I Know Everything About Building Muscle—I Just Haven’t Done It Yet
Couple quick questions.
Are you satisfied with how much muscle you’ve built?
If not… do you know what to do? I mean the basics: Eat 1g of protein per pound bodyweight, get into a calorie surplus, lift weights, and sleep. That kind of thing. Know them inside and out? Rad.
But if you know the basics and you’re not satisfied with what you’ve built so far, what’s going on?
How is it possible to not be where you want to be when you know everything?
I’m not asking these questions to be mean, or a downer. I’m asking because I really want to see you reach your potential.
I’m asking because I want to see if I can wake you up. Is it possible that there’s a gap between intellectual knowing something and actually doing it?
Before we go any further, if you don’t know the basics, that’s totally okay. Maybe it’s better than okay because you’re still uncorrupted with years of bro-myths 🙂
We’d love to see you join the Bony to Beastly program if you want a step-by-step evidence-based system for skinny guys. If you’re not ready to join just yet, check out our free article on how to build muscle if you’re skinny.
Below we’ve highlighted 4 common “doing” issues with some specific action steps to help you get out of your rut. Even if you’re already doing well, you might find a way to improve what you’re doing a bit.
I Know Everything About Building Muscle, It’s Just Not Working For Some Reason
Workout-Collecting-Carl knows exactly how to build muscle. Of course he does. He’s been reading about it for years, listening to podcasts with the top bodybuilders, and subscribing to hundreds of muscle-building YouTube channels.
Workout-Collecting-Carl tells his buddies how to build muscle. He tells them how they shouldn’t be squatting on bosu balls because the core is activated in a far more practical way with regular squats.
He tells them how they can perfectly incorporate supersets into their routine to help out lagging body parts (the pump, baby—it works by causing metabolic stress).
He tells them what supplements they need to take to boost their muscle growth by 33% (citrulline malate is doing real well in recent studies, you know).
Secretly Workout-Collecting-Carl must know there’s something wrong because he isn’t building muscle. But across every article he’s read, every PubMed abstract he skimmed, and every interview he watched, they tell him the same basics he already knows. Eat lots of food and lift heavy. Right?
Workout-Collecting-Carl may even come across Bony to Beastly. He’s so close to actually figuring it all out. He sees our no-hassle 180-day guarantee and buys it on a whim. He bypasses the Quick-Start Guide and skips right to the workouts. There’s some weird stuff in there, but he spots some familiar lifts. “Yep. Just like everything else,” he tells himself. He opts for the refund since there’s no point paying for something he already knows. He doesn’t gain a single pound that year.
Don’t be like Workout-Collecting-Carl.
If you’re brand new to lifting, even the crappiest of all programs will work for a bit. Sure, you may end up with T-Rex proportions (huge legs and small arms) with a traditional 5×5 program, you may end up with some nagging injuries from jumping into overhead presses on day 1, or you may only build 1 pound of muscle and 3 pounds of fat. But still, you’ll build some muscle.
But a few pounds later and you’re stuck. Suddenly things are getting complicated. If you aren’t gaining weight, perhaps you’re missing something on the nutrition side.
Or if you’re gaining weight but it’s all fat, maybe it’s a nutrition issue, or maybe it’s that half-haphazard workout you cobbled together from T-Nation, Bodybuilding.com, and that YouTuber guy with the waxed chest.
There are nuances to programming workouts that aren’t always visible. Things like exercise progression, volume, intensity, lifting for neurological or hypertrophic gains, how compound and isolation lifts can synergize, using active insufficiency and passive tension for extra stimulus, periodization, etc. Not all workouts are equal when it comes to building new muscle.
Is it possible that lifting heavy just doesn’t cut it when it comes to your goal of gaining lots of muscle size, hitting your aesthetic goals, keeping your body injury-free, and feeling as supple as a Grizzly?
Or maybe the intensity advice you got from the bodybuilder just doesn’t work when you add that to your powerlifting program.
Here’s the harsh truth. Building muscle is hard.
Building muscle is hard for the genetically gifted. It’s even hard for people where their body is their livelihood—people like actors and fitness pros who can train all day and have a chef cook all their meals.
But, while building muscle is tough, it can be made manageable, repeatable, and even enjoyable if you have a Sherpa-like guide. Like climbing a large mountain with an expert who shows you exactly what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and even why you’re doing it.
But building muscle gets stupidly difficult when you try and cut corners.
Action Steps To Fix This
- Get a professionally programmed workout and a nutrition plan that’s evidence-based. We like ours 😉 And if you love learning about this stuff, you can learn the nuances as you build muscle. It might take you a few years to hit your goals if you’re trying to build 50 pounds, and by the end you’ll, for real, know everything. Including how to apply theory to your real life.
- Stick with a great plan for at least a couple months to see the results. Switch too often and you’ll always just be getting neurological gains (practice, muscle recruitment) rather than pushing your body hard enough to actually require building muscle.
- Don’t mess with the plan. If you choose a good plan, all the puzzle pieces are designed to fit together. If you start merging multiple plans, you can break them.
- If you’re a DIYer, stop reading articles, of varying quality, and buy some exercise science textbooks and do some studying.
- Weigh yourself each week so you can see if you’re gaining the right amount of weight. If you aren’t, what you’re doing isn’t working.
I Know Everything About Building Muscle So I Can Just Go With The Flow
Free-Flowing-Fred already knows about counting calories and how you need to be in a calorie surplus to gain weight. He’s already gained a few pounds by tracking calories.
But he’s subconsciously tired of logging his meals into MyFitnessPal. So he’s decided to just feel it out.
He feels like he’s eating massive meals. After all, he’s eating beyond fullness. He’s taking weight-gainers and protein shakes too. He orders extra side dishes when he goes out for dinner. He’s crushing calories… in his head.
Objectively, this isn’t really true, though. At the end of the week he hasn’t gained any weight. He chalks it up to just water-weight fluctuations or some sort of unexplainable body quirk—that next week he’ll gain weight.
This is a classic skinny-guy slip-up. You know you need lots of protein and lots of calories, but you don’t track it.
Our bodies crave homeostasis. For every extra side dish that Free-Flowing-Fred ordered, it didn’t actually matter, as he subconsciously skimps on his breakfast the next morning. He tries his best, but his calories balance out.
Every body craves equilibrium. It wants energy balance. It neither wants to starve (eat too little) or get fat (eat too much).
Action Steps To Fix This
- Measuring is non-negotiable while changing your body. Change is hard. Measure your weight weekly. Track your calories daily, weekly, monthly. Track your protein too. There are incredible free tools available, like MyFitnessPal, that didn’t exist 10 years ago. (Members can check out our MyFitnessPal guide here.)
- Measure yourself with a tape measure monthly to make sure that you’re getting results in the right places.
- If you don’t want to measure, adjust your expectations knowing that you’re in a maintenance phase of your life.
I know Everything About Building Muscle But I’m Too Tired Or I Don’t Have Time
Too-Tired-Timmy spent years of late nights with blood-shot eyes researching how to build muscle. But he’s too tired to actually do it.
Everyone gets tired. At the end of the day, they feel sleepy and want to go to bed. This is true even if it was a day off and you feel like you did nothing.
You still built a lot of cells to regenerate organs, you spent a lot of blood sugar on thinking, you breathed a bunch, etc.
So the question is, how do we fit everything we want to do into the day? Too-Tired-Timmy only has about 30–60 minutes of low-key energy at the end of the day. That’s enough energy to browse the internet to learn about building muscle, but it’s not enough to do a high-energy workout.
So he kind of knows, in his head, what it takes to build muscle. But there’s a huge gap between knowing and doing. How can he fix this?
Action Steps To Fix This
- Move weightlifting to the first thing in the morning, when you have your most energy and time. Stop browsing the internet at night and wake up one hour earlier and you’ll magically have the energy and time needed—after a coffee of course. Cook a bulk meal once a week on Sunday to make the nutrition side take less time, and require less daily effort.
- Cut out draining activities that aren’t family or work-related. Reading a book and taking a nap will give you energy. Scrolling through Facebook is a draining activity. It takes energy out of you and doesn’t return hardly anything of use… unless you’re expecting to be quizzed soon on your neighbour’s political opinions.
I know Everything About Building Muscle But I Can’t Make Myself Do It
Motivational-Michael is the guy who knows what to do, but he just can’t do it. He has plenty of time and energy. He may even be in college with access to a free gym and a cheap cafeteria. Yes, there’s some assignments due and some readings, maybe a party to attend, etc. But it’s not like he’s doing his medical residency, or has 3 kids to take care of after a long day of work.
Motivational-Michael spends a lot of time—or possibly not enough time—looking at Youtube video collages of shirtless teenagers transforming into men who now look like they could be his dad.
He knows the end goal he wants, but it’s actually doing the daily work that gets him. Daily calories, daily protein, the 3x a week workouts. Even getting to bed at a reasonably normal time is hard.
Working out doesn’t feel like fun to him, even though watching people work out is.
Motivational-Michael needs to realize that he’s a very capable person, but he’s also human. We’re designed to conserve energy. Working out and eating well is in his best interests for the long-term version of himself, but not the short-term.
A common metaphor for developing a new habit is like a space shuttle taking off. It requires a ton of fuel to overcome gravity and break through the atmosphere.
But once you’re free in space, it becomes very easy to stay there and continue to move forward with less resistance.
Action Steps To Fix This:
- You’re capable, so bet on yourself. Make a bet with a friend for $50 that you’ll do 11 out of 12 workouts in the next month, and hit your daily calories/protein for 30 days with 2 slip-ups allowed. If you lose, you’re out $50 and you get shamed. If you win, you keep your 50 bucks, and the 4–8 pounds you gained.
- If your motivation is already high enough to hit the gym, instead of using that motivation to go harder, take some time to streamline your gym efforts and routine to develop a manageable habit. When things get crazy, and they will, a simpler and more optimized routine will be much easier to keep up with.
- Set reminders on your calendar app for the next 2 months to pop up notices on workout days. Your attention will drift over time, and reminders can be a simple and effective nudge back to the right direction.
- Join a community like ours to find an accountability partner so that you can check in with each other. Weekly Skype calls or even just private messages does wonders. You can also create your own thread with what’s working and what’s not, and we can help coach you.
Whether you’re like Workout-Collecting-Carl, Free-Flowing-Fred, Too-Tired-Timmy, or Motivated-Michael… you need to give yourself a bit of grace.
Building muscle is tough. And as complicated as building muscle can get, it’s not enough to know—you need to do.
Beating yourself up in your head about why you suck, or why you’re lazy, or that you’re destined to be skinny forever doesn’t help you build muscle. It actually just pushes you down deeper which, believe it or not, negatively affects your workout adherence.
Here’s the re-cap:
- The nuances matter and building muscle is tough even for the genetically gifted. Don’t be too hard on yourself and get something professional programmed by an expert like us (The Bony to Beastly Program) to guarantee your success will match your efforts.
- Measuring your progress is non-negotiable. Again, building muscle is hard and requires attention and focus.
- Priorities matter, and improving yourself is draining but it’s not forever. Habits make things lower-energy so it’ll get easier as you keep it up. And you don’t need to build muscle as a marathon. You can sprint/rest/sprint/rest, etc. to make it more manageable.
- Reminders and accountability can be the extra fuel needed to break through gravity and coast with habits. Be bold and bet on yourself.
Will you challenge yourself and take action today? What was the single biggest takeaway you got from this article? Comment below about how you think you can switch up what you’re doing to get back on track.
Jared Polowick, BDes, has a degree in design from York University. He co-founded Bony to Beastly, Bony to Bombshell, and Outlive, where he translates complex academic research reviews about strength, fat loss, and health into easy-to-read and visual formats that anyone can understand.
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Ha! I think we all know one of these guys and have, at some point, been one of them. At least I have. A combination of Carl and Fred to be precise.
No doubt about it, if what you are doing isn’t working…change it. I remember a course tutor telling me once “if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got”
Absolutely! I’ve been a Free-Flowing-Fred a few times in the past, for sure. It’s easy to shift into comfort when you start getting a couple months into a gain, etc.
I was a workout-collecting Carl, spinning my wheels thinking I knew it all and making up my own “programs”. Over a year of making my own programs meant stalling on all the big lifts and not properly bulking or cutting, not looking all that different after all that work.
Stick to a program and you will see results. I am now, and wish I had sooner.
Wise advice, thanks for sharing NA 🙂 Hope your training continues to go well!
Where is the upper limit with Bony to Beastly? Say, for instance, I’m already squatting 300, benching 250, and deadlifting 400 for 5×5 (using Stronglifts, except I modified it to only squat twice a week instead of every workout–I replaced the squats on the 2nd day with weighted pull-ups.)
Will Bony-To-Beastly help advanced lifters? I love the 3x a week schedule and don’t want to switch to more than that, but want to keep growing. Is Bony To Beastly for me?
Nice call replacing some of the squats with pull-ups (or chin-ups), which are normally absent from Stronglifts. Also, congrats on your strength gains!
Bony to Beastly is appropriate for guys who are looking to bulk. Some researchers have defined this as the “intermediate” stage. The beginner stage would be gaining basic coordination, the intermediate stage would be gaining mass, the advanced stance would be absolutely mastering coordination. If you’re in that advanced stage already, where you’ve already gained about as much muscle as you can gain—you’re at your genetic potential—then a bulking program like ours wouldn’t be ideal for you. However, if you’re real strong and still have some room on your frame for more muscle, you’ll benefit from our program quite a lot.
Our program is slightly higher volume and far more size-oriented than Stronglifts, which will do a good job of helping you gain muscle size. You’ll also be going through the program with really heavy weights, and you’ll be making some cool strength gains as well.
Also, although we don’t advertise it, Bony to Beastly comes with the main bulking package—6 months of workouts—but we also give you an advanced month-long program every month. You get to pick between 2 different options based on your goals. So by the time you finish the main program, you’ll have 6+ months of advanced workouts stockpiled, and you’ll still get 6 more months of that before your membership expires (which you could renew for just 9/month). Marco also has experience coaching true beasts of men, such as Canadian pro football players and whatnot.
And for the sake of full disclosure, you’re about as strong as I am. The most I’ve deadlifted is 405, the most I’ve squatted is 295 and the most I’ve benched is 265. So it’d be pretty cool to get another guy in the community for me to compete with as we grow stronger. (Although there are a couple guys in there who are stronger than us, including Marco.)
I hope you decide to join us! We’d love to have you, man 🙂
I’m in! Signed up and everything. I was overlooking the phases and I’m not sure if you remember me but I signed up for b2b a while back when it first started in 2012. The postural stuff was awesome and I went from 6’1” to 6’3”! Haha freaking crazy and awesome.
Anyway I’m thinking about starting in phase 4 since I’ve already progressed through a lot of the preliminary stuff before (rackpulls to RDLs to deadlifts and goblet squats to front squats to back squats) and have been lifting heavy with back squats, barbell bench and deads with good form. I do like the 1/2 kneeling dumbbell press as my OH press is not nearly as good as I’d like though.
Thoughts on starting at phase 4?
Of course we remember 🙂 That’s great to hear about the postural stuff helping you get and stay tall!
You could go back a phase or two to pick back up, and just lift heavier now that you’re stronger. But I noticed in your account you opted for the new advanced workouts for longtime members, a good and fitting choice for where you’re at. Good luck with it and hope to see you in the community again soon 🙂
this is here i am with bodybuilding:
I think muscle is like money, you should have enough for your needs.
Having more muscle is tempting, and i managed to add some 5kg muscle 2 years ago. But am not sure it is safe to do it and maintain it in the long term. I am wondering if i would better preserve my joint frome exercise on the long term and my lifespan from eating a colorie surplus, and protein. Moreover, food is so polluted these days. Maybe less is better.
but i keep myself open to it and BtB would then one of my favourite sources of information.
Hey Thomas, congrats on your 5kgs, man! 🙂
Is it safe to maintain muscle? Of course! It’s very healthy, even. You’ll develop amazing bone density, you’ll do better when sick, your brain will improve, your mood will improve, your immune system will grow stronger, etc. Yes, there’s probably an Schwarzenegger-like point where people can take it too far for their health, but generally the problems you see are among the very serious bodybuilders and powerlifters: the powerlifters go so heavy so often that they risk chronic joint pain, and the bodybuilders risk issues from cutting to very, very low body fat percentages. But for recreational guys who can do it in a more moderate way, you get way more health benefits and nearly no downsides.
Is less food better? There’s some interesting research into calorie restriction, but no, most research is showing that the people who can maintain a healthy body fat percentage on more calories (higher “g-flux”) are healthier. Dr. John Berardi is a big proponent of that principle, and Alan Aragon also recently reviewed a study showing that, at least as far as fat-related issues are concerned, it’s better to eat more and burn more calories (study). There are surely limits to this as well.
I would say that maintaining a healthfully lean and strong physique—one that looks optimally attractive—would probably be the best for your short and longterm health. Maintaining a physique that’s too lean (under 8–12% depending on your genetics) or too muscular (over 25–27 BMI at a low body fat percentage) might bring some downsides. Same thing with strength—no need to deadlift 6 plates every week, but occasionally deadlifting 4 plates is a whole different (healthy) thing.
Thanks for replying.
I don’t want to make a mistake by eating a calorie surplus and endangering my life. Moreover, i lost my 5kg gain because you have to keep eating and exercising (although a bit less than bulking phase) to maintain your gain. I wasn’t sure it was ok. I don’t want to be spoiled by a muscle hype 🙂
Some years ago there was a buzz about okinawa people that live a longer life (a lot reach more than 100 years). It was supposed that their low protein, low stress, low caloric intake lifestyle was the key. I was then thinking i just need to be confident about myself without being muscular. Let’s be GRANT GUSTIN lol
I have a reference article from a french nutritionnist Julien Venesson. (ask google to translate!)
It says that the bottom line of caloric restriction is protein restriction because it reduces methionine intake. To maintain a protein intake as necessary for bulking, he advice taking glycine (pre collagen molecule) that prevents methionine to damage tissues. Studies are backing this. A lot of references and a good historic summary on caloric restriction, protein intake, glycine pros in this article.
However i am not sure wether glycine intake competes with caloric restriction…
Do you take glycine guys?
I’ve read about the Okinawa people also (as well as the 6 other cultures who live the longest), but the proposed mechanism for why they live so long was that they ate a diet made up almost entirely of whole foods, not that they avoided protein. And it wasn’t that they had a low bodyweight, it was that they had a healthy bodyweight (aka they weren’t overly fat). They also drink alcohol moderately, eat fermented foods, eat lots of fresh fish, eat lots of veggies, lots of fresh food in general, eat socially, etc. I agree with you on the stress.
To quote one of the calorie restriction researchers in one of the better-known studies (one that was covered in the New York Times), Dr. Jay Phelan: “Calorie restriction is doomed to fail, and will make people miserable in the process of attempting it.”
Also keep in mind that the researchers are comparing the average person eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) with calorie restriction. So you’re talking about an overweight person eating a diet made up mostly of processed foods who is being put on an experimental diet. You’d get an improvement in this guy’s health markers if you put him on the Mediterranean Diet, the Paleo Diet, a vegan diet, a vegetarian diet, IIFYM, a low carb diet, a low fat diet, a gluten-free diet, etc. Every diet is an improvement on the way most people eat nowadays, as all of them encourage eating more whole foods, more vegetables, fewer processed foods, and the correct amount of calories.
To quote Dr. John Berardi, from Precision Nutrition: “In the end, eating well, supplementing intelligently, and subscribing to a life-long exercise program may prove to be even more powerful than calorie restriction. And you won’t have to suffer the restriction, deprivation, and, well, scrawnyness associated with this approach.
And: “Interestingly this low body weight presents its own risks as he ages – studies show that those with low body weight and low muscle mass are at a higher risk for a loss of independence into their elder years due to the natural losses in bone and muscle that occur.”
That second point is a good one. We should also consider the benefits of muscle as we age. For example, it’s not just the difference between being thin or muscular from 18–60 years old, it’s also the difference between being able to walk from 60–100. And it’s not just the way our body functions, it’s also the way our brain functions. As we grow older, our brain capacity tends to diminish. Heavy lifting seems to delay this process, keeping us smart and alert.
As they do more research on calorie restrictions in humans we can see what we learn. As of now, I’m curious but unconvinced. I would rather follow a fairly moderate approach to eating well—one that’s more similar to the traditional cultures who live the longest, including the Okinawa people: lots of whole foods, lots of veggies, a little fish and meat, a little alcohol, some fermented foods, some dairy, etc. But I’m also going to exercise, and that exercise is going to include keeping myself strong. And I’m going to keep my bodyweight in the ideal healthy range.
I’m not saying you need to do gain weight or build muscle. If you do want to build muscle, we’re here to help. If you don’t, we still wish you the best of luck with your health and fitness 🙂
Thanks for that answer, very interesting.
I am going back to fitness soon!
By the way, did you stopped doing videos?
We’re still doing lots of videos, we just don’t post that many to YouTube. We’ve got hundreds in the community 🙂
I have been reading some of the stuff in this website, and I think they are really great. In this article I find myself situated in probably more than one of the cases; in theory I know almost everything I need to gain a few pounds, but I lack consistency do stick to a plan.
However, most of the training/nutrition protocols I see in the internet are aimed to aesthetical goals. Most concepts involve getting bigger and bigger, although being huge is not always an advantage in various activities. I am a freediver and lately I have been training for surfski (kayak) competitions. Also, I really enjoy to climb (a sport that is a bit easier for “not so heavy” people).
I have a really hard time to find some training protocols that include sports, like kayaking, for example, or even that allow these kind of activities. They can be quite limited for these cases.
Just to be clear, I am not a professional athlete, I have a 9 to 5 office work, sitting in front of a computer. Maybe if I trained all the sports I would not have this issue, or maybe would. Anyway, that’s not reality for now.
For kayaking, I need a really strong core for balance, good leg power and flexible shoulders. For freediving I need good aerobical condition, overall flexibility and stamina, specially in the legs. For climbing probably all of the above, with special focus on joint strength and strong back muscles. Each sport has its own set of exercises and practices – and I am not really looking for a program to involve all of them (that would be probably impossible to find). But I would like to see a program that is not like “do exactly this… don’t do more, don’t do less”. Even when they give some margin, it’s likely a day-off or something like that. For example, train for 3 days a week for 40 minutes won’t do it for my case. Sports usually recquire more specific training hours.
That is the reason why I am reluctant about Bony to Beastly. It’s safe to say that it is not a cheap product, and I am not sure it would be very adapted to my personal goals. Even though I am trying to have a better-looking body, it is not my lone objective. Nowadays I am 29 yrs old, 5-11, male, 157 lbs, 12% fat. I would be really satisfied if I manage to get to 167-170 lbs and 8-9% fat. This is not an absolutely huge bulk and would be great for sports.
What can you say about these different goals and the way they can be met with training/nutrition protocols, specially Bony to Beastly? I usually do stuff by myself, but that’s because I like doing stuff that are not that usual for most people. I would like a little guidance for my specific case, actually!
Thanks a lot, and keep going with the great work!
Great questions! I hear your concern. If I understand correctly you’re looking to increase your athletic output. Strong core, strong leg drive, but also not be too heavy for climbing, too big/bulky, and you’re looking for some cardiovascular work too.
I am not sure where you currently are in terms of strength or experience in the gym. Untrained or really young guys do really well with general fitness training. A wholesome muscle-building program like ours might do really well for you. It’d help you develop your functional capacity, for sure.
Once you start getting more advanced, you’ll need to start doing sport specific training to continue to progress. While doing lots of squats will help you develop strong legs and power, if you were a hockey player, nothing would replace actually getting time on the ice and skating.
I think you’d get a ton of value out of the coaching element of the program. We can help you sort out how to add in some cardio, help hold you accountable for the strength/muscle parts, etc.
Our program has 180-day guarantee, so if it’s the concern of whether the program is a good fit for you or not, I’d say to check it out and take advantage of the guarantee. There’s no other way to see how well it can work for you without actually checking it out, asking questions, and perhaps giving it a shot 🙂 If it’s not the best fit, no worries, just email us and we’ll get you your money back. But if it’s going well and you’re happy, just keep on using it. Hope you decide to join in!
So I am wondering if this is a good program for me personally to invest in. I’m 6’0 and currently weigh 160 lbs. I only weighed 145 about a few months ago until I started changing my eating habits and drinking my protein shakes daily. I suffer from the skinny guy complex of having absolutely NO chest. Like at all. My ribs stick out further than my upper torso. I play soccer quite frequently and I am afraid I am cutting the calories before I can even benefit from them in my workouts. Any advice?
Sounds like you’d be a great fit for the program 🙂 A huge part of our program is learning how to squeeze more calories into our diets. It’s great that you play soccer. And while you’re right that it’s burning calories, I’m confident our program will help you get into a calorie surplus and that extra activity will also help make your gains a bit leaner. Hope you decide to join in!
Good article. I think I needed this.
I didn’t do any sports for about 25 years of my life (not outside school PE anyway). Then when a good friend moved to the same city and we were both doing office jobs we decided to work out together (he is way bigger than I am though). After months of futile planning and searching we finally went to check out a cross-fit place. In retrospect that probably wasn’t ideal for a beginner like me, but at least I was doing it. After the 1st class I almost puked, I could hardly get off my shirt because my arm was so tired I could barely lift it above my head. But 20 minutes later the post-workout euphoria (I don’t know if it has a scientific name) kicked in and I was hooked. We kept up a consistent routine. 2 times a week and after about 6months 3 times a week for about 1 year. I gained 5kgs. Then summer kicked in, I got a new job, the cross-fit place moved, my friend moved and I had a lot of stress at work. And we practically of quited. I missed it and I felt bad about it. I fel worse when I found out I lost 5 kgs during the holidays (haha jokes on us, right? Who loses weight during Christmas?!).
Then things sort of normalized, I was earning a bit more money so I decided to go to the gym with and ask help (well, buy help) from a personal trainer. He was nice and helpful and gave good advice and pushed my limits. I quickly gained my 5kgs back and plateaued there (I guess those 5 kgs were my “newbi gains”). But I was working out 3 times a week again and now with weights that are supposedly better for muscle building. Then I couldn’t afford personal training anymore, but I still kept it up on my own – though probably not pushing myself as hard.
Then everything kind of fell apart again. I got a bad cramp in my neck for weeks, so I didn’t work out. Then there was something else. Then I got the flue. Then there was holiday season and I visited my parents for 2 weeks in my hometown. Then I changed jobs. Then I got sick again. Then I had to go abroad for 1 month. Then I got back again but I knew it was only for a few weeks and now I have to go abroad for 2 weeks again.
And every now and then I stuck 1-2 work-outs in there. And at least I kept my weight, but I am no-where near consistency now. And I skipped so much I feel like I will have to start all over again. But life has been SO hectic. And I am hoping for it to settle but then I will have to work shifts which I have never done before and I’m sure it will screw up my sleep and energy. And to be honest among all this I also lost quite a bit of motivation for muscle building. Why even bother?
So right now I think I’m all 4 of those guys 😀
At least I earn more now so I will be able to afford personal training again which should help me restart. And I’m also thinking about buying the b2b programme (though I’m not sure I would be able to stick to it. It sounds like it has a lot of components and I am afraid I would be in over my head.)
So that’s where I am now. If anyone has some motivational speech that would be good 🙂 Gotta hurry now though, have a plane to catch.
Haha, I think your first CrossFit experience might be a common one.
And believe it or not, but you losing weight over Christmas or during any holidays/vacation is a common skinny guy thing. It’s comes up a lot in the community. And it’s happened to me in the past as well. There’s also the problem that if you bring it up the fact that you need to be careful to eat enough so you don’t lose weight, with family members, they’ll just stare at you, either with bewilderment or jealousy that you can eat whatever you want. Most people in our culture gain weight during the holidays, so they’ll say they wish they had your “problem”.
It does sound like your life is missing some consistency or routine, which would help make it easier to stick to the plan with nutrition and exercise. I hope you can find a way to settle things down for a bit, for your own sanity and health!
I think you might get a lot more out of the program than you might realize. I’d really encourage you to take advantage of the guarantee to check it out. If it’s not adding anything useful, just get your money back, no worries. But I think the community will be able to help you a lot in terms of sticking with it, and any time those headaches come up like getting sick, or a kink in your neck, etc. you can just ask about it and get back on track. Better yet, with a solid program and good form, you may not get those kinks anymore.
I hope you think about it a bit, we’d love to have you join in! Have a good flight!
I am some 3 months late with this, but thanks! Honestly just the mere feeling of community this site brings is so GREAT! I feel less like a weird alien life form ever time I read it 🙂
I subscribed to this comment section, but didn’t have much time to check back, but today I read some of the comments and a throw-away line by Shane about how “the 1g protein per pound bodyweightday is just the minimum” kinda freaked me out. I finally recovered from all the stupid sicknesses that my body came up with just to spite me when I started to get back to the gym (especially indigestion which I think is the worst thing if you want to gain weigh…) and I was estimating my protein intake and was really bummed to find that even with 2 protein shakes I barely meet 100g/day.
I am now downloading My Fittness Pal and when I have a day off I will do some math and see where $200 fits in my budget, because I had enough of doing this crap alone 😀
I used to be the extreme kind of ectomorph, the kind that weighed 100 pounds at 5’10”. Imagine that.
I am now 155 pounds, mostly muscle and little bit of fat here and there. Now I know 155 @ 5’10” is still low bodyweight, but is it enough for an extreme ectomorph like me… the kind that had to struggle to reach even 110 pounds at one stage?
I understand that 170 pounds @ 5’10” would be ideal, but for an extreme ecto like me is it better to be satisfied with 155 (assuming that if I gain any more weight it will be fat rather than muscle).
Does my question make sense at all to anyone? lol.
Wow 🙂 Great job on the 55 pound gain Ahmd! That must have taken quite some time and dedication with your nutrition habits. Without seeing a photo of where you’re at, it’s hard to say. But as a 5’10 guy, typically speaking, you shouldn’t be at your genetic potential yet, especially if a portion of that is fat. So there’s probably lots of room to build muscle and bulk up.
It’s also very possible that a better workout program in terms of progression, volume, intensity, etc. that’s also suited to your ability and strength would improve your nutrient partitioning… sending more nutrients to building muscle than fat. Same thing with your diet. There could be things to clean up to gain a bit more muscle and leanly, too.
Judging from your question, you might really enjoy the program Ahmd. We answer and cover a lot of this, especially in the more advanced sections of the eBook.
When I saw this I thought this totally applied to me since I’m not where i want to be in terms of body aesthetics and have been reading your articles, bodybuilding.com advice, Jeff Cavalier videos and talking with a friend who managed to lose a lot of weight and is probably the fittest person I know. But I didnt manage to read this article yet just because I forgot about it. And today I’ve found out that im 0,8 kgs away from gaining 20kg of muscle since I’ve started lifting. With your plan I could have done it in two years probably but I did it my way no gym or fitness coach and it took a while longer. You guys and all your clients that you have posted on the site have been an motivation for me since you normally dont see such transformations its usually from chubby to ripped or something. Anyway now at 82kg and 187cm Im closing in to what I hope will be a body I can be extremely confident in yet at the same time I cant really say where my “finish line” should be, what should I aim for.
Over 19 kilos?! Amazing job, man! Really great work! So glad our articles could help, too. And that our member transformations were inspiring 🙂
There are ways to predict how muscular you can ultimately become, and Casey Butts is the king there. You could plug in your details here for an estimate of how much muscle you can expect to be able to build naturally. Really, though, nobody can really say how much you can gain. If you’re still eager to improve, I would just keep trying, keep measuring, keep trying to get stronger. Use more and more advanced techniques as you progress, and be ready for your results to come slower and slower. But until you’re deadlifting 5 plates, I wouldn’t limit yourself by thinking that you’re already as far as you can go 🙂
If you wanted an objective place to declare a “win,” though, I’d recommend reading our articles on aesthetics: Ectomorph Aesthetics, and Ectomorph Aesthetics #2: How to Become More Attractive. Aesthetics and health are closely linked, and both are incredibly important in different ways and for different reasons.
Yeah the calculator was a bit scary since im another 19kg from my max then. But in terms of aesthetics its funny that most of the measurements are about 1/4 inch off or and inch off right now except for my shoulder and chest and I believe i havent been slacking it might just be shorter collar bones? The 5 plate deadlift is a good goal when I eventually sign up for a gym membership :). What I was actually thinking with my original comment was more about when should one feel satisfied or say I can take a break now I’m not playing catch up with the rest of the guys, since thats where you start from as a skinny guy. And I know thats a personal question one has to ask and answer for themselves but after lifting for a while the idea of pushing yourself further every time you work out is instilled in you so that for someone even deadlifint 5 plates wont be enough. But then again maybe I personally might just be satisfied once I get to those aesthetic examples in you articles, I honestly dont know its just something thats been swirling around in my head recently.
Nice article 🙂
What helps me is calendar + alarm clock.
I set on MO, WE, FR = GYM 06:00 – 07:00. On SU morning 08:00 I have a reminder to “weigh myself” on a scale so I have a weekly data and it keeps me in check showing if I am going in the direction I want or not. On last day of each month, I set “take measurements” so I know my overall stats and progress.
I use it for food reminders.
05:30 = Smoothie (gym days only)
08:00 = Breakfast
10:00 = Snack 1
12:00 = Lunch
15:00 = Snack 2
18:00 = Dinner
21:00 = Snack 3 (usually smoothie)
I’m the “Sick Of Eating So Much Food” guy.
I’ve been using MyFitness Pal and steadily increasing my calories. I am up to 4,150 currently. 55% carbs, 25% protein, 20% fat, which by the way at such a high calorie level puts me at 260 grams of protein, but it’s recommended to eat 1 pound per body weight. Anyway, at 5’10” and now up to 159 pounds, it’s a lot of calories. My question is this: What is a normal bulking range for an ecto? I’d like to hit 175 pounds but it appears 5k calories may be necessary. And that’s extremely daunting. I’d rather be banging and clanging for two hours straight than eat all that food.
Hey man, a couple questions for you that may help you find your answer.
1. Simple Question: are you gaining weight?
-generally speaking, if you’re eating a lot, hitting your macros, and hitting your workouts, you should be gaining weight. If not, increase the calories another 200-300 and see if you gain weight at that intake. Weigh yourself at the same time every week (Sunday morning first thing, for example) and see if you’re gaining weight in the next two weeks. If you’re gaining a lot of fat, you’re eating too much–drop it down 2-300 calories. If you’re getting HUGE, keep it up! If scale is not budging, increase again.
2. More Complicated Question: Have you used a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) Calculator to find out how many calories you typically burn through a day? Check out this one (https://tdeecalculator.net/) and plug your info in (maybe put “Heavy Exercise” for the Activity level since I’m guessing you’re a high-metabolism ectomorph) and see what results it gives you. The nice thing you can do with this is figure out where you’re at for maintenance and add calories on top of that to bulk, or take calories away to cut (again, starting at +/-200-300.) There are a lot of good articles out there too about how many calories to add or subtract, so do your homework, but I’ve heard starting around 2-300 is a good starting point.
Hey Ryan, props for the gains it sounds like you’ve gotten so far.
That’s a good question.
Ricky already answered how to approach adjusting your calories. To add to the that, to gain around a pound per week, most ectomorphs are eating around 20x their bodyweight in pounds. But that number can vary a little bit, and it can also change over time. Your body will get used to different levels of efficiency, so in an extreme example, you might be maintaining your bodyweight at 2,000 calories per day after cutting, but 4,000 calories per day after bulking.
Guys who get deep into a cut will fidget less, walk less, adopt really efficient postures while standing and sitting, producing less body heat, and all kinds of crazy things to save energy. (More on that in this article here.) Add them up and it can turn into a really significant amount of calories. It’s the opposite with bulking, where you may find yourself moving more, moving more inefficiently, producing tons of heat, etc.
What I’d recommend is to set a series of milestone goals, taking a break (or even cutting) between them. That will bring your appetite and metabolism back to a kind of baseline. For me, that was going into maintenance mode for a little while after gaining 20 pounds. 130 up to 150, then maintenance, then 150 to 170, then 170 to 190. Then after a little more muscle gain and some cutting, I settled around 180–185 at around 11% bodyfat. Every time I bulked, I felt like I was eating tons of calories, as you do now, but it was never worse than the previous bulk. In fact, it actually got a little easier each time because my stomach and digestive system were also improving themselves with every period of bulking and maintenance. I used to be notorious for eating like a mouse, but now I can eat a pretty regular amount of food for a man without a problem.
If you decide to do this, though, it’s important to be somewhat strict about it. You really do need to hit that weight gain goal, and you really do need to maintain it before bulking again. You aren’t that far away from your goal, so maybe you go into maintenance for a few weeks while focusing on getting better at lifting, and then do one final bulk. (Or more periods of cutting/bulking if your body composition isn’t where you want it yet.)
That way you’ll never have to eat 5,000 calories per day 🙂
p.s. The 1 gram per pound bodyweight target is just a minimum, and going over it is perfectly fine.
Ricky and Shane, thank you for the responses.
To be clear, Ricky, I have been adding in calories in the 200 range per week for about three months now. I add them in whenever the scale stops moving week to week. I started at 2,600 calories and it wasn’t until I reached 3,200 that the scale moved. And yeah man, I hit my macros and calorie requirements every day. On weight training days, I add a couple hundred calories over whatever the current “maintenance” is, and then on off days I go a couple hundred calories under.
To Shane, are you saying that I could potentially cut my current 4,150 calorie intake to say 3,000 and maintain my current weight? And then in a few months when I jump back into a bulk at this same 4,150 calorie level I’d be able to increase my weight further?
If that’s true, it’d be a godsend. I’m not sure how many more calorie increases I can stomach.
Thanks guys. I love this place.
Yeah, that’s about right. When you went back to bulking, though, you’d only add 500 calories on top of maintenance to start. So let’s say you were able to scale back your calorie intake so that you were maintaining your weight and strength with 3,000 calories per day. When you went back to bulking, you’d want to start with around 3,500 calories per day for an estimated gain of 1 pound per week. Then adjust accordingly from there.
A pound of muscle burns around 6 calories per day at rest. If you gain 20 pounds, your daily intake should go up by a little over 120 calories per day. So a tiny increase in daily calories from a very significant amount of muscle gain. You’ll burn more calories from lifting more weight in the gym and you’ll be carrying more muscle around, so you’ll burn a little more than 120 extra calories every day, but really not that much more. So if you’ve gained 20 pounds, say, and instead of maintaining your weight at 2,600, now you’re maintaining your weight at 4,000 calories, most of that extra food is probably more related to your metabolism adapting than to the extra weight you’ve gained. If we focus on getting your metabolism back to normal, it should be easier to bulk 🙂
I want to point out here that most of the research into this stuff was done on cutting diets, not bulking diets. There was also some research done on overfeeding that showed that hardgainers had especially adaptive metabolisms, but still, I’m making some guesses here, and also sharing what’s worked for me and a lot of our members. I’m hoping it can work for you too 🙂
Last reply/question, Shane, I promise. 🙂
What would you reccomend then, specifically? Slowly reducing by 150 calories per day every week until the reduced calories starts creeping into weight loss?
In other words, reduce from 4,150 calories to 4,000, then the following week down to 3,850, etcetera until the scale starts dropping?
Or is that too aggressive?
Thank you again. If this works, it’ll be a big help.
The first thing to do is to get out of a surplus if you’re in one. So if you’re currently gaining, say, a pound per week, then the first thing you do is cut out around 500 daily calories. Then you could lower your calorie intake by 150 per week after that, sure. This stuff is highly individual so it’s all about reducing a little, seeing what happens in the gym, seeing what happens on the scale, and then adjusting again accordingly.
Definitely not too aggressive 🙂