The Newbie Gym Goer’s Guide to Building Muscle

Most Gym-Goer’s Aren’t Following The Golden Rules to Building Muscle

Building muscle is a common problem every newbie gym-goer will struggle with at one point or another.

You’re rushing around the gym and just don’t know where to start. Or heck, maybe you’ve been lifting weights for quite some time now, yet you aren’t seeing the results you want too.

Countless people in the gym are lifting weights for hours at a time multiple days a week yet they still aren’t building the muscle they want.

The problem is that you aren’t following the basic principles of building muscle. The formula to building muscle is simple, but if it isn’t followed you end up wasting a ton of time, overtraining, and worse of all still a frail chicken.

Don’t fret, if you follow the golden rules below, you’ll be well on your way to creating the body of your dreams!

The Golden Rules to Building Muscle

  1. Strength Training

Strength training is the first thing you should be doing to build muscle. Sounds obvious right? Of course, you should be lifting weights to build muscle! But I’m not just talking about lifting weights for the benefits of your muscles and joints, I’m talking about building bigger muscles.

You see, most people, when they lift, aren’t training for strength. They’re using lightweight and more reps which isn’t where you should start when first building muscle.

Strength training is lifting heavier weight and performing fewer reps. This is where the bulk of your muscle growth takes place.

With that in mind, there are a certain number of prescribed reps you should be doing.

2. Reps Scheme and Sets

You should be lifting weights in the 5-8 rep range when you’re building your first layer of muscle.

This rep range is the sweet spot by allowing you to lift heavy enough weight while keeping your muscles under enough tension. If you go too heavy in weight and too low in reps, the muscles aren’t under enough tension to grow and you increase your chances of injury.

Also, if the reps are too high, then you end up not using heavy enough weight that allows your primary muscle growth to take place.

You don’t need to perform any more than three sets for each exercise in this rep range to make this happen.

Now, you can’t just follow this scheme on just any old lift. You need to calibrate which exercises you do to target your largest muscles.

3. Compound Lifts

Compound lifts are the lifts you want to do to make sure you get the most out of your workouts.

These lifts are multi-joint movements that hit the larger muscles in your body. For example, squats as opposed to leg extension and bench press as opposed to skull crushers.

If you’re making the mistake to focus on isolation lifts when you’re just starting out, you’re in trouble.

Isolation lifts are great for advanced lifters to make their muscles pop and give them that final 20% of growth, but they’re not what you want to do initially to build a stout frame.

You need to focus on the big lifts that expend the most energy and hit the bigger muscles.

4. Caloric Surplus

You can’t out-train a bad diet and that’s where hitting the right amount of calories come in. When you’re trying to build muscle, you want to make sure you’re eating a caloric surplus.

That means you should be eating more calories than you burn daily.

Your muscles need fuel for growth.

When you’re trying to build muscle, you should be eating 300-500 calories above caloric maintenance.

This may sound like a lot, but this is as easy as eating a Lenny’s and Larry’s protein cookie. Yummie!

Be sure not to eat any more than a 300-500 caloric surplus each day, or you’ll gain fat.

Eating a slight caloric surplus each day combined with proper strength training will have you building muscle in no time.

You should also be eating the right amount of macronutrients.

5. Protein Intake

Proportionate macronutrients are imperative for muscle growth. Macronutrients are made up of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Protein and calorie intake are your most important nutrition targets to hit when you’re looking to build muscle.

Protein is the building block of muscle and is vital for protein synthesis to take place which builds your hard-earned muscles.

Make sure to eat 0.8g-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.

6. Progressive Overload principle

This is the most underrated principle lifters utilize. Most gym-goers lift the same weights every workout. And they wonder why they aren’t putting on any mass.

For your muscles to grow, you need to place them under more tension as often as possible. This can be done by increasing the weight or reps to each exercise every workout.

So in the 5-8 rep range, you would use heavyweight for three sets of five until you’re capable of performing three sets of eight at the same weight. Then you would increase the weight and work your way back up to the higher end of the rep range again.

7. Rest and Recovery

Muscle building doesn’t take place while you’re lifting, it takes place while you’re resting. If you’re a natural and it’s your first time in the gym, you should have several rest days during the week.

Recovery is crucial for continuous strength gains and progress!

You shouldn’t be lifting weights anymore than 3-4 days a week. Any more will only hurt you and impede muscle growth.

You can get incredible results from just 2-3 days of lifting a week if you’re following the other golden rules of building muscle listed in this guide.

8. Sleep

Last but certainly not least, you need to make sure you’re getting adequate sleep when you’re trying to build muscle.

Without proper sleep, your recovery suffers and your testosterone drops. Studies have shown that those with more testosterone build more muscle.

On top of that, proper sleep will give you the energy to lift heavier weights and push yourself harder when you’re in the gym.

Don’t skip out on shuteye!

Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep a night.


Whether you’re a newbie-goer or an experienced lifter, most people don’t follow the golden rules of lifting.

This guide is the foundation to building muscle and before you get into anything too advanced AKA pump training or negatives, you should master these first.

Follow these principles and next thing you know you’ll be making Arnold look small. 

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Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.