Most bodybuilding advice is misleading
This handbook is the result of one year's research into what modern science proves is the most efficient way to build muscle mass. It's for both men and women.
I wrote this guide because — even in 2017 — much of the casual weightlifting advice is unsubstantiated and misleading. I can't blame most bloggers for it, because many of the facts in this guide have not been broadly published outside of scientific literature.
This handbook contradicts much of the popular bodybuilding recommendations, including the myth that women have a harder time gaining beginner muscle, that exercise rest times should be kept to 1–3 minutes, that most body weight exercises are useful, that machine exercises are less effective than barbell ones, and so on.
Throughout this handbook, I consistently support my claims by citing studies and showing you how to measure your weekly gains so you can confirm you're growing.
Speaking of growth, a beginning bodybuilder can build muscle fast: Expect ~20lbs (9kg) of muscle in 3 months when closely following a researched program like this. (After that, muscle gains slow down drastically.)
These results are achievable for every man and woman. Having “bad genetics” is not a real thing preventing beginners from gaining muscle. That's another myth I'll bust.
In addition to being scientifically accurate, this guide is also comprehensive. I dislike tutorials that provide 75% of what you need to know then leave you with unanswered questions. To make sure this handbook is your complete reference for building muscle mass fast, I've spent a year fine-tuning it to include proven nutrition and workout plans.
We're about to learn what the research says regarding:
- How to eat to gain muscle mass.
- The best exercise routine.
- Measuring your weekly muscle gains.
- Overcoming plateaus.
Inspired? You should be. If before now you haven’t been willing to spend 1–2 years in the gym to get results, get excited because you can compress that into 3–4 months.
Bear with me, as I know this sounds like an infomercial. But you will be impressed with this handbook. If you're still skeptical after reading it, you can call me a fool on Twitter.
And I should mention: This handbook is free.
I spend months researching topics to write concise, book-quality guides.
I release them online and for free because books have to hit high page counts, which results in filler content that annoys readers.
Previously, I was a startup founder. My work has been profiled in Forbes, I’ve written a book, I’ve built a popular open source library, and I’ve started and sold a company.
If you were impressed with the quality of my Startup Growth handbook, you know I deliver when I make lofty claims about quality.
Come say hello on Twitter.
Bodybuilding advice for everyone
I'm covering the universal principles of how to build muscle fast. For a skinny guy. For a ripped guy. And for women.
If you're a beginning bodybuilder, you'll learn how to add 20 lbs (9 kg) of muscle. If you're an intermediate, you'll learn how to break through plateaus. If you're looking to get stronger instead of bigger, 95% of this handbook applies to you.
How much muscle can I gain?
Let’s develop a realistic expectation so you’re not disappointed when you complete this program, and so you sustain motivation throughout your gradual muscle gains.
First, select your gender to display the appropriate content:
How long does it take to build muscle?
Below are photos of me before working out and 90 days later. You can get significantly bigger than the 90 day mark by continuing the program for another 2–3 months. (After 5–6 months, however, you gain muscle at about ~2lbs or 0.9kg per year.)
My arms went from 11" (28cm) unflexed to 13.5"(34cm). Inspiring for just 90 days.
I've just begun collecting images from readers. Please Tweet me about getting your images shown so they can inspire other readers!
The muscle gains below are from days 0 to 90.
I’m a recent graduate from the University of Warwick in the UK, and currently working as an A-levels Mathematics teacher in Pakistan.
I came across Julian’s handbook on a website bookmarking tool I check daily. I was hooked by how well written and planned it felt. I spent a couple hours going through the whole of it and felt really motivated by how straightforward he made it seem.
Added to that, the fact that he made sure to backup any claims he made with scientific research papers, helped convince me to go for it.
There were of course other factors. I was going through a rough period. And I was interested in someone I knew well. She was into being healthy and keeping fit, while I was impartial about it. That had nothing to do with her decision, but it just kept nagging at the back of my mind that it might have been different if I were more fit.
I decided to get started with the program on January 4th, 2017.
The first week was preparation. I got into the habit of going to the gym. I also learned the form for exercises, and tested my muscles to find my starting weights. There were of course problems I faced. I’ll go through the problems below so that anyone who wants to take this handbook up can maybe learn a thing or two from my experience.
The first problem I faced was that my gym had weight increments in 2.5 kgs for dumbbells and 8 kgs for pulley machines. I had read in the guide about magnetic weights, which attach onto dumbbells, and that would have been the perfect solution. But the problem was that, in Pakistan, magnetic weights were very hard to come by.
So I consulted with the gym trainer and asked Julian directly and came to the conclusion to buy strap-on wrist weights for 1.25 and 2.5 lbs. I used these to increment my weights as 2.5 kg was a bit too much for each time I went to the gym.
Next was that food here in Pakistan is pretty difficult to measure calories for. Many foods are cooked and served with gravy and even the majority of packeted foods have no caloric information given on them.
The estimated calories on Myfitnesspal and elsewhere varied a lot and left me confused when I tried to follow them. So I decided after a while to just give it a rough estimate. As Julian had suggested in the guide, I tried to over-eat on my gym days by 20% and under-eat on non-gym days by 20%.
I knew that my estimates couldn’t be too far off because they roughly matched what I had found online. Even now, I am going by estimating. I think I’ve gained a kg or two of fat due to this, but I should be able to burn it off in the coming months with the help of the guide's fat loss section.
Another problem was that I couldn’t find high-resistance hand grippers in Pakistan to improve my grip strength. The highest they would go is 40 kg. There really wasn’t any solution I could come across for this problem. But when I switched to Julian's plan B, it didn’t matter anymore since the weights I was using had increased to a decent heaviness, so my grip strength kept up automatically.
Additionally, for some exercises I couldn’t progress as the guide instructed. The goal is to lift heavier every time you go to the gym, but I made a mistake I think, in that my form for some exercises was not perfect and thus I couldn’t progress the next time I went to the gym. Also, I learned that body weight exercises were not very productive.
However, out of fear of not growing, I kept increasing the weights, albeit slowly. In hindsight I should have kept it at a lower weight until I could do the exercise perfectly, which is what I’m going to be doing from now. It’ll slow down my muscle gains for a bit.
The last problem was that I couldn’t find Citrulline Malate powder in Pakistan (Julian's note: This is covered on the next page), and getting it imported was not an option. I don’t know how much an effect it’s supposed to have but according to the guide it’s very helpful for plan B. I hope to be able to get it in the days to come.
It’s been 3 months now and, as you can see, there has been a significant change in my physique. About 6.8 kg (15lbs) just in terms of muscle mass. Much of it in my legs as well. Indeed, my upright posture is better in the "after" photos, but notice how much bigger my triceps and upper chest are.
Over these 3 months, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve changed a lot. I’m more confident around people and I feel empowered to do whatever I want to, whether it’s public speaking or trying out a new sport. I think improving my posture and stature through proper exercise form has helped a lot with that.
I think the best part about the program is, that even though I started with the intention of leaving it after 3 months, now that I’m here I want to continue on. Because my whole lifestyle has changed. I don't shy away from going to the gym, running instead of driving, or eating healthy. I am addicted to identifying ways to stay fit and eat well. Now that I know how much of a positive impact it has on how I feel — and look.
Kudos to Julian for devoting the time and effort into writing this guide.
You know that cycle where you keep delaying a diet because you can’t stop saying to yourself, “Let me eat dessert tonight and I’ll officially start my diet tomorrow”? That cycle can happen with bodybuilding too.
Commit or don’t, but don’t lie to yourself.
Let's work through some of your potential concerns:
- Have a history of not following through? Identify the person you respect most in life — someone who you don't want to think of you as a quitter. Tell them about your 90 day fitness goal and ask them to hold you to it. Create a calendar event for 3 months from now and include them in it.
- Too lazy to commute to the gym? I'll explain how to work out from home.
- Concerned it’ll take long? Men only have to get to this size to be optimally attractive to women. You can build muscle fast — in just 90 days. You don't have to get huge. Now you know how long does it takes to build muscle. Visualize it.
- Have a hard time scheduling workouts? Wake up an hour earlier than normal and work out in the mornings before your day kicks off.
- Don’t have the time? Getting bigger only requires 1 hour three times a week. C'mon.
- Are you embarrassed to go to the gym? Pay for a couple training lessons at your local gym so you can learn proper form. If you're a frail, skinny guy, remember this guide teaches skinny guys how to build muscle just as effectively as everyone else.
- Afraid you don't have the talent? Bodybuilding requires zero talent. You don't have to be an athlete whatsoever. If you can put food in your mouth and lift your groceries, you can lift weights. Human bodies are naturally wired for it.
- Don't like lifting weights? Wish you could just do body weight exercises? Nearly every person who gets into the gym at least 6 times to build the habit and see early results winds up loving the feeling of lifting weights. Take my word for it.
My favorite mind hack for gym motivation is only allowing myself to listen to my favorite bands and podcasts when I'm working out.
Don’t you want to finally be at a place where you wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and think, “I look pretty good.”? You're 90 days away from that. Go mark it in your calendar. Surprise all your friends with a big three-month transformation.
So stop procrastinating. Let's freaking do this.
Here's a final piece of motivation: listen to the words spoken in this video.