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How to increase your muscle mass: The complete guide

Wie Du Deine Muskelmasse steigern kannst: Der vollständige Ratgeber

Wondering where to start when it comes to building muscle mass? This is the right place to start looking if you want to build some muscle mass the right way.

If we're honest, pretty much every man wants to get muscular and strong. Sure, 65 kilos with visible abs might look good on Instagram, but in real life you're not going to impress anyone with your 30 cm arms and narrow shoulders.

So the question remains - where should you start?

Well, I'm sure you've seen dozens, if not hundreds of articles like this from different authors, but the truth is that they should all revolve around the same basic points.

I think this message is repeated over and over again because people don't want to accept the facts that have been consistently proven over and over again. They are looking for the "secrets" that they have been overlooking all this time, even though many of their goals can be achieved through hard work and dedication.

Some of this might be new to some of the readers, but if you've been training hard for a few years, then you should have internalized most of this already. If not, learn it now and never forget it again.

Training: The be-all and end-all when it comes to getting muscular

You can't get muscular if you don't train, right? Of course you can build mass without training, but your physical appearance will suffer.

Building a broad back, muscular legs and an impressive chest are the result of patience and effort - they don't just magically appear when someone starts popping protein shakes and eating out of Tupperware bowls every 2 hours.

If you remember nothing else from this article, take this point to heart for the rest of your life: training should always revolve around the principle of progressive overload. If you don't do more work compared to your last training session, then you won't produce any positive physiological or neural adaptations.

However, you should keep in mind that progressive overload can be achieved by various means: increased repetitions, higher weights, more sets, more time under tension, a higher training density (more work performed within a given period of time), a larger range of motion, a higher degree of difficulty of the exercises or a different exercise sequence. If a trainee is more advanced, then the weight on the bar can't be increased as quickly, so you have to look for other variables to manipulate.

In addition to progressive overload, you also need to let specificity dictate your training. Basically, specificity and overload go hand in hand.

You need to ask yourself what qualities you want to improve. This will determine which method you should use to increase the overload stimulus. For example, if you want to increase your performance in classic squats, then you should focus your training on the squat movement pattern or variations of the movement (front squats, goblet squats, etc....).

I'm sure this may seem pretty rudimentary, but I see a lot of guys messing this up in their supportive training. No, the missing variable in your poor bench performances is not flying movements on the cable or tricep kickbacks - get better at the specific motor scheme you want to improve.

A final note worth repeating: if you want to make any long-term progress and actually achieve viable body development, then you should stick with a given training program for at least 3 to 4 months.

Personally, I've been using a modification of DUP (Daily Undulating Periodization) for the past year with only a few minor exercise variations, but if I follow the above concepts, the results will continue to improve.

Intensity or volume?

Why not both? Each has its place in a training program, but this depends entirely on their application.

A good coach understands where to prioritize each variable within an athlete's mesocycle, but if you make up your own training program without much background knowledge, this can make things quite difficult.

If someone wants to become more muscular, then you can assume that they are trying to increase their muscle cross-sectional area to achieve as muscular an appearance as possible. However, if you want to maximize all aspects of your hypertrophy program, then there are a few variables that need to be prioritized on a physiological and biomechanical level.

However, it would be a gross mistake if I didn't address a mistake I see many young exercisers make: stop abusing volume. Training is a stressor for the body. Accumulate enough stress and your body will adapt - that's how our bodies are built. But stress also adheres to the concept of minimum effective dose - once you reach a certain threshold, positive adaptations will occur, but more stress does not necessarily mean stronger adaptations will occur.

If you start with a very high-volume training program (e.g. 10 sets of 10 reps), this puts tremendous stress on the body on a physical and neurological level, but what happens when the body reaches homeostasis at that level of volume? Will you then go up to 15 or 20 sets of 10 reps? I hope not.

Stick to the minimum effective dose and increase slowly. Believe me, rhabdomyolysis has never helped anyone.

Supplementation: you're probably using more than you need

Supplementation is like the plan B for all exercisers when they are not making progress.

"Maybe I need to start taking BCAAs, double my glutamine dose and get a testo booster?"

How about learning to adapt your diet and training to your goals instead? Supplementation will probably only make a subtle difference to your training, recovery and lifestyle, but each of the following recommendations is science-based, reasonably inexpensive and a useful addition for anyone looking to take their performance to the next level.

1. creatine monohydrate

Without going into too much detail about the physiological mechanisms underlying creatine's effects, suffice it to say that creatine supports the rephosphorylation (rebuilding) of ATP to increase energy production in your phosphagen system.

Don't get too bogged down in the mechanisms, but to understand the benefits of creatine, you need to know that this is a supplement whose effects you won't feel immediately. You can't compare it to caffeine or beta-alanine, but if you know anything about physiology, you'll recognize its importance, which has been confirmed by a myriad of scientific studies. These studies show improvements in power release, glycogen loading capacity, strength and anabolic metabolism (1, 2, 3).

Yet whenever I mention creatine to an athlete, the first question they ask me is "Won't it make me gain weight?" The short answer is yes, but this newly built weight is not actual body tissue, just increased intracellular water retention, which is often misinterpreted.

When someone (aka a single guy at the gym) chases the muscle pump, this creates byproducts of different energy systems and causes changes in intracellular water concentration as cells swell. These mechanical changes send signals to anabolic pathways as your body attempts to maintain a state of homeostasis (4). The end result is an increase in muscle protein synthesis and cellular adaptations to prevent future damage.

So don't worry about any water retention from creatine monohydrate supplementation - you'll increase your hypertrophic adaptations when you combine it with glycolytic training (5).

2. fish oil

If this is the first time you've heard about fish oil in this article, then you should update your supplementation. Scientific research has shown that fish oil is quite beneficial in controlling triglyceride levels, blood pressure, blood vessel function and a variety of other factors (7, 8, 9).

The typical Western diet is very omega-6 heavy, but lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, which is where fish oil comes into play. Sure, you could eat cold-water fish like salmon two to three times a week, but some people won't have the money or the necessary preference for fish to do so, which means supplementation becomes necessary and helpful.

3. vitamin D

If you're like most people in the Western world, you spend most of your career indoors. And if you're reading this website, then it's safe to assume that at least one of your hobbies (aka a workout with weights) also takes place indoors. However, sunlight is the most important factor in determining the vitamin D levels in your body - and you're not getting enough of it?

If you are unsure about your vitamin D status, you should have a blood test done. If your levels are below 50nmol/l, then I would recommend supplementing with some vitamin D due to its impact on muscle mass, strength and body function (6).

4. a multivitamin product

I'll be honest with you. I think that if more people knew the importance of quality nutrition, I wouldn't have to include this last point on the list. However, since this is not the case, a multivitamin product certainly won't hurt.

Having said that, I would strongly suggest you do some research as some manufacturers use cheaper forms of certain vitamins and/or minerals that have poor bioavailability. The result is a weak product for the consumer, but a big profit for the manufacturer.

Nutrition: One of the most important players

At the end of the day, most exercisers realize that nutrition is the answer to their lack of gains - it's just that no one wants to admit it. I've worked with many high school athletes and even a few professional athletes who all seemed to share the same problem: they couldn't gain weight even if they wanted to.

Sure, that seems like a luxury problem, but in some circumstances it can hinder an athlete's performance or limit their eligibility to compete. The conversation usually goes like this...

Me: "How are things looking nutritionally? Is the scale moving in the right direction?"

Athlete: "I wish it was... I eat SO MUCH and I can't seem to put on a single pound. I feel like I'm eating all day long, but I'm not gaining weight."

Sound familiar? Well, the truth is that gaining weight can turn into a part-time job for some athletes. If you've ever had a very active job, played college sports or trained intensely with weights to build lean muscle mass, then you know how much food this can sometimes take.

Change your mindset

If you are someone who is full after half a burger or if your idea of a "hearty breakfast" is a couple of eggs with a slice of toast and some fruit, then you have some homework to do.

You need to understand that there will be times when you're not hungry and you don't feel like eating - that's just a fact of life. Your body has different homeostatic mechanisms that are designed to regulate your body weight, but you need to remember your goal.

However, if you are one of those people with homeostasis that moves at warp speed, then you should be eating a few calories every 3 to 4 hours.

Food must become your vocation. Every time you eat a meal, you should just shovel the calories in. If you start hearing comments from friends along the lines of "Are you really going to eat all that in one sitting?" or "Wow, you're eating for two!", then you're probably on the right track. then you're probably on the right path to an impressive muscular body.

As long as you don't change your idea of what eating a lot means, you won't gain weight. It all depends on how much you want something: If you really want success, then you will find a way to make it happen.

How can I afford this?

I know what you're thinking. "Food is expensive and it costs even more to eat healthy. There's no way I can afford that!"

That's definitely not the case. I have quite a limited budget and don't spend a lot on my diet. I spend most of my money on meat, which I buy in bulk, only use cheap sources of carbohydrates and only buy certain products when they're in season.

If your weight gain has reached a plateau, then here are a few ideas to get things back on track....

Eggs - are a cheap, highly bioavailable source of choline and are very easy to prepare. They are pretty much a bachelor's best friend, apart from his dog of course.

Oatmeal - is extremely versatile - make protein pancakes, add it to a shake, make overnight oats... the possibilities are endless.

Potatoes - Let's be honest - steak and potatoes was where it all started. Use white potatoes and sweet potatoes, both of which are full of beneficial vitamins and minerals and are one of the cheapest sources of carbohydrates around.

White rice - "But I thought only brown rice was healthy" Okay, hear me out, this "bad boy" has only 200 kcal per cup and is one of the easiest foods to get down if you're struggling with calories. Not to mention, high fiber foods usually make you feel fuller, which makes them even harder to eat in large quantities.

Coconut oil - If you're reading about coconut oil for the first time in this article, then it's time to revamp your diet. Not only is this food extremely rich in medium-chain triglycerides and lauric acid - it's also the best choice for cooking and frying as it has a low oxidation rate even at high temperatures.

Bananas - This should be a given for any hardgainer. Why wouldn't you have at least a dozen on hand? You can easily take them anywhere, they're cheap and they're nutritious. In fact, before you finish reading this article, you should go into the kitchen and make yourself a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

"I'm always full, what should I do?"

This is nothing unusual and as I mentioned earlier, part of this is simply the way your body works. Some people have a huge, insatiable appetite, while others can barely manage to eat 2000 kcal a day without feeling full. However, there are a few simple tips and tricks that can help you out here. You may already be using some of these without even realizing it.

  1. Eat more often - Set an alarm clock if you need to, but every 3 to 4 hours is a good starting point.
  2. Limit foods that are high in fiber - Does this go against what you think? Well, I don't know if you've ever tried eating 4500 kcal in the form of sweet potatoes, chicken and broccoli, but that should be pretty uncomfortable, if not impossible. Not to mention that these excessive amounts of fiber can limit or block the absorption of certain vitamins in the digestive tract.
  3. Use liquid calories - It's not necessary to buy a weight gainer - make your own:

  • Whole milk or coconut milk
  • 2-4 tablespoons of nut butter
  • 1-2 scoops of whey protein
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1-2 bananas
  • A few handfuls of spinach (I promise you won't taste it)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of honey
  • cinnamon

4. eat more fruit - sweet foods are very tasty and fruit is very rich in vitamins and minerals. If you are a hard training athlete, I would recommend 3 to 4 servings per day.

How much do you want it?

A large intake of food requires patience and consistency. Over time, your stomach will get used to the larger volume of food per meal and you will be able to eat for 4.

No one is forcing you to eat all those calories - it's entirely up to you whether you want to reach your goals or not. It all starts with one simple step. Put the weights down and grab a fork.

Practical applications

Building muscle isn't rocket science - it's all a question of whether you accept the hard facts and put in the work. I know this article was a bit long, but here are the important concepts to take home with you:

  1. Your training should revolve around the concepts of specificity and progressive overload.
  2. Training stressors should be based on a minimum effective dose - more volume does not equate to greater gains for everyone.
  3. Incorporate both intensity and volume into your program if you want to maximize all components of hypertrophy adaptations.
  4. Supplementation should be minimal, but there are a few supplements that may provide some benefits: Creatine monohydrate, vitamin D, fish oil, and perhaps a multivitamin.
  5. Your lack of growth is likely related to your poor nutritional intake or poor recovery.
  6. Your diet should synergistically support your training - you can't train yourself into the ground if you're eating like an anorexic teenager.
  7. Nobody got muscular in 12 or 16 weeks. Dedication and hard work will get you further than most if you're willing to learn the basics and apply them ruthlessly.


  1. Comparison of creatine monohydrate and carbohydrate supplementation on repeated jump height performance.(
  2. Muscle glycogen supercompensation is enhanced by prior creatine supplementation.(
  3. Effects of creatine on body composition and strength gains after 4 weeks of resistance training in previously nonresistance-trained humans.(
  4. Modulation of glycogen synthesis in rat skeletal muscle by changes in cell volume.
  5. Scientific basis and practical aspects of creatine supplementation for athletes.(
  6. Vitamin D and skeletal muscle function in athletes.(
  7. Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on postprandial triglycerides and monocyte activation.(
  8. Blood pressure decrease with ingestion of a soya product (kinako) or fish oil in women with the metabolic syndrome: role of adiponectin and nitric oxide.(
  9. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves vascular function and reduces inflammation in obese adolescents.(


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