10 Things you wish you knew about building muscle

I have been training for a good 9 years now, trying to build muscle and get shredded. I started when I was 20, after 2 years of drinking beer and eating far too much fast food at university. I was a late bloomer when it came to lifting the iron.

It was time for a change and I decided to hit the gym. Hoping for change and hoping that I could turn into tank.

There was one small problem I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I was 20 in the gym. Yes I knew how to lift some weight and make all the grunting noises.

But I really did not have a clue on how to build slabs of new muscle.

But more importantly I didn’t know how to build muscle intelligently.

I believe this is huge problem in gyms all over the world.

We all want to build muscle and get jacked, but how do we actually do it?

In this blog I am going to go through the 10 things that you wish you knew before you first stepped into the weights room.

But don’t worry all is not lost as I have found out the last 3-4 years, if you start applying these points now.

Before you even start reading this blog, there is something you can do right now that can help you get more jacked and get you building tons of muscle.

You can join our FREE Facebook group that is jam packed full of content of how to build tons of muscle, get jacked and get shredded.

If your serious about taking your results to the next level, this is just the group for you my friend.

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Now on with the blog and more GAINZ

1. You’re not a pro bodybuilder, so why train like one

Unless you’re competing in the next Mr.Olympia, there is no need to train like the top bodybuilders in the world.

Firstly they are probably in the top 1-2% when it comes to genetics meaning they can put on muscle very quickly and very easily.

Not to mention all the other “assisted” help they get.

Plus this is their job, they get paid to look a certain way it’s their life.

But for the huge majority of us we just want to look better naked, or look better when we go on holiday, strutting down the beach feeling confident and looking good.

For this to happen we should not be training like Kai Greene or Jay Cutler, no matter how many magazines we see them on.

If you’re a natural trainer and you’re doing a strict body part split, then you could be leaving a lot of gains on the table.

What I mean by a strict body part split, is you only work one muscle group, once a week.

So you train chest on Monday and then you wait until next Monday to train your chest again a whole 7 days! There is a good chance that your chest was ready to go again on the Thursday.

This study showed that training a muscle group 2-3 times a week is better for hypertrophy gains, meaning more muscle!

Just from going from a typical body part split to a training split that has you working muscle groups out more frequently throughout the week, will help you in your quest to get jacked.

I mean do you really think you will get big legs by training them once every 10 days?


2. Learn the lifts first before, piling the weights on

One thing I see in gyms everywhere is ego lifting, or thinking you’re more advanced than you actually are. Don’t worry I was like this for years!

The fact is if you’re just starting out in the gym and you find yourself doing more bicep curls, than squats or deadlifts then you have it the wrong way round.

When you first start out in the gym your actually at a huge advantage, your body is primed to put on a fair amount of muscle.

You are in your prime growth years here, your never get another anabolic window like this, so don’t waste it like I did!

Alan Aragon came up with a good model to determine your rate of muscle gains for a natural trainer. Which you can see below.



As you can see the rate of muscle gain for a beginner is far greater. For example if a 150lb beginner is starting out in the gym, they could potentially put on 1.5-2.25lb of muscle a month! Just imagine doing that for a year that is a lot of muscle!


If your just starting out in the gym, make sure you spend a couple of weeks or even a month just learning the big compound lifts, such as squats, deadlifts, bench press and overhead press. For this we recommend you read starting strength by Mark Rippetoe’s, this is an awesome read if you want to get big and strong and build muscle.

If you learn these big lifts earlier on and get stronger on them gradually, chances are you will put on a fair few pounds of muscle just with these lifts.

Don’t be the guy, who puts on 350lbs on the squat bar but only does quarter squats.

3. Keep a log of your workouts and track nutrition

The famous quote says “what is not measured is not managed” this is so true if you’re hitting the weights and looking to build muscle.

How do you expect to progress if you’re not tracking your workouts?

If you don’t track your workouts, you will not know if you’re getting stronger, you will not know if you’re increasing your training volume. You will not be able to see if you’re actually progressing.

There is nothing better than looking through your training log and seeing that you have increased your squat by 20lb in the last 6 weeks that is motivation right there!

Keep a training journal to measure your progress.

You don’t want to be that guy that turns up to the gym every week and makes his workout up on the spot.

The same with tracking your nutrition, if your main goal is to build muscle and get strong then you have to make sure you are in a calorie surplus.

If you’re not in a calorie surplus, it makes it extremely difficult to build muscle and strength and also to recover from your workouts.

How do you know if you’re in a calorie surplus if you are not tracking your calories, for all you know you could be in a calorie deficit but you want to build muscle it doesn’t quite add up?

Tracking your food intake gives you the best possible chance of building the muscle that you want.

With apps like My Fitness and just scanning the barcode, tracking nutrition has never been easier.


4. You don’t have to eat every 3 hours to boost your metabolism or stay anabolic

How many times have you heard?

“You need to eat small and frequent meals to keep your metabolism burning”

Years ago this was taken as the gospel truth throughout the health and fitness world. It didn’t matter what your goal was. If you wanted to get shredded you had to eat 5-6 meals a day and the same for if you wanted to build muscle.

I would often tell the majority of my clients that that they were better off eating 5-6 meals a day.

I myself would follow this advice, strictly eating every 3-4 hours to keep my metabolism “firing”

We now know that meal frequency, should not be on the top of our priority list. We would be much better off spending a lot more time and effort on things such as total calorie balance and our macronutrient split, making sure we are consuming enough protein, carbs and fats to support our goals.  

The pyramid above which is taken from the muscle and strength books, which is written by Eric Helms, Andy Morgan and Andrea Valdez. Great books highly recommended! But you can clearly see that nutrient timing is 4th in order of priorities.

This is not something that you should be really stressing out about, make sure you have the core principles in place first.

Don’t worry you will not lose all your gains, if you forget to down your protein shake 10 seconds after your last rep.

5. Eating “clean” or going low carb will not get you jacked.

Let me tell you now. Building slabs of new muscle and getting jacked is hard and it takes time.

If it were easy everyone would be walking around with impressive physiques, but that is far from the case.

Unless you have extremely gifted genetics or you’re getting “help” from elsewhere, you have to accept that building muscle will take time.

Now we can cut this time frame down by having a good solid progressive training plan and have our nutrition in check.

Nutrition is hugely important if you want to get jacked.

Eating ultra “clean” and having 100g of carbs a day will not get you jacked for a couple of reasons.


  1. We know that if you want to gain weight and build muscle you HAVE to be in calorie surplus that is a given.


    So you should be eating more calories than maybe you are used to.


    Have you ever tried getting 3000 calories in a day from just “clean” foods, well I have and it’s not pleasant!


    Forcing yourself to eat another meal of chicken, rice and mixed veg, is tough and it becomes a pain in the arse!


    Now if you have a fair few calories to fit in a day. Don’t be afraid to throw a small amount of “junk” food into the mix. It will allow you to hit your calories far easier and be easier for you to stick to.


    Plus remember calories are the most important factor, so if you’re fitting this “junk” food into your calories it’s all good!


  2. To build muscle you have to train with weights duh! Also to build muscle you have to have good productive training sessions, where you can hit the gym, crush the weights, hit a few PBs and walk out feeling like Superman!


Well guess what if you’re constantly eating 100g of carbs a day or even less, your workouts will suffer and your probably feel as weak as a kitten, believe me I am talking from experience.

You see weight training is a highly glycogen dependent form of exercise, what I mean by this, is that when we are in the weight room lifting the iron, our bodies much prefer to use carbohydrates as fuel. They are easier to access and they are easy to turn into energy.

If your constantly undereating on carbs there will come a time where your workouts will suck!

This study here showed that low levels of muscle glycogen are associated with fatigue.

So if your main goal is to build muscle, do not cut out carbs!

6. Most Supplements are a waste of time and money

Remember the muscle and strength pyramid, earlier in this blog. You may recall that supplements were at the top of the pyramid.

They should NOT be top of your priority list, in fact they should be one of the last things you worry about.

You see supplements will only probably make up 5-10% of your overall success.

For example you could have the “best” supplements available from all the top brands, but if your main goal is to build muscle and you’re not in a calorie surplus, these supplements mean absolutely nothing!

There are very few supplements out there that actually work and will probably make a small difference to your physique and performance.

I am talking about the supplements that are backed up by countless scientific reviews, supplements like

Whey Protein

Creatine Monohydrate

Omega 3s

Vitamin D

I am not talking about supplements like

Testosterone boosters

Fat burners

Do not waste your time and money on supplements like these.

If you want to know what supplements are actually worth taking, I highly recommend you check out Examine.com, they are independent and unbiased when it comes to supplements.

Don’t be the guy, who spends far more on supplements than he actually spends on food, guess what I was that guy 5 years ago.


7. All my gainz won’t be lost if I miss the odd session, or have a “bad” day of eating.

Who has been in that situation, where you have to miss a session for whatever reason?

You may be ill, you may have a slight niggling injury or god forbid you have any sort of social life.

To think that you will lose any sort of muscle mass from missing just one or two sessions, is just complete nonsense. This study showed only SMALL reductions in muscle loss, after 3 weeks of no training, so do you really think if you miss one session that this will result in any sort of muscle loss.

We need to understand that working out and going to the gym should enhance, our quality of life.

It should give us more confidence, it should give us more energy and of course it should get us jacked!

But if it gets to the stage, where we panic every time we have to miss the odd session, well then it may becoming an unhealthy hobby.

The same for a “bad” day of eating, there may be certain days when tracking or being optimal with your diet is not possible.

Events such as birthdays, anniversaries and meals out.

Does this mean that all our progress that we have spent months or even years building up is loss just with this one day? Of course not!

The best thing you can do is accept that these events happen, enjoy them with friends and family and get back on the wagon as soon as you can.

Don’t be the guy who misses every social event going, because you are scared you will lose all your gains. Your gains will still be there waiting for you.

8. Going to failure every session and waking up with extreme DOMS, does not automatically mean it was a good session.

You’re not a true gym warrior if you don’t engage beast mode every session, walk into the gym making more noise than a women giving birth and crawl out of the gym drinking your protein shake through a drip.

If you can’t tell that was extreme sarcasm!

Of course training needs to be tough and challenging, we are trying to force our bodies to build muscle, and we have to take it to places it doesn’t want to go.

But that does not mean going into the gym and lifting to complete failure every single set, every single session.

A definition of failure from Alan Aragon in his research review is

The point in a set where a full repetition cannot be completed during the concentric (positive, or muscle-shortening) phase of the rep without assistance from outside means (such as cheating or assistance from a training partner).”

For example in the bench press failure would be, after you have lowered the bar to your chest, you would not be able to push the bar back up to its starting point. Sound familiar?

One of the main reasons not to go failure every single set, is that it greatly increases the chance of injury. Yes there is always a chance of injury in the weights room. But if you are constantly going to failure every single set, with poor technique especially on the big compound lifts, the chances of injury are going to be a lot higher!

If you’re always getting injured, you won’t even be in the gym lifting.

In addition going to failure all the time or going beast mode every time you set foot in the gym, this can and probably will affect your overall total training volume.

Your total training volume is one of the most important principles if you’re looking to build muscle and get jacked!

Total training volume is the amount of poundage that you have lifted over the course of one session, one week, or even one month.

The goal if we want to build slabs of new muscle will be to slowly increase this number every week or every month. So we are giving our bodies a new stimulus to adapt and change to.

If you’re going balls to the wall on your first exercise of the day and basically making yourself puke. The chances are the rest of your session will suffer and your overall training volume will drop.

Plus your probably wake up with such server DOMS, that you cannot work your legs out for another 10 days, which in turns decreases your training frequency. But that is whole other blog topic.

Yes train hard, but train smart.

Don’t be that guy, who goes beast mode for 3-4 weeks, then picks up an injury and is out of the gym for 2 weeks. Only to come back and engage beast mode again.

                                                    ENGAGING BEAST MODE!!

                                                   ENGAGING BEAST MODE!!

9. Preventing an injury is easier than recovering from one

This brings us to our next point perfectly.

Using strategies and methods to stay injury free and healthy are going to prolong your lifting career. Meaning you can spend more time in the gym lifting the iron and making gains.

If you’re always injured, you will not even be in the gym lifting.

We have already talked about one huge way to stay injury free and that is to train smart and not lift to failure every single set.

Another important way to stay injury free is to take your warm ups and recovery time seriously.

Make sure you dedicate a good 10-15 minutes to a warm up, especially if you are going into heavy sets of the big compound movements.

Secondly if you’re not recovering session to session, week to week the chances are that this will catch up with you.

We have all heard the saying that you don’t grow in the gym, you grow outside the gym and to a certain extent this is true.

You need to make sure you are taking at least 1-2 rest days in the week.

Make sure you are sleeping enough 7-8 hours should do the job.

Consume adequate calories and macros, to support your training goals.

Don’t be that guy who trains 7 times a week, sometimes twice a day, who lives off 3 hours sleep a night and hardly eats. This is a recipe for disaster and you will end up burnt out, lacking motivation and probably end up injured.

10. There are no quick fixes. Consistency and hard work beats everything

In today’s society, we are surrounded with instant gratification and quick fixes.

You can order food without even leaving your sofa.

You can book a holiday and be on a plane the next day.

We are surrounded with the latest fitness gimmicks, which promises us iron clad abs in 7 minutes.

There seems to be a new diet or new supplement that promises us the world and that if we just take this supplement or do this quick diet that we will get the body that we want in no time.

All this is not true!

Building muscle, gaining strength and building the body you want, is one of those very few things that will not give you instant gratification.

It will take time, it will not happen overnight.

But if you embrace the journey and accept the challenge of trying to improve yourself week to week. The chances are you will fall in love with the journey and turn it into a habit.

That is the key thing here, if you turn going to the gym and working out into a habit then results will come it’s just a matter of time.

Consistency and hard work are the two principles that will get you dream results in and out of the gym. Plus they are 2 things that you control.

We don’t have to be perfect every single session we just have to turn up and put the work in, if we have this mindset and turn up and hit the weights 3-4 times a week, do that for months, even years you will get the results you want.

Stop looking for that quick fix.

Stop looking for that magic pill.

They do not exist.

Be consistent with your training sessions, put the work in and results will happen.

There we have it 10 things you wish you knew about building muscle done.

I can personally say that I made every single one of this mistakes in my earlier years.

I hope by reading this blog you can avoid some of these common mistakes and get the results you want faster!

If you enjoyed this blog and your looking to take your results to the next level.

Then feel free to join our awesome FREE Facebook group, you will find over 300 members who are all chasing dream results in the gym.


Thanks for reading!

Coach Joe