How to build muscle:Beginner Muscle Building FAQ

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Q: So tell us a little bit about you. How did you get into training and bodybuilding? What motivates you to keep it up?

About once a week I get approached by someone looking to learn how to build muscle for beginner muscle building information. They’ve read the magazines and watched the videos online then they get into the gym to start building muscle. The problem is, they end up doing pro bodybuilding routines and overtraining quickly. After seeing this time and time again, I’ve  decided to come up with this beginner muscle building faq to help you build muscle.

How to Build Muscle

Q: What are the best sets and reps for muscle building?

The best sets and reps for beginner muscle building programs is three to four sets of ten to fifteen reps. While this is the typical recommendation, it works the best for beginners since it teaches the central nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers as well as provide the proper stimulus for the body to grow and build muscle.

Q: What are the best exercises for muscle building?

When you start out on a beginner muscle building program you need to understand that the best exercises are movements like deadlifts, squats, lunges, dumbbell bench presses, rows and chin-ups. They recruit the most muscle and therefore will help you grow. Don’t ignore isolation movements though, as they are needed fully develop individual bodyparts and encourage the body to build muscle.


Q: I’ve read that after a workout I should have a meal of protein and carbs. Is that true?

Yes, after a intense workout you should consume a meal of liquid protein and carbs. Waxy maize or dextrose are too fast carbohydrates that enter your bloodstream quickly and pull the protein powder taken with them into your muscle cells so you can recover and grow.

Q: What type of cardio should I do that won’t hinder my muscle building?

On a beginner muscle building program the best type of cardio to do is interval sprints two to three times per week. Intervals will help you to consume more food while making it easier for your body to store the carbohydrates you eat as new muscle instead of bodyfat.

Q: What advanced muscle building techniques should I use?
Don’t worry about using advatange muscle building techniques too quickly. They are good but for the first two months you train, your body will grow at a exceptional rate. After that time period you can lower your reps to around six to eight and possibly raise your set to four to five.


Q: How many days a week should I workout?

A beginner muscle building program should have you in the gym for no more then four days per week. if you are training individual bodyparts then four days a week is fine. A four day a week split would look like this.

Day One

Chest and triceps

Day Two

Back and biceps

Day Three


Day 4

Shoulders, traps, abs

Day 5

Legs and calves

Day 6


Day 7

Repeat day 1


Q: How much protein should I eat to build muscle?

A:The old school bodybuilding thought process is that you need to pound gram after gram of protein to effectively build muscle but the latest science tells us another story.Recent research out of the university of Texas has shown that muscle protein synthesis is topped out at 30 grams per serving. Protein synthesis describes the process where your body breaks down amino acids to use them for recovery purposes and to start the signalling processes involved in building muscle mass. Is is just 30 grams? That’s debatable but it’s a good starting point.

Q: Can you really increase your natural testosterone enough to build large amounts of muscle?

A: We’ve become so ingrained in bodybuilding thought processes that we think increasing testosterone naturally will lead to large amounts of muscle. Can it hurt? No but there’s not a direct relation between increased testosterone and huge muscle mass increases. Our diet and training has to match it.

Q: What are some of the best ways to increase igf-1 and growth hormone naturally?

A: IGF-1 and growth hormone are both very important hormones for muscle protein synthesis thus they can really help us build muscle. As a natural individual we can only hope to maximize our natural testosterone through smart nutrition and supplementation. Omega-3 fish oil has been shown to improve body composition and it will help to increase our igf-1. I again come back to the importance of amino acids and increased muscle building. You have to have enough amino acids consistently flowing through your body to encourage an environment to build muscle.

Q: Is water really important to build muscle or is it some hyped up old school gym teacher lie?

A: Water and proper hydration status is essential for all health. The more water volume that we have in a muscle cell, that’s why creatine works so well, the more anabolic signal to build muscle mass that we send. Taurine is a great nutrient as well.I really recommend that you get a water filtration system. Grab a Brita or any system that removes the toxins like chlorine that are omipresent in our tap water. Second, go by yourself a water ionizer system. This adds minerals like magnesium, by the way magnesium increases testosterone, and zinc back into your water so that you get hydrated better.

Q: Is soft tissue work really imperative?

A: Listen, building muscle is very hard to do. Our body doesn’t want to add any extra mass or size so we need to try to take every single advantage we can get to increase our chances of success. Soft tissue work is imperative simply because we’re training those same muscles. When we get too tight or restricted our body responds by add trigger points to certain muscles. What happens next is that our range of motion is decreased. Now that doesn’t mean that next time your trying to increase your arm size that you’ll notice you can’t curl as low or high. That’s not what I’m saying. Your muscle tissue can’t lengthen to the range that it wants. You work less of the muscle and you don’t force every muscle fiber to contract. Building muscles is about giving our body every advantage.

 Workout routines to build muscle

In this section I’m going to address some of the more popular workout routines that are commonly prescribed to people who need to build muscle.

5×5:One of my favorite workout program to build multiple muscles fast, the five by five routine forces you to increase your strength. Focusing just on higher reps and typical workout routine, you’ll never build muscle the way you want. By using a five by five routine you’re able to train on the verge of higher reps but with lower reps so you can use more weight. Don’t stay on this program for too long though, four weeks does it but in terms of a weight lifting routine to build muscle this is one of the best.

German Volume Training: Marketed as a way to build more muscle due to the higher volume in the workout, I personally feel that using a German volume training routine is a terrible idea for anyone that wants to build muscle fast. There are two variations used. The first tries to convince you that you’ll build muscle fast by alternating antagonistic body parts. The theory is that training this way increases your growth hormone but there’s no valid science to support this.  The other variation is an extreme workout that calls for ten sets of ten reps on two antagonistic movements followed by four sets of two supporting movements. This is terrible and really takes up a lot of your time with the theory that more is better. In this case, it isn’t.

Mike Menzter High Intensity: I like the theory and science behind this program and feel it is one of the best ways to build muscle. Most people train with too much training volume. More sets and more reps are really the only way people know how to advance their workout and that’s sad. Less is more. Contrary to what some performance enhanced pro bodybuilders will tell you, there’s no set amount of sets or reps that you have to do to build muscles.What is proven is the fact that you need to expose your muscle fibers to increased levels of tension. Mike Menzter’s HIT workouts were aimed on one set to failure. While it may feel like you’re not doing enough work during your first few sessions, if you wamr up for a few sets then progress to one maximal set you’ll build muscle fast and increase your strength just because your body has never been exposed to this type of training.

DC training: Taking the Menzter theory of shorter but more intense workouts to build muscle, DC training moves you further away from traditional bodybuilding by advising three workouts per week. The theory behind this program is that you can build muscle faster by training each muscle group multiple times in a seven day cycle. It’s a good program that teaches you intensity. Powerlifters know how to train intense because they perform low reps so they have to train hard, a bodybuilder often sleep walks through the first 7 or 8 reps. DC training encourages building muscle by warming up for two sets followed by one all out set. Once you reach fatigue you’ll put the weight down for fifteen seconds then you’ll perform another set to all out failure followed by another fifteen second rest then one more set. You’ll aim for around twelve to fifteen reps and perform one set per bodypart. There’s a structure involved that splits the bodyparts up so that you’ll get enough rest and stimulus to force you to build muscle. I like this program.

Bryan Haycock training: Very similar in the science to DC training about what it takes to build muscles without high volume, Bryan Haycock advises that you train with multiple different rep ranges over full body workouts. At the beginning I thought this was an ideal way to build muscle fast but after trying this workout program I felt too run down. There’s no way that I can go to the gym on Monday and use high reps then head back there on Wednesday and perform different movement for the same muscle groups but use low reps. I understand the science behind it, more exposure is better. The problem is that the muscle recovery in impaired.If you can’t train hard constantly then you won’t be able to build muscle.

The Westside Barbell Method: Westside barbell is a famous powerlifting gym that uses a unique method of training that emphasizes four different training days. One maximal effort upper and lower body day each and one dynamic upper and lower body day each. In all reality, the maximal effort upper body day just involves you performing multiple sets of one of the big three movements (bench press, deadlift and squat) for low reps aiming to increase your strength. From there you’ll move onto assistance exercises aimed at building muscle to assist that one lift. If your training the bench press your assistance exercises are aimed at building muscle in your upper back and triceps in order to support the bench press. The dynamic days utilize bands and chains aimed at increasing your strength at specific points in the lift. You’ll use less weight but you’ll move the weight faster.The speed of a movement is also an important signal that tells the body to build muscle.

Westside For Skinny Guys: Popularized by strength and conditioning coach Joe DeFranco, westside for skinny guys or skinny bastards takes the Westside barbell method and adds more reps and different movements to make it a true workout routine to build muscle. The concepts are still the same, you still aim to increase your strength but the assistance exercises are done with slightly higher reps and some vanity exercises such as biceps curls for those wanting to get big arms are included. I actually really like this routine and I think it’s ideal for any high school or college athlete that wants to improve their performance.

Supplements to build muscle

Natural testosterone boosters: While most people tend to think about natural testosterone boosters and think that it will help them build muscle, I disagree. For starters most of the top natural testosterone boosters really haven’t shown an effect to help you build muscle. How you build muscle is dependent on your genetics and natural hormone levels and training intensity. We assume that testosterone boosting supplements will actually raise our levels enough to give us noticeable size increases. They won’t.

Whey protein powder: A good quality whey protein powder is essential for anyone looking to build muscle. Whey protein is high in the amino acid leucine that has been shown to activate various muscle building processes.I suggest you have a whey shake as part of your post workout nutrition.

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  1. Travis
    9 years ago

    What informative post! I am a beginner (roughly in my third week) and i am having dilemmas of what to prioritize; lifting or cardio. I want a toned body not the bulky built that most of the people in my gym but my instructor told me I need to lift the damn weights…

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