6 Muscle Building Truths You Must Know

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Welcome to the information age. We have now have access to thousands of articles on any topic, and millions of opinions debating the validity of every point being made.

And it makes my head spin.

Everything has become so freaking complex. Simplicity has no sizzle. It’s obvious. It’s basic. It doesn’t catch much attention, or get many shares. So to gather social shares (and traffic) writers must turn to shock, awe, and complexity.

Related: 50 Bodybuilding Tips for Beginners

Complexity seems cool. Complexity seduces us. Complexity must hold the key to building more muscle and packing on more strength.

Not always.

Before you require complicated, advanced methods to progress, you must first spend many years mastering the basics. You must first learn to make quality progress using proven muscle building fundamentals. If you can’t make progress with the basics, you have no business seeking complexity.

So here are the basics. Six muscle building truths you must know.

Memorize them. Master them. Spend years making progress using them. Then, and only then, seek complexity.

6 Muscle Building Truths

Barbell Plates#1 – Start With a Barbell

Your primary focus should be on free weights exercises, namely barbell and dumbbell movements. These lifts provide the most bang for your buck.

My best advice is to start each training session with a heavy hitting barbell exercise. Squats. Deadlifts. Bench press. Barbell rows. Military press. After this exercise, move on to dumbbell, machine, and isolation movements.

Consider each exercise to be a tool. Use the best tools in your toolbox. As you fatigue, move from the big hitters that require a lot of energy to perform, then on to isolation and machine exercises that still get the job done but aren’t as taxing.

#2 – Make Every Set Count

Lifters worry too much about nonsense. Volume. Rep schemes. Total sets. Instead of over-complicating things, here’s my best advice…

Make every set count. Push each set for as many reps as possible. Stop that set either:

  1. When your form starts to slip. Perform only quality reps using good form.
  2. When you feel like you might fail on the next rep.

By maximizing every set, you maximize every workout. By maximizing every workout, you maximize the muscle building process. It’s simple really.

#3 – Train 60 to 90 Minutes

Now that we have established how to make every set count, volume of sets will take care of itself. Train about 60 to 75 minutes per session, and as long as 90 minutes per day if needed – and if the energy is there.

Experienced (strong) lifters will need more warm-up time on the big lifts. This will prolong a session somewhat. They may also need more recovery time in between sets.

I have found that the average trainee can only handle 16 to 20 sets per workout, if they are all maximized. This will keep you in the gym about 60 to 75 minutes.

A slightly higher or lower number of sets is OK. This number is simply a guideline. I occasionally go as high as 22 sets per session.

A video posted by Steve Shaw (@bendthebarman) on

#4 – You Must Get Stronger

No progression, no quality muscle gains.

When you first enter the gym any weight will be a challenge. After your body adapts, you must either challenge it further or stagnate.

Far too often I see lifters using the same weight and set and rep schemes, over and over and over again. There is no challenge. There is no advancement. Quite frankly, most of these lifters haven’t even maxed out their beginner strength levels yet.

Then they wonder why they aren’t building muscle.

You must challenge yourself in the gym. While there is no need to become powerlifter strong, you do need to get a lot stronger than you are now. stay weak, you’ll stay small. This goes for women too.

Women… If you want that fit, sexy, athletic body, it’s time to use more resistance.

#5 – Be Patient

Boring point, right? Wrong. Don’t skim this section.

Most lifters are impatient. They want results, and they want them now. The reality is that it takes years to build an amazing physique, not weeks. And the longer you train, the harder it is to build more muscle.

Think of your natural potential like a full glass of water. Each year that you lift you are able to drink half of the remaining water. During your first year you drink a lot of water. Each year after that the amount of water you drink becomes less and less.

After your third or fourth year of resistance training (if done right), progress is very slow and minimal. This is normal. A natural lifter can only get so big.

Progress is going to be slow. Remain patient. Take measurements. Weigh yourself. Become scientific and look for small changes. Don’t assume you aren’t seeing any gains.

#6 – Get Your Diet Right

Eating “healthy” isn’t good enough. To build muscle you need a more refined and focused diet plan.

A muscle building diet doesn’t have to be complex. I recommend the following basic guidelines for men:

  • Meals – Eat at least 3 to 4 times per day. Small protein snacks, including whey shakes, in between these meals can be used to help you boost your protein intake.
  • Calories – Eat about 200 to 300 calories above maintenance level for the first several years of lifting. This will help to optimize the muscle building process.
  • Protein – Eat about 180 to 220 grams of protein per day.
  • Fats – Make sure that about 25 to 35% of your daily calories come from health fat sources such as avocados, nuts, butter, dairy, etc.
  • Carbs – Fill in the rest of your calories with quality carb sources such as rice, potatoes, oatmeal, fruits, and veggies.

I recommend the following basic guidelines for women:

  • Meals – Eat at least 3 to 4 times per day. Small protein snacks, including whey shakes, in between these meals can be used to help you boost your protein intake.
  • Calories – Eat about maintenance level or 100 caloriesfor the first several years of lifting. This will help to optimize the muscle building process.
  • Protein – Eat about 180 to 220 grams of protein per day.
  • Fats – Make sure that about 25 to 35% of your daily calories come from health fat sources such as avocados, nuts, butter, dairy, etc.
  • Carbs – Fill in the rest of your calories with quality carb sources such as rice, potatoes, oatmeal, fruits, and veggies.
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Name: Steve Shaw

Bio: I don’t believe in magic training systems or rep ranges. My philosophy is simple: remain consistent, use the best possible exercises, focus upon progression and enter the gym looking to maximize each set. When you maximize each set, you maximize progress. Easy, obvious, insanely effective.