The 3 Principles of Bodybuilding that Will Keep You Growing Forever, and Ever

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Every time you scroll through your favorite social network you will more often than not find the news feed overwhelmed with diet and fitness tips on how to lose weight and get shredded as if every one of us has the same problem. Well, we don’t, so here is an article for all of us out there who struggle to put on weight, with a metabolism that would stagger a hummingbird (how do they stay so shredded?).

The fact of the matter is, there are several key, and if you make them your habits, easy principles you need to follow in order to add size. And remember, if you are a hard-gainer, a metabolism freak, you needn’t worry about things like “dirty” food, excess calories, separating yolks from egg whites, or peeling the skin off of chicken breasts, no, you will need to consume calorie dense foods with excess fat in order for your body to be able to utilize all of the protein you consume and help your muscles rebuild after hard workouts. Just as a side note, in case you have health issues, or are prone to high cholesterol or blood pressure, consult a health professional to create the ideal nutrition plan for you.

Eat, Sleep, Train, Repeat

Let me begin with the assumption that you want to be a natural athlete and utilize as much of your genetic potential as you possibly can, and that you plan to lift for a long time (I know you’re fantasizing about lifting your final PR on your deathbed), and in order to do that you need not only train hard, but also optimize your training for maximum muscle recovery and growth.

You see, we as natural lifters have a tendency of wanting to look and lift like professional bodybuilders, so we follow them on social media, we try to do what they do, we follow their workout programs and we believe that we will, in a reasonable amount of time, see veins popping everywhere and our muscles swell up for no good reason. The truth is significantly different.

You cannot expect to be able to follow a professional bodybuilder’s workout program and live, simply because those guys have a 300% faster recovery rate

We will never look like professional athletes because we don’t use anabolic steroids or other forms of performance enhancing drugs and therefore, we need to optimize our training to what our bodies can handle. Your focus, if you want to add mass, should be on the 3 key areas below:

1) Perform compound exercises over Isolation movements

2) Don’t over-train

3) Recover

Think of it this way, isolation work exists for muscle definition and separation primarily and not for building mass, so how do you expect to isolate and separate what you don’t have? That’s right, you can’t, so what you need to do is step away from the preacher machine and step in front of a deadlift bar.

When it comes to adding mass, compound always trumps isolation

The premise is simple – compound exercises like the deadlift, bench-press, squat, and over-head-press, are key movements that force your body to compensate for the overload of weight you are putting on it, hence your body starts to produce more testosterone, your HGH levels spike (when you sleep properly) and when you incorporate proper nutrition, you’ll be on the fast track to becoming massive.

These compound exercises are not meant to be done in the same manner as isolation movements that are to be executed in a 12-20 rep range, no, they are for strength, explosive power, and overload. How do you expect to overload the bar and do 15 reps? You can’t. So when doing, for instance, the deadlift, a 5×5 pattern would be the optimal program for weight and strength progress.

…but don’t overdo it

Overtraining is also a common problem in natural lifters, as we all believe that doing more is better, where in fact, doing the right amount is best. You cannot expect to be able to follow a professional bodybuilder’s workout program and live, simply because those guys have a 300% faster recovery rate than you, so they can, and need to train six times a week with maximum effort, and they will reap the rewards while you and I, well, won’t.

In order to reap the benefits of both aesthetic and power training, follow these rules:

  • One compound movement per workout at the beginning followed by hypertrophy work
  • Compound exercises in a 5×5 manner, hypertrophy work in a 3×8-12 manner
  • Four exercises per muscle group max
  • Train four times a week for mass, but don’t be a couch potato on rest days
  • Do two exercises for biceps and two for triceps max, your arms are working all week in every single workout and if you train them additionally, you’ll actually dry them up and their muscle mass will decrease. Be smart.
  • Read our article on learning to listen to your body so you recognise the signs of overtraining.

 Rich Piana, who is one massive guy, has gained a reputation for being straight up and honest about his steroid use (in an world that covers it up). Check out his video on youtube which explains the difference between training for mass when natural versus when on steroids, here’s the link.

…and eat, in a BIG way

Minimal daily caloric requirements for a non-active individual are, on average, 1500kcal in order to, well, live. Now just imagine how many calories you as a struggling ectomorph lifter have to be eating every day in order to gain size and push your body to actually grow? A lot more, and I am talking maybe even 2-3 thousand calories more.


Eating this much is not an easy task, financially or mentally, and until you push yourself to regard this lifestyle as a habit, you will struggle, and you will be bloated, and you will want to quit. Learning to eat regularly and enough will make the difference between gaining size and not, or losing what you already have. This is the mental battleground where you should ask yourself how big do you really want to get? 

Top Tip: Do not be afraid to eat calorie dense foods such as salmon, almonds, beef and rice, as they will all give you the nutritional benefits you need to pack on size. Plus they will make hitting those minimum daily calories more realistic (especially if you’re a hard gainer).

A typical daily caloric intake for me, in order to gain weight, is as follows:

  • 400 grams of chicken
  • 300 grams of beef
  • 140 grams of oats
  • 600 grams of rice
  • 1 banana
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 100 grams of lettuce
  • 100 grams of carrots
  • 40 milliliters of olive oil
  • 100 grams of nuts

Total calorie intake – 4007 calories. Do you think you can follow an eating routine like that?

Until you start eating a lot, don’t expect to see results any faster than you already are. And don’t worry, it might seem like a lot just by looking at it, but all of the above can be divided into substantial, but manageable meals. Once you get used to it, I guarantee you will preach it to someone else who will then look at you with the same shocking stare, until they try a similar eating regime.

The above is merely an example of what I like to eat, there are numerous ways you can spice up your eating routine. You can incorporate pasta, salmon, tuna, various salads, cheeses, other types of nuts, etc. Also remember to constantly hydrate, as our bodies require 1.5 liters of water a day to function normally, and another 1.5 liters is required if you work out. The process of making yourself drink 3 liters of water a day is not as hard as it seems to be, you will experience some hardship in the first few days, and after that, your body will start to crave water like never before because it is no longer running on the same low-water intake.

Top TIp: Splitting your meals into smaller more frequent meals is a great way to boost your metabolism, but If your metabolism is already high, there is no need to speed it up further. That being said consuming a large number of calories is easier when spreadout throughout the day.

Sleeping is Not Just for Being Beautiful

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and sure, you are beautiful, but that’s not the only benefit of getting a good night’s sleep. One day, when you are old, that means over 40, your body will require less sleep, but for now, while you’re still young, giving yourself a good 8 hours of sleep every night will mean the world to your overall health, but more importantly to you gym rats, your gains.


Even though the pro’s have a faster recovery rate they too must get plenty of sleep

The human growth hormone (or HGH) spikes during your REM cycle (rapid eye movement sleep), so in order to reap the benefits of this hormone you have to have long and continuous sleeping patterns, preferably going to sleep at the same time every night.

We all sleep deeply and lightly at different stages during the night, usually REM begins one hour to an hour and a half after you’ve fallen asleep and you will have about three REM cycles during your 8-9 hour sleep period, and in order to benefit from your sleeping, you should go to bed before midnight at least.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can squeeze some extra HGH if you take a post-workout nap, as napping is too short to spike HGH levels, rather take a nap to regain some energy and move on with your day. Never take a nap longer than 20-30 minutes, as the results will be counterproductive.

If you learn to adhere to these three core principles, you will, in a very short time, grow – even if you are a hard gainer

Although we cannot reprogram our DNA, we can influence it to a certain extent, and given the fact that you are in control of your body and not the other way around, with persistence and planning you can program it to consider what was once unnecessary (like you weighing a hundred kilos) to be a normal state of being.

So push for your dreams and never give up…until you realize that fitting into normal clothes was better and you read one of my other articles on how to lose weight.

If you like what you’ve just read, and are ready for the next step, you should set your goals and expectations by reading how big do you really want to get? 


About Author

Nikola has a bachelor's degree in management, branding, marketing and copywriting. He is a master with words and a warrior with the iron, the dumbbell kind. A lifelong fitness enthusiast, bodybuilder and competitive power lifter, he enjoys nothing more than teaching good form and lifting technique.

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