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What if I told you that achieving your dream body isn’t too hard after all? It’s true. Generally there will be small changes you can make to drastically improve your physique. Like I said, the process itself is not hard, but making the initial changes could be difficult. I encourage you to take the leap; no longer question how to get buff, but rather why you haven’t started yet.
First Things First: Determine Your Motive
You may claim that you want to be buff, but what are you implying? Do you simply want to put on muscle mass, or do you want to be a lean, mean, killing machine?
Shown below is an example of a man who has a respectable amount of muscle mass, but around 15 percent body fat. Similarly, on the right, is a man who also has some lean mass, but he is shredded.
I show these two pictures because it is important to have an idea of what you want to achieve. If you are a complete beginner, I would suggest simply trying to gain muscle mass first. On the other hand, if you have some muscle mass already and want to get lean, then go that route. Regardless, most of the same general principles will be applied.
Protein Is Key No Matter What
Whether you choose to train 3 days a week or 6 days a week is completely up to you. Your protein intake, however, should not be debated. Protein is crucial for recovery, building muscle, and maintaining proper immune function. If you are working out and getting inadequate protein, you are essentially wasting your time.
You may find it hard to get enough protein from diet alone, so I always recommend supplementing with pure protein powder. Whey protein ensures that you will be able to meet your daily protein intake. You should aim to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day. More is fine, but I would shoot for this mark as a minimum. Other good sources of protein include tuna, egg whites, salmon, greek yogurt, chicken, nuts, etc…
If you’re skinny by nature, it’s important to note that you may need more protein. Although the body type myth has been discredited by many, skinny people can be viewed as ectomorphs. Being an ectomorph essentially means you are a hard gainer, so it’s harder for you to gain mass. While you should be fine with 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass, you might want to consider your body type. If your body type interests you, you can take a test here to determine yours.
Perhaps the Most Important Aspect: Hypertrophy Training
Unfortunately muscle isn’t going to magically appear. Hypertrophy training is essential to putting on muscle. Hypertrophy implies muscle building while atrophy refers to muscle wasting. A good program focused on hypertrophy should include your compound lifts at low volume, and your accessory lifts between a 10-12 rep range. An example is shown below.
Example Workout: Push Day
*Bench Press 3×5
*BB Overhead Press 3×5
DB Lat Raises 3×10
Incline DB Press 3×10
DB Shoulder Press 3×10
Chest Dips 3×10
Tricep Pushdowns 3×12
DB Overhead Extensions 3×12
We recommend a push, pull, legs program which is why you’re seeing a push pull example above. This is the most optimal way to train the body. As you can see, the workout starts with two compound lifts** at a 3×5 rep range. The goal here is to go heavy on your compound lifts to prime your muscles for the accessory lifts. The accessory lifts are then performed in a hypertrophy range to promote muscle building. By implementing this practice, you are getting the best of both worlds. You’re starting with high intensity exercises to prime your muscles for constant work. The accessory lifts that follow are high volume which will build muscle over time.
Body Fat Percentage
Body fat percentage is very important in bodybuilding. The less body fat you have, the more shredded you’re going to look. With this being said, also note that body fat percentage should not be your main concern. A guy with 20% body fat and a guy with 10% body fat may have the same amount of muscle but look completely different.
Do not worry about your current body fat or getting lean if you’re a beginner. Focus on learning as much as you can first, and being able to perform exercises properly. However, as a guideline, the average healthy gym-goer likely has a body fat percentage of 15%. Between 10-12% body fat you should be able to see your abs, and anything below 10% is insanely shredded.
The reason why I mention body fat percentage is because it can be very misleading. You might question how to get buff, but not realize that you have a decent amount of muscle because your body fat percentage is so high.
Generally an athletic range is between 13-15% body fat for males and 16-21% for females. Once you have a decent amount of lean mass, I’d recommend cutting to see how buff you really are.
The photo below is a great illustration of body fat borrowed from AthleanX.
Consistency - Rome Was Not Built in a Day
I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, well the same applies to your physique. If you have no training experience at all, it will take anywhere between 3-4 months of consistent training just to see results. This may seem daunting, but results will come slowly but surely. If after 3-4 months of training you see no results, it’s time to reassess your situation. Analyze your nutrition and hypertrophy training plans, make adjustments, and start over. Once you determine what works best for you, stick with it and start making gains.
Assuming that you’re a natural bodybuilder, you should have no problem putting on 15-20 pounds of lean mass in your first year of training. This surge in muscle gain is what we refer to as “newbie gains”. The rate at which you put on new muscle drastically decreases after your first couple years of training. Regardless of everything, the key is consistency. I can guarantee you right now that you will not build muscle if you’re skipping workouts every week.