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How to Build Muscle

Losing body fat doesn’t take rocket science.  Most of us know how to do that — dialing in the nutrition to promote fat loss while preserving the muscle with exercise and resistance training).  Losing body fat can happen fast in a person that is very overweight, so in someone who was fat like me on Day 1 (23% body fat), with great dedication I was able to lose 43 lbs of fat in 90 days while preserving muscle and actually building some mass and strength.  I finished the 90 days at 8% body fat.

However, it’s not possible to see such huge changes when trying to build muscle.  In 90 days, gaining 40 lbs of muscle is totally unrealistic.  30 is also way out of reach.  Without the aid of steroids or growth hormone those kinds of changes aren’t possible.  And if you are doing this for your HEALTH and FITNESS (which you should be), the last thing you want to do is dope up on something like steroids.

So when approaching a “bulking round” or when making mass building our main focus, we need to have the right expectations and a plan to execute to make it happen.  What is a reasonable 90 day goal for lean muscle mass gain?  From what I’ve studied, what I’ve experienced personally, and what I’ve seen from many of the people I’ve coached, a good rule of thumb is that in 90 days you can add about 15 lbs of lean muscle mass to your frame.  That is just over 1 lb per week.

If you need to gain 30 lbs of muscle, no problem … just do TWO rounds! But don’t try to pack on 30 lbs in one round unless you don’t mind adding a bunch of useless body fat that you’ll have to spend a bunch of time melting back off.  If you are gaining 2 or 3 lbs per week, chances are you are adding 1 lb of muscle and the rest is body fat each week.  So for a bulking plan, be sure you watch the scale and shoot for a weight gain of 1 lb or just over each week.  That way you can successfully bulk up without adding a lot of fat and needing to “cut” again to get ripped.

For more details on what my bulking diet looked like, CLICK HERE.

And to know if you are ready to start adding bulk based on your current body fat level, read my article BODY FAT VS. BULK.

Can you build mass with P90X?  Some say you have to lift in a gym to gain muscle.  BULL!  Your muscle doesn’t know if it’s being forced to grow from a bench press or a pushup.  Your lats don’t know if they are being hammered by a lat pulldown machine or a pullup.  The goal is to stimulate the muscles to grow and change, which I can do at home just as well as at a gym.  What are some tips I have learned that will help you gain muscle with a round of P90X?  Here’s a list of tips for you:

  1. Lots of calories = No matter how hard you workout, you won’t build mass unless you are taking in a surplus of calories.  You want to do it right, with the right foods (junk food doesn’t count as bulking up LOL!).  To gain 1 lb per week, you need to be over your maintenance level by about 500-600 per day (since 3600 cals is a pound).  You may have to play with the calorie total some to dial it in just right for you to be sure you are gaining a pound each week.
  2. Eat often = You need to be sure that you eat every 2.5 – 3 hours all day, and that at each meal / snack you get a good balance of protein and carbs to give your muscles all the fuel they need to repair and grow.
  3. Creatine = Creatine allows the muscles to work harder during contraction, and it causes the muscles to volumize slightly with more fluid, which allows the muscles to recruit more nutrients for recovery after a workout.  This supplement has been studied intensly for years, and most agree that there are no detrimental side effects of using it.  Before you decide to use it yourself, do your own research though!
  4. Pre-workout = You want to give your muscles the best chance to work their hardest during a workout.  This can be done with proper nutrition, the use of certain herbs (I’m using Maca Root and Beet Root powder since I’m doing the vegan challenge), or it can be a good old fashioned pre-workout like 1MR or Jack3d.  Pre-workouts help the muscles get more blood flow and nutrients both during the workout for increased strength and endurance, as well as after the workout to speed recovery.
  5. Results/Recovery = Replenishing what your muscles have lost during the workout is critical.  If you leave them depleted, they won’t grow.  You want to reload them with nutrients as quickly as possible after your workout, and R/R will do exactly that.
  6. Decrease cardio = Cardio that is too often or too long in duration will impede the mass building process.  You don’t want to ignore cardio conditioning altogether though.  I recommend doing 2 cardio workouts per week, but that’s it.  The other days on your schedule should either be lifting big or resting (so the muscles can grow).  I like doing 2 cardio days, 3 lift days, and 2 ab only days to accomplish that.
  7. Heavy weights =  Be sure you are writing down your reps and weights.  Look back at them and do your best to go UP on every weight in every exercise each time you work out!  You want to fail before rep 8 on everything involving weights / dumbbells.  If you can get 8 reps, up the weight more!  Also, you can add resistance to the body weight exercises (like pushups and pullups) with a weighted vest or weighted backpack.  For pullups, it’s realistic to shoot for the 8 rep range, but on pushups you probably can’t get enough weight in the pack to make that possible.  But try to weigh yourself down as much as possible so that it becomes impossible to go more than 15-18 on pushups.
  8. Longer rest between sets = Since the P90X lift days are circuit-style (with nearly no rest between sets), make use of the pause button a few times during those DVD’s to let your heart rate drop back down.  This will allow you to push harder on each set and lift bigger!  This will typically add about 10 minutes to each lift routine by taking small pauses between the sets.
  9. Rest = Make sure you get a good night’s sleep (as often as possible LOL!) because muscle growth is at it’s peak while a person sleeps.  And don’t neglect the recovery week. Your body needs it to really recharge after 3 weeks of beating it up (and lots of times that recovery week is when you see the most change in mass as your muscles get time to recover to 100%).

To see a couple of our Hall of Fame transformations showing results of guys who maximized their mass building routine, check these out:

Kyle Muscles Up

Justin Builds Mass

Related Posts:

151 comments
Carlos
Carlos

coach,

My current goal is to maintain my cardio conditioning while building muscle. I was going to do p90x/insanity with 2 insanity days. I was thinking of follwing the classic p90x scheudle just inserting Insanity cardio days for the 2 days. I'm stumped on how I should insert it. What do you think of max circuit on Tuesdays and Max plyo on Saturday while keeping yoga on thursdays. Or should Max plyo be put on thursdays(before legs and back) and yoga on Saturday??

 

Any thoughts??

TX! Carlos C.

CoachWayne
CoachWayne moderator

Carlos, I would keep yoga and do Max  Circuit and Plyo. I just wouldn't want plyo before legs at all! That would be tough!

Carlos
Carlos

 @CoachWayne

 tx coach for the reply!

 

Would you think max plyo would also be tough the day after legs and back?

Do you think max circuit would be better option after legs and back or maybe Max cardio ?

 

Last question, what was ure workout schdule for building mass???

 

Tx again

CoachWayne
CoachWayne moderator

Carlos, you can always add a little weight to a vest or pack for the weightless exercises. Shooting for 10 reps is a great plan too.

Carlos
Carlos

@CoachWayne 

Thank you Coach! Can you answer 2 other questions that involves my current goal to bulk up but maintain my cardio endurance by using the hybrid mentioned above (only 2 cardio days). I want to add bulk to my legs using legs/back from P90X.

1. In the video tony does reps of 15-25 on leg routines using weights.. Should I do the same amount of leg reps as the video guides or try to go for rep failure on about 10?? What did you do ?

2. There are some workouts where Tony doesn't use weights in the workout at all ( i.e. groucho walk). Should I do all of these workouts with a weighted book bag or do as the video guides??

Thanks for all that you do!

CoachWayne
CoachWayne moderator

That sounds great man. That will be good, tough work. 

Carlos
Carlos

 @CoachWayne

 Tx for all of your replies coach! It's been very helpfull to paint a clearer picture on how to approach my hybrid.

 

Do you think its a good approach to do max plyo on Tuesdays, then interchange between max cardio, max interval circuit & sports conditioning on Thursdays, then do legs and back on Fridays and have Yoga X on Saturdays??

CoachWayne
CoachWayne moderator

I did my round 4 hybrid for my bulking round. I think any plyo will be tough around leg day. You could give it a go post leg day and see though. Switch it out if you need to.

Matt
Matt

Hey Coach I've lost all the weight I wanted to lose and now I'm trying to put on some muscle. I can't afford a weighted vest right now so I'm doing what you did and wearing a backpack filled with weights. The only problem is that those weights drop to the bottom of the pack and, when I do pushups, my lower back is supporting most, if not all, of the weight. That makes it very difficult to concentrate on my push ups. I'm all for strengthening my lower back, but I'm sure this is not the way to do it. If you experienced the same problem, how did you correct it? Thanks.

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Matt, try wrapping the weights in a towel and even roll up a towel to take up space in the bottom of the backpack. That should shift them up. You are still adding a lot of resistance to your pushups and that is good! Keep it up!

BennyteamRIPPED
BennyteamRIPPED

Hey coach. Are there any exercises you can reccomend to build muscle around the shoulder blade/rib area? I'm trying to gain mass or at least fat so I don't look like a skeleton. Any ideas? Also, are any of the 1 on 1 an videos good for building an muscles? Most people are focused on toning the ah muscles and losing bell fat, but I don't have that problem. I'm trying to BUILD my abs.

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Benny, a great back workout from the 1-on-1s is 30-15. But to build muscle you need to eat for it! Find the calories you need to gain weight and be consistent.

Timothy
Timothy

Hey Coach Wayne, I was wondering if I should go into a bulking or just have an increase in calories to gain some muscle growth. I'm currently doing a fat shredder with a 1000 cal deficiency, and feel that im possibly at my leanest. The only reason I continue the fat shredder with a 1000 cal deficiency is due to some lingering lower belly fat. Im 5'10" and currently about 175lbs. The reason I am considering switching from a fat shredder is I've noticed that while on this diet I've haven't gained any muscle growth around my bicep, and arms area even with increased weight. Is this due to my deficiency? And would adding some calories to my diet hurt my goal of losing that last bit of lower belly fat? BTW, Thanks for everything! Your site has helped me a lot!

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Hey Timothy, yes that is the balance between deficit and surplus! When you put your body at a deficit, it loses mass. When you put it at a surplus it gains mass. Now at maintenance you can slowly do both, lose fat and gain muscle. You just need to be ready for a slow process. If you add calories, you fat loss may slow a little, but at your stage you will be thankful for the energy and be able to focus on getting stronger. You can move up slowly and see what you maintenance need is too. Add 200-300 calories a week and see when you stop losing weight. Have fun! It is a blast to reach your goal and earn more fuel!!!

nato
nato

hi coach am on my day 2 of body beast finished early today and ufff was hard but i loved it here the thing i really will like some support has i go thourght this program cuz i really will like to get fit get ripped so help

Jeremy
Jeremy

Can't wait, I'm so excited! One more question- the way for doing P90X2 that we just discussed, the fat shredder indefinitely at a 300 calorie deficit at 2400 calories, will that maintain the muscle from my bulk, to work as the "active maintenance" that my trainer was telling me about? Thanks!

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Jeremy, that will maintain your muscle and X2 is not just maintenance work. You will be very challenged.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Thanks. What I think I am going to do is do P90X2 at the X2 fat shredder diet (50/25/25) at 2400 calories (2200 seems a bit low, but if need be then I'll lower later on), and stay there indefinitely through both the foundation and strength phases until either I hit a plateau, energy is dragging or I'm happy with my definition and body fat level. Then I would switch to X2 energy booster (40/30/30) and raise the calories to maintenance for the performance phase. How does that sound? Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. Thanks.

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Sounds great Jeremy! Now execute the plan!

Jeremy
Jeremy

Thanks, would a fat shredder diet with the deficit at 2400 (around a 300-400 cal deficit for me) work well for X2 also? If so, can I stay on it until I'm at my ideal body fat %? (Hope I'm not asking too many questions, I'm just doing my best to think this through, Lol)

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Jeremy, 2400 would be fine. Think about going to 2200 though. 500-600 calories under per day is the deficit that allows you to lose a pound a week. 2400 will just be a little slower. It is all up to you. You can stay on FS as well, or even go between phases with a split of 45/35/20 for a little more energy from carbs.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Thanks! The goal of this round is to lose about 8 lbs of fat and finally become ripped, while maintaining the mass I've built. I'm at 168 lbs, 11.75% BF, goal is 160 lbs, 6% BF. If I build muscle it's more of a perk, but not the actual objective. The reason I want to make the switch to X2 is because it's a program I've never done yet. With those goals in mind though, wouldn't I want to lose weight? So I'm a bit confused. I actually tried the fat shredder diet early in this past P90X round and found I was bonking after a week or so, so I switched to a higher carb plan. Would the nutrition plan I have now (2400 cal [300 cal deficit or so], 35% carb, 35% protein, 30% fat) be good for cutting and maintaining mass with X2? Thanks!

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Jeremy, unless you feel you preform best with 30% fat, I would go 40/40/20 and 2400. That will be a slow cut and will allow you to maintain really well. Then when you BF is low enough, and you are happy, you can bump it up and gain more mass. X2 will let you get that cut. Bonking is part of life when you are getting really ripped. That is why I like doing AM workouts. I have all my energy form the night of sleep!

Jeremy
Jeremy

Thanks, eating around 2400 calories now, a 35/35/30 carb/protein/fat diet. I was eating 2700 last week on P90X Maintenance is around 26-2800, according to different calculators. Does that mean I should raise back up to 27-2800? And when you say gain, does that mean that I'll lose fat at the same time too? Planning on doing 3 weeks foundation, 6 strength (with alternate workouts), 1 recovery week, and 3 performance.

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Jeremy, Try 2400 and see if your weight stays the same. If you lose weight, add 200 calories for a week and check again. It is a slow process but when you are eating at your maintenance with a balanced approach (like 40/40/20) you can slowly burn fat and build muscle. Neither are done quickly though. Your plan with a large strength phase sounds great!

Jeremy
Jeremy

Hey coach, So regarding my post from 2 months ago about starting P90X after my 4-month bulking bodybuilding routine- My trainer told me that after my bulk, I needed to do active maintenance, where my weight training stays the same, just less volume, or I'd lose my new muscle mass. Not sure if you remember but he put me on a normal bodybuilding routine (bench, deadlift, squat etc) to bulk. So I'd been doing P90X for 6 weeks after that and then I hurt my leg, which I posted about a few days ago on the Injuries page. Thank God my leg is feeling better and I should be back next week. I was wondering if, since I already graduated P90X a year ago or so, and I'm pretty bored with it, if I can start P90X2 next week. Since it's a whole different program, with less all-around muscle building and more functional work, I'm wondering if the "active maintenance" my trainer was talking about could still apply for X2 as well, or if 6 weeks of P90X is long enough that I can now do whatever program I want and still maintain the mass I built in the 4-month bulk routine. Or if it's a bad idea for mass maintenance and I should stick with P90X for another 5 weeks. Still have about 8 lbs of fat to lose, am at around 12-11% BF now. Thanks!

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Jeremy there will be plenty of volume and resistance in P90X2 to maintain your mass provided you are eating properly (around maintenance). The strength phase of X2 can build muscle! Go hard and I think you won't just maintain, you'll gain.

Sean
Sean

^And by cardio days, I mean Insanity Max workouts (circuit, cardio conditioning, or interval plyo)

Sean
Sean

Hey coach! I'm trying to build some muscle, and I've been doing Insanity fast and furious before my lift days, on top of two cardio days during the week. Should I stop doing fast and furious before lifting?

Jeremy
Jeremy

Sounds great, thanks! Also, am I able to start these new macro ratios asap or would I need to slowly ease into that also like I would with dropping calories?

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

@Jeremy - You can go right into them. Enjoy.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Cool, what I was concerned about is that since I just bulked up and gained around 15 lb muscle over 4 months (with a good amount of fat as well), that the new muscle would be easily vulnerable to catabolism. I actually started that bulk from being very skinny, went from 146 to 175 lb, and from 9% to 14% bf. So I'm thinking maybe to meet the two ways to go in the middle- 2900 today and then every 4th day drop 200- so on Tuesday, go to 2700, then Saturday go to 2500, then the next Wednesday go to 2400 and stay there, with a macro ratio of 45% protein, 30% carb, and 25% fat. How does that sound?

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Jeremy that sounds like a solid plan. Keep the intensity up in your lifting. That helps spare muscle too while cutting. Bring it!!!

Jeremy
Jeremy

Thanks, how fast and how often can I cut calories though without becoming catabolic? I've been dropping 100 cal a week and my trainer told me that cutting calories too drastically and quickly will lead to catabolism (I'd be happy dropping to 2400 now but I'm still not sure if a 700 cal drop in a day would be counterproductive). He also told me that dietary fat is very important and that I need half a gram per lb of goal body weight, and about 1-1.5 g protein per lb. Since I'm 170 lb and around 13% BF, with my goal being about 160 at 7%, I plugged into myfitnesspal and I see that at 2400 calories if I do 40% protein and 30% for carbs and fats, I hit those gram ratios perfectly (180g carbs, 80g fat, and 240g protein). Is that a good way to go? Thanks!

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Jeremy - If your goal is to lose 5% BF, I wouldn't worry about becoming catabolic. If you want to go slowly, drop 200 calories a week. You could just go right to 2400. I wouldn't worry about it at all, it would not be counterproductive. 30% for dietary fats is on the high side of things. I wouldn't go above that. Dietary fat is important for hormone production, so you can play in the 20-30% range and see what is good for you. At 170 lbs, I would think that your maintenance is closer to 2600 though. That is using the P90X formula for caloric need. If you know your maintenance is higher then go for it. Otherwise, you may find that your goal needs to be lower, 2000-2200/day, to drop the BF.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Hey, coach, so I started my X round for cutting 2 weeks ago after my 4-month bodybuilding round. My fat loss is at a snails pace, if at all. I ended my bulk at 3700 calories have been lowering 100 calories every week so now at 3100 (was at 3200 for entire last week, 3300 the week before, etc), and doing the half gram fat and 1 gram protein per lb body weight, with the rest being carbs. My trainer told me to lower at a snails pace and not doing the crazy high protein since I am trying to avoid becoming catabolic, which he told me happens when you drastically lower calories and carbs like on the fat shredder diet (he told me he tried the atkins and lost a lot of mass). Technically I'm still in a caloric surplus so I may have been bulking accidentally (not sure if it's possible), since my maintenance is 29-2700 cal depending on the equation used. This diet plan clearly isnt working at all for me, since I seem to not be losing bodyfat at all- I'm down maybe .3% BF since I started, and down about 2 lb (which I assume is waterweight bc I don't think there's a reason I'd be loosing muscle). So my question is, I clearly need to lower my calories, and probably change my macros too, in order to get ripped by day 90- so how drastically can I cut calories to get ripped without becoming catabolic? And would you recommend the fat shredder diet, or maybe a mix of the fat shredder and energy booster to balance it out? I realize this a long question, and really appreciate your help on this and my previous questions. Thanks!

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Jermemy - Atkins and the Fat Shredder are totally different. 30% carbs at 2400 calories is still 180 grams of carbs! That will not produce the effect that Atkins does. If you want to slowly cut, a deficit of 500-600 under maintenance, while keeping protein high, will allow you to maintain your muscle mass as you cut. That should allow you to lose a pound of BF a week. Properly refueling with carbs after a workout, like R&R, will also help you maintain your mass (that's only 40g of carbs gone for the day - still have 140!). You could go between a FS and Energy Booster (45/35/20), but getting to the deficit is what will allow you to drop the bodyfat.

Denver
Denver

Kind of building on the last post; I'm really liking the shoulders/arms back/bicep days. Any harm in phase 3 subbing kempo or legs for another repeat lift day?

Jeremy
Jeremy

Would it be ok to switch around the P90X schedule to fit my work/school schedule- so I would do yoga on Sunday, chest/back monday, plyo tuesday, and so on, so basically, weekends off?

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Sure Jeremy, that's fine, as long as you don't do the lift days back to back. You need a non-lift day for recovery between each lift day, so you can lift on MWF.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Lol talking to him yesterday scared me like crazy, made me think I'd become a twig again. But since I can't go to a gym anymore, and quite honestly don't want to, I'll give cutting with P90X a try. Very much looking forward to it, and will keep you posted on my progress!

Jeremy
Jeremy

Awesome- I know I'm asking a ton of questions I'm just so pumped for this I can't help it lol... My trainer told me that after my bulk ends, I'm going to need to do active maintenance, where my weight training stays the same, just less volume. Since what he put me on is a normal bodybuilding routine (bench, deadlift etc) does that mean that regular pushups and pullups would go against that, because I realize there are no weighted chest exercises at all? Also, if I'm eating 4000 calories a day, would going into a deficit for cutting (calculated it's around 2400 with the equation in the nutrition guide) a week after my bulk is over would be very drastic change? I realize I'm asking a ton of questions on this but I'm really excited for this! Thanks!

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

That's hard to know Jeremy. You'll have to try it and see. And monitor your progress closely, and adjust as needed. I clearly haven't had any problem with muscle mass despite not doing any bench, squats, or deadlifts. These P90X workouts blast the muscles, and if you fuel properly you shouldn't have any problem with muscle mass.

Jeremy
Jeremy

I think I understand now. So then I will do the 8-10 reps, does that apply to the ones that Tony gives a specific amount of reps (ex. Core synergistics and I think a few arm and shoulder exercises here and there)?

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

If Tony gives a specific rep target, then do that.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Great, I always thought that it was 12-15 reps for cutting, 8-10 bulking, guess I have my answer on that. By the way, saw your P90X2 video, it was amazing and an inspiration! Goal is to look like that by the end of the summer. Thanks so much for your help!

Coach Wayne
Coach Wayne

Cutting is much more about the diet than the reps. Muscle shape is more about the reps. I have always lifted "big", even when dropping body fat.