“but I’ve read that much shit at this stage u wouldn’t no what to believe. Everybody seems to contradict each other.”

I get messages like this on Facebook/Instagram about 2-3 times a week in terms of ‘Gaining Muscle’ and the fact is, yes there is a lot of conflicting stuff out there, especially in the World of Health & Fitness.

But like all the content I put out, I try to show you the (proper) Science behind it all, then couple that with years of coaching real people here in Galway and of course common sense. So hopefully you can see the bigger picture for yourself and make progress.

Of course a few years back I fell for this too, thinking I could gain a boat load of Muscle in a few weeks.

Or the latest you hear nowadays if someone isn’t losing body fat – I’ve heard Personal Trainers telling people that when their goal is to drop body fat, even though they’re seemingly gaining weight, that it’s all Muscle   If you hear that, slap him/her. Hard. In the face.

This blog will open your eyes to what’s REALISTIC to gain, IF you’re in a position to gain that is,

So here’s what you’ll (hopefully) take from this;

  1. The factors at Play for Gaining Muscle & why you’re probably not even ready to start gaining ‘Proper’ Muscle.

  2. Bodyfat % Starting Points that you ‘can’ start with.

  3. How Much can you’ actually Gain?

  4. Why FAT is inevitable when Gaining.

  5. Where/When do you actually STOP gaining Muscle


Here’s a Pyramid view on the factors at play in order of Importance. (I whipped this together from the references below)

Becoming the biggest & leanest version of yourself will ultimately come down to the hand you were dealt with (Thank your Parents ;-)) – but I won’t get picky with this here, so in a nutshell;

These are usually the Lads you see that are just naturally BUILT. Already have big arms/chest/calves etc. & when they even look at weights they grow.

Saying that, DO NOT let this limit your potential mentally, I see way too many lads get it in their heads that they just cannot put on weight/muscle which is a load of bull.

You can and you will, the journey may be hard and long but you’ll get there. Some pack on Muscle easier than others, some harder, some lose fat faster, some slower – get the drift. You’re a unique little flower at the end of the day.

Add drugs into the mix & it basically increases the rate at which you grow & growth beyond what’s natural too. This factor is one a lot of the people that ‘inspire’ you forget to tell you. That’s not a judgement either, it’s just fact. If I was taking something, I wouldn’t sell you on a magical dream that you can do it naturally.

Not fuelling your Growth & eating enough is one of the biggest downfalls I see for Lads wanting to add Size. It’s the same for Ladies too when they are in a position or want to do so, they’ve a fear of eating too much in the result of adding fat which we’ll take about in a minute.

But if you’re getting the rest of this Pyramid ‘right’ and not growing you’re probably miscalculating the food your taking in or simply not hitting enough to grow due to a number of factors. (E.G: higher energy output requiring more calories)

Another MAJOR downfall. Simply because I did this too, I wasted the first 2 years of ‘wanting to get big and strong’ by following stupid routines on Google & YouTube following massive bodybuilders. Training is the actual means by which we Grow, Nutrition then is only Permissive to Muscle Growth, meaning it helps us grow, but Training is the actual stimulus as to ‘the how’.

So here’s a quick breakdown of what I mean by ‘Training’ for Growing;

– Structured around the Main Compound Lifts: Squat/Bench/Press/Deadlift/Chin Ups/Heavy Rows/Romanian Deadlifts etc.

– Assistance Lifts to add Volume to these Movements: Dumbbell Presses/Lat Pulldowns/More Rowing Variations etc.

– Isolation Moves to Finish off your Sessions with Volume: Think Flys/Lateral Raises/Leg Extensions etc.

– 3/4 Of your Training in the 8-12 Rep Range

– 1/4 in the Heavy 3-5 rep range.

Can’t go too wrong with those guidelines above – just ask yourself, Are you doing at least some of the above 3-4 times a week?

More of an issue for those getting into Training because there intakes are just so low to either drop bodyfat, tone up or pack on size.

But you need to have a sufficient intake to facilitate GROWTH, repair and recovery. If you don’t, you’ll get sub-par results.

I dived into Protein Intake in detail, here: http://docfitnessonline.com/all-things-protein-to-maximise-gainz/

If you don’t manage the above you WILL not get the results you’re after. You’re ability to recover and push hard while staying fresh and full of Energy day to day will be seriously hampered.

You should take F/G very seriously, not just for getting results but for a better positive mental attitude/outlook too. Know how you feel after a proper nights sleep? Exactly.

The leaner you are – the more your gains will be edging towards lean muscle. We’ll talk more on that below.

Then comes the rest of the ‘Nutritional’ Pyramid that still has a say, but a lot smaller compared to the above. This becomes more important as you progress through the years.

So when you put that into a Graph – there’s A LOT at play:


I’ve talked about this here & it’s in visual format too: http://thedoc.ie/why-you-need-to-get-lean-first/

But here’s a quick refresher (2);

  • Men want to be at least 10-12% before starting to ‘gain.

  • Ladies around 20-24%.

Again – most Lads wanting to ‘get big’ need to come to the realisation that they’re maybe not ready right now.

So firstly, are you Lean Enough?


Here comes Reality and a big kick in the Face if you don’t know this already. First let’s look at a couple of ‘Models’ and then get our takeaways from those.

Lyle Mc Donalds Model for Muscle Gain (1):

Alan Aragons Model:

Along with the above and models from Martin Berkham & Eric Helms (4), I put this into a rough guideline here:

“Now, if you total up those values, you get a gain of roughly 40-50 pounds of total muscle mass over a lifting career although it might take a solid 4+ years of proper training to achieve that.

So if you started with 130 pound of lean body mass (say in high school you were 150 pounds with 12% body fat), you might have the potential to reach a level of 170-180 pounds of lean body mass after 4-5 years of proper training.

At 12% body fat, that would put you at a weight of 190-200 pounds.

Again, that’s a rough average, you might find some who gain a bit more and some who gain a bit less. And there will be other factors that impact on the above numbers (e.g. age, hormones, etc.) ~ Lyle Mc Donald.”

So now you can see that Gaining Solid Lean Muscle is HARD work.

You can also see why Consistency is so big in this game too,

And lastly you can see when people say they gained 20 pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks, it’s a LOL-able statement. (Thought I’d never see the day where I put ‘LOL’ in a blog )

So that’s MUSCLE Gain – What about Total Weight then Monthly?


Because you need to be in a Calorie Surplus beyond what is needed for MAXIMUM Muscle Gain – we cannot track (accurately anyways) how much of this new weight gain will be muscle or fat,

So here’s where setting a Monthly Bodyweight Target above your Growth potential from the above Graphs comes in handy. (3)

Shout out to Andy over at rippedbody.jp which I’ve used this from with great success;

Shoot for: 75-100% OVER your Growth Potential.

I.E: If you’ll be gaining 1LB of Muscle Per Month (Provided you’re doing everything right ) – Shoot for a 2lb Weight Gain on the scales.

Because it’s not an excuse to just Pig Out & ‘Get Big’ – Plus the benefits don’t really add up either.

Let’s say you and your Identical Twin went about Gaining Some Size. You both start at 10% Bodyfat-ish.

  • One doesn’t really track what they eat but hits his protein targets and eats A LOT of food daily.
  • One does the same training wise and everything else, only sticks to a Calorie & Macronutrient Range.

Here’s the end Results after let’s say 24 Weeks.

So, You’re going to gain the same amount of Muscle no matter what route you go, but if you don’t do it smartly you’re just going to gain unnecessary body fat. I.E: Don’t pig out.

If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen this post too which sums up the whole ‘How Much you can Gain’ nicely.


My guidelines are simple, that is, if you want to keep somewhat Lean going forward and not gain unnecessary body fat, so;

  • Men stop at 15-16%-ish body fat to avoid gaining too much body fat.

  • Ladies can shoot for 24-27%.


There’s so much more I could of went into here – but the main takeaway is simple because I wanted to keep this blog about ‘what’s possible when gaining’, so;

  • Know what’s realistic for you to gain & stop buying into the magic muscle gain hype everywhere today.
  • Are you taking care of the factors at play?
  • Remember: These are GUIDELINES, you’ll have outliers that can build more without gaining too much fat and vice versa. The idea is, at least you’ve something to build from.

Stay tuned for the next instalment too of this series where we’ll go deeper into some of the factors above.

In the meantime if you’re puzzled by anything here or have any questions, throw a comment below because it’s you I do this content for 🙂


Keep up to date with Weekly Videos, Blogs, Upcoming Coaching Programs & whatever random thoughts I might have that week for Progressing you forward 🙂 


1:Mc Donald, L. Bodyrecompoisition.com, http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/whats-my-genetic-muscular-potential.html

2: Forbes, GB. (2000) ‘Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise.’, Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000 May http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10865771

3: Morgan, A. Rippedbodyjp.com, http://rippedbody.jp/how-to-bulk/

4: Helms, E. Aragon, A & Fitschen, P. J. (2014) ‘Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation’Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition2014 11:20,  http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-11-20