09 May How to Gain Muscle Naturally
As a Professional Natural Bodybuilder and Personal Trainer, the key thing I get asked is how to build muscle naturally. My response to this is always; “if it was easy then everyone would look amazing”
The key to gaining muscle naturally ultimately comes down to ticking the boxes. There are several factors which come into play, the more of these you can nail down the better and faster your results will be.
Today I will try to cover some of the key factors for you to keep in mind and explain why these will help you on your fitness journey.
Focus on Compounds
When it comes to your time in the gym, the first thing I say to any of my clients is always focus your sessions around the big key compound exercises such as; Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Shoulder Press, and Rows. Now these are described as compound exercises as they work several muscle groups in one exercise. Squats for example use several leg muscles and also your core muscles. These exercises will all lead to the most calories burned, natural growth hormone release, muscle growth, and also strength.
With this in mind, a good training split depending on how many days a week you are able to train would be as follows:
|Training days per week||Mon||Tues||Wed||Thurs||Fri||Sat||Sun|
Focus on Progression
The next thing, if you’ve nailed down your training sessions focussing on the big compounds, you need to always be looking to progress. There are 3 ways you can progress: adding more weight (whilst not sacrificing good form); completing more volume (more reps); or reducing the rest period.
The only way you can achieve these is by tracking your workouts and keeping a training diary. If you are continuously progressing and challenging yourself, your body will have to adapt to deal with the new stresses and that means improved fitness and muscle growth.
Control your Eating
You cannot outtrain a bad diet, so please don’t waste all the effort you put in at the gym by letting yourself down with what goes in your mouth. Use a diet tracker app such as MyFitnessPal and log everything you eat and drink to get an idea of what you’re consuming. If your goal is to gain muscle, then you need to be in a calorie surplus (eating more calories than your body needs), if you’re looking to drop bodyfat, you need to be in a slight deficit (eating less than your body needs). Now you will see I have emphasised this, because everyone wants to do both at the same time which unless you are an inexperienced lifter realistically isn’t going to happen. Or, if it does, progress will be very slow and you will need to absolutely nail every one of these factors. So generally, I would recommend focussing on one or the other.
Hitting your Macros
So, getting back to the diet side of things – I say to my clients to really focus on hitting their protein goal, which should be ideally around 0.8-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight and to also hit their overall calorie goal. This isn’t to say Carbs and Fats aren’t important, and they should definitely be included within your diet, as they both have very important functions. But unless you are planning on competing, then there is no real need to nail down all of your macros exactly. It will also be a huge ask for most people going from tracking nothing to hitting their macros bang on every day, so as I said protein and overall calories for the win. Now overall calories can be worked out easily online by searching for a calorie calculator which will estimate how much you should be consuming based on your personal stats (age, height, weight, sex, etc) and your activity levels. What I would say however is that this value is only a rough guide and needs to be adjusted as the weeks go on depending on your progress. If in doubt, speak to a qualified PT or nutritionist.
Prepare for Everything
Plan food for the following day so you know you’re always going to hit your goals. Logging food as you go will never work and you’ll either end up massively short on calories by the end of the day or more likely reached your daily allowance before dinner time. Planning when you’re going to train is also key and plan ahead of any social events so you can come up with a game plan.
As a natural athlete, if you are serious about making good gains in size, strength, power, etc., I think it is vitally important to supplement wisely and spend that bit extra on getting good quality products that will help in achieving your goals. The way I look at it is, having a poor quality supplement is just as bad a missing a meal or having no supplements at all, if anything on some occasions it can be even more detrimental.
A point I would like to make is that the majority of meals you eat should be good home cooked, solid, fresh, real food. Supplements should then be used alongside your meals to SUPPLEMENT your diet (hence the name). I would never recommend for anyone to replace real food for supplements, but used alongside a good balanced diet they can help you to recover faster, pack on muscle, and stay healthy.
Now, there are endless supplements available to buy, so I would say to always do your research and buy high quality otherwise you are just wasting your money. The analogy I use is saying all protein is the same is like saying all orange juice is the same. If you buy diluting orange juice, are you getting the same quality as freshly squeezed? Of course not, you get what you pay for at the end of the day.
The 3 must have supplements I would say to have are:
Anyone who is involved in weight training will know the importance of Whey protein in helping your muscles to grow and recover. It is also a safe and convenient way to hit your daily protein goals. Personally, I have a scoop of Choc Cookie Smart-Tec Whey-FX mixed in with my oats in the morning and a shake after training.
One of the most tested supplements on the market and proven to help improve strength and lean muscle mass. A definite must have supplement.
After the initial loading week, 5g a day after training or at any time on non training days is adequate. I use Smart-Tec Creatine-FX as it is Creapure, the highest quality Creatine Monohydrate available.
A good quality Multi Vit is essential for anyone that trains. Working out takes a lot out of you, including a loss of vitamins. This leaves you more susceptible to catching bugs and becoming unwell.
Take a serving in the morning to help keep your body in tip top shape. I use Smart-Tec Smart Vits.
Fat loss/Muscle Growth comes down to loads of factors and a huge one is stress. We need to keep this at a minimum, so ensure you’re resting enough by getting a good 7-9 hours of sleep every night if possible.
The next few factors also play a part in minimising stress by helping to keep your body working as efficiently as possible.
Drink Enough Water
Aim for a glass with every meal or around 3-4 litres per day. This will help with digestion and a host of other bodily functions.
Eat Plenty of Veg
Ensure you have a mixture of veg with every meal including some dark greens like spinach or Broccoli.
Again, there’s no point putting in all this effort if every weekend you throw everything out the window, get hammered, eat crap, and lie around feeling rough. I’m not saying to cut alcohol completely, but what you need to realise is that it will hamper your progress and undo a lot of the good work you’ve put in. So be mindful and remember how badly you want to reach your goals.
Be Patient and Consistent
Now this is a biggie, as I said at the start if it was easy everyone would look incredible. The people who you look at and aspire to be like have all made sacrifices and have failed many times. They’ve brushed themselves off, stayed focussed, and kept grinding away to achieve the body they wanted. It doesn’t come easy for anyone but nothing worth having ever does so stay focussed and keep your eyes on the prize.
Thanks for reading and as always, any questions or advice hit me up on social media.
Gordie is a current WNBF Pro Bodybuilder and in the past 8 he has won several National and International amateur titles, as well as a World title. At Professional level, he has picked up two top 3 places in the UK, a top 10 in Europe, and a top 10 in the World. He also works closely with the United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association to promote the sport and run his own show every year, the Caledonian Classic. Aside from Bodybuilding, Gordie is a full-time Fire Fighter and part-time Personal Trainer/Online coach.