The 3 Keys to Bodybuilding and How to Gain Muscle Fast

In Bodybuilding by Matt Smith

Have you been slugging away in the gym for years wondering how to gain weight fast?

Have you upped your number of gym workouts to every day, maybe even twice a day to try and get more results, but splitting your workout routine more didn’t seem to help?

Maybe you searched the bodybuilding forums for how to gain muscle or how to put on weight, with no success?

We live in a 3 dimensional world and, like many things in life, natural bodybuilding and strength training also have 3 distinct dimensions to getting it right and seeing any kind of dramatic results.

“A timeframe often considered totally ridiculous, outside of chemical assistance”
These 3 puzzle pieces, when understood correctly, and combined with good hormone levels etc, will potentially enable you to gain strength and muscle within a very short time frame.  A time frame often considered totally ridiculous, outside of chemical assistance.

Now, it’s not rocket science, by any means, but most people fail to realise just how much difference can be made by getting these basic foundational components right, fitting together like clockwork.  Hopefully this post will not be too long, but I will go into more detail in later posts.

I’ll probably say some controversial things down the page, which contradict all the usual fitness industry rhetoric on muscle growth.  The fact is that the gym/fitness/bodybuilding industry derives a lot of its income by selling the latest and greatest workouts, bodybuilding supplements, training tips and guru’s advice; all clamouring for a piece of your income pie.

“trying to be different by telling you the truth!”
There are also a lot of honest people in each of those industries too, trying to be different by telling you the truth!  But it’s the truth as best as they understand it, themselves having learned through the same broken system.

So here’s the thing; your body was very well designed, and it wasn’t designed to be a mystery for you to spend a lifetime trying to figure out.  Now, it does do some very complex and interesting things, but the controls are designed for you to understand.

Bodybuilding man

The Captain of the ship doesn’t need to know how to maintain the engine room of the ship, he just needs to know how to steer it and make it go faster/slower and stop and tell the higher level crew what to do.

It’s all about getting back to basics.

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It couldn’t be much simpler than that, right? So let’s break it down into a bit more detail.

Key 1: Training Your Body

There are approximately 640 skeletal muscles in the human body, depending on how you count them. Considering the mechanical structure of the body (organs etc aside) and the fact that it’s a symmetrical design, that means 320 odd pairs of muscles.

The industry has been encouraging us for decades to isolate muscles in exercise. Now, let’s assume that we work pairs of muscles together (for example; barbell curl for biceps, rather than independent dumbbell curls), and let’s also assume that some of those muscle pairs can’t be worked independently of others, like abs (for example). That still means it will take us dozens, if not hundreds, of exercises to get through a workout and weeks or months before you repeat the same exercises.

Obviously not feasible, right?

Your muscles don’t live in isolation, they don’t work in isolation and they don’t really like to grow in isolation either!

“it was not meant to perform an isolated movement, it was designed to perform a function”
So how then? Going back to the design of the body, it was not meant to perform an isolated movement, it was designed to perform a function, and in recent times we’ve heard a bit about functional fitness. This is where Crossfit, cross training and weightlifting style training has gotten it right. I have other issues with Crossfit, but in this area they certainly have the right idea.

Certain muscle groups, along with bones and joints (levers and pivot points), were designed to work together to perform a function. Directional pushing, pulling and squeezing.

Running, for example, is just a combination of pushing and pulling functions performed together to achieve the larger function of propelling your entire body forward.

These muscles, worked independently, will cause both strength and size imbalances, leading to injuries out in the real world. Keep in mind that everything we do in the gym is done to improve your quality of life, right? Strength and size gains are what you’re looking for, but why? To enjoy your life better!

Competition Bodybuilding is a conversation for another day.

“we need BIG functional, compound exercises which utilise multiple muscle groups”
To craft our workout we need to have a look at the other pieces of the puzzle to see how they fit together, in order to shape our gym workouts to best effect. However, the main point is that we need BIG functional, compound exercises which utilise multiple muscle groups, in order to design a gym workout routine that has a realistic number of exercises and will fit in with the other pieces of the muscle growth jigsaw.

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Key 2: Feeding Your Body

To build a house we need raw materials; bricks, timber, concrete, or whatever the building materials are. In the case of the human body, we need predominantly protein for growth and a whole host of vitamins and minerals and fats to make it all work properly, and predominantly carbohydrates to fuel it.

The key point for health and nutrition is a balanced intake of these, but for building muscle the focus is on the protein side of things and enough of it, without neglecting the others.

“with an abundance of protein for muscle growth, you will be able to get the results you’re looking for”
Again, there are a lot of complex processes going on behind the scenes, but as long as you understand that you need a balance of good, NATURAL foods, with an abundance of protein for muscle growth, you will be able to get the results you’re looking for. Finding the best creatine monohydrate, whey supplements, and other latest bodybuilding supplements will not give you the keys to the kingdom, but tiny advantages at best. 99% of the time they are simply inferior to whole natural foods anyway.

For example, eat the whole egg, not just the white! For years we have heard that we should only eat the white because that’s where all the protein is, but there are more nutrients and vitamins in the yolk, than the white. Eat it all, as it was designed to be delivered.

Another example, is whey protein concentrates and whey protein isolates. Concentrates have simply been dehydrated. Isolates have been acid stripped, so they can technically squeeze more grams of protein in a powdered supplement. That does not make it better; you need all those enzymes and such they have stripped away, so the greater gram number, counts for nothing. Eat as close to natural and whole as you can and forget the marketing hype surrounding products especially.

Growing takes time and despite popular belief, you don’t just do it while you sleep. Your body will take what protein it needs at the time it needs it and pass the rest (for the most part). It does store up nutrients for later, but not so much when it comes to protein.

“in a state of trying to grow, we need to drip feed our body protein as often as possible”
So while we’re in a state of trying to grow, we need to drip feed our body protein as often as possible, making sure it always has the raw materials it needs to repair and grow muscle and good tissue. I recommend some source of protein every 2 hours or so, depending on what else you’ve had throughout the day.

Not all food, or source of protein, is created equal! Just keep this in mind; the more processed the food or protein, the less your body will be able to use it effectively. Just try to make sure you’re getting 120-200 grams or so of protein spread throughout the day. The better you can spread out your protein intake, the lower end of the scale will you need to consume.  The only thing I count, when trying to grow, is grams of quality protein, and even then as long as I’m getting enough, I’m not too strict about it.  I don’t want it to become part of my life that I despise.  I want to WANT to live it, or it defeats the purpose of my training!

Here’s the thing; as soon as you get too strict about exact grams and timing meals to the minute, you are creating a diet instead of a lifestyle.  A diet cannot be maintained indefinitely as it’s a short-term fix.  Whereas a lifestyle is just that – a lifestyle you can live, and longevity is the name of the game if you want to become the best YOU that you can become!

Not only can strictness become your enemy, but things like hormone levels and energy levels and sleep patterns and rest periods and injuries (and the list goes on) make way more difference than 3 extra grams of protein or 17 extra grams of fat, etc.  So be realistic in your understanding of the process – biology has way too many variables to make this an exact science!

Key 3: Resting Your Body

Probably the biggest mistake I see people make when trying to grow, is over-working the body! Overtraining is a lot easier than people think, but here’s the point; you can’t overtrain intensity, but you can EASILY overtrain in your training time! Let me say that again so you grasp this important point;

“You can’t workout too intensely, but you can easily workout too often!”
You can’t workout too intensely (unless you push into injury), but you can easily workout too often!

Do you think you grow when you workout, or when you’re resting?

When you’re training, you’re tearing muscle fibres. When you’re resting, you’re repairing and growing muscle fibres. So if you want to grow more, do you need to train more, or rest more?

(The answer is REST btw!)

But if you’re going to rest more, then you need to train harder when you do train, in order to tear as many muscle fibres as possible! That way, your body has a lot to repair while resting, which means you can give it more rest time and it will keep on growing during that time, providing you continue to feed it.

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So let’s Put the Pieces of the Puzzle together

When you train, train hard! Train BIG functional exercises that use multiple muscle groups and muscle groups that are designed to work together. This is the only way to get good proportions and reduce the risk of injury from muscle imbalances.  Train fewer exercises, but bigger exercises and smash them! Work so hard you could not effectively train again the next day.

Feed your body what it needs to grow! Eat clean food, UNPROCESSED WHOLE food and good quality sources of protein with lots of vitamins and minerals, etc. Feed your body protein every couple of hours and try to get around 100-200 grams of protein into your body spread throughout the day, depending on what you weigh.  Chances are that if your protein intake is not balanced throughout the day, then you could only be using half of what you take in anyway.  The same applies for protein from lesser quality sources, such as supplements and processed powders containing isolates etc.  REAL FOOD people, or it only counts for half!

“With training, intensity is the key, but when it comes to rest, time is the key”
Give your body a chance to grow! With training, intensity is the key, but when it comes to rest, time is the key. I don’t care if you feel you have recovered sooner, your body can only put one block upon the other, so fast, and as soon as you train a new body part, you end your grow time from the last workout and give your body a new priority to deal with. It takes time to repair and build, so give your body 48 hours between workouts. If you’re training hard when you train, then you should only train every second day. Mon, Wed, Fri or maybe Tues, Thurs, Sat is plenty of training for maximum growth.  Any more (muscle tearing) workouts than that, and you’re just wasting your energy.  Cardio doesn’t count toward that.  You can do as much cardio in between as you like, in fact I highly encourage it.

There are only 3 main things that STOP your muscle growth!
  • Not tearing enough muscle fibres in the first place, so your body doesn’t have much repair work to do.  Lazy workouts!
  • Not feeding your body the raw materials  and nutrients it needs to build the house.
  • And your next workout!  If you don’t give your body the grow time it needs to build the house between workouts, then don’t expect it to keep up with your expectations.

In truth, there are other things as well, like poor testosterone levels and all the variables I mentioned earlier, but all things being equal.  That being said, there is most definitely a formula to growing muscle and part of it, is not deviating from the plan.

So here’s the thing, guys, you can forget about ‘this new program’ or ‘that new exercise set’, if you don’t have the basics right.  I haven’t even touched on training programs and exercise routines here because if these 3 keys are not in place, then you can forget the training details, all that hard work will be in vain.  Or at best, it will be very, very slow progress!

And it’s THAT simple!

These pieces of the puzzle do not discriminate between men and women, skinny or fat, or one body type versus another. If you have been struggling with how to gain muscle, then at least one of these 3 areas is lacking.

Obviously there’s only so much size you can gain naturally, but artificial muscle gains are an area I don’t get into, and you’d be surprised just how big you can get naturally.

Nor do I subscribe to bulking phases and cutting phases.  Ask yourself this; During his bodybuilding career, did you EVER see Arnold Schwarzenegger soft?  Nothing burns fat like muscle and you don’t need rubbish food to gain muscle, so there’s nothing at all preventing you from both building muscle AND losing fat at the same time!

Now, competition lean, well that’s a different story since it’s pretty unhealthy to get that lean, so you really don’t want to be THAT lean all the time, but that’s a far cry from what I’d call ‘bulking’ in any case.

There is much more detail I will address in future posts, particularly in regards to gym workout routines and when we complete our muscle growth course at BodySmith Fitness. I certainly could not cover all the details in a single post, but if you can grasp this much as a foundation, you’ll be on the road to success and you will see good results.

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About the Author

Matt Smith


Matt completed his Management qualifications at the Aust Institute of Fitness in 2014, when he left his trade and opened BodySmith Fitness with wife, Rachel Smith. Matt was awarded his Black Belt and Diploma from the Japan Karate Association and completed his Coaching Accreditation from the Aust Sports Commission in 2012 and now teaches Shotokan Karate from the BodySmith Dojo. Matt has also spent the last 25 years in and out of the gym and has developed a strong understanding of muscle growth, which is what he enjoys helping people with in the BodySmith Gym.