Here is my list of muscle building fundamentals for optimal growth. Some of these things could be the reason that you aren’t gaining muscle. If you leave any of these essentials out, you’re not maximizing your growth.

First Fundamental: You cannot gain muscle without being properly hydrated.

This one is simple. Water carries nutrients to the muscles. Without water, your muscles will not recover. If you are dehydrated throughout the period of time that you are trying to gain muscle, you will see very little improvement. Drink at least a half-gallon of water every day.

Second Fundamental: You cannot gain muscle without sufficient protein.

Your body requires a certain amount of protein during muscle recovery. Protein is what allows your muscles to be repaired efficiently enough to grow. Many would recommend taking in a gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight. I recommend the general rule of thumb to simply make sure every meal has an abundant amount of protein.

Third Fundamental: You cannot gain muscle without properly breaking down your muscle fibers.

You must be sure that your muscles are pushed to total exhaustion by the end of your workout. I’ll tell you more in depth about how to properly break down your muscle fibers later, but for now just know that proper muscle exhaustion is essential.

Fourth Fundamental: You cannot gain muscle without progressively overloading your muscle.

Progressive overload is the act of continually adding more weight to your exercises. You have to keep pushing the limits. Whether it is reps, weight, or volume. You must continually overload your muscles. Every week attempt to increase the weight on your lifts. Increase the weight even if it’s only by five pounds.

Fifth Fundamental: You cannot gain muscle if you are not taking in more calories than you’re burning.

The way to figure out how many calories you will need throughout the day is fairly simple. First you need to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories you would burn throughout the day without moving at all. So a man that is in his mid-twenties that weighs 170 pounds is going to burn about 1800 calories in a day without doing anything at all. If he wants to gain muscle he needs to be taking in a minimum of 2000 calories a day. BMR calculators are all over the Internet. So figure out what your BMR is and write it down!

Sixth Fundamental: The same routine for too long is doomed to fail.

Every couple of months I recommend that you change up your routine. Change the exercises you do, change the rep ranges, go from heavy weight to light weight. The same routine will force you to a plateau eventually.

Seventh Fundamental: Without proper sleep you will not gain muscle.

Your muscles only grow when you’re sleeping. That’s plain and obvious. If you only get four hours of sleep when you could have had eight, then your muscles are only getting half the time they need to recover. Get to bed earlier!

Eighth Fundamental: You cannot gain muscle without lifting heavy weights.

I’m not telling you to lift more than you can handle. I’m telling you that you need to train heavy enough to allow no more than 12 reps. If you can lift the weight more than 12 times then you need to increase the weight! If your chest doesn’t seem to be growing even though you can do 100 reps, it means you need to increase the weight.

Ninth Fundamental: Use the big weights!

Bench, squat, deadlift: these are the meat and potatoes of building the body. They will allow for the quickest growth possible. Using the little weights are important, but we can live without them. We can’t build without the big weights.

Tenth Fundamental: Use perfect form to continue gaining.

Perfect form is the key to activating all the muscle fibers. If you use sloppy form not only are you risking your muscle gain, you’re risking injury. You may not get injured right away. It could take years to do the damage. Keep in mind that any form of lifting can be dangerous. You could find yourself with a slipped disc, torn rotator cuff, pulled hamstring. All the more reason to use perfect form.

These are the ten things that are required to gain muscle. Learn them and live them. Ask yourself this: How far am I willing to go to gain the muscle?

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