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The Ultimate Muscle Building Guide

The information you need to achieve your goals.

This ultimate muscle building guide will teach you what to eat and how to train in order to get the results that you want.

The first section is all about nutrition, the second covers training. We have also included additional tips and extra information about sleep but your can read more about recovery here.

Ultimate Muscle Building Guide – Nutrition

So how do you reach your specific goal?

Everyone is different and whether you want to lose fat, improve performance, build muscle or just improve functional performance, these principles are important for you to understand and apply.


TIP: The first 2 points are the most important and will account for 75 – 80% of your success.

Make sure that you dial these in before thinking about the other aspects of your nutrition. These are calorie balance and macronutrients. Notice on the chart below how these factors measure up against the others to construct your overall nutrition in terms of importance.


Calorie balance is the ratio between calories taken in and calories expended in any one individual at any given time. It is a good idea to measure this out over the course of a week to cancel out most fluctuations, such as drinking more water.

TIP: When measuring fat loss (or muscle gain) over time, weigh yourself first thing in the morning, before you eat or drink anything. Measure your weight 2-3 times per week and record all results. This will give you a clear and consistent record of your progress.

There are 3 states of calorie balance:

  • Negative calorie balance (hypocaloric diet)
  • Calorie balance (eucaloric diet)
  • Positive Calorie balance (hypercaloric diet)

It is impossible to be in more than one of these states at any one time.

  • A negative calorie balance will always result in weight loss. “Even though body water alterations may occasionally mask this loss of tissue, it is always going to occur, with ZERO exceptions so far discovered.”
  • A eucalorie balance means that the athlete will not gain or lose weight because they expend as many calories as they consume.
  • A positive calorie balance means that the individual is consuming more calories than they are using.

In order to maximize your chances for muscle gain or fat loss, you must know when and how to enter a hypo, hyper, or eucaloric state.

This can be dauting at first, but help is always on hand when you want to learn more. If a diet is truly hypocaloric, it will ALWAYS result in weight loss over the medium and long term. This links back to the primary principle of weight loss that we outlined above.

To put it simply, if your weight is steadily rising, you’re hypercaloric. If your weight is stable, you’re eucaloric, and if your weight is steadily falling, you’re in a hypocaloric state.


The second most important factor for transforming yourself is to consume the correct macronutrients to support your body and the goals that you are working towards. These consist of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Having the right ratio between these three parts of your nutrition will differ depending on your exact goal, weight, sex, age, height and the way that you train.

When it comes to macronutrients, the following points are important to consider

  • Protein is the most important macronutrient for muscle gain and retention
  • About 1g of protein per pound of body weight is best for most people
  • Healthy fats are needed for health and hormonal function
  • Healthy fats are the main macro added during massing phases and removed during cutting (fat loss)
  • Carbs are secondary to protein but very important to fuelling and recovering hard workouts
  • Higher carbs should be eaten with higher workout volumes and daily activity levels


The word protein originates from the Greek ‘protos’, which means ‘the first’. Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human organism. All tissues and organs contain proteins and they are essential for fat loss and muscle gain. Additionally, proteins also fulfil important signalling functions in the neural system.

How Much Protein do you Need?

According to the NHS, the daily reference intake of protein is 50g, but that doesn’t take into account the differences between people, so it doesn’t change whether you’re 6 ft 9 or 4 ft 4, nor does it allow for the difference in need between someone who weighs 80 kilos compared with someone who weighs 200 kilos. But there are ways to work out how much protein you need.

“Elite athletes eat around 2g per kg every day,” says Dr Karen Reid, a sports science nutritionist who’s worked with the Wales rugby team, and the founder of Performance Food. She recommends getting near that level for the first 12 weeks of a new workout programme. “That’s when you’re sore, when you’re breaking down muscle fibres and creating new structures.” And damage plus fuel equals growth. After 12 weeks, she recommends scaling back to between 1.2g and 1.6g per kilo.

Examples of healthy sources of protein

  • Egg Sources (cooked, not raw)
  • Meats (beef, pork)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Soy Protein and Quinoa
  • Strategically Combined Plant Sources (beans and rice)
  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Whey Protein Concentrate

The Amino acid tryptophan, included in the proteins from chicken or turkey meat, is important for production of serotonin, which is an important neurotransmitter, and melatonin, which regulates the sleep cycle.

Albumin is a reserve protein, which regulates distribution of nutrients and maintains the pressure in the blood capillaries. Low albumin levels can signal liver disease or problems with processing the nutrients. A high level of albumin is typical during dehydration.

Transferrin is a transport protein for iron. It is related to immunity-boosting lactoferrin, which can be found in whey protein supplements with lower degree of processing (concentrate).

A high protein diet can contribute towards fat loss, so whether you are wanting to lose weight or build muscle (or both), protein is absolutely essential.


Carbohydrates seem to have acquired an unjustly poor reputation, but they are the preferred fuel source for our bodies and brains. Without the proper amount of carbohydrates in your nutrition you will lack the necessary energy to train hard. Carbohydrates also supply the nervous system with its preferred fuel, refuel glycogen stores and help the body to secrete insulin – all important functions.

What you should know is that there are two types of carbohydrates:

  1. Simple carbohydrates
  2. Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates will supply you with a slow burning supply of energy. They typically have a lower Glycemic Index (the rate at which energy is released – measured in blood glucose levels) and will not give you spikes in your insulin levels. This in turn means you will avoid the inevitable crashes that follow the consumption of food and drinks that have a high Glycemic Index.

Nutrition for performanceSource: Squats & Pixels

With your meal template from Renaissance Periodization, carbohydrates are divided into healthy carbs (whole grain bread, rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes etc) and workout carbs (fruit juice, coconut water etc). The former supply your body with the necessary energy for recovery and performance and the latter will give you a boost for each training session.


Fat sources heavy in monounsaturated fats are some of the healthiest calories you can take in. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils, avocado, natural nut butters, and almost all raw nuts including peanuts and almonds.  Monounsaturated fats and the foods that contain them are exceptional for general health. There is a conventional myth that you should cut all fats out of your diet if you want to lose weight. This is a spurious idea, as healthy fats are essential for hormonal health and effective brain function alongside many other benefits.

TIP: While proteins and carbs have 4 calories per gram, fats contain 9.


Nutrient timing means determining when during a day it is best for your body to consume the nutrients it needs (in accordance with your goals). This is best understood when it is split into meal frequency and timing in relation to activity.

This can be broken down even further into the 3 macro nutrients, and how often should they be consumed and in what portions throughout the day.

“So long as you get your calories and macros right, timing is a much smaller concern, responsible for at most about 20% and possibly as little as 10% to the total impact of a diet plan.”

Points to consider

  • Fats and fibre should be largely avoided close to or during the workout
  • Any number of meals works well, but best results are likely in the 4-6 meal range per day
  • As long as protein is eaten in all meals, post-workout protein timing may not matter
  • Eating most of your daily carbs pre, during, and post workout seems to have a small advantage


This refers to the quality of the food, and the way that you combine foods to create meals.

For proteins this relates to the bioavailability of the nutrients, for carbohydrates it refers to the fibre quality and the Glycemic Index.

With fats a good rule of thumb is to try and stay away from Tran Saturated fats (fast food etc) and consume Monosaturated (Avocado, nuts and their butters, olive oil) and Healthy Saturated fats (Coconut/macadamia nut oils, grass fed animal fats) wherever possible.

Ultimate Musce Building Programs

So now you know how to eat, you also need a solid training program that will get you results.

Success is always the result of intelligent effort. If you eat properly and train smart and hard, then you will achieve your goals.

Use a Plan for 6 – 8 Weeks, than change in order to stop the muscles getting too used to a certain workload.

Remember, these plans are not designed to improve strength or power. These programs are strictly for the purpose of gaining serious muscle size.


This one is a killer. You do not use heavy weights, but you won´t need them.

Cycle: 6 Day Split, 2 days workout, 1 day off, 2 days workout, 1 day off, restart.

Level: Advanced



Decline Smith Presses: 2 x 12 .
(Flat Hammer Presses): 4 x 25
Incline Dumbbell Flyes): 3 x until failure

Seated Dumbbell Presses 1 x 25
Reverse EZ Bar Presses 1 x until failure
Seated Dumbbell Side Laterals: 1 x until failure



Backsquats: 4 x 25 .
Horizontal Leg Presses 1 x 40
Leg Extensions 1 x 40
Leg Curl Machine: 3 x until failure

Wednesday: Off

sam briggs crossfit games 2016 crossfit games athlete

Thursday: Back/Shoulders

Pull-ups: 2 x 12
Dead Lifts 2 x 10
Dumbbell Rows 2 x 10
Lat Pulldown 2 x 10

Rear Delt Machine 2 x 25
Barbell Shrugs 2 x 12
Dumbbell Shrugs 2 x 12
Upright Rows 2 x 12


Standing Dumbbell Curls 2 x10
Dumbbell Drag Curls 1 x 20
Incline Hammer Curls 1 x 15

Close-Grip Benches 1 x 25
Tricep Press Downs 1 x 25
Double Arm Kickbacks: 1 x 25
Dips 1 x until failure

Seated Calf Raises 3 x 15
Donkey Calf Raises: 3 x 15

Saturday: Off

Sunday: Restart


This one is an ADVANCED Plan.
Do not use it if you are not familiar with the correct movements and technique. You also need a Workout Partner for the forced reps.

Cycle: 6 Days Split 1 Day Off, Restart.
Level: Advanced

Monday: Shoulders

• Military Press – 2 x 15 Warm Up, 3 x 10 + 5 forced, last Set as Dropset
• Butterfly invers – 3 x 10
• Side Laterals – 3 x 10
• Machine Shrugs 3 x 10
• Dumbbell Shrugs – 3 x 10

20 min. HIIT Cardiotraining


Tuesday: Back

• Latpulldown wide grip 2 x 15 Warm Up, 3 x 10
• T Bar Row – 3 x 10
• Deadlift – 5 x 10
• Revers Row – 3 x 12
• Seated Row – 2 x 15, 3 x 10

20 min. HIIT Cardiotraining

Wednesday: Chest

• Benchpress 2 x 15 WarmUp, 3 x 8 + 5 forced, last Set as Dropset
• Dumbbell Incline Press – 3 x 10 + 5 forced
• Dumbbell Flyes – 3 x 10
• Butterfly – 3 x 10

20 min. HIIT Cardiotraining

Thursday: Hams/ Calfs

• Reverse Hack Squat– 2 x 20 Warm Up, 5 x 15
• Standing LegCurls alternating– 5 x 15
• Seated LegCurls – 5 x 15
• Seated Calf Raises – 6 x 15
• Standing Calf Raises – 6 x 15

Friday: Arms

• Barbell Curls – 3 x 10
• Curls Cable Pulley – 3 x 10
• Dumbbell Incline Curls – 3 x 10

• Close Grip Bench 3x 10
• Kickbacks – 3 x 10
• Tricepspresses Rope – 3 x 10
• Forearms – 4 Sets until failure

20 min. HIIT Cardiotraining

Saturday: Quads

• Squats – 2 x 20 WarmUp 3 x 10, Lat Set 3x Dropset
• Leg Presses – 2 x 15, 3 x 10,Last Set 4x Dropset
• Leg Curls – 3 x 15
• Dumbbell Lunges – 3 Sets


Day 1 – Pull

Chin Up  4 x 8-12
Wide Grip lat Pull Down  3 x 8-15
Shoulders Shrug  3 x 8-15
Single Arm Bent Over Row  3 x 8-12
Hammer Strength High-Low Row 3 x 10-15
Rear Deltoid Fly 3 x 10-15
Biceps Curl 3 x 10-15

Day 2 – Legs/Hips

Back Squat 4 x 10-15
Front Squat 3 x 8-12
Reverse Lunge (same side) 3 x 10-12
Hamstring Curl 3 x 8-12
Leg Extension 3 x 8-12
Hip Thrust 3 x 12-15
Calf Raise 3 x 12-15

Day 3 – Push

Dumbbell Bench Press or Free Motion Chest 4 x 8-12
Hammer Strength Incline Press 3 x 8-12
Dumbbell Overhead Press 4 x 8-12
Close-Grip Push Up (hands on med ball) 3 x 12-15
Shoulder Lateral Raise 3 x 12-15
Triceps Extension 3 x 12-15


The “Squats and Milk” Program

This is not a classic hypertrophy program but still designed to create a serious muscle grow.

Thought for 6 Weeks you will squat heavy various times a week.

Requirement is the knowledge of your 5rep max Back Squat. Then subtract 2,5 kg for every set. In 6 Weeks you will squat 18 times, so it is 45kg less. This is you starting weight for: 20 Reps!
Every new set you add 2,5 kg back on the bar and after 6 weeks you squat your former 5rep max for: 20 Reps! Yes, is will be hard. Yes, you will suffer. Yes, it is efficient.
Around those 20rep Squats there are several other exercises, the most useful for CrossFit is probably a inbound of weightlifting movements.

Day 1

  • A Power Clean 3×3 2min Rest
  • B1 20Rep Squats 1×20 no Rest
  • B2 Dumbbell Pullovers 1×20
  • C1 Barbell Bench Press 2×10-12 no Rest
  • C2 High Cable Flys 2×12-15 90sec Rets
  • D Triceps Rope Press Down Drop Set 2Sets 60sec Rest
  • E Biceps EZ Curls 21s 2Sets 60Sec Rest

Day 2

  • A Snatch High Pull 3×3 2min Rest
  • B1 20Rep Squats 1×20 no Rest
  • B2 Dumbbell Pullovers 1×20
  • C1 Bent Over Row 2×10-12 no Rest
  • C2 Bent Over Fly 2×12-15 90sec Rest
  • D Hip Thrust Drop Set 2 Sets 60sec Rest
  • E Calf Raise 21s 2 Sets 60sec Rest

Day 3

  • A Hang Clean 3×3 2min Rest
  • B1 20Rep Squats 1×20 no Rest
  • B2 Dumbbell Pullovers 1×20
  • C1 PullUp 2×10-12 no Rest
  • C2 Facepull 2×12-15 90sec Rest
  • D Military Press Drop Set 2 Sets 60sec Rest
  • E Cross Body Hammer Curls 21s 2 Sets 60sec Rest

Day 4

  • A – Power Focus
  • B1 – 20Rep Squats
  • B2 Dumbbell Pullovers
  • C1 Super Set – Compound Exercise
  • C2 Super Set – Isolated Exercise
  • D Isolation Exercise Drop Set Method
  • E Isolation Exercise 21´s Method

For cicuit A use a mid heavy weight that will not blast you totally out. It is thought as a heavier WarmUp.

For circuit C, perform the first set of the compound exercise followed immediately by one set of the isolation exercise. Take the recommended break and repeat for a 2nd set.

For circuit D, start with a weight you can do 3-5 reps with. Drop the weights down as you fatigue for 3 consecutive drops.

For circuit E, use a moderately heavy weight and perform 7 bottom half reps. Next, perform 7 top half reps. Lastly, perform 7 full range of motion reps.


This plan uses heavy basic exercises and light isolated ones to get the muscle fully out powered

Day 1 Chest/Triceps

Combinded: Bench Press 2x 20 Warm Up , 5×5 Working Sets (vary weekly barbell and dumbell to protect the rotator cuffs)
Isolated: Cable Flys with crossed over arms 3×12
Combinded : Incline Bench 4x 6-8
Isolated: Butterflys close 2×20
Combined: Dips 4x to failure (minimum of 5)
Isolated: Triceps Rope PullDown 2×20
Add Core Work

Day 2 Legs

Combined: Squats: 2×20 Warm Up, 5×5 Working Sets
Leg Extensions: 2×25
Combined: Stiffed Leg Deadlifts: 4×10 (watch the technique)
Isolated: Leg Curls: 2×25
Add Core Work

Day 3 Shoulders

Combined: Military Press: 2×20 Warm Up, 5×5 Working Sets
Isolated: Side Laterals 3×12-15
Combined: Seated Dumbbell Press 2×20
Isolated: Reverse Butterfly: 4x 12-15
Isolated: Front Laterals: 3×12′
Add Core Work

How to Build Muscle – Day 4 Back/Biceps

Combined: Deadlift 2×20 Warm Up, 5×5 Working Sets
Isolated: Lat Pulldown Close Grip: 3×12-15 ( Feel muscle tension in the lats)
Combined: Barbell Rows: 3×12
Combined: Seated Cable Rows: 3×20 ( Do them as directly after the Barbell Rows, light weight, muscle tension)
Combined: Pull Ups: 5×5
Combined: Snatch Pulls: 3×10
Add Core Work

Ultimate Muscle Building Guide

Now you have the nutritional and training advice you need to construct an effective meal plan and a solid training program.

Good luck and have fun.

Want to learn more? Check out these Dumbbell Front, Lateral raise or Fly technique tips.

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