How To Gain Muscle – The Complete Program

While many are focused on losing weight this New Year’s, there are undoubtedly a handful of folks asking how to gain muscle. Of course, we’re not talking about gaining any old weight – gaining fat is easy, just follow the other 65% of Americans who overeat and move too little.

Here, at Biogen, we’re like a tight-knit family of folks who have one goal – gain muscle and pack on a solid mass, so you resemble the Incredible Hulk in every way, shape, and form (minus the green skin and purple capris, of course).

Sure, many want to lose fat too. Don’t feel unloved; shedding body fat faster is a topic for a future article. Read on for some discussion of a recent study, and a sample training program guaranteed to move the needle on the scale towards the higher numbers and increase the amount of iron you move for untrained and untrained individuals.

How To Gain Muscle

In a previous article, I discussed a review of the literature in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, looking at 140 studies to determine the dose-response for strength development. Due to a huge interest in this piece, I was asked to elaborate on the study.

This particular type of study is called a meta-analysis, which is essentially a review of several studies to allow researchers to assess a variety of outcomes better and extrapolate the findings to a wider audience. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to identify a dose-response relationship for strength training to optimize the prescriptions made for training programs.

This is an important question because if over-prescribed, one will quickly overtrain, which will negatively affect one’s strength and power. Further, if under prescribed, one will not reach their goals and, ultimately, their potential.

There is, of course, not one best program; however, by lifting properly, folks can optimize their results. The beauty of this study was it was the first of its kind to specifically calculate the magnitude of strength increases with various levels of intensity, frequency, and volume.

The researchers divided the results by each category and presented the results in that manner:

Intensity:

Untrained individuals (defined as those with less than one year of consistent training) experience maximal strength gains with a mean training intensity of 60% of their 1 repetition maximum (RM) or approximately their 12 RM (meaning the maximum weight they can lift for 12 RM). Trained Individuals see the best strength increases with a mean intensity of 80% of 1 RM or approximately 8 RM.

Frequency:

Untrained Individuals see a consistent dose-response as the number of days each muscle group is trained increases up to 3 days/week. This essentially means untrained individuals will see the greatest response from training the same muscle group up to 3 days/week. Keep in mind; this also means optimal nutrition is crucial to enhance recovery.

Trained Individuals, on the other hand, see a consistent dose-response as the number of training days drops to a maximum of 2 days/week. In the study population utilized in this particular study also found those who trained 2 days/week trained at higher volumes, again emphasizing the importance of rest and optimal nutrition.

Volume:

Both trained and untrained individuals experienced the most significant muscle gains with a mean training volume of four sets per muscle group. This is in contrast to the one-set to failure folks who proclaim this is all you need. It’s crucial to vary the workouts, though, to progress continually.

Depending on my training schedule, I typically vary my workouts every 3-4 weeks. It’s also very important to note that this program has a very high frequency; if you continue this protocol for too long, you will quickly overtrain, and progress will halt.

Sample Workout To Gain Muscle:

how to gain muscle for untrained individuals

Day 1:

    • Chin-ups 3 sets of 10
    • Dips 3 sets of 12 repetitions
    • Close Grip Barbell Press 2 sets of 12 repetitions
    • Standing Barbell Military Press 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

Day 2:

    • Barbell Squats 3 sets of 10 repetitions
    • Stiff-Leg Deadlifts 3 sets of 10 repetitions
    • Standing Calf Raises 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

Day 3:

    • Barbell Deadlifts 3 sets of 12 repetitions
    • Incline Barbell Press 3 sets of 12 repetitions
    • Dumbbell Rows 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Day 4:

  • Off

Day 5:

    • Walking Lunges 3 sets of 12 repetitions each leg
    • Split Squats 3 sets of 10 repetitions each leg

Day 6:

    • Chinups 3 sets of 10
    • Dips 3 sets of 12 repetitions
    • Close-Grip Barbell Press 2 sets of 12 repetitions
    • Standing Barbell Military Press 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

Day 7:

    • Barbell Squats 3 sets of 10 repetitions
    • Stiff-Leg Deadlifts 3 sets of 10 repetitions
    • Standing Calf Raises 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

Sample Workout Protocol:

how to gain muscle for trained individuals

Day 1:

    • Incline Barbell Press 3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • Dips 3 sets of 8 repetitions (add weight when you can do more with perfect form)
    • Overhead Dumbbell Press 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Day 2:

    • Clean and Press 3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • Barbell Rows 3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • Barbell Curls 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Day 3:

    • Squats 3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • Step-ups 3 sets of 8 repetitions each leg
    • Calf raises 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Day 4:

  • Off

Day 5:

    • Flat Bench Dumbbell Press 3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • Pushups 3 sets of 10 repetitions (add weight by using an X-vest or a backpack with an appropriate weight plate)
    • Skull Crushers 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Day 6:

    • Deadlifts 3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • T-bar rows 3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • Shrugs 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Day 7:

  • Off

Next, continue in the order outlined here. Therefore, since the back was the last major muscle group, legs should follow, then chest, a day off, etc.

Conclusion

These are some sample workouts utilizing the findings from the research study outlined above. There are, of course, a million variations, combinations, exercises, etc. Of course, always ensure proper form and ensure your diet is in order for optimal recovery and maximum gains.

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