In the cold harsh winter months we tend to cover up and put those rock hard abs away for the summer. Therefore it’s the perfect time to focus on gaining size. This is a question that I’m often asked – how do I get bigger? Unfortunately this is not a one line answer. However it doesn’t have to be as complicated as some people would have you believe. So don’t stress about following a complex training plan if you’re at the beginner or even intermediate stage. Sticking to these 5 key principles will stand you in good stead to gaining size alongside a solid nutrition plan.

1) SQUATS – most lifters focus on the bench press in their goal for mass. However the back Squat is without a doubt the number one choice as the best overall mass movement. It’s estimated that the squat involves hundred of muscles both lower and upper body, therefore it boosts growth hormone better than any other exercise. During a muscle building phase make sure that you squat at least once a week.

2) Deadlifts – Deadlifts like the squat works hundreds of muscles all over the body. It’s emphasis however is on the quads, hamstrings, glute Max and most muscles of the back and forearms. Again like the squat this exercise helps the body release more testosterone and growth hormone more than any other exercise. To build overall strength and size the deadlift can’t be ignored. Make sure that this lift is in your training plan once a week.

3) Gain strength to gain size – it’s been well documented that the optimal rep range for muscle growth is between 8-12. However to be able to lift more in that range you need to get stronger. Studies have shown that the rep range between 2-6 works best for strength gains. This range produces the best changes in muscle fibres and the nervous system which promotes strength. While not every exercise has to be done in this rep range I’d recommend that you lift as heavy as possible in the compound movements such as squats, dead lifts, bench, bent over rows and barbell shoulder presses.

4) Forced reps – In my opinion this is essential for blasting through plateaus and stimulating new muscle growth. A forced rep is when you reach the point of failure during a set and a training partner/spotter helps you squeeze out a couple more reps past the normal point of failure. This fatigues the muscle fibres more than normal, thereby stimulating more growth and muscle density. So although it hurts – you must push part the point of failure.

5) Tempo – most lifters perform each rep at the same speed regardless of the exercise. The typical tempo is 1-2 seconds down and 1-2 seconds up. Now it’s not to say this is wrong but to stimulate your muscles further you can switch to performing your reps faster or slower. I like train at a slower more controlled tempo such as 3-4 seconds and down and 1-2 seconds up. Next time you do barbell curls try using a 4:1 tempo and feel your biceps scream.

So that’s my 5 keys to gaining size. Thanks for reading.

Derek Brettell