Gaining pure muscle sounds simple, but it is far easy. How many people do you know start working out at the gym, only to quit 2 weeks later when they become frustrated with their lack of progression? When it comes to packing on muscle, there are 4 important things that you need to focus on to increase muscle mass. If you aren’t focusing on these 4 things, you probably will not grow.
First and foremost, muscles need to be stimulated to grow by training near maximum intensity. Training at a high intensity physiologically forces the body adapt to the stress you have put on it. It is best get the heaviest lifts done right after a thorough warm-up and should be taken near failure, or until full range of motion can not be achieved. The only way the body will stronger and more muscular is if you give it a reason to. Heavy sets near failure with compound movements will signal an anabolic response. To really let the testosterone flow you should be failing within 3-6 reps for 3-6 sets. Use exercises such as squats and dead lifts of all kinds, bench press, any row variation and overhead press.
Volume sets should also be included near the tail end of the workout. Remember, hypertrophy is directly proportional to the amount of blood that can be forced into the muscle. Isolate muscles that are lagging behind and force as much blood into them as possible. This is achieved by constant moderate tension over a long period of time, while performing the exercise at full range of motion. Obviously, the rep range is going to be a little higher to achieve the volume pump. 3-6 sets of 8-12 reps, even as high as 20 reps should get the job done. Increase the weight if you can perform more than 20 reps with proper form.
Intense training means absolutely nothing if the body is not fed the proper nutrients. Perhaps the most difficult part of gaining muscle mass is eating the proper types and amounts of food. I'm sure you have heard it a thousand times “you are what you eat”, but it is the absolute truth. So if you want to be lean and muscular you should obviously avoid the Doritos and Oeros and take in a lot of protein (1.2-1.5g per pound of body weight should enough for most people). But, no matter how much protein you consume, muscle cannot be built without a caloric surplus. Obviously in order to gain, more energy needs to be eaten than the body is burning. During a bulking phase, an extra 300-500 calories per day, every day, should result in steady weight gain for most people. At a 500 calorie surplus per day should result in gaining 1-2 pounds per week.
The final point is perhaps the most neglected for most people. You will not grow if you do not get enough sleep, plain and simple. Keep in mind that the majority of natural anabolic hormones are released during deep sleep. Sleep is when the body is repairing itself from most of the damage of the training session. If you are sleeping 5 hours or less per night, you will most likely never going to grow because the body is too stressed. Lifting too much and not sleeping enough will inevitably cause exercise burnout and/or overtraining of the central nervous system. The magic number for most people (based on average sleep cycles) is actually 7 hours, not 8 like we have always been told. You might think that more sleep is better, but more than 9 hours doesn’t seem to have any additional benefit for most people. Beyond 9 hours, studies have shown diminishing returns. So it seems your mom was right when she was nagging not to over-sleep.
In review, the 4 things you need to know to gain mass are
1. Lift heavy with compound movements
2. Force blood into muscles with high volume sets with constant tension
3. Eat at a caloric surplus and eat plenty of protein
4. Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night.
Stay consistent and persistent and you undoubtedly will see results!