Do You Have Trouble with Gaining Muscle Mass?

If you have been training for a while, you ability to put on mass becomes more difficult as you continue to train.  Some of us might even get unrealistic goals and we get upset because we can’t obtain them.  It is important to remember the basic rules and apply them to our training as a hard gainer.  There are some simple things you should be doing to gain extra lean mass.

One of the first things to remember is: You can’t be anabolic (gaining) and catabolic (losing) at the same time.  Everyone wants to lose fat and gain muscle, but it is impossible to do both at the same time with any significant degree of measurability.  The idea of a new fitness participant losing ten pounds and putting on five pounds of muscle is common place, but this factor disappears quickly after a year of consistent training.

Getting past this first hurdle can be done by added vast amounts of body fat and then after several weeks to months of living the anabolic lifestyle, you can then start leaning out once again.  With any athlete, over eating and training with heavier weights, less reps and getting more rest all result in stimulation of maximal mass gains. This is extremely difficult for women to amend to, but it is a necessary step to gain mass for some individuals.  For men a goal set of thirty to forty pounds and women can get by with twenty to thirty pounds.

Several chemical changes occur inside the body when extra pounds are gained.  The thyroid slows down and there are other positive changes that occur with the body’s production of growth hormone during sleep.  It is also possible to help stimulate growth hormone to increase by taking two amino acids; L-arginine and L-orthinine in a 2:1 ratio.  Specifically you take them at a 500/250 mg per 50 pounds of body weight.  Take this on an empty stomach thirty minutes prior to sleep.  These amino acids helps promote a deeper sleep and hence a naturally higher production of growth hormone.

The other amino acid that helps with growth is L-creatine.  There are so many types and so many theories about taking it, but the best studies show that glucocreatine is the optimum way to get creatine in your body without the issue of side effects.  The literature shows that one gram per 50 pounds of body weight is appropriate.  Taking more will only result in more side effects, like excess fluid in the abdomen.  Creatine monohydrate is typically taken with a fruit juice 30 minutes prior exercise.  The absorption of creatine is enhanced by beta alanine, but only one company has that patent. Water must be specifically consumed this supplement and one gallon of water needs to be associated with an intake of one gram of creatine.

Your training should be reflective of your mass gaining diet and make sure you are eating your body weight in grams of protein per day.  If you weigh 140 pounds, then you should be eating between 140-210 grams of protein per day.  This is confirmed by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Canadian Dietary guidelines for athletes.

Excessive protein also needs large intakes of water.  One gallon per 100 grams of protein is necessary for proper kidney function. An equal percentage of carbohydrates are necessary to consume with this diet and fats should be 20 percent of the total grams of either protein or carbs.

The last thing to be said about ingesting all of those calories is related the number of meals needed to absorb all of those nutrients.  Eat no more than 20-30 grams of protein per meal.  Studies show that over consumption of protein often results in excessive production of hormones and enzymes and then convert it to fat.  It is also important to consume your largest meal immediately following your heavy workouts.  This permits maximum insulin stimulation and allows for maximum absorption.

Your training should be focused on squatting, dead lifts and bench press.  Basic movements are the key to mass building. Only two or three additional lifts should be included with each heavy lift.  The entire training process should amount to less than 15 total sets and conclude in less than 45 minutes.  The typical training program is as follows and is the same for men and women.

Day 1 Sets Reps

Squats 5 10-8-6-2-2

Leg press 3 12-12-10

Leg extension 3 15-15-12

Let curls 3 15-15-12

Calves 3 25-15-15

Day 3

Bench Press 5 10-8-6-2-2

Incline Press 3 10-8-6-4

Bench flys 3 6-8-10

Cross-overs 3 6-8-10

Pull-overs 3 8-8-8

Day 5

Dead lifts 5 10-8-4-1-1

Bent-over rows 3 6-8-10

T-bar Rows 3 6-8-12

Wide grip pull-downs 3 6-8-12

It is important to note that once your body has warmed up, there is no need to warm up again, therefore the first set of reps is lower and more weight is used and less is used on later sets with more flexing to obtain a stronger feeling of a “pump.”  In some cases the movement is shortened with heavier weight, such as a partial movement or a “rack dead lift” or “pin presses” on the bench press.

The aforementioned exercises are chosen for specific reasons.  The squats and dead lifts are multiple joint movements and they affect most of the larger muscle groups simultaneously. It isn’t unusual to see your forearms getting sore from a heavy set of dead lifts.  Remember that heavy weight requires good form and that means keeping your head up and your chest as parallel to the wall as possible.  Letting a chest dip or your head to look down, is a sure way to injure yourself.

All of this training is likely to leave you feeling very sore and the truth is that heavy weight training takes longer to recover from than the traditional fitness lifting.  It shouldn’t surprise you that some of the strongest lifters in the world go heavy less than 4 times a year.  We are speaking of people who bench press 800-1000 pounds.  Their bodies and specifically their joints need maximal time to recover.

Signs of overtraining are more common than you might realize and you can have one or any combination of these symptoms.

Insomnia (inability to sleep well)



Loss of appetite

Muscle cramping


Lack of interest in training


Lingering soreness

Lack of concentration (more than usual)

Injury prone athlete, pulled muscles, strain/sprains, twitching, etc.

There is an interesting way to self test your body to prevent overtraining.  It is difficult to do if you are already over trained, so make sure you have none of the aforementioned symptoms.

Start by taking your heart rate (HR) first thing in the morning, before you even roll out of bed.  No peeing, no movement, simply count your heart rate for 15 seconds.

Multiply by 4 and that gives you the true resting heart rate (RHR).

Do these measurements for a full week prior to beginning a heavy lifting program to achieve your average RHR range.

Keep a journal next to the bed and if your RHR is ten beats higher than the previous average, it is time to take time off from exercise.  How long?  Until you wake up and your RHR is back “in range.”

Note that it takes time, it isn’t easy to gain muscle mass and if you have low testosterone levels (i.e. Most males over 45, any age female or someone who is dealing with specific health issues) it takes even longer.

Be patient and don’t give up.  I have trained with many people who think they train hard, but after they train with me, realize how “non intense” their particular training mind-set was.

Not that I’m the only person on the planet who trains hard, but many people who start out as good athletes don’t make it through the USMC recon training either.  So get your “game face” on and let’s make a solid attempt at getting your training program to result in a “bigger” you.

Remember to always have good spotters and especially good safety equipment when lifting heavy.  Lifting in a power rack/cage is important.  Improper lifting and lack of adequate spotting has resulted in death.