Rule #1: Building Muscle Mass Requires SMART Goals
Wanting to add more muscle mass is a good goal, but it’s vague. SMART goals are designed to ensure you can actually reach them. Here’s how to make your muscle mass goal smarter:
Specific. Do you want particular muscles to get bigger? Are there areas of your body you want to create more definition?
Measurable. It’s reasonable to gain 1-2 pounds of muscle a month. Decide how many months you will invest in this goal and pick your pounds accordingly. Remember you might gain pounds faster at first, so don't set your long-term weekly goals based on the first few weeks of gains.
Achievable. Consider what else you have going on in the coming months. Adjust your goals accordingly.
Relevant. Remind yourself why you want to reach this goal. If it’s hard to stay on track, find ways to remember your reason on a daily basis, like hanging a picture of the physique you want where you’ll see it.
Time Bound. Determine how long you want to spend on this goal. Make a plan on your calendar in that timeframe. A goal is not goal unless it is time activated.
Rule #2: Be Prepared
No one builds muscle mass by accident. If you want to reach your SMART muscle gain goals, you’ll need to have a plan and stick to it. Your plan will need to include a muscle mass workout program and a nutrition program, plus you’ll need to factor in more rest.
Besides your planning, you’ll need to have access to the right gym equipment. Strength training equipment and a wide range of free weights are important.
Rule #3: Modify Workout Plan
Have you ever heard of a fitness plateau? That’s what it’s called when you’re working hard and a regular at the gym, but you just aren’t making visible progress towards your goals. Often, small adjustments will make the difference.
Some simple but effective changes you can make to your workout regimen to add muscle are:
> Start with your free-weight exercises, then move onto machines
> Ask for feedback on your form since it’s easy to stand, grip, or lift improperly
> Do more compound exercises because they are simple and let you increase weights faster
> Lift heavier weights using more muscles instead of isolating a few and lifting less
> Try to move slowly as you lift weights
> Change your routine every 6-8 weeks because otherwise your muscle adapt to your usual exercises and progress slows down
> Pick exercises that pair large body parts (like your shoulders) with smaller muscle groups (like your traps)
Rule #4: Eat to Gain Muscle, Not Lose It
It’s easier to gain weight in the form of fat than it is to put on muscle. Just like with weight loss, what you eat matters. You’ll also need to be eating more calories than you are burning. A great rule of thumb is to have your diet be 12 to 15 percent protein, 55 to 60 percent carbs, and 25 to 30 percent fats.
Of course, not all calories are equal. Opt for healthy protein, carbs that are nutrient dense (like whole grains,) and fats that are good for you. Basically, aim to eat meals like steak and potatoes with greens. Snack on proteins like nuts or meats between meals, and definitely find a few good protein smoothie recipes.
Rule #5: Hit Snooze
Believe it or not, rest is one of the most important factors when building muscle mass. You need to take at least one day a week off from working out so your muscles have to adapt and rebuild. Avoid performing concentrated exercises on the same body parts two days in a row for the same reason.
Muscle building is a lot of work for your body. Getting anywhere from 9-11 hour of sleep a night is recommended. If that’s not possible, don’t dip below 8 hours. Your muscles need it.