How I Gained 15 Pounds Of Muscle (And How You Can do it Too)

Before and after picture of a 15 lbs muscle gain difference

Do you spend countless hours in the gym with little to show for it?

Are you frustrated with the results you’ve gotten so far?

The reason you’re not seeing results might be because you’re not doing muscle gain phases. When you focus on building muscle, you get stronger, faster, you look better, your bones get thicker, and you get healthier overall.

This article will give you a step by step framework you can use to build a muscular body.

You’re probably eager and excited to start gaining muscle, and before you embark on this path, understand that having a great body is a process, and you need to be willing to put in the time and effort.

Building muscle is not an overnight thing, but if you’re persistent and disciplined you’ll be successful.

To become as muscular as possible, there’ll points where you’ll have to gain some fat, that’s just the way it is. The good news is that losing fat is really, really easy while gaining muscle is hard.

If you’re willing to get a bit uncomfortable, to eat a lot, and to train hard, you’ll succeed on your quest to getting as muscular as you can.

It took me two years to gain 15 lbs of muscle, but I look and feel completely different. I went from 179 pounds to 198 pounds (in the after picture, I’m carrying a bit more fat). From wearing lose medium sized t-shirts, to extra-large t-shirts.

Follow my steps with patience and perseverance and you can do it, too.

You Gotta Be Humble Enough to Get Help

Are you a the DIY kind of person?

Pssssst, psssst, DIY also means “dead in a year.

I’m not saying you will die, I’m saying that the DIY mentality can cause a lot of wasted time and pain.

Experts know exactly what you need to do to accomplish what you want. They’ll give you a detailed roadmap with all the steps you need to follow to accomplish your fitness goals.

If you want to take your training and nutrition to the next level, you must seek help from experts.

I was a DIY kind of person, and it cost me two herniated discs due to a poor training program (made up by me back in the day), but even worst it cost me a lot of wasted time. Years.

The moment I was humble enough to ask for help from experts, the moment I decided to get educated and read books about nutrition and training was the moment my fitness took off.

I started implementing and saw changes immediately. I got stronger and healthier.

In two months I accomplished more than what I had accomplished in years.

Just because I asked for help.

Are You Willing to Get Uncomfortable?

Being strong and jacked is freaking awesome. You immediately stand out wherever you go.

But the road to get there can be uncomfortable at times.

Especially when you’re putting on muscle.

To gain muscle, you have to be in a caloric surplus — eating more calories than what you burn on a daily basis — when you’re at a surplus, the extra calories get stored in three ways: fat, muscle, and glycogen.

You will gain muscle (assuming your training is on point), but you will also gain fat during a massing phase.

That means that you have to be willing to lose the six pack for a period of time, that means that you might feel a bit uncomfortable at times with your body.

Ideally, you want to maximize the amount of muscle you gain, and in order to do that, your training and diet must be dialed in.

If you do things right, you can expect to gain somewhere around 1/3 muscle and 2/3 fats during a massing phase. [1]

I don’t recommend doing massing phases if you currently have a high body fat percentage (>15% for men, >22% for women), because massing will only make you gain more fat.

If this is the case for you, focus on losing fat first, and once you’re lean (8%–12% body fat for men and 15%-17% body fat for women), start a muscle gain phase.

Losing Fat is Easy, Gaining Muscle is Hard

Gaining muscle is hard, and the older you get the harder it gets.

Your potential to gain muscle decreases with age. That means that the older you are the more fat you’ll gain during muscle gain phases.

Building muscle is similar to building a house by hand, you have to lay brick by brick, and it’ll take a long time. And losing fat is similar to tearing it down with a bulldozer.

You can lose 15–30 lbs of fat easily in 8–12 weeks with the right diet.

Whereas gaining 15 lbs of muscle is HARD! It takes years.

I had to go through three massing phases to get from 179 lbs to 198 lbs, and there were points when I was very uncomfortable with the amount of body fat I was carrying.

This chart tracks my body weight changes over two years:

Chart that shows body weight tracking over two years.

If you do two massing phases per year, then you can expect to finish each year, depending on individual characteristics, with around ~5–7 lbs of extra muscle, so it can take up to 2–3 years to gain an extra 15 lbs of muscle.

Understanding Training And Dieting Phases

There are three different states you can be at while dieting, and they are mutually exclusive:

  1. Hypercaloric Dieting — When you consume more calories than what you burn on a daily basis. It always leads to weight gain.
  2. Isocaloric Dieting — When you consume the same amount of calories than you burn on a daily basis. It always leads to weight maintenance.
  3. Hypocaloric Dieting — When you consume fewer calories than what you burn on a daily basis. It always leads to weight loss.

When you combine dieting and training, there are three different phases:

Massing Phases —

They should be a minimum of 12 weeks long, and the main purpose of this phase is to gain muscle.

Massing phases consist of hypercaloric dieting and hypertrophy training (lots of sets and lots of reps).

Your aim during a massing phase should be to gain around 1 pound per week.

Gaining more than this means that you’ll end up with too much fat, and by gaining less you might be leaving some muscle on the table.

As you already know, during massing phases you not only gain muscle but also gain fat, so keep in mind that it might get uncomfortable.

However, if you follow the guidelines, and start your massing phase at 10%–12% for men and 12%–15% you will manage to stay within tolerable body fat ranges.

Cutting Phases —

There are two types of cutting phases you can do:

Conventional Cut —

A conventional cut lasts somewhere in between 6–16 weeks, and, done properly, it consists of hypocaloric dieting and hypertrophy training (to maintain the muscle you’ve built).

During a normal cut, you take a slower approach to losing weight, and you make small tweaks in your diet. Your aim should be to lose around 0.5%-1% of your bodyweight per week.

The longer the cut, the less aggressive it should be. The main purpose of a conventional cut should be to lose fat sustainably.

MiniCuts —

A minicut is a shorter, more aggressive diet. It shouldn’t last more than 6 weeks, and the rate of body weight loss should be 1%-1.5% of your bodyweight per week.

The main purpose of a minicut is to twofold:

  1. It’ll allow you to shed some fat and quickly improve your appearance.
  2. It’ll prepare your body for another productive massing phase.

Minicuts are usually used after massing phases to shed fat and get ready for another productive massing phase.

Minicuts should be paired with hypertrophy training at lower volumes than usual. This will allow your body to resensitize towards higher volumes, bringing better results during your next massing phase.

Maintenance Phases —

Maintenance phases consist of isocaloric dieting. During a maintenance phase, the goal should be to maintain your body weight.

The purpose of a maintenance phase is twofold:

  1. Physical and Mental Stability: Maintenance phases are very important for your stability and well being. You can’t be gaining and losing weight all the time. During maintenance, you get to relax a bit and worry less about the scale.
  2. Hold On to New Muscle: Your body doesn’t like change, and when you gain or lose weight, it’ll try to push back to your old bodyweight either by cravings or lack of appetite. Maintenance allows the body to reset and get used to the new body weight, so if you gained muscle the chances of keeping that muscle in the future increase after a maintenance phase.

Maintenance phases can be paired with either hypertrophy training or strength training.

Splitting Up Your Year with Phasic Dieting

To get the best results, your year should be broken up into massing, cutting and maintenance phases.

Here’s a pretty rough template you can use to plan your year:

Chart that shows how to periodize a year to improve body composition
1-year periodization template

Disclaimer: each individual is different, and a year-long program requires individualization based on specific characteristics, this template is a good starting point and it should be modified depending on your characteristics, goals, and training level.

Resources That Got Me 15 lbs of Muscle (You Should Totally Get Them)

Now that you have a general idea of what you should do next and how to split up your year, you might be wondering:

Well, how do I actually create my diet and training program?

Glad you asked.

I owe most of my success in training and improving my body composition to Renaissance Periodization. I specifically read two books that allowed me to design a nutrition and training program that worked for me.

If you want to learn how to set up your own nutrition and training plan (one that actually works), then I HIGHLY recommend you getting their books, specifically these two:

DISCLAIMER: these are highly educational books, after reading them you might end up 15%-20% smarter.

If you’re not into reading or don’t have the time, then you should consider hiring their services, you can’t go wrong there.

What Should You Do Next?

The answer depends on where you are now, and what your goals are.

If you’re very lean (less than 10% for men and less than 12% for women), and you’ll feel comfortable with adding a bit of fat for a period of time, then starting a massing phase is a good idea.

If you look at yourself in the mirror, and can’t the stand the thought of adding more fat to your body, then getting leaner might be a good idea before embarking on a massing phase.

Don’t fall into the trap of “lean gains,” or being at single digits body fat forever, you’ll only be cheating yourself and leaving potential muscle you could’ve gained would you have eaten more on the table.

Wherever you are now, plan on doing massing phases once or twice per year.

Imagine how you will look with an extra 10–15 lbs of muscle. You will be a completely different person, and you will need a wardrobe overhaul.

Adding more muscle to your body will only make you more of a badass, stronger, and healthier.

Now go!

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