tension on the muscles, not the joints.
    20. Pause in the hardest position of the movement.
    21. If you can only train 3 days a week, use full body workouts.
    22. If you can train 4 days a week, use an upper/lower split variation.
    23. If you want to train 5 or 6 days a week, now you can split the body up a little more.
    24. Aim to train a muscle group every 3 to 5 days, or twice a week.
    25. Train weak body parts either at the start of the training week, or first in your program.
    26. If you’ve got a weak body part, think about why it’s weak before bombarding it with volume.
    27. Loaded stretch type movements like RDLs, PJR pullovers and lunges are very effective for muscle growth.
    28. Don’t program hop. Stick to ONE program for at least 12 weeks before making a decision on it.
    29. When you make changes, small tweaks are better than complete overhauls.
    30. Keep a log book.
    31. Keep a small amount of conditioning in your program to maintain your fitness, help recovery and improve nutrient partitioning.
    32. Stimulate, don’t annihilate.
    33. Always start light on a new program and build up intensity as you go along.
    34. Don’t abuse training to failure.
    35. Deload every 4 to 16 weeks – how often will depend on your training age and recovery.
    36.Incorporate extreme stretching after you’ve trained a body part.
    37. Activate the muscle by squeezing it for 6-10 seconds during warm up sets.
    38. Keep your set execution clean to avoid burnout and injuries.
    39. Intensity techniques such as rest pause and drop sets should be used periodically and intelligently – don’t overdo them.
    40. Get strong on bodyweight movements like chins and dips.
    41. Always maintain some unilateral work such as split squats and step up variations to stay healthy and balanced.
    42. Try blood flow restriction training for your arms.
    43. If something hurts, don’t do it. Seriously.
    44. Don’t skip your warm up.
    45. Find a good training partner.
    46. Before you do anything in the weight room, always ask what the purpose is. If you can’t find a good reason to do something, scrap it.

    You Gotta Eat Big To Get Big…

    47. Before you eat to gain size, you need to get lean first. Starting at 10-12% body fat is a good starting point for muscle gains.
    48. Try not let your body fat creep over 15%; after this, your body becomes very good at gaining fat.
    49. You only need a slight calorie surplus to gain lean mass, you can’t force feed more growth.
    50. That being said, most ‘skinny hardgainers’ don’t eat enough. Start with at least 16 to 18 kcals/lb and work up when necessary.
    51. When weight gain and body fat gets sloppy, introduce short ‘mini cuts’ to restore insulin and androgen sensitivity
    52. Consume sufficient protein. A goal of 0.8-1 gram per pound bodyweight is a good place to start.
    53. Make sure you’re eating 20 to 40 grams of protein per meal.
    54. Get enough fats in your diet – aim for approximately 20-30% of your total calorie intake.
    55. Eat a variety of healthy fats on a daily basis. Good choices include extra virgin olive oil, butter, coconut oil, avocados, mixed nuts, egg yolks, omega 3s and animal fats.
    56. Make sure you’re eating enough carbs – especially around the workout window.
    57. If you struggle to gain weight, ‘spike days’ and cheat meals can be useful to help increase weekly calorie intake.
    58. Put these bigger feedings on the day of your priority body parts, day before your hardest sessions, or even a rest day.
    59. Maintain your calorie intake on the weekends – it’s easy to let it slip when your daily routine changes.
    60. Never skip meals.
    61. If your goal is maximum muscle gain, intermittent fasting probably isn’t your best option.
    62. Splitting your food into 4 to 6 meals will make the calorie intake more manageable.
    63. Drink 3-4 litres of water a day
    64. Don’t forget to salt your foods.
    65. Don’t skimp on your fruits and veggies during muscle building phases.
    66. Limit alcohol consumption if maximum muscle mass is the goal.
    67. If you struggle to hit your calorie targets, allocating 10-20% of your calories to ‘easy to digest’ ‘junk’ calories can make things easier.
    68. Kid’s cereals post workout can be an easy way to get a lot of carbs in quickly and without any bloat.
    69. Pay attention to how you tolerate different foods.
    70. Alternate between solid and liquid meals to save time and help digestion.
    71. Batch cook your meals ahead of time.
    72. Eat 80-90% of the same foods to make food prep easy and to eliminate decision fatigue.
    73. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, pay attention to complete amino acid profiles.
    74. Find the right diet that fits your lifestyle, needs and goals.

    What Supplements Do You Need?

    76.  A quality protein powder can make reaching your protein target easier and more convenient.
    77. Creatine monohydrate is the most researched and proven supplement for muscle growth – take it for improved performance and strength gains in the gym.
    78. If you don’t eat oily fish regularly, take fish oils high in omega 3s.
    79. If you live in a country deprived of sunlight like the UK, supplement with Vitamin D3.
    80. No need for probiotics. Eat enough soluble and insoluble fibre to enhance gut health.
    81. Eat fermented foods like kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut.
    82. Take EAAs or whey protein during your training if you're training first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
    83. Intra workout carbs can be useful in providing an extra edge to training recovery and performance when training fasted.
    84. Digestive enzymes are great for those pushing calories hard.
    85. If you’re vegetarian or vegan (especially), supplement with a B complex.

    Final tips…

    86. Try get as much quality sleep as possible. 7-9 hours is ideal.
    87.  Take ‘anabolic’ naps as often as possible.
    88. Maximise your recovery: stretching, massage and brisk walks are all useful tools.
    89. Manage your stress levels.
    90. Have sex more often.
    91. Make sure you chew your food.
    92. Take measurements and pictures regularly to keep an eye on body fat.
    93. If you want to maximise your muscle gain, you will need to accept some fat gain.
    94. Set a goal using the SMART principles (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time sensitive)
    95. Focus on performance goals versus physique/bodyweight goals when chasing muscle mass.
    96. Don’t obsess over the scale.
    97. Aim for 0.25lb to 0.5lb bodyweight gain per week.
    98. Surround yourself with like minded individuals for extra accountability and healthy competition.
    99. Be consistent and play the long game – muscle growth takes time
    100. Keep the goal the goal
    101. Live by the mantra, ‘PRs on the bar, PRs on the plate’
    Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

    Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-selling book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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