How to Quickly Gain the Ideal Amount of Muscle Mass for Your Body Type

November 4, 2007

I guess I had to write this article sooner or later. My entire philosophy is to avoid excessive muscle mass.

I believe in a physique of average size, but with outstanding muscle tone. So why I am writing this post? Well…I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are guys who do want to add a bit more muscle, but they don’t want to look sloppy in the process.

Muscle Mass Navy Seals
[In my opinion, soldiers of elite military units like the Navy Seals have the ideal body size]

Training for Function Typically Is The Way to Ideal Physique

When I say train for function, I am not talking about just strength. I mean overall function…the ability to lift heavy and to run a few miles as well as perform sports at a high level.

To perform at your highest level, you simply can’t have a lot of muscle mass. I put up that picture of the Navy Seals, not because I like war. I showed you that picture, because these guys are lean for a reason.

If they were big and muscular guys, they would be slow and ineffective…they are not. These guys are about as bad-ass as they come!

Training for Mass is Okay as Long as You Don’t Go Overboard

I realize that there are many younger guys who want to put on some mass in a hurry.

This is fine, but you will want to avoid two things. One…don’t put on a bunch of fat in the process. Two…don’t get caught in the trap that you need to get bigger and bigger.

These are both big mistakes in my opinion. When you add a lot of fat to your body along with the muscle, you will quickly look less attractive to women.

I’m not just talking about your body. Your face loses that angular handsome look when you put on body fat. Also…gaining muscle is kind of addicting…for some reason it is easy to get caught in the trap that you never feel big enough.

Gaining Your First 10-20 Pounds of Muscle is Easy

If you are a younger guy (17-22) who is just beginning to to train, you are going to quickly get results. What will happen is that you will put on 10 to 20 pounds of muscle your first year if you are trying to gain muscle mass.

This obviously differs with each individual, but this first 10-20 pounds is the muscle your body was meant to have in my opinion. These days we live a sedentary lifestyle for the most part.

This first surge of muscle growth is what you probably were meant to have if we were still “hunters and gatherers”. This is not excessive muscle.

Guys with bigger frames may even put on 20+ pounds of muscle quickly when they first workout. This is not excessive muscle either. A guy like The Rock is naturally going to be bigger than Brad Pitt, neither of them have excessive muscle…they have about the right amount for their body types.

After That Initial Surge of Muscle, Gains Slow Down Substantially

When it becomes excessively hard to gain muscle, this is when you should focus on strength and performance. After you gain that natural amount of muscle mass, from this point forward try to gain strength without getting bigger.

This is what will refine those muscles and give you a really sharp look. You will want to focus more on cardio as well. As you become stronger over the years, you will display more and more muscle tone.

I remember taking a trip to San Diego when I was younger and I saw a gentleman in the Coast Guard who had to be 50 years old. The guy was about 6 feet tall and probably no more than 180 pounds…to this day, he had the most visually impressive physique I have ever seen.

Training for Mass is Different Than Training for Strength

When you train for mass you do want to get stronger, but you have to focus on volume as well. Have you ever seen some of the lighter weight classes in an Olympic Lifting?

These men and women concentrate on getting stronger without putting on mass. They do this by diet, but they also must keep their volume and reps low so they don’t go up to a higher weight class. When you train for mass, you must train for volume and you have to keep your reps in the 6-12 range for the most part.

So to train for mass, you want to get stronger and more proficient in the 6-12 reps range…stay away from the low reps.

The lower reps are useful for tone and muscle density, once you have achieved the level of muscle mass you desire.

Eating for Muscle Mass…This is Where it Gets Tricky!

Don’t get me wrong…it is really easy to eat a ton and gain muscle mass…the tricky part is gaining muscle without gaining too much body fat.

I am not a big fan of eating six times per day, but it is a proven way to put on muscle mass. So lets talk calories…a general rule of thumb is 18 calories per pound if you want to gain muscle mass.

If you weigh 180 pounds (82kg), you would be eating around 3,200 calories per day.

How Much Protein Per Day for Gaining Muscle Mass?

This is the most discussed subject in bodybuilding circles. Studies have shown that a “natural” athlete can only digest around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day.

It is actually closer to .8 grams per pound, but 1 gram is easier to compute. So that same 180 pound athlete would need to eat 180 grams of protein per day to gain mass. This probably sounds low to a lot of people.

Keep in mind that bodybuilding magazines get a huge amount of revenue from supplement sales in the form of protein powders, amino acid tablets, meal replacement powders, etc. I have no incentive to give you false information, I have researched this in depth and this really is a good place to start as far as protein goes.

How Many Calories and How Much Protein Per Meal?

Here is where eating strategically will pay off big time for you. A really basic way of eating would be to eat 6 meals of 30 grams of protein and 530 calories…I don’t think this is the best way to go.

I would recommend eating your largest meals in the morning and right after you workout.

Your body has been in a fasted state all night, so it makes sense that you would be able to get away with more calories in the morning. You also have a window of opportunity right after you workout where you can utilize more protein and calories.

The One Hour Window of Opportunity After You Workout

For gaining muscle mass, this is your most important meal of the day by far. You want to eat or drink a quick absorbing protein source right after your workout.

You actually want to eat some sort of High Glycemic carbohydrate as well. You basically want to get quick digesting nutrients into your body as quickly as possible after you workout. Your muscles will absorb a lot more nutrients than normal during this period of time.

This will really help insure that your muscles recover quickly and help you during your upcoming workouts. Avoid any form of fat during this post-workout meal as it will slow down the absorption of the nutrients into your bloodstream.

This is a great time for a big protein shake mixed with fruit juice. I used to mix vanilla protein powder with lime juice, non-fat milk and a few graham crackers.

This was a recipe that made my protein shake taste like key lime pie…very tasty! It was an 800 calorie shake with 50-60 grams of protein. One more thing…you will want to eat a regular meal 1-2 hours after this as well.

Eat Less Protein and Calories During Other Meals

So you want to start your day off strong with a decent amount of calories and protein…and eat a large amount of quick digesting protein and carbs after your workout.

You will need to reduce your calories you eat per meal during the day as the protein you eat. As far as carbs go, you want to eat fibrous and starchy carbs and healthy fats along with every meal to balance out your blood sugar.

The only time you want to eat high GI carbs like simple sugars is right after you workout.

If money is tight, you will do well with non-fat milk. I used to make chocolate milk with that cheap chocolate milk powder and non-fat milk…this sounds counterintuitive, but it is actually a good time to eat something along these lines right after your workout (if you are trying to put on mass).

A better away to go is to get a high quality vanilla protein powder and mix it with fruit juice. Another good recipe…mix pineapple juice, ice, frozen strawberries, a bit of non-fat milk, and vanilla protein powder.

Keep Cardio to a Minimum During This Short Period of Time

Don’t drop cardio out of your workout completely…but once or twice a week is probably fine. Also…don’t do cardio and your lifting on the same day or in the same workout (this is a great way to burn body fat, but a bad approach to gain mass).

When you want to gain mass, leave the gym quickly with the goal of getting that post workout quick absorbing meal or shake.

Once you gain that muscle mass, then you will want to really focus hard on cardio.

Closing Comments on Gaining Muscle Mass Quickly

The ideal situation to putting on muscle mass quickly is to just do this in short 3-4 month “spurts”.

Workout for mass for 3-4 months and then make sure to get to lean (1-2 months) to see how much of that mass is actually muscle.

You don’t want to do too many months in a row of just gaining muscle, because your body fat levels can quickly get out of control.

Also…it has been shown that lean people can put on lean muscle mass quicker than individuals with a higher body fat level (a subject for a future post). It is in your best interest to take an approach where you alternate getting lean, with putting on mass…because of these two factors.

Note: This isn’t a bodybuilding site, so I recommend other sources if you want to get big. Also…the majority of this site is dedicated to getting lean, therefore the majority of my advice is MUCH different than is what is outlined in this post.

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyler Durden November 5, 2007 at 7:54 am

thanks a lot Rusty very informative post and i like to take advice from you because you aren’t some meathead bulkingmachine:)
too bad i shouldnt do much cardio when trying to gain mass because now i like running so much:)
it’s weird that we see these activities as tools for sculpting our bodys
but no problem i’ll train in the traditional manner for a while to gain few pounds then start doing cardio again

Steve P November 5, 2007 at 11:03 am

Hi Rusty,

I’m not really out to gain more mass, i’m now focusing on improving my ‘maximal strength’ to develop my muscle tone through activating as many muscle fibres as possible. Obviously I still need to fuel my muscles properly to develop that muscle ‘density’. Would drinking a pint (568ml, i’m English) of half-fat milk have enough simple sugars and protein for an effective post-workout re-fueling? That would be 28.5g simple sugars, 19.5g protein, and only 9.5g fat. Or do I need complex carbs from another source, as the milk is only natural sugars?

I’ve never been a big fan of artificial protein powders, and I don’t really want the extra calories with the protein. Maybe I need to eat half a cereal bar with the milk for some slow-release carbs?

Christopher M November 5, 2007 at 12:04 pm

Interesting post Rusty!

I think I may get some use out of it… Right now I have extremely little muscle. But, I also am not as lean as Id like to be. So I am focusing heavily on losing fat and getting to my target % bodyfat. I figure once I get there, I will probably look a little scrawny, and I can start adding muscle following some of this advice.

I am doing some weight lifting right now as well (to at least get in the habit), but I am not seeing much muscle gain. I figure that the restricted calorie, high cardio is probalby not good for muscle gain? Thats ok though since as I said its not my focus yet

admin November 6, 2007 at 10:50 am


Gaining a little bit of mass is actually very easy. You will get there in no time. Gaining a large amount of muscle is tough, but gaining 10 pounds or so when you are lean is very easy to do. At that point you can focus on strength and cardio to look your best.


I would recommend non-fat milk as a post workout drink, because fat will slow don the absorption of the protein and carbs right after you workout. A 1/2 cereal bar with regular milk would be better as a replacement for one of meals, because that is when you want slow release of nutrients to avoid spiking of your blood sugar.


The approach you are using to lean down first before putting on muscle is what Sylvester Stallone did before getting ripped for a few of his movies. This is a pretty effective approach, because you are building while staying really lean. When you finally get to your ideal size, your skin will really be wrapped tightly around your muscles and show better muscle definition that if you recently lost a bunch of weight to display tone. People who lose weight to get toned have a period of time where there skin is a bit loose, before adapting to the smaller overall mass of their body…you won’t have that issue.

Have a great one!


Jason November 6, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Great articles, and great website. I’m always visiting for new tips and different perspectives. About having ideal muscle mass…I’ve been active with exercise for over a year now. When I first started out, I would do weights and some cardio 3 times a week. I was around 156lbs, 14% body fat, and a BMI of 24. Now, I’m doing 5-6 days a week with an equal balance of time spent doing various cardio and weights. The only thing is, now I’m at 150lbs, 8% BF and a BMI of 22, and I’m worried that I might be a little too small for my 5’9″ frame. I have good muscle tone throught, with the exeption of some annoying fat/skin around my midsection. And as far as funtional and strength training, I think im good. Heavy weights and running a couple of miles is no problem 4 me. However, I want to gain back the 6lbs I had, but in muscle. I follow the protein intake you discussed, and I eat “clean” 85% of the time, and I try to time my 3-4 meals correctly throughout the day. How should I go about gaining weight without turning it into fat? And given how active I am now, why can’t I shake this little bit of remaining fat around my stomach?

Kaz November 6, 2007 at 6:13 pm

Hi Rusty,

i just started reading your blog and i wanna say i find it really refreshing and informative. i was also wondering what your opinion was on a program like Crossfit. their method seems to match the “training for function” method which you praise elite military units for, so i was wondering whether you think it’s a good program for building a lean, attractive look?

admin November 6, 2007 at 10:07 pm


I’m betting that last bit of fat is actually water retention. Do you drink a lot of water, because that will actually help you lose water subcutaneous water…which is a good thing.

Read this article I wrote on that…it should help:

Water Retention
(has the best picture on my website…love that girl!)

Also…to drop a tiny bit more fat and to gain 5-6 pounds of muscle…eat a bit less leading up to your workout and a bit more after your workout. Eating less will before working out will ensure that your body uses stored fat for fuel…you should get leaner. Eating more after your workout will make sure you have enough nutrients to begin the muscle repairing and building process.

Note: 8% body fat is great! You are at a decent size for your frame. Anywhere between 150-160 would be ideal.

Hope that helps Jason,


admin November 6, 2007 at 10:25 pm


You have a cool name. Certain names look like they would be good names for an actor or musician…Kaz definitely is a hip name.

Anyway…I’m familiar with Crossfit. It definitely is a great program and community. My methodology is a little bit more about form and function and they are seriously about function. All of their coaches and founders are bad-ass and get my respect big-time!

I like to be strong and in great cardio shape, but I also want to be able to look good in funky clothes, going into a club in Vegas, etc. Crossfit will get you in amazing shape, but their focus isn’t about looks at all.

It really depends about your priorities, but yes…they are a great community!


Mark McCullagh November 9, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Good post Rusty. Very solid info regarding gaining muscle mass without also gaining fat.

I agree whole-heartedly regarding your points about eating the majority of calories first thing in the morning (in a fasted state) and the “window of opportunity” after a workout.

I must add that, like you, I have a lot of experience in this realm. In my “peak” at 5′ 8 1/2″ (us shorter people always add that extra 1/2″), I was around 200-205 lbs and under 10% body fat pretty much ALL the time.

I maintained this for years. Even up until my early 40’s I was a very lean 190-195 lbs all the time. Usually always an easy 4-8 weeks away from contest shape.

How? Pretty much by following what you recommended in your post. I would usually shoot for 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, watch my intake of complex carbs, and limit junk.

Also, my focus was brief, INTENSE workouts concentrating on getting stronger in basic, multiple joint exercises. Followed by adequate rest and listening to my body.

This last point is very crucial – listening to your body. You could probably write a good post on that, dude.

Love your recent celeb profile posts and your post on Will Smith too.

You have the gift of providing entertainment to your readers.

Nice job!


admin November 10, 2007 at 12:50 am


Thanks buddy…you got pretty darn big! I was in the 220-230 range, but at 6’4″, not as impressive. I feel MUCH healthier now that I’ve slimmed down to the 185-190 range.

I know you are in the process of lightening up as well. Will Smith is a great role model in this regard, because he got pretty darn muscular for a while. I read an interview where he said he could bench 385 pounds at 6’2″…those are serious numbers for an ectomorph!

Got to write another post before bed!


nelly November 10, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Rusty…i was always told for mass to lift heavy weights and low reps from 8-10 and for tone and leanness higher reps 12-15 are you saying this is wrong? And also my height is 5″3 and weigh 136 right now. I’ve been told by a nutritionist that the ideal weight for my frame is actually 131. I was at 140 but feel more flexible with high endurance level at current rate but I do not want to go down to 131. My goal is to stay flexible for extreme sports with more strength and tone than mass..what do you recommen?

Mark McCullagh November 10, 2007 at 10:36 pm


I think I weigh around the same as you right now. Maybe more in the 185 range.

The thing is that I couldn’t even tell you the last time I weighed myself. I just don’t care much anymore. I just go by how I look and feel.

Listen up all you younger guys – the bottom line is that all the years of hard training when I was younger created a foundation that for me seems to be fairly easy to maintain.

Yes, I have some sore tendons and joints but you can easily avoid this by staying away from going too heavy too often.

So for you younger dudes (and girls) – stick to the basic, multi-joint exercises and lay a solid foundation. This will save you time because it allows you to get more done in less time, up your intensity, and provide you with the “look” you want.

Save those specialty, single joint isolation moves for the odd couple of sets at the end of a workout.

You want a nice upper body: bench and/or incline press; wide arm chins and/or pulldowns; throw in some dips and/or flyes for chest and throw in some dumbell rows for back. The end.

Rusty – I took your advice and now I do all chest movements on an incline. Excellent!! I also love to do a pre-exhaust: 10-12 reps of incline flyes supersetted with 10 reps of incline press. Just 3 sets is all it takes and your rockin!!

john November 11, 2007 at 10:55 am

I always believe that slow and steady wins the race in terms of muscle growth. In about 6 months I went up about 7 lbs in lean mass while staying lean doing this in a few weekly cylces of intense eating and high volume training. In fact I always work out for mass until I get smoother than I like to be or if I have an event comming up then I will cut up using heavy weights, static holds, and of course a clean diet. This is just because I am a skinny guy 6ft 160 lbs…now I am about 168…I give myself about another 6 mo’s to a year to be at about 175 at the same leaness I am now, sub 5%…I really don’t believe in maintenence…I always think you should be working toward something…size, strength, fat loss, endurance, etc…

A trick I learned about periodization. The old school of thought is to combine size and strenght training, and endurance with fat loss. I think that if you switch it, work on endurance while you bulk, as not to loose athletic ability and strength while you cut as not to loose muscle is a much better approach. The results are in the diet. So long as you eat more than you burn you will gain mass, and as long as you eat less than you burn you will cut.

For bulking I use very short hitt jump rope sessions 10-15 min( not too much to impede growth, but enough to retain athletic ability) after training sessions and for cutting I do lots of walking. This allows me to keep my calories at a livable point no matter what stage I am in.

admin November 11, 2007 at 12:50 pm


Yeah…Getting stronger in the 8-10 rep range is great for mass, but people disagree on the best approach to gaining muscle tone. For years people have been preaching high reps for muscle tone, but what I have found (along with others) is that high reps are great for giving the muscles “a pump”. What this does is create a toned look during an immediately following your workout. After that pump is gone, the muscles look much less toned. Another reason people suggest high reps is that it burns more calories, but I think cardio is a much more effective route to burning unwanted body fat.

Here is a post I made on the subject:
High Reps for Muscle Tone?

What you will find is lower reps will give your muscle an increase in permanent muscle tone…your muscles will look nice and toned regardless of whether you have achieved “a pump” in those muscles.

Hope that helps!


admin November 11, 2007 at 12:56 pm


I always try my best to gain strength while losing weight as well. To me this is the perfect recipe for outstanding muscle tone. In fact…that is a catchy title…I feel a post coming on!


shane November 12, 2007 at 4:30 pm

Altogether lots of great ideas here, but since you were talking seal training programs i thought i would toss one in:

Strength period:
5 sets per muscle group per workout with decreasing reps per set and increased load (starting at 12, 8, 8, 6, 6 at the beginning of the strengthening period and working up to 10, 8, 3-5, 1-3, 1-3 at the end of the period)

Muscular endurance period:
2 sets per muscle group per workout (starting at 20 reps per set at 30-50% of your 1rm, eventually working to 60 reps per set at 30-50% of your 1rm)

The official seal fitness guide recommends periods of 2 months strength then 3 months muscular endurance, with one month active rest every 2 cycles. I figure most people who dont have quite so difficult of a job would be better served with a 4-6 months strength and 2-3 months muscular endurance (depending on how long it takes you to cut down the fat you built up during your growth period, as the muscular endurance phase works wonders for cutting also)

Hope you find it useful

Jennifer November 12, 2007 at 6:11 pm

This is also an unconventional workout method that seems to work for some people I know. This goes totally against every fitness article I’ve read. The workout method is based on the results physical workers have when working at a job 6 days per week such as construction, stone masonry, heavy lifting, etc. Rather than resting the muscles worked for 48 hours so the muscles can fully recover, they get up early the next morning and go back to pushing wheel barrows, lifting rocks, shoveling, etc.

I have not tried this method, but apparently if you simulate this type of physical activity in a workout plan, such as working the same muscles 2 days in a row, there is no time for the muscles to “bulk up” as they are not able to rest and grow to their maximum capacity. Apparently the only thing to watch out for is overtraining, but as long as you stick to the low rep, high weight toning philosophy you discuss on this website, there is no going to failure, and the muscles can be worked every day to gain strength without the bulk.

admin November 13, 2007 at 2:22 pm


Thanks for the input. Very useful stuff. These guys are in amazing shape.


Yeah…strength training done properly doesn’t need as much recuperation anyway, but that is an interesting way of looking at this approach. I completely agree with training each muscle more frequently without going to failure.

Olympic lifters hit the same lifts 4-5 times per week…so they are working the same muscles many times per week. They don’t go to failure unless they are shooting for a personal best.

I never thought of construction workers and laborers, but now you mention it most of these guys are toned as long as their body fat is low…and very few of these guys are excessively muscular.

Good stuff,


shane November 13, 2007 at 2:42 pm


There are a few reasons that working out every day (with a high weight low rep plan) would not be feasible, first and foremost it would put enormous strain on your central nervous system and your neuromuscular system. This will lead to a variety of maladies including: chronic fatigue, weakened immune system, decrease in testosterone, and loss of muscle mass.

If you were to adjust that to a low-weight high-rep routine it would be more feasible, but still inadvisable because unless your eating like a horse and getting 10+ hours of sleep a night you would likely still see negative effects unless your baseline fitness is extraordinary (think Bruce Lee). It is something you could build up to, but jumping right into it would be asking for trouble.

There is some validity to working the same muscles two days in a row, but the second day work out should be extremely low weight (more like a warmup) to help ease muscle soreness and speed recovery. VERY low intensity though.


admin November 13, 2007 at 4:55 pm


I agree. I’ve done well with training frequently for short periods of time, if I want to improve in a lift…but more often than not I’m training each muscle group typically twice a week.

To me, extra training time training is better spent getting in cardiovascular shape, doing Interval training, etc.


Jennifer November 13, 2007 at 5:33 pm

Thanks for the comments. I will stick to working each muscle a couple times a week and focusing on cardio and diet to stay slim.

By the way Rusty, I attended my first taekwon-do class last night and it was killer! There was ab work, push-ups, lots of punches and kicks and stretches. I was drenched in sweat and the class was like an interval training session, because you send the heart-rate flying and then take a minute or so to catch your breath and work on something less strenuous. I am looking forward to learning how to kick some butt!

admin November 13, 2007 at 9:46 pm


You are going to become a sexy Canadian Laura Croft. Sexy and able to whooop some butt.

Keep it up!


KK February 7, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Ok, so I’ve been starting my own mass gaining program and I’ve been trying to follow the rules here. It’s been about two and half weeks at this point and I still look about the same. Is it realistic to expect anything at this point?

Here’s what I do. I do some assisted chinups and dips with the lowest weight or assistance that I can for 6-12 reps. I also do seated and free weight rows as well. This is on the first day. Then I do flat bench bress, incline bench press, bicep curls, and tricep pushdowns on the second day in that 6-12 range.

I hear you saying that gaining muscle mass is the easy part (or at least the first 10-20 pounds) so I’m putting faith in your words and keeping at it. And you also say to gain mass in 3-4 month cycles? Will my first 10 pounds come in those 3-4 months? After that, would I train strictly for toning onward to keep a lean body?

admin February 8, 2008 at 2:08 am


There is a bit of delay when you gain strength in the 6-12 rep range and when your body will put on mass. Make sure you eat a fast digesting protein source after your workout (2-3 glasses of non-fat milk will do). Follow that up with a healthy meal an hour later.

You will get there…it will happen in “spurts”,


KK February 8, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Oh ok. Oh shoot I forgot to add in that I do not do any leg work at all because I feel they were at a good enough size already (i used to run a lot). Is this a mistake? In your muscle tone vs muscle mass post, you posted a typical 3-day split and legs was included into that split. That kind of confused me since you were saying that leg work should be avoided in your other posts. Should I only do direct leg work when in the gaining mass phase?
Or am I ok?

btw, sorry if I’m asking too much. I just really want to gain the mass so that when I do start a cutting phase, I can have enough mass on my body that’ll actually look good once I get lean and not sickly.

admin February 9, 2008 at 2:11 am


If your legs are exceptionally skinny then do leg lifts. I included a “typical” mass routine that works well…the 3 day split. My blog isn’t about gaining mass for the most part and that is why I recommend a 2 day split with intense cardio for 90% of the readers. If you want to quickly gain the mass, then just do a higher volume and rep range then I typically recommend on this site. Since you have big enough legs, don’t worry about direct leg work. Stick to the 2 day split, but with more volume than I do.

Here is the one I’m currently following:

Day 1:

Incline Barbell Press: 3-4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3-4 sets
Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes: 2-3 sets

Chinups: 3-4 sets
Lat Pulldowns: 3-4 sets
Cable Rows: 2-3 sets

Note: The big reason I like to work back after chest is that it helps you to keep good posture. You see, there is a tendency for the chest and front delts to overpower your back and rear delts. If you end with cable rows it pulls your shoulders back into a healthier position. You will see a lot of guys in the gym with their shoulders “hunched” forward a bit…this helps to prevent that from happening.

Day 2:


Straight Bar Curl (using an olympic bar if available): 3-4 sets
Hammer Strength Preacher Curl: 3-4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Curls: 2-3 sets

Seated Dumbbell Presses: 3-4 sets
Dumbell or Cable Laterals: 3-4 sets
Hammer Strength Military Press: 2-3 sets

Lying Triceps Extensions with Barbell: 3-4 sets
Close Grip Bench Press: 3-4 sets
Cable Triceps Extension: 2-3 sets

Note: I like to end with triceps because it is common for biceps to overpower the arms a bit and cause them to bend a bit on their own. In general I like to work opposing muscles in the same workout, for this reason. I’ve tried the typical Chest with Triceps and Back with Biceps, but my body feels better when I work opposing muscles together.

These are just the exercises that I use. You should experiment a bit. For instance…I know guys who swear by concentration curls and other guys who can’t stand them. I don’t like military presses behind the neck, but others get great results from it.

Have a great one!


Johnny G February 26, 2008 at 9:19 pm


Big fan, this page has become a regular for me.
I am 25, 6’1 and 165, and feel like 10 lbs. would be incredible for me, but it seems to take a lot of time to gain the mass being ectomorphic.
I have read ‘lots’ on how to gain good muscle mass. I’ve lived with fitness models and tried to copy there habits but never reached super toned/lean status. But I am at a crossroads right now after reading lot of your entries.
With my workout plan I like to go from focusing on the primary upper torso muscles in one session and then do major cardio the next day with ab excerices and then back to upper the next day.
But one of my ‘bigger’ friends recently to wait and rest the muscles more than 48 hrs(he works out specific muscles once a week).
So I am now experimenting with the idea of placing a ‘rest day’ after the cardio day to gain optimal gains in mass.
I appreciate the help and look forward to reading the response.

admin February 27, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Johnny G,

Your friend is right. You will need more time to recuperate since you are doing a more traditional muscle building routine. What I would recommend is to divide your upper body into 2 groups.

Day 1: Chest, Back, Abs (light cardio)
Day 2: Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps (tough cardio)
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Chest, Back, Abs (light cardio)
Day 5: Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps (tough cardio)
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Rest

You are going to want to do a traditional muscle building routine for a while, until you put on those 10 pounds. Think along the lines of 6-12 reps…pyramid style…with not too much rest in between. This will work for sure!


Johnny G February 27, 2008 at 8:56 pm

THANKS A LOT FOR YOUR HELP, this is going to help me and correct my lift problems in the past.

admin February 29, 2008 at 12:06 am

Johnny G,

This will be a “piece of cake” for you. Seriously, this should work well.


jake sierra May 28, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Hey Stud,

Good advice, on the cardio front I would think a little bit would be better to keep your heart in shape. Maybe 3 times a week of at least 30 minutes. Just to keep the cardiovascular system in shape, which hence would give your morore strength to lift.

Nishant June 5, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Hey man watz up… my name is nishant and im 18… ummm i hav been goin to the gym 3 dayz a week since january and i dont see a difference in my body at all… i hav not put on any muscle… wat could i be doin wrong… i no im not lacking effort i hav been putting plenty of that in … so if u culd giv me some advice it wuld be much appreciated…


admin June 8, 2008 at 2:08 am


Are you lifting for a high volume of lifts? Are you eating enough? If you are then you just have to be patient. Typically strength comes first and then size. For size training, get strong in the 6-12 rep range for a lot of sets, eat a lot and rest. You will begin to put on mass soon.


Jordan June 9, 2008 at 12:44 pm

I have this problem. Im a guy and I have a very fast metabolism which isnt such a bad thing but I have a hard time filling in this area around my upper chest shoulder area where my collar bones show. I found a picture of Jackie Warner which has a similiar build as me. Not very ideal for a guy but awesome body for a woman. I was wondering if you had any ideas on what I could do to fill this area in?

eric June 10, 2008 at 6:17 pm

you recommend doing cardio during the mass building phase (3-4 months) two days a week. which one do you mean? moderate or intense (h.i.i.t e.g.)? and how long?
greetings from cologne, germany!

Moti June 10, 2008 at 11:29 pm


What happends if you dont drink a protein shake or eat anything right after lifting? Does your workout go to waste or are you still able to build muscle?


admin June 11, 2008 at 12:45 am


Here is a post I did which addresses that. I know exactly what you are talking about. Read the comments as well.

Upper Chest Workout


I am going to check out my stats to see how many visitors I have had from Cologne, Germany. I have a decent amount of German readers and I love it. I’m love beer (especially Belgian witbier and German Weißbier) and I’m learning to enjoy Football (soccer)…I would LOVE Germany!

Okay 66 visits from Cologne, Germany so far. Over 53% are unique visitors, so around 35 different visitors from Cologne so far. For Germany in general I have had 2,766 visits and 57% are unique, so a total of around 1500 people from Germany have visited my site. I love the Internet. It is fun to communicate with people from around the globe. We all have a lot in common!

Oh yeah…your question (I get side tracked so easily)…If you are trying to gain muscle stick to just HIIT twice a week. Thanks for reading and commenting!


You will be fine, because your HGH levels increase a bit more if you keep an empty stomach for an hour after working out. If you are a hard gainer, you may want to think about a shake right after.


BurritoKid June 27, 2008 at 1:01 pm

you know what movie i saw the other day? Street Fighter the movie (terrible btw) do you know who plays cami in it?

admin June 29, 2008 at 4:14 am


Heck yeah I know who Cami was played by! The Sexiest pop star ever…Kylie Minogue! I’m feeling a video, because she is smoking hot!
Justin Timberlake claims Kylie has the nicest butt he has ever seen. Here is “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” remixed with New Order’s “Blue Monday”.

[Rumor has it that you can see a nice butt shot about 1/2 way through the video]

Also Kylie has a beautiful younger sister named Danni Minogue. This is a “gifted” family for sure!

I’m a full service blogger. How many other fitness guys know the answers to the really tough questions like these 🙂

Love it!


Patrick August 8, 2008 at 2:22 am


Excellent article. I know I’m late to the discussion, but I have to say that your insights have provided some new perspectives for me as well as confirming some of my own thoughts about how to go about my fitness goals.

I’m currently in a bulking phase, with an ectomorphic build at 6-1 and 165. As you mention, i went against the bulk-then-cut formula and incorporated some progressively intense running into my workout. So long as I’m getting enough calories to offset the expenditure of the cardio, its been working –with the added benefit that the mass i’m putting on in my lifting/eating regime is nearly all lean. I started out at 155 five weeks ago, after recovering from an injury which kept me inactive and depressed for a few months. The running helped to ramp up my fitness and energy levels to a point where I feel great with heavy lifting now, something I couldn’t do right off the bat.

In that five weeks 10 lbs of the lean mass i’d lost due to doing nothing in previous months came back, and I started running well again, so the muscle was packed on in all the right places. My medium term goals are to now bulk up to ~180 and clock my best 1 mile and 3 mile times at around 6 min and 22 min, respectively.

These goals at first seemed contradictory and conflicting, but I’m certain that if i keep my diet sufficient and consistent and my workout smart, it can happen.

Thanks for your valuable and unique insights.

Paul September 16, 2008 at 12:54 am

First, let me just say that I adore this site. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even bother to read anything else anymore.
Just curious: when deliberately gaining weight as you describe in this post, how much of the weight gain should I expect to be fat and how much should I expect to be muscle?

Best wishes,

kyle February 3, 2009 at 3:10 am

Hey Rusty, can i just say that i’ve just found this site and i think its amazing how u give your advice and general information to people and thankyou in advance for the wisdom i will recieve.
i was jus wondering Rusty, if you could give me some pointers on how many days i should go 2 the gym, how many sets/how many reps and what body parts 2 train together please because it would be hugely appreciated. I have trained before but it was with my friend who is the typical beef cake u reffer 2 lol. my goal is 2 obviously gave muscle but i dont want huge arms and and a big chest etc i want natural muscle/abs and just general tone and definition without being skinny or big. if you could give me some tips on what to eat, maximum protein per meal etc also i would be extremely appreciative also because like i said i’m about to start to workout solo and all help wud be great to help me get started. p.s i think your idea on how much muscle/what we should look like is spot on, and i don’t want 2 be huge etc i’m 168 pounds and my goal is 2 gain muscle, tone, impressive abs and keep my body fat percentage down without going bulky/ or looking skinny with muslce. thanks Rusty, take care pal

kyle February 3, 2009 at 3:17 am

p.s sorry about the longevity of this comment/s but 2 help u out a little with your reply, i play football (soccer) 3 times a week, and i was thinking of doing 3-4 days at the gym because when i trained with my friend we did 6 days and that was brutal lol. I was worried to be honest because my friend is 218 pounds? we use 15 and a half stone lol erm…and i was worried i would become like him because we trained the same except i obviously did lower weights because hes been trained for 4 years now. He has a really good body Rusty, but for me its not how i want 2 look, hes a beast lol but his arms are like trees and his chest is huge whereas i want 2 have more of a shaped/toned chest than big and i want my biceps 2 look impressive muscle not just big, Thanks

Steve - social anxiety treatment November 5, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Hi Rusty,

I really like this post and it was how I originally found your website.

Having read some of your most recent posts I’m wondering if you still agree on 2 things.

1. That you need ~18 calories per pound to gain weight?
2. The post workout 1 hour window is when you need to eat 1 of your biggest meals? With eat stop eat it is advised you wait for some time after your workout to take advantage of the HGH response.

Thanks and keep up the interesting posts!

Alex December 15, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Hey Rusty,

This is extremely late, but I just read your top post of Fitness Black Book and came across this. I am trying to gain a bit of mass before I start going for the lean look because my arms are skinny so I want to put some size on them before I start to lean and tone out. I saw the mass building routine you put up in another comment up there but I would like to incorporate leg work. How would you suggest doing this? Give it its own day? Or incorporate with the other lifts?

The routine was this one:
Day 1:

Incline Barbell Press: 3-4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3-4 sets
Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes: 2-3 sets

Chinups: 3-4 sets
Lat Pulldowns: 3-4 sets
Cable Rows: 2-3 sets

Day 2:

Straight Bar Curl (using an olympic bar if available): 3-4 sets
Hammer Strength Preacher Curl: 3-4 sets
Incline Dumbbell Curls: 2-3 sets

Seated Dumbbell Presses: 3-4 sets
Dumbell or Cable Laterals: 3-4 sets
Hammer Strength Military Press: 2-3 sets

Lying Triceps Extensions with Barbell: 3-4 sets
Close Grip Bench Press: 3-4 sets
Cable Triceps Extension: 2-3 sets

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Michael February 27, 2010 at 4:21 am

Hey Rusty,

Just joined this site tonight, but have been reading through the articles you have up for a while. My question is that i’m 20 years old, and i’m planning on starting to working out, and putting on some muscle. I’m 5’5 and 137 lbs and i wanted to know what your thoughts about vince delmonte’s no nonsense muscle building package are? It’s a program meant to help you build “lean” muscle. My second question is do you think 10 lbs is enough mass for me(147 lbs) or could i go to 150 lbs ripped i want to?


chance March 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm

im 13 been working out for about 5-6 months now im 5’9 and 124 pounds and ive been trying to gain some muscle. Ive gotten alot stronger since i started but not very much bigger. I just started doing the eat stop eat and i tried crossfit for a little bit but i didnt like it very much. What ive been doing for 2 months is
Monday and Thursday – chest
Tuesday and Friday – back
Wednesday and Saturday – Shoulders Biceps Triceps
but i this hasnt been working very well either im pretty sure the reason i havnt gained much muscle is because of the workout any advice would be cool thanks.

Trent November 24, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Hey rusty!
You mention to work for function rather than mass. I was thinking of going into parkour to help be lean and lose fat as well as being athletic. Is this covered in your book.
Thanks man

Riz September 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Hi Rusty!

Really love your website, this past summer I purchased the Visual Impact muscle building programme and it has been the best purchase of this year for me! I had a question though… You mention that I shouldnt do cardio on the same day or the same workout in order to gain some muscle, however in Phases 1 and 2 there is HIIT after the workout done. This might make sense as I have noticed that after my workout if I do HIIT I lose a bit of the pump 🙁

Any advice?

Andrew February 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Hi Rusty,
I was just wondering is there anyway to target one muscle group and lose muscle from just that group? I played lots of soccer and now have pretty big quads. Any help would be greatly appreciated

David May 6, 2012 at 6:57 am

Hello fellow blogger,

I normally don’t comment on blog posts, but I found the information contained in “How to Quickly Gain the Ideal Amount of Muscle Mass” was superb and I’ll definitely be back to read more of your posts.

P.S. – If you get a chance, please visit my site at and leave a comment on one of my body building post.

Marjan July 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Hey Rusty,i was wondering,have you ever read the book from Brad Pilon – ‘HowMuchProtein’ and what do you think about it?

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