1Anyone with experience in the mass-gain department—and we mean muscle mass, not the lumpy kind that accumulates around your midsection—knows the biggest obstacle to getting big isn’t always in the gym.
No one is saying heaving heavy weights is easy, but what’s even harder is making sure all that work isn’t for naught. That means eating, then eating the same thing again, day after day.
Many mass-gain meal plan—sor any diet, for that matter—seem to drag on with no end in sight as you cut into another chicken breast, masticate the last spoonful of your 47th bowl of oatmeal and chug yet another protein shake on the 60th day of your 12-week get-big sentence.
Our strategy, on the other hand, gives you options and changes things up in Month 2 and again in Month 3, depending on your progress, which is the key to this plan. Because nothing beats an eternally drab diet like seeing bona fide results.
Truth No. 1: Muscles Grow With Big Lifts In The 8 to 12 Rep Range
Some people like to take a high-volume approach to muscle growth, insisting that challenging, high-rep sets flush the muscles with blood and trigger new growth. Other lifters are monogamous to big-weight lifts, clinging to the fact that to-the-brink sets will build the most muscle, even with very few reps. The middle ground, however, works for everyone — if it’s done right.
Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS, a Los Angeles–based fitness expert, insists that the greatest gains in muscle come to those who stick to the most proven rep range for muscle growth — eight to 12 reps. “This is the range that is most known, physiologically and anecdotally, to elicit muscle growth,” he says.
Amazingly, there are still debates in fitness circles about which exercises should be used to build mass. Some argue that the greater the variety of exercises, the greater the stress placed on your musculature, the greater your growth in the long run.
“That’s ridiculous,” Peña says. “You can always add variety with single-joint moves, but if gaining mass is your primary goal, you need to stick to bread-and-butter, compound exercises like the bench press, squat and deadlift. Forcing multiple muscle groups to work in concert against progressively heavier resistance is the way to go, period.”
Applied Truth: In this program, you won’t ever perform a set with less than eight or more than 12 reps. Because this is the optimum rep range for hypertrophy — your main goal these 12 weeks — it makes no sense to deviate from it for novelty’s sake. Also, single-joint movements will be a rare find. Major lifts comprise the bulk of the exercises here.