Training to Build Mass

Let’s take this step by step:


  1. Choose how many days per week you will train. One of the best schedules is to train four times per week. With that in mind, shoot for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday with Wednesday and the weekend off.
  2. Next, choose your frequency. Training your entire body twice per week with a simple upper/lower split routine makes the most sense for a basic plan. That means chest, back, and shoulders on Mondays and Thursdays and arms and legs on Tuesdays and Fridays.
  3. Exercise selection is next. You will want to choose no more than two exercises for larger body parts such as chest, back, and legs and no more than one for smaller areas such as arms, shoulders and calves. Just be sure they are those big, compound exercises we talked about, instead of the smaller isolation moves.
  4. Determine volume (sets). Your total amount of volume need not be too high. We tend to do a little more where we excel and cut back on what is hard. Strive for an even playing field, and shoot for four to five sets per exercise. That should have you in and out of the gym in about an hour.
  5. Choose a rep range. Traditionally, pure strength training follows a lower rep range of 2-6 reps, while hypertrophy (muscle mass) tends to sit in the 6-12 range. Depending on your goal, anywhere from 4-12 reps will be ideal.
  6. Don’t forget about rest periods. This factor is one of the most influential in your training. For example, if hypertrophy is the goal, then rest periods of 45-90 seconds are best. Resting too long allows for less fatigue and more time wasted in the gym.
  7. Commit to it. Without commitment, all of the planning you painstakingly laid out will be for naught. Make a promise to yourself that you will see this through for at least six months.


Nutrition for Mass Gain

Nothing is as complicated as the diet-marketing landscape. Every few months, there seems to be a new “greatest diet plan ever,” guaranteed to give you the results you’re after. These plans always seem to be limiting in nature, in that they eliminate certain foods entirely or have you only eating at certain times of the day. Some will even go as far as letting you eat what you want after a specific time.


At the end of the day, a balanced diet that includes nutrient-dense proteins, plenty of vegetables and fruits, and some healthy fat sources is always the answer for long-term health benefits and muscle-building purposes. If the latest craze seems too good to be true, it probably is. 


Let’s also take your eating plan step by step:


  1. Determine how often you need to eat. Gone are the days of eating every two hours on the dot. That only creates too much stress and makes you a slave to your eating schedule. At the very least, make sure you are getting in three solid meals with a pre- and post-workout snack.
  2. Start with protein. No, you don’t have to eat a whole chicken or 12 ounces of beef with every meal. Also, don’t rely too much on protein powder. Getting in about one gram per pound of bodyweight will do the trick. If you go slightly below, don’t sweat it. Get protein from chicken, lean beef, ground meat, fish, cheeses, eggs, protein powder (for post-workout) and Greek yogurt.
  3. Don’t be afraid of carbs. The bottom line is that you need carbs if you want to build muscle. Be sure they are of the complex kind and avoid any added sugars. Go with rice (white and brown), potatoes (sweet and white), oats, green vegetables, fruits such as apples, bananas, and berries, and whole grain breads and pastas. Start with two grams per pound of bodyweight and then adjust as necessary.
  4. Include the right kind of fat. You need healthy fats to balance out your mass gaining diet. Oils naturally found in fish, avocados, nuts, and nut butters are great choices. Shoot for around 0.5 grams per pound to start.
  5. Pre- and post-workout nutrition. Its’s important to get in a little something prior to training, especially if you’re the nine-to-five type. This should include a lean protein and a complex carb to get you through your workout. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have some post-workout nutrition on hand immediately after training, which should include a fast-acting protein source and some quick digesting carbs to help the recovery process.
  6. Schedule cheat days. What’s a mass-gaining eating plan without a cheat day? If your diet is relatively clean and full of the good stuff, take a meal or two on a weekend (not the whole day) and have anything you want. It will give you something to look forward to at the end of the week, and give you a much-needed mental break.
  7. Stay consistent. As with training, you will need to stay consistent with the eating plan as well. A good day or two each week won’t cut it. If you want to pack on some serious muscle, every day counts.


Sample Basic Workout Plan for Muscle Mass

Let’s take a look at what it might look like to put this advice into action:


Note: The HIIT cardio can be performed either after your training session, or on an off day (Wednesdays and the weekends). 


Click here for a printable copy of this training plan.


Monday training plan


Tuesday training plan


Thursday training plan


Friday training plan


Sample Basic Nutrition Plan for Muscle Mass

The following eating plan is adequate for the average 180-pound lifter wanting to gain lean amounts of muscle mass. This is only an example, and should be adjusted to fit your specific needs. 


Training Days

Meal 1 (breakfast)


Meal 2 (lunch)







Meal 4 (dinner)


Non-Training Days

Meal 1 (breakfast)


Meal 2 (lunch)



Meal 3 (snack)


Meal 4 (dinner)


Building Muscle Isn’t Complicated

Packing on lean muscle mass isn’t rocket science. It’s rather basic, really. All it takes is a commitment from you, some discipline, and the practice of day-to-day consistency. In time, you will have built an impressive foundation, and more importantly, a sense of how your own body works and what you need to do for a better physique. Pick a plan, stick with it, keep it simple, and reap big rewards. 


If your training plan isn't working, the problem might be you:

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