You want more muscle. I get it.
And you’re tired of taking people’s “opinions” on what works. I get it.
No problem. Here’s 5 strategies proven by science to increase muscle mass. No opinion. No nonsense.
If you can’t check off all 5, you know what to do.
(1) Supplement with Creatine Monohydrate
Supplementing with creatine increases the amount of creatine phosphate inside muscle tissue. This allows you to knock out more reps, thereby increasing muscle growth stimulation. This post explains how creatine works.
And before you ask, it has been proven safe (it’s natural and you already get it from food).
And yes Creatine Monohydrate is still the best form (despite what some greedy supplement companies would have you believe).
Get trusted, high-quality protein from Myprotein UK/Europe here, MyProtein USA here, or from Optimum Nutrition on Amazon.com.
I want to add that it is especially helpful to use creatine while cutting. It helps preserve that hard-won muscle mass while on restricted calories. Creatine is a recommended supplement in my powerful fat-loss program Total Six Pack Abs. Lose fat, not your muscle
(2) Control Your Negatives
If you listened to my last podcast, you’ll have heard me hammer home the point about controlling the lowering portion of each and every rep. Yes, if you are serious about stimulating growth, every single rep counts and there is no such thing as a useless rep.
You don’t need to go super-slow. Just ensure that it is the intended muscle lowering the weight, not gravity. Don’t drop the weight. Why not? This takes “constant tension” off the muscle and it reduces muscle fiber recruitment. You therefore produce less growth stimulation to the intended muscle. Control those negatives!
(3) Supplement with Beta-Alanine
Beta alanine has been shown to increase muscle mass by about an extra pound over an 8-week period in trained athletes .
Take 2g grams every day. The timing is not important. However, for convenience, it’s handy to take it as part of your cheap-but-powerful MuscleHack pre-workout formula.
I get my beta-alaine from MyProtein. And you can also get it in the US here.
(4) Do BOTH Compound and Isolation Exercise
That anyone is still claiming that maximum muscle growth can be achieved through compound movements alone in 2015, boggles my mind. This is the fallacy of those 5×5 workout proponents who claim that this workout is best for building muscle size – oh dear *shakes head*.
Compound exercises form the bedrock of your work, but you absolutely require isolation movements for full fiber recruitment and stimulation. I’ve likened it to compound movements being the “bombs”, and isolation movements being the “snipers” in your muscle-building “war effort”.
Compound movements might “involve” many muscle groups, but so what. This does not at all mean that all those muscles are worked with the requisite intensity to stimulate growth. If a compound exercise involves 4 body parts, maybe 1 or 2 are worked to a high-intensity level, the others are just there assisting in the movement.
Full muscular development comes from using both. That’s why all the guys with the best physiques use both. Read this for more.
(5) Use the Following 12 Exercises in your Routine
In September 2014 I blogged about the scientific findings from electromyography tests showing the best exercises for stimulating growth.
So if you are serious about this game, make sure the following 12 movements are part of your routine:
LEGS OVERALL – Squats
QUADRICEPS – Leg Extension
HAMSTRINGS – Leg Curls
CALVES – Standing Calf Raises
SHOULDERS – Overhead Shoulder Press
BICEPS – Concentration Curls
CHEST – Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
TRICEPS – Decline Tricep Extensions
TRAPS – Barbell Shrug
ABS – Hanging Leg Raises
BACK OVERALL – Deadlifts
LATS – Bent-over Barbell Row
All 12 of these exercises are included in THT training. Not only that, but you’ll know the right number of sets, the correct frequency of training, the proper intensity level,and everything else you need to succeed…totally free. All the hard research work has been done for you. All you need to do…is train.
Download the full and free THT workout below. After inputting your email, you will be taken directly to the download page for instant access to the workout. You don’t need to go to your email to confirm anything.
Train With Intensity!
Reference:  Effects of β-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. Kern BD, Robinson TL. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1804-15.
Can I give you my free muscle-building workout?
Join thousands over the world who are packing on slabs of new muscle for free with Targeted Hypertrophy Training (THT)
Ok, I’ve finally download the THT guide. Had a quick look and I’m impressed! I’ll give it a more thorough read later and start training this way next week! I’m excited.
Thanks – more solid info Mark!
This is the kind of information people pay for.
There’s so much garbage out there, it’s great to have an article that simplifies the process. I think a lot of people get intimidated that they’re not doing things accurately to gain muscle. This is a good reminder for me to start taking Creatine again.
Guys, AWESOME comments so far.
Thank you all so much 😀
On the Sept 2014 blog post – you mentioned the leg press had been shown to be more effective than the squat for taller gym-goers. I was wondering, are you were aware of any research that focuses on the best (and worst) exercises for the very tall (ie 2m and above) body builder?
great simple article to remind us of the basics. I like that it has the links to read further. Even a long time subscriber like myself got reminded about BA, which I forgot to pick up.
@Mark. Only movements that would involve the biomechanics of the entire body would be of concern to very tall guys. So squats and deadlifts. Apart from that, I can’t see it making any difference at all.
@Tony. Thanks, buddy 🙂
Beta-A makes my skin/face tingle. What’s up with that?
@building surveyor. Makes everyone’s skin tingle, buddy. Just a side effect. At least you know it’s working 😉
I’m completely new to this. THT is totally clear, but I have no idea what half of these routines are at all! Is there “routines for dummies”, how-to videos or something for the ignorant?
And what about forearms?
@gatianous. The best thing you can do is read my THT Quick Start Guide here, then download the program and look at the workout logs…it’s simple
@Juan. Forearms get a lot of work from working all other body parts, but for direct work do dumbbell wrist curls. This is included in THT training.
Mark, decline dumbbell presses aren’t currently part of my routine and I don’t see them in the recommended T.H.T. 3 or 5-day workouts. Since they are apparently so effective, how would you recommend incorporating them? On 5-day (chest+abs day), I’m already doing flat bench, dips, incline bench and cable crossovers. Thanks!
What about training more frequently? People recommend a 4 day upper lower split (hit muscle groups 2x per week) to take advantage of the elevated protein synthesis after a workout.
Studies have shown muscle protein synthesis (MPS) to be elevated for up to 48 hours after training.
Ir got a question its is true that probolic Sr its just soy and bad for you
Quick question Mark, decline db chest presses is that right? Or would inclines not be more beneficial?
Hi Mark, for leg day on THT on the 5-day cycle, I’m usually unable to do stiff-leg deadlifts due to fatigue from squats and leg press prior. So i wouldn’t even be able to balance myself to position for the exercise. What do you suggest I should do?
@Mike. Decline dumbbell bench presses will be a part of THT 5.4, which I hope to have released before the end of the month.
In the meantime, you could replace the crossovers or inclines with these.
@Omar. Download THT. It includes 10 weeks of training each body part 3 times a week, every 48hrs.
@Charlie. Probolic SR is just a protein blend, there’s nothing unhealthy about it. However, it is a slow-release protein, which no one needs. Solid food is a slow-release protein. Have a solid food protein meal at bedtime, not a protein powder.
@Tommi. No buddy. Declines will recruit the bulk of the chest fibers, about 93% of them to be exact. Incline will place more emphasis and stimulation ONLY to the upper region. So for overall pec development, a decline dumbbell bench press works best. Go as low as you can on those negatives – you’ll love it.
@Maddox. It’s a hamstring exercise, so substitute with leg curls. Enjoy!
I do all of these but the beta alanine (never heard of it) and the decline dumbbell press. It’s just too much of a pain to get heavy dumbbells onto the decline by yourself. I’ve done decline presses in the past a bit but never really felt my chest getting worked out as much as the front of my shoulders of course it may be because I didn’t do them enough to really get them down.. I’ve also noticed that much of these “must have” exercises are user preference kinda deals meaning according to your body type, I mean if your a tall dude deads are not going to be as beneficial for say a guy that’s 5’7 or so. I mean the tall guy would be basically doing a stiff legged dead lift. They would have to make taller 45 plates for taller people to benefit to the degree it would a shorter person. The 45’s are just about the right height for a 5’7 or so person, it’s in his sweet spot meaning he doesn’t have to go to far down to get the weight and he’s incorporating a certain more even amount of legs (glutes) and back were as the tall guy’s getting more lower back and hamstrings then anything.. Lee Hayward good about mentioning this sort of idea to every one his own meaning everybody’s built differently and there’s no one size that fits all. It’s more of a “general rule” if you will. Just my two cents.
What about water intake, especially when using creatine?
Or a good night sleep?
@Scott. Yes indeed. All great points, buddy.