How to gain weight the right way: the 6 rules
Here’s the skinny on how not to be skinny.
As a skinny teenager I “ate like a horse” but still couldn’t gain weight. Then through proper nutrition and exercise I built myself up by about 60 pounds, most of it muscle.
Even if you don’t want to gain that much, the lessons I learned will teach you how to gain the weight you want.
GOLDEN RULE #1
Have the right perspective on weight gain.Gaining just any weight is no good. Going from skinny to fat won’t make you look good.
You want to gain weight of the right composition. The extra weight must be mostly muscle if it’s to look good, and be healthy and functional.
To achieve that, you must exercise properly, and recuperate properly.
GOLDEN RULE #2
Be sure your sources of guidance on weight gain are appropriate for you.What’s the proper way for you to exercise and recuperate?
Not the way a muscle mass monster does it.
Today’s muscle mass monsters are genetic freaks stuffed with anabolic drugs. The training that works for them won‘t work for you.
A much better approach is to find out how genetically normal, drug-free people build muscle. In the bodybuilding world, these people are often called “hardgainers.” But even hardgainers can make terrific progress when they train and recuperate properly.
When you look for nutritional guidance, be watchful of vested interests. Some exceptional weight-gain successes didn’t use any food supplements whatsoever.
Food supplements are not essential, but prudent use of some of them may be helpful.
GOLDEN RULE #3
Exercise in the right way to stimulate healthy weight gain.Exercising in the wrong way is just as useless for stimulating healthy weight gain as not exercising at all.
Even if the volume and frequency of your training are fine, if you use the wrong exercises you won’t make much if any progress. Conversely, even the right exercises won’t help you much, if at all, if the volume and frequency of your training aren’t right.
But even the best exercises and the right volume and frequency of training won’t produce good results unless you use correct exercise technique and sufficient training intensity.
You must use the right exercises, correct exercise technique, sufficient intensity, and enough volume and frequency of training without overtraining. And you must strive to gradually increase your exercise poundages while always maintaining correct exercise technique.
See this four-part series on the BIG LIES that prevent healthy weight gain:
Here’s the first part of the BIG LIES series.
Here’s the second part of the BIG LIES series.
Here’s the third part of the BIG LIES series.
And here’s the fourth part of the BIG LIES series.
Also see the 25 top tips for how to build muscle mass.
GOLDEN RULE #4
Provide sufficient calories and nutrients for healthy weight gain.Even proper training won’t yield good results unless it’s combined with sufficient nourishment. For the sake of your health, and to provide a rich supply of nutrients, stick to healthy foods.
Sufficient protein is essential, but so is sufficient healthy dietary fat. Even if your protein and caloric intake are sufficient, if you don’t have sufficient dietary fat you’re not going to grow much if any muscle. Consume about 30% of your caloric intake as healthy fats.
To increase your caloric intake, eat a larger overall volume of food, and choose foods that are more calorie dense. Some people prefer three large meals a day, others prefer three big meals and two or three small snacks, while others prefer six similar-sized meals.
Increase your food intake gradually, so that your digestive tract can cope without any discomfort.
But don’t increase your food intake to caloric surplus until you’re training hard enough to stimulate muscle growth. “Caloric surplus” means caloric intake in excess of what maintains your bodyweight, in order to permit weight gain. But make it just a slight surplus, so that the weight gain is mostly muscle.
Meal replacement drinks, milk shakes and smoothies can be convenient. As a teenager, my standard “protein shake” was whole milk with skim-milk powder. It was cheap, effective, and pleasant tasting.
Always choose foods that you can digest readily, in combinations that agree with you.
GOLDEN RULE #5
Provide enough sleep and recovery time to permit your body to grow.Even if you train properly and supply sufficient nourishment, if you don’t provide enough sleep and overall rest between workouts, your body won’t be able to recover properly in order to build muscle and gain weight.
Get at least eight hours sleep each night when you’re in hard training, and minimize physically demanding activity outside of your gym workouts. Ideally, eliminate all physically demanding activities other than your workouts.
GOLDEN RULE #6
To gain weight, be a model of dedication and persistence.Knowing what to do is one thing, but doing it consistently is something else.
Even the best training know-how is worthless unless fused with dedication to consistent action. But even dedication in abundance will be wasted if it’s combined with a poor training and recovery program.
If it’s time to train, then train you must regardless of the weather, what’s on TV, or whatever other potential distraction there may be.
When you work out, you must use correct exercise technique in every set, and train hard enough to stimulate growth. And you must build strength.
You must sleep enough each night. You must give your sleep sufficient priority so that you avoid distractions that would reduce your time asleep.
And you must meet your caloric and nutrient requirements each day.
Make each day count, and make each week a perfect example of training and recovery. If you do this, week after week, and month after month, you’ll make terrific progress.
A LEGENDARY PROGRAM FOR WEIGHT GAINThe most famous workout routine for weight gain is the 20-rep squat program. When properly implemented it has a legendary reputation for effectiveness, even for the most difficult cases. It’s the program that accounted for most of my weight gain.
But it may also be the most misunderstood and misapplied workout routine. Many people try it without understanding how to implement it properly, and as a consequence they don’t make good progress.