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Last Updated on May 18, 2018

How to Gain Muscle Mass Naturally (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Gain Muscle Mass Naturally (A Step-By-Step Guide)

Summer is approaching and we all yearn for a great shape. The last few months are when it counts the most if you want to bring your A-game on the beach or at the pool.

I’ve coached hundreds of people on how to best build muscle. I know what you want – you wonder how to gain muscle mass as fast as possible, but still in a natural way.

You’ve came to the right place then – but I must admit, we don’t have magic answers. What we do have is scientific workout programs, nutrition coaching and motivating support. Read on to learn how you can increase your muscle mass quickly and naturally.

What is muscle mass?

One of the reasons I joined martial arts classes years ago was that I hoped that training regularly would give me a Bruce Lee body. It didn’t.

I lacked a fundamental understanding about how muscle build up works. Martial arts gave me the necessary skills for self defense and improved my endurance – but it didn’t make me a Dwayne Johnson lookalike.

    What I only later realized is that your muscles only build themselves up on a microsopical level when they need to. And you, as a macroscopic human, can foster that need in your muscles.

    For your muscles to build up, you have to train on a specific rep range and on a specific frequency.

    Healthy vs. Unhealthy muscle gain

    To gain muscles in the first place, you have to put your body under stress. Training itself is not generally healthy for you. You’re losing precious body fluids in the gym, you’re emptying your energy resources and you create micro-tears in your muscles. Only if your body feels uncomfortable, you build muscles in the first place.

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    Losing weight is also an extreme stress situation for your body in the short term. You’re taking in less energy than your body desires. This forces your body to restructure your organism in a way that needs less energy. In a non-scientific term: Your body starts burning fat, if you eat less calories.

    The common denominator of those two scenarios are necessity. Robert Greene, author of the international bestseller 50 Laws of Power calls necessity the ruler of the world. As humans only act when they need to. Necessity implies being under stress.

    This doesn’t have to get philosophical here, but healthy is always relative. Forcing an alcohol-addict to stop drinking may hurt him drastically in the short-term, regarding stress hormones – but in the long-term it might be a great decision when we consider the alternative.

    In the sense of muscle gaining: Muscle gain with severe amounts of meat might be disastrous, but if the alternative is obesity, it can be considered healthy in some form. As it increases the life-expectancy for the individual more than being obese.[1]

    What makes muscle growth healthy is the recovery phase. The pinnacle of a healthy muscle gain would be to do it on a plant-based diet, with plenty of sleep and optimum, stress-reducing personal life.[2] Also with no help of anabolic steroids, of course. But let’s try to look at it step-by-step.

    How to gain muscle mass naturally (Step-by-step guide)

    Here are the 7 steps that you can take today, to achieve maximum, healthy, natural muscle growth – in the shortest time.

    1. Commit yourself to building muscles

    The first step to every long-lasting change is your mindset. This may sound cliché, but if you’re not committed to changing your lifestyle, you might just as well stay on your couch.

    Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. — Abraham Lincoln

    Write down exactly why you want to gain muscles. Is it to impress that crush you have? To get more confidence? To be seen as a leader among your friends? Write all that down and keep it where you can see it every day.

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    Pro tip: Use inspirational pictures to increase the effect.

    2. Set a goal

    While you already have your pen and paper out, write down your goals. There’s something special about writing your goals down on paper. This is another side of commitment.

    Make sure you’re setting your goals the SMART way — Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Time-bound. These are called SMART goals and they work.

    To build muscle mass is not a goal – to increase your bodyweight by 5 kilos until the end of July is. To look hotter is not a goal – to increase your subjective attractiveness from a scale 5/10 to a scale 8/10 is. To measure your success, be sure to take before and after pictures so you can compare your results.

    3. Find the right training routine for you

    I’ve got a client in the fitness center that I manage for whom I just recently designed a full-body workout. After a month, he came up to me and confessed that he isn’t following my training routine anymore. My response was simple: “It’s ok.”

    He was shocked by my answer. He expected me to be frustrated by his actions. I wasn’t. I know that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, and I know that the right training routine is the one that works for you.

    You could have the best workout routine in the world, but if you always have to drag yourself to the gym and never feel excited – it’s not the right routine for you. That’s why we focus on individuality on our plant-based online coaching service .

    While the traditional recommended repetition range for muscle growth is between 6-12 (based on studies of time under tension), there are also studies citing that 5-7 repetitions may be more optimal.[3] The exact same thing goes for training sets and rest periods between those sets.[4]

    I generally would advise you to keep your rest periods between 1-2 minutes. Start with a whole-body training plan (yes, even train your legs) and aim for about 8-12 repetitions as a beginner. When you’re experienced, meaning training more than one year, you can decrease that number of repetitions.

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    Do about three sets per exercises and aim to stay no longer in the gym than 1.5 hours. This way you’re minimizing muscle protein breakdown due to avoiding a long training session and most importantly, you’re not neglecting your personal life.

    4. Be consistent

    Having the right training routine is key because it helps you to be consistent. If you’re going to the gym regularly for 3 years, you will see results. It doesn’t matter if you have the best exercise program or your genetics, commitment will pay off.

    If you are consistent, you will see results. But make sure you consider step number 5.

    5. Focus on progression

    Fun fact: The first gym that I ever trained in was called ‘Progress’. I only understood the true value of this word later.

    You have to realize that progression is the major key when you are trying to build muscles.

    Adding more weight in the long term adds mechanical stress to your muscles. Your body has to see a reason to adapt, a great way to make it adapt is to add mechanical stresses.

    Train hard and train smart.[5]

      6. Eat more of the good stuff

      To build muscles, you need energy. You gain energy through your food which then is transformed into muscle tissue.

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      Eat big, get big.

      To gain muscle, you have to be in a calorie surplus: eat more calories that you actually need. Just make sure these calories are nutrient dense. Eat dried fruits or drink smoothies, as they increase your calorie intake without decreasing your appetite. I suggest you to aim for a calorie surplus of about 200 calories per day. This equals to about 1-2 extra smoothies.

      7. Switch up your routine

      This is similar to progression. Again, you want your body to keep guessing in the long-term. Once you hit a plateau in your training, you have to try a new approach to your training.

      Implement different exercises and train at a different rep-range. Have fun with your training and experiment. You never know when you will find what works for you!

      Summing it up

      Muscle growth is an extremely complex process that involves loads of different physiological functions and variables. You can spend hundreds of hours studying it and barely scratch the surface. But building muscles isn’t that complicated.

      Most people that I know that built a great body in the gym are not renowned scientists – they’re regular people following a proven plan. They have committed themselves to the gym. They are being consistent and they form a routine, while seeking constant progression. You can do this too. Use my advice above and get started building muscle today!

      Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Florian Wüest

      Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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      Last Updated on September 20, 2018

      How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

      How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

      Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

      If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

      1. Breathe

      The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

      • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
      • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
      • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

      Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

      2. Loosen up

      After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

      Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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      3. Chew slowly

      Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

      Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

      Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

      4. Let go

      Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

      The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

      It’s not. Promise.

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      Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

      Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

      21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

      5. Enjoy the journey

      Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

      Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

      6. Look at the big picture

      The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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      Will this matter to me…

      • Next week?
      • Next month?
      • Next year?
      • In 10 years?

      Hint: No, it won’t.

      I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

      Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

      7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

      You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

      Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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      8. Practice patience every day

      Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

      • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
      • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
      • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

      Final thoughts

      Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

      Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

      Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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