How to Gain size and Build Muscle

How to grow some muscle!


 So you have a clear goal for your body! you want to build some size, most probably looking to increase some muscle mass! Good having a clear goal is essential! The difficult thing now is going to be sticking to it!

Ok so we have our goal, what next what do we do from now? Well firstly your port of call should be assessing your diet! Ultimately that will determine whether or not you gain or lose weight!

If you’re a male I would encourage looking at making sure 40% of your diet is protein and between 30-40% is carb and the rest good fats, you will also NEED to make sure you are in a calorie surplus! I’d recommend looking at around 5-10% surplus to get started and see how you get on! With a good structure in your diet, and a complimenting workout you should maximise muscle gain while keeping fat gain to a minimum.

THAT being said, there will be SOME fat gain, this is inevitable, you can’t avoid it, you must accept it, it’s a part of the process, and is often the single biggest thing stopping people from gaining.

Try to think of it like this, it’s a curtain at intermission in a stage show, a lot of work is going on behind that curtain, and then when you switch gears to fat burning later to reveal to muscle gain, that is the curtain raise!

This is what all body builders do, athletes do, what most intelligent amateurs do, and it’s what I do.


Understanding Energy


So now that we have a goal in mind we need to establish, how do we get there?

Well firstly there is a little bit of body science we should become familiar with, as these play a pretty big role in what results you achieve in the gym? What would you say if I told you that the same exercise can achieve vastly different results when done at different intensities and different periods of time? Shocking right! This is due to how we use our bodies energy systems of which there are 3, but they fall into 2 different categories:

·       Anabolic – The category which is more focused on muscle growth

·       Catabolic – the category that is more focused on muscle consumption

The first two energy systems we are going to discuss are primarily focused within the anabolic category, and are focused towards developing muscle mass, and improving conditioning, whereas the latter is focused a lot more towards exercises that are catabolic in nature, these tend to be exercises geared towards more cardiovascular fitness.

Energy systems

So let’s go over these energy systems, what they do and how they work.

1.      ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) system – This is your bodies first port of call, when it comes to energy. Before your body uses sugar stored in the muscles it will use ATP and creatine phosphate (CP) which the breaks into ATP. This is an energy source that requires no oxygen and is responsible to your initial bang when you train. Your body can only store a very limited supply of this within your muscles at any one time and when you start training it will only take between 8-10 seconds to run out. If you watch Olympic 100m sprinters they are using purely this system alone, and often don’t even look to be out of breath at the end, this is because their bodies have used little to no oxygen during that event. Their training is usually gear more towards leg POWER rather than endurance, so they train primarily for anabolic results as they don’t need to last a long period of time. It is also why their legs in particular their quads look so impressive as that is the area they focus on to be the best at their sport. They need to be fast for a short space of time, so train mostly in a way to enhance their power which in maths and science terms is force x speed = power.  For your body to recover around 90% of its CP stories it will take around 3 minutes.


2.      Lactic system – the second primary energy system, after your body has used up the ATP+CP stored in the muscles it will start to break down the sugar (known as glycogen) stored there to produce more, this process requires oxygen to do so. This process is extremely efficient up until around 45 seconds when your body can’t get enough oxygen in, to produce the ATP. At this stage the body can still use the glycogen to produce energy but it will also start producing a product known as lactic acid, at this stage you will begin to feel the “burn” in your muscles, this is the first stage of fatigue.


3.      Aerobic system- the final energy system, at this point the body will now begin to break down muscle tissue and fatty acids to provide the body with the energy it requires. It is heavily reliant on an efficient cardio- vascular system so that you can provide enough oxygen to the body in order for it to. This latter energy system tends to be engaged more with longer periods of exercise, that focus on cardio efficiency, such as distance running etc. it is also inherently catabolic in nature (consumes muscle mass). A great example of these differences is comparing a sprinter and a marathon runner, one is focused on short burst speed and power, and the other more on endurance, one needs to reduce their weight as much as possible to improve cardio efficiency over time and the other is about delivering as much power as quickly as possible.


The only 2 systems we are bothered at all about right now, will be the first two as they are the ones concerned with muscle growth! The third system is concerned more with endurance development! Think difference between sprinter and marathon runner.


How to structure the workout


So now we have an understanding of the bodies energy systems, and we understand what our specific goals are, as well as how to structure our nutrition, the question now is how do we apply these to you?

Ok well ideally, there is no getting around this regardless of what your sex is, the best way to develop muscle mass and burn fat, will be in a gym. Now I know that this can cause a lot of anxiety as perhaps you have been to the gym before and failed because you didn’t know what you were doing, but remember this book is all about allowing you to walk into one with confidence, and although there are some fantastic home workouts available, they usually have a limited level of effectiveness as your body adapts to the workout, and progression stalls, unless you have equipment at home, a gym allows for consistent progression as the equipment provided will allow you to push past plateaus, with increased weights etc.

If your goal is specifically burn fat, and or build muscle, the best method of training will be to make use of your bodies Anabolic systems. So ideally weight and resistance training, with some limited cardio.

Now that may make many women apprehensive, as there is often a fear that weights will make women bulky and masculine, allow me to take this opportunity to say that this is extremely unlikely to happen. This is due to a number of fundamental reason, the first and most prominent one, is women have a significantly reduced amount of the male hormone testosterone which is hormone, largely responsible to men’s ability to significantly increase their muscle mass, compared to women. Due to this for a woman to achieve the same amount of muscle mass relative to a male, she would need to eat a significant amount of food, to fuel growth, whilst increasing her bodies testosterone amounts.

Also if the goal is to burn fat, we will be eating in a deficit, so your body will be unable to truly grow significant muscle, as your body will be more concerned with trying to keep what it has, as there isn’t enough fuel to grow, as muscle can only grow in a calorie surplus.

So ladies, do not fear the weights and resistance machines, because they will make you look masculine, they won’t, they will merely allow you to sculpt the figure you desire! Worrying about looking like a bodybuilder, is the same as thinking that running on a treadmill will turn you into an Olympic sprinter! In truth many of the super models, such as Victoria secret angels, and social media models incorporate weight and resistance programmes to look the way they do!

The training for fat loss, and muscle gain are actually very similar, the biggest difference between them, is nutrition! A structured calorie surplus will fuel muscle growth, and a deficit, fat loss. The appropriate training programme will basically determine if you maximise muscle gain and minimise fat gain, or maximise fat loss and minimise muscle loss.


How many Reps?

Right now I’m going to provide a simple chart, that represents the best rep ranges to operate in whilst working out to achieve specific effects.


So what does this chart mean when we look at it? Well the areas in Yellow represent the most prominent effect within those specific rep ranges. So as you can see muscle strength and power are most effective up 6 reps, what this means is that you will be able to lift you biggest weights but only be able to do them over a short period. Continuous training, within these ranges will see your body improve in the maximum weight it can lift, thus increasing your strength and power. When you consider the amount of time it will take for you be able to perform these reps you can reasonably assume that on average you won’t take much longer that 10 seconds to complete them, which is firmly within the ATP system.

From 6 reps up to 12 we see that hypertrophy becomes most effective in this range. Hypertrophy is what we call muscle gain, at this level you will still be able to lift between 80-70% of your maximum ability but you will be able to do it for a little bit longer comparted to strength and power which would be 100-80% of your maximum capacity but for a shorter period. As you can see though in this chart power and strength training can still be achieved in this range, just to a lesser extent. Now if you can imagine the time it takes to perform 12 reps it isn’t much over 30 seconds which again keeps us within the anabolic ranges, but we have now moved into the lactic energy system, and this is where you will begin to feel a burn creep into your muscles and fatigue begins to set in.

The funny thing is here that within the hypertrophic range, this tends to be the best for both fat burn and muscle gain goals. This is because whilst in surplus you are giving your body the fuel to build muscle, whilst in deficit you are trying to make your body build muscle without providing the fuel, so all it will do in essence is maintain the muscle it can as best as it can, and the calories your using will end up coming from the fat as your body is using protein to preserve the muscle.

Muscular endurance comes from around 12 reps onwards, and is usually performed at a lighter weight, often done to eke out the final bits of energy remaining to “finish off” a particular muscle group, or at the beginning of a workout as a warm up and to pump blood into a muscle group. Most fitness classes will work the muscular endurance/ aerobic zone. This isn’t to say you won’t develop muscle and tone, but it is a more catabolic way of training. Classes, if you’re in a calorie deficit will burn fat, there is no doubt, but they aren’t a focused approach to your specific goal.

So you should consult this chart to help you work out how many reps you should be doing per exercise, to achieve the results that you want.

Often when I’m providing a programme for an individual I consult them on their goals and then work on this basis to get them to where they want to be, and it has been without a doubt my most successful approach so far!

So if a client wants to improve the muscle mass, I tend to develop their strength, so they can maximise the weight they can lift, and then move into hypertrophic range so they are getting the very most out of their muscles for development, and cycle between these two to prevent the body adapting, and providing continuous results, with this style to I tend to have them do more sets (a group of reps) with longer rest periods to allow to for as maximum output as possible.

For fat loss, I tend to cycle the client around the 10-12 rep range of hypertrophy, however I will minimise their rest periods (which I will explain shortly) to enhance their fat burning potential, and cause fatigue quicker.


Intensity and rest periods


Ok so now you know how many reps you should be doing in the gym, the question now is how intense should those reps be? And how long should you rest once you have completed a set of reps.

So with intensity, most personal trainer will work with something known as the RPE or rate of perceived exertion, this is often on a scale of 1-10, 1 being very easy and 10 being most difficult.

When writing a programme for a client I haven’t been in the gym with, I use this scale as it is much safer than telling you a specific weight to lift, as without knowing your capacity this could be extremely dangerous and lead to an injury.

So if your goal is to train for strength and power ideally you should be training between 10-8 on the RPE scale, (remember its maximal output over a short period) and for hypertrophy ideal between 8-7, fat loss I usually would suggest between 7.5-6.5 on the scale.









Again this is a very simple breakdown, like everything so far just to allow you to go into the gym feeling confident in knowing what you should be doing. The goal remember is to keep things as simple as possible.

The next thing to consider is our rest periods, and the key to remember here, is that a longer rest will allow for a more maximal output during the reps. So power and strength training require more rest to allow the body to keep training at RPE 10-9 while lower RPE will require less rest, and also keep the heart rate up!

The more we keep the heart rate up, the faster our metabolism is working and therefore the more calories we are burning. This is why in my fat loss programme I would encourage much shorter rest times, than my muscle building/strength and power programmes respectively.



So you can see here, roughly how long it takes for your body to recover after a set, and why to get the most out of each rep range, we should allow ourselves a specific amount of rest time.

·       Fat loss training – 30 seconds

·       Muscle building (hypertrophy) – between 1-2 minutes

·       Power and strength – 2 minutes +

So now we have the basics down on how to create a structured workout, so for an example if I was wanting to train for fat loss in the gym, firstly I am ensuring I’m eating in a calorie deficit. Then I would make sure that my workouts were ideally between 10-12 reps a set and that I wasn’t having much more than 30 seconds rest between them.

How many exercises per muscle group?

This part I am going to keep very short, as there are many different thoughts on this, and many different style of training, but for the sake of keeping things simple. Try not to go over 3 different exercises per muscle group.

An example being when training the chest:

example workout structure.png

 So if your goal is muscle building i would consult the charts above and strucutre your workout accordingly! as well as making sure your in a diet surplus and you should beging to see consitent weight gain! and in particular the development of great muscle tissue!

IF you need any help with regards! to your training goals! helping to put size on or even strip fat! whatever your goal is contact me today! or check out what packages we have available at:

Sugar Isn't The Villain Here

So recently ive been on a bit of a roll blogging about carbohydrates, and this post is no different. Today we are dicsussing wether sugar deserves the bad reputation it has received in recent years through the media, and since sugar is a form of carbohydrate it is certainly worth discussing.

So is sugar really the villian that the media has portrayed to us in recent years? Is really that extra doughnut? Or slice of cake that is making you fat? Does all that sugar in a can of coke really make a difference?

Well here is the seriously interesting thing, and it’s that when you look at the data on sugar consumption and not the sensationalist media headlines, it has actually dropped since the 2000's, yet obesity has continued to rise unabated.

source: USDA Economic Research Service, image courtesy of Layne Norton Phd

source: USDA Economic Research Service, image courtesy of Layne Norton Phd

So why is this? Well, each year the US economic research centre releases a summary of food consumption patterns and it summarised:

"According to the loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans are consuming more calories per day than they did 40 years ago. In 1970, Americans consumed an estimated 2,039 calories per person per day; whereas in 2010, they consumed an estimated 2,536 calories (after adjusting for plate waste, spoilage, and other food losses).

calorie breakdown.png

Of this 497-calorie increase, grains (mainly refined grains) accounted for 171 calories; added fats & oils, 225 calories; added sugar & sweeteners, 34 calories; fruit and vegetables, 10 calories; dairy, 27 calories; and meats, eggs, and nuts, 19 calories".

So we're eating about 500 more calories per day than the 1970's - that's equivalent to about a pound of fat per week, given that 1lb of fat is = to 3500 kcal, and 500 kcal x 7 days = 3500 kcal.

We're eating more refined grains (like cakes, buns and things containing flour etc) - easy to overeat as they have a very low satiety.

We're eating more fats and oils - the biggest increase in calorie intake, which are very calorie dense (fats containing 9 kcal per gram) and not very satiating (sorry keto fans).

So what about added sugar intake? A tiny 34 calorie increase in the last 40 years. THIRTY FOUR CALORIES!

Basically the issue here, is simply the calories, obesity is primarily linked to calorie excess, Fat containing 9 kcal per gram and Carbs (including sugar) 4 kcal per gram & Protein 4 kcal per gram. ANY of these eaten in excess, will lead to weight gain and all the associated health problems with it. The graphs above highlight this that its the increase in calories that have continued the trend of increased obesity, and that is what we need to focus on.

But, "Added sugar consumption is unhealthy" i hear you say, “that’s what the media tells me! That’s what Jamie Oliver and Davina Mccall tell me”.

Well, science also disagrees with that claim. A summary of the the clinical research to date on added sugar consumption and health found:

"We conclude that added sugars consumed in the normal forms in which humans consume them, at amounts typical of the human diet and for the time period studied in randomized controlled trials, do not result in adverse health consequences".

Which is basically a fancy way of saying: unless your  diet consists solely of coke, and haribo you should be ok.

Well… fair enough your dentist won’t love you, but you should be ok otherwise.