I have been working out for over five years and until recently have never broken the 150 pound mark. In fact, only seven months ago I weighed 130 pounds despite having been trying for years to gain weight. I would gain five or ten pounds. Then, one of two things would happen:
- I would be afraid of my abs going away and try to diet the fat off resulting in losing all the weight I gained.
- Something would happen in my life causing me to be unable to consistently eat and I would lose the weight.
It was a vicious, discouraging cycle.
In the past seven months, I have put on twenty pounds of mostly muscle and, more importantly, been able to hold it. What changed? Honestly, not a whole lot. However, the few elements of my routine that did change had a HUGE impact.
Before I get into the elements of my routine that changed (my unconventional mass tips), I want to point you in the direction of some good articles on gaining muscle that will get you started on your journey.
Now that you have, at least, a basic understanding of what it takes to gain mass, my tips build upon that with things that I have learned over five years of failing to gain weight.
Unconventional Mass Tips
Get Your Health Right
As I mentioned in The Long Road to Health, I have been fighting health problems over the past few years some of which include my hormones being all out of whack. As soon as my testosterone and thyroid levels got in the normal range, my body magically started responding to my training and eating. Couple that with as my iron levels slowly decrease, I am getting hungrier and hungrier with more energy and mental clarity than I have had since high school and you have a recipe for getting stronger, putting on mass, and feeling better. If you had told me a year ago, that something as simple as my iron levels was causing me so much trouble I would have never believed you, but now I see and continue to see how much impact iron overload was really having on everything from my mood to my gym gains.
Long story short, get some blood work done, get any lingering issues you have going on fixed, and gain some fucking muscle!
Take Your Time
Every time I tried to gain mass, I would plan out a diet and training program for twelve weeks of mass gaining and then plan to either cruise or cut down the fat for the next twelve weeks. Guess what? The shit never worked. For me, it has taken seven months of dedicated eating (Harder than it sounds), slowly increasing calories, hard workouts, and patience. The short bulk then cut/cruise cycles simply didn’t work for me.
Screw Your Abs[quote title=”Mark Rippetoe”]Razor abs on a skinny guy are like really nice clothes on a fat girl. Better for her to spend the money on quality diet and exercise advice, and better for you to get your squat up to 405 before you start timing your macronutrients and really “dialing in” your physique.[/quote]
Admittedly, my abs were hard for me to let go. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean get fat as hell. However, I do mean it was impossible for me to stay super lean and gain muscle. I had to give up the six pack. The two goals were simply mutually exclusive for me. Honestly, giving them up wasn’t that hard. Once I started gaining some muscle, I realized I like the more powerful feeling of increased muscle mass much more than I enjoy having abs.
Hire a Trainer
I spent years taking programs written by experts, adding a shitload of extra exercises, and making no progress. All this did was result in me out working my ability to recover which translates to No Gains. Then, I hired a trainer. He immediately decreased my amount of work and had me start focusing more on the shit that matters and less on the shit that doesn’t. His guidance and getting my health on the right track have been the two biggest game changers in my gym life since I started lifting back in 2011.
Now before you go to your local globo gym and hire the first muscle bound guy (or girl) you see, STOP! I mean for you to hire a real trainer not the douchebag at the local gym who has his clients squatting on a Bosu ball. I mean for you to hire someone who loves training people and getting killer results. I mean for you to hire someone who knows what the hell they are talking about. It does not matter if they are online or in-person. Just make sure they know what they are doing.
How do you do that?
For an online trainer, the first thing I looked at was what kind of content they put out (YouTube, Blog, and Social Media). If it wasn’t inline with my goals or was obvious bullshit, I gave them no further consideration. Then, I looked at their training philosophy. If it sounded interesting or was based on tried and true programming I had heard of before, I gave them consideration. For examples of good online trainers, check out Jordan Syatt, Starting Strength, Power Athlete, and Kabuki Strength.
For in-person trainers, either go with someone who is well known in the industry or do your research. Look at their clients. Are they fit? Are they strong? Are they where you want to be? Spend some time watching the trainer train people in the gym. Talk to the people he or she is training. Does the trainer look competent? Are the clients happy? Do Your Research!
No matter if you are trying to gain muscle mass or are just reading this for the hell of it, please take the time to get your health in order. It has been the single biggest upgrade to my life that I have ever made.
If you are on the muscle gain journey, give these tips a shot and let me know how they work for you!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or fitness professional. I am just outlining what has worked for me. Don’t be an idiot.