Q: I have been working to increase my muscle size. I have been working out for months but I’m not really seeing much growth of muscles in my arms and legs. What do I need to do to increase my muscles? – Harrison
A: For starters, what kind of workouts have you been doing? While cardio is a good component of fitness, strength training should be your M.O. Or you can combine cardio with weights, as in metabolic circuits.
Even Scrawny Guys (and Gals) Can Build Muscle
If you’ve been working out for months without seeing much muscle gain, there’s a good chance you’re a “hardgainer”— someone with a long, lean physique. Hardgainers don’t build muscle as easily as those with an athletic build.
There are three body types, according to Body Building Pro, and your training program should be tailored to yours. Which one are you? A hardgainer falls into the “ectomorph” category, which means you have to work hard to build muscle. It is possible to bulk up: Brad Pitt, an ectomorph, has managed just fine.
You’ll have to work harder to bulk up, and you’ll probably have to settle for smaller, but ectomorphs need not abandon hope! Both Craig Ballantyne, the creator of Turbulence Training and “self-professed pretty boy” trainer John Romaniello deliver tips for hardgainers on their websites.
Some Additional Muscle-Building Musts
- Compound Exercises. When doing any kind of strength training, your best bet is compound exercises, not isolated ones. It just makes sense to work multiple muscle groups at once! Examples of compound exercises are planks, deadlifts, squats, pull-ups and push-ups.
- Recovery Time. Recovery time is just as important as lifting time. If you work the same muscle group two days in a row, you’ll make it hard for your body to recover—which is when the actual muscle development takes place. According to Jeff Anderson (the guy behind Hardgainer Project X), ectomorphs are often in a “hyper aroused” state and thus have a higher need for recovery time in order to facilitate body tissue repair. Be careful to avoid overtraining, then, and do everything you can to get ample quality sleep. (That means addressing sleep disorders and following a solid sleep schedule.)
- Protein. What are you eating? Eggs are a great source of protein, as are lean meats, nuts, and of course protein shakes— choose one with soy protein, whey protein, or both. Protein supplements can be a very effective way for ectomorphs to maximize muscle. Get the full scoop here.
If you’re having trouble gaining bulk due to lots of cardio activity, head here next.