With so much available at our fingertips online it’s now easier than ever to educate yourself on lifting weights, proper nutrition, and bodybuilding supplementation.
However, one major problem with much of this information is that it’s coming from people in different phases of physique development than you may be in, and often times it’s coming from people who only want to talk about the hype of bodybuilding.
The way I do things now and the approach that I take to building my body is much different than what it was in the beginning.
Many of my articles and podcasts on JDB are geared towards experienced lifters and others who are beyond the beginning developmental stages of muscular growth.
But occasionally I like to revisit what worked for me when I was working on building a massive and solid foundation of muscle during the earlier days of the gym.
This article isn’t geared towards what only sounds good, and it’s not along the lines of mainstream bodybuilding information. There is nothing in this article that is sugar-coated.
This article is nothing but THE REAL TRUTH for newbies who are looking to add some mass on their bodies!
1.) YOU’RE NOT EATING ENOUGH!
Listen, forget about the fine tuned diet right now. Forget about the exact number of calories your fucking phone app says you need to consume daily, and forget about trying to eat squeaky clean! Right now you just need more food…period!
Stop overcomplicating shit and start with a simple plan of attack. Most people who are new to the gym don’t feel like eating much in the morning for breakfast, if they even eat breakfast at all! That is step #1, eat some damn breakfast rather than skipping it!
I want you to ask yourself if you are currently eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you are missing one of these 3 meals then there’s your first step; AIM FOR 3 SOLID FOOD MEALS A DAY!
Don’t just think that you’re going to drink a protein shake a couple times a day and make jack-shit of a difference in how you look. Protein shakes don’t have the calories you need (unless you’re making mass gain shakes which I’ll talk about further into this).
Once you begin eating 3 solid food meals per day, look at where you can go from that point. Your next step should be finding a place during the day to add an additional meal.
Now you’re at 4 meals per day and more consistent food intake than you were at the start of this all. YOU WILL BEGIN GAINING FROM THAT!
Once the real food intake is sufficient enough to grow, THEN you can add a protein shake here and there! (possibly mid morning or after training, which is helpful but not necessary if real food intake and nutrients are sufficient enough).
The first plan of attack is simply to take a good, hard look at your daily food intake and simplify the process; where can you eat more?
Also, this isn’t comfortable at first! If you want to gain 20 lbs of mass then you have to begin eating as though you’re 20 lbs more massive and let the body catch up/adapt.
If you don’t puke, just eat the damn meal! I can remember when it felt like a bitch just to eat 4 whole eggs! After several weeks of doing it the process became easier!
2.) 80% CLEAN, 20% DIRTY MEALS
I used to use the 80/20 rule with my meals. The problem with most “clean foods” is that they’re lower in calories than what I would call “dirty meals”.
A can of tuna fish is great to get about 25 grams of protein in, but it’s less than 150 calories total.
That isn’t going to cut it when most guys are going to need 3,000+ cals a day to grow muscle (don’t let skinny-fat fool you either, muscle burns fat and it makes more sense to build muscle and get active at first than starve the shit out of yourself).
So my rule is simple; focus on quality sources of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, and then once you’re consuming those with most meals, eat 1 high calorie cheat meal every day when first trying to build muscle. That’s right, I said 1 high calorie cheat meal EACH FUCKING DAY!
Not once a week, EVERY DAMN DAY IN THE BEGINNING! Proper nutrition means proper and adequate nutrition FOR YOU. Falling short on overall cals needed to build muscle isn’t proper nutrition.
Do you see what I mean here? What “proper nutrition” is for me now at 39 years of age, wasn’t proper nutrition for me in my teens and 20’s when I was trying to grow!
Let’s say you don’t quite hit the 6 meals a day most advocate, let’s say it’s on average of 5 meals a day. If 1 of those 5 meals is a high calorie meal that is “dirty”, then that is 80% clean, 20% dirty. 1 out of 5 = 20%
3.) DON’T OVERANALYZE IT!
Stop being one of these guys who flips the fuck out over your waistline or not being able to see clear abs 3 weeks into working out! You don’t even need to be like this 1 year into working out!
I see far too many guys flip flopping their mentalities too often and running in place with all of this.
Remember, your goal is to gain muscle mass! Your goal is to look like a big motherfucker and see noticeable changes in physical size!
You’re not going to have a 29″ waist as a newbie, pack on 30 lbs of muscle mass and still have the same waistline as when you started.
Your body grows systematically, meaning that if you slap on 3″ on your arms, 4″ on your quads, and 8″ on your chest, the waistline is going to get a tad bit bigger as you’re growing in genetic proportion!
Don’t worry, abs will come and there will be a time and place for that if you’re dedicated enough and involved in this long enough. But you’re simply not going to “cut up” muscle you don’t have yet!
That is some Men’s Health nonsense that makes great articles for selling magazines to corporate level slobs!
Here, let me simplify it for ya’; start eating more, start lifting more, hop on the scale once a week. If the scale isn’t moving then you’re not eating enough! Work on adding to the diet. Which foods you may ask?
JUST EAT DAMNIT! Don’t worry about specifics just yet. Burgers, rice, pasta, oats, throw in a banana on top of one of your meals, hell who knows? Just fucking eat more because you ain’t gaining yet!
4.) THE FOOD FUELS THE STRENGTH RESPONSE, SO LOSE THE PUSSY MENTALITY IN THE GYM!
Do you see how the first 4 points of this article relate to food? Are we seeing a pattern yet?
Ok, now that you have more fuel in your body you should be able to increase work weights and workout intensity. So stop going in the damn gym week in and week out using the same weights. Continue taking small bites at it by adding more weight to the bar on a regular basis.
You may have read several of my articles where I talk about muscular squeeze, higher reps, and mind/muscle connection. If you’re a beginner this ain’t for you! You don’t have the same mind/muscle connection yet because you haven’t built any muscle to connect with!
This mind/muscle connection comes with muscular development and experience. You will never get the same mind/muscle connection as a highly experienced bodybuilder because what does muscle memory and mind/muscle connection actually come from?
That’s right, doing the same thing again and again. You’re still new, it takes time! Don’t get this confused with not using good form on your reps. I always believe in good form.
What I’m telling you is this; now that you have a higher octane fuel in your body (increased food intake) you need to put it to good use and take advantage of it by focusing on adding more weight to your lifts.
If you’re constantly bench pressing with 120 lbs then you’ll never adapt to using 225 lbs, or 300 lbs.
As you begin using heavier weights on a consistent basis your body will adapt to the stress and demands placed on it and you’ll grow from it! Simple enough right?
5.) STOP LOOKING AROUND THE FUCKING GYM!
When I first began working out, it was in my bedroom with a lot of pushups and some light weight equipment in a cheap set that came from Sears. It was enough to get started with, especially since I didn’t know what I was doing really.
I didn’t have Google or YouTube to look up anything and I didn’t have any friends involved in the gym. In the beginning it was self-taught mostly. When I decided to leave the bedroom and walk into a dingy gym in the basement of an old YMCA, it was a rude awakening for me!
Not only did I feel like one of the weakest guys in the gym, but a few of the kids I had trouble with in the past were also in there often working out at the same time. SO NOW, ALL WEAKNESS WAS TRULY EXPOSED.
I felt self-conscious as hell and I had this mentality before my sets like ,”Don’t be a pussy, now they can see how much you’re really lifting!”
This had an impact on me so prevalent that to this very day I remember one of the football players mocking me and saying ,”You trying to build some muscles?” in a flamboyant sounding voice that wasn’t intended to be a thumbs up to me.
I could have done 2 things after my first real gym experience; walk away and quit, or make it my goal to be the biggest motherfucker in that gym and show them who the true fucking warrior really was! I chose the latter option and kept going with it!
Do you know what eventually happened as I continued training in that gym? Right about the same time I quit looking around and comparing myself to everyone else, those guys all started dropping off and I stopped seeing them in that place.
By the point I quit paying as much attention to the ones around me was the same point where I knew I was doing something right, because I started going places and hearing a lot of feedback on my size.
I thought to myself, “Wow, this is something I’m doing with my own 2 hands that is making a difference in my life and how I feel about myself!”
It felt incredible, and then I was hooked! My efforts were paying off.
You know, I hear a lot of people talk about how guys heavily involved in the gym were guys who sucked at team sports, had no confidence, or had trouble getting a date. Well, in my case this was spot on.
But is it really that shameful to improve yourself, feel better, and start getting some of the things in your life that you never had?
I don’t think it’s shameful at all and we aren’t all cut from the same cloth.
Focus on you! If something angers you or if you feel like something in your life isn’t right, have no shame in bettering yourself by building your body.
You will strengthen your mind and your character at the same time! You can either quit and convince yourself you’re a pussy who will never win, or you can get fucking angry and use these things as motivation like I once did.
I hear all this talk about anti-bullying, cyber bullying, and people that just want a shoulder to cry on and someone who understands. I don’t understand shit, and don’t cry on my fucking shoulder.
You beat your bullies BY GAINING RESPECT, and working on your body gains respect because it takes work. Hard work gets respect. So when you walk in that gym focus on you and you only.
The biggest guy in your gym is also probably one of the nicest guys by the way, there isn’t anything left to prove to the sheep. Remember that shit!
6.) CREATE YOUR OWN REALITY AND AVOID DISTRACTIONS
When I first began going to the gym there were no tanning beds, no shake bars, no televisions, and no side conversations going on. I didn’t walk in there and see a reminder on television about a Republican versus Democratic debate or a news story about a fucking homicide!
Nope, I simply walked in and my sights were set on whatever piece of workout equipment I was going to start with. Over time, and throughout frequenting more gyms and cities than I could count, that started to change.
With social media, 45 fucking televisions in every gym, and people who use the gym and their bitching grounds to vent about pretty much all the same shit going down on the news channel, I’m simply exposed to more than what I used to be around in the gyms.
Just like a workout and nutrition regimen, it takes discipline to continue to go your own way and ignore the nonsense. You see, I guess it’s not exactly cool to not know about disturbing news, political bullshit, or current events anymore.
However, in my mind it’s not cool to get caught up in that shit just to try to prove some sort of bullshit intellect to people who have no significance in my life. So yea, I ain’t so cool in the normal world. But then again, I didn’t start doing this to be “normal” anyways!
Therefore, I just don’t give a shit, and that is why this site is strictly about bodybuilding and leading a fulfilling life, both in and out of the gym! That is why you don’t see articles on stupid shit going on in the world, because it’s not MY WORLD that I choose to live in!
Create your own reality and to hell with what others are doing. Leave the doom and gloom to those idiots and keep striving for a life that you truly want to live!
I mean, is it impossible to pick out an image in your mind or a person you would like to be and work on becoming that picture in your mind? I don’t think it’s impossible and with enough work and dedication I think it can be done.
But you have to avoid the distractions and the negativity around you. What I learned to do was to focus on the people and surroundings that gave me positive energy.
When something doesn’t feel positive, it’s up to you to rely on your own motivation to overcome it and place yourself in a mind frame of solitude and peace.
This takes practice but it can be done! What does this have to do with bodybuilding you may ask? EVERYTHING! JUST FUCKING EVERYTHING!
7.) RELY ON YOURSELF, NOT SUPPLEMENTS AND STEROIDS!
I firmly believe that the path to becoming the biggest motherfucker possible is to use as little as necessary to make gains!
That means that if you’re new to working out then start out with food and hard training only. Why would you need to use a damn thing if it’s possible to gain your first 30-40 lbs of muscle mass with just adequate nutrition and hard training?
I trained for a good while with nothing but food and hard training. I gained 36 lbs of mass in my first year of dedicated workouts, and that was including the first bit of workouts with my cheap, sand filled plastic weight plates and a lot of pushups!
I hadn’t heard of creatine my first year of working out, had no idea what a testosterone booster was, and was unaware I could take anything to “wake me up” before going to the gym. And I gained 36 lbs of mass in my first year.
Now, how nice would it be if you could gain 36 lbs of mass in your first year of working out BEFORE ever touching anything to increase results? When you go down this road you will only be bigger and you won’t shortchange yourself!
When it comes to using steroids, there is simply no reason to use them until you already look like you may be on them.
Yes, this site is transparent and I do not shy away from talking openly about performance enhancement, but it doesn’t mean that you need to use them to gain a lot of muscle mass and most guys don’t need to be using them at all!
If you’re someone who has low testosterone levels and you would have a better quality of life on hormone replacement then that is different.
I’m not talking about that here; I’m talking about idiots who want to lift weights one day and the next day they’re reading up on what cycle they want to try.
If you cannot get big without steroids, you won’t get big with steroids. Let me repeat that in case you weren’t reading carefully…
IF YOU CANNOT GET BIG WITHOUT STEROIDS, YOU WON’T GET BIG WITH STEROIDS!
All you will be doing is destroying your overall muscle building potential by using steroids too early. If the gains you made from 135 lbs to 175 lbs were not natural, then your body will resist further potential growth.
I’m not just telling you this because I don’t want you to try steroids, I’m telling you this shit because my mission is to help create big motherfuckers!
I have an underground steroid ebook I wrote, if what I was telling you didn’t hold merit I would simply say “Buy my ebook on gear if you truly want to be huge.”
8.) THE BEST WORKOUT STYLE IS THE ONE THAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK!
As a kid I grew up watching a lot of action movies. Everything from Dutch and Dillan locking up biceps in the movie The Predator…
“Dillon…YOU SON OF A BITCH!” …
to the opening scene of Commando where Arnold was carrying the log over his shoulder…
“LET OFF SOME STEAM BENNETT!”…
to Conan the Barbarian…
“CROM, GRANT ME ONE REQUEST, GRANT ME REVENGE!”…
to Rocky training for his big fight…
“Take her to the zoo Roc…RETARDS LOVE THE ZOO!”
So for me, the image I had in my mind of the ideal style of training was whatever style of training and/or dieting could help me look like the guys in the action movies that looked good with their shirts off. So that was my mission.
However, that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You see, I had no idea that the nutrition and dieting aspect of trying to look that way was that damn demanding, but because that is what I wanted to look like, I adapted to it and rolled with the punches.
I cannot honestly say it didn’t come without hunger and irritability at times. Not everyone is down with that. I sort of adapted to that part of it also, but some guys just find this part of trying to achieve that look to be far too impacting on life.
So they may take up powerlifting (or maybe being as strong as possible was their initial goal), or they may take up CrossFit, or they may take up strongman training.
One of my brothers is a powerlifter. He never stayed consistent in the gym until he took up powerlifting. His only goal in the gym is bigger numbers, anything physically changing to his body is simply the bi-product of the lifting style.
Hey, it keeps him involved in the gym and it did change the way he looked and added a decent amount of muscle mass to his body. So if that’s what keeps him involved then it’s a good thing right?
You may discover that there is a certain style of workout programming that is more motivating to you and if that is what fires you up and keeps you coming back then I say there is truly no wrong style of working out.
But I guess in my mind, I’m still that kid in front of the TV who wants to be like Conan the Barbarian.
Doesn’t mean I’m wrong, and if you’re into a different type of training it doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Hell, you’ll probably experiment with a few styles of training simply out of curiosity and for the fact that it’s all pretty motivating when it’s new to most people!
If you are a beginner and you’re looking for some sort of A-Z reference on simple workouts that progress into more advanced workouts, along with diet modifications as you progress, then Becoming the Bull is a resource that I would highly recommend to you.
There is also a lot in there about my life and how I made bodybuilding work with growing as a person.
9.) BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND ADMIT TO YOUR FUCKUPS!
This one here is a biggie, so listen up!
It’s typical for almost all of us to want to make excuses sometimes. When someone tells me ,”Work has been hectic lately and I haven’t been hitting my meals like I should” it’s not always the case.
The reality of it all, is that much of the time they’ve convinced themselves that because one thing in life became a little overwhelming, it was OK to allow other disciplines to fly out of the window!
What I’m saying here, is that subconsciously they have allowed themselves to falter because they were taken a little out of their comfort zone.
But if people were really honest with themselves they would realize that despite life sometimes getting in the way, there MAY HAVE BEEN opportunities to eat and train, they just chose not to take them.
I’m guilty as charged myself, which is why I’m talking about this.
Many of times I have convinced myself that the diet that day was a wash, that breakfast wasn’t possible due to life chaos, when in reality if I had simply been honest with myself and planned accordingly I didn’t have to fall off.
Nobody is perfect and there really is no finish line in bodybuilding, so it’s natural on occasion to fall off while at other times you’re killing it all on the daily.
All I’m saying here is that if you’re honest with yourself then you may see that the opportunities that you don’t think you have may actually exist; you just chose not to take them!
10.) USE THE GYM AS A LIFE LESSON TO GROW IN OTHER AREAS OF LIFE
While this may not exactly be a tip to gaining muscle mass, it’s a strategy to use your gains and gym experience as a guiding light in other areas of life.
The gym has given me everything in life. People say that there is no money from building your body, but I’ve found that indirectly there is. And indirectly, there were many opportunities in my life that stemmed from building my body, my confidence, and my character.
There were many of difficult decisions in life that were made based on lessons taught to me from the gym.
For example, let’s say you walk up to a barbell on the floor loaded with 400 lbs and you’re going to try and deadlift it…
you’ve never done it before and this will be your personal best. You know that it’s going to take everything you have to lift it up.
You do not know if you’ll get it, but you’re going to give it everything you have!
You get fired up, squat down, wrap your fingers around the bar and grip the shit out of it…then you lift up.
It gets to your knees and it slows down, but you keep pulling up refusing to quit. You successfully pull it all the way and complete the lift. Congrats!
Walking up to that girl and asking her out is like walking up that barbell on the floor. You don’t know what is going to happen but you’re going to try and you’re going to give it everything you have.
If you never walked up to that barbell and at least tried you would have never gotten a new personal best, just the same way you would have never gotten that date if you didn’t approach someone and at least try.
Let’s say you hate doing walking lunges like I do. But I do them because they get me results.
Now let’s say that you’re trying to start a business. There are parts of the business structure that you don’t like doing, but just like those lunges, you still put in the work because even though you don’t particularly like that exercise, it gets you results!
You will find that the discipline and dedication needed to build a solid physique can transfer into other areas of your life also.
I encourage you all to ask yourselves how lessons taught in the gym can teach you to prosper in all areas and make a great life for yourself!
The gym is everything to me. It has given me back what I’ve put into it, which is a hell of a lot!
It didn’t give it back to me overnight, and so many times I asked myself if what I was doing was all just a waste of time.
It wasn’t. I LOVE THIS SHIT!
TRAIN HARD! -JD
3 thoughts on “10 Honest Ways to Gain Muscle Mass for Beginners!”
This would’ve helped me a lot 5 years ago. Like many of your posts I will be passing this one on.
My man John, could you write something about how to bodybuild during a quarantine. What is the most nutricious canned food, etc. I think coming from a seasoned OG it will be of great health. Greatings from ecuador
I’d love to but I’m too busy laughing abt it all to write something about anything other than how fucking ridiculous it really is (which will release very soon btw)
I’m not a doomsday prepper, too busy living everyday to it’s fullest without worry. When the end comes, all the prepping in the world won’t save us, it’ll be over with quick, it’ll be everybody, and no gun will stop it!