Jason Momoa at the 'Aquaman' premiere.
Presley Ann/FilmMagic,
Gentl & Hyers / Getty

It serves as a good definition for training, because the truth is that, for most of us, all that really matters is size. That’s right. How big and solid you are is likely the most important thing you care about when it comes to hitting the gym. Sure, being cut, ripped, and defined is important, but overall, if you build mass, you stick out in a crowd, and are the envy of all who look upon you.

When we think of size, we can categorize it in two ways. The first is simply pure, lean muscle mass, the kind you would expect to build from a hypertrophy-based program with a diet designed to cut fat. The second, and the basis for this article, is the development of sheer size, the kind you want when bulking up for the winter. You know, the muscle mass that will stretch out the arms and chest area of long-sleeved shirts and pull apart the buttons of your dress shirts on formal occasions.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”wysiwyg”,”fid”:”435596″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”width: 612px; height: 344px; margin: 4px;”,”title”:””,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”}}]]

When most people embark on a bulking program for mass, the result is often accompanied by the addition and appearance of excess fat. In some cases, that fat growth outperforms muscle growth. To get big, you do have to add some fat along the way. In fact, good fat will actually help with your strength and overall ability to add more muscle (more on that later). But can you avoid becoming too fat and still build mass? The answer is yes. In fact you should be trying to do that. When competitors get too fat they inevitably lose considerable lean muscle when they diet down to competition form. So what’s the trick? You need at least eight to as many as 12 weeks or more to really see how big you can grow. To help you do this correctly, we are providing a two-part series that will be your how-to guide to getting MASSive without gaining too much excess fat mass.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”wysiwyg”,”fid”:”435531″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”width: 612px; height: 344px; margin: 4px;”,”title”:””,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”}}]]


So you have fat mass and lean mass, and then you just have mass mass. We all want lean mass, and we don’t want fat mass. When it comes to overall size, if we can make the bigness look good, then we are happy. While lean mass is preferential in most cases, by adding some good fat—meaning in all the right places—you’ll find that you build a bigger, thicker body and can still maintain decent cuts, vascularity, and shape. And the good news is that when you need to cut for a contest or just for the heck of it, you can, and you won’t lose your lean muscle mass. How? By building a program along with a diet that doesn’t cut fat but only gains it in proportion to the overall lean muscle mass that is built. For most, this is not the case, because we tend to do one of two things. We either diet too heavily, thereby reducing the ability to build solid muscle, or we overeat, thereby increasing fat stores so much that our cuts disappear. To prevent either scenario, we need to match calorie consumption with muscle building so that muscle and fat build accordingly. I wish there could be another way to build super-huge muscle and get cut at the same time, but it just simply isn’t possible in most people—yet, there are a rare few that can.

Cheat Day
Tina Terras & Michael Walter / Getty

To make this program work, you have to decide what level of fat you are comfortable with. For those of you who don’t mind getting fat, you should! You really don’t want to. However there is a way to build solid muscle, within an acceptable fat range.


Since fat is distributed all over your body, depending on what you are trying to see and when you want to see it, you can train so that you utilize fat to your advantage. The plan is to let a little more fat join the party as opposed to cutting fat when you are trying to lean out. You do this by cutting out cardio and any intense fat-burning sessions. You also complement your intentional decrease of fat burning with a small increase in your daily carb intake. For those less than 200 pounds add about 100g (or about 400 calories) and those more than 200 pounds add about 150g (about 600 calories). For those on the supersized side of things, you can add even a little more. There is a catch, though. Only add the extras at your morning or lunchtime meals or snacks. You should be shooting for around 12 –16% body fat and not let your fat get above 18% if at all possible. If that sounds high and you are used to normally hanging out at a lower level, then go for it, especially if you have seen results trying to build mass. But for those of you who are perpetually lean and trying to really build some size, you will be glad you can finally eat a few extra calories. If you are one who likes to go even more toward the fat side in the off-season, the excess fat will certainly help your strength but will impede your ability to get those longer-set exercises completed. Oh, and it will become much harder to lose it when you need to, and you will likely lose some of that hard-earned muscle. A way to measure your fat regularly without getting tested is to feel your abs, even possibly see a bump or two. At 12% you should be able to see some bumps. At 16% you may see a ripple here and there or you may not. Hence the range, since everyone carries their fat diferently. Do not let your abs disappear completely.

Man Bench Pressing
Westend61 / Getty

On the other side, you should not be stage ready, otherwise your diet is probably too strict to allow for good muscle building. Don’t be afraid to eat. Diets less than 2,000 calories per day will not help build mass unless you weigh only 135 pounds. Target 17–20 calories per pound of body weight as your daily goal. For those with faster metabolisms, you may be fine at 25 or even 30 calories per pound, but again, keep an eye on your abs if you want to have a smooth transition to leanness. Finally, make sure you eat good calories for the most part. Remember, you still need to keep your protein intake up at 35–40% of your diet for optimal protein synthesis to push your limits of bigness. For those who use a cheat meal methodology when really cutting, you need to get over it and understand that there is no such thing as a cheat, rather it is essential nutrients for your starved body to maintain muscle. But if you still want to use the word cheat, then it is time to cheat your ass of. You will find some good benefit from this approach for your muscles anyway as the extra fun foods carry important benefits that will enhance your recovery from the heavy loads and will fuel your machine for the next workout. Of course, we are not advocating that you go crazy and forget who you are and why you go to the gym altogether; rather, we’d like to see controlled-frenetic eating where additional calories are not a fear. 

Top 10 Squat Mistakes
Henk Badenhorst / Getty


No, not range of motion (which is important). Instead, a new term: Return on Mass. It means that you want to get out with more than you went in with. And while I could use a business analogy here, it is not necessary. You get the point. ROM training is based on rep schemes. How many, how often, and what is optimal have been a debate for decades on the iron scene. While physiologically we know the answers, when applied to real gym experiences, it doesn’t always work out, as not all are created equal. That is where science ends and hard work begins. It is also the point where the psychology of lifting comes into play, something that scientists have struggled to understand. Excuses like “I am not genetically engineered that way,” or “this muscle doesn’t grow like that,” are often used, but somehow those with true drive and passion seem to overcome them. Experience certainly counts, as you continue to grow training-wise the more you train. The longer you spend time in a gym, the more reps you do over the years, and the harder you train, the better your body responds to a specific training stimulus, and that stimulus will likely be better understood by you. So for maximum mass, stick to your strategy and hit the rep plan that is designed with mass in mind. For maximal ROM you want to increase strength, lift more weight, lift with a little less frequency, and let your body do the rest.


Ten has always been a magic number when it comes to reps. There is good reason. It appears that not only is it easy to remember but also the point after 10 seems to provide marginal returns when it comes to mass building. Several scientific studies have confirmed this fact, but so, too, has application. Ten is a safe bet as it falls between heavy-duty strength lifting and lighter-weight endurance lifting. While we know that for true hypertrophy, likely 12 reps or even a few more is best, the ROM(remember, Return on Mass) competes against strength, as volume training takes a lot more time. Strength is best found around 6 reps with a range up to around 8. Somewhere between strength and size is where mass fits in, and 8–10 reps fits this bill perfectly. As for your return-on-your-mass time allotment, you will have to spend a little more time once you are in the gym, but less time overall.

Squat 8 748339943
Westend61 / Getty


Remember when I said some fat is a good thing? When fat is stored interstitially (with- in the muscle fibers), it creates both a more full muscle but also an additional leverage point for muscles to push against, thereby increasing both size and strength. This is great for big muscle bellies like your quads, chest, and lats, but not so good for thinner muscles like your abs. Furthermore, in smaller, thinner muscles like the abs, which are separated by a ligamentous tissue, those separations don’t keep their hard end points as both the water you consume and the fat you build like to set up camp between your muscles. As you are also likely aware, as you consume more carbs along with water, your muscles will fill up, making you look great if timed properly. No doubt you also know that after a period of time, the water (and carbs) will seep out and fill up the space between muscle bellies making you look flat…again.


Unfortunately, with mass building, flat is really fat. But there is a solution. Rather than constantly worrying about carb timing and water depletion while you are bulking, do yourself a favor and concentrate your training on making your V larger, your chest bigger, and your quads something more like Branch Warren’s rather than Chicken Little’s. Getting fat and getting huge do not have to coexist in your same space. Heavy mass training means that your chest training outworks your belly training, and your shoulders and back training outwork your oblique bulge.


Say what? You don’t want me to train my abs? Yes, I did say that. Don’t worry though, in Part 2 of this program you will get to do a few exercises, but here is why you don’t need them now. While focusing on massing up, you don’t want to oversize your gut. With ab training, and then a little overeating, your gut thickness will truly show itself. And while your chest is getting freaky big, if your gut does, too, it will be hard to sport the V-shape on all four sides of your upper body. Both fat and water pool around the abs, and the combination of training and eating will simply turn your six-pack into a keg—it is part of that gravity thing (try hanging upside down for a while—watch your chest fill out). You want people to say, “Look how huge that guy is” not “Look at the size of that fat guy’s arms.” Trust me on this. Your abs will still get bigger and stronger with this mass program simply from your heavy squats and isolated lifts where you need to fire your core up to rip out the big reps.

To help with your overall mass, you will focus on your traps and shoulders for the first part of this program. I’m not suggesting that you need to go toe-to-toe with Markus Rühl, but we should steal a page or two out of his book, and muscle up. Thick shoulders enhance your drop and give you a lift that makes your gut your look smaller. You will hit some big chest, back, and quad exercises as well to round out your size. 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”wysiwyg”,”fid”:”435546″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”width: 612px; height: 289px; margin: 4px;”,”title”:””,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”}}]]


Essentially, the first part of this two-parter is designed around a few main body parts that utilize a hybrid strength-type training method that would fit the bulking-up description perfectly. Out of the box, you will lift heavy and take longer rests (like a strength program). As you get toward the end of your workout, you are encouraged to extend your set on the last few exercises to enhance your pump and also to target those last few straggling muscle fibers that were not hit and help to exhaust your strength reserves. In this first phase, you will rely primarily on big strength lifts that will enhance your overall appearance of hugeness. You will definitely hit some of the sculpting-type exercises, as one should never let his arms dangle freely in a medium T-shirt. But rather than work them to oblivion, making Synthol look like an over-the-counter drug, you will set your sights on crushing new PRs on multijoint pulls and pushes. The second phase will take your big bulk, lean it out just a little by focusing on a slightly faster pace and targeting the rest of those pretty-boy muscles. So don’t worry, it won’t be long before you can flaunt your physique in front of your gym’s mirrors. – FLEX

Click HERE for Winter Mass Part 2 >>