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Size Up Your Physique

Pack on Pounds of Solid Muscle with These 6 Quick Mass Gain Tips You Can Use Today

Have you been trying to add serious mass to your frame ... and failing miserably? You're not alone. Gaining size has been a common problem for guys since the days Charles Atlas promised relief to any 97-pound weakling who got sand kicked in his face at the beach. When struggling against a red-hot metabolism and a seeming inability to put on even an ounce of muscle, you need more than a mail-order program. You need to aim all of your efforts toward your goal, from morning until night (and even while you sleep, as you'll see in Tip #1). Keep reading for six actions you can take, starting today, to help you finally break through this age-old predicament and start growing.

Drinking a 40-60 gram casein protein shake before bed every night ensures you get important protein throughout your hours of sleep. If you're an extreme hardgainer, you can even try this - four hours after going to bed, set the alarm to get up and down a whey/casein blend shake, which will help ensure your body doesn't go catabolic during the night, a state where it scavenges your muscles for amino acids to use as sustenance. Then, in the a.m., have a 40-60-gram whey-based shake to start the day.

Younger guys who have trouble putting on appreciable muscle mass almost always have a high-octane metabolism. Combine a smallish appetite with a body that burns through calories like flame through a drought-stricken forest, and you have a recipe for stalled growth. If gaining mass is a goal more important than any other, you need to make some decisions. Don't run when you can walk. Take the elevator, not the stairs. Avoid intense sports. Skip the treadmill. No, it's not fun, nor particularly healthy in a cardiovascular sense in the long run, but in a short-term push for size, you need to be wary of every calorie spent outside the weight room.

Following up on the last point, it may sound counter intuitive, but you should also consider decreasing your sets and reps in the gym, if in fact you are struggling with muscle gain. Of course, many personal trainers and fitness magazines often give advice to the contrary - if you're not progressing, it's time to "shock" your body and "break down every last muscle fiber" - but such a high-volume approach may in fact just leave you overtrained. Indeed, the late great pro bodybuilder Mike Mentzer was onto something when he suggested cutting your sets and reps way back (all the way to one set initially, according to his advice, although you don't have to take it to that extreme). To find out what level is best for you, dial down your volume and increase your intensity (see Tip #4). After 3-4 weeks, you may find you respond to one working set per exercise or muscle group, and if not, bump it up to two. It makes much more sense to reduce your training and add volume slowly until you reach a point where you start making gains than going totally overboard from the beginning, making recovery (and growth) a virtual impossibility.


What do we mean by intensity? In short, you want to bring working sets to a point where you can't do another rep with good form. You see, during a set, most of the reps are relatively easy - for instance, think about doing barbell curl reps with a weight you can lift about 8-10 times. The first six reps go by pretty smoothly; your biceps can handle the load and perform brilliantly. By rep seven or eight, it's getting a little harder, but you still finish both. The ninth rep comes and you really need to breathe deep and push yourself. Then what? Can you get the 10th rep? Perhaps you can, then you set the weight down. Wrong move - if you could finish the 10th without help, that means you should have gone slightly heavier in your weight selection, for one, but more importantly, you should keep going to reach failure. Failure is uncomfortable, difficult and painful, and that's why so many people in the gym don't often go there. If you want muscle growth, however, you must go there. Think of it this way: If your muscles can handle the load you place on them, what reason would they have to add new fibers? Muscles grow so that they can handle heavier loads, and thus to prompt this process, you need to push them past their point of ability. Many techniques can help, including partial reps or negatives at the end of a set, rest/pause (where you pause a moment mid-set after reaching failure so that you can go for failure again), and strip sets.


Show us someone who claims he eats "so much food and still can't gain a pound," and we'll show you someone who is miscalculating his intake. Skinny guys with fast metabolisms and smaller stomachs get full faster, and think that because they eat to the point of fullness a few times a day that they're packing away a ton of calories. Once they start writing down what they're eating, however, they find that they have been drastically overestimating how much they are in fact ingesting. To break the cycle and take in 4,000 calories or more a day, you need to eat often - 6-8 times a day - and past the point of feeling full. And you need to do it consistently; one day of 4,000 calories followed by 2-3 days of 2,000-2,500 calories isn't going to move the needle on your scale. Is it uncomfortable? Yes, but it's key if you want to traverse the divide between hardgainer and bodybuilder.


In addition to all of the above tricks, you should definitely make sure your kitchen cabinet is well stocked with proven mass builders. The basics include a nitric oxide/arginine formula to improve your pump (and results) during workouts, branched-chain amino acids for muscle repair, creatine for enhanced power, a testosterone-boosting product to improve your levels of this critical hormone, protein powders and bars to fill diet gaps, and, glutamine and ZMA for recovery, to name a few.