If you find your desire to become muscular turning into a need to build muscle, you're likely someone with a genetically slender build. Why else would someone feel a need to build muscle? Sure, there's the possibility that you're an actor who's been cast for a role that requires your being a muscular stud. But people with that career are rare, the request of physical transformation for those who choose it, even rarer. Most likely, if you have a need to build muscle, it's because you're a died-in-the-wool ectomorph.
So what's an ectomorph? It's really just an idiotic label that's been put on those individuals who have extremely slim physiques. Ectomorphs are said to have trouble "gaining weight." In fact, they're practically conditioned to accept this idea from the time they're young and first called "skinny" by their peers. It's no wonder a typical ectomorph can end up with desperation to gain solid weight that turns into a need to build muscle.
Sadly, what often happens to slender people with a need to build muscle is they fall prey to every stupid muscle building fad to come down the line. If you're slim, you're told you need to "gain weight." You're subsequently given eating prescriptions that will surely put weight on you. However, you quickly learn that adding fat and water weight is a far cry from putting on muscle.
Need to Build Muscle? The Right Mindset
If you're an ectomorph, or of any other body type who feels a need to build muscle, this advice is going to be different. It's not going to sound like what you keep seeing elsewhere on the Internet. That's not to say that I'm the only one with sound information; on the contrary, I've seen some good stuff out there. It's just that much of the prevailing wisdom is built on the premise that if you're a slender person (ectomorph), then you're a special case; that the muscle building formula is somehow "different" for you.
My suggestion is that you change that mindset immediately. Starting your muscle building quest from the point of being a skinny person is only a reflection of your starting point, not your potential. Think about it: If you see yourself as an ectomorph, you probably possess at least two-thirds of the following three characteristics:
You have small bones
You have small muscles
You have very little body fat
If that's the case, so what; how do any or all of those traits have anything to do with how you'll build muscle? They don't. They're not a reflection of your ultimate bodybuilding potential. Neither are they an indication of the difficulty or ease with which you might gain that. They're only a place of beginning.
However, starting out as an 'ectomorph' does call for a slightly different tactic at the outset. That small difference needs to then dovetail into a bigger modification that I recommend to all natural bodybuilders. If you have a need to build muscle in an uninterrupted manner... without hitting progress plateaus, then read on.
'Need to Build Muscle?' Here's what Matters Most
Here's a question: Do you ever wonder why those with a need to build muscle are susceptible to an ongoing array of muscle building scams? It's never-ending; there always seems to be a new bodybuilding supplement you need to take in order to get your muscles growing. If not that, then some 'training guru' has a whacky new way for you to perform an exercise that's supposed to speed your gains - as if hanging a big chain off your bench-press bar is going to suddenly cause muscle growth.
Why do these powdered potions and fancy tactics never really work over the long run?
I think it's because of two elemental ingredients that are needed for long-term natural muscle growth. These are two ingredients that many natural bodybuilders are unaware of:
A custom training/recuperation ratio that often requires more rest days than are customarily accepted.
Realization that this optimal training/recuperation ratio needs to be dynamic - not static.
The training/recuperation ratio consists of four major components:
The number of exercises per muscle.
The number of sets per exercise.
The intensity of those sets.
The number of rest days between working each muscle.
The first three components are what tear down the muscle tissue and stimulate it to recuperate and grow. The fourth one is what directly causes the muscle growth to occur. The reason there's a ratio involved is because the more tissue damage that occurs with components one through three, the higher the number of rest days are needed in component four. It's really that simple.
'Need to Build Muscle?' Get the Ratio Optimized
When I listed the two ingredients above, I said that recuperating often "requires more rest days than are customarily accepted." This is especially the case when a person gets some experience and muscular development under his or her belt. Why? Think about it: The more muscle size we have, the more tissue that needs recuperating between workouts. Thus, as you get bigger, you'll need to add rest days between your workouts in order that you continue making progress.
If you're starting as an ectomorph, however, you have less tissue needing post-workout recuperation than what's considered average. Therefore, you can start with the minimum number of rest days between workouts. Obviously, even what's considered a minimum in this case depends on what you do with components 1 - 3, above. For simplicity reasons, I recommend starting out by providing just the number of exercises and sets, at just the degree of intensity, that allows each muscle to be worked every seventh day. This allows you to work each one of your muscles on a once-per-week schedule; Ex: you work your chest on Monday - it's ready to be worked again on the following Monday.
Once you get this ratio optimized on a four-day split in which you work each muscle once-per-week, you should milk that training schedule out for all it's worth. When you've stopped making gains with it, simply begin adding additional rest days to the schedule until progress resumes. So if you'd been working your chest every Monday, you'd add a rest day so that if you work chest on Monday of this week, you'll work it on Tuesday of next week, and Wednesday of the week after that. Once that schedule stops producing gains, you'll just add another rest day.
Personally, I've reached a point in which I've added so many rest days, I refer to the few times I hit the gym each month as my monthly 'workout cycle.' Some people find this ridiculous, but I really don't care. I continue making natural gains while they waste time under the pretext of "if I don't work my muscles at least every 144 hours, I'll lose what I've got."
I urge you to join me. If you're an ectomorph who feels a desperate need to build muscle, don't fall for the fancy workout or muscle-building supplement hype. Your first priority is to get your workout/recuperation ratio optimized. After that, your main focus should be on keeping it that way.