Mass Gaining 101

Mass Interest

My fellow ectos, this is for you. Putting on mass and size is hard for us, I know. Rest easy you won’t hear snarky comments around here like, “How nice it must be to have a high metabolism.” The struggle is real.

The most common question I recieve to date is “How do I build more size?” Here in this article, I’ve consolidated what I believe to be all you really need to focus on in order to build not just size, but solid muscle. As well as how to maintain it.

Growing up I was the skinny kid – and nope, it wasn’t fun. For awhile the joke in my family was, “He has a hollow leg.” I could eat and eat and not gain a thing. Clothing hung on my frame – it did not “fit,” and I was picked last for dodge ball in P.E. class every time.


Our success story begins with what is known as a calorie surplus. In layman’s terms: We need to take in more calories than we are burning off. And since our workouts are monsters designed for us to go heavy and use a lot of energy, we need as much fuel as we can get – hence more calories. Powering through these heavy workouts requires more than just a proprietary blend of pre-workout. Does “bulking” mean we can go to Denny’s every day? No, we still need to make wise choices as we look for more calorie to devour.  

Eating for more muscle isn’t easy. Some days your not going to want to eat like a beast. I would never recommend waking up one day and deciding to go eat 4000 calories. For one you won’t eat the right stuff and two, you will probably get nauseous. Gradual, strategic increases are the “Ah ha” takeaway here.



I will go ahead and put this out there, because I feel I need to. If you are vegetarian, against animal proteins, or otherwise have an aversion to meat, this probably ain’t gonna happen the way you want it to. I should say, I’ve yet to see it. Quinoa and Portobello’s just aren’t going to get your sleeves popping – I love both, but protein is a key ingredient in this puzzle and the more lean sources the better.

Gobble Gobble

Turkey and chicken have always been the main players and 1 – 1.5 grams per pound of body weight a safe standard by which to follow. If that sounds like a lot, it is. Attainable? But of course. To help put things in perspective, one turkey patty from Costco has 35 grams of protein. I”ll eat two at a time, sometimes twice a day totally 140 grams. Currently, I am at 194lbs and holding, so with the aforementioned formula – I’ve got 151 grams to go.

Chicken breasts are no longer as expensive as they used to be, knock on wood, and even more budget friendly -thighs and parts. Take the time to trim them, however as a hard gainer, we also need a certain amount of fat. But more on that in a bit.


“The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket and watches the basket.” Considered the perfect protein source, eggs are a mass gainers staple and I go through an epic amount of them. My cholesterol has been checked, so hardboiled, scrambled, poached, I’ll take em’. One egg contains roughly 6 grams of high quality protein.

Shake it

Finding a good protein supplement is always a good thing. I always say, “If you can’t eat it, drink it.”  Whey protein, a fast digesting protein full of essential amino acids that aid in recovery, is among the best for us. Caesin, a slow digesting protein, acts in a sort of time-release way. Bodybuilders will commonly eat cottage cheese at night before sleeping as it releases over time. Tip: After drinking it, don’t forget to wash your shaker. Trust.


I’ve never been a carb-hater. As we know, as a macronutrient, carbohydrates are the bodies natural go to source for energy. For some they are the struggle, however ectomorphs’ are a bit lucky in this area. Finally. We need as much help as we can get, both in the form of slow digesting and fast digesting carbs. In the early days I couldn’t understand why my workout partner insisted on eating white rice after a workout. White rice replenishes glycogen stores. Something depleted when working out harder.

My personal favorite? Spuds. aka Breakfast potatoes.


Mass building diets often require us to consume things many would otherwise try to cut back or try to eliminate.


I can’t remember the last time I had a stick of butter in my fridge. Monostaturated fats, like those found in olive oil are in my cabinets though. Fat is an energy source and ectos looking for mass need them. Save the saturated fats like onion rings, the no-no’s, for a cheat meal.

Timing is everything

In real estate it’s all about location, location, location. When it comes to building muscle the frequency of meals is equally as important.

Once, during what I call my “Golds Days” I remember bodybuilders sitting on the Calf Raise machine eating egg salad out of their Tupperware containers. That might be taking things to a new level, but they where dedicated and I respect that. Gains take discipline, dedication, and strategically placed meals.

Habit forming

While waiting 20 or even 30 minutes post workout to get your grub on probably won’t stop your gains, there is a “window of opportunity” to replenish. Over the years I worked as catering staff for large events – weddings, fundraisers, that sort of thing. Once, working an event at a beautiful winery a coworker, a young woman, asked me if I would keep an eye out for a supervisor. Why? She went on to explain she was a Women’s Physique Competitor and it was time for her to eat. And out she produced a ziplock bag with 2 cooked chicken breasts. She won her first competition out. Just saying.

Meals need to be as evenly spaced throughout the day as possible. It’s been said that after doing something for 21 days it becomes a habit. Get in the habit of consuming some form of high quality protein and carb every three (3) hours or so.  I learned to keep powder for a shake as well as a carb supplement (that tasted like chalk) on hand as often as possible. Particularly while I was at work, or if I had to skip a meal.

No longer strictly a bodybuilder or physique competitor practice, meal prepping has caught on and rightfully so. For us average folks that just want to build solid muscle, it is just as important and works the same. By trading the mobile device for a few pots and pans just a couple of hours each week, meal prepping is one habit that done correctly, will not only keep your taste buds satisfied, but keep you on the fast track to success out of the gym.

Lower Rep Ranges

Here’s the thing: Mass building requires stimulating the muscle fibers differently than say, someone trying to get leaner. Workout routines are not a one-size-fits-all. In an attempt to keep this as simple as possible I’ll put it like this: Fast twitch fibers or IIa. those that use fat and glycogen stores for energy, recover quickly. We’re talking deadlifts, squats, and keeping rep ranges below 10. Ectomorphs also can train more frequently. If we don’t use it we lose it.



When we are young, burning the midnight oil isn’t difficult at all. I remember working double shifts in a restaurant, hanging out late, and then doing it all again the next day. And then again.

As a serious weightlifters we want results, so while everyone else is out popping bottles, we’re at home chillin’ like a villain – feet up, and ready to count some sheep. Dead-lifts and mass building workouts are taxing, not only on our bodies but our central nervous systems. Overtraining is real and the more you give yourself time to recover, the more you give yourself the ability to keep building.

Mass Plan 

Back in the day, before things got so “scientific” legends like Frank Zane, were on a simple mission. The plan was workout hard, eat whole foods, and win the trophy.


My fellow ecto’s, have a plan, adhere to these basic principles, and I’m telling you there will come a day when you do go out, and people say:

“Damn, you’ve been working out.”

6AM – 8PM Monday – Saturday

By Appointment

3 Reasons Why Workout Journals Will Help You


“Proper Preperation Prevents Poor Performance” – Charlie Batch

We’re all in it to win it, right? Strength. Health. Prosperity. Goals. It’s no secret exercise and physical fitness will help get us there faster.


Here in the “Information Age,” we are deluged daily with news, updates, ads, pop-ups, and a barrage of stuff we definetly could have done without. (Why the fish gape selfie, I just don’t know) With practicly everything we’d ever want to know at our fingertips, knowledge is power. But sifting through it all can be exhausting. I know I am constantly learning what to keep and file away, and what to simply block out.

Our own data 

I do like my stats and statistics. When it comes to working out, I don’t like my data up in the clouds. I like it right in front of me. Workout logs are beneficial for several reasons. If I had to offer a thesis I’d narrow it down:

3 Reasons Why Workout Journals Will Help You


1. Take the guess work out. 

Going to the grocery store list in hand, I know exactly what I need and can breeze in and out with relatively no issues. The gym is no exception.

I like to know exactly what my workout will be each session. Allowing for busy, peak times (Yes, “How many more sets do you have?” is annoying) the order of the workout may vary, but at least I have a clear idea of what the mish is.

2. Benchmark yourself

Just like I do for every client, I detail my own progress. With the last week’s rep counts and the projected counts, you have a clear way to see what to beat. And it’s not the “Bruh” next to you. Focus on you.


Arnold Schwarzeneggar once said, “The last 3 or 4 reps is what makes the muscles grow.”  So keep track of them.

3. Staying focused

Let’s be honest, keeping our “eye on the prize” all the time ain’t always that easy. Perhaps for some highly skilled, lasered – focused overachievers it is. But for some of us amongst the general populace, we need all the help we can get.

I still use loose leaf, 1 subject notebooks kept in a worn out binder. I don’t know call me old school, but it works. I have plenty of room for “notes to self.”


Next time you go to workout take a pad a pen. If someone asks you what your doing, reply:

“Bench marking myself.”


5 Way’s to Make Workouts More Effective

Fitness & Exercise



Put the phone away

We’ve all done it. Checked in, checked updates, checked emails. How can you truly have an effective workout if your on your phone hashtaging beastmode?

Focus, Jedi. It can be difficult tuning the world out for an hour to an hour and a half. But once you do, it’s great.


EffectiveStay the course

Would we set out on a road trip with no map, no GPS, and no destination in mind? Perhaps, if you have the time and truly like to live on the edge. Having a clear idea of what your goals are and envisioning the end results will help give your sessions that extra intensity.

synonym: strength, power, potency, force



Check Your Ego At the Door

A little competition can go a long way. Watching someone walk in and warm up with the dumbbells you just finished your last set with can motivating. It is for me. #BuildYourself. But strutting around like a boss and stack slamming doesn’t earn you cool points. It only annoys others and will get you some very stern looks from the management concerned about the equipment. Wanna be like a real superhero? Learn how to laser focus .



Get Creative

I once knew this guy who had what he called, “One set of crazy.” Having a plan is crucial. “Leg Day” “Arm Day – All Day,” etc. etc., but think outside the box. I constantly encourage people to color outside the lines. Every once in awhile you just have to do what you need to do. If someone asks you if you normally do squats on back day, just smile and tell them no.



Birds of a Feather

Fly by night workout partners and weekend warrior types won’t cut it. Determination does. In addition to that inner fire, that motivation, it never hurts to enlist the help of those that know what it takes to be pushed.

The Takeaway

Perhaps it’s an upcoming and much needed vaca, a bridesmaids dress, or maybe you just want to look and feel great. Working out is not a chore, but something to look forward to.

Make it count.

Follow @jwilltrain on Twitter.




Designing a Routine Part I.b for BACK

Building Muscle

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone” – Reba McEntire

Symmetry is the hallmark of good training. Bodybuilders, physiques competitors, and avid gym dwellers strive for just the right proportions.

The Back, comprising of multiple muscle groups, plays an important part in all of this. Gentlemen, if you really want that small waistline you need Lats that flare. Some of us ectomorphs have to work them for days, but it is attainable.

Very attainable. Assuming, of course, your nutrition is in on point, and you are training a minimum of 3 days a week.

Muscle Groups Worked

  • Latissimus Dorsi The “Wings” the Lats 
  • Teres Major The little Lat 
  • Rohmboids 
  • Trapezius 
  • Erector spinae 

Frank Zane, a bodybuilder from back in the “Glory Days”, became known across the land for his hyper-focus on symmetry. You just don’t rack up the titles he did without it.

While not a bodybuilder in the competition sense, I have followed his approach for years and base a good deal of my workout strategies around his knowledge.

I also believe in targeting muscle groups from multiple angles and being slightly unconventional. No wackadoodle broscience, just some creativity.

The Goal

To not only build strength and definition, but to focus on proportion.

The Workout (Option 1)


I was taught that if you choose these on Back Day instead of Leg day do them first. A compound exercise utilizing all the muscles in the back and some in the legs, keep reps low.

Warm up Set

Working Sets 8, 6, 6 or 5 x 5

Alternating Close Grip Lat Pulldown 

Get a Grip


Why close grip? A common misconception is that a wide grip = wide lats. A closer grip, slightly shoulder width apart, is more effective.

Sets 3

Reps 12, 10, 10,

V-Bar Pull


Because it’s a tried-&-true mass & thickness builder for the Lats & Rhomboids, I continue to use V-Bar Pull downs in a 5 sets of 5 rep range, using heavy weight.

Sets 5

Reps 5

✔ Tip: Keep rest periods here longer than others. 2 minute range or more. Why? Your using heavy weight.

Bent over Dumbbell Row


Sets 3

Reps 12, 10, 10

Pull ups/Unassisted

These are a no-brainer. When I was a struggling newbie, a fellow gym-goer said to me once, “If you really want to put all these knuckleheads to shame, everytime you walk in to the gym, go straight to the pull up bar and crank out 15, then go work out.”


It’s just one of those things that’s just stayed with me.

Sets 2

Reps “Until failure” “To fatigue” I still say, “As many as you can”

Standing Lat Pulldown

A good way to help isolate the Teres Major, or “Little Lat”


It’s also effective as you do not have the knee pads to use as resistance as you do in sitting. Focus on keeping your core tight and knees slightly bent.

Stand facing the stack with arms raised out front parallel with the floor. Grip bar shoulder width apart and pull down. Hold for a 2 count. Raise and repeat.

In all of my finishing exercises I reduce weight to lower and perform high rep sets.

Sets 3

Reps 15, 12, last set as many as I can.


The shoulder blade squeeze. This just feels awesome. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 20 – 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.

Now your ready for a protein shake, or your Tupperware full of egg salad, or 2 boiled chicken breasts, or…..

Read more from Frank in his interview with Flex : Q&A with Frank Zane