How To Build Muscle Naturally

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People go the gym for all sorts of reasons, but two pop up again and again – to lose weight and build muscle. Both are worthy goals, and both require a good deal of hard work and commitment.

However, while putting in the effort is key to both losing weight and building muscle, you need a plan to go alongside your endeavour in order to succeed. When it comes to bulking up in particular, rushing in blind is as likely to lead to injury as it is a beefier physique.

To help ensure your effort leads to the results you’re after, Coach enlisted celebrity trainer Corey Calliet – who, perhaps most notably, trained Michael B Jordan when he starred in Creed– for his advice on building muscle. Keep reading for advice on how to build more muscle from two-time WBFF World Physique Champion, Shaun Stafford. 

What are the basics of building muscle?

There are numerous theories, methods and preferences, whether the goal is to improve health, aesthetics, performance or a combination of all three. There is no shortage of information to help you get there – so much that it can seem a little complicated.

Keep it simple! Eat the proper amounts of protein, carbs and fats at frequent times. Train intensely and with a purpose but also do not forget to rest. Sleeping properly and taking a full rest day each week will also help.


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What are the best workouts and exercises to build muscle?

The best workouts for building muscle are made up mostly of functional weight training exercises, such as the bench pressbarbell curltriceps extensionlat pull-downoverhead press and squat.

For beginners, I would say find your rhythm first of all – as in what form of training do you enjoy the most? There are bodyweight exercises that you can do with minimal equipment at home or outdoors. If you are really itching to get in the gym, I recommend getting yourself a trainer who will teach you proper form.

What mistakes do people commonly make when trying to build muscle?

Most commonly it’s ego lifting – they try to go to heavy, do too much and end up injuring themselves. It’s best to understand the capacity of your body and build your strength, stamina and endurance, and eventually you will be at the point where you can lift heavier, run faster and so on.

How quickly should you expect to build muscle?

With proper and consistent training, you can start seeing results in 21 days.

Do you have any other top tips for building muscle?

The only way to build quality muscle is through a detailed nutrition program, intense training, rest and recovery. Above all, have patience, fall in love with the process and go into this journey with the mindset that it will take time.

How To Build MORE Muscle

To build a cover model body is one thing, to maintain it all year round is quite another. But in his role as the UK’s highest-profile Optimum Nutrition ambassador, as well as two-time WBFF World Physique Champion, Shaun Stafford is constantly tweaking the key training variables: exercise selection, weight used, sets and reps per move, the time he spends doing each set and the rest he takes between them.

“You have to keep your muscles guessing as to what’s coming next to build and then maintain muscle mass, because if your body is in its comfort zone it’s very hard to keep making physique or performance progress,” says Stafford, who’s also performance director of City Athletic in London. “It’s not always about lifting the heaviest weight you can for eight reps, resting, then going again: you need to out-smart your muscles if you want them to keep growing.”

Make sets last longer

“One of the most important factors in hypertrophy, or muscle mass growth, is how long each set lasts,” says Stafford. “People fixate on rep counts and rush their sets, but the time your muscles are exposed to tension from the weights is more important. You want your sets to last between 40 and 70 seconds. So a set of ten reps needs to have a 3010 tempo, with the three seconds being a slow and controlled eccentric, to hit that magic 40-second mark.”

Use the right weights

“To add muscle mass quickly you should ideally be lifting at around 80-85% of your one-rep max for a given move. But you may have to check your ego at the gym door and lighten the weights to make sure you are doing eight to 12 reps at the right tempo to hit that hypertrophy time under tension range.”

Rest until you’re ready

“When burning fat is your training priority it makes sense to keep rest intervals between sets short, but you can take more time to recover when lifting for muscle so you’re fresh enough to lift the right weight for the right number of reps. I rest for a maximum of two minutes between sets – any longer takes me out of my ‘zone’ and you must remain focused to train hard.”

Mix in supersets

“Straight sets are great for working a muscle thoroughly and I always start a session with a solid straight set. But supersets are a fantastic way to increase your training volume – another key factor behind hypertrophy – without spending more time in the gym. Try supersetting antagonistic muscle groups – so chest and back, or biceps and triceps – to ignite your training.”

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.