By: Dan John
Here’s what you need to know…
• If you have 14-inch arms and want to start a mass building program, don’t worry about your stupid abs (for a while.)
• The best movements for mass building make up a very short list and you need to do them every time you train, as mastery of the movements is a key to mass building.
• There’s something magical about mass gains around the 5-10 rep range and the last century of strength enthusiasts will bear this out, too.
So you want to put on mass, fast. I have a program that will do just that, but first, some guidelines:
1. Mass building, like fat loss, has to be done at the exclusion of everything else.
A guy with 14-inch arms will sometimes ask me about a mass building program, but worry to death about his “six pack” (meth addicts have six packs, for the record), his cardio, his “game,” and about five other things. Once you get 16-18 inch arms, I’ll allow you to worry about all those other things.
2. You need to spend time under the bar.
You have to find ways to load your body and move the weights for up to several minutes without releasing the load (putting the bar down or resting on a machine). This program is going to be based on this insight.
You are now going to stop worrying about every calorie as if you were a college cheerleader. On a mass-gaining program, you must eat. When I put on forty pounds in four months my freshman year in college, I used to eat some sandwiches before dinner so “I wouldn’t be so hungry during dinner.” Think Shark Week when you sit down to eat and warn the others at the table not to reach across your plate. Likewise, peri-workout nutrition is imperative.
4. You must master resting.
I know there’s this urge to do this and that and this after every workout, but for a mass building program, you have to accept that cardio consists of changing channels with the remote. If you don’t sleep eight-plus hours a night, it’s going to impact your mass gains. Many famous bodybuilders have advocated the “muscle nap,” a long nap in the afternoon to simply gain muscle. Remember, you grow while you rest. Pick-up basketball games are not rest!
5. Bulking programs have very few movements.
Well, let’s put it this way: Good bulking programs have few movements. When I had my most success with mass building, the number of movements I use is always around seven or eight, total. Learn to love them.
6. You need to get some reps in.
Although people have gained amazing mass on lower reps (1-5), the load needed to gain mass on a low-rep program is difficult for most people (and mortals). So, until you can handle a 400-pound bench, a 500-pound squat, and a 600-pound deadlift, you’re going to need reps to bulk up. There’s something magical about mass gains around the 5-10 rep range and the last century of strength enthusiasts will bear this out, too.
7. Never do fewer than ten reps in the back squat.
There are people that can ignore this advice (powerlifters mainly), but for the bulk of the population this is wise advice. Each and every time you load up the bar on your back, get ten reps in. It gives you your needed time under load and it seems to stimulate the whole body, along with the appetite!
8. Nail your rest periods.
Few beginners know the answer to the question, “How long do you rest between sets?” The correct answer is, “It depends.” An advanced lifter might take a year to recover from a record lift while a new lifter is recharged and ready to go literally seconds after doing a machine movement. For mass building, think “around” three minutes for the squat and bench and 90 seconds for the other movements. Again, your mileage may vary.
9. Leave one or two in the tank.
In nonlifter’s terms, always finish a set knowing you could have done a few more reps. We all love the images from Pumping Iron with all the forced reps, but for most guys who need mass, well, you just aren’t there yet. It’s better to get an additional set or two than it is to roast on exercise.
10. Pamper yourself (sort of)
This is definitely old school advice, but “save yourself” on a building program. Wear extra clothes so your body doesn’t have to use resources to stay warm. Park closer. Find shorter routes to everything. Sit more. Remember, this isn’t a lifetime plan but a short, focused, fiery attempt to gain mass.