Welcome to the most comprehensive guide on how to build muscle naturally.
This guide is a culmination of everything that I’ve learned throughout years of training myself and numerous personal training clients.
By the time you’re done reading this guide, you will know everything that I know about building muscle naturally.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Setting Realistic Expectations
Before we get into the real meat of the article, we’re going to have a quick chat about setting realistic expectations for yourself during your first few years of weight training.
Today, we live in a world that’s dominated by giant social media companies.
With the click of a button, anyone can share their life with the world and make everything about themselves look perfect.
This is especially true for people in the fitness industry that have become modern-day physique icons.
When it comes to building a great body, they make everything look easy.
Every Instagram picture they take has the perfect lighting and all of the Youtube videos that they publish make them look like super strong superheroes.
None of this is done by accident and can cause weight lifting newbies to have unrealistic expectations in reagrds to what weight training will do for them.
Having said that, lifting weights and getting strong CAN and WILL transform your life in a positive way as long as you consistently put in the work.
Don’t expect to look like a fitness icon.
In fact, you need to know a few things about these so-called fitness gurus before you continue following their every move on social media.
Genetic Freaks Do Exist
All of the famous household names from both the fitness industry and professional sports have one thing in common… they were born with elite top tier genetics.
Believe it or not, there are people in this world that are born with perfect muscle shape, size, and symmetry. They would look amazing even if they never set foot in a gym.
I witnessed this phenomenon myself while I was playing high school football.
One day, some new kid from Texas showed up at practice. I remember it like it was yesterday.
The kid had huge boulder shoulders, 18 inch jacked arms, a beefy symmetrical chest, ripped 6 pack abs, and gigantic powerful legs. The new kid was only 15 yet he had it all.
And the worst part was…
He had barely ever touched a weight in his life.
Yeah, I know, life’s not fair.
Get over it.
All Of Your Physique Idols Use Steroids
Sorry if that breaks your heart, but somebody had to tell you.
Remember this fact for the rest of your life… anyone that actively makes money from their body uses any means necessary to look the very best that they can.
Why wouldn’t they?
Their livelihood depends on it!
Honestly, I’m not sure why this fact still comes as a shock to most people.
I mean look, if your quality of life was dependent on you looking a certain way, you’d be doing the same damn thing.
Truth be told, I’m not anti-steroid in any way.
If someone wants to take a bunch of roids they should go for it. Anyone should be able to put whatever they want into their body.
I myself don’t take them because they are incredibly expensive and pro bodybuilders my age are dying from complications that they cause.
Lifting weights and building muscle should be about health and longevity above all else, not looking like an unnatural muscular freak.
Alright, now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about training.
Training vs Exercise
Most people use these two words interchangeably when discussing health and fitness and it drives me crazy.
They are so incredibly different from each other that they don’t even belong in the same sentence!
For our purposes, the word training describes the process by which someone goes from a skinny little weakling to a strong confident man.
Training is a series of calculated workouts that are specifically designed to take you from point a to point b in a straight line.
Nothing about training is random and when done correctly, it forces your body to adapt by building more strength and more muscle.
The most effective training programs use a simple linear progression system that features progressive overload (adding more weight to the bar as often as possible).
Exercise is a random activity that morons in the general population do in an attempt to achieve a state of better health.
Anything that involves doing physical activity for an extended period of time can be considered exercise.
Riding a bike for 30 minutes until you are tired and sweaty = exercise
Doing jumping jacks and sit-ups for 15 minutes straight = exercise
Going for a 1-mile jog around the neighborhood = exercise
Get the picture?
Exercise only benefits you in the moment that you are doing it. Exercise does nothing to make you bigger and stronger over a measurable period of time.
Therefore, we can safely say that random sporadic exercise in nothing more than a waste of time.
Build Muscle By Getting Stronger
The only way that the human body builds muscle is by getting stronger.
More strength = more muscle.
It really is as simple as that.
As we already discussed before, you are born within a certain tier of genetics and there is nothing you can do about it.
The only way to improve the look of your body and overall health is by getting as strong as you possibly can.
Forget about all the other bullshit that you’ve heard regarding this topic.
The only reason anyone has told you otherwise is because they were trying to sell you something.
The Case For Strength
The greatest and most dominant physique champions of all time all had one thing in common… they were all really strong.
Squat – 545 Pounds
Bench Press – 440 Pounds
Deadlift – 710 Pounds
Squat – 800 Pounds
Bench Press – 500 Pounds
Deadlift – 800 Pounds
Squat – 900 Pounds
Bench Press – 610 Pounds
Deadlift – 870 pounds
Above I have shown you the best physique champions of all time.
Each and every one of these men dominated the bodybuilding scene during their time (Larry Wheels is just getting started) and they were all incredibly strong.
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Yes, they are all genetic freaks that use steroids but they are still human.
If the best in the world realize that strength is everything and train to get as strong as possible, why aren’t you doing the same?
The Easiest Way To Get Stronger
The most efficient way to get big and strong is to load natural human movement patterns.
All the muscles of the human body were meant to work together as a single unit to perform daily tasks that ensure our survival.
This is why isolation exercises done on machines and other contraptions are absolutely worthless when it comes to building real-world strength and improving your health.
Instead of wasting your time with that nonsense, focus all of your efforts on getting good at multijoint exercises such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and barbell row.
Those exercises mimic all of the basic human movement patterns which is why they are the best exercises to train.
Squat – We do this daily when we put things away in lower shelves and cabinets.
Bench Press – Any time you push something forward you are doing a bench press.
Deadlift – Whenever you have to pick something up off the ground you are deadlifting.
Overhead press – Have you ever had to press anything overhead to get it on a high shelf?
Row – Any time you pull something towards you, you are performing a row.
In-Depth Exercise Guides
Why We Use A Barbell
Now that we know what the best exercises are for getting stronger and why we need to do them, wouldn’t it be perfect if we had a way to load all of them easily?
Oh wait, hang on a second… we do! The barbell!
Barbells are the most perfect tool in the world for loading basic human movement patterns.
They allow us to perform all of the basic human movements in a natural full range of motion and are easy to add weight to over time.
No fancy instruction manuals or steep learning curves.
Just add weight and get started!
Eating To Build Muscle
The biggest problem that I had as a trainer was getting people to eat the right way for their goals.
You can be on the perfect program, use all the right exercises, and even be on a bunch of steroids, but none of that will mean anything if you aren’t eating enough food.
In order for anabolic muscle building processes to take place in your body, you need to be eating more calories than you burn on a regular basis.
Two Strategies, One Choice
When it comes to building muscle and bulking up there are two main diet strategies that you can use to reach your goals.
Both strategies will work, but different types of personalities gravitate towards different things.
One strategy is like kicking the door down and going in guns blazing while the other will have you hanging back and picking the bad guys off one by one.
Please note that your muscle to fat gain ratio will depend on which strategy you choose and the genetic metabolism that you inherited from your mommy and daddy.
While you can do whatever you want I will say this, those of you that are already chubby or gain fat easily should definitely opt for the conservative approach… but please, do what you want.
The Conservative Strategy
The conservative strategy will have you eating less every day in an attempt to keep fat gains to a minimum.
First, go to this online calorie calculator and enter in your basic body type information along with your activity level. When you submit all of your information and click calculate, you will get your estimated daily caloric maintenance level.
Now, this website is pretty good, but nothing is perfect. This is where some experimentation on your part is going to happen.
I want you to eat at that supposed maintenance level from that website for a week while weighing yourself daily.
Please don’t make this difficult. Tracking calories is simple math, nothing more than addition and subtraction. On top of that, just about every food that we eat today has a nutrition label that will give you serving sizes and calories per serving.
If you want to make your calorie counting as precise as possible, pick up a food scale so you can easily measure everything you are eating.
This experiment is extremely important because it will give you a good idea of how many calories you need a day to maintain your weight, gain weight, or lose weight.
Once you have your caloric maintenance level dialed in, all you have to do is eat 200 calories over that level so that your body has enough energy to build muscle while minimizing fat gain.
Putting in this extra effort now will pay off in the long run because your muscle to fat gain ratio will be about 65% lean mass gain and 35% fat gain on average.
This is good because it means that you won’t have to diet for 8 months straight to lose body fat after going through your first initial muscle gaining phase.
The Aggressive Strategy
Okay, this strategy is going to be geared towards people like myself who don’t like to go halfway in with anything that they do in life.
It’s for men that don’t like to play just the tip with their girlfriends.
If you are somebody who has a naturally fast metabolism, this approach will work for you especially well.
This is what I like to call the see food diet. If you see it you eat it.
No counting calories, no obsessing over how much you weigh, just keeping everything simple stupid and busting your ass during your workouts.
Eating massive amounts of delicious food will not only you give you more energy in the gym but it will also make you feel happier.
People love having full bellies and they should. Food is fucking awesome.
Now just a quick warning, while you will make strength and size gains faster, it will come at a cost.
1) You will quickly outgrow all of your clothes
When I first started training, I wore a small to medium sized t-shirt. 6 months into training correctly and eating like a horse, I was wearing an XL and I had to buy a whole new wardrobe.
I also gained some pant sizes. Yes, my waist got bigger, but the biggest factor in the pant size gain was that my ass and legs got huge from squatting.
Now don’t worry, squatting will NOT do this to everyone. I was genetically born with huge legs and a big butt, all squatting did was make them bigger.
Like I said before, your genetics decide who you are and what you look like. Lifting heavy weights just makes you more of who you were in the first place.
2) Stretch Marks
Your skin will have to stretch out FAST to cover all of your new muscle mass which causes stretch marks to happen.
During my first year of training, I had dark stretch marks on the inside biceps and thighs.
They were super noticeable at first but faded out over time to the point where I can just barely see them today.
You can expect to get stretch marks as well but probably in other areas. Remember, we are all different.
3) Fat Gain
Lastly, we will talk about gaining fat.
The average person that goes about bulking this way will usually see a 60% fat gain and 40% lean mass gain.
Sorry, but that’s the reality for most of us. Unless you are genetically gifted in the metabolism department, your body will want to store lots of fat.
In fact, your body is a fat storing machine. We are still animals that are a part of nature and the #1 goal that our body has is to stay alive.
You see, our bodies haven’t evolved much from when we were mostly a nomadic hunting people.
Back in those days, humans were lucky if they got one good meal a day.
As a result, our bodies are always terrified that we are going to have to go a long time without food after we eat a meal (and eating 6 meals a day doesn’t change this!!!).
Therefore, any excess calories that you eat will have a chance of turning into fat stores.
As I said, this aggressive strategy isn’t for everyone.
My opinion on supplements and the supplement industry is simple… they are all worthless pieces of shit.
Protein powder, multivitamins, creatine, pre-workout powder etc. is nothing more than expensive industrial waste.
Whey protein is literally leftover garbage from milk and cheese processing and they are selling it for $15 a pound. Look it up.
Just eat normal food and you’ll be fine.
Please for the love of god, don’t spend $60 on a protein powder when you can buy a gallon of whole milk for $1.99 at the store that contains a much higher quality of protein.
You see, most protein powder and vitamin supplements are all fat-free products. What you don’t realize is that protein and vitamins are fat soluble.
Translation – your body will not be able to digest and absorb them unless you eat a good amount of fat with them!
That is exactly why all of the morons that consume these fat-free supplements have disgusting smelly farts all the time. Their retarded low-fat diet is making it impossible for their body to digest and absorb them!
The Most Effective Way To Train
When it comes to training with weights in order to build bigger stronger muscles, I like to compare it to the process of building callouses on your hands. They need to be stimulated frequently in a way that doesn’t completely obliterate them.
If you obliterate your hands, they will be left torn and bloody, beyond a state where normal repair and adaptation can occur.
Similarly, taking an approach to muscle building where you completely destroy a given muscle or muscle group once a week is an incredibly inefficient way to train.
Instead, your aim should be to stimulate every muscle in your body 2-3 times a week so that you can achieve optimal muscle building results in the shortest amount of time possible.
So what’s the best way to achieve this?
I’ll tell you…
Full Body Workouts
Full body workouts are fantastic for anyone that is new to training or coming back after a long layoff from the gym.
They allow you to hit all major muscle groups several times a week while giving you plenty of time to recover and adapt.
I have used full body training with great success and it was always my go-to method for training my clients as a personal trainer.
The typical full body training routine has you lifting weights three times a week on non-consecutive days, leaving you with four days to rest, recover, and do other more exciting things with your life.
Remember, lifting weights and training should enhance your life, not become your life.
Sample Full Body Routine
Below is an example of how to program an effective full body training routine. The idea here is to take two different workouts and rotate them one after another.
The only exercise that remains consistent in each workout is the squat. You’ll be squatting every workout because squats stress every muscle in your body.
Your legs can handle squatting multiple times a week just fine and although you might hate squats at first, you will become addicted to them once you see how drastically they change your body.
Bench Press 5×5
Barbell Row 5×5
Overhead Press 5×5
Bench Press 5×5
Barbell Row 5×5
Overhead Press 5×5
Bench Press 5×5
Barbell Row 5×5
Overhead Press 5×5
Make sure you are actually resting on your off days and getting plenty of food and sleep. Understand that you are breaking down muscle tissue when you are in the gym and actually building your muscles on your rest days.
Rest days are just as important as training days!
What About Arms?
Your tricep and bicep muscles make up the bulk of your upper arms and are relatively small muscles when compared to the rest of the body.
They also assist in almost every basic human movement and barbell exercise.
You see, most people think that they have to do endless amounts of curls and tricep extensions in order to get big impressive arms, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The muscles in your arms work as a unit just like all the other muscles in your body to get stuff done.
Bench Press = A huge amount of work being done by the triceps.
Barbell Row – = A Huge amount of work being done by the biceps.
Overhead Press = A huge amount of work being done by the triceps.
Deadlift = A huge amount of work being done by the biceps.
Knowing this, what do you think is the best way to grow your arms?
Using heavy compound barbell exercises that allow you to use 100s of pounds?
Doing single joint isolation exercises with light weight and high reps?
I’ll let you figure that one out on your own skippy.
Sets And Reps
We know that building strength is the key to building muscle naturally, so with that in mind, we are going to train in a rep range that allows strength gains to come quickly.
Without even thinking about it, we all instinctively start training using the classic 3 sets of 10 reps protocol. For some reason, 10 reps just seems like the perfect number.
While this isn’t the worst thing you can do, it isn’t the most efficient way to gain strength and build muscle.
Instead of waiting to add weight until you can complete 3 sets of 10 reps at a certain weight (which can take a long time once you get past beginner gains) we cut the number of reps needed in half and add more sets.
It has been my experience that the 5 sets of 5 reps protocol is best for gaining strength and muscle quickly for a natural trainee with average genetics.
5×5 provides just enough time under tension to produce gains in muscle size while allowing for a heavy enough load to effectively train the nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers during a set.
5×5 also produces more of a dense muscular look better than other higher rep ranges because the heavier loads actually build your deep muscle fibers. As a result, you get gains in size and strength that actually stay with you forever, no matter what.
Higher rep ranges of 10-20 reps produce more of the puffy muscle look that quickly disappears when you are done with your workout.
How Heavy Should You Start?
Some strength training coaches advocate starting with an empty barbell while others say that you should start with half of your old 1 rep max if you have lifted before.
My suggestion is that you start with an empty barbell and do 5 rep sets while continually adding weight. Repeat the process until you get to a weight that is challenging, but allows you to complete a set of 5 reps with good form.
Do 4 more sets of that weight until you have completed 5×5 with it and then add 5 pounds per workout to that exercise every time you are able to successfully complete all sets.
This will allow you to save valuable time that would have otherwise been wasted by using weights that were much too light for you.
Most people are on extreme sides of the spectrum when it comes to how fast or how slow an exercise should be performed.
Half of them say slow (3 seconds up and 3 seconds down) while the other half say as fast as you can to maximize the amount of weight lifted.
Like with most things in life, it’s best to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
I always say lift the weight in a controlled manner but don’t go too fast or too slow.
Remember, we are trying to get as strong as possible because more strength is more muscle.
Performing a rep ultra slow is going to hold your strength gains back big time! While lifting ultra fast is going to get you hurt.
Resting Between Sets
Resting between sets is probably the most underrated aspect of training.
I know from personal experience of training multiple clients that 99% of people don’t rest long enough between sets to fully recover from their previous set.
For some reason, everyone seems to be in a race to finish their workout as fast as possible.
THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE!
Your gains in both size and strength will come to a screeching halt much faster if you try to take small rest periods in between heavy sets of compound barbell exercises.
Your body needs plenty of rest time to recover and from what I’ve seen, most people take a minute or less in between sets.
That is okay if you’re training for muscular endurance, but not if you’re training to build big, strong, dense muscles.
The least amount of time that you should be resting in between heavy work sets is 3 minutes and the maximum amount of time is 5 minutes.
After 3 minutes, your muscles have recovered all of the energy possible and aren’t going to get any more recovered during that workout. The only time that you want to take longer than 5 minutes is if your heart rate is still elevated.
Continue to wait for another couple of minutes until your heart rate returns to normal before starting your next set.
Tracking Your Progress
Tracking how much weight you lift from one workout to another is one of the most important aspects of effective training.
Most internet fitness gurus will tell you that carrying a workout journal around with you is the best way to track your progress in the gym. While this is not a bad idea, there is a much easier way to track your progress.
And the solution has been sitting in the palm of your hand 24/7 without you even realizing it.
Put that Smartphone to Use
I’m not talking about downloading an app to track your lifts in the gym. They often cost money and make everything way more complicated than it needs to be.
The best way to track your lifts is by making a simple training log in your built-in notes app that every smartphone comes preloaded with. This keeps everything cut and dry and easy to read.
If you want to get a little fancy, you can even use a couple emojis to further enhance your lift tracking.
Below is a screenshot that shows you exactly how I track my training progress with my notes app.
As you can see, I keep everything super simple and super clean.
I just name the lift, put the weight and reps next to each other, and use easy to understand emojis to let myself know whether or not I hit all my numbers at that given weight.
Green check marks are good and red x’s are bad. Easy peasy!
Joining A Gym
Now that you are an expert on how to build muscle the natural way, you need a place where you can actually complete your workouts.
Today, there is no shortage of gyms and picking the right one for your goals is extremely important.
Below, we are going to talk about what kind of gym you should train at and what type of gyms you should avoid at all costs.
Avoid any place that calls itself a health club. Health Clubs are places for upper-middle-class people who want to sit on cardio machines for an hour while they blab away on their Bluetooth phone headsets.
Most of these gyms have no barbells or squat racks whatsoever and rely on machine training only.
Avoid these gyms like the plague.
Corporate Big Box Gyms
While most corporate gyms are better than health clubs, they aren’t better by much.
Most of them do have large free weight areas with barbells and dumbbells, however, they usually only have 1 or 2 squat racks which are constantly being used by morons who have no idea what they’re doing.
They also don’t allow deadlifting most of the time and you can now find multiple videos on Youtube of people getting kicked out of gyms for simply completing a deadlift.
I worked at one of these gyms while I was a personal trainer and I hated every second that I had to be in that place.
Once again, thumbs down.
Independently Owned Gyms
Independently owned gyms are mostly hit or miss.
Some of them are nicely outfitted with plenty of barbells and squat racks while other’s are just as bad if not worse than health clubs.
Always do extensive research and take a tour before you commit to joining an independently owned gym.
If you are lucky, you may be able to find a diamond in the rough.
These gyms are the best to join hands down.
Since they are powerlifting gyms they will almost exclusively have only squat racks, bench press stations, and deadlift platforms.
Another bonus is that you will usually have no problems finding a training partner that is above your level and willing to teach you some valuable things along the way.
The first type of gym I would be searching for in my area is any gym that identifies itself as a powerlifting gym.
The Best Solution
Build your own home gym.
Nothing is better than being able to workout whenever you feel like it while using equipment that you have tested and handpicked yourself.
If you are interested in building a home gym of your own, check out my home gym guide here.
While training partners can definitely be a great asset to have, they are very hard to come by.
Most people don’t like to train in the way that I have taught you in this post because it is hard and boring.
When things get hard in life, most people quit.
The truth about weight training or anything else that is worth doing in life is that you will most likely have to go it alone.
That’s okay though, you don’t need anyone to help you achieve the body of your dreams.
As long as you put in the work and never give up, you will be able to achieve anything with ease.
I myself learned everything I know by simply teaching myself and using the internet.
Time To Train
Okay, you made it to the end!
You now know everything that I know about how to build muscle naturally.
Now it’s up to you to put in the work!
Make sure you bookmark this post if you haven’t already and use it as a reference for the future as you will surely need it.
From The Man Himself –