Muscle: How to Gain 20lbs of Lean Muscle Naturally

 

“The big secret? Just train your ass off!” – Jay Cutler



I recently stepped onto the scales and weighed in at 205lbs of lean, mean muscle.

That’s quite an achievement as six months ago I was just 185 and at 6ft3 that’s pretty skinny.

I realized I had made it, and had 5lbs to go to achieve my target weight of 210, where I’ll plateau for a while and build strength before going on.

So how did I do it? How did I build 20lbs worth of lean muscle in just half a year?



I followed what I call “The Iron Triangle”. Lift big, eat big, rest big.

I must have been in the gym every day, right? I must have been eating real carefully and methodically and resting 8 hours per night before hitting it hard again, mustn’t I?

No on all counts.

I worked out on every third day, ate a diet based on general principles rather than watching what I ate and only took one supplement regularly, and rested plenty. At least 72 hours between workouts.

But when I did go to the gym I lifted big. I discovered 6 great compound exercises I would do to work my full body out in one session, and then I ate and rested to recover.

It’s not that hard if you follow the program, but it isn’t so easy that you can do it without effort. It takes desire, a fair amount of discipline and six months at least.

I’ve outlined the program below for you to follow. I’m not saying you’ll get the exact same results as I did, because everyone’s body is different. What I am saying is this: it worked for me, and if you stick to it then it will work for you.

Principle 1: Nutrition.

During this time period you’re going to be eating lots of protein rich, muscle-building foods. I recommend you stock up on fish, steak, chicken breast and milk, and get yourself a good whey protein to aid with recovery.

Some people like to claim whey is unnecessary or doesn’t work, but I disagree. All I have to back this up is my own experience – when I use whey muscle soreness is significantly reduced and I recover faster, when I don’t I suffer. It’s that simple.

You’ll want to eat more than your caloric maintenance load per day. That means you need to figure out what that is and eat at least 500 calories more per day, preferably 1000. Figure it out by using this calculator.

You’ll want to feed your body at least 4 times a day. Plan your meals accordingly.

Principle 2: Rest.

During this program I worked out only once every three days. This workout pretty much encompasses the entire body, so if you go hard (which you should), you’ll need adequate time to recover and let your muscles grow back stronger before pounding them again.

Since I followed a BIG LIFTS philosophy, taking my muscles to their absolute limit, I was unable to lift any more frequently than this. Doing so can actually hinder progress if growth is your aim.

Follow this workout frequency and sleep at least 8 hours per night. If you feel a tear or rip in a muscle, rest and recover, do not keep working it if it feels like an injury or you will end up with a long-term injury on your hands and possibly mess yourself up on a long-term basis.

Rest is growth. Make sure you do it.

3) Principle 3: Big, compound lifts.

The idea with doing compound exercises is that they work multiple muscle groups in one. The opposite of these are isolation lifts such as dumbbell curls or tri-extesnions.

I have identified six compound lifts which have allowed me to work almost my full body out in one sitting. I usually also add one isolation exercise on the end to make sure and work any body part I didn’t feel the burn in during the main workout.

What are the six compound lifts?

1) Bench press.

2) Squat.

3) Military press.

4) Deadlift.

5) Lat pulldown.

6) Seated cable row.

Each of the above links leads to a bodybuilding.com demonstration of how to safely execute the exercise with correct form. Don’t mess around when lifting heavy weights, you do it right or you injure yourself, there’s no middle way.


I personally decided on a 6×4 approach whereby I  did six reps of each exercise four times. The first set would always be at half my maximum lifting capacity in order to warmup and prevent injury. You need to figure out what lifting pattern is right for you.

Getting results:

20lbs in six months doesn’t sound like a lot, but you will notice a huge difference when you look in the mirror. 20lbs on your frame may look even more impressive depending on your height. I’m a tall guy (6ft 3) and it’s noticeable, so if you aren’t as tall it will look even better.

So there you have it guys. If you follow that workout plan you WILL get results, and you will begin to see a big difference in 10-12 weeks. If that sounds like too long for you, don’t even bother with weight lifting as a discipline, because it is a lifelong commitment to gain and maintain.

Don’t skip any part of this iron triangle philosophy. All three parts – nutrition, lifting and rest are essential.

If you stick with it long enough, you’ll get the results you want and finally bury the skinny guy under pounds of lean, mean muscle.


I’m interested in hearing the results you get with this or any other programs you have used to gain lean muscle. Leave a comment below to fill us in.

Desire. Decide. Persist.

G-Freedom

 

14 Comments

  1. Hi, Gavin. Good post.

    I'm in almost the same boat, we have the same height, but i'm now at 185 pounds sikinny-FAT.

    What do you recommend? Cut the fat firts (i do know that it is bad for testosterone production) for the slow bulk after?

    And was the rest between sets? Do you lifted until failure? What are the isolation exercises?

    Sorry for too many questions!

    I'm thinking on the scheme:

    Incline bench
    Weighted chin ups
    Standing press
    Sprints (other days)

  2. Hi, Gavin. Good post.

    I'm in almost the same boat, we have the same height, but i'm now at 185 pounds sikinny-FAT.

    What do you recommend? Cut the fat firts (i do know that it is bad for testosterone production) for the slow bulk after?

    And was the rest between sets? Do you lifted until failure? What are the isolation exercises?

    Sorry for too many questions!

    I'm thinking on the scheme:

    Incline bench
    Weighted chin ups
    Standing press
    Sprints (other days)

  3. Mercelo,

    185lbs and 6ft 3 is exactly where I started. I was never skinny fat, always lean and worked out most of my life on and off. You'll get there but it may take a year – so i hope you're ready to dedicate yourself to a minimum one year effort.

    I recommend the six compound exercises listed in this article. They really are highly effective and you'll see results quickly. I can't advise you on bulking or fat cutting as I have done neither, I just seemed to gain lean muscle without paying any specific attention to either bulking or shredding. I just ate a lot and worked out heavy.

    Isolation exercises I prefer are preacher curls, sometimes tri dips and sometimes ab work.

    Good luck and do keep me posted on your progress!

  4. Mercelo,

    185lbs and 6ft 3 is exactly where I started. I was never skinny fat, always lean and worked out most of my life on and off. You'll get there but it may take a year – so i hope you're ready to dedicate yourself to a minimum one year effort.

    I recommend the six compound exercises listed in this article. They really are highly effective and you'll see results quickly. I can't advise you on bulking or fat cutting as I have done neither, I just seemed to gain lean muscle without paying any specific attention to either bulking or shredding. I just ate a lot and worked out heavy.

    Isolation exercises I prefer are preacher curls, sometimes tri dips and sometimes ab work.

    Good luck and do keep me posted on your progress!

  5. Thanks man. I just started it today! Rested 1 minute between sets but i think i need extend, other sets suffered. And i finished it lying on the floor, man! I lifted to failure on every set, i think its too much for recovery! Will go to failure only in the last, maybe.

  6. Thanks man. I just started it today! Rested 1 minute between sets but i think i need extend, other sets suffered. And i finished it lying on the floor, man! I lifted to failure on every set, i think its too much for recovery! Will go to failure only in the last, maybe.

  7. Marcelo,

    I'm a big believer that recovery is as important as the workout itself. That's why I work out 1 day and take 2 days off. You need to give the muscle time to heal and rebuild.

    Why not try two minutes between sets? The extra oxygen your body has time to take in will make a huge difference. I sometimes lift to failure too, but I'm pretty good at judging what my absolute max is and I always slightly under lift. I don't want to risk any injury as I get paid a day rate and if I can't work, I won't get paid.

    Try the extended rest period between sets. Even an extra 30 seconds helps if you're pressed for time.

  8. Marcelo,

    I'm a big believer that recovery is as important as the workout itself. That's why I work out 1 day and take 2 days off. You need to give the muscle time to heal and rebuild.

    Why not try two minutes between sets? The extra oxygen your body has time to take in will make a huge difference. I sometimes lift to failure too, but I'm pretty good at judging what my absolute max is and I always slightly under lift. I don't want to risk any injury as I get paid a day rate and if I can't work, I won't get paid.

    Try the extended rest period between sets. Even an extra 30 seconds helps if you're pressed for time.

  9. Yeah, i will be trying with different resting times and lifting just about under failure, and see what works best. Time to lose that ugly beer belly!
    Thank you again!
    And keep the goof work on your blog!

  10. Yeah, i will be trying with different resting times and lifting just about under failure, and see what works best. Time to lose that ugly beer belly!
    Thank you again!
    And keep the goof work on your blog!

  11. It's funny because I used these exact same exercises to pack on 20 pounds of muscle in 6 months. I'm about as tall as you but you're definitely bigger, now I weigh 180 pounds, and like you, I want to get to around 200 pounds before balancing it out. Awesome!

  12. It's funny because I used these exact same exercises to pack on 20 pounds of muscle in 6 months. I'm about as tall as you but you're definitely bigger, now I weigh 180 pounds, and like you, I want to get to around 200 pounds before balancing it out. Awesome!

  13. Timothy,

    I know how it feel to be tall and lean, it's pretty hard for guys like us to appear “big” because of the length of our limbs and height. However, 20lbs is a large gain in six months so congrats on that and keep going. 200lb is ideal at this height, I'm currently about 210 (15lbs heavier than this pic).

    I've stopped focusing on size now as I'm happy and am focused on just building insane strength.

  14. Timothy,

    I know how it feel to be tall and lean, it's pretty hard for guys like us to appear “big” because of the length of our limbs and height. However, 20lbs is a large gain in six months so congrats on that and keep going. 200lb is ideal at this height, I'm currently about 210 (15lbs heavier than this pic).

    I've stopped focusing on size now as I'm happy and am focused on just building insane strength.

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