How to Build Muscle Mass

how to build muscle mass

The new year is a time for making resolutions, and for many, no resolution is more worthwhile than getting back in shape. Having clear goals is essential when it comes to fitness, so knowing whether you want to lose 10 pounds or increase athletic performance to run a 5k is a good place to start. If your goal is to build muscle mass, there are two components you must be familiar with, training and eating.

How to Weight Train

Most people want to build muscle so that they look better and feel better about themselves. Many of those people, however, are afraid to start because they are concerned that they lack the knowledge required to lift properly. Luckily, lifting weights isn’t rocket science and a simple program is easy to come across. As a good starting rule of thumb, pick one large and one small muscle group you want to work each day, then choose three exercises for the large muscle group and one exercise for the small muscle group.

Large muscle groups would be chest, back, and legs. Small muscle groups would include arms (biceps OR triceps), shoulders, and abs.  Make sure the first exercise for the large muscle group is a compound exercise and use a fairly heavy weight for that exercise. Compound exercises are exercises that involve more than one joint moving simultaneously, for example, bench press moves both your elbow and shoulder simultaneously, while a curl only moves your elbow. Compound movements engage more muscle groups at once and allows you to use more weight to work your muscles harder. These heavy compound movements are key to stimulating muscle growth [1].

Do four or five sets of six to eight repetitions for your first heavy exercise. The remaining exercises don’t necessarily have to be compound exercises, and three sets of between eight and twelve reps should be performed. So as an example, if I choose to work my chest as my large muscle group, and triceps as my small muscles group, I could perform the bench press first as my heavy compound lift. After five sets of seven or eight on the bench press I will do two more chest exercises, perhaps incline bench press and flys, both of these will be performed in three sets of ten or so. Finally, I will do one exercise for triceps, usually just using a machine. This last exercise will also be done in three sets of ten or twelve.

Related: How to build arm muscle

Best ab workouts

How to Eat to Build Muscle

As most people already know, consuming plenty of protein while trying to build muscle is absolutely essential. What many don’t know, however, is that building muscles requires a lot of energy. It is critical when trying to build muscle that you are eating plenty of calories and fueling your body with foods that are not only high in protein but also calories. If you’re having trouble building muscle try carrying around a calorie-rich snack such as nuts that you can eat throughout the day, or adding a glass of milk to some of your meals for an extra serving of calories and protein [2].


  1. A Study of Effect of the Compound Physical Activity Therapy on Muscular Strength in Obese Women
    Hwang-Bo Kak, PhD,1 Sung-Hyoun Cho, MS,2 Young-Hwa Lee,3 Byung-Jun Cho, PhD,4 Jin-Woo Kim,5 Byoung-Don Oh, PhD,6 and Hyung-Woo Koh, MS2,* J Phys Ther Sci. 2013 Aug; 25(8): 1039–1041. Published online 2013 Sep 20. doi: [10.1589/jpts.25.1039]
  2. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation.
    Phillips SM1, Van Loon LJ. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.619204.
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