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How to Build Muscle the Right Way (50 Tips)

shirtless man doing overhead dumbbell press

Tips For Building Muscle

  1. Use compound exercises that recruit maximal muscle fibers. Save the isolation exercises for when you have a solid foundation. Read here to see why compound exercises are the key to building muscle.
  2. Focus on getting stronger.
  3. Eat a carbohydrate and protein dense meal post-workout.
  4. Allow at least 48 hours between intense workouts for recovery. Here are 10 muscle recovery tips for improved performance.
  5. Use free weights. Machines are fine, but free weights are where the gold is.
  6. Drink enough water. Stay fully hydrated. Read why drinking water is the secret to fat loss.
  7. Eat. If you’re not at least eating maintenance calories, it’s going to be hard to put on muscle.
  8. Focus on quality nutrition, and not just calories and macronutrients. Nutrient density is key. Here are 100 healthy foods you can eat.
  9. Sleep at least 8 hours a night.
  10. Train your legs. Don’t be a beach bodybuilder (ie only train chest and arms).
  11. Get under the bar and squat. Read here for instruction on doing the perfect squat.
  12. Eat the majority of your calories around your workout.
  13. Eat shortly after your workout to maximize muscle glycogen storage.
  14. Eat enough protein. Aim for at least .8-1 gram/lb of lean body mass to maintain protein synthesis.
  15. Periodize your workouts. Create structure out of variation to continue getting stronger. Read more about incorporating periodization.
  16. Eat your essential fatty acids (EFAs). Fish oil is your friend. Read 33 health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
  17. Be consistent with your exercise and nutrition. Don’t skip days.
  18. Make sure you’re getting stronger from workout to workout. Add weight, reps, or reduce rest periods.
  19. Lift with intensity. Read these 9 reasons you should increase your exercise intensity.
  20. Get under the bar and squat. Did I already say that?
  21. Lift heavy.
  22. Be patient. If you put on .5lbs of muscle a week, you’re doing great.
  23. Keep a training journal. You need to know the weight and reps you’re trying to beat.
  24. Don’t just wing your workouts. Have a plan before you get to the gym.
  25. Keep a food journal.
  26. Utilize active recovery. Read more about improving performance by incorporating active recovery.
  27. Be realistic. We all have our genetic limits. However, chances are, your limits are further away than you think!
  28. Supplements are not necessary, but fish oil, protein powders, and vitamins won’t hurt.
  29. Train to failure. This is debatable, but used sparingly, the results don’t lie.
  30. There’s no need for gender specific workouts. Muscle is muscle.
  31. Get under the bar and squat :P
  32. Take body fat measurements so you can track your lean body mass gains. Here are 10 great ways to track your progress.
  33. Take before and after progress pictures so you can see if your training program is on the right track.
  34. Limit cardio. If you want some cardiovascular training, up the intensity of your workouts. Read more about how much cardio you should do to lose weight.
  35. Implement dynamic stretching to improve performance.
  36. Give your body a reason to grow. Don’t let it adapt.
  37. Use exercises like the bench press, squat, deadlift, rows, and variations thereof.
  38. Give your central nervous system a break too. Several back to back days of intense lifting can burn you out.
  39. Take a week or two off every few months for complete recovery of your muscle, tendons, joints, and mind.
  40. Get a workout partner if you need a little extra push.
  41. Optimize your natural hormones (testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1) with short but intense workouts. Read more about how to boost growth hormone for better muscle gains and fat loss.
  42. Eat solid food. Protein shakes are fine, but they aren’t replacements for real food.
  43. Time your carbs or implement carbohydrate cycling to keep fat gain minimal. Read more about how to implement nutrient timing.
  44. Educate yourself. If you’re reading this, you’re on the right path. Read everything you can about fitness.
  45. Have fun with your workouts. If you don’t enjoy them, you won’t stick with them.
  46. Make pre-workout nutrition just as much of a priority as your post-workout nutrition. Fuel your workouts.
  47. As a beginner, use 2-3 full body workouts a week. Turn that into a split with more recovery as your experience level advances.
  48. Don’t be afraid to eat at night. Weight gain occurs as a result of excess calories, not from eating after 7pm. Read more about whether eating at night makes you fat.
  49. Use proper form. Exercise your muscles and not your ego.
  50. Last but not least, get under the bar and squat!
  • Tami

    I need to get under the bar and squat more than I already do! What are the benefits to getting under the bar? What does it do for my overall body?

  • Kelly

    You guys always have great tips, keep it up!

  • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Coach Calorie

    It makes it grow all over. It adds muscle to your legs, hips, back, shoulders and all kinds of other little muscles. It makes you more functional, and it boosts muscle building and fat burning hormones like testosterone and growth hormone.

  • http://twitter.com/SaroyMiri Mirisa

    Love this! Thanks

  • Rosy Saadeh

    I think Fish Oil is becoming increasingly more dangerous what with all the toxins in the ocean waters of late. I think Udo’s Oil is a better alternative.

    • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Coach Calorie

      Rosy, while I do agree that there are issues with our oceans, I believe the quality of Calson’s oil to be superb. Plus, Udo’s is plant based, which makes the essential fatty acid content quite a bit different than that of the DHA of fish oil.

  • michele

    thank you thank you for all the information you share. i get you in my inbox and i am so thankful…i’ve learned so much…i really appreciate your sharing of your knowledge.

  • Brenda

    Hi Tony! Thank you for the information. I have a question regarding squats. I have osteo-arthritis in my knees and they are painful most every day. I am also overweight and working out to mitigate that. I try to avoid machines or weight lifting that forces me to use my knees. I use them for every other muscle group, just not my quads. Is there any way alter the way to do squats for someone like me? I currently do 45 min of cardio and then move to the weight bearing exercises followed up by a couple of laps in the pool to ease soreness. I am not sure if it matters that I am 50 years old, female and post menopausal with the metabolism of a slug. Thanks!

  • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Coach Calorie

    It’s hard to recommend exercise when I can’t assess your range of motion in person. A physical therapist can help there.

    I would personally be working towards improving your pain through a wide range of motion. Activities like swimming can help.

  • Jimese

    Everywhere I look I find that I need to do more weight training instead of cardio… which I don’t REALLY want to do. Question: what are good weight and strength training options for someone with a bad lower back? I find that I want to try to do more weight training to lose more weight but I hold myself back because I don’t know what will bother me the next day/week.

    • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Coach Calorie

      You don’t have to weight train, but I’d be doing some form of strength training.

      Hard to say what you can do without personally assessing your injury. You should be rehabbing it if possible under the supervision of a physical therapist. However, you can always work around your injury. Most upper body stuff is safe to do, and using machines for your lower body can help take the resistance off your back.

      • Jimese

        Thanks! I’ll try to focus more on upper body strengthening.

  • Sterling Kidd

    Do you really think I should get under the bar and squat? :-) I just wanted to say I like your page! I agree with most everything of yours I’ve read. I share your FB posts often. Keep up the great work. Thank you!

  • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Coach Calorie

    Thanks Sterling! Oh, and don’t forget to squat ;)

  • Kate

    Hi coach. what kind of work out I need to do in order to lose fat from my upper legs just under my but.
    I am 5`2 48 kg I only have visible fat in that area ;( I have been running for 3 years now and joined to the gym 6 month ago.
    This is frustrating, I even did cavitation.
    I do look after my food very well…
    thanks

  • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Coach Calorie

    You can’t target fat loss with exercise. You need to pay special attention to your diet and drop body fat.

  • Momma Sparks

    Love reading your comments!!

  • Sheila

    Is a squat a squat?? I mean, i workout at home using free weights on my shoulders or sometimes in my hands.

    • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Coach Calorie

      I would say so, technicalities aside.