Mass Building 101

Dos, don'ts, and a complete training program to pack on mass.


Kevin Horton

A bodybuilder in mass-gain mode will face all sorts of questions. Well-meaning friends and family will comment with a tinge of worry about the superhuman amounts of food you’re eating. They’ll question why you can’t skip the gym “just this once.” Some jokester will suggest a steady diet of fast food and ice cream to get huge. (Yep, no one has ever thought of that before.) 

Thing is, you probably have questions, too. But you can’t turn to all those laypeople in your life who wonder why anyone would want to transform themselves into a human anatomy chart. No, you need experts. Someone who understands your quest, who helps dedicated folks just like you pack on solid, lean mass for a living.

We’ve tapped our favorite trainers to get their key dos and don’ts, covering a range of training, nutrition, and supplementation tips. Just one extra “don’t” before we begin: Don’t let any of the doubters get to you. All will be clear to everyone soon enough, when your relentless efforts lead to awe-inspiring results. 


Sometimes your inability to gain mass boils down to one brutally simple reason—you just haven’t been at it long enough. “Anyone who has ever said that they aren’t able to put on muscle, lean out, or accomplish something fitness related maybe just hasn’t stuck to their nutrition and training program long enough,” Dustin Kirchofner, C.S.C.S., says. “Consistency over a longer term is the key.” 


The human body is an insanely complex feat of nature, but there’s a straight- forward balance when it comes to your mass-gain efforts: At any time during the day, you’re either in an anabolic or catabolic state. That is, your body is either building lean tissue—or burning it off for energy. Rarely, if ever, are you perfectly equalized between the two.

What does this mean in practical terms? For gaining weight, you need to stay anabolic, says Heather Farmer, a New York–based personal trainer, fitness coach, CrossFit group class instructor, and Olympic weightlifting national competitor in the USA Weightlifting 63kg women’s class. “You cannot afford to skip meals,” she adds. “If more than two or three hours has passed and you haven’t had any food, go eat! And don’t be too picky—macros are macros when your options are limited.”


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