Let’s say your goal is to build muscle and bulk up, you want to do it at home, and you have the space to build a simple barbell home gym. What equipment should you get?
In this guide, we’ll go over how to build a simple barbell home gym, including:
- What lifts your home gym should be designed for
- How to make your home gym perfect for gaining 50+ pounds of muscle
- How to lift safely and effectively in your home gym without a spotter
- What specific equipment you should buy
None of these are affiliate links or anything. There’s no conflict of interest. I just remember how confusing building my own home gym was, so my hope is that I can make the learning curve a little smoother.
One of the biggest obstacles to transform our bodies might not be in our genes. It’s not about being skinny. It’s not about being ectomorphs. Many times, what holds us back are our beliefs. We want to change our bodies, but… how can we get started on a new journey when—deep inside—we believe we won’t make it?
We say we want to gain weight and put on muscle, but part of us holds back. Otherwise, we should have already solved this, right? If you are still struggling with being skinny, chances are you need to take a look at your mindset.
In fact, if you can adopt the right mindset, it won’t just change your psychology, it will also change your physiology. It will improve the rate that you build muscle through a process akin to the placebo effect, where simply believing that you can grow will physically increase the rate that you’re able to gain muscle.
How big and strong can you expect to be after your first year of lifting? I wrote a newsletter about this and it got a lot of positive responses, so we decided to publish it as a blog post as well. If you like this kind of content, though, I’d recommend signing up for our newsletter at the top right of the page. (We send out around four newsletters for every blog post that we write.)
There’s a lot of research looking into rates of muscle growth and rates of strength gain… but what if you’re a naturally skinny guy, a hardgainer, an ectomorph? Does the answer change for us? After all, we’re starting off with far less muscle mass and strength.
In this article, we’ll go over two main questions from a hardgainer’s perspective:
1. How much lean mass can a guy expect to gain in his first year? The typical answer is that someone can gain around two pounds of muscle per month while making newbie gains, and then after a few months the rate of muscle growth will slow to about a pound per month. So in his first year, a drug-free guy can expect to gain around around twenty pounds of muscle. That begs the question, then: if that’s true, how can our program guarantee over twenty pounds within just a few months?
2. How strong should a beginner be after a year of lifting weights? The typical answer is that after a year of lifting, a guy should be able to bench press 225lbs (100kg), squat 315lbs (140kg), and deadlift 405lbs (180kg). This begs another question: why do so many skinny guys fail to get anywhere close to those numbers during their first year of lifting?
These typical answers are wrong for naturally skinny guys, both in good ways and bad.
Let’s dig into the science.
When I first started lifting weights, I was absolutely crippled by muscle soreness. People cringed when they saw me try to sit in a chair. I loved it. I was sick and tired of being skinny, and I thought the muscle soreness was a sign that my muscles were growing. But was that crippling muscle soreness a good thing?
A couple months later, my soreness had faded away to almost nothing. Not only could I sit down in a chair without everyone in the room grimacing, I could even hold myself upright in it. I started to feel less like a burning puddle of oil, more like a human being. It was awful. My gains had started to slow down as well, and I was convinced that my waning muscle growth was connected to my fading muscle soreness. Was my fading muscle soreness causing my plateau?
Muscle soreness is intimately connected to muscle growth, but most of us have no idea how it works, making the whole process that much more confusing. So in this article let’s go over a few of the more common muscle soreness questions that we get:
- Should you work out if you’re still feeling sore?
- What’s the link between muscle soreness and muscle growth?
- Can muscle soreness interfere with muscle growth?
- What can you do to reduce muscle soreness?
- Can you build muscle without becoming sore?
- What if a specific muscle isn’t getting sore?
- What if your joints or tendons are getting store?
- What if your lower back is sore?
Inflammation is an odd beast. We’ve been getting some questions about it in the community, but most members are approaching it dead backwards. I don’t blame them—it’s totally counterintuitive.
I mean, inflammation is bad… right? Unhealthy foods cause inflammation, and if we eat too many of them, we can wind up chronically inflamed. Healthy foods, on the the other hand, are rich in antioxidants, and if we eat enough of them, it reduces our baseline inflammation.
Similarly, being obese can cause inflammation, and is linked with higher risks of morbidity. Being lean, however, reduces inflammation and is linked with improved long-term health.
We’re interested in building muscle, though, and lifting weights causes inflammation. In fact, lifting weights causes a lot of inflammation. So much so that lifting may become your main source of inflammation.
And inflammation is bad… right?
In this article we’ll discuss why inflammation exists and what role it plays in building muscle. Once we have the general principles down, we’ll cover common questions, such as:
- Is inflammation good or bad?
- Should we try to reduce inflammation?
- Are antioxidants good for muscle growth?
- Do Advil, Aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs affect muscle growth?
- Do post-workout saunas boost muscle growth?
- Are ice baths good for building muscle?
- How can you fix inflamed forearms (tendonitis)?
- What about shoulder pain and inflammation (shoulder impingement)?
To close off 2018 and kick off 2019, let’s take a closer look at the most important bulking research that was published last year, including studies looking into:
- How important are bicep curls for big arms?
- Does muscle memory really exist?
- How long should you rest between sets?
- What happens if you bulk on a ketogenic diet?
- Are high-protein diets healthy?
- Does casein before bed speed up muscle growth?
- Are 5×5 routines good for building muscle?
That last one, wow. It’s not just a single study, it’s a massive meta-analysis looking into every single study published on the topic. It’s not a total surprise given the research that has been trickling out over the years, but seeing them all together in one place like this—wow.
Anyway, all of those answers and more inside.
Your pecs are some of the largest and most powerful muscles in your body, but they’re also notoriously difficult to develop, making it rare to see a man with an impressive chest. In this article we go over the best overall chest exercises, as well as the best chest exercises to bring up your upper, mid, and lower chest. Some are heavy compound lifts; others are light isolation lifts. If you want the best results, we recommend using a mix of all of them. That’s the only way to build a truly strong, full chest.
It’s also common for guys to have trouble activating their pecs when doing chest exercises, which not only makes it impossible to grow their chests, but will also limit the amount of weight they can lift. So we’ll also teach you how to do each exercise properly, which should not only speed up your chest growth, but also instantly boost your bench press strength.
Once upon a time, I was 23 years old and 130 pounds at 6 feet tall. I was dangerously skinny and clinically underweight, with a BMI of 17.6. I stood hunchbacked from all my time spent hunched over my desk studying graphic design. I was not a beacon of health.
My roommate and business partner, Shane, was in a similar situation, so we made a pact to change our skinny ways. We called it Muscle May and spent much of April preparing for it. But even before I started lifting weights or eating more food, my body was already transforming.
In preparation for the start of Muscle May, I had started taking creatine monohydrate a week early. I wanted to load up on creatine beforehand so that my levels were optimized for my first workout in the gym.
I would mix in 5 grams of Allmax Creatine into blueberry Fruitopia juice. The creatine was grainy at the bottom of the dark purple juice, but it was tasteless. Unless you count taking some multivitamins as a kid, it was the first supplement I ever took.
Every morning I’d faithfully drink my grainy purple drink. And by the end of the week…
I had gained 8 pounds. I hadn’t even started working out. I hadn’t changed what I was eating. And I had gained 8 pounds of totally lean weight. I couldn’t believe it. It was crazy.
If you’re a skinny guy and you’ve struggled to gain weight, this might sound incredible—maybe even unbelievable—but this is a common “side-effect” of creatine. It draws more water and sugar (glycogen) into your muscles, making them look bigger and fuller, giving them extra strength and endurance, and, in my case, adding 8 pounds to the scale.
This initial success with creatine is what set the stage for our transformations. In our four-month experiment, I had gained over 30 pounds. Shane gained 25. We had such extreme results that random people on BodyBuilding.com were commenting that our transformations were either photoshopped or that we were using steroids. Neither of which was true. Oh boy.
Obviously eating a bulking diet and lifting weights were the keys to building rapid amounts of muscle (see our how-to article about gaining weight here), but creatine played a meaningful supporting role.
So, what exactly is creatine? How can it help build muscle easier—faster? How much does it improve our strength and muscle-building potential? Perhaps the skeptic in your head says that anything this effective and this cheap must ultimately be bad for us, right? Is that true? And if you do decide to try it, how exactly should you take it?
Have you ever wondered if intermittent fasting was good for bulking? After all, it helps you produce more growth hormone, which could help with muscle growth; it increases increase in insulin sensitivity, which could help make your gains leaner; and research shows that it helps preserve muscle when losing weight. This could theoretically make intermittent fasting a good bulking diet… right?
On the other hand, most bodybuilders bulked up by doing the exact opposite of intermittent fasting. The guys with the most famous physiques in history all ate at least a few meals per day. Why?
Furthermore, we hardgainers and ectomorphs are notorious for having tiny stomachs, raging metabolisms and small appetites—all of which make bulking up way harder. Will intermittent fasting work for our naturally skinny body type?
There are good arguments to be made for and against intermittent fasting. In this article we’ll go over the muscle-building advantages and disadvantages of intermittent fasting, then take a look at some studies that compared it against a traditional bulking diet. By the end, you’ll be able to decide if it’s a good approach for you while bulking.
As an ectomorph, eating enough calories to gain weight is hard. Most guys feel like their stomachs are too big and their metabolisms are too slow. And they’re right. Their stomachs really are too big, and their metabolisms really are too slow. They gain weight easily and by accident.
That’s not the case with ectomorphs. We struggle against our small stomachs and fast metabolisms, making it incredibly difficult to gain weight. People tell us we need to eat more, and that’s true, but how can we eat more when we’re already so damn full all the time?
The problem is, if we want to bulk up, we do need to eat more calories. In order to gain muscle, we must gain weight. In order to gain weight, we have to get into a calorie surplus. It takes 3,500 extra calories to gain a pound, so if we want to gain a pound per week, we need to find a way to eat around 500 extra calories per day. I know that’s a tough bite to swallow, especially if you’re already stuffed to the gills, but there’s no way around it. We have to find a way to eat more.
That’s why an ectomorph bulking diet needs to be good for building muscle leanly and healthfully, but also easy on the appetite and easy to digest.
In this article, we’ll go over the principles that every ectomorph bulking diet should be built on:
- Adding in bulking foods. Focus on adding good bulking foods into your diet, not on cutting bad things out.
- Eating more often. Add snacks into your diet instead of making your meals bigger so that your stomach is never pushed to its limit.
- Caloric density. Try to eat foods that are calorically dense, such as eating raisins instead of grapes, and fruits instead of veggies.
- Moderate fibre intake. Keep your fibre intake moderate, with enough fibre for good digestive health, but not so much that it causes bloating and gas.
- Building a strong digestive system. Build a stronger digestive system by eating prebiotics, probiotics, and a diet made up of 80% whole foods.
- Blend, grind, and cook your food. Ground meat, smoothies, and stews are all extremely easy to digest.
- Liquid calories. Drink some of your calories, such as having a smoothie for breakfast, or fruit juice along with your meals.
- Eating food that you like. Make your diet enjoyable, lean into your preferences, and don’t shy away from spices and sauces.