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.
3) Military press.
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.
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.