Beginners Guide to Building Lean Muscle Mass

If you’re a skinny guy who wants to pack on muscle and is a complete newbie when it comes to bodybuilding, then this muscle-building guide is going to help you get started in the right way.

Unfortunately, most guys learn from muscle mugs with their latest fad split routines or rely on tips from the muscle heads in their local gym. Not a smart move, as this way only ends in frustration, wasted time and money, and small muscles.

If you haven’t touched a barbell before in your life, then you need to understand the basics and practice them consistently until it is ingrained into every muscle cell in your body. That my friend is the secret to building muscle and strength.

Read this guide and apply it, and you’ll be streets ahead of 99% of all the hard gainers out there.

Newbie Mistakes To Avoid

Many newbies make the mistake of only focusing on isolation exercises. They do this because they want to either achieve bigger arms, chest muscles, or rippling abs.

Only using isolation exercises will make your body look out of proportion. It will not build strength or an overall muscular body. Instead focus on compound exercises for building muscle mass.

Full compound movements are far superior to isolation exercises for building muscle growth because they engage more muscle groups.

A a newbie you only need to focus on these 4 compound exercises to build amazing muscle mass and strength.

Listen to what Brandon Campbell’s got to say about compound vs isolations exercises for lean muscle growth.

This is not to say you should never use isolation exercises. They have their place. But for now just focus on these 4 and get good at them.

4 Basic Moves

The squat is arguably the most effective full-body compound exercise to build muscle and strength. This is because the movement targets the big muscle groups such as the quads, hamstring and glutes.

​The squat is often mistaken for an exercise that only targets the leg muscles. This is partially true and is an effective exercise for adding bulk to your chicken legs. But it’s far more than this.

​In addition, this compound exercise engages many of the bodies stabilizing muscles including the abdominals,oblique’s and your lower back muscles.

The squat also strengthens the shoulder and arm muscles because the movement requires the barbell to be lifted and held vertically above the head.

Another essential movement, the deadlift works in all the muscle groups that you use every day. These include your glutes, calves, hamstrings, shoulders, forearms, and middle and upper back.

In this way you’re increasing strength in the back, arms and legs. Its also an effective compound movement for improving posture and flexibility.

The bench press is an upper-body compound exercise that targets your shoulders, chest, triceps, and deltoids.

The exercise allows you to lift the heaviest weights because your body is supported by the bench. This makes the bench press an excellent exercise to increase upper body muscle and strength.

Both exercises are very similar. The key difference is how you grip the bar. With the chin up, the palm is facing towards you, and with the pull up the palm faces away from you.

The pull up is considered harder because the overhand grip does not fully utilize the bicep muscle. Therefore, the lats are engaged more making it more difficult to raise the body upwards.

Both exercises will increase strength in your back the biceps and lats. They’re also a great back and core stabilizing routine.

When executing a chin or pull up the correct form is crucial to prevent a shoulder injury. Avoid doing any type of pull or chin up behind the neck. Your eye gaze should always be focused upwards never look down towards the floor.

When executing a chin or pull up the correct form is crucial to prevent a shoulder injury. Avoid doing any type of pull or chin up behind the neck. Your eye gaze should always be focused upwards never look down towards the floor.

Also, your grip on the bar shouldn’t be too wide. At the most the grip should be slightly outside the width of the shoulder.

Tip: Start off with bodyweight exercises such as chin-ups, pull-ups, and press ups. At this stage, you can also use dumbbells.

Focus on these four muscle exercises and practice until you get good at them. If you do this consistently, you will get bigger and stronger, that’s guaranteed.

Progressive Overload – The Key To Continuous Muscle Gains

Doing the same number of reps with the same weights will not make you bigger or stronger. To prevent this from happening you need to understand the principle of progressive overload.

The fancy term describes the simple concept that consistent and continuous demands on the muscles will result in consistent muscle gains in size and strength.

To put it simply, to get bigger each workout needs to be a little harder than the one before. So, each week, aim to add more weight.

For example, if you did 5 sets of squats at 130 pounds in week one, then in week 2 do the same number of sets but add an extra 5 pounds to the bar. In this way, you’re applying the principle of progressive overload and which results in continuous muscle gains.

​You can implement a variety of progressive overloads to build bigger, stronger muscles:

  • lift heavier weights
  • increase the number of reps
  • increase intensity
  • increase frequency
  • decrease rest times during sets

Etch this into your brain, you generate new muscle by resting not pumping.

A common beginner mistake is having a mindset that the more training you do the bigger you’re going to get.

Unfortunately, this mindset only leads to exhaustion, injury and mediocre muscle gains.

You must include a couple of rest days during your workout week to give your muscle fibers time to repair and recover, especially when lifting free weights.

If you’re the sort of person who can’t sit still for a moment you can stay active by doing a number of light cardio exercises such as walking briskly.

Exercises that incorporate stretching such as yoga or muscle message techniques such as self-myofascial release are also great choices.

Eating Habits For Lean Muscle Gain

This is a critical part of the lean muscle building process that most gym rats are too lazy to do or even understand.

To gain muscle fast you need to eat more calories to fuel the production of generate new muscle tissue. This is a challenge for most skinny guys, but gaining weight is a necessity for bulking up.​

​In this section you’ll learn how to calculate the number of calories you need to grow muscle plus, the optimal ratio of nutrients to source these calories.

​How Many Calories Do I Need

Before calculating your caloric surplus you need to know how many calories you are currently using on a daily basis.

​To do this you first need to work out your BMR or basal Metabolic Rate.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

The Basal Metabolic Rate works out how many calories you burn off while resting.

It may come as a surprise, but did you know your body can use up a considerable amount of energy just to keep you functioning and breathing. In fact, some people’s BMR can account for over 70% of total calories burned.

Fortunately, you don’t have to work out a complicated formula to get your BMR. The wonder that is the internet means some bright people have created online calculators to do this for you. Here’s a good one.

OK, lets use an example.

Say you’re 25 year old guy, you’re 5ft 10 inches tall and you weigh in at a 160 pounds.

Using the calculator the result is a BMR of 1,717.

This means, over a 24 hour period, you burn off 1,717 calories while resting!

Calculating Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

The TDEE takes into consideration your BMR and all the activities that burn calories.

​Calculating the TDEE is simple. All you have to do is multiply your BMR with the following activity multipliers that best match your current lifestyle.

If we use the 25 year old man as an example and apply a moderately active multiplier of 1.55 to his BMR of 1,717 we get 2661 calories, which is the number of calories he needs to maintain his current weight.

​Calculating Your Caloric Surplus

​Now that you know your BMR and TDEE all you have to do is work out how many extra calories you need to build more muscle. This extra calorie load is known as a caloric surplus.

​In the beginning its better to set a weight gain target that you can realistically achieve. For example, an extra one pound per week.

​To achieve this extra weight add a calorific surplus between 200 and 300 extra calories a day. If you are a hard gainer with lousy genetics increase the surplus to 400 to 500 calories per day.

​If we go back to our example, the 25 year old man would have to eat 2961 calories a day to begin building bigger muscle.

​Calculating The Optimal Macronutrient Ratio

Okay, you’ve worked out the number of calories you need for optimal muscle growth, but that’s meaningless if you haven’t any idea of where they’re going to come from.

​The way to do this is by dividing up the calories into an optimal ratio of macro-nutrients or ‘macro’s’ as they say in the world of bodybuilding.

​Macro nutrients or macros is the term used to describe the 3 main category of nutrients that keep us alive. They are are your proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

​Now, each one of these macros has its own calorific value as follows:

  • One gram of protein equals four calories
  • One gram of carbs equals four calories
  • One gram of fat equals nine calories

There are many opinions on what is the best macro ratio for building lean muscle mass, however a good place to start is with this ratio:

  • 35% from proteins
  • 45% from carbs
  • 20% from fats

As I’ve said before, we’re all genetically different and the above ratio may require tweaking along the way. Trial and error is the best and only way to find the unique ratio that works for you.

​With these ratio you can now workout a daily meal plan.

​Creating Your Daily Diet Plan

In order to bulk up you have calculated a calorie intake of 3000 calories per day.

​To workout your protein ratio you simply calculate 35% of 3000 (daily calorie intake).

​35% (protein ratio) of 3000 (daily calorie intake) = 1050 calories.

​Got that?

​Next, you work out how many grams of protein you need to eat per day.

1050 / 4 = 262.5 grams

​There you go. You need to eat 262.5 grams of protein per day.

​Do the same for carbs and fats and you will have your daily meal plan sorted.

​One last word on this. Don’t become obsessed with trying to get this perfect to the nearest micro-gram. This is only a guide to follow and tweak as you go along. But, doing this separates you from 99% of hard gainers who haven’t a clue.

​Good Eating Habits And Foods To Eat

The food you eat must be clean, meaning no processed crap, soda’s, fast food or anything that comes in a packet. Eat only natural whole foods and if you can afford it, buy fresh and organic.

​If you can’t acquire all the nutrients from your diet supplements, it can offer you a good alternative.

Protein Builds Muscle

The primary nutrient you will need is a lean protein, which is the building blocks of muscle cells. The most common recommended protein intake is one gram of protein for every pound of body weight. So for example, if you currently weigh 160 pounds that works out at 160 grams of protein per day.

​Don’t Forget Carbs and Healthy Fats

As well as proteins, you’ll also need to add carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fats for energy to help fast track recovery times and muscle growth.

Best Proteins

  • grass fed beef
  • chicken
  • pork
  • fish
  • eggs
  • cottage cheese
  • tofu
  • nuts
  • whey protein powder

Best Carbohydrates

  • brown rice
  • sweet potato
  • wholegrain bread/pasta
  • fruit
  • green leafy vegetables

Best Healthy Fats

  • avocados
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • oily fish
  • full fat dairy

Pre and Post Workout Snacks

Before you hit the weights, eat snacks that are rich in carbs and also include about six grams of protein. Carbs will give you that extra burst of energy while the protein helps with repair and recovery. For the protein, you can add a boiled egg or a handful of raw nuts.

​For your post work-out snack increase the amount of protein. Aim for ten to twenty grams. Add in some carbs as this will release more insulin.

​Insulin is a hormone that stimulates the absorption of amino acids by the muscle cells. A popular pre-workout snack is to mash up a banana and add it to a whey protein shake.

​Muscle Building Supplements

Many newbies think that taking muscle supplements alone is enough to make them big. It’s an easy trap to fall into because many supplement companies are very persuasive at hyping up their muscle pills as an easy way to ease gains.

There’s no getting away from the fact that lifting heavy weights and following a clean muscle building diet are the 2 main components that will make you build. What good quality supplements can do is help to enhance and accelerate the results you get from working out consistently.

Supplements are also a good option if you need to substitute certain nutrients that you can’t get from your diet. Not everybody has access to or can afford fresh organic food everyday.

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