If you’ve done any research at all on building muscle, you’ll have found many different theories on what you should do and what you should eat to build muscle mass. Unfortunately many of those “theories” look great on paper, but fail to work when applied. If you want to truly build muscle, then you need these four things:

1) Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is when you place a demand on a muscle or muscle group that is greater than what it is used to. If you keep lifting the same amount of weight for the same number of repetitions, your muscles will develop to the point of where they can handle that load, but no bigger. To build them bigger, you either have to lift heavier weight or do more repetitions with the same amount of weight.

2) Calorie Surplus

This happens when your body is taking in more calories than it needs, but it is an absolute requirement if you want to build muscle. The key is to eat more calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight, but no more than the amount needed to support muscle growth through progressive overloading.

Once you know your maintenance caloric requirement, add 250 to 500 additional calories per day and monitor your weight and body fat percentage. The goal is to gain ½ to 1-pound per week with no noticeable increase in body fat. Based on your results, add or subtract calories to find your number needed to stay on track.

3) Diet and Workout Requirements

Not all calories or workouts are created the same. As far as your diet, the bulk of your calories should come from protein, unsaturated fats, and complex carbohydrates. Workouts should focus on the larger muscle groups, including arms, shoulders, chest, upper legs, and glutes.

Diet

Of all the macronutrients, protein is probably the most important when trying to build muscle. Start with 1 gram per pound of body weight by eating chicken, turkey, fish, lean meat, eggs, and protein shakes.

As far as fat, start out with 0.4 to 0.5 grams per pound of body weight or about 25% of your total daily caloric intake.

The rest of your daily calories can come from complex carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, and most whole grains.

Workout

Generally speaking you’ll get the best bang for your buck by doing these exercises:

• Bench Press
• Rows
• Overhead Press
• Pull Ups/Chin Ups
• Squats
• Deadlifts

Of course for some variety there are several variations of the above exercises that you can do. Each variation will work a particular muscle or group just a little differently so you are always challenging your body – a requirement for muscle growth.

4) Consistency

If you are just starting out, strive to train each muscle group 3 times per week. As you progress, you can drop that number down to twice a week. Ensure you have at least one day of rest between workouts of the same muscle group. If you set up separate upper body/lower body routines, you could strength train up to 6 days per week by alternating between workouts each day. Take at least one day per week off to allow your muscles to fully recover and repair.

By doing these four things right, you’ll start to see some muscle definition in as little as two weeks. One you get the right look, then tailor your caloric intake and workouts to a maintenance mode.