You’ve been hitting the gym for a few weeks but you’re just not seeing the gains you expect. It seems you’re doing everything right but you thought you’d be much further along by now.
There’s nothing more frustrating than putting in that amount of effort and still not seeing results. And you’re starting to think that building muscle just isn’t in the cards for you.
But don’t give up! Chances are you just need to fix one or two things that are holding you back from gaining muscle. In fact, I have 10 rules for you…
The 10 rules for gaining muscle for beginners are:
- Focus on the basics first before focusing on bodybuilding
- Make sure you’re eating enough quality foods
- Put more effort into Back and leg training
- Don’t follow the latest workout trends, hacks, or ‘muscle-building secrets’
- Be consistent
- Be patient
- Make sure you’re getting enough rest to gain muscle
- Don’t compare yourself to others
- Set small, measurable goals
- Be honest with yourself and decide how far you want to go
Keep reading because we’re going to dive deep into these principles for building muscle and I’m going to show you exactly what to do for each.
***Before you continue, if you want to get better workouts and pumps in the gym, be sure to read about my recommended pre-workout. I also have a discount code for you to use in this post: Your Pre-workout for Insane Workouts and Gains
1 – Focus on the Basic First and Before Focusing on Bodybuilding
We all start out by wanting big muscles. You may have a movie character or close friend or maybe even a pro bodybuilder that inspired you to start lifting weights.
Or maybe you’re starting to train at an older age. Still, someone that has an awesome physique inspired you to build your body.
For me, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. This is back in the era of The Terminator, Rambo, and Rocky!
For that reason, many start out by following what bodybuilders are doing. They’ll read the latest Muscular Development or watch a YouTube video and start doing bodybuilding workouts.
But the problem with focusing on bodybuilding is that you first need the build your foundation of muscle. Because without a solid foundation, you will only get so far.
Here’s what to focus on as a beginner:
- Focus on building your core strength with squats and deadlifts for your lower body.
- Do rows, bench press, and overhead press for your upper body.
- Focus on explosive power and get as strong as you possibly can.
Do this for at least six months and maybe even up to a year before you start getting into the bodybuilding movements. Then you can gradually move into bodybuilding workouts. I have a complete guide here: Bodybuilding for Beginners
2 – Make Sure You’re Eating Enough Quality Foods
There’s an old saying ‘Just eat, bro.’
And because of that, many beginners will eat everything in sight. Especially hardgainers (those who can’t seem to gain weight to save their life…I was one of those!).
The problem with that mentality is that not all calories are created equal.
Sure, if you’re a hardgainer you can certainly get away with eating foods like pizza. But even then, you still need certain amounts of protein and other nutrients to make long-term muscle gains.
You probably already know this but protein is essential for building muscle. And you need more than the average person does – because you’re not average! You’re training hard!
You also need complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Below is a list of some types of foods that you need to be eating plenty of:
- Meats (sirloin, beef)
- Whole grains (whole grain bread, wheat pasta)
- Green leafy vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Greek yogurt
- Fruits, especially dark berries
Of course, there are many more foods you can add to that list but this is a great starting point.
For more on foods for building muscle, download my eBook: Sensible Muscle Building Meal Plan.
3 – Put More Effort into Back and Leg Training
We touched on this in the first tip by talking about ‘show’ muscles but I want to dive deeper into the two most crucial body parts for gaining size, strength, and overall muscle. Back and legs.
Many beginners make the mistake of not putting enough emphasis on back and legs. They’re too worried about getting a big chest and arms.
Here’s why you need to double-down these muscle groups:
- Back is your largest upper body muscle so that’s where the ‘bulk’ of your upper body mass will come from
- Legs are also a larger muscle group than any other body part
- Getting stronger on lower body exercises like squats and deadlifts will also help you pack on more overall size and strength
If you just focus on the ‘show’ muscles like chest and arms, you’re going to look disproportioned. And that’s not a good look.
Developing your back and leg muscles are going to make you look huge all over and from every angle. And the strength you build from these massive body parts will help you grow stronger in everything else. So it’s a win-win.
4 – Don’t Follow the Latest Workout Trends, Hacks, or ‘Muscle-Building Secrets’
It’s easy to get caught up in whatever current fitness concept or program is trending. Some of these might be okay but none of them overrule the basic principles of building muscle.
Too many people are always looking for the fastest way to build muscle. They’re looking for that one secret that they feel like they’re missing.
- There are no muscle building secrets or hacks
- There’s no fast-track to building muscle
- And you won’t get there by cutting corners
What works is consistency. And we’ll talk more about that, later.
Whenever in doubt, always revert back to the basics of building muscle, especially as a beginner. And even many intermediate and advanced bodybuilders often have to revisit the basics when they get off track.
Those muscle-building basics are:
- Sticking to the exercises that build the most muscle (as we talked about earlier – those should always be in your routine from here on)
- Being consistent with your training
- Getting enough quality calories for energy and recovery so that you can train hard and grow
- Being consistent with your nutrition
- Getting the proper rest you need to build muscle and function
You can add more to that list but they will roll up into one of these five categories. And we’re going to dive much deeper into these below.
5 – Be Consistent
There’s one crucial principle that holds true in becoming great at anything in life. Repetition.
To be great, you must consistently perform that task over and over. In time, you will get better and gradually make progress. But if you stop at any point, you’ll fall behind and will not make the desired progress.
Bodybuilding and weight training are no different. If you’re missing workouts it’s going to be extremely difficult for you to gain muscle. You’ve got to stick to a schedule.
Here are some tips that will help you be consistent with your training:
- Be realistic about how many days a week you are willing to train
- Create a schedule with reminders on your phone or computer for those days (and times)
- Know what you’re going to train each day; have a plan
- Don’t allow anything else to get in the way of this schedule; treat it like it’s your job (who knows, this may be your job someday!)
**If you already have some weight training experience and need a schedule to stick to, check out my mass building program.
6 – Be Patient
You may have heard certain generations being called the microwave generation. And that’s probably true more today than ever.
We don’t want to spend the time that it takes to create something that’s awesome and sustainable. No, we want it right now.
Many will train hard for a few weeks, or maybe even a few months. But they don’t see the results they want so they give up.
Building muscle is a lifetime commitment. It’s not something that you do for a little while and then quit.
And building muscle requires patience. You’re not going to get huge and jacked overnight. This is a process that will take months and even years because you’re going to be constantly growing and making progress.
Here are some things that will help you stay on track:
- Make small, attainable goals (we’ll talk more about this next!)
- Reward yourself when you reach certain milestones (ex: hit 225 on squats or added a half-inch to your chest)
- Trust the process and keep doing what you’re doing
7 – Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Rest to Gain Muscle
Truth: If you don’t get adequate rest you won’t grow.
It’s really that simple. And a lot of younger lifters like to go out on the weekends and party and all. I get it. But if you’re serious about building muscle, then building muscle must come first.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. But your bodybuilding goals need to be a priority. And a huge part of that is getting adequate (and I’ll tell you why that’s so important below).
This also means keeping your stress low. If you’re stressed out you’re probably not going to sleep well.
Why is sleep important?
Deep sleep is the time when your muscles, body, and cells repair themselves. It’s also a time when your body releases hormones like your testosterone. And you already know that testosterone is needed to build muscle.
So make sure you’re getting adequate sleep each night.
The amount of sleep varies from person to person. Some need eight hours while others are fine on six and a half.
Experiment with different sleep times to see what works for you. Waking up feeling rested with plenty of energy is a good sign.
Here are some tips to help you get restful sleep so that you can ensure that you’re gaining maximum muscle size:
- Go to bed around the same time every night
- Don’t do, listen to, or watch anything that’s going to get your emotions stirred up before bed
- Take a supplement like glutamine or ZMA before bed
8 – Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
It’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to other bodybuilders and weightlifters when you’re just starting out. And there can also be frustrations and jealousy, for example, if your workout partner is making faster gains than you.
On top of that, there’s special media where everyone is posting their best pics. That can be discouraging and make you feel like you’re never going to attain that kind of physique.
But here’s the thing that I want you to understand – we’re all different.
More importantly, the battle is not you against anyone else. The real battle is you against you. And that’s what you need to focus on.
Once you shift your focus to simply being the best version of yourself, everything else will fade away and won’t matter so much. Because you know that you’re giving your best effort and putting in the work. And it will pay off!
So I want to encourage you not focus on others but focus on you.
9 – Set Small, Measurable Goals
If there’s one thing that will help you pack on muscle more than anything it’s having a clear vision of what you want. And to do that you need to make small, measurable goals.
Your goal has to be at a deeper level than just gaining size or getting stronger. Sure, that’s the overall goal. But you need to break it down further into smaller goals so that you can easily track your progress.
This is also a great way to find out what’s working and what’s not. Making these small goals will allow you to quickly shift gears when something isn’t working.
Here are some examples of setting attainable muscle-building goals:
- Go up 5 lbs. each week for the next six weeks on all major lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell rows, and overhead press)
- Gain 10 lbs of muscle within three months (you’ll want to break this down further by tracking this each month to make sure you’re on target)
- Gain an inch in my quads within a month
- Increase my intake of quality calories by 100 calories per day for two weeks (and measure those results)
- Take pics of yourself each week and compare to ensure you’re making visual progress
You’ll notice that each of these goals are measurable. And you can expand on these goals as well. Maybe you want to gain more size in your back or increase your overhead press strength. Write it down and track your progress.
10 – Be Honest with Yourself and Decide How Far You Want to Go
You may decide that you want to compete in bodybuilding someday. Of course, that’s an excellent goal to have.
However, you may also decide that you do not want to compete but just want to continue training hard and becoming a better version of yourself.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The discipline and mindset that weight training and bodybuilding promote will carry over into other aspects of your life.
Either way, be honest with yourself in regards to how far you want to take bodybuilding. Too many say they want to compete but don’t realize that there’s an entirely different level of requirements to do that.
Some will realize that, get discouraged when it gets tough, and give up on weight training completely. I don’t want that to happen to you.
The best approach is to do this because you love to do it. And do it for longevity. The more muscle and strength you have, the better chances you have at being healthy, both physically and mentally.
So it’s okay if you don’t have the desire to compete in bodybuilding. It’s also okay if you decide to compete someday. Just be sure to adapt the principles of building muscle and eating right into a lifetime commitment.
I truly hope this post helps you on your journey to building muscle as a beginner or if you’re just getting back into the game.
When you’re ready to take your training and physique to the next level, I encourage you to take a look at my premium programs:
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