Building mass for bodybuilding

A beginner’s guide to building mass for body building

Here are some top tips and techniques for body building by our Fitness Instructor, Ryan Belford.

So you feel you eat well and play the occasional bit of sport, squash, tennis or football and would consider yourself relatively fit and healthy. Not overweight, underweight or out of shape. There may however come a day in your life where you have looked at your body and compared yourself unfavourably to the muscular gentleman across the room, thought that you need a change to the aesthetics of your physique and now is the time to implement it! You then take the first steps of joining a gym and set yourself a goal to look like the aforementioned specimen who has inspired you.

You walk through the doors of the club, laid out with countless hi- tech cardio and weights machines and over the proceeding weeks worry that you need to burn off calories and lose weight in order to see your abs. Your routine then becomes 20 minutes a day on the cross trainer followed by a few weights machines 2 or 3 times a week , still holding on to the same goal but with no direction and clear route to get there. Although you have began your project with drive and intensity, once the results fail to materialise your motivation and attendance decreases.

It is of course massively important to have a target in mind and a goal to aim for, however the more complex the goal, “I want to lose weight, tone up and get bigger” the more complicated your plan must be. In other words rushing to be everything at once can be an off putting amount of hard work as well as complex and contradictory if not done correctly. If however you start with the goal shared by many men, “ I want to build muscle”, then your route and regime suddenly becomes simpler.

Here are (broken down) a number of seemingly obvious but crucial steps to help you build size and muscle so you can BE that guy across the room and in turn inspire someone else!

1) Eating
It is fairly obvious that the more you eat the bigger you get. However you want to get bigger in the appropriate way.
Protein is key for the repair and growth of the muscle so it is of primary importance that you increase your intake as you improve the volume of weight lifted. To be technical you should be looking to double you intake to between 1.5 and 2 grams of animal based protein per pound of body weight on a daily basis. So look at ground beef, steak, eggs, whole milk and cottage cheese as a source. The likes of tuna, skinless chicken and white fish can wait until you are looking to slim to a size where you can see the larger muscle you have been building, but with definition. The target is to build SIZE first.

Try to avoid fast foods at these meats can be up to 90% fat based and hard for the body to digest. Keep it simple and clean.

Your next challenge is to eat up to 5 meals per day, which should look to include around 50 grams of protein. It is obviously hard in most lines of work to find the opportunity to cook this often so try to find a time when you can prepare a large quantity of protein rich packed lunches to last you for the coming days. Make sure there is a quantity of carbohydrates such as rice or pasta (which is easiest to produce on mass) to provide the energy you need to attack your routine.

Don’t however feel you need to make this radical jump to packing down 5 meals from the start as the body won’t be able to process this sudden change. Eat what you can eat and graduate the amount as you increase the weight you are lifting. This will therefore support your energy levels and muscle growth as you go.

2) Sleep
While you are breaking down all your muscle with your heavy lifting, all of your muscle growth comes from the recovery phase which is ultimately eating and sleeping. You NEED to be getting 8 HOURS a night minimum. Basically your muscles get bigger and stronger when you sleep so if you’re not getting enough not only does this impede growth but also your energy levels for the required training and general alertness. In other words a good night sleep can improve not only your body by repairing and strengthening your muscles but your mind. And best of all it requires no effort other than a little discipline in setting aside an appropriate amount of time!

3) Lift hard
Obvious again but there can sometimes be an innate fear of the pain factor that ultimately accompanies lifting. You may therefore see new users picking their preferred exercises and avoiding the harder ones, or working with a weight where the 10 reps they do could easily be 20. Every repetition needs to be hard work so if you set yourself a goal of 3 sets of 10 then you should really be struggling to complete 10 the second or third time round. Our optimum range for building muscle size is 8 – 12 reps for 3 to 5 sets.

Ideally the exercises you choose should be mainly compound, meaning an exercise that works across more than one joint and recruits multiple muscles. Once you start building a bit of size then you can start adding more isolation or single muscle focussed moves. To begin however you want to just be looking to hit those large muscle groups with moves like bench presses, squats , deadlifts, pull ups (or lat pull downs) shoulder presses and bent over rows. Try a routine involving most or all of these exercises for each workout up to 3 times a week allowing at least a day’s recovery. Don’t worry though, as the smaller muscles like biceps and triceps will still be worked in the process. Once you’ve been doing this routine for a few weeks you should notice a change in size and increased muscle development. Keep increasing the weight and calorie intake until you can then start looking at increased and more specific workouts like the dreaded “Leg Days”!

Finally, it’s never a bad idea to break up your routine. Wait a few weeks while gradually increasing weight and trying to maintain your target repetitions. You may then ultimately find you reach a plateu where you hit what seems your limit within that 8 – 12 range. Drop your range down to 3 – 5 max and up the weight considerably but safely. After a week of this you will have improved your strength and muscle growth and now be able to lift heavier within your optimum range.

4)  Cardio
At the beginning of this article I said that the simplest way to move toward a target is to keep the goals simple and not try for too much at the same time. This means that hitting the treadmill to shed that extra fat is, at this stage, and pardon the pun, getting off track. It will be wasting your hard earned gains. If you want to pack on some muscle and size then you will be ultimately burning addition calories anyway when you’re not working out as the increase in muscle will boost your metabolism. Focus on the lifting although if you want to stay fit and mobile then a couple of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions to supplement your workout will not hurt, just on a different day so as not to exhaust yourself beforehand or delay your refuelling after, which should ideally be within 45 minutes and contain Carbohydrates and Protein.

5) Note taking
If you have ever known anyone who has been to Weight Watchers or a similar style dieting class you will also know they are given a food diary. This is because once you write something down you are more conscious of what you are doing or eating. When you are more conscious, the consequences suddenly have more impact. “I have to write it down that I’ve eaten that cake” or “there will be a gap on my programme sheet where I’ve gone home before working my abs”. You then realise that you are lapsing as you are doing it, or with any luck before you do, rather than automatically pushing ahead oblivious to the fact or effect. Your diary makes you think long enough to stop such a lapse or provides you with the evidence as to why your programme is not working. If you can see what to change you can more easily change it.
For the purpose of mass building, you can mark down what you have eaten and the time (as specific as you like) as well as the weight you have lifted, the repetitions reached and exercise itself. Then look to mark down the improvements to your lifting and keep your diet appropriate and regular. It’ll then be easy to see if you start slipping and the statistics in black and white should give you the motivation you need to get going again.

6) Have a goal
And so we return to the beginning where we examined what might incentivise you to look to bulk up and put on some real muscle. In this case it was an imaginary well built man that instigates your own desire for body change. It could be to look like a certain film star such as Brad Pitt or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it could be to impress women or it could be just feel better and more powerful in yourself.

It has long been felt that brides to be are some of the hardest working trainers for PTs. This is because they have some serious goals and a time frame to meet them in, such as hitting their perfect weight, fitting into their ideal wedding dress and just looking at their absolute best for their perfect day as those photos will last a lifetime. So find a body type you wish to look like from an athlete, fitness model or actor, pin it up somewhere prominent as a reminder. Then take a picture of yourself as you are at the beginning of your journey. You now have a starting point and a finish line … and you now know the route to get there!

If you would like to find out more about joining Exeter Golf and Country Club gym, please click here.  To find out about our Personal Trainers, please click here, or to contact Ryan Belford, please email

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