A Big Mistake When it Comes to Gaining Muscle Mass

December 15, 2009

Two guys gain the same amount of muscle over a 6 month period of time. Both guys are exactly 6’3″, 190 pounds and both are at the exact same body fat level. They both put on 6 pounds of muscle in 6 months, yet one guy looks outstanding and the other looks almost visibly the same as he did 6 months earlier. How can this be? How can two guys be at the same low body fat level and put on the same amount of muscle and look drastically different?

Gaining-Muscle

[Here is an outstanding example of muscle density. Notice how this athlete has compact, dense and an angular look to his muscles? This is much different that the typical rounded puffy bodybuilding look. This angular compact look is much more impressive than big and bulky.]

Gaining Muscle “Where You Want it” Matters Most

If someone came up to me and offered me $1 million dollars to put on 20 pounds of muscle in 12 months, here is what I would do. I would concentrate on the “big” lifts like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. I have no doubt that I could put on 20 pounds of pure muscle in 12 months. The problem would be that at least 15 of those 20 pounds of muscle would be added to my legs, butt, and hips. The rest of that weight would be spread evenly over the rest of my body. Here is the weird thing…visually, I wouldn’t look drastically different.

Gains Spread Over Your Entire Body Make a Small Impact

The irony about gaining muscle evenly over your entire body is that it creates a slightly bigger version of what you already look like now. Each muscle will look a little better individually, but as a whole package you won’t look much different. In fact if you gain muscle in your dominant muscle groups at a quicker rate than your weak muscle groups, you will take a step backward visually.

I Think the Idea of Just Sticking to the Basics is a Mistake

The common advice of just sticking to the big lifts like deadlifts, squats, and bench presses is great if you just want to add mass and don’t care what you wind up looking like. In fact, this is your quickest route to putting on a lot of weight. The problem lies in the fact that you are hoping that everything will look right after all the weight is added. I have seen beginners use this approach time and time again and wind up having the “professional wrestler” look…big butt, upper legs, hips, big around the mid section, massive traps…you get the idea.

“Want a Bigger Chest, Then Get Bigger Legs!”…I Disagree!

I have read this statement dozens of times when it comes to increasing the size of a muscle. Many experts claim that the fastest way to put muscle on your chest and arms is to put a bunch of mass on your legs, hips, and butt. The problem is that your legs hips and butt will typically grow at a much faster rate than your chest and arms. So compared to the rest of you body, your chest and arms are proportionally smaller.

[Just a quick video intermission to break up the post. Some old school techno…”Children” by Robert Miles…one of the best trance songs ever recorded.]

Muscle Specialization: A Smart Way to Create a Desired Look

As discussed before, adding 6 pounds to your shoulders, arms and chest can transform the way you look. Spreading that same amount of muscle over your entire body, not as visually impressive. The only way to insure that this is accomplished is through muscle specialization…focusing the majority of your efforts on 1-2 muscle groups, while just maintaining everything else.

Higher Volume on Muscles That You Want to Grow

I like the approach of increasing the volume of muscles that you need to grow and backing WAY down on everything else. If you want a bigger chest with a special focus on increasing your upper chest, then dramatically increase the volume on various incline presses, incline flyes, hammer strength machines, etc. To compensate for that increase in volume, back off a bit when it comes to some of your other body parts.

How Much Volume for Targeted Muscle Groups?

You can go as high as 15-20 sets per workout for muscle groups you are trying to add size to. You can even setup your workouts so that the targeted muscle group gets worked more often than the other muscle groups. I also suggest using a combination of free weights, cables, and machines when aiming for muscle growth.

How Much Volume for Everything Else?

This is tougher to answer, because it depends upon your genetics. I have some friends that never have to work their calves because they are naturally huge. I never do sets for traps or lower chest. For the most part you want to work each muscle group at least a little each week. My suggestion would be to pick 1-2 exercises for 3-5 sets of 5 reps…and do maybe 12-20 total sets per body part each week to maintain. You could probably get away with less than this.

I Recommend Doing This in 2-3 Month Bursts

What I think works best is to specialize for 2-3 months on a body part, then have a more balanced routine for a 1-2 months (as a precaution to insure that you don’t neglect the other muscles). What you will find is that you can systematically build an ideal physique by giving selective attention to body parts that need extra work.

Note: I realize this is really general info. I am working on an entire premium (low-cost) report that covers building muscle while staying lean and ripped through the entire process. I will launch it in January, but you will have to be on my newsletter to access this. To get on my newsletter, you just need to click the banner below and download “Vacation Body Blueprint”. If you have already downloaded this, you’re good.

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Rusty Moore

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

nick April 7, 2012 at 2:51 am

is it really bad to work legs if you work in the 1-3 rep sets? Do you recommend that a 16 year old follow these workout principles?

Oreh April 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Heyy im a skinny fat. I do the vacational blue print. And im down to 120lbs now. Im 135lbs before. Its just 2 weeks and i have lost that 15lbs. Some says I look so thin, Some says i look sexy. But still i dont have visible abs. Im 5ft 6inch and 120lbs now. I also dont have that mass in the chest. Thats why i think I look thin. But for me im pretty much lean. I gain strength while losing that 15lbs. I just want to add mass on my chest. So what should i do? One of your article says that higher the volume of a part of a body you wanted to put mass. My routine goes like this

Day1
Back and chest
Incline dumbells 5sets for 5 reps
Incluine bench press 5 sets for 5/4/3/2/1 reps as the weight increases
Pulups 5sets for 5 reps
Dumbel row 5 sets for 5/4/3/2/1 reps as the weight
Abs
Hanging leg raise 5sets 15-20reps

Day2
Shoulder tris and bis
Seated Dumbel press 5sets of 5reps
Standing military press 5 sets for 5/4/3/2/1 reps as the weight
Dips 5 sets for 5 reps
Close grip bench press 5 sets for 5/4/3/2/1 reps as the weight
Barbel curls 5sets for 5 reps
Dumbel alternating curls 5 sets for 5/4/3/2/1 reps as the weight

I do it for 4-6times a week. I do fast twice a week. So what should i do if i want to put mass to my chest. Because my chest dont have size and dont even have definition at all.
Please help Rusty. I cant buy your program because I dont have creditcards and stuff. Im just a student. So please reply to this question. Thanks1

Joe Carbup June 29, 2012 at 10:49 am

@Ryan

“I am skeptical, however, because doing big lifts like squat have been shown to have the largest increase in serum testosterone and HGH levels. Muscle growth is next to impossible without an increase in these hormones. How can muscle mass be added in relatively small muscle groups without being augmented significantly by an increase in test. and HGH? Thoughts?”

The answer is found by parsing your explanation. You note that big lifts “have been shown to have the largest increase in serum testosterone and HGH levels. Muscle growth is next to impossible without an increase in these hormones. ”

I’ve seen a lot of people reach this same erroneous conclusion, that because big lifts release the MOST of these hormones, then ONLY big lifts cause release of these hormones. They will naturally cause more increase because you’re working the largest muscle groups. If you’re working on smaller muscle groups, you presumably don’t need as much and a lesser amount of hormone is released. Note that my interpretation is entirely that of a layman newbie.

@PrimalFit
“There is nothing more unattractive to a woman then a guy who cares about his body image so much that he has to do curls all day to get bigger arms while neglecting the rest.”

LOL. Thanks for letting us know what EVERY WOMAN ON THE PLANET feels. That simplifies everything!

P.S. For those who have this bizarre idea that comment threads should be left as-is for all posterity, I disagree. Internet posts can be alive or dead. Keeping them alive is a beautiful thing :^).

Joe Carbup June 29, 2012 at 11:14 am

Actually, the discussion of hormone release due to workouts may be moot anyway:
“Another ‘Bro-Science’ Myth Busted
“While certain training strategies can spike post workout release of GH (and testosterone and IGF-1), there is no evidence to show that these spikes in any way enhance muscle growth or strength gains.”
http://anthonycolpo.com/?p=162

Jason April 10, 2013 at 10:17 am

Great article going to give this a try, just to be clear 15 to 20 sets for chest would be 3 to 5 sets of incline dumbell press, 3 to 5 sets of incline dumbell fly, 3 to 5sets of bench and 3 to 5 sets of dumbell fly?

j August 24, 2013 at 1:02 am

Rusty,
Who Is The Athlete In The Picture?

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