Muscle for life

The Top 5 Proven Ways to Build Bigger Muscles

The Top 5 Proven Ways to Build Bigger Muscles

Building bigger muscles can be easier than you ever thought possible. These 5 time-proven techniques show you the way.


“You have to change up your workouts more.”

“You have to eat more protein.”

“You have to increase your time under tension.”

“You have to use more/less weight in your training.”

If you’re looking for advice on building muscle, you’ve probably heard plenty of one-liners like those.

If you keep looking, you’ll hear a lot more. And, after it all, you’ll probably wind up like most people–confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed by a sea of contradictory tips, “hacks,” strategies, and shortcuts, with no idea who to believe and what to do next.

Well, I have good new for you:

Out of all the possible things you could know about diet and training, 20% are going to give you 80%+ of your results.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the average person looking to build a lean, muscular, strong physique can learn everything they need to know in 7 to 8 hours of reading. (And that’s what I try to provide in my books.)

Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for continuing to learn and improve, but if you don’t manage your “information flow” properly, you can easily fall into the trap of “analysis by paralysis.”

So, this article isn’t going to teach you everything you need to know, but it’s going to give you a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of muscle building. Put these five principles into use and you will see results.

Would you rather listen to this article? Click the play button below!

Want to listen to more stuff like this? Check out my podcast!

Train Harder (But Not TOO Hard)

When it comes to working out, people often make one of two mistakes:

  1. They push themselves way harder than they should.
  2. They don’t push themselves hard enough.

Both of these mistakes stunt progress, but I’d say the first is far worse. It eats up time, health, and motivation, it leads to overtraining, and it’s basically impossible to sustain as a lifestyle.

The key to making long-term progress is being in the middle of these two extremes. You want to train hard enough to overreach, but not overtrain, and you want to avoid falling into a rut of half-assed “good enough” workouts.

This latter point is extremely important.

Many people don’t realize how rigorous you need to be in your diet and training to continue making progress beyond the “newbie” phase.

You see, when you’re new to weightlifting, haphazard dieting and mediocre workouts can produce acceptable, or even good, results. “Newbie gains” are very real and they can obscure quite a few mistakes.

Once the honeymoon is over, though–6 to 8 months for most people–all progress comes to a grinding a halt. It’s like a switch was simply flipped off. And I know firsthand how much time and money you can spend trying to figure out how to turn it back on.

Well, a big part of doing just that is making sure you’re giving enough in your weightlifting.

You have to follow a well-designed workout program, you have to progressively overload your muscles, you have to handle heavy weights, and you have to ensure you’re recovering.

The reality is squatting, deadlifting, and pressing hundreds of pounds over and over every week isn’t for the lazy or weak willed. It requires both physical and mental toughness. And many people would rather chat and play on their phones than do the hard work.

Don’t make the same mistakes.

Let the Chatty Cathy know that while you have nothing against socializing, too much of it detracts from your workouts. Get an iPod and fire up music that gets your heart thumping. Work out when you feel strongest and most energetic.

There are often inner obstacles to overcome as well. Sometimes we psych ourselves out of lifting heavy. Sometimes our minds are distracted. Sometimes we’re just in a bad mood or don’t want to be in the gym.

One of my favorite ways to overcome these mental obstacles is to use visualization techniques. They help me “tune out” the head noise and focus on the tasks at hand.

I know, I know–it sounds woo-woo but it’s actually science-based. Research shows that mental imagery can enhance your weightlifting performance.

There are four steps to the visualization process used in the study cited above:

  1. Visualize the workout you’re about to do and the goal you want to achieve. See yourself getting your reps target or hitting that PR.
  2. Imagine performing your first rep successfully before starting your set.
  3. Imagine performing each next rep successfully as you do them.
  4. After completing your set, if you ran into trouble, imagine correcting it and performing a problem-free set. If the set went well, imagine adding weight to the bar and doing a good set.

Try it. You might be surprised how much it helps.















Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Eat Enough Protein


Dietary laxity is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when you’re trying to maximize muscle growth.

No workout program can overcome a poor diet. If you don’t get your food right, you’re not going to get very far. Period.

And a big part of getting your food right is getting enough protein. Consistently.

I emphasize “consistently” because just about everyone into weightlifting knows that a high-protein diet is ideal for building muscle, but they don’t realize the importance of dietary “stability,” if you will.

That is, if you want to get the most out of your training, you need to be eating enough protein every day, including the days you’re not training.

And in case you’re not sure how much is “enough,” here’s the long story short:

1. If you’re in a calorie deficit, eat 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

If you’re a man over 20% body fat or woman over 25%, make that 1.2 grams per pound of lean mass.

2. If you’re not in a calorie deficit, eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

For men over 20% and women over 25%, 1 gram per pound of lean mass.

If those numbers sound high to you, check out this article on protein intake and building muscle.

One other point worth discussing is protein frequency.

You’ve probably heard that you should be eating protein every few hours to build muscle more effectively. This reeks of broscience and many people dismiss it as such, but there may actually be something to it.

We know that meal frequency has no effect on the metabolism and weight loss, but research shows that “protein frequency” may be worth paying attention to.

A study conducted by researchers from the Nestle Research Center assigned resistance-trained men to one of three groups:

  • 80g of whey protein as 8x10g every 1.5h (PULSE; n=8),
  • 4x20g every 3h (intermediate, INT; n=7),
  • or 2x40g every 6h (BOLUS; n=8).

The first protein meal would be eaten after performing four sets of knee extensions (10 reps, 80% of 1RM). Here were the results:

As you can see, eating protein every 3 hours produced the most favorable net protein balance, which relates directly to muscle growth.

Protein frequency is a minor point–eating enough protein every day is much more important–but if you’re looking to build muscle as quickly as possible, it’s probably not a bad idea to eat at least 20 grams of protein every few hours.

Don’t Cheat Your Form


There’s a reason why using improper form is called “cheating”–you’re cheating yourself out of gains (and increasing the risk of injury).

The goal of every rep isn’t to see how much weight you can stack on the bar–it’s to make your muscles do as much work as possible. And the better your form, the better you can do this.

When we’re talking exercise form, we’re talking about technique and range of motion.

Examples of proper technique are moving the weights in a controlled manner, keeping your elbows “tucked” when you bench press, maintaining a neutral lower back when you deadlift, keeping your knees in line with your toes when you squat, and so forth.

Examples of proper range of motion are squatting to or just below parallel, touching the bar to your chest when you bench press, and touching the bar to your upper chest when you overhead press.

It’s very important that you get both of these things right. Poor technique increases the risk of injury and reduced range of motion reduces the effectiveness of the training.

Learning proper form on all exercises you perform is relatively easy and straightforward. Scott Herman has a good collection of instructional videos and books like my Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger and Starting Strength are great for delving into the finer points of heavy compound weightlifting.

Eat Enough Calories


Your body’s ability to build muscle is strongly affected by how much food you eat.

Eating enough protein isn’t enough. If you want to build muscle as quickly as possible, you need to eat enough calories as well. If you undereat, your body simply won’t be able to build much muscle.

You see, you feed your body so much energy every day and it burns so much through activity. The relationship between these quantities is known as energy balance.

If you feed your body less energy than it burns, you’ve created a “negative energy balance” or “calorie deficit.” This is necessary for losing fat.

A calorie deficit comes with a “price to pay,” however:

That is, your body just can’t add to muscle tissue efficiently when in a calorie deficit.

This double-whammy of reduced testosterone and increased cortisol levels further blunt your body’s ability to build muscle.

  • It impairs workout performance.

I don’t need to cite research here because anyone that has restricted calories for fat loss quickly learns this.

Newbies can gain strength while in a calorie deficit but most experienced weightlifters are going to experience slight strength loss while dieting. The best they can hope for is maintaining their strength.

This, of course, isn’t conducive to muscle growth.

These are the three reasons why maximizing muscle growth absolutely requires that you ensure you’re not in a calorie deficit.

The most reliable way to do that is to slightly overshoot your body’s energy needs and place it in what’s known as a “calorie surplus.” This is why it’s often say you have to eat big to get big.

No matter what you do with your macronutrients or eating schedule, if you want to build bigger muscles, you simply can’t get around the need for a positive energy balance.

Track Your Progress

Working on his back muscles

I used to be that guy who showed up to the gym every day, only to lift more or less the same weights for more or less the same reps for months on end.

I saw no real difference in the mirror—no noticeable muscle growth and no reduction in body fat percentage.

What did I do in response to the seemingly never-ending problem of “no gains?” I changed things, of course. You know, I tried new exercises and routines, new diet “tricks,” or new supplements.

This “shotgun” approach never worked—my strength and body composition didn’t change much as time went on—but I dutifully kept searching for the “workout of the week” or dietary “insight” that would finally show me the way…only to continue to be disappointed.

While much of the blame for this long, frustrating cycle of letdowns and setbacks lay with the workout programs and diets themselves—they were so flawed that no natural weightlifter could do well with them—there was another major mistake I was making that dramatically exacerbated the problem.

Sir William Thomson, also known as Lord Kelvin, was an ingenious physicist and engineer, and he said that when you can measure something and express it in numbers, you know something about it, but when you can’t, your knowledge is lacking.

This insight is applicable to training and dieting.

If you can measure your progress (or lack thereof) and express it in real numbers, then you know whether you’re going in the right direction. If you don’t have any consistent, objective way to measure progress, then you’re going at it blind, hoping for the best.

I was doing the latter, never really knowing whether I was increasing my strength over time or whether I was eating properly for my goals.

I’ve since learned that one of the most effective ways to prevent getting stuck in a rut of no gains is simply to track your numbers.

That is, you should keep a training journal that includes what you do in each workout and you should either track or plan your daily food intake (and stick to the plan!).

To some, this may seem a bit obsessive, but I think you already know why it’s absolutely vital to continued success in this game.

As the old adage goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, you can radically transform your body and life and enjoy the ride, but no matter how you look at it, it takes a real investment of time and effort.

The tricky thing about building muscle and strength is that it comes slowly, bit by bit.

If you’re just starting out, you’re going to see huge jumps in strength for the first several months, but eventually, your progress will slow down. From that point on, you will have to consciously work for every rep of improvement in your lifts and every pound of muscle added to your frame.

This is where things get hazy for people who don’t keep journals.

Unless you have superhuman memory, you won’t know exactly what you did the previous week for the various exercises in your workout. Sure, you might make a mental note of the “ego” lifts like bench press and dumbbell curls, but what about everything else? You need to approach all lifts with the same attention to detail.

When you don’t know what you did the previous week, you don’t know what you’re shooting for this week. As your goal with every workout is to do just a little more than the last time you performed it—even if it’s just one more rep with the same weights—you can see the problem here.

When you step up to the bar, you don’t want to be trying to remember what you did last week. You want to know exactly what you’re going for.

If you bench pressed 245 for 4 reps last week, all you care about when you get under that bar is pressing it for 5 reps. Go ahead and even see yourself doing it in your mind’s eye. Then the next week, your goal is 6 reps on the first set, at which point you’ll add weight and go for 4 reps on the second set.

This is how you build muscle and strength: one rep at a time.

A successful workout is one where you made progress—where you got one more rep than last week or moved up in weight. If this doesn’t happen, don’t despair, but you need to push harder the next week.

The bottom line is that if you don’t keep a training journal, it gets real sloppy real quick. Lifting random amounts of weight for random numbers of reps every week doesn’t work nearly as well as an accurate, linear model of progression driven by real data.

You can use an app such as the…ahem…completely awesome one I’m developing called Stacked (which will go into beta this summer).

You can try other apps on the market but expect to be disappointed. You’ll probably find it easier to just use a Google sheet, a note-taking app on your phone, or even a plain old notebook that you write in each week.

Do Everything You Can to Improve Muscle Recovery


Every day, trillions of cells in your body are dying and being replaced. This is known as “cell turnover,” and it’s regulated by a complex system of proteins and hormones.

Our muscle cells are part of this process, of course, and the process by which degraded muscle proteins are replaced is known as “protein synthesis.”

In healthy people eating a sensible diet, muscle tissue is fairly stable because the cycle of cellular degradation and regeneration remains balanced.









That is, the average person doesn’t lose or gain muscle at an accelerated rate–his or her total lean mass more or less remains level.

Things change with resistance training, though.

Namely, it damages the cells in our muscle fibers, which signals the body to ramp up protein synthesis rates to begin the repair process.

The body doesn’t just repair the muscle fibers to their previous state, though. It adds cells to them, making them bigger and stronger and better able to deal with the stimulus that caused the damage.

Thus, improving or speeding muscle recovery is a worthwhile goal. The result is better muscle growth over time. Here are three effective ways to optimize your body’s muscle recovery:

Eat enough protein and, maybe, eat it frequently enough.

We’ve already discussed these things so I won’t repeat myself.

Make sure you’re giving your muscles enough rest in between workouts.

High-frequency and high-volume training is very popular these days but it’s also treacherous territory for natural weightlifters.

You can train muscle groups several times per week but, if you don’t properly manage intensity and volume, you’re going to run yourself into the ground (trust me, I know–I’ve done it).

If you’d like to know more about finding the right training frequency, check out this article.

Supplement with creatine and carnitine.

Creatine is a substance created by the body and found in foods like red meat, and it’s the one supplement that every weightlifter should be taking.

Among its many benefits related to improving muscle growth and strength are reduced exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation.

Carnitine is a compound that your body produces from the amino acids lysine and methionine, and it plays a vital role in the generation of cellular energy.

Research has shown that supplementation with carnitine reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and soreness and improves muscle repair.

I get both my creatine and carnitine from the following post-workout supplement, which I developed for my supplement company LEGION:

recharge-single-600 (1)

RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

The Bottom Line on Building Bigger Muscles

When you strip away all the marketing mumbo jumbo, if you do these five things, you will build big muscles:

  • Train heavy and train hard, but not so much that you overtrain.
  • Eat enough protein and calories.
  • Track your progress and always push yourself to improve on your previous workouts.
  • Make recovery as much as a priority as training.
  • Be patient.

If that’s all you knew, and if you really embraced those principles, you’d make better gains than 90% of the people you see in the gym. They’re really that important. So get them in and let me know how it goes.


What’s your take on building bigger muscles? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • DK

    Great stuff Mike. This may sound stupid but based on the 6 month newbie gains theory…if someone has a high BF % and cuts for say 5 months, have they potentially missed out on this optimum muscle building period. It’s unlikely they will gain any noticeable muscle. In other words is someone who needs to lose fat at a disadvantage from the off?
    Just curious but I know you’ll put me right

    • Thanks!

      I wouldn’t look at it this way because a newbie can gain quite a bit of muscle while cutting and be MUCH happier with their overall body comp by the end of year 1.

  • Jacob Emerson

    Great tips Mike, It really is important to push your muscles to their max otherwise your progress is going to be really slow, If you don’t give your body a reason to grow then it won’t! it’s simple always make sure you take yourself to failure, keep your workouts short but intense, and stay consistent guys! if you don’t keep track of what you do and don’t get a good routine going, then your not going to get very far, I know a lot of guys have trouble getting a good program going, I follow a very strict routine I found over at http://aestheticreview.com and I’ve made crazy gains in just a couple months, it was like a night and day difference to what I was doing before, anyways good luck guys and as long as you don’t give up you will be the biggest guy on the block!

  • Simon

    Great article as per.

    So Mike, if I was eating 180 grams of protein, should I be eating 180 grams of complete proteins and any extra from rice and such is a bonus or is it ok to get say 140 from complete sources and 40 from rice. Wholemeal bread, oats etc?

    • What matters it is the total grams of protein you get a day. I recommend you get most of it from food as opposed to protein shakes, but as long as you hit your daily target you’re good!

  • Adel-Alexander

    Hey Mike, I wanted to ask, that kind of stretch feeling you get after you perform dips for the chest. Are you supposed to feel the same kind of stretch in your chest too after performing any of the bench presses? Because I dunno.. I feel it slightly when I reach the top of my range of motion but other than that it’s not really there when I rest between sets.. I wonder what I’m doing wrong :S

  • Marion

    Michael I liked the way that you wrote and structured this article to be simple and easy to understand. I realized that I was doing most of this on my own especially as I started getting serious with my muscle development. I transitioned this foundation into huge muscle gains using http://muscleandfitnesssys.com. Together my growth has been massive.

  • xanton

    I wonder how much work it takes to sustain your muscle mass? I’ve heard that you only need 1/3 of the volume you did to build the muscle to maintain it through a cut.

  • James

    Hi mike what do you think about dup? Especially this workout? http://www.healthylivingheavylifting.com/the-every-mans-guide-to-dup/

  • Juan Aguilar

    I think you should follow a ‘maintenance’ diet if you’re pretty happy with your current look. This will prevent you from losing the muscle you’ve already gained, while gaining any additional size VERY slowly.
    Mike talks about it here: http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/
    You can also progress on the weights much slower. If not, more or less the same weight.

    • Ashley

      Thanks Juan! I’m going to stay at the same weights and maybe do more reps for now.

  • Hey!

    That’s great! There is a point where you can’t add any more strength without adding size but here’s what I think would work well for you:


  • Sakib Ahmed

    Regarding your workout app, i think an important feature that should be available is to show your last weeks weight and reps when logging in today’s workout. The app fitted lifts does this well

    • Yeah that’s a good idea brother! Thanks for the tip. 🙂

    • Sherman Hu

      Very important feature, good recommendation, Sakib.

      Gym Hero (& Gym Hero Pro) by Fitty.co also offers this critical feature that I rely on to see weight & reps executed in my last workout.

      The other feature I really enjoy is my ability to customize groups of exercises, so I can easily choose my “workout day” with a simple scroll and click, eg “Chest & Calf (Ph2/D1)”, or “Legs & Shoulders (Ph2/D5)”. I customize each workout group with which phase (of an 8-week cycle) and day. Plus, the app syncs to a web account to allow easy/further customization and reports.

      Finally, I really enjoy the built-in large screen timer to time my rest periods between sets. A simple scroll down reveals a full-screen timer.

      Michael, if these features are already in your app, disregard the above. If not, and you consider these to be of value to add to your app, brilliant! Can’t wait to beta your app!

  • Maria Ades

    Hi Mike! I’m 4’11, 90 pounds, reverse dieting right now. I was eating very little and dropped a lot of weight the unhealthy way, eating protein and some veggies here and there (maybe 800 calories a day). As I said, I’m reverse dieting right now but this time I’m counting macros iifym style (thank god for flexible dieting). However, I have noticed that 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight makes me bloated and it seems to be too much for my body. Is that possible or am I lacking other nutrients? My macros for this week are: 140C / 82P / 22 F. I haven’t gained any weight but I’m taking it slow because I come from eating nothing basically. Any help is appreciated. Thanks for this awesome website!! 🙂

    • Glad to hear you’re reverse dieting.

      Hmm 1 gram per pound pro is pretty standard but you could try 0.8 g per pound and see how you respond.

      We may want to give you a bit more fat too. Drop to 120 C and raise to 32 F?

      • Maria Ades

        Thanks for replying! I feel like crap on low carbs but I guess I’ll try those macros this week. This is so stressful because I don’t wanna lose the lean look I achieved and it’s driving me crazy. Fingers crossed!

        • YW! I hear you on going low carb.

          Stick to the reverse diet protocol, and you won’t gain much fat if any. 🙂

          • Maria Ades

            My reverse diet is not going well 🙁 I screwed up by adding too many calories to which my body responded well for 3 days but then I started seeing that my stomach was kind of fuller so I pulled back and cut calories and I’ve been eating 1100 calories per day with different macros but my body’s just not responding. My stomach is huge. It’s either I work out or I cut calories again and rest. Any advice is much appreciated. Sorry to bother you!

          • Sorry to hear that Maria. :/

            If you really want to stay lean, you can go back to a cut for a few weeks to lose the fat gained then restart the reverse diet.

            Make sure you only go up 100-150 cals every 5-7 day!

            What do you think?

          • Maria Ades

            Hi Mike! I checked today and I haven’t gained much weight if any since it’s always fluctuating but I’ll still take it slow because if I go back to cutting right now, my body will just collapse. Maybe I was eating too much sodium and processed foods, I don’t know. We’ll see what happens! Thanks for your support, you rock!!! Just one more question, should I avoid cheat meals in my reverse diet?

          • Good to hear you didn’t gain weight!

            Keep up the reverse diet then once you’ve been at TDEE for a bit, you can go back to cutting.

            You can cheat once a week while reverse dieting. Check this out:


            YW for everything. 🙂

          • Sorry to hear that Maria. :/

            If you really want to stay lean, you can go back to a cut for a few weeks to lose the fat gained then restart the reverse diet.

            Make sure you only go up 100-150 cals every 5-7 day!

            What do you think?

  • Leslie Williams

    Hi guys i’m so damn happy..I lost 23 pounds in 21 days and I want to show you how I did it..This is very exciting stuff
    Check out The Best Diet Click Here

  • sullenday

    Your packaging is sharp bud! Who’s your graphic designer?

  • James

    Hi mike would really appreciate your help on this. I’m having trouble with my knees caving in when I squat heavy. I’m reading so much conflicting info on this. Some say glutes, abductors, technique. I’m doing two movility sessions a week. Any ideas man?

    • Steve Clark

      DON’T SQUAT HEAVY! Not yet anyway. If you’re technique isn’t flawless, drop your weight and do more reps until it is. Not sure why you want to go heavy any way. Are the chicks outside the gym going to see or even care how much weight you lift? You can’t dance if your knees are shot. Also remember, your muscles don’t know how much weight you lift. They only care about how much work they do. Try a 4-0-1-0 (4 sec eccentric, 1 sec concentric with 0 pause at the top and bottom) through a FULL range of motion. Start at about 75% of 1RM with 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps and feel the burn. Lift to fail, but keep in mind failure is NOT, not being to do another rep. Failure is not being able to do another rep WITHOUT breaking form.

      Regardless of whether you go heavy, light or in between you need good form. Here are a couple of tricks to try. 1) Put 5 lb. plates under your heels and/or buy a good pair of lifting shoes. The elevation forces you to keep your weight back, taking the stress off your knees, putting it on your glutes and quads where it belongs. Start a little lighter until you get used it. 2) Find a bench that allows you to get to 90 degrees or sightly beyond. Squat until you’re basically sitting down, without actually resting your butt on the bench. It forces a neutral core, keeping pressure off your knees and lower back. This “functional movement” is what your muscles were designed for in the first place.

    • First let’s have you stop squatting heavy because this is dangerous. The weight is likely too heavy. Drop it way down and work on form, really forcing your knees to track with your toes.

      This may help you too:


      LMK what you think.

  • Steve Clark

    Love it that Mike is giving away far better knowledge than others are selling through eBooks and all the “extras.” He strips out all of the bullshit sales pitches and his methods really work, even for a fat old man like me. By fat and old I mean 10% BF at 50 YO, with a 410 lb. deadlift and 600 lb. leg press. Two years ago I was 240 lbs., 33% BF and struggled to deadlift 225 for 5 reps. No steroids or cocktails, just good nutrition, only supplementing with protein, creatine and glutamine and literally working my ass off. using very similar nutrition and lifting protocols to the ones Mike gives us. I spent a few hundred dollars on a CPT, and few more on other eBooks, plus “wasted” another a few hundred hours in the gym to learn what I just downloaded for FREE. Thank you Mike! ~Steve Clark, NASM CPT

    • Glad you’re happy with all the info I’ve shared. 🙂

      Great job on the results you’ve gotten and you’re strength. You’re killing it!

      I’d love to feature you in a before and after success story if you’re interested! What do you think?

      Oh and definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Steve Clark

        I’d be happy to do the before/after story, but only after I have used the Forge and Pulse I just bought for a while. I had a “medical condition” that kept me out of the gym for over a month. Prednisone made me hungry all of the time and gave me cravings for really good tasting/bad for me food. Bad eating + no gym = fat Steve.

        I have been back in the gym for a week and half but not exactly feeling or looking my best right now. Give me a month, though.

        • Cool! No worries. I’m happy to wait and see the results you get using Forge and Pulse. 🙂

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Hey Mike, great post as usual.

    I love how you keep your posts real and filled with practical tips and examples.You are a true inspiration and I just wanted to say thanks.

    There is a ton of misinformation out there that leads people nowhere.. or to a sales page.However, your approach is different and actually honest which shows with the dozens of success stories we see practically every day.

    This post is no different and I cannot think of anything else I can possibly add to the whole ‘journey’ of building a muscular physique.

    Have a great day,

    • Thanks so much for the kind words and support!

      I’m glad you appreciate all the info and results people are getting!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Beth

    Hi Mike,

    I’m currently following your TLS for women which it totally awesome, thank you! Love seeing my body transform from skinny fat to skinny toned 🙂 I was wondering if you might have any suggestions on how I could gain some weight? I have been underweight all my life. I’m a 30 yr old female and weigh 105lbs and 5’6″ tall. I have weighed exactly the same since I was a teenager. I eat pretty healthy and eat regularly as I have a fast metabolism. I would really love to jump up from dress size 2 to 4 🙂

    Thanks for your time!


  • Robert

    Hi Mike — Thanks for another great post. I noticed you didn’t mention sleep in this article, which is probably my biggest challenge personally. I know it matters, but do you think it is less important than the stuff listed here?

    • Thanks! Haha I left it out because I figured I’d harped on it enough. Yes sleep matters quite a bit.

  • Thomas

    Hey Mike, I always enjoy articles like this from you. Sometimes it’s nice to get a reminder on things to fix. I’m already in your successes (Thomas M on page 10 of the men). While I’ve waivered a few times with my diet, I’ve seen continued growth and was wondering if I could send up an updated pic for that success story. Do you have a process for updating those stories yet? Thanks, and keep up the great work. (BTW-Love Pulse. Great pre-workout that doesn’t give me an insane rush or crash).

    • Thanks! Yeah definitely. Shoot it to [email protected] and we’ll get it up.

      Really glad you’re liking Pulse! Would you mind dropping a review on Amazon?

  • Hi Mike, excellent article once again. Going on from your Train Hard (But Not Too Hard) section, i have been training for about 20 years (all natural) and have become a massive believer in listening to my body for it to tell me when to train. A few years back I did away with a routine of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday etc (any rigid “these are the days I train” routines), and began to train when my body felt like it was the right time to train. Might sound a bit strange, and it can take time to develop the idea, but I have routines of training, but no specific days or times of day (subject to the day job of course). I got sick of having days when the training felt half-assed cos I was tired, or stressed from work and we all know that feeling 🙂 We all, I’m sure, know the feeling of being fired right up for a great session and thinking “Right now I want to go to the gym”, well that’s when I try and train so I make every session count. You may think, “what happens if your body tells you not to train for a month”, well funnily enough, that has never happened. It’s never more than 4 or 5 days before my body says “lets go and do it” and sometimes it might only be 1 or two days – I let it decide. Sometimes it’s last thing in the evening, sometimes it’s first thing early in the morning. With this way of training, muscle injuries seem to have dropped and gains seems to be better as is my attitude because I go and train when I’m ready, not because it’s Wednesday and it’s 5:30pm so I have to.
    Just something to add to peoples thoughts.

    • Thanks Chris!

      Autoregulation is a popular subject these days and I may write about it. I think what you’re doing is fine for maintaining your physique but it can be hard to know if you need more rest or are just being a bitch, hahah.

  • Parrish Galusky

    I’d like to expand on something you touched on when discussing cheat reps. I personally found myself using bad form to increase the weight lifted and make myself believe I was maximizing overload to get 4 to 6 reps. All this did was resulted in me injuring myself on multiple exercises with the excessive weights. Bad form leads to excessive weight and that leads to injury.

    • Yup. You got to be careful and make sure you’re keeping your form, even on the difficult final rep of a set!

  • Buffet

    All EXCELLENT points, though I feel that your protein recommendations err quite a bit toward the sparse end of the spectrum – at least in my case? We’re all different however. Some individuals need more or fewer protein or carbs. Only time, experimentation, and keeping a journal (as you point out) will tell.

      • Buffet

        Thank you. Read it. Very informative and well-written, (as always)!
        In my case, rather that counting grams of macronutrients or keeping track of percentages, I operate by a simple credo, being: There’s no such thing as too much protein – or too much fiber. I concentrate on those two primarily, and it serves me well. But that’s just me.
        Overall, most individuals would benefit most from following your straightforward advices.
        (Are you a Frank Zane fan by chance?)

        • Welcome! Glad you liked it.

          Yeah, must people need to be exact with their macros to get the results they want. Good for you though!

          And yeah, Frank Zane had a GREAT physique.

        • Welcome! Glad you liked it.

          Yeah, must people need to be exact with their macros to get the results they want. Good for you though!

          And yeah, Frank Zane had a GREAT physique.

  • Oze

    Hi Mike, I have been following your BLS program 5 days a week in the gym for 18 weeks now and am very pleased with progress. I have one question though related to your 4 to 6 rep range advice. As a 74 yr old skinny fat type (well, I was initially), I found that around 10 reps before moving up weight or sets was much less stressful and gave me (once I had some muscle) that desirable sore muscles feeling the day after. The heavier weight for 4 to 6 reps were a struggle and perversely, no muscle soreness whatever, just a feeling of straining to do the reps. So Mike, should I persist with the higher reps for my age, or should I revisit the 4-6 rep style?

    I also, as so many others have said, admire your ethics and the credibility of your advice, via books and many articles. The scope of your output is astounding and I wish you every success in your personal and business life.


  • Diego Galvão Medeiros

    Hi Mike, i’ve downloaded MM and I wat to know what “bigger, leaner and stronger” covers that MM don’t.. I mean if I follow the workouts that are in the MM will I get the same results from the BLS?? sorry for poor english..

    • MM will cover the basics of building muscle and losing fat.

      BLS has the complete info those, workout program, dieting, etc.

      You will definitely get results from applying MM, but you’ll get a lot more info and in return get better results from reading BLS.

  • Marcelabest

    Hi Mike, while I’m bulking would I nenefit from drinking recharge immediately post workout like I do, and drink another serving later on during the day at night maybe, for a total of 2 servings?

    • Nah. No need to take two whole servings. It has the clinical dosages for everything, and it should be taken specifically post-workout. 🙂

  • JR

    Some articles I found on the web recommend to regularly suspend creatine supplementation for 3 to 4 weeks, some say that’s not necessary. Do you have a recommendation on this? Do you know of studies?

  • Yondale Thomas

    Hey, Mike random question. I do strength resistance twice a week, however, each day is a different muscle group. Is this frequent enough to effectively build muscle? Mondays and Thursdays are HIIT days, while Tuesdays is chest, arms and legs, and Fridays are shoulders, back, and legs.

  • Vespin

    Hey Mike, I have a question.

    Are my muscles still growing if they don’t feel sore the following day after a day of heavy, low-rep training at the gym?

    • Absolutely. Soreness isn’t necessarily an indicator of a good workout. Genetics, nutrition, and conditioning all play a role.

      Check out my article on this:


      As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle. That said, if you’ve been training for quite some time, I recommend bumping the workouts up by 3 more sets. Just add one more exercise, and do 3 sets.

  • Harris

    So I’ve been weightlifting since the spring of 2015 and I have run into some roadblocks.
    For about 6-12 months I struggled with orthorexia (a not well known eating disorder) and it notably effected my ability to gain any muscle over the summer. I used to be a long distance runner so I had next to no fat or muscle to begin with so an eating disorder just emphasized this. I worked out a lot, but I was in a catabolic state way more often than I should have been.
    I am at college now and the Gym is literally right next to my dorm. I go there usually every day to lift (I realize I probably should take more rest days, but I do make sure to vary up my muscle groups a lot when I workout). That being said, how can I tell if I’m making significant progress? I am now using more compound weights in my routine. I do a significant amount of cardio too. I have increased my caloric intake from what it was to accommodate the increase in lifting but I’m struggling to figure out whether or not I’m eating enough. Since I still consider myself a rookie with this whole weightlifting thing, how can I tell if I’m on track to get the physique that I want?
    I apologize for the rambling, I’m just very passionate about fitness/nutrition and improving on my definition, strength, and size. Also I truly enjoy all of these articles, they have helped so much and have kept me motivated.

  • Aaron Lara

    I really like Sunestron. I
    helps my muscles recovers faster, and it has also helped give me an
    extra kick in my heavy lifting days.

  • anuj
  • Fethi

    I tried every way to build muscles but I can only say WOW for, love sunestron supplement it has giving me an awesome boost it the gym, I have been able to lift more weight and I have only been taking it for 14 days.

  • Jason

    Hey I just got gym membership and about to start weight lifting, I dont want to get really big but want to stay lean but have muscles aswell. I am looking for a diet and a workout.

  • Alex

    Hey Mike I have been working out for about 3 years now and I’ve been dieting good sleeping good and had good recoveryi tried everything, for 1 year I haven’t really seen any gain and I push myself at the gym really hard and I am 15 year old do you have any suggestions.

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