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Gaining Lean Muscle Mass - Train Hard, Eat Whole Foods and Rest
By Jean Lam

If you're a skinny person by nature and hard gainer, you know how tough it is to pack on muscle mass on your body frame. You've probably tried everything but you simply can't get the body you are dreaming of. Maybe you have not been given the right information. I can't deny the fact that gaining lean muscle mass is hard but if you follow a special routine, there is no reason why you can't make any muscle gains and achieve an athletic body.

As you might know, you need to work out or train even with just body weight exercises or if you want to go to an advanced level, you have to lift some iron for stronger muscle mass.

Gaining lean muscle mass is the proper combination of training hard, eating whole foods and having adequate rest. We will discuss each one in more details.

(1) Training Hard

If you want to blast those muscles, you need to stimulate those muscle fibers, feel the burn and get muscle soreness after. This is a sign that you really had a good workout. You don't need to spend endless hours in the gym because what is important is the quality of the workout. Only 45-60 minutes minutes of quality training is enough per day. And you can train 4 days a week, each workout being 45-60 minutes. What you have to do is train a specific body part on a particular day.

A sample weekly workout.

Monday - Chest, Triceps and Forearms
Tuesday - Shoulders, Trapezius, Abdominals and Calves
Wednesday - Back and Biceps
Thursday - Legs
Friday - Rest

Repeat the same thing.

As you can see, you have sufficient rest between working each muscle group for recovery. This is of paramount importance. If you overtrain your muscles, they simply won't grow. The key is training those muscles hard and give them sufficient time for recovery and of course following a proper nutrition which I am going to talk after. The number of sets per muscle group is important as well. For smaller muscle groups like biceps, triceps, forearms and deltoids, 6-12 sets are ok. Sometimes with the deltoids, you can go up to 16 sets, say you're doing 4 exercises: (1) dumbbell press (2) lateral raises (3) bent over raises and (4) front raises, with 4 sets each. For larger muscle groups like chest, back, trapezius, legs and calves, 16-20 sets are ok. For abdominals, you can go for 4-8 sets. To give you an idea concerning the repeat range, the number of repeats per set is 8-12 for most muscles. For calves and abs, it can be more like up to 15-30. This is just a sample workout and it might not be exactly the same for everyone.

There are powerful compound exercises for the back and chest like bent over rows and bench press which also work the biceps and triceps respectively. So if you train the back and biceps same day, with the back first, you might not necessarily need to train your biceps fully since it's already done partly. You might overtrain them in doing so.

Also, be sure to warm up before exercising but not necessarily for each muscle group. Here is why. If you do chest and triceps same day, after working on your chest but warming up first, you don't need to warm up your triceps since you've already warmed them up in your bench press. Same for back and biceps. You can do 2 warm up sets of 15 repeats each with lighter weights for only the first chest exercise for instance. This is applicable to only the first exercise performed for a specific muscle group. When you train, it is imperative that you lift heavy enough so that you can perform in the recommended repeat range. If you can do too many, the weight is too light or if you can too few, the weight is too heavy. So you need to see what is best for you.

(2) Eating Whole Foods

If you don't eat, you simply won't grow and you can say goodbye to lean muscle gains. If you follow a poor diet, there is no way you will achieve any significant progress in muscle size and definition even if you train like mad. Your body responds to what you provide it with and if you feed it properly with quality nutrition, you'll be duly rewarded. When it comes to high quality nutrition, pay proper attention to whole foods. These are foods which haven't been processed and refined or just a little bit. A simple example is brown and white sugar. Brown sugar is unprocessed whereas white sugar is processed. Usually brown sugar is better as far as nutrition is concerned. Same example is applicable to white and brown bread and white and brown rice.

Include as many whole foods in your diet like brown rice, wholewheat bread, brown bread, wholewheat pasta, sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, unprocessed oatmeal. These are complex carbohydrates. If you can't get unprocessed oatmeal which is sold in tins, you can still go for the normal rolled oats which are sold in paper and cardboard packaging. Usually rolled oats are sold in mass and more popular. Same like tuna in oil is more popular than tuna in brine since it's tastier. Same goes with white bread and brown bread and white rice and brown rice. White bread and white rice are more popular. This is to give you an idea about whole foods.

Other whole foods that you need are natural protein sources like skinless chicken and turkey breast, salmon fillet, tuna fillet, white fish fillet, lean red meat, lean pork cuts, egg whites, red lentils, cottage cheese amongst others. Canned foods are processed foods and should be eaten in moderation because of their high sodium content eg canned tuna, canned salmon etc... And not forgetting fibrous carbohydrates like vegetables. Some good sources are asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, garlic and many others. You'll also need healthy fats in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive oil, canola oil and omega-3 fish oil which can mostly be found is oily fishes like sardine, salmon, trout, herring. And avoid saturated fats like animal fats. Be sure to eat fruits as well like banana, peach and orange for instance and drink lots of water.

It's recommended to eat more than 3 meals per day if you want to pack on lean muscle mass. Your body needs more calories than usual. If you don't eat sufficient amount of calories, it will be difficult for your body to grow. Well not any type of calories but calories from whole foods like mentioned above. So you basically have to eat about 4-6 small meals per day every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism high and with the proper combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats. By eating at regular intervals in small quantities, your body is more inclined to burn fat than store it. This is a fundamental aspect in body building.

You can add replacement meals in your nutrition like whey protein shake but your main nutrition should consist of natural and whole foods as far as possible.

A sample daily nutrition for a 150 pound person.

8 AM - Meal 1

5 egg whites (you can add 1-2 egg yolks maximum)
1 cup of oatmeal
1 average banana

11 AM - Meal 2

Protein Shake

2 PM - Meal 3

8 ounces of skinless chicken breast
1 cup of brown rice
Broccoli
1 spoon of olive oil

4 PM - Training

5 PM - Meal 4

8 ounces of salmon fillet
2 potatoes
Green beans

8 PM - Meal 5

8 ounces of lean beef
1 sweet potato
Asparagus

11 PM - Meal 6

Protein Shake

Usually, it's 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, so if you weigh 150 pounds, you need 150 grams of protein per day divided into 6 meals meaning 25 grams of protein per meal. Well it might not be exactly 25 grams per meal because in one meal, you might get more and less in another but in the above sample nutrition, you can easily achieve your protein intake goal.

(3) Adequate Sleep

Sleep plays a crucial role for your gaining lean muscle mass goal. If you don't get adequate sleep, your muscles won't grow. It's during sleep that your muscles develop and not when you're in the gym. So pay proper attention to rest because even though you are training hard and eating properly, if you don't rest enough, you will impede on your muscle gains. And you won't be in top shape to give the maximum in your workouts. You will be in poor form which isn't good. You must be fit most of the times.


So here you go. Train hard, eat properly and get adequate sleep and there is no reason why you can't build those lean muscle mass which will give you an impressive and eye-catching physique.


About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.


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