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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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