Gaining Muscle Made Simple

Starting off by saying something I’ve said before on occasion: there’s been a ton of articles written on how to build muscle mass. There’s nothing new under the sun, so with that in mind I thought it would be important to take what we already know and simplify it so that it’s easy to apply.

Gaining muscle comes down to a few essential ingredients:

  • Volume
  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Effort
  • Muscle Damage
  • Calories!


Volume is the total amount of work that you’re doing. This can be any amount of sets or reps. For gaining muscle volume is of major importance. You want to be doing a certain amount of work per week/month/cycle to stimulate growth. This varies per muscle group, but more is better as long as you don’t get to the point where you start to see your strength going backwards. Strength isn’t necessary for muscle growth, but if it goes down it’s a good indicator that you’re doing too much. This is one of the reasons that it’s important to understand work capacity.


Frequency is the amount of times you train a muscle group. The more frequency with which you train a muscle group, the less total volume is needed per workout to cause growth. You can train a muscle group up to 6 times per week if you do it wisely. It’s usually best to train a muscle group 2-3 times a week at least so that you can get enough stimulus.


Intensity is the percentage of your maximum weight that you’re using. For muscle building it’s important to stay in the 60-85% range for your work sets for the most part if muscle mass if your goal. You’ll venture out of that range for max building and for intensity/volume techniques though.


Effort is how close you’re getting to failure on a set, or in multiple sets. This is called your rate of perceived exertion, you may choose to follow this or not depending on your own personal style. It’s graded on a scale from 1-10, 10 being that you hit failure, 9 being one rep away, and so on. Anything under 6-7 is usually used for restorative work, speed work, or warm ups.

Muscle Damage

Muscle damage is what happens to your body when you train. You’re causing damage to the muscles so that your body responds by making the muscle bigger and stronger. Muscle damage occurs most during the eccentric (lowering phase) of a lift, and on lifts that are stretched under load. The more muscle damage you cause the more muscle growth you can have, so increasing the amount of time spent doing the eccentric part of the movement the better.


Perhaps the most important part of muscle growing is calories. You can’t gain muscle if you aren’t eating enough calories. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but you can’t train hard or recover well if you aren’t eating enough. I know that protein is also considered important for muscle building and getting stronger, but eating a ton of protein won’t help you gain muscle if you’re losing weight because you’re not eating enough.

Putting It All Together

  • Each muscle group needs between 8-20 sets per week to grow, the muscles in your legs and upper back being on the higher end, your arms being on the lower end.
  • Make sure to do as much work as you can with full range of motion so that you can cause the most muscle damage possible.
  • Use movements that will allow you to use the most weight and range of motion. Compound lifts work best for a lot of the muscle groups. This won’t be true with your arms, however.
  • The higher the frequency the better. This is especially true with your smaller muscle groups.
  • Try to train at and around RPE 7-9, saving RPE 9 for the last set per exercise.
  • Aim to consume at least 17-19 calories times your goal bodyweight per day.

Sample Program

3 Days Per Week

Day 1

  • Squats up to 80% for 3 sets of 8, then drop to 70% for a set of 12
  • Bench Press up to 75% for 3 sets of 8, dropping to 70% for 12
  • Rows 4 sets of 10-12 RPE 8
  • Superset Lunges 3-5 sets of 8-12 RPE 8 with RDL’s 3 sets of 8-12 RPE 8
  • Superset Curls 3-5 sets of 8-12 RPE 8 with Triceps Extensions 3-5 sets of 6-8 RPE 8
  • Ab Wheel Planks 3 sets for as long as you can hold

Day 2

  • Deadlifts up to 75% for 4 sets of 6, then drop to 50% for a set of 15
  • Overhead Press up to 80% for 8 sets of 3, then drop to 60% for a set of 8-12 (short rests)
  • Pull Ups 5 sets at RPE 8
  • Superset Split Squats 3-5 sets of 8-12 RPE 8 with Back Raises 3-5 sets of 15-20 RPE 8
  • Superset Curls 3-5 sets of 8-12 RPE 8 with Triceps 3-5 sets of 8-12 RPE 8

Day 3

  • Squats up to 70% for 8 sets of 3
  • Deadlifts up to 60-65%% for 8 sets of 3
  • Bench Press 65% for 9 sets of 3
  • Overhead Press 65% for 9 sets of 3
  • Arms (Do whatever feels right)
  • Abs (Do whatever feels right)

This is a simple guide to gaining mass; if you have any questions or comments please let us know, and if you’d like to see more on how to get bigger, faster, stronger, or leaner then subscribe or like our Facebook page!

Rate This Article
User Comments

Leave a reply

KYL Protection Status