“Time under Tension”: Another Bodybuilding Buzzword lacking a Reference of Relativity?
“Boot Camp Workouts for Fitness”: Are they what you need?

“Building Muscle”: ‘The Real Truth’

The amount of ‘building muscle’ information on the Internet is dizzying. It’s getting worse than owning the previous year’s muscle building and fitness magazines and having them stacked on your coffee table. Imagine fanning out 12 issues of a muscle building/fitness magazine across the table and seeing the sensationalistic claims plastered on the covers:

Building Muscle: 6 Weeks to Getting Huge and Ripped

Build Muscle Fast: Gain 25 Pounds in 12 Weeks

Get Huge: 40 Pounds of Muscle in Six Months

If you want the real truth about building muscle, then read on. If you’d rather remain mired in delusion and frustration, then by all means, follow the trail started by headlines similar to the one’s above.

‘Building Muscle’: The First Truth

When natural bodybuilders first become inquisitive about their potential for building muscle, they want to know if they should believe headlines selling products that claim “umpteen pounds” of muscle gain within time-frames of weeks or months. I won’t even answer this question directly because I prefer that intelligent people (my readers) come to conclusions themselves after being presented with relevant facts on ‘building muscle.’

Back Double Biceps
'Truths About Building Muscle': Natural bodybuilders should focus only on what's important in order to build a nice physique without wasted time and effort.

Let’s take the third sample headline from above. Muscle gains that total 40 pounds in six months are equivalent to about 1.5 pounds of gain per week. That comes out to about .22 lb of muscle per day. And of course, that would total around 80 pounds for the year.

It would also be equivalent to the approximate body fat gain (in pounds) from eating about 5,250 calories above maintenance each week. The key difference:

  • Body fat is (generally speaking) a “direct deposit” type phenomenon: ‘excess in = excess on.’
  • Building Muscle is a two-step process: Muscle breakdown (workout) + Adequate recuperation = Muscle Gains
In other words, gaining a pound and a half of body fat each week is a piece of cake (pun alert): Just stuff down extra calories every day and you’re on your way.

‘Building muscle’ successfully is a different story – one in which the “waiting time” between workouts is as important (and more time consuming) as the workouts themselves.

I’ll use a further example with which you can draw your conclusions (one I’ve used before).

When I was young, I attended a bodybuilding seminar given by a runner-up in the Mr. Olympia contest. He spoke openly of using steroids. One of the attendees asked him the following question:

“How many pounds of muscle do you gain in a year?”

His answer:

“When I first started, I gained 10 pounds in a year; now that my muscles have matured, I’m lucky to gain 2 pounds a year.”

The guy had incredible genetics that were augmented with enough ‘roids pumping through his veins to figuratively make him a drug smuggler if he crossed the border.

Am I indirectly claiming that you should expect no more than measly muscle gains each year if you train naturally as I do? No way… I’m making continual and non-stop muscle building gains.

But the above points to ponder should answer any questions about the “40 pounds of muscle” (or even half that) gained in “six months.” If those gains were possible with natural training – steroids would be obsolete. What’s more, if you find this type of claim in an ad, I don’t think I need to tell you what it might indicate about the advertiser’s credibility.

‘Building Muscle’: Truths that separate the important from the extraneous

Lately, I’ve seen internet lists of muscle building tips that are packed with everything from the very valuable to the blatantly absurd. With over twenty-five years of natural training with stubborn genetics – I KNOW I can save my readers time and trouble by sifting through the BS so that they don’t have to waste time and effort.

So here are some “building muscle tips” I’ve recently observed and a personal short commentary on each one:

  • “Sleep eight hours every night”: I’d need to OD on Demerol to do this. I’ve made great muscle gains with an average of six and a half. Sleep requirements for bodybuilding vary among individuals.
  • “Eat Enough Protein”: Good advice – but the question of “enough” has never been settled. The ‘gram per pound of bodyweight’ or ‘gram and a half per pound’ is an unscientific recommendation from bodybuilders of the past. It’s worked for me. Here’s a more detailed article on muscle building protein requirements
  • “Train each muscle ‘til failure”: This is downright stupid advice. Show me someone who does this on most or every set, or uses forced reps, and I’ll show you someone in for a frustrating plateau. Intensity needs to be high – but just shy of muscular failure. Let the drug-users do this. I did it for years and it wasted enough time and progress to make me want to vomit my protein.
  • “Use Primarily Compound Movements”: This is currently the “in vogue” Internet advice. However, I did free-weight squats for years without making gains (due to overtraining). I’ve also produced great muscle building size gains with leg extensions. Check out my related article on building pectorals that makes the same point.
  • “Use a Training Program – Never work out without a plan”: Absolutely fantastic advice; I can’t reiterate this one enough. Mega-kudos for anyone advising this. Drifting through the gym without a definite objective is a waste of time, money, and energy. You’d be making better use of your time just reading a book or visiting a museum.
  • Don’t eat anything containing artificial sweeteners”: What? Yeah… I actually saw this somewhere. I tend to be suspicious of the sugar industry being behind the anti-artificial sweetener propaganda. That suspicion arises when no sooner is a new sweetener released than there’s already word of its alleged dangers. For what it’s worth: I’ve taken in plenty of sucralose and it’s never hampered my muscle growth, produced unwanted fat gains, or caused any acute health problems. A life without sugar or its replacements is a bland one (gustatory-wise) indeed.
  • “Use a spotter to help you with your heaviest sets”: Thank God for the day I learned how to train without relying on anyone else; it’s one of the pivotal days that got me started making non-stop natural muscle building gains. Spotters aren’t necessary unless you’re hell-bent on overtraining or you just can’t stand to train alone.
  • “Make Sets and Reps the biggest variable you change”: This is a step in the right direction over merely advising people to constantly change their routines, ie: muscle confusion. Yet it can be flawed as a general principle. For example: If someone’s using a six-rep scheme for their biceps and they have genetically predominant white fast-twitch fibers in that muscle group, they should keep using six reps for the best size gains.
Conclusion: Dump the Exaggeration and Extraneousness

Building muscle the natural way is much like being successful in other contexts. It requires being effective and realistic at the same time. Many success-hungry people don’t realize that an objectively arrived-at degree of realism actually enhances effectiveness.

For example: if you naively believe you can add 1.5 pounds of muscle each week and that your failing to do so is because you’re not eating enough – you’re likely to start shoveling down food in quantities that deposit body fat. Considering that too much food can divert much-needed energy from bodily recuperative operations to merely digesting and processing the excess food, you can also end up with less muscle along with the added fat from over-consumption. That’s an undesirable consequence stemming from the original belief that 80 pounds of muscle could be gained in a year (something the biggest steroid junkies have never even achieved).

The real truth about building muscle includes dumping the extraneous in order to focus only on those things that really matter. This is just a short list I’ve gone over for now. Tune in to future posts if you’d like my personal take on more of the items of advice commonly dispensed for natural bodybuilders.



Hi Rich,

Thank you for your comment; I appreciate the possitive feedback.

I didn't know the search engines weren't ranking it high. Since I posted it rather recently, I guess I'll give their crawlers time before I make a final judgment about that. Then, maybe I'll give them a call.

Oh... wait, unlike me, they don't provide a phone number for customers. Maybe I could IM them? :-)


Hi Dean,

Thank you for the possitive feedback. I just feel passionate about this because I wasted a lot of time and money in my younger years by falling for the same garbage information and product hype that's still being pedalled to this day. I'd like to see other newbies avoid that type of waste.


Rich Pinnell

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

Dean Crawford

Excellent, Scott: I hope that any newcomer to bodybuilding will read this post and instantly have an understanding of how to tell good advice from all the BS out there. Planning, perseverence, patience and good advice & programs like yours are sufficient for anybody to build the body they desire.

Top stuff!

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