Mass Building Basics

By: Anthony Robbinson

Building muscle is a process, not an event. It takes time, hard work, and most of all, dedication! And during any ongoing process, a person will hope to see a series of progressions that eventually lead to their ultimate goal. For a bodybuilder, this is more muscle mass! In the spirit of wanting to push this progress as fast as possible, many times bodybuilders are ultimately spinning their wheels. They get "sucked in" to fancy new workout programs by what they read in industry magazines and all the sudden 6 months goes by and they wonder why they haven't made any more progress!? This is where you step back and evaluate your situation and, in the spirit of any football coach after a loss... you say, "ok, that's it, it's time to get back to the basics!"

Why do we forget about the basics?

The first reason people forget about basics is because the basics are so easy, they simply get overlooked. What I mean is that people don't see the forest through the trees. We take them for granted or treat them like a temporary phase you go through. We are always looking for some exotic, theory or program to shortcut their way to faster progress. Meanwhile, the easy answer is right in front of their face, but they overlook it because it seems too obvious. Not just in the gym but in every aspect of life. Think about it. Basic concepts are there to be used, not learned then tossed aside.

The second reason people fail to get back to basics is because the basics are so darn hard! It never ceases to amaze me how people always gravitate towards the easier, more fun exercises while avoiding the harder, more result-producing exercises. Let's face it, squats and deadlifts aren't fancy or fun. They are tough - real tough! If you don't learn to love (or at least tolerate) heavy, basic exercises like squats, you'll never join the ranks of the massive. Choose Compound vs isolation movements.

What are the basics?

The basics are simple to understand and hard to do.

1)Do Compound Movements that recruit a lot of muscle fibers.

2)Recover fully before working out again.

3)Get a calorie surplus.

First and foremost, "back to basics" means get back to doing compound, multi-joint exercises instead of isolation movements. Compound movements are those that involve the largest muscle groups as well as smaller, stabilizing muscles. Because they utilize a greater muscle mass, they allow you to lift heavier weights. There is a direct correlation between the amount of weight lifted in an exercise and the size of the muscle. Therefore, it is logical that compound exercises like squats have a greater potential for building mass than isolation movements like leg extensions because squats allow the utilization of much heavier poundages, resulting in more muscle fiber recruitment, and much greater hypertrophy.

The Best Mass Building Exercises? Here is a list of the best compound exercises for each body part:

Quads: Squats, Front Squats, Leg Presses

Hamstrings: Stiff-Legged Deadlift, Lying Leg Curl

Back: Pull-up, Bent Over Row

Chest: Barbell Bench Press, Dumbbell Bench Press, Weighted Wide Grip Dips

Deltoids: Press behind Neck, Dumbbell Press, Military Press, Shrugs

Triceps: Lying Tricep Ext., Close Grip bench Press, Pushdowns, Seated Tricep ext.

Biceps: Standing Barbell Curl, Seated Alternate Dumbbell Curl, Preacher Curl

Calves: Standing Calf Raise, Donkey Calf Raise, Seated Calf Raise

Ever heard the saying, "If you don't Squat, You Ain't Squat!"? Well, its true! Here's why! Because barbell squats are positively the single most result producing lower body exercise you can do. If you are physically capable of squatting and you're not doing squats, you are compromising your results. Squats hype your metabolism, pump up your legs, they make your back stronger, they promote good form, they make you sleep better... and make your whole body grow! Leg presses are an "OK" alternative exercise, but they just aren't the same.

Rest and Recuperation

Muscles don't grow during a workout. They grow between the workouts - if you allow them to rest, that is. All too often, the over-enthusiastic trainee works out longer and more often under the impression that more is better. Over training is the arch-nemesis of the bodybuilder. Training by itself does not translate into growth; training plus recuperation does. If you train again before your body is fully recovered, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Proper recovery includes two separate components; specific recuperation and systemic recuperation. Specific recuperation refers to how much time you allow between training a particular body part. The rage these days seems to be training every day and hitting each muscle group once per week. This is not a bad idea from a specific recuperation point of view, but if you're training six or seven days per week, you may be defeating the purpose of one body part per week training. Individual muscle groups need to rest between training sessions, but so does the entire body. Systemic recuperation means allowing your entire body to recuperate by not training too many days in a row. If you train too frequently, this places excessive demands on your nervous system. Two or three days of weight training in a row is the most I ever suggest. If you are a "hard-gainer" then an every other day routine might be even better. I propose they change the name, "hard-gainer" and replace it with "poor-recoverer"... that's what it really is. A two on, one off schedule where you work each muscle every five to seven days is extremely effective. This allows individual muscles and your entire body sufficient recuperation for maximal growth.

Many bodybuilders look to anabolic steroids to help their body recover faster. The increased testosterone levels have an amazing effect on muscle recovery. However, as we all know, using anabolic steroids comes with high risk. Therefore athletes often look to legal non-prescription anabolic recovery supplements like by Red X Labs. These extreme formulas can keep the user in a prolonged anabolic state that helps their muscles recovery much faster than normal.

Volume Training - The # 1 key key to gaining strength

There are many factors involved in building a muscular physique, but in the long run the only thing that really matters is that you progressively overload your muscles with high volume exercises. There are many ways to overload a muscle such as decreasing rest intervals, increasing the reps, slowing rep speed which increases time under tension, doing more repetitions, and others. But the granddaddy of them all is simply adding weight on the bar.

The more volume you can lift in strict form, the bigger the muscle will get, period. Constantly adding reps or weight at every session is one way to achieve higher volume. Sometimes doing an extra set or two at a very heavy weight can pay huge dividends later! Don't attempt large jumps in weight loads too quickly though; this leads to injury and sometimes it can really set you back emotionally. You may not always be able to increase the weight, but you must try to make progress in some form at every single workout.

Keep your workouts brief in duration and high in intensity. The definition of intensity is the degree of momentary muscular effort that you exert. In bodybuilding, your intensity during a set should be very high, yet between sets you should be relaxed and poised. A lot of times, guys keep their intensity level so high that they get burned out before the workout is over. This is very counterproductive. There is an inverse relationship between intensity and volume. The harder you train, the fewer sets you'll be able to do (and this means lower volume). As a general rule, it's most effective to keep your workouts brief (under 60 minutes) and intense only when under a load. More is not better, harder is better. What's the magic number? I personally feel 40-60 reps at 80% of your muscle capacity for any major muscle group is more than enough to trigger a lot of muscle growth without tearing you up so bad that it takes a week to recover.

Avoid excessive cardio work

The entire point of adding a 250-500 daily calorie surplus to your diet is to allow extra nutrients and energy to support the growth of new muscle tissue. It takes a 3200 calorie surplus to build one pound of bodyweight. If you continue to over exert yourself with cardio every day for prolonged periods (as you do in a weight reducing program) you'll only be burning off those extra calories you needed for growth. I'm not suggesting you completely stop doing cardio. Everyone should always do 15-30 minutes of cardio 3-4 days per week regardless of your goals - that should be a part of any healthy lifestyle. To build muscle, one should do what is called "anabolic cardio" which will be explained in future articles. Too much is counterproductive and will put your body in a catabolic state, not an anabolic one.


Do yourself a favor; stop wasting your time searching for an easy way, because it doesn't exist. Just eat big, work hard, work heavy on the basic exercises and get plenty of recovery time (use some available at if you have to!) and you'll soon be adding pounds of lean body mass faster than you ever thought possible.

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