Muscle Building Workouts 101 - How to Train for Maximum Gain

One of main things you must understand and apply in order to build new muscle mass effectively as a skinny "hardgainer" is how to perform your muscle building workouts in an effective way to make all your hard work in the gym (and in the kitchen) actually pay off. 

Unfortunately for most lifters at your local gym - their blood sweat and tears in the gym doesn't count for much as they make all sorts of training mistakes and aimlessly throw weights around the gym without any strategy or planning.

This approach will almost guarantee you'll be around the same size a month, a year, or 10 years from now.

It's not their fault - they simply haven't learnt the proper strategies and techniques that have been proven to build muscle mass for someone who finds it naturally difficult to pack on size.

If you're a thin frame with an "ectomorph" body type and putting on muscle mass seems out of reach for you - you have to approach your training with more strategy than that random "big guy" at the gym who seems to get huge results (likely because of better muscle building genetics or a little extra "help" if you know what I mean).

So how do you train for effective muscle growth as a paper-thin pushover?

Read on to learn the best principles, strategies and extra tips and tricks. Not all workouts are created equal.

First of all it's good to be aware of what you shouldn't be doing. The following are just a few of the common mistakes beginner lifters make that will no doubt hamper the effectiveness of your muscle building workouts:

Heavy Weights + Lower Reps = Success

If you want to build as much muscle as you can, you absolutely MUST use heavy weights. By heavy, I mean weights that are challenging for you.

Everyone is different, and a weight that is challenging for you might be a walk in the park for the guy next to you. Don't let that discourage you, and don't compare yourself to others.

When I say lift heavy, I don't mean that at the expense of good form though.

Always use good form and only increase the weight on an exercise when you have the form down perfectly. 

Think about it...if you get injured then your muscle building goals will be stopped right in their tracks so it's not worth it. Plus, if you use incorrect form you are hurting your posture and possibly developing muscular imbalances which is bad news. Trust me on that one...I learnt the hard way.

If you're new to an exercise, start with a light weight to get your body accustomed to the movement and don't worry if you look silly in the gym lifting light weights to start with. Who cares what people think.

As for the amount of reps to perform - that's a crucial part of effective muscle building. You'll see many guys in the gym performing 15 reps or more on an exercise. For building muscle mass, this is not what you want to be doing.

You need to lift a weight that is heavy enough so that you can only perform a low amount of reps (for example, 5-10 reps).

Using heavy weights with lower repetitions causes much more stress on your muscles and that's how they grow the fastest. You simply won't get the same muscle building results by lifting lighter weights for more reps, that's a fact.

To learn more about why lower reps are most effective to increase muscular mass, check out our popular article on How Many Reps to Build Muscle.

Compound Lifts are King

To build muscle effectively, you need to focus on the compound lifts. Compound lifts are the exercises that require a lot of different individual muscles to complete the lift.

These exercises are the foundation of good muscle building workouts. Here are the basic compound exercises:

  • Squats (legs, lower back)
  • Deadlifts (legs, back, shoulders)
  • Bench Press (chest, shoulders, triceps)
  • Overhead Presses (shoulders, triceps)
  • Chin Ups/Rows (back, biceps)
  • Dips (shoulders, chest, triceps)

Some of these compound lifts are difficult to perform and you might get discouraged by this. But whatever you do, don't wimp out and ignore them!

They are by far the best exercises for packing on significant muscle mass, and you should take the time and effort to learn how to perform them correctly and safely.

Free Weights > Machines

Your muscle building workouts should concentrate on free weights and not machines.

Using free weights will work your muscles more because you have to guide and balance the weight yourself, and this means you will build more muscle than you could with machines.

Machine exercises are handy for targeting specific muscle groups, but only AFTER you have performed the main compound exercise work. They should not form any basis for your workouts.

Go Hard or Go Home

You should think of hitting the gym similarly to going to war - it's an intense battle against your muscles. A little dramatic perhaps, but building muscle won't happen if you just "hang out".

The more muscle tissue you break down during your workout, the more potential new muscle tissue your body can develop, so the harder you train the better your results. Period.

Here's the thing though...

You don't HAVE to train to muscular failure, but you should focus on performing every set you do with 100% intensity (and aiming to beat the amount of reps/weight you did last time).

Building your dream physique ain't a walk in the park otherwise everyone would be walking around looking like Arnie (or whatever your ideal physique is).

Timing Matters

When trying to build muscle a lot of misinformed people believe that the more they train, the better.

This is certainly not true! Overtraining is a very common problem that sabotages a lot of people from building muscle.

A proven way of structuring muscle building workouts is to work each muscle group only once per week, that is all.

If you train with full intensity on every set, once a week for each muscle group is all you will need to trigger maximum muscle growth.

How many times a week should you workout? A lot of the top experts in the field of building muscle say that 3 times a week is a perfect balance. This has been proven to work very effectively.

You should also aim to group muscles that normally work together into the same workout session.

For example, when you train your chest with the bench press it involves your shoulders and triceps as well, so it would be wise to group those three muscle groups into the same workout session.

So a typical training schedule could look like this (and remember a warm-up and cardio before each session + rest days in-between workouts):

Session 1: Legs, Abs/Core

Session 2: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps

Session 3: Back, Biceps

Learn More About Muscle Building Workouts

We have covered the basics to structuring great muscle building workouts. Following these guidelines for your own workouts will maximize your muscle size and strength.

The following articles go into much more detail on specific training topics and contain some true secrets to muscle gain that most people simply do not know:

How To Overcome An Exercise Plateau
When you reach a plateau in your weight training it can be very frustrating because your muscle gains come to a halt. Learn how to overcome a plateau easily with my tips in this article.

The Most Useful Tool to Building Muscle Fast
Explains the importance of progression in your weight lifting workouts, and why a pen a paper is a very powerful tool to building a great physique.

Build More Muscle Mass by Resting Properly Between Sets
Resting between sets is something that most people don't go about the right way. Learn the best method of resting to build the most muscle that you possibly can!

How Many Reps is Best to Gain Muscle?
Explains why using lower reps in your workouts is much more effective than using higher reps for muscle growth, and why a rep range of 5-7 is ideal.

Weightlifting Warm Up The Right Way
Learn the importance of a proper warm up before your heavy weight training sets and details on how to perform an effective warm up routine.

Training Too Much Can Prevent You Building Muscle Mass
If you're looking to gain lean muscle mass then you should realize that spending more time in the gym isn't necessarily better. Over-training is a very common problem that beginner weight lifters make.

The Muscle Pump Misconception
A lot of weight lifters think that the "muscle pumps" they get in the gym has something to do with how much muscle they will build. This is a common bodybuilding myth and we give you the truth here.

Weight Lifting At Home
Building a strong, muscular body doesn't have to be done in a normal gym. This article takes a look at the advantages of a home gym and what equipment you will need for your muscle building workouts.

A Critical Muscle Building Tip
A very interesting tip on how to achieve the very best muscle gains you are capable of and why only a fraction of time you spend in the gym will lead to actual muscle growth.

Weight Lifting Basics: Choosing A Gym
Takes a look at the factors you should consider when choosing a gym to sign up with.

Best Time For Weight Lifting Workouts
When is the best time to train for muscle gain? Is it early in the morning when you first get up? Or late at night before bed? Read all about timing your workouts here.

Gain 10 Pounds Of Muscle In 3 Days
If you believe the ads that make outrageous claims such as this, then you have a lot to learn my friend. This article exposes the truth on these miracle "B.S" programs or supplements that pollute bodybuilding magazines and websites.

How Do Muscles Grow
Learn the basic science of bodybuilding with our article on how muscles actually grow. If you want to see great results with your muscle building workouts then you will want to understand how this works.

Muscle Fiber Types Explained
Learn about the three main types of muscle fibers here. Most importantly, find out which fibers contribute to muscle building and how you can focus on stimulating these particular fibers.

A Thought on Gaining Muscle FAST
Learn this one secret that will improve your odds of achieving fast muscle gain tenfold! Gaining a lot of muscle mass in a short amount of time is what most bodybuilders strive for.

The Best Weight Lifting Exercises
Find out which are the best exercises for you to include in your muscle workouts. For muscle gain you must focus on compound exercises like I mentioned just before.

8 Mental Tricks To Build Mass Muscle
Here you will learn some special tricks to help you push through pain barriers at the gym. Cranking out just one additional rep can make all the difference.

Should You Train To Muscle Failure
What is training to muscular failure and should you train this way to gain muscle? Find out the truth here about training to failure.

Faster Recovery After Workouts For Building Muscle
Learn how to recover faster after your intense weight training workouts with these handy tips.