Why You Can’t Build Muscle

Every day someone asks me how I put on my size and muscle mass.

Sometimes I blow those people off and I refuse to give them an answer.

There are other times where I decide to tell them.

In this article I’ll cover what has worked for me, and what’s holding you back from adding quality size to your body.

For starters if you want to build muscle you have to make the decision to do it.

Most people can’t even do this.

You have to decide that you will put on muscle mass.

Now, I’ll cover what has worked best for me when training each body part.

Chest Training:

  • Incline Barbell Bench press:  Since I started bodybuilding and training specifically to build muscle, this has been the most effective chest builder for me.  This exercise isolates the chest better than the flat bench press and allows you to target the more important upper chest area.  When your upper chest is well developed it makes your chest appear bigger than it really is.  It also helps make the chest symmetrical.  Most people, have overdeveloped middle and lower pecs.  My training partner and I noticed this right away.  This is why the incline press has been the top chest builder for me.  If flat bench press hasn’t worked out for you, try doing the incline press first.  Simple 5 sets of 6-8 reps has worked best for me on this exercise
  • Flat bench press:  Just because I said incline is the top dog, doesn’t mean flat bench isn’t a good exercise.  In fact, I’d say it’s 2nd to the incline.  After doing incline presses the flat bench will be harder and you won’t be able to lift as much weight.  5 sets of 8-12 reps will work best here.
  • Dumbbell chest pullovers:  The pull-over is outstanding for isolating the chest and expanding the rib cage.  This is what will give your chest thickness and make it look bigger and rounder.  When you bring the dumbbell back up after lowering it, push the elbows slightly in on the way up in order to activate more pecs.

Do these chest exercises in that exact order for maximum results.

The incline press will activate the upper chest.

Then the flat will target more middle and lower chest and the dumbbell pullover will target the entire chest.

Back:

  • Pull ups: The number one exercise that has built my back the best is the pull up.  I do these first every back day.  This will build the width and help create that v taper that everyone covets.  Grip the bar as wide as possible in order to target the lats.  If you’re over 200 lbs these will work great with just body weight.  If you’re less than 200 lbs do weighted pull ups.  5-10 sets of 10-12 reps are most effective on these.
  • Dead-lifts: These are a close second to pull ups.  The dead-lift will add overall thickness to your body everywhere.  It is important that you do dead-lifts at least every other back day.  If you can do them every back day, that’s even better.  For dead-lifts just one heavy set has worked best for me since they are so taxing on the body.  Stick to one heavy set for longevity and to prevent injury. 1 heavy set of 6-8 reps should do.
  • Bent-over barbell rows: If you can’t do dead-lifts you at least have to do these.  These will add thickness and mass to your back like nothing else.  Get a medium grip bent over and pull the barbell into your waist.  Especially young skinny guys.  Those little guys in the gym need to hammer the basics, and it doesn’t get more basic then bent over rows.

Notice that so far ever exercise is free weight.

Free weights are the main reason I’ve been able to add so much size to my body.

Stick with as many free weight barbell movements as possible.

Even though I’m a bodybuilder and train like one I still perform the basics.

The basic exercises need to be the bulk of your training.

Spend most of your energy getting stronger on the basic exercises and try to get stronger in the 6-8 rep range, that will add size the fastest.

Legs:

  • Squats: The traditional high bar squat with a barbell on your back is the best leg exercise you can do.  This will add mass to your body quick, especially your legs, but don’t be surprised if your back and traps grow too just from stabilizing the weight.  I use a slightly wider than shoulder width stance with my feet pointed out.  Squeeze your glutes and keep your core tight and push your butt back and down while pushing the knees out and pulling them into you, then push your butt forward to come out of the whole, you want to get your hips under the bar to produce the most powerful squat possible.  I always work up to 1 heavy set of 3 and then 2-3 back off sets of 20 reps.  Those 20 rep squats are brutal.  I must say though, that 20 rep squats have put mass on my quads and on my glutes.  Guys, girls like guys with a nice ass as well so don’t be afraid of your glutes growing.
  • Reverse hack squats: These are a definitely 2nd to squats.  These will also add mass to your quads and glutes.  To do these, go to the hack squat machine with your face facing the machine.  Then get an ultra wide stance and sit your butt down while pressing through the heels, pushing your butt forward while you flex the quads.  5 sets of 6-20 reps
  • Romanian dead-lift: Romanian dead-lifts are the best dead-lifts that anyone can do to build their hamstrings.  Start at the top with the barbell and then slide the barbell down your thighs until you get to mid shin, all while pressing your butt back and keeping your core tight, then flex your glutes and drive them forward while keeping the tension on the hamstrings. 5 sets of 8 is enough on these.
  • Donkey calf raises: These have been the most effective calf exercise for me.  These build overall thickness and add muscle to the top of the calf.  Go as heavy as possible in the 10-12 rep range here and do high volume 8-10 sets.  Calves can be hard to grow so keep your mind on the muscle and on nothing else.

Arms:

  • Barbell Curl:  These can be done with a straight traditional barbell or an ez curl bar.  This is the top mass builder for the biceps, this classic exercise was a favorite of Arnold.  If you’re not doing barbell curls you’re probably not building as much muscle as you could be building.  While I do them with a regular barbell, if that’s too hard on your wrists and elbows use an ez curl bar.  5 sets of 8 has worked best for me on this exercise.
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curl: These are perfect for building the brachialis which is the outer part of the bicep.  A lot of people neglect this part of the arm which is why they can’t build muscle.  If you neglect this exercise you’ll be leaving potential gains on the table and that’s something we don’t want.  Use a weight that’s heavy enough for you to only get 8 reps per set.  If you can do 10-12, it’s too light.  4-5 sets of 6-8 reps works best here.
  • Ez curl bar reverse curls: This is another underrated arm mass builder.  These will add size and mass to your arms quickly.  These especially build size in the forearm and brachialis area.  Do higher reps on these and stick to 5 sets of 12.
  • Close grip bench press: This will add size and thickness to your tricep area.  Get a real close grip on the barbell and don’t let the bar touch your chest.  Lower the bar slightly above the chest and then press the weight back up.  Do 4 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Dip machine: Unlike traditional dips, the dip machine allows you to completely isolate the triceps and keep all of your focus and attention on them.  You can adjust the seat to make the exercise completely target the triceps.  My machine only goes up to 200 lbs so I have to do 5 sets of 15-20 reps.  If you can’t do that many reps stick to 12.
  • W bar Tricep extensions: Yes it’s a w bar, as soon as you see the w bar you’ll know what I’m talking about.  These work great for adding mass to the triceps.  Do 5 sets of 12 reps on these.

Abs:

  • Hanging leg raises: These are simple raise your legs up to your waist for 5 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Stomach vaccums: 3 sets hold for 10-20 seconds each time.

Vaccums are a vastly underrated exercise, this is another classic exercise that was favored by the old school bodybuilders.  These work the intra abdominal area which is hardly ever worked.

It also teaches you to keep your stomach in.

This in turn will lead to a smaller waist, provided that you do the exercise every day.

These exercises have worked best for me, if you’re not doing at least most of these you’re not going to grow your body correctly.

In part 2 of this installment I’ll cover what you need to be eating to grow, as well as what foods have given me the best gains when eating.

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