How to Gain Weight and Build Muscle

So you wanna put on some lean muscle mass. And you want to do it within the context of the Primal Blueprint, but aren’t sure where to start. It’s a common question and it’s about time I addressed it head on.

As I’ve made pretty clear, our ultimate goal is to achieve positive gene expression, functional strength, optimum health, and extended longevity. In other words: To make the most out of the particular gene set you inherited. These are my end goals, and I’ve modeled the PB Laws with them in mind. But that doesn’t mean packing on extra muscle can’t happen with additional input. After I retired from a life of chronic cardio and started living Primally, I added 15 pounds of muscle, while keeping low body fat levels without really trying, so it’s absolutely possible for a hardgainer to gain some. The question is how much and at what expense?

I’d be the first to tell you that lean body mass is healthier than adipose tissue. Generally, the more lean mass a person has, the longer and better they live. But to increase mass at the expense of agility, strength, or speed is, in my opinion, counterproductive. What would Grok do – go for enormous biceps or the ability to haul a carcass back to camp? Unless you’re a bodybuilder (nothing wrong with that, mind you; it’s just not my focus), I can’t advise simply packing on size without a proportional increase in actual strength. Those bulging biceps might look good on the beach, but then again, so does the body that comes with keeping up with the younger guys, knocking out twenty pull-ups in a row, and lifting twice your bodyweight. Form is best paired with a healthy serving of function. The two are quite delicious together, and, luckily, following the PB allows us to get both without sacrificing either.

Of course, we’re all built a little differently. The basic building blocks are the same in everyone, but sexual reproduction (as opposed to asexual reproduction) has the funny habit of producing unique genetics and small variations that affect the way we respond to our environments. It’s why some people are short and some are tall, or why some of us respond better to carbohydrates than others. Even though we all pretty much operate the same way, there IS a range of possible outcomes that is proscribed by your direct ancestors. By that same token, some people just naturally have more muscle mass. They’re usually innately more muscular than the average person, and putting more on through resistance training is often an easy task. Then there are those who can’t seem to gain a pound: the hardgainers. They might be increasing strength, but it doesn’t seem to translate into visible muscle mass. Now, my initial advice for a hardgainer is this – don’t worry too much about it! As long as you’re getting stronger, you’re doing it right.

Let’s face it, though. You’ve probably heard that enough already. It’s fun being the lanky guy at the gym who can lift more than most, but you’re dead set on bulking up (who doesn’t like a bit more muscle to go along with that strength?), and you want to do it in a Primal context. Besides, continuing to increase strength will eventually require increasing size. To do so, you have to target the very same anabolic hormones that others use to get big, only with even more enthusiasm and drive. Like I said, we all have similar engines, but some require more fuel and more efficient driving (sorry for the corny analogy). Activating these hormones will work for anyone, provided they work hard and eat enough food.

The main hormones that contribute to muscle anabolism are testosterone, growth hormone (GH), and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). A little more about each and how to utilize them:


Crazy bodybuilders don’t inject themselves with anabolic steroid hormones that are based on testosterone for nothing. Among other roles, testosterone is an important muscle-building growth factor that favorably affects protein synthesis in addition to working with other hormones (like GH and IGF-1) to improve their function (more on this later). If you want to increase strength and build muscle, testosterone is absolutely required (don’t worry, though: no injections necessary!).

Growth Hormone

It’s right there in the name, isn’t it? Growth hormone. It helps muscle grow and, perhaps more importantly, it burns body fat. After all, leaning out is a big part of building muscle (or else you’ll just look puffy) and GH will help you do it.

Insulin-like Growth Factor 1

IGF-1 is extremely similar in effect to GH, as it should be – GH stimulates IGF-1 production in the liver. In fact, it’s suspected that IGF-1 is actually responsible for most of the “growth-promoting effects of circulating GH.”

Anabolic hormones all work together. In fact, to maximize their muscle-building potential, you must have all three present. Testosterone increases IGF-1, but only in the presence of GH. GH promotes skeletal muscle cell fusion independent of IGF-1, but the two are most effective in concert. Luckily for you, the types of exercises that stimulate the secretion of one will generally stimulate the secretion of the others. Funny how that works out, huh?

Enter The Central Nervous System

In order for your body to start pumping out these delicious anabolic hormones, you must first give it a reason to do so. I might even say you should give your genes a reason to express themselves. The most effective way to do this is by notifying the central nervous system. Now, the CNS can be a stubborn bastard, but he’s all you got when it comes to interpreting stimuli and relaying messages to the rest of the body. He’s not easily perturbed, and he won’t bother if you aren’t serious. If you insist on doing nothing but light aerobics or tiny isolation exercises, your CNS will barely notice. If you want to get your CNS’ attention, pick up the intensity. Run some sprints or do some heavy lifting. When you do an exercise like the squat with a heavy weight, all hands are on deck. Your CNS realizes that some serious exercising is going down and notifies the hypothalamus, which in turn talks to your pituitary gland. This tiny – but vital – member of the endocrine system is the gland that dispatches luteinizing hormones to tell the testicles to secrete testosterone. It’s also the gland that synthesizes and secretes GH. IGF-1 is mostly produced by the liver, but its production is facilitated by the presence of GH, so we can see that it all comes down to CNS stimulation. Chronic cardio doesn’t affect your CNS in any meaningful way, so that’s why we tend to avoid it; vigorous sprints, hard and heavy lifting, and anaerobic output will get its attention, so do plenty of these to maximize muscle growth.

Cortisol: A Hormone to Avoid

Promoting muscle and strength growth also requires avoiding excess amounts of catabolic (muscle wasting) hormones like cortisol. Cortisol is the major stress hormone, and it exists for a very legitimate reason (dealing with “flight or fight” incidents, inadequate sleep, anxiety), but in large amounts cortisol increases serum amino acids by breaking down muscle, inhibiting protein synthesis and reducing amino acid uptake by the muscles – all awful things for muscle growth. Compounding the problem even further, the broken-down muscle is converted into blood glucose, which then raises insulin secretion and increases insulin resistance while promoting fat storage. And we all know how great those muscles look with a nice layer of adipose tissue covering them up! On a serious note, most people following the PB already minimize cortisol by getting plenty of sleep and reducing stress, but if you’re preoccupied with building muscle mass and engaging in extended workout sessions to achieve it, avoiding excess cortisol can get tricky: excessive exercise without enough recovery time actually increases cortisol. It makes sense (think of it like your body’s telling you it needs a day or two off), but the desire for more muscle mass drives many to work out to the point of counter-productivity. Just be careful, and give yourself at least a day of rest after a particularly grueling session.

Lift Really Heavy Things

If you haven’t figured it out already, you’re going to be doing some heavy lifting in order to put on lean mass. The foundation of your routine should be the big compound lifts: squats, deadlifts, presses (bench and overhead), pull-ups, rows, dips, snatches, power cleans, clean and jerks. These engage multiple muscles while triggering your hormonal response systems. Bodyweight stuff, while valuable, simply isn’t going to get you the strength and mass increases you’re looking for. Testosterone, while useful, only gets really anabolic when you start lifting. You need to get under some decent weight, enough so that your CNS and endocrine system are blasted, but not so much that you can’t maintain proper form.

A popular routine is the 5×5 method. Popularized by programs like StrongLifts and Starting Strength, doing compound lifts for five sets of five reps allows you to strike a balance between strength building and superficial muscle hypertrophy. Done this way, your hypertrophy won’t be purely sarcoplasmic, which results in fluid-filled muscles that look big but don’t see a corresponding increase in actual strength. Instead, the 5×5 method promotes myofibrillar hypertrophy: hard, dense muscle fibers that increase strength and size (with no puffiness). That’s real muscle that would make Grok proud.

If you’re lifting heavy and lifting hard, keep your workouts spaced at least a day apart and don’t lift more than 3x/week. Three exercises per session should be perfect. That may not sound like much, but it’ll be plenty if you do it right. Remember, you’re doing big compound movements that will really shock your system, with an emphasis on intensity and power. You don’t want to overwork yourself, release a bunch of cortisol, and set yourself back a few weeks.

Squats and deadlifts are absolutely required. No excuses. They engage the most muscles and produce the biggest hormonal response. They will be the bedrock of your mass building campaign. Most programs recommend doing squats every session, and I tend to agree. You can handle it. Deadlifts are a bit more taxing and so should be relegated to every other workout. So, one week you’ll deadlift once, the next week twice. You can also sub in power cleans for the occasional deadlifts (or do them in addition) if you’re comfortable with such a complex movement. Presses are paramount, both overhead and bench. I’d alternate both types of presses every session. Pull-ups are great, but weighted pull-ups are even better. Same goes for dips. Just try to get one pulling, one pushing, and one squatting exercise in each session.

An example for beginners, with sets coming first in the sequence:

Squat 5×5
Pull-ups 5xFailure (add weight if “Failure” is becoming more than 12 reps)
Overhead Press 5×5

Squat 5×5
Deadlift 1/2/3×5 (your choice; deadlifts can be incredibly taxing, and with exhaustion comes poor form, so be careful; sometimes it’s better to do a really heavy load for a single set)
Bench Press 5×5

Squat 5×5
Pull-ups 5xFailure
Overhead Press 5×5

Do this sequence every week (maybe Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and steadily increase the weight each session. Once you’re making progress, feel free to add in other exercises like dips or more Olympic lifts. For more mass, more lactic “burn” (and more GH secretion), reduce your rest periods between sets or even superset them. If you feel like doing some cardio, stick to sprints once weekly, or even a Crossfit-style metcon (metabolic conditioning) workout, maybe some Tabata burpees. The key is conserving strength and giving your body time to rest and recover for the next round of squats, deadlifts, and presses.

This “program” can be tweaked and altered. Just make sure you’re doing big movements while maintaining extreme intensity and great form. Oh, and always make sure to squat and deadlift. Always. They produce the most testosterone, GH, and IGF-1.

Eat Lots (I Mean Lots) of Plants and Animals

No one would ever call the Primal Blueprint a protein-sparing plan, but you’re going to have to eat even more than before. Stuff yourself. I always say that body composition is 80% diet, and that goes for putting on mass as well as losing fat. You need to provide plenty of protein for all those hormones to synthesize, after all.

  • Never let your protein intake go lower than 1g/lb of body weight when you are aiming to add long-term muscle. It’s the building block of muscle, and your body is going to be starving for it.
  • Eat plenty of saturated and monounsaturated fat. Fat blunts insulin secretion while increasing testosterone production. Insulin may be useful for stuffing your muscles full of glycogen, but that’s not what you’re going for… right?
  • Dietary fat, in conjunction with all the GH you’ll be producing, also spares muscle wasting.
  • You may have heard of the popular GOMAD method – Gallon of Milk a Day for easy mass-building. It undoubtedly works, but a gallon of milk isn’t exactly Primal and I can’t recommend it. Instead of milk, why not a dozen eggs a day? ADEAD? If you can manage it, eating them on top of your regularly scheduled meals is a great source of affordable protein, fat, and vitamins (Vitamin A in particular may have pro-anabolic effects).
  • Eat often. If you’re going for pure size and strength, fasted workouts and skipped PWO meals may not be the ticket. You’ll burn more fat with the extra GH secretion and existing muscle will be spared, but you may be missing the chance at prime protein synthesis when you fast. A PWO meal of protein and fat will still blunt the insulin secretion and provide fuel for your muscles.
  • Increase caloric intake. You’re going to be expending so much energy on the lifts (and you’ll continue to burn through it even on rest days) while eating clean, Primal foods (and keeping insulin low as ever) that fat accumulation shouldn’t be an issue at all. Eat!
  • On those days when you do expend a ton of energy – maybe on your metcon or sprint day – having a Primal-friendly starch, like squash or sweet potato, is a decent way to replenish depleted glycogen stores.
  • Eat a big piece of fatty meat every single day. Steak, whole chicken, lamb leg, organs, whatever. Just eat a solid piece of animal flesh for a powerful protein infusion on a daily basis.
  • A hardgainer is often someone who doesn’t eat enough. Sure, genes play a role, but you can ultimately have a significant say in how those genes rebuild you. To a point. Eat more and lift harder to grab the reins.

I’m a firm believer in the body’s natural ability to achieve proper homeostasis, provided we supply the right environment and the right foods. For some of you, that might mean lower body mass, lower than you’d like. In my opinion, that amount of muscle is probably “right” for you and I wouldn’t recommend going above and beyond to achieve more of it… but I also wouldn’t condemn it, especially if it’s pursued in accordance with the Primal Laws. As for me, I am comfortable where I’m at and tend not to seek added mass (I’m also at a point where lifting heavy increases my risk of injury, and I HATE downtime). But if you are a hard-gainer looking to add a few, as long as it’s not just show muscle and you can actually lift some decent weight and at the very least manipulate your own body weight comfortably, eat those dozen eggs and gain that weight.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

Gio JL Flickr Photo (CC)

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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551 thoughts on “How to Gain Weight and Build Muscle”

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  1. Great article, Mark! Lots of great links to read through later. I’ve spent many years trying to get strong with heavy lifting and it’s only in the last year or two that I’ve realized the value of focusing on just a few lifts.

    What’s your opinion on circuiting sets in combination with heavy lifting? For example, a set of squats, a slight rest, then a set of pull-ups, a slight rest, then a set of presses, then repeat for the desired number of sets for each exercise.

    1. Hey Vin —

      I spent a lot of years trying to get “big” with heavy lifting too. I noticed that 5×5 is awesome (I did stronglifts), but my physical size started to plateau after about a year.

      From there I had to increase reps to 6-12 range, (rather than 5 max), which has been shown to result in larger muscle cross-sectional area.

      If you ask me… doing circuits & strength workouts together is an easy way to get injured. I hate to say it, but look at crossfitters – huge rates of injury. I know several PT’s who say “Thank you Crossfit, that’s how I make all my business.”

      Doing strength workouts obviously take a ton of energy, and longer rest periods (I was doing 3-5 minutes rest), and doing circuits IMHO is not a good idea.

      Hope it helps man, just one guy’s 2 cents.

      1. Yeah, I have the same experience. For me, the 6-12 rep range (actually 8 – 10 to be more precise) worked much better than the lower rep range. However the secret to gaining weight is eating though 🙂 Eating is the most important part of trying to gain weight and many people forget it.

      2. Hey Vin I’d love to see a real reference on the percentage of injury rates in CrossFit against driving down the road or even any other sport

        1. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Nov 22. [Epub ahead of print]
          The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training.
          Hak PT1, Hodzovic E, Hickey B.

      3. You got a few good points there, but I can see how you went through the plateau as you’ve changed up the style from strength to hyper trophy. Mixing up every once in a while will keep the body responding with muscle growth and strength gains! So thanks for sharing that with us 🙂

    2. I have found the same and doing then in a circuit fashion with 45 sec rest or so between exercises is great for a growth hormone boost.

    3. I get the most benefit from 8-12 reps but mostly for the high endurance muscles like tri’s and bi’s. chest and back I rotate from 5-6 to 8-12 on alternate weeks..not sure but I always felt it balance endurance to enable more power and mass. I also like to keep a custom nutrition program in check which can vary depending on my current fitness status.

    4. There is no cookie cutter program that works for everyone the same way. For natural lifters the science showed that 4-6 sets of 10-12 reps produced the greatest muscle gains. Every individual body and mindset is different. I tried strength training for nearly 2 years and my body weight did not change, I was eating and doing low volume. Deadlifting heavy every week as well. I’ve seen more growth from higher volume and better technique procotols(i.e. Mind muscle connection). This imo is the most missed aspect of lifting, the mind muscle connection, as in are you feeling the fibers fully contract/engage on the lift you are performing? Compound movements are great in one aspect but isolation movements serve their purpose, bodybuilders wouldn’t use both if they both didn’t have exceptional merits. This is a philosophy I try to follow with exercise, people may say hey lift this way! And another group says lift for hypertrophy! I say try both and do both if they work for you. Frequency has been showing to be another big advantage for natural lifters if you look into the research. Kai Greene once said you have to OVERTRAIN to know your own limits, because no individual is exactly the same in mindset and body calibration with exercise. My friend naturally gets a huge chest off bench pressing, for me it does nothing, I have to isolate by doing flies. Don’t buy into cookie cutter programs you have to try things just like diets to see what works for you! Only you can hear what your body is saying, and that goes for your exercise to. If you only listen you will hear your inner self suggest what weight to lift, how long to train and on and on. To me that is being PRIMAL

    5. I agree with you – Links are useful! I have also practiced crossfit in several recent years. So good!

  2. It’s a constant balancing act; I’m always bouncing up and down within a five pound range, aiming for maximum speed and strength with minimum bulk.

    127 seems to be my sweet spot. Any less and I start losing strength; any more and I start slowing down, not to mention that I don’t want to look like a fireplug. (Which, as a 5’4″ inch female, is a definite possibility.)

  3. As an avid follower of your blog and an amateur strongman competitor, I’m thrilled to read your opinions on weight training.

    “Squats and deadlifts are absolutely required. No excuses.”

    That pretty much sums it up!

    1. I can’t do squats and deadlifts because I have a totally screwed up back. I’m also the kind of guy who gets skinnier and skinnier as I get older. Is there any hope for me? What can I do?

      1. Eric, you don’t have to do squats and deads to build muscle. Those are just two lifts that do a lot with one big exercise. The key for you is to find lifts that work those muscles, but protect your back. Single leg and unweighted (or lightly weighted) exercises will likely be the key for you. Lunge variations, step ups, pistols, body weight squats, goblet squats, single leg RDLs, reaching lunges, will work the legs, glutes, and lower back without the stress on the spine. Rows, pullups, chinups, etc will still work a lot of muscle in the upper back. Pressing with pushups, dumbbells, cables, etc. and (depending on the injury) possibly avoiding overhead pressing, which can put a lot of stress on the back.

        What is the injury, and what has the doctor/PT suggested?

        Aside from that, you’ll have to eat to build and/or keep muscle.

        1. In addition to what Roland has outlined here it’s also important to be aware of what you muscles are doing during your exercise routine.
          I usually start my patients out on workouts without weights in an effort to teach body awareness. Especially when someone has had an injury, knowing the limits of your mobility is essential.
          I encourage people to learn how to move before they start a resistance exercise program. After you know what your body will allow you to do, you can then go about doing it.

        2. Thanks for that, Roland. I have degenerative disc disease, and I’ve been unable to do squats and dead lifts–anything that compresses the spine–for 12 years. Sure do miss it.

      2. I use dip belt squats and sled dragging a great deal in my training. You get the benefit of a big compound, heavy lift but not the compression on the spine.

        I also do trap bar deadlifts in place of traditional oly. bar deadlifts. This bar makes all the difference in the world to my back and the shearing compression of DLs. I can go heavy and yet not wreck my back like traditional deadlifts do.

      3. I would say if your back is bad you should do squats and deadlifts. Do them light and get a qualified trainer to check you for technique. You should be able to squat below parallel comfortably without any weight.

        Doing these exercises properly protects and strengthens your back.

        Just my opinion on the matter.

        1. I’m with Dave 100 percent. I don’t know if you had a significant injury or just get a sore back. I used to get the typical lower back pain all the time. I started Oly lifting and I do not get back pain anymore. You have no idea how thrilled I was to find out I just had a weak back. Too much time spent behind a desk had weakened my back and I am back to good health now.

        1. it’s not working the same muscles at all, and he’ll be able to do it because his core gets minimal activation, which means his back will never get stronger. If he thinks he can’t squat then ask him how he manages to sit on the toilet or tie his shoes.

        2. a leg press – sit down and pretend you’re exercising like the rest of the machines !!!
          Coach Glassman has a story of being called by a doctor that was concerned after an elderly potential crossfitter informed him she was going to start training to which coach replied that when the woman carries her shopping home, puts her bags down to open the door then reaches down to pick up the shopping she’s doing a deadlift – he’s just teaching her how to do it properly.
          Doctor was convinced and the elderly lady trained for years with no problems.

          Eric..Two words = Air squats.
          Also i saw on a vid that holding the barbell behind you for the deadlift reduces the loading on the lower spine.

      4. may i make a suggestion? instead of doing heavy barbell workouts, try using a TRX for your squats and maybe a modified plank with your knees on the floor to help build your strength slowly.

        1. Love Trx! I’m getting certified to teach it soon!! I hear group classes are a blast and great income! Training movement is important before lifting heavy weight.

      5. Eric and anyone in this position should talk to westside barbell or rogue about the reverse hyper.
        Helped Louie Simmonds recover from a broken back and has been fully tested by spinal specialists. Also it’s now in the 3rd or 4th generation so has been well tested and developed further each time.

      6. Somebody mentioned the hip belt squat, which is what I did after a back injury. In case you aren’t familiar with that, sells a good one, check it out.
        Many people find they can deadlift dumbbells with much less back strain than a long bar.

      7. i’d ask a chiropractor about deadlifts and back squats and maybe a physio because trying to mobilise more noints and stuff for these exercises may indeed help your spine i screwed up my back at a young age and ive found that in the last year of doing back squats and deadlifts has actually improved my back and i’ve stopped going to a chiropractor, although at the same time your spine may be in a much worse condition to mine when i started and doing these lifts may make the situation worse

        1. 4th.
          unless you’re on crutches or in wheelchair or never pick up anything off the ground (like grocery bags), there is absolutely no reason to not deadlift. You can do it. and if the back is screwed up or weak, well then stretch surrounding muscles (tightness and weakness is often the issue, not actual injury) and strengthen and get it well again with all the abovementioned free weight or bodyweight exercises plus light deadlifts.

  4. Nice article Mark! From personal experience, I think this is great advice only for people who really are hard gainers. I know you mentioned this in the article several times, but I don’t think it can be emphasized enough. One really needs to be careful about this, otherwise the results can be disappointing.

    The thing is that I have been following a similar plan for about a year: eating hearty primal meals (still nowhere near a dozen eggs a day. More like a dozen a week!), with my only departure from strict primal fare being the sensible vices (more or less, the 80/20 rule has looked more like 95/5 for me); doing crossfit workouts 2-3 times a week which involve a lot of heavy squats, deadlifts, olympic lifts, dips, pullups while mixing in tabta sprints etc.; and also doing a lot of low-level aerobic activity for good measure (like tennis and yoga).

    In the past year, I went from 155lbs to 185lbs. However, I always had some deposits of flab around my stomach, and those deposits never disappeared through all the effort and discipline. I looked puffy (and I still feel I look more puffy than I would like). And, whats worse, I don’t think my functional strength increased significantly: I could only do very few pullups, could not do hand stands, could not even imagine L-sits, and other such exercises which required great core body strength.

    So in the past month or so, I changed my approach. I kept the activity levels up, but cut down my food consumption: no cheese, less meat and veges per meal, more fasting, fewer nuts, less alcohol, much less fruit (infact I only restrict myself to a few berries a day now).

    And as a result, some real positive change has occurred: I can do many more pullups, my sprint times are dropping, I can hold an L-sit for a second, I can get into a hand stand more easily, I have dropped 5 lbs, my pant-size has dropped, and my stomach is certainly showing more shape.

    The moral of the story is that one needs to pay close attention to what is happening with your body. It is very easy to stick to advice which is not appropriate to you simply because it is widely recommended. One needs to be diligent and ready to change things up if things are not working out in your context. And one must be clear about ones goals.

    Personally increasing strength, power, balance, speed, agility, flexibilty, endurance, and coordination are my goals. The program outlined in the article was simply not getting me there (particularly the recommendations for the quantity of food intake).

    I just wanted to sound a word of warning to others like me (those who tend to put on weight fairly easily) who might venture on the same path.


    1. It’s good to hear from you, Apurva. It’s been awhile. I’m glad to hear you’ve found something that works for you. Stay in touch.

      1. Hey Mark, I have been visiting every day. Just not posting that much. This place sure has become a lot more popular lately. Congratulations 🙂


      2. this all seems fantastic but im im abit of new commer to this and don’t understand why you don’t want your muscle glycogen to be full? Thanks

        1. From what I understand, filling one’s glycogen beyond what one can immediately burn increases secretion of insulin, which is a bad thing. Read up on Primal Blueprint 101, paying attention to the material on insulin and how it affects heart disease and obesity.

      3. Mark, the workout you have recommended is only supposed to be 3×5 (starting strength) if you’re training 3x per week. 5×5 (texas method) is an intermediate program that requires only one volume session per week.

        1. Nope. Check out (as linked in the post) for the full details. 5×5 is appropriate for a beginner.

      4. I would like to comment on Mark’s 11/23 post on deadlifts, squats, and lower back injury. I have been lifting weights for 35 years, and am 61. I have already replaced my right shoulder and in the next 2 -3 years will need to have my left shoulder done and both hips replaced. That being said, I still do some kind of cardio 2 – 3 days a week, and lift sensible weights at least 2 days a week.

        The most important thing I would tell someone lifting weights is USE COMMON SENSE. We all think, “that won’t happen to me because …. [fill in your own answer].” Well it may not this year or next, but if you are lifting stupid heavy weights as I did to satisfy some kind of ego thing, you will pay.

        Despite what may be advertised in any month’s Muscle & Fitness, you won’t have legs like Tom Platz just because you CAN squat or deadlift over 500 lbs. You WILL wear out your joints over time. With a SENSIBLE diet, a good amount of sleep, and lifting REASONABLE amounts of weights, you will reach your genetic potential within a few years and be able to maintain it.

        Trust me, if you believe and take to heart the “no-pain no-gain” attitude, you WILL be sorry. You will be overtraining and when you get older, it WILL come back to haunt you.

        Choose enough weight to tax your muscles using the proper form [no swaying or cheating] and you will be rewarded with muscle growth without setting yourself up for a lifetime of PAIN when you reach middle age.

        In a few hours, I will be hitting the gym, and included in my routine today will be 2 sets of straight-leg deadlifts [for lower back and hams] with 225. If I had used that kind of common sense 25 years ago instead of deadlifting 605, I might not be giving this advice today. I do recommend straight leg deadlifts as keeping muscle in your lower back and maintaining core strength is a key to avoiding degeneration and pain as you get older.

        I think weight-lifting is one of the best things you can do to maintain health, and stay healthy through old age. But take my advice and be SMART about it or some day, you will having to replace body parts – and it ain’t a picnic!

        1. Oh and I forgot one more important thing…STRETCH often.

      1. This is wrong. High levels of glycogen in the muscles do not increase insulin. Glucose entering the blood stream elicits insulin secretion from the pancreas causing GLUT4 to translocate to the muscle plasma membrane. Glucose enters the muscle via facilitated diffusion down it’s concentration gradient. The enzyme hexokinase adds a phosphorous to the glucose in order for it to be stored as glycogen and to remove it from glucose’s concentration equation. Glucose can not be put back into the blood once phosphorylated as muscles do not have that enzyme. Therefore, high glucose levels means lowered blood glucose which means lower insulin.

        Additionally, insulin spikes post workouts are probably the most effective way to increase muscle mass.

        1. Mark,
          DO LESS! Research Drew Baye High intensity training it’ll work wonders for you!

  5. Mark,

    This is absolutely what I’ve been needing – spot-on! I’m 6’0 and went from 165-170 down to 145-150 by eliminating the grains, starches, etc.

    I’ve been going to the gym for a while and can see some definite body composition gains and strength gains, but muscle mass development has been sorely lacking. Based on your advice, I can tell I simply have not been eating enough, and I really need to increase my squat/deadlift days from just 1 of each per week.

    One follow-up question – I play softball and basketball approx. 1/week, and between 3 days w/ weights, 2 days w/sports and 1 day w/ sprints that’s just one day of rest. This seems overly ambitious – what can I cut out so that I can maintain the pace for months? Is sprinting during b-ball/softball enough? Can I gain muscle mass w/ just 2 intense weight workouts?

    This is great – thanks!

    1. Be careful about doing deadlifts heavy more than once weekly–as mentioned they are incredibly taxing. As a matter of fact, the program in Mark’s post is almost straight out of Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, and for anyone who is even remotely serious about getting strong it is absolutely a classic text on how to do the major barbell lifts correctly.

      The timing of eating also makes a big difference, with about a 2 hour window for after working out to get you blood level of amino acids up (particularly the branched chain amino acids). In this regard, whey protein has consistently been shown to be the best. Finally, if you are committed to muscle growth–there is bound to be some trade-off in the sense that the anabolic response to branched chain amino acids will be greater in the presence of increased blood glucose and subsequent insulin.

  6. OK Mark, a question for you. Would you change the advice in this post at all if you were talking specifically to a female? I’m still in the fat burning stage but more muscle is an ultimate goal of mine (and why can’t I do both at teh same time :-). Should I be doing anything different than the above? How about for a woman over 40?
    Thanks much.

    1. Me too…Avid crossfitter over 40..anyway to avid excess cortisol production on top of rest??
      Thanks Mark Great site!

      1. Alpha Lipoic Acid. 250 mg 3 times a day seems to have some benefits. Tim Ferris talks about it in his book The 4-hour body. I sleep like shit so cortisol is def an issue with me.

    2. Nope. I’m a female & primal. I deadlift, squat, & press 3 days a week. I lose about 3 lbs of fat a week & have lost about 35 lbs so far.

  7. phenomenal article, mark!

    i was wondering, though, what would be your advice to someone (like myself) interested solely in strength to weight ratio, concerned primarily with continually increasing strength in the major bodyweight movements and holds (the planche, the L-sit, the handstand, pull-up, etc.) as far as diet, workout frequency, etc? maybe you could address the flip side of this coin in a future post?

    great work as always!

  8. Great article, this really lays down the law on this subject. One of which I’ve been trying to get across to a co-worker for a long time. Once he reads this it will affirm my speeches and get him gaining!

  9. Mark,
    You hit the nail on the head for me.. The key is eating & hitting those compound movements.. I do like the fact that you don’t recommend introducing the starch (maybe a squash or sweet potato occassionally), but the bottom line is increase protein & fat.. Good fat is so undervalued in our Western Diet, & often misunderstood.. Fat carries the calories needed for growth, without the inflammation that would come from heavy starches & carbs.. How about going heavy on the fruits to gain some weight as well?
    Thanks for the article.. I do appreciation your time & insight.. What a great site..


  10. Nice one, Mark.

    I’ll have to change things up this month in regards to the eating then – I’ve been doing fasts on the days that I do strength training (Tuesday, Friday). I don’t eat until about 2 hours AFTER the workout in the evening (after not eating at all that day).

    Maybe I’m stifling some of my gains by doing so…

  11. Thank you, vj – how would this how-to change for a female audience? Especially one of varying ages?

  12. Again, this post is directed at hardgainers. I’ll be addressing other groups (females, extremely overweight, teens etc.) and goals as they relate to Primal Blueprint Fitness in coming weeks. Thanks for all your questions. I’ll try to answer them all soon! Thanks!

  13. Excellent article Mark. Very detailed and correct. Highlighting the need for Vit A was good too, this is overlooked. Thanks, Andy.

  14. Thanks Mark for all of your great information and research. I’ll be looking forward to more about this in the coming weeks. Thanks for your feedback and dedication.

  15. Mark: I am a true hardgainer. I am currently doing kettlebell/functional training twice a week and lifting once a week. Should I be switching this around to lifting twice and kettlebells once, or even lifting three times and treat kettlebells as cardio as you suggested for Crossfit?

    1. Have you seen improvements doing what you’re doing? If so, stick with it until you don’t. If not, give my suggestions above a try for a couple months and see how it works for you.

  16. Perfect timing Mark! This was broken down well. I’ve read a lot about most of this, but really was looking for some simple answers to a few of these questions.

  17. can’t wait to see something for the more endo/mesomophic types…I can put on wait and plenty of muscle almost overnight, but that almost always comes with fat gain

  18. Mark, appreciate you putting this article together…I’m the typical hardgainer. I’ve gotten a lot more strength, but no size to go with it. I have no desire to be the body builder type, all about functional fitness, 10-15 lbs would be good (up from 155lb currently. Just need to up the intake as you said! I have noticed more strength throughout the workouts in the 3 weeks of eating primal, even after a year of intense workouts (but was based on higher carb intake). Thanks Again!

  19. These are great tips that I used; and they worked. A little caution if you are a little advanced like me (42 years): your joints will ache! I gained about five pounds in about 3 weeks, but I finally reverted back to Mark’s advice: eat Primal, do your workouts and your genes will do the rest.

    I’m 6′ and 162lb, can deadlift over twice my bodyweight and do the 20 pullups; and it is fun to see the big guys watching the boney guy! If it’s looks you want, go for it; but if it is function and strength you want, go the simple route… Primal!


    1. I know what you mean…I as shocked when I would go to the gym in the past and was doing what some bodybuilders were doing!

  20. I’ve put on a lot of weight and muscle with the PB, and this post is DEAD ON. I would have written something exactly like it (but not as good).

    But note that you can lose it just as quick as you got it. I’m in that rut right now, as 4th of July festivities slowed things down, work has dominated me, I had an injury, and I dropped weight for a triathlon — of which I never got much back.

    This weekend I begin the journey of starting over, and this post is exactly how to do it.

  21. Nail on Head. **BAMM** Now if only people would stop looking for some overly complicated solution and just stick with the basics for a minimum of 12 weeks…..and then see real results!

    As I like to say….calling oneself a “hardgainer” is just an excuse for not doing things the right way. We don’t all have to be 250lbs and ripped…but we can all have a good lean mass build.

    If you haven’t seen this yet…here’s an out-take from possibly the best “bodybuilding” article on the internet:

    “Sansone understood the importance of flesh foods, including animal fats and organ meats. He wrote extensively on nutrition for bodybuilders and recommended nutrient-dense “foundation” foods such as milk, eggs, butter, meat, vegetables, fruits, and some whole grains, in that order. He also stressed the importance of organ meats such as liver, kidney, heart and cod liver oil and recognized the need to drink whole raw milk instead of pasteurized and skimmed.”

  22. I’m not super on board with the training specifics but I love the nutrition portion of this post. Speaking of eggs, just gobbled down a dozen myself fried in coconut oil =).


  23. when you say “Never let your protein intake go lower than 1g/lb of body weight” are you talking about total body weight or your lean body mass, as an overweight guy that can be alot of protein

    1. Lean body mass, yes. Thanks for pointing that out. Of course, this post was designed especially for hardgainers so body weight is going to be similar to (or the same) as lean body mass for this crowd.

  24. Great article. A lot to digest. I have been doing hot yoga for about one year. This has been a great help but I also would like to work with weights more. Biggest problem (or fear) is that I have had back surgery four times. This is why I started with yoga. Do you have any specific ideas for people with such injuries? I do have (in FDA study) two artificial disc’s. This has eliminated 16 years of chronic pain and allowed me to start exercise. Over the course of two years (just after last surgery) I have been able to lose 60 lbs with a huge diet change. I am always learning more and love the site.

    Thanks for all you do.

    1. I eat 4 eggs per day and around 2500 kcals just to maintain 71kgs at 6ft1. I have never gone above 73kg even on 4000kcal per day. I think I need more food and more intensity.

      But, due to a herniated disc I cannot do squats or deadlifts 🙁 Instead I do 1 legged squats which are very intense and hopefully stimulate the CNS sufficiently.

      1 leg squat form: hands out in front, 1 leg raised. Lower yourself under control ALL the way down until your calf touches your hamstring. Push up ENSURING your heel doesn’t lift off the ground. 1 rep is challenging but I have worked up to 10 reps on a bosu.

      1. Great exercise for those who can’t do regular squats, but please drop the boso ball and pickup a weight to add resistance.

        All the bosu is doing is limiting the amount of weight you can use because you’re constantly shifting around to keep your balance. It’s a cool trick, but it’s not building muscle.

        1. I beg to differ. Holding a small weight in front actually makes the exercise easier as it counter balances you. Holding a heavy weight out in front off-balances you, and for me personally, places too much strain on my back injury.

          The only safe way would be to wear a weighted backpack and hold a small weight out in front.

          As I dont have a backpack in the gym, I do them on the Bosu as this really works the core and ankle stabilisers. Even with no weight added, 10 reps is extremely challenging to the body. (have you actually tried 10 1 legged squats?)

          I do plan to use a weighted backpack soon though.

        2. Have you guys read a book called Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe? His premise is that there are just 4 exercises that you need to do, and if done correctly (which he spends scores of pages on in the book), that is all you need to build real total body strength. I’ve been lifting for a long time, and I have to say that this book has changed my thinking trememdously. He examines the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. I got a copy from the kindle store for like 8 bucks, so it’s worth checking out!

      2. I can’t reply to your reply, so it’s up here…

        You’re missing the point of the squat. You’re doing good stuff, but 10 reps on something unstable is a huge difference from 5 reps on solid ground.

        It’s possible that something that you can only lift 5 times is too risky for your disks, but then I’d question if it’s a good idea to do something so precarious as a pistol on a wobbly surface. Sudden jolts and torque can be as dangerous as a weight ON the spine.

        If it’s the heavy weight on your back that’s the concern, there are other one legged exercises that your can try. Lunges, reverse lunges, split squats, bulgarian split squats, step ups, etc. are all good exercises. It’s possible to hold a weight (even to the chest or dbs in hands) and add resistance. Can this safely get you to 5×5? I don’t know, but maybe discuss the options with your doctor or physical therapist.

        1. its hard to get to 5×5 as heavy weights compromise my herniated disc. I usually do lubges whilst holding 16kg dumbells and can still do 8-12 reps easily.

          Point taken about sudden jerks with instability on the ball.

          I want to emphasise the point that a 1 legged squat with no weight puts the same intensity on each leg muscle as a normal squat with my own body weight on the bar.

          I have nevertried Bulgarian split squats so will do, maybe holding dumbells overhead?

      3. OMG i just tried the 1 legged squats and it was for real intense!am 6’2/86kg but can’t do shit,the post is the best inspired me that i got up and start doing all what i learnt here,thx yall.

  25. I’ve got 3 words for fellow”hardgainers”

    dinner for breakfast

  26. What if you can’t do squats? It hurts my shoulders to hold the bar behind my head (old rotator cuff injuries) and my knees already grind when I squat down. 🙁

    1. Aveshnea, front squats should relieve the shoulder pain and are arguably safer for your back anyway.

      For the knee grinding, doing some self massage on your legs with a foam roller (or any other tool) and deep bodyweight squats beforehand may help.

      1. Can I do leg presses instead of the squats? They don’t seem to bother me knees as much.

        1. You won’t get remotely the same benefit. Squats move the body through a longer range of motion, utilize the body’s natural mechanics for full muscle engagement and demand tremendous core stability because the weight is supported on the rigid torso. Squats are basis for mass-gain for a reason: Very few exercises can put so much beneficial stress on the body. If you can’t squat, consider heavy deadlifts as a substitute, but you’ll need to find another way to get some quad work in. Avoid machines as much as possible until much later in your lifting career.

        2. Leg presses are OK, but they don’t tax your body as much as full-on squats. a squat works your upper body, abdominals, and legs, while the leg press works from the leg down. So while leg presses can be good initially, once you feel comfortable you should switch.

          Also, squats are tricky. It may be that your form is incorrect. Start with a lighter weight and focus on form, or have a trainer/experienced lifter at the gym help you.

        3. I have quite a bit of weight to lose (140+ lbs). So I think I’ll stick with the presses and dead lifts until I lose a good chunk of it. Probably safer on my knees.

        4. Maybe lat pull downs instead of the pull ups? or what do you all recommend?

        5. just did 2 legit chins today @ 308 lbs. 218 body weight + 90 pound dumbell. you CAN do it! and it’s a great motivatir to lose body weight! 🙂

        6. If you are that overweight start with bodyweight squats and then use dumbbells to work your way up to the empty bar weight (45 lbs). Starting light on weightlifting is the way to go, it lets you learn the proper form and build the muscular foundation to do the exercise properly.

          If you do the leg press you’ll be fooling yourself. You don’t build nearly the same sort of strength on a machine – it’s simple mechanics.

    2. How about jumping pull ups? Get under a bar that is just about head level to where you can jump and pull up at the same time. Keep increasing the height of the bar (finding a higher bar or using a shorter box under the bar) and you’ll do a legit pull up in no time.

  27. Mark, I received your book about two weeks ago( greatest investment ever made ). When I finished reading it I thought about my goals, more towards the bodybuilding end. Nothing crazy just a little more muscle while maintaining the same level of body fat.
    So having the book ( the philosophy) ,I was able to determine what changes to make to the PB (albeit minor).Well, your article confirms all the things I thought needed to be tweaked. POINT OF STORY: Primal Blueprint provides all of the philosophy needed to achieve your goals no matter what they are. One final note, it’s ucanny how you covered every specific detail in this article that I was wondering about as applied to muscle building.

  28. Mark,

    A couple of things I have learned through the years:

    Add at least two warm-up sets of 10-15 reps (light and not to exhaustion) before 5X5’s. (Avoiding injury is #1 on my priority list.)

    And no matter how much you eat, you have to have enough rest days between workouts. Error on too much rest when in doubt.

    1. I know Bill Starr and others suggest squatting 3 times a week… I could never do more than 2.

      I lift in the over 300 when doing 5×5 and 250 – 275 when doing 20 rep squats. Going at that 3 times per week never gave my body, CNS and mental faculties the time to recuperate.

      Squatting twice or even once per week, if done heavy and intense, will result in great gains.

      1. I gotta’ agree with this. I could NEVER squat 3X a week. Ok, I don’t mean I physically couldn’t, but my reps would go down each subsequent session. I’d never make progress that way. No way. Even eating 6000 calories a day, my body wouldn’t keep up with it. I make gains on once/week. “If it ain’t broke!”

  29. Mark – great article. Glad you advocate low reps and big lifts to build real muscle!

  30. Have any of you gained muscle mass without a gain in BF? I’m 55 years young and am at 11.6% BF. about 6′ and 154 lbs. Trying to lose newly gained BF which was found/tested in the stomach area only. Have increased muscle mass in chest and thighs. Am a “hard gainer”.

    So, I’m trying increase muscle mass lost in the last 8 years (been PB for 11 months) or so (cardio and mass carbs)and decrease BF in stomach area. I keep carbs to approx. 100 to 120 g a day but have increased fat intake.

    Anybody going through similar challenges…like to share your thoughts and trial and errors?

  31. Avashnea,

    I’d recommend bodyweight squats. At the very least, you’ll still be pushing some decent weight (not for long, though!). If bodyweight squats feel okay, you can move on to just the bar. I’d second the other guy and stress that leg presses simply aren’t the same, and that the actual squatting motion is too crucial to avoid.

    If you can’t do pullups, lat pulldowns are fine – just make sure to keep trying each week to get an actual pullup.

    1. Thanks for the info. The stupid trainer at the gym told me in her ignorance that beginners should NEVER do squats or deadlifts and you NEED cardio to lose weight. Of course, her head almost exploded when I told her I eat 60-70% fat lol

  32. If I’m doing Starting Strength 3 days a week, how would you recommend filling the rest of my days exercise wise?

    1. Shaz, I always use “off days” to do sprints. Just go outside for 15 minutes and sprint as long as you can, walk until your body says it’s ok to go again.

  33. One suggestion I have regarding deadlifts is a great tool called the “trap bar”.

    Its a hexagon shaped bar, that you step inside of, plates are loaded on the outside and deadlifts are performed via this great bar. With traditional barbell the load is in front of the body, whereas with the trap bar the load travels “through” the body.

    Much, much better on the lower back and shearing forces there. For anyone who suffers some lower back problems and desires to deadlift HEAVY this bar can be the answer! I picked one up on craigslist for $75 and it has been a truly great purchase.

  34. Mark, your nutrition advice is 100% correct, but I would limit exercise with heavy weights 5×5 to 3 days a week, where one day would be upper body push movements, then 2 days later upper body pull movements, then 2 days later legs. Your tendons/ligaments will have a hard time recovering from 3 days a week of the same movements, especially natural.
    This would follow the workouts of bodybuilder legend Frank Zane, who still looks good after the age of 65 following a low carb diet.

  35. This is right on. I accumulated a good deal of lean mass and lost a lot of fat when I started doing pretty much only compound movements while eating primally and left behind my obsessive daily routine of over an hour of cardio per day. One acquaintance at the gym complimented me recently by saying, “You do really well at walking that tight rope that is being both big and lean.” That felt good, because I was not a strapping guy in my teens or early 20s. I was a McDeath glutton with my value meals.

  36. As always, nice post. Putting on muscle has always been a struggle for me. The only way I could do this was to eat 6x a day, but as soon as I stopped, every pound gained would disappear. Now that I’m more “mature”, I’m trying to focus on functional abilities rather than simple weight gain. My question is whether the hard earned muscle will stick around once I go back to a “maintenance” level? After all, I can’t keep eating all this food the rest of my life. Just trying to find a nice, long-term way to say healthy and increase muscle size.


    1. Stephan,

      How tall are you, what is your age and weight?

      How long have you been lifting? What is your highest 1RM that you have achieved in squat, deadlift and bench?

      What type of workout are you using to gain your muscle?

      As Mark points out in the article heavy lifting in the 5×5 style of strength training, as opposed to a more hypertrophy only style (4×10, etc), builds a different type of muscle and I believe a longer lasting type (quoted below for convenience).

      You don’t see many powerlifters who lose their muscle size even when dropping to a maintenance level of food.

      “A popular routine is the 5×5 method. Popularized by programs like StrongLifts and Starting Strength, doing compound lifts for five sets of five reps allows you to strike a balance between strength building and superficial muscle hypertrophy. Done this way, your hypertrophy won’t be purely sarcoplasmic, which results in fluid-filled muscles that look big but don’t see a corresponding increase in actual strength. Instead, the 5×5 method promotes myofibrillar hypertrophy: hard, dense muscle fibers that increase strength and size (with no puffiness). That’s real muscle that would make Grok proud.”

      1. Toolman:

        Thanks for the reply. I’m 42 now, 6’1″ and 154 lbs. I’ve been trying to use the PB diet and was able to reduce by BF levels to a point where the abs are visible now. It’s been a while since I’ve done max reps due to some injuries and a focus on more “cardio” and bodyweight exercises. I did shoot up to about 190 lbs once, but that required 6 large meals a day (lots of carbs, mind you). I just didn’t see myself eating like this until I’m 80!! Maybe this training (or Body by Science) would create long lasting physical changes.

        1. Stephan,

          Yeah, I can understand not doing max rep singles. I do them VERY rarely myself, but there are several calculators on the WWW that will allow you to calculate, pretty closely, your 1RM. Here is 1 example:

          You can build muscle mass without eating 6 meals per day though you will have to eat “large”, can’t build muscle tissue without fuel.

          Sounds to me that a change to training style, more like what Mark describes in this article, is part of what you are missing.

          If you aren’t lifting heavy, on a consistent basis and eating appropriately then, yes, muscle gain will not happen. If you apply this type of training with appropriate diet then the muscle will be more likely to remain once you resume a maintenance level of eating.

  37. The low rep scheme seems to be the most “Primal” way of exercise. If you look at how ‘Grok’ would have exercised, it would seem to be with short duration, intense to moderate exercise – whether during the kill phase of hunting or possibly more commonly in play or general life.

    Fatigue would have been avoided; it would place the individual at great risk from predators. There’s a reason you only see fatigued animals in the wild right before they are eaten. Plus fatigue is unpleasant; it’s not something our bodies encourage us to do. And in the end, what matters is listening to our bodies. Grok would have done a few short sprints, wrestles, a few heavy lifts just playing and/or making its tools. He would have stopped when he started getting tired, or when it stopped being enjoyable. This being an important assumption.
    He wouldn’t develop DOMS (something unpleasant) to any significant degree, he wouldn’t have overuse injuries, he wouldn’t have significantly raised cortisol levels, he wouldn’t have tight muscles and imbalances from performing lots of one exercise and would be ready to go almost all the time as he doesn’t have or need rest days (maybe not after his kill and a huge meal – like every other animal).

    Nowadays, a run and jump down the street or climbing a tree is seen as something a crazy person would do, and is socially unacceptable, people just don’t do this regularly in everyday life. Rather than having the whole day as a possible workout or stimulus for growth, we structure 1 hour to push all our lifts in. I would recommend doing one or two heavy lifts or intense exercise every waking hour for truly primal and positive exercise.

    So my advice is if you feel like jumping, then jump, if you feel like running then run, and the same for squatting and any other exercise, do it how intensely you feel you want to and for how long you feel you want to. Let your body decide, treat it as play. Sometimes you just feel powerful in one movement today or feel like a big heavy 1RM deadlift.
    If you let your mind decide, you’ll be doing the conventional 3×15 reps, and maybe getting your desired results in terms of muscle growth, but be getting a lot more undesired results.
    This requires some imagination to fit into may people’s sedentary (other than a one hour workout, *rolls eyes*) lifestyle though – and after all, sedentary definitely isn’t primal.

    1. Nicely put. I seem to do pretty well fitting things into my everyday life rather than “doing exercise”.

      It’s most noticeable when I stop though, I’ve spent far too much of the last week sat at my computers and sat in my car. Time to do some Extreme Housework, move some boxes around in the attic and turn over one of my compost piles. Er well, when I’ve finished this coffee and reading MDA of course . . .

  38. I went to the gym today and wanted one of the trainers to show me proper form for squats and dead lifts. What I got was a near argument with the owner who THINKS he knows all about fitness. Idiot trainer quotes of the day- 1)squats and deadlifts are advanced exercise and are unsafe. Machines strengthen and stabilize you.
    2)low carb/primal (I had to explain what primal was) is unsustainable and’s all about moderation for a healthy diet

    I’m seeing a different trainer tomorrow. He LIKES heavy lifting like lunges, deadlifts and squats and is pro- low carb.

    1. what a jackass. That is the problem with most commercial gyms.

  39. “Crazy bodybuilders don’t inject themselves with anabolic steroid hormones that are based on testosterone for nothing.”

    Why do you need to put them down if you know that this is the only way for them to compete at the level at which they do? What if they get the best possible medication and support from one or more doctors; is it really *that* crazy in such a case, especially if you take into account that testosterone-based medication is being used throughout “normal” health care for various purposes as well (for those that are inclined to answer this rhetorical question: “No, it isn’t *that* crazy.”)? To each his own, I would say. At least give them *some* credit; after all, they are possibly more of an expert at “gaining weight and building muscle than you are”, regardless of whether or not you approve of their methods.

    What I’m furthermore wondering about (apart from the fact that the majority of the advice in the article is actually pretty good, I must say) is whether or not the Primal BluePrint program – which seems to sport quite a couple of (pseudo-)scientific claims – has actually been proven to work by means of a controlled user study that is scientifically sound and repeatable. Do you have a reference to a scientific journal or conference paper in which this is detailed, or is all of it based on anecdotal evidence (“success stories”) at the moment?

  40. I think the craziest part about bodybuilding is that they take roids for the purpose of looking better than other men in a glorified homo-erotic beauty contest

  41. To the guy getting all defensive about bodybuilding: are you trying to sound smart or something? Do you believe everything that has a ‘science’ label is true? You know, you’re probably right. Insulin plays no role in body composition, pasta is good for you and fat makes you fat.

  42. Hi..I really enjoyed this article and I really like it..especially the point on
    Eating Lots of Plant and animal…
    I have a question on reagarding to this that…
    Should I eat potatoes with milk…after workout or before I know that it have lots of carbohydrate and fats…..????

    1. In women, testosterone is produced half in the ovaries and half in the adrenal glands.

  43. I love the article Mark! I think the 5×5 workout makes a lot of sense. I’ve also had good results from the HIT notion of lifting where you load the weight with as much weight as you can only perform 7-8 repetitions with, where the 8th rep is failure and going further would dip into the realm of negatives. With this method you only have to do 1 set and move quickly onto the next lift. This way you get all the muscle damage you need to grow bigger, the stress hormones are minimalized, and the workouts themself are brief but intense. Very primal, GROK ON!

    1. “To gain weight & build muscle requires a lot of tough exercises”, NO brief but intense workouts are key. if you work intense enough 30 min is adequate. initially 3 times per week, then down to 2 at the end of the cycle.

  44. 3 sets of 5 reps for the Squat, Bench press, and Press is plenty. For the Power Clean you do 5 sets of 3 reps and for the deadlift 1 set of 5 reps

    Increase the weight every time you train

    5×5 is too much volume.

    1. Not neccessarily. There are a ton of people who have made incredible gains off 5×5.

      I’m all for low volume training but 5×5 is not high volume. Each person has to figure what their body responds best to (imagine that, people are different) and 5×5 is a tried and true method that has proved itself a great tool for many, many people.

      1. Yeah wel; my advice would be to read two books about strenght training and that is: Startingh Strenght II edition and Practical Programming for strenght training both by Mark Rippetoe.

        5×5 is for intermediate trainees not for novices to strenght training like most of us are


        1. The difference is likely trivial.

          Mark suggested 2 days a week with 5×5. Rippetoe suggests 3 days a week with 3×5.

        2. I love Rippetoe’s stuff and believe it valuable information but I was simply responding to your general comment that 5×5 is too much volume, which simply is not true. Some may respond better to other lesser or great volumes but that is something that has to be personally determined.

          BTW – Mark Rippetoe was trained by Bill Starr (coach who is synonymous with 5×5 strength training). Here is Rippetoe’s description from his web page:

          “I have doing the [clean and jerk and the snatch] as a part of my training since 1979. I was a competitive powerlifter, but we snatched and c&jed as a part of training with Bill Starr. I have snatched 82.5 and C&Jed 105 as lifts that were not my competitive sport. My best clean was 275 many years ago — power, I believe. I have been coached by Bill Starr, Tommy Suggs, Jim Moser, Dr. Kilgore, Glenn Pendlay, Angel Spassov, Harvey Newton, and many fellow lifters. I have never claimed to be a good weightlifter, but I have coached the lifts since 1984.”

  45. The article is great…but the only problem is the diet. How am I supposed to fill my fridge up with all that food every day? I’m living on a tight budget and I really want to gain lean muscle. I can only spare enough money to buy the cheapest foods out there (potatoes, rice, ground meat, etc.) so getting all those healthy and diverse products is difficult for me…Maybe it’s just a personal problem, but the meals and such seem too unrealistic for the average working guy to follow..

    1. Some of my staples are the following:

      Ground beef
      Eggs (cheap!)
      Talapia fish

      Spinach salad
      canned veggies

      Frozen berries

      I also have a smoker and routinely buy pork shoulder or brisket and smoke it on weekend and have meat for 2 weeks.

      None of this is overly expensive and actually quite economical. I buy in bulk from Sam’s alot also.

    2. I bought a Seal-a-Meal so I can buy large packages of meat when it’s on sale and seal it up to freeze. I just bought 8 lbs of drumsticks! I also eat LOTS of eggs.

  46. Through my teenage years I spent all my yime doing weights and got no-where. I am a textbook hardgainer.
    So i took a different path and spent the last few years fighting in Muay Thai which meant cutting weight for fights and trying to be lean etc.
    I’ve decided to go back to weights and put on size, I’m 24 now, but think i’ve stuffed my body up as i can’t put weight on past 84kg and im 6’2. i want to crack 90kg but it’s impossible.
    I eat more than anyone on Earth haha!!
    I think genetics sometimes can’t be broken…

    1. Justin,

      How much weight can you squat for a single rep? How much for 5 reps?

      How much can you deadlift for a single rep? How much for 5 reps?

      Let me know and then we can move on from there to some helpful suggestions.

      1. Unfortunately I have a groin injury that needs rest, so I’m only doing chest, back, shoulders and arms.
        My squat form is ordinary, so wouldn’t be too much.
        I work out each weekday as follows
        MON Chest & Back
        TUES Arms
        WED Chest & Shoulders
        THUR Arms
        FRI Chest & Back
        SAT Boxing
        SUN Rest

        1. I appreciate the response and the info but none of that really answered the questions I asked 🙂

          How much weight can you squat for a single rep? How much for 5 reps?

          How much can you deadlift for a single rep? How much for 5 reps?

          You can give the numbers you had prior to your groin injury. Once we have those the we can give some helpful suggestions.

          Thanks in advance.

  47. Justin, you should log/track your food intake with for a while. Not saying you don’t truly eat a lot, but I’ve found that a lot of people (hardgainers) are eating a lot FOR THEM, but still not a lot.

    Hopefully you can track things for a while and let us know.

    1. Sure I will try that site. Thanks.
      But yes I definately eat alot.
      I never miss breaky and can’t go 2 hours without hunger.
      I can easily nail a family size pizza in a sitting.
      The missus cooks for 3. (2 for me)
      I snack alot and try to eat alot before I go to bed. I also try to eat alot of carbs in afternoon/night!

      1. If you’re truly a hardgainer, stop doing cardio. Cardio is the anti-muscle. Seriously. You said you’re training Muay-thai…. well that’s probably why you can’t hold any muscle mass. I’m a surfer, and can’t put on ANY muscle in the summer and fall when I surf regularly. When I stop cardio’ing myself senseless, I can slowly add a couple pounds. Conventional wisdom keeps you in that trap, leading you to believe you use cardio to lose fat. It’s just not true. DIET off the fat, diet and lift to add muscle. NO CARDIO.

        1. you are dead right buddy. since my post i have cut ALL cardio. its very hard i feel like a lazy slob….but im stacking on the kg….up to 89kg and i was 74kg in dec for my last fight!!!

          I would love to find that perfect mix of cardio and size/strength

        2. Cardio is not anti muscle! Cardio is good for the heart. if you want to add muscle while doing cardio you need to eat more to make up for the deficit.

        3. Cardio IS the anti-muscle. Cardio is good for your heart. But you know what else is equally good for the heart? Sprints on the beach. Hard deadlifting or squatting. I did ZERO cardio for 4 solid months, ate primally, lifted, did sprints twice a month. And then one day the surf got really good and I surfed for 2+ hours with my roommates. I had NO PROBLEM hanging with them, actually having better stamina than them, despite having done zero cardio for 4 months. Trust me, your heart gets a GREAT workout doing deadlift or sprints. You don’t need to mindlessly beat yourself up on a treadmill to retain that ability to have stamina when you want it.

  48. Mark, great article, great website.

    I’ve been incorparating the work of Pete Sisco into my weightlifting workouts and let me tell you, this stuff really gives the CNS a wake up call. He even has a specific routine called the ‘CNS Workout’. Although I generally use a combonation of his Power Factor and SCT workouts.

    You should check out some of his literature(The ebook TrainSmart mostly), and although I don’t subscribe wholly to everything he says, a lot of his general strength gaining principals ring true with me.

    Oh, and thanks for increasing my knowledge of many things. Much appreciated.

  49. How can I increase my arm strength without putting on weight to compromise agility? (Agility as in, jumping high/long)

    1. heavy weight, low reps, low sets and 2 – 5 min rest in between sets. example:
      3 x 3

  50. 12 eggs a day! I’m definitely not eating enough protein – nuff said! :O

  51. Dear Mark or any who have input,

    I’m trying to gain muscle.
    But, I am certain I am not like most.

    First of all, I’ve been training and for some time competing at a high level in powerlifting and sprinting for 10 years.
    Sometimes fun competitions like highland games, strongman or even Crossfit-get-togethers with friends are done.

    Some of my best accomplishments are, all at a bodyweight of 165-168lbs:

    550lbs conventional deadlift
    517lbs back squat, competition depth
    418lbs olympic deep squat
    235lbs push jerk
    100 meters sprint: 10s97h

    (I don’t feel I need to prove myself for these numbers, but some of them are on my youtube channel
    Shameless attention plug, check!)

    None world-class, but I worked very hard for these numbers and managed to keep my weight and bodyfat percentage within a “reasonable” throughout.

    Gaining muscular weight has always been a problem though. I can gain weight, easily, but most of it fat …which I would diet off later … with the end result being me at the same size but with some added strength. This is good to a certain extend as a competitor, but at a certain point I felt I needed to gain more muscle and weight, without increasing my bodyfat percentage too much, to continue to improve.

    Now … I’ve adopted a paleo/primal eating plan for the obvious reasons, however, … now it seems I CAN’T gain weight.

    I’ve added half a gallon of raw whole milk after workouts on training days, I’m now eating at least 12-14 eggs a day, several spoonfulls of natural nut butter, several large servings of meat, fish or fowl and some fruit(and of course my veggies), but it seems like I’m actually losing weight. I do have to note it seems to all be fat, about which I’m not complaining.

    Of course, being in the iron game long enough I know the answer to this problem: “SIMPLY EAT MORE!” or “SQUATS AND(raw)MILK!”

    But, besides that, has anyone any tips or experiences on how to gain weight? I’m looking for people who have somewhat of the same starting point.

    Kind regards,


    1. Bert, if you’re not gaining ANY kind of weight (fat or muscle), then you’re not eating enough calories.

      The opposite of fat loss advice for you — move less, eat more. The milk is good, and try to add other high calorie foods like nuts and seeds, dressing, oils and fats, more fruit than veggies, maybe? More winter squash and root veggies vs lower cal veggies, too. There’s probably no need for more protein, since after a certain minimum amount of P, it’s simply calories that are needed to add to your weight.

      Aggressive lifting should take care of “heart health,” so cut out superfluous cardio, take the elevator, and park closer to the door. 😉

      I think you know how to lift for muscle gain, and I’m sure it will come with the food.

      You’re strong. Impressive!

      1. Hey Roland,


        Yep, especially the move less thing might be a good way to go. I’m now taking a deload week and next week I’m cutting about 10-15% off my total weekly volume.

        I was already taking the elevator and walking a lot on top of “some” light cardio(one 20-30-minute session a week), but I might cut down on that now too.

        I’m adding in more fruit as well. Seems I hit a ceiling what concerns more fat and protein intake, like you said as well,and eating 4 pieces of fruit now daily might help more.

        Thanks again for the help!

    2. Chad Waterbury gives the following advice on rep ranges for hypertrophy in his “rep bible” article:

      Reps – 36-50
      Load – 70-80% of 1 rep max
      Rest between sets – 60-120 seconds
      Sessions per week per muscle group – 2-4

      If you are not gaining in muscle size it’s usually 1 of 2 things (or both) improper training technique (for desired goal) or lack of calories for growth.

      It’s sounds like you are very well trained at strength. That doesn’t always equate to hypertrophy though, especially if one is concentrating on max singles and volume is on the low side.

      Design a routine with the above numbers as your guideline and eat and rest appropriately and you should be able to gain. If you are doing that and not gaining add calories to your diet each week until you do start gaining.

      1. Hey Toolman,

        Thanks for the help!

        I’m familiar with all writings of Chad Waterbury and my general strength is very good in all areas … both maximum strength, repetition strength, endurance strength as speed-strength(power).

        The calories will be the biggest factor!

        1. Sounds good.

          Increase those calories with some fats. It’s easy to get alot more calories by just adding a bit of heavy cream, olive oil, fish oil and nuts. As I’m sure you know a gram of fat has double the caloric density of either a gram of protein or carbohydrate… so have a big old bowl of blueberries and heavy cream and slip a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil into your salad.

          Good luck!

    3. I will say it again, cardio is the ANTI muscle. I don’t know how much cardio you’re doing a week, but if you’re lifting and eating appropriately to gain, but then doing lots of cardio…. you’ll never get anywhere. Look at marathon runners, pro cyclist like Lance Armstrong, those guys have very low muscle mass. Contrast that with Olympic sprinters. Are you training more like a sprinter or a marathon runner?

      1. Read my first post on this topic, if you will.

        I have always trained like a sprinter.
        The only cardio I did weekly was a single 20-30 minute relaxing bout of stepping or something alike, for the simply reason that it makes my joints feel better, who’ve taken quite a beating after 10+ years of training heavy and fast, like I should.

        I do not believe it will have a lot of impact on my gains.

        1. You pulling my leg? 😉

          Of course … also all the other stuff throughout the years… glutamine, CLA, BCAA’s, etc … now creatine does work, but it is not steroids.

          Thanks for your help though guys. I’ve gained another 2,5(lean)pounds in the meantime, just by forcing myself to eat more.

      2. it’s not anti muscle you just have to compensate by eating the additional calories that you burned doing the cardio.

      3. it’s not anti muscle, you have to compensate by eating the additional calories that you burned doing the cardio. other wise you’ll be in a calorie deficit.

    4. you can’t force yourself to add muscle by over eating you gain muscle because of anabolic hormones. focus on creating the ideal anabolic environment and you’ll grow.

  52. Hi Mark-
    I am so thankful for this post. I am a Crossfitter and trainer and have been working with my 16 year old on his fitness and his diet. It is complicated to try and gain mass at this age (although he is a lean 6′ 195# kid) as a Type 1 diabetic. This post is powerful for him and his other athlete friends who refuse to cheat for the sake of size (pro-hormones etc.) Keep the good stuff coming, looking forward to receiving my copy of your book and how it will help me, my family and my clients with their nutrition/diet/eating!

  53. Hi everyone,
    I was looking at some articles on the net that talked about the old conventional wisdom that you need carbs to build muscle and gain weight (I know, I know I’m sad for even reading the things through) but one comment left me wondering. A person said that if one is in ketosis, one cannot build muscle and gain weight. Their reasoning being that “ketosis is a catabolic state and therefore anabolic processes like building muscle cannot occur.” (I read that and just thought wow! how knowledgeable you must be to use the words anabolic and catabolic) While I know the emphasis of the PB is to hit the “sweet spot” rather than go for a full blown ketogenic diet I was wondering is it possible to gain weight and build muscle whilst in ketosis?

    Thanks guys!

    1. Why would you want to be in Ketosis? Carbs give you the energy to progressively lift heavier and heavier weights. muscles won’t grow unless adequately stressed. PROGRESSION IS KEY! You need fuel for progresseion. It’s a scientific fact that when you are in a calorie deficit you will burn stored fuel. you folks all want some kind of blanket workout routine and diet. it doesn’t work like that. you need to experiment we are all different. start with 150 grams of carbs per day and in 2 weeks check your progress. use your strength in the gym to determine if you need more or less

  54. Has anyone worked with/tried a strenght training format/philosophy called “escalating density training”, which was developed by Charles Staley? It seems that it would be very “Grok” friendly, since it would appear to develop the type of strenght that primative man would have naturally gravitated towards…strenght without frivilous bulk coupled with muscular endurance.

    Anyone given it a shot? I am seriously looking into trying it.

  55. This article was better than I expected (I tend to expect the worst…so much crap in this industry). I agree with much of what you wrote.

    However, I’d like to add that fasted training may not be that bad at all. New studies show it might even be superior to fed state training if you look at the compensatory boost in some myogenic growth factors as a response to proper post-workout nutrition.

    If someone is interested, I’ve written a bit about this here –

  56. Increasing your lean muscle mass will actually enhance your speed, agility co ordination and strength when using proper training principles, not disadvantage them.

    One major concern is surrounding flexibility as the muscles become so conditioned to contracting they can end up shortening. This is why a strong focus should be on flexibility when weight training as well as using your full range of motion during exercises.

  57. Plugging Starting Strength and Practical Programming by Rippetoe. I started on a 5×5 program and then switched to SS. Wish I had done SS from the beginning. Also is a fun sight and anyone who thinks they are a hard gainer needs to go there for some hefty doses of reality. One of the diets 70sbig advocates is a paleo + milk diet coupled with linear progression barbell training.

    1. Hi Michael, why is that? -did you find 5×5 being too hard when working out 3 times a week? You see more progress with SS? I’m starting out myself so I’m just curious.. Cheers 🙂

  58. Hi Mark. I bought your book a couple of days ago and I LOVE every page of it! Though there is one question i’d like to ask (anyone, for that matter, please feel free to contribute) about training frequency depending on job type. I work as a construction / manual labourer and i’m trying to decide whether to go a 3 day full body routine or just keep it at 2? I’m afraid I might overtrain if i’m on a 3 day full body strength training routine. I’d like to add about another 6-7kgs of lean muscle tissue. Thanks in advance!

  59. Great comprehensive article Mark. I totally agree that compound exercises definitely are the way to go if you want to put on size as quickly as possible. The king of them all squats is a must for boosting the metabolism and pumping out those essential growth hormones.

  60. “Lift really heavy things” haha I like your writing style, and the information is solid. Thanks for this great article.

  61. I have a question. I am an 18 year old male and I follow the crossfit wods. I have been exercising for years (crossfit for a little over one year) but eating very wrong (ridiculously high carbohydrates and very little fat and only moderate protein). I have been following a primal diet to the extent that I can in college (lots and lots of eggs and nuts/nut butters) for a while now hoping to finally bring my body fat down but have not been able to see any progress. Is it possible that I am eating too much fat now if I am eating almost 60 eggs a week and adding more fat in the form of spoonfuls of nuts and nut butters? That said, I really love eating primally. It has opened up new worlds of taste that I had been restricting in following paleo and zone diets

  62. Ben,

    I thought I was eating lots of eggs at about 20 per week!

    I also had been eating tons of starches. I replaced those with mostly good greens (keeping starch intake only around workouts–as many have done for years). I am eating plenty of fats in meats and oils in salads, plus a Fish Oil supplement, and now have clearly visible abs–finally.

    Are you getting enough good protein? And are you strength training centered on the big lifts? Those two factors account for much of what will happen in bodycomp change. Old stuff, really.

    I agree with the author to avoid fasted workouts and training. Just eat consistently, but eat well– as described here. Most of what is necessary to do for lean gains and fat loss is already long known.

    For strength and muscular development, Rippetoe’s Starting Strength is the way (for beginners and most who say they are lifting veterans). It centers on 3 basic lifts per session–and if eating correctly–one will probably not get noticeably better results with more work or bodypart specializing.

    SS is a brilliantly articulated work on a 5-rep method that is proven for decades. His instruction has even taught me some things on the “basics”–which always work best.

    Good luck,


  63. this article has done me wonders. i’ve been steadily in the gym for 4 years now and after this article, i can say i’ve REALLY seen a significant progression in my attributes. i’ve gained about 10 pounds in the past 2 months. i can’t say it’s all muscle, but my cardio and strength have increased significantly, so i definitely can’t call it bad.

    i’ve focused on my legs a lot more and decided to go down in weight on the bench. by going down, i tried increasing my output on the lower weight and generally adding weight gradually to optimize my sets…instead of walking in the gym and throwing 225 on the bar and doing 3 sets of 6, i go in and do 5 sets of 5 at 185, adding 5 pounds per session…it’s worked out great. and i’m going in on leg lifts and squats like crazy doing 5 sets of each at a lower weight and maximizing on the day i dedicate specifically to lower body. right now i’m 197. i was 185 when i came across this article.

    my diet has changed significantly. i love food, but i suck(ed) at cooking and would always cut out and catch a burger or some other crap to substitute a good meal. well now that’s stopped. every week i go to the grocery store and stock up on chicken, eggs, fish, turkey and canned tuna. that along with all the fruits and vegetables and i’m golden for three meals a day outside of breakfast.

  64. I am doing P90X. The system uses nutrition effectively and has good motivation for taking workouts to the next level with exertion. It is a system for getting RiPPED (low body fat) rather than mass building. Of course you will still build lean muscle if you are honest in your workouts and what you have to do every day with your daily goals.

    Staying in your hypertrophy range (5-10 reps per exercise to failure) throughout the system and eating big is best. Supplement P90X with compound movements like squats and deadlifts and sprints. Lots of sleep, moderate water intake (A gallon a day is probably too much, but not much less than that) and eat properly according to the guides.

  65. The tried and true 5×5 routine. The shortened version is awesome for people on the go.

    What’s interesting is that most people confuse ripped and muscle building. Physiologically speaking they are the same, but one simply has less fat.

    You lift more weight, not including the 2-6 weeks it takes for learning and skill building and the rest is structural changes whether from muscle or connective tissue change or both.

    Always had a hard time following diets, but oh well.

    Awesome post.

  66. Whether one wants to lose weight (FAT) or gain weight (MUSCLE), I believe the principles of rational strength training (focus on basic movements with lots of weight, with barbells, preferably) and diet (PRIMAL) should be applied—in both cases.

    The only thing that should differ dependent on which goal is applied, is that the QUANTITY of PRIMAL food intake be altered.

    I don’t see any other path here.


  67. I’ve been Primal for about two months now, and I’m experiencing a weight-loss problem. I’ve lost more than I’d like! I’m 5’7″, and I’m down to a 34″ chest, 25″ waist and 35″ hips. I’ve got a six-pack, a 14″ bicep and 23″ thigh, so I don’t think I’m lacking in the muscle department too much. I’m not sure my weight, because I don’t own a scale, but my clothes have become baggy and I feel this is too small for me.

    I do my weight training every other day, and I tend to count my being on my feet all day (I work at a coffee house) as low-level aerobic exercise. I get in a sprint session about once a week, and a longer run also because I like to.

    I eat whenever I’m hungry. What can I do to reverse my shrinking self?

    1. If you like heavy cream (and who doesn’t :)), then try drinking that often to add in some more calories or any other fat that you like, as well as Clint’s suggestion for sweet potatoes, etc.

    2. Don’t just cook with oil, add extra oil to your foods.

      Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both have wild rice, but it’s also available online.

      Also, coconut milk or cream is high calorie and easy to drink or add to foods (like curry).

      Here’s a primal dessert

      Coconut Banana “Ice Cream”

      Serves 2

      2 bananas (previously sliced into rings and frozen in a zipper bag)
      .5 oz unsweetened, shredded coconut
      .25 cup coconut milk

      Pour all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until it’s creamy. If necessary, drizzle a tiny bit more milk to get to the desired consistency.. It will never be totally smooth because of the shredded coconut.

      Garnish with a few reserved coconut shreds.

      Nutrition: 205 calories, 11g Fat, 29g Carbs, 4g Fiber, 2.5g Protein

      If you used coconut cream instead of milk, you add an additional 50-75 calories, depending on the brand. Or you can just eat more of the “ice cream” yourself.

      1. Roland, that dessert recipe sounds delicious. There are some banana allergies in our household, though, so I think I’ll experiment with using other fruits. No Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods within 100 miles of South Bend, IN, unfortunately, but I’ll scope out some of the smaller natural foods stores.

        I’m also going to let you guys in on a bit of a secret. I don’t know about other coffee houses, but Starbucks has heavy whipping cream on hand (that’s what goes in my coffee when I’m at work), you just have to ask for it. You might get some rolled eyes, although not from my manager, who also uses it — just tell them tough cookies.

  68. Erin,
    Add in a few more Primal carbs like a sweet potato or even a little wild rice and see if the loss levels out. I had that problem too and went too far the other way so add the carbs in slowly until you find your “sweet spot.”

  69. Thanks, Clint! I’ve searched unsuccessfully in our supermarkets for wild rice, but I will pick up a few more starchy vegetables on my next grocery trip. I was thinking — all the women on my mother’s side of the family hover around 5’0″ and 100 lbs. I thought I just got my curves from my dad, like my height, but I’m starting to wonder whether going Primal is just finally making those “little” genes express themselves.

  70. I’d recommend the same Primal dietary approach—regardless of goals. Only the calories need be manipulated.

    Thus, I’d recommend eating more of the good protein sources until you notice a *slow* weight gain. Only a small surplus is needed. I would not go “starchy”, which is contrary to inflammation principles, is fattening, and only pulls in more water. Complex cycling and timing of macronutrients is not needed either. This is simple stuff but few believe that.

    If you are already eating (chewing) as much as you truly an and still not gaining, add some tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. But this is usually not necessary if eating properly.

    And anyone needs is progressive, demanding, basic barbell lifting using any rep range between 5-12, or some combination thereof.

    Genetics takes care of the rest.

  71. Erin, that sucks about the banana allergy. Other fruits are not as creamy, so you’ll have mixed results. Papaya might work. I don’t like them, so I’ve never tried it.

    Roy, Mark recommends some “primal friendly” starches in the article.

    1. Roland: Right. I was referring to avoiding a departure towards things like baked potato, rice, breads, etc.

      Agreed that there are better starches and perhaps these can be used around workouts, or in the mornings of training days—when insulin levels favor. But even this *may* not be necessary. In general, I’d oppose a traditional “bulking” mentality.

      1. Perfect! Agreed.

        The trick is really to find a way to eat just a little more per day AND then not go and waste it by subconsciously training, moving, or fidgeting more!

  72. Wow, great info.
    I’m currently trying to get leaner but when ever i do that i lose all the muscle that i have worked so hard to gain.
    Might have to hook myself up with a copy of your book.
    thanks again.

  73. I am an athlete at a high school a 10th grader. I am not a hard gainer but I consider myself as an easy gainer maybe because I eat a lot of calories, protein but not as much veggies and fruit (I do drink water though). I am strong for my age and I play basketball, and wightlift. I wight 150 pounds and I am 5 feet and 10 inches tall. I can bench about 120 pounds but I am losing muscle and potting fat!! How can I lose fat and gain muscle with pounds?

    1. David, if you’re losing muscle, you need a better weight training program.

      You don’t say whether you’re gaining weight, in addition to fat, but the better weight training program and some real efforts in the gym should help to shift fat gain to muscle gain.

      You could still be eating too much, but it’s hard to tell without knowing more about your actual scale weight gains and program.

      Get on a good weight training program like Starting Strength or The New Rules Of Lifting (both books on Amazon) and see what that does to your body.

  74. Ok thatk you. I will try a new wight training program. Oh by the way I was skinny two years ago and now I look fatter and more muscular. But is is not actually fat it is hard muscle with fat. I guess I have to rain harder. Thank you all.

  75. Mark,

    Great article. But hardgainer or not, I’m concerned about the fat intake you propose (especially saturated) when doing this type of workout. Wouldn’t that lead to an increase risk of heart disease and clogged arteries??

    1. Mark,

      Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease or clogged arteries, despite what conventional wisdom might try to label this naturally occurring fat.

      Here is an article from this site on fats in general:

      Here is an article from Scientific American:

      Do more reading around this site and other low carb/paleo sites for tons of information on this. Processed carbs, not saturated fat is the enemy of the heart. I’ve linked some at bottom for convenience:

      1. Thanks! Fat rules, but I just want to make sure I’m not hurting my self for eating it. I appreciate the articles!

  76. 5×5 stuff is terrible and useless
    all the people doing the Rippetoe stuff become fat and even less conditioned and strong than someone doing a normal lifting routine. Volume is underestimated, it builds muscles better than intensity.

    1. I think that’s an ignorant thing to say. Rippetoe’s methods build muscle differently than higher rep volume. Starting strength is designed to gain weight and o-lift/powerlift strength. It’s not designed for any other conditioning.

    2. There is no such thing as a “normal” lifting routine. Low volume/heavy lifting has been around for decades, Rippetoe is just restating it. Bill Starr did it before that.

      Never let anyone tell you there is only one way to lift weights. There are literally dozens of ways that many have had success with… High volume/moderate weight, HIT, low volume/heavy weight, slow go, olympic, powerlifting, etc.

      Any trainee should try any and all and see how their body reacts. If meeting goals then put it in your bag of tricks. Switch routines and styles throughout a training year.

    3. Well that is an incredibly silly thing to say, and is highly unfounded.
      Rippetoe’s program is ‘Starting Strength’.
      Not ‘Starting Conditioning’.
      Not ‘Starting Kind Of Strong’.
      ‘Starting Strength’.
      Strength in his program is the bottom line. He is not concerned with your conditioning on his program. It is intended to be used as a program to acquire a base level of strength. After attaining this base of strength you can do whatever you want to get rid of the fat you likely will have put on during the program.

  77. A hardgainer here. Great info…

    Just wondering whats some examples of good post-workout meals to take?

    Ive been eating a can of tuna in springwater and 4 cucumbers. So only protein and some carb intake there. No fat as I heard it gets in the way of protein absorption.

    Hope to hear some wise words! Cheers

  78. Just more on my above post. Im also on a Candida diet. So no fruit (sugar), diary, etc… and eating only about 80g carb a day. Im staying away from protein powders preferring to go as ‘whole’ as possible.
    Also, any thoughts for a good pre-bedtime snack/meal?
    Thanks guys

    1. You’re really going to have to eat more than that. You don’t list the rest of your diet, but you’re being way too careful after a workout, IMO. It leaves me with the impression that you might be too careful the rest of the day, too.

      That whole “avoid fat” thing after a workout is a myth, and while it might be fine for those who are going to eat 600-800 calories of protein and carbs, you’re not eating enough after the workout, anyway.

      Just eat. Protein, fat, veggies. You must eat more calories than you burn to gain weight.

  79. Hey Roland, thanks for your reply

    Ive been eating 3000cals a day, I weight 75kg. 6 meals a day. usually about 250g fat, approx 160g protein (enough for 1lb per kg of bodyweight for me) and the rest in carbs.

    Alright Ill throw in some fats for the postworkout meal too. Maybe some coconut oil?

    Any thoughts on a pre-bedtime meal? Ive been downing about 4 eggs.

    Thanks for the response!

    1. If you’re gaining weight, then there’s no reason to eat more pwo, but just don’t worry about fat. If anything, I’d try my hardest to get any carbs in then. Like actual squash or tubers with a higher carb content. Cucumber is pretty light in the calorie and carb department, so considering that a pwo carb is not very realistic.

      That being said, you don’t need immediate carb replenishment unless you plan to train again THAT day, anyway. Your next few meals should be fine for loading you back up on glycogen.

      As to bedtime, eat anything that sits well and doesn’t keep you up. Eggs should be fine if that’s what you like. It’s P and F, so you’re good to go.

  80. Not sure if I understand the workout correctly.
    For example on A:
    Squat 5×5
    Pull-ups 5xFailure (add weight if “Failure” is becoming more than 12 reps)
    Overhead Press 5×5

    Do I squat for five sets, then move to pull ups for five sets, then overhead press for five sets? Or do I do one set of squats, pullups, and Overhead press, and repeat four times?


    1. Typically:
      Squat all 5 sets, move to pullups for 5 sets, etc.

      That said, you could also, too mix it up, do a set of squats, a set of pullups, a set of OH press and then repeat.

      Try them both. Switch it up every week or so.

  81. I am a hardgainer- was 160 on a seafood diet. Went down to 145 on a cheap non seafood diet, if I forget to eat a few meals I can lose 5 pounds a day easy. Hope this helps me I made alot of mistakes running everyday for a few years and really broke down with muscles that stayed sore for months. thanks

  82. this all seems fantastic but im abit of new commer to this and don’t understand why you don’t want your muscle glycogen to be full? Thanks

  83. Hi Mark

    Just had to drop a quick line and say that I’m stoked to have found your website! My American wifes mum sent me your dailyapple website link and I couldn’t believe that there was someone else out there as Primal as us! We’re in Sydney Australia and live and breath exactly what you are writing about. My partners have just bought your book and look forward to seeing what you have to say. We’ll write about it on our blog soon. I’m sure it will be great 🙂 Keep up the positive messages of health that challenge the staud quo and look us up if you ever come to Sydney!


  84. ‘Insulin may be useful for stuffing your muscles full of glycogen, but that’s not what you’re going for… right?’

    why don’t we want to do this??

  85. I gotta say a dozen eggs a day sounds like it could definitely be harmful. As much as I love eggs, and could easily eat a dozen a day, I gotta think it’d be bad for me. Am I wrong here?

  86. Great article! Included heaps of insightful tips and covered pretty much everything that you could ask on how to gain weight and build muscle. Thanks for the post!

  87. Hey Guys,

    How big can us ectomorphs expect to get with this kind of workout and going Primal?

    In one of Marks other articles he says: “And in the long-term the range (or limits) of possible outcomes is determined by gene expression (5’8” ectomorphs simply can’t become 275-lb body-builders, but they can be well-proportioned 165-lb men or 135-lb women.)”

    Im a 6’2″ male and my goal is to reach about 200lb. Is this impossible/unrealistic? Doing a bit of research I heard thats how much Hugh Jackman weighed in Wolverine and he is a 6’2″ Ecto as well… sure he didnt go Primal (lots of carb bulking) but when he leaned out he had some serious muscle there. Is this possible with the Primal way?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. I would say it is definitely possible. I’m ectomorph, 5’11” and have weighed 200 lbs. Sitting at 185 lbs. right now and lean and muscular so I think it definitely attainable. Of course I’ve been training for 20+ years.

      I would encourage lots of fats, proteins and a good amount of low glycemic starchy veggies (sweet potatoes, etc) along with of course lots of fibrous veggies.

      Lift heavy (and smart), keep progressing (adding weight, decreasing rest time, adding reps, etc.) and eat lots of good foods and you can achieve your goal.

      1. Roy’s pretty spot on.

        Obviously, you can be limited by genetics, but most people never get to anywhere near their limitation.

        To get big (or bigger), you have to eat more than you burn and continually get stronger, lifting heavier and more volume. One way or another, that has to happen.

        One HUGE benefit of Mark’s Primal eating is that it naturally curbs the appetite and self-limits calories. Calories tend to be at pretty reasonable number for both healthy living and a leaner look than most of us are used to. But, because of these “benefits,” adapting it to getting bigger means some more creative eating or a slow down of activity or both.

        You’ll have to find a way to eat more than you burn. Track your food, track your weight, and if you’re not slowly gaining weight, bump it up.

        Don’t just eat more on training days, either. Yes, a huge meal with lots of primal carbs is probably best right after training, but muscles grow over time, so eat a little more on the day after, too.

        Of course, if you’re adding too much body fat for your liking, slow it down some OR consider an IF day during the week. I train on Sat, eat bigger on Sunday, then IF all day Monday, then train again Monday night. Play around and see what works.

  88. A lot of people completely overlook the importance of the central nervous system in the muscle building process. While everyone knows that you’ve got to lift heavy weights to build muscle mass, hardly anyone takes the approach of mixing things up in order to shock your CNS. I think that focusing on your central nervous system in addition the the basics is a great way to build more muscle mass.

  89. Thanks Roy, Roland and Nick…

    Great to hear the positive replies!!

    I sure am upping fats and protein. I have Candida (yeast overgrowth) that im currently overcoming/healing… so low carbs is a must. And no starchy veg too. I have about 6T coconut oil and 3/4 cup of olive oil a day to up the good fats and other fats from avocado, meat, good butter and other sources.

    Any advice on squats? I seem to be really terrible with squat strength. I feel my technique is 100% sound so Im working on that by lowering the weight. My strength in general isnt great… I weight 76kg. Im deadlifting 5×5 85kg… but only squatting about 35-40 kg. Ive got really long legs so maybe thats part of the challenge. I heard core work can really assist squat strength alot.
    I guess it doesnt matter. as long as the weight increases and Im happy with the mass Im gaining its all good. its all about progress.

    1. Rick, at your height and if you have long limbs you may very well be more suited for deadlift than you are for squats. Certain body types are more well suited for certain lifts.

      Doesn’t mean you can’t squat just means it may be more of a struggle for you and you need to be very careful on your technique, i.e. absolutely no rounding of your back and knees being pushed outward and not collapsing inward.

      Squats of deadlifts either one will work for gaining some good mass. Just keep pushing up your numbers and keep your form perfect and you will get there.

  90. Thanks Roy. Did some squats today. Kept at a reduced weight so form was real good and reaped the rewards. They were good deep squats! I feel I could have put on 5kg more maybe but hey, in two days time i can do that! no worries! Im not that strong with bench presses as well… but Im not going to fight against it. Im just going to accept the fact that thats where I am at at the moment and focus on what I need to do to take the next step. Thanks for your support!

    1. Yep, just keeping progressing and your body will adapt, it’s created to do just that.

      And right on, gaining mass is a “marathon not a sprint” so small, incremental progression over time will get you there.

      Good luck and hit this thread back with any questions, concerns you have.

  91. So mark, how would you recommend adding the olympic lifts in? Once I progress a bit more on SL I’d like to throw them in, but I’m tossing up ideas on frequency and placement. Would you suggest differing frequency and placement with snatches vs. cleans as you do squats vs. deadlifts? I do seem to recall hearing somewhere it’s common amongst olympic lifters to train snatches more often than cleans. Perhaps snatches every workout before squats and then alternating cleans into every second workout like with deadlifts (alternating between the two obviously)?

  92. I have had 3 knee surgeries and my doctor mentioned that I should not do high impact movements or squat. I hate this because I love doing all of those exercises and i’m into cross-fit. I guess I’m really screwed..

  93. Body weight exercises won’t get you there?? Somebody tell that to Herschel Walker.

  94. Mark, in your sample workout for beginners, are you recommending alternating each exercise? For example, Day 1 (A) do all squats in succession before moving on to pull-ups, or do an alternating pattern of squats, pull-ups, press – squats, pull-ups, press, etc. Sorry for such a lame question! This will settle a debate between myself and a buddy. (I believe it should be alternating.)

    1. Chris,

      Don’t know if Mark will get back into this thread (it’s fairly old) but I’m pretty sure it’s calling for doing all squats then moving on to pullups, etc.

      What would be suggestable, IMO, is, as a beginner, do the routine that way for 3-4 weeks and then switch it to the alternating style for 3-4 weeks. Minor changes (and it is minor) can make a major difference in how your body responds.

      Hard thing about alternating, if you belong to a gym, is hogging multiple pieces of equipment for the whole time. Another good reason to train at home 🙂

  95. Super detailed and agreed on the dieting. Nutrition is #1. If your not eating than don’t waste your time with exercise routines. Get your diet in check, then create your Fitness Plan.

  96. These are interesting points that you have made. Gaining weight is a very, very difficult and long process that takes a lot of dedication. has a lot of indepth articles and info for hardgainers and thats another spot to take a look at if you guys want to know more about weight gaining.

  97. hey guys!! Its been about 2.5 months since of been working out with this plan. ive put on about 10kg!

    I have an issue though… my arms arn’t growing as much muscle/mass as the rest of my body. I have quite long and lanky arms and Im finding it hard for them to grow good muscle.

    Ive added in some skullcrushers and dips for my tri’s and dumbell curls for my bi’s …but they’re still not growing that well. THey are sore the day after I work out so I know Im pushing them good.

    Any tips guys? Someone mentioned to me that it just means I need to eat more calories to give them an extra boost. Could this be accurate?

    Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks in advance!!

    1. There’s only so much muscle you can put on at once, so just eating more won’t do it. Some people’s arms (or legs, calves, etc) just grow slower or less than other parts. I don’t there’s hard in doing the tri and bi exercises, but it will still take time and patience.

      When you’re still in the stage where bigger muscle groups are adding fast, it can mean other areas don’t grow as fast.

    2. Hey Rick,

      Most people have some body parts that gain muscle easier and some body parts that don’t, it’s one of the struggles of gaining mass.

      There is literally tons of advise.

      Chad Waterbury would probably suggest training arms in a high frequency fashion:

      Charles Staley would probably encourage an EDT style approach:

      And Charles Poliquin would encourage growing your whole body to effect arm growth (which you are doing :))

      A big part of training is finding what works for your particularly… a lot of trial and error sometimes 🙂

      Keep training and you will get there. Adding overall size is a great key so that is a big plus!

      1. Thanks for the tips guys! Yeah I think youre right Roy, trial and error. My arms and shoulders are what I really need to work on.

        Im going to focus on slowing down the neg part of each rep and see what kind of change that may bring me. Being a true ecto my frame is tall and narrow so having good sized shoulders would be awesome so i look more filled out and have some width. Today I did some side deltoid raises and with the pump they got it made a MASSIVE difference to the look of my frame. anyway bro, ive gained 12kg, body fat is still quite low so its just a matter of tweaking the rest.

        thanks again mate!

        1. Good deal Rick… for shoulders I would also suggest looking into dumbbell hanging clean and press and see how that works for you. It’s a great mass building exercise.

          I’m ecto too so just be patient and keep at it. It will come with consistent work.

        2. Roy… Im going to add that to my workout for sure. Looks like a killer movement!! Hey, can you check out my workout and give me any tips on it…

          Squats 5×5
          Overhead Press 5×5
          Pullup 5xfailure
          Dips 5xfailure
          Bench Press 5×5

          Deadlifts 3×5
          Barbell Lunges 3×8
          Chinup 5×5
          Incline Press 5×5
          Lateral Side Raises 3×8

          Basically the skeleton is from Mark’s workout he wrote in this article. I think the side raises need to go and I could throw the Hang Clean Press instead. What do you think?
          Thanks again for the help!!!!

        3. The weight you are gaining I honestly wouldn’t change a thing at this point. Once you stop gaining then it will be time to take a look at some changes.

          Once you see that coming feel free to post back here and we can take a look then at some other options, tweeks, etc.

        4. Rick, your workout isn’t balanced. You have 5 upper body pushing exercises (including the raises) and only two pulls, both in the vertical plane. You’re setting yourself up for posture issues.

          You don’t need so much pushing and you need more pulling.

          Here’s an example, it might not be perfection, but it’s going to be better than all the internal rotation and pressing from the program that you’re thinking of now.

          Squats 5×5

          Overhead Press 5×5
          Pullup 5xfailure

          Dips 3xfailure
          Facepulls (with scap retraction), 3×15

          Deadlifts 3×5

          Bench Press 5×5
          Chinup 5×5

          Barbell Lunges 3×8
          Incline Press 3×8
          DB Two Point Rows, 3×8

  98. I have done 5×5 type programs with pretty good success for strength gaining, but recently applied it to mass building.

    I went with the ADEAD (Dozen eggs a day), in addition to my regular (about 95%) primal diet. I am a hardcore hardgainer, so I had to be very disciplined for this to work.

    I weighed myself daily, and if there were 3 days in a row where I didn’t gain mass, I added more food (some days I was through 12 eggs before lunchtime!)

    Results were an astounding 17 lbs gained in 28 days, and I only increased my body fat percentage by 0.5% (at 6’1, went form 180-197lbs)

    To all the people who think you need to stuff your face with protein powders, dairy, or complex carbs to gain weight, it simply isn’t true! The blueprint works!

  99. Hey guys,

    Nice to see some good weight training discussion here.

    If you’re looking for some variety over the 3 x 5 and 5 x 5 programs that seem popular here I HIGHLY recommend having a look at Martin Berkhan’s “Reverse Pyramid Training”.

    I’ve had my BEST gains by far with this setup,, basically I just do bench, squats,chins and deadlifts using these guidelines. I throw in some assistance work for calves (they really need it lol), arms and abs at the end of the workout.

    Only 2-3 sets RPT style per movement and I’ve had my best gains ever in the last 3-4 months. I was doing SS before but stalled and this definitely got me through my plateau. Bench is up 15 kg for reps and squat 35 kg for reps. Bodyweight up 3-3.5 kg but I’m looking leaner to boot. Also doing the Leangains diet which is working great.

    1. Hey John,

      Can you share your exact workout routine? I would love to check it out!!!


  100. How do you eat 1g of protein for 1lb of bw thoughout the day? If I’m 180 lbs, how do I eat 180 g of protein?

  101. Now lee Im not sure if you’re asking how do I know Im eating 180g or How could I eat that huge amount of protein.

    To find out how many grams of protein is in certain foods you can search nutritional sites on the net. A few are ,etc…

    To eat 180g of protein is not that hard at all. But to do it make sure you’re eating every 3 hours. …and ensure every meal contains about 30g-40g of protein. Meat’s will be the number 1 source of good protein and, as mark and a few others have recommended, eating up to a dozen eggs a day will also bump up the protein too (as well as good fats).

    Yesterday I ate about 240g of protein with out even flinching. My purchasing of meat, especially red meat, has gone up for sure. But so has my health!

  102. Bring on the “real” meat!!! It’s going to be a good day with the “iron” tomorrow. Thx for the extra motivation.

  103. Hey Mark, great article.

    It seems that you have recently reversed your position on weights vs. bodyweight. In this article you state that weights, especially squat and deadlift, are essential. But in most recent articles and in Primal Blueprint Fitness, you state that manipulating body weight is all that is needed to create a fit body, six pack (with diet of course), great strength/weight ratio, etc. As a specific example, you state that the pushup is superior to the bench press due to its fuller range of motion and use of more muscles like the serratus. What do you think about the role of weight now? Weight vests the way to go? Or is squatting heavy weight still preferred for people looking to put on mass? I suppose my real question is, can I eat a lot of food, caloric surplus, be primal, and do only bodyweight stuff to failure and expect to gain some size and become ripped?

    1. Richard,

      Don’t know if Mark still keeps up with this thread but I would point to the title of the post which is “How to gain weight and build muscle”.

      Can you become ripped using body weight (and vest and diet) exercises. Absolutely. Can you gain mass? Less likely (though still possible for some with great genetics).

      Use both. Split your training year into mass gaining using 5×5 principles and other part of year to dedicate to body weight training.

      Don’t get locked into either and try them both “on for size”.

    2. If size is important to you, then you should consider weights. Progressive overload is key, and not just by adding reps. Adding weight/resistance isn’t all that easy to insure with bodyweight exercise.

      Nothing wrong with bodyweight, and it’s a great part of most programs, but I would say to concentrate on weights as the primary and bodyweight for the assistance.

  104. hehe, “lift heavy things” – nice and simple 🙂

    Some good info there on glycogen stores too.

    I’ve just switched to doing a lot of kettlebell work like snatches/swings etc and apart from feeling great my lean mass has gone through the roof!

  105. What do you do once you’ve reached your ideal body composition? Continue eating a dozen eggs a day for the rest of your life? (I apologize if a similar question has been asked already – I couldn’t find anything)

  106. I love what the primal blueprint has done for me. Even when I can’t workout for awhile I don’t fall on the wagon and have to deal with excessive weight gain. Before primal I was skinny fat. Now I can eat WAY more calories and still maintain low body fat.

  107. Just a quick tip…Leangains + Primal Blueprint = Ultimate WIN for muscle building without fat gain.

    Check out the Leangains guide on Martin’s site Do that, eat paleo and lift heavy. You’ll lean out and build muscle. I don’t care if everyone says it can’t be done because I’ve done it and so have many others.

  108. Great post. I personaly don´t agree on the “just Bodyweight stuff isn´t going to cut it” section and can prove otherwise but it is natural that most folks don´t just how intense you get with BWE.

  109. Hi Mark,

    I enjoyed this article and like your blog a lot. What I relate to most is your advocation of high protein intake and, especially, high intake of “animal protein.”

    That said; there are three quotes containing assumptions I’m having trouble with:

    “What would Grok do – go for enormous biceps or the ability to haul a carcass back to camp? Unless you’re a bodybuilder, I can’t advise simply packing on size without a proportional increase in actual strength.”

    “…continuing to increase strength will eventually require increasing size.”

    “Form is best paired with a healthy serving of function.”

    While your statements acknowledge that one cannot gain strength without “eventually” gaining size – you imply that gaining size can occur without gaining strength. While this might not be an error in pure logic – I do find it to be one in the real world of practicality; I’ve never gained size without substantial, corresponding gains in strength.

    I also don’t think (from experience) that function and size/strength are mutually exclusive – as it seems it’s ‘in vogue’ to believe; an entire cottage industry has sprouted up around the notion of “functional strength.” But strength, by its very definition, functions. And as I’ve said, I’ve never gained size without getting that functioning strength.

    In fact, my best increases in size lately have been accompanied by big increases in strength that have been readily handy in real world applications. I’ve talked about this on my blog.

    Anyway, great work overall. I want to read more of your stuff.

    I’ve been bodybuilding for a long time and I’ve never experienced gaining size without gaining strength.

  110. mark posted his routine, but for the beginner it will not work yet, you should start in much easier workout, build your strength and stamina first, and afterwards do what mark said, to build the muscle, and see the rip and cut.

    1. Failure after one pull-up will require you to do the pull-up “assisted”. Meaning use large rubber band like straps attached to the bar and then under one or both feet (usually one) to give you a bit of a spring effect… bungee cord jumping is a example. will need to play with the amount of “assist” You may have to even put on a weight vest if your “assisted” band/bungee is too strong 😉 trial and error, until you eventually can a set without the band, then optimally having to use a weighted vest to limit your reps… This undoubtedly will take some time. Paleo on…

  111. There machines at the gym that assist you in the pull-up.

    For the 5×5 training program, I’ve found that it is absolutely crucial that you don’t hit failure. Training until failure stunts your strength gains. Attempt a rep only if you’re 100% certain that you will be able to complete it. It’s fine if you ‘leave one in the tank’ for next time.

  112. “you can’t force yourself to add muscle by over eating you gain muscle because of anabolic hormones. focus on creating the ideal anabolic environment and you’ll grow”.

    What’s the ideal anabolic environment? And guys, I’ve upped my protein intake to about 120g a day. I weigh 130lbs. 5″6 female. ( I eat chicken,rice,veg in the morning. A sandwich at lunch. A chicken salad. Then for dinner, I’ll have a burger or 2 salmon fillets). I’ve been working on getting my form right since October, and it’s a lot better now. I haven’t gained inches though.. anything.

    So was wondering what the ideal anabolic environment is? I walk a lot. Can you have a ‘carb day’ then go heavy on the protein after? Can you drink eggs? And what would you say is the best workout for a beginner.. the 5×5? I read everything yes lol, but I want gains! I’ve been doing one-legged squats (my form is so much better than full squats), straight legged deadlifts, then donkey kicks.

    1. Worrying about the ideal hormone setup is not necessary. Unless you have an issue with your hormones, you should be fine.

      Get enough protein, which you are already.
      Eat more calories than you burn. Are you slowly gaining weight?

      In the beginning, you may lose fat and gain muscle size at the same time, but eventually that slows or stops. If you really want to gain size, it’s important to put on weight or size over time. While there’s always the chance that you are losing fat and staying the same weight (which indicates muscle/lean growth), you can’t really be sure.

      I’m curious why you are posting questions about gaining weight and building muscle on a paleo diet site when you aren’t eating paleo to begin with. Rice, burgers, and sandwiches?

      I don’t have an issue with people who aren’t eating paleo (or primal), but it’s a strange place to ask for muscle building advice when you don’t have the dietary restrictions go along with the article.

  113. Hi Roland, thanks for replying. I literally discovered Marks Apple yesterday, and I’m trying to switch over to Paleo. The rice /sandwich /burger isn’t in 1 meal lol. Right now, I’m just adjusting to eating meaty fillings and a lot more meat and veg in general. I didn’t realise rice Wasn’t paleo..

    And the few days I ate high protein with just veg, I felt almost light-headed, and ended up eating a bit of junk to compensate, so it’s hard to jump right in

  114. Even though the Challenge is over, the Challenge page seems to be a good starting point for Primal living info.

    Mark’s book is an excellent read, so you might pick that up from one of the links at the top right of this page.

    Just so you know, there’s a possibility that you MIGHT feel like crap for a few days from the switch. You body needs time to switch from carbs to fats as a primary fuel. I would encourage you to concentrate on eating higher fat animal protein sources, including the skin on the chicken and turkey. 🙂 It helps to eat more fat.

    Also, this is not the time to worry about “eating light” or anything. Eat up and fine tune later. Your body is confused and changing fuel sources, so give it the calories it needs now in the form of veggies, meat, and animal fats as primary foods. Anything else is secondary right now.

  115. I posted a response, but it has a link, so it’s awaiting moderation. In the meantime, don’t worry about high protein, which often leads to too little fat. Worry about getting enough meat, which will be protein AND fat, plus veggies. Low fat will ruin your chances, especially right now.

  116. Thanks so much (and for replying in general..I wasn’t sure if I’d get a reply). Would I be getting enough fat just by eating meat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner? I’m definitely gonna start taking fish oil regularly to get more of it (fats). Why’s low fat bad esp right now?

  117. Wish I could edit that reply ^! I just re-read the ‘don’t worry about high protein, which often leads to too little fat’ ..isn’t meat fatty in itself though? And why would low fat be bad, esp now?

  118. I re-read your first reply as well Roland, and I haven’t been gaining weight. Infact I weighed myself, and I went from 59 or 60kg to 58.2kg or 130lbs down to 128lbs. I’ve cut down on junk considerably, and I move a lot.. walking and karate 3x a week.

    Do you think I could do a ‘carb day’.. all fruit, then go heavy on protein for the subsequent days, so that my body holds on to it better?

    I read about eggs being one of the most assimilated proteins, so could I drink them, as in add it to a drink?

  119. Okay So on Monday I did:

    Squat 5×5
    Pull-ups 5xFailure (add weight if “Failure” is becoming more than 12 reps)
    Overhead Press 5×5

    as recommended… now It’s Wednesday and my shoulders are still slightly sore as well as my legs and forearms…

    would you recommend still doing part B
    today? (Wednesday)

  120. I have been eating paleo for just over a year, but continued my workout routine, because I was skeptical of “less is more”. However, today I did squat 5×5, pull-ups (overhand 3x underhand 2x) 5x failure and overhead press 5×5. I am going to wait to add weight to the squat until I can squat below horizontal (80 kgs) since the lower you can squat, the better. I could have done heavier overhead presses, but I did not use a rack, and lifted pre-weighted bars from the floor. Even though the workout was shorter by 15 minutes, I felt terrific. I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s killer deadlift.

  121. Awesome stuff Mark!

    Alot of people feel theey have to rely on supplements to get bigger so it’s great to see someone pushing the natural food route

    keep up the good work!

  122. hey guys! the training has been going good. sometimes a little inconsistent with getting enough calories but put on about 10kg.

    Now I’ve got a question that might seem the opposite of this discussion: how can i reduce the size of my pecs?

    i think its my genetics because even when i was a skinny weakling people thought i had big chest compared with the rest of my body.

    I think its just that it sticks out. just genetics of my body structure.

    Now that Ive been training it really looks a lot more prominent compared with the rest of my body. it looks like ive got tits basically ;o)

    Any ways to get it to reduce the pecs?

    I havnt done any chests press’ for a month or two. I do bench dips for tri’s but my chest is getting hit with those. i think they’re getting a bit of a hit with deadlifts too.

    any ideas guys?


    1. I would just concentrate on building up the rest and getting body fat to low levels. Get your arms, back and legs up to match your chest and you’ll be good to go.

  123. Good post. I’ve always been a fan of protein and vegetables, unprocessed, and Atkins always made sense to me in that way. Feeling all Primal now.

  124. I do P90x…hits it all. A great article and conversation(s), too! Happy hunting!

  125. hey guys,

    any ideas on how people with fast metabolism’s can slow down their metabolism speed?

    I ask this because over the last week and a half over xmas and new year I’ve taken time off from training and eating every 2-3 hours a day. Ive been eating 3-4 meals a day usually without my usual high fat. And I’ve lost 4kg in that short period!!

    Any way I can slow down how quickly I burn calories/weight/muscle so if I have a short time off or am traveling overseas where eating good quality food every 3 hours cannot be done then I won’t be losing crazy amounts of weight.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. kinda drives me crazy to hear this. 🙂

      If youre losing weight, consume more calories… if you can only eat 2-3 times a day, eat bigger meals. If you cant eat bigger meals, learn how. Gaining weight is a skill to be honed, keep practicing.
      Olive oil, fatty meats, eggs and cream are all you friend. If you cant eat a 1 pound 70% lean burger (lamb, beef…) then keep practicing. then work up from there.

      Good luck and practice your craft (eating!) with conviction.

  126. It’s likely a lot of water and reduced fiber size from the reduction in training. That’s not real muscle loss. There may be some, but not as much as you think.

    You need to find a way to force yourself to eat. Add in some high calorie foods like coconut milk or coconut cream.

    It’s not ideal, but you should be able to find milk and yogurt virtually everywhere. Drink a lot of it.

    In Eastern Europe and Middle East, drinkable yogurt is an easy find, too.

    1. thanks for the reply roland! =)

      Im on an anti-candida diet. so no sugar at all, carbs, etc.

      coconut milk contains alot of sugar.

      so quite a bit of my fats come from 6T of coconut OIL (antifungal) and 9T of extra virgin olive oil a day.

      i suppose if ive got those two oils with me it wont be too hard. finding good quality protein, besides eggs, to eat whilst traveling and being outside of the normal routine can be challenging. Just gotta do ya best I guess!

  127. But what if I can’t do a pull-up? If I could only do one pull-up! 🙁

    1. Here’s a great way to work on pull-ups. Lots of gyms now have a machine where you can kneel on a pad that is attached to an adjustable counterweight. You move the weight adjustment to make it harder or easier. The weight setting offsets how much of your bodyweight you are pulling up. Start with what’s comfortable and do 10 reps. Next week, move the pin to a lower weight offset and repeat. If you keep at it you will soon be able to do pullups without any help. When I started doing this I couldn’t do any pullups unassisted and now I do 4 sets of 10 without help. You can do it too!

  128. I have been lifting weights for 40 years now (OMG I’m old!) and I have found that weights 3 days a week and yoga 3 times a week are my perfect combination for strength and flexibility. I find that I can actually lift more now that I work on flexibility.

    1. What kind of yoga do you do? Do follow a video or your own routine or go to class or what?

      Thanks in advance!

      1. I took a beginners/intermediate class with my wife and now I just repeat what we did in class. Nothing too extreme, just focusing on the moves that stretch the muscles. Most libraries have videos and dvds you can check out and that would do the trick.

  129. Hey guys,

    Whats your thoughts on how long to give muscles a rest before working them out again?

    For example… I saw a program over a leangains where over a 10day period you do 4 workouts. There is a day for Squats, Deadlifts, Chest Press and Chinup. ..with 1 other exercise on each of those days for you to choose (e.g. calve raises).

    Then Rippetoes Starting Strength has 3 workouts a week. EVERY workout you do Squats. Squats 3 times a week!!!

    Whats everyones thought on this? Does working muscles more frequently like Rippetoes program stimulate muscle size and strength?


    1. It completely depends upon a great number of factors, such as:

      Age of trainee
      Strength of trainee
      Lifestyle (how much stress, how much responsibility, how much sleep, etc.)

      These are just some of the factors, there are more.

      For example, I am 46 yrs. old, have been weight training for 25 yrs and can squat twice my bodyweight and deadlift 2.5 times my bodyweight.

      It would be absolutely impossible for me to squat 3 times a week and make any progress (hence the program is called “starting” strength). I squat once per week and have to deload often.

      An untrained person who is young can make great progress on starting strength because their weights will be light. After a time though they will have to change to another program.

  130. Last I checked, the body can only properly absorb 30 grams of protein per meal. Anything beyond that is a waste of time, food, and money. (I forget if this is a limitation of the pancreas or a limitation of the kidneys).

    That said, I’m not sure how I could eat 160 grams of protein in a given day — that would be over 7 meals!!

  131. Wow, my head is reeling from the information overload here. I totally get the hormone part and the process of muscular hypertrophy but the workout routines.. I think I need to come back and read this over and over again. The part about myofibrillar hypertrophy is interesting. one thing I did learn from the diet part is to take lots more protein. Hmm, like the eggs part too.

  132. I combined used the Dr Max Powers Testosterone Booster I bought a while back and absolutely love it. It is much more effective than the silly power drinks that some of the guys drink in the gym. Use this if you are working out or an athlete that wants to recover faster from tough work outs, spice up you sex life, of just help restore your testosterone levels to what they used to be when you were younger.

    1. For most women increase in muscle mass isn’t much of a factor as they aren’t capable of putting on muscle mass like men so the mass to be concerned about would be fat, gaining strength without gaining fat isn’t easy, the only way to do it is very slow and gradual.

      1. I’ve been primal for 1 year and 4 months and my belly flab is NOT going away.
        I am lean everywhere else, no cellulite on legs, they’re hard as rock, skin is also very tight, arms are lean, no flab there, I even have bi-and tricepts.
        How in the world do I get rid of this belly flab, could it be extra skin from when I was 40 lbs overweight?

        I can do sit-ups ALL day and just gain muscle mass under the flab, but the flab stays…so annoying!
        Are women just not meant to be lean?

    2. You can gain a lot of strength without gaining wait at all. Avoid eating more than you need to maintain your weight and use lower rep sets rather than higher rep sets. Volume has a higher propensity to stimulate muscle gain, and mass gain is generally tied to eating more.

      If you are a near beginner to training, almost anything will make you stronger, but watch to food levels.

  133. I took up your advice on eating a whole chicken. Its lots of fun! Also, for the more experienced, stronger lifters I would recommend lowering the frequency of the squats to provide more recovery time.

  134. Very cool post Mark. I like the less is more mantra, especially for athletes that don’t want to use anabolics. Less training throughout the week, more focus on the compound exercises. I am no monster but generally train with very few meaningful sets per workout(Lots of warmup sets, 1-2 real sets, 2-3 really important exercises per workout). I write it all in my blog if anyone is interested.

    – Dan

  135. I have lost 19 lbs in 5 weeks and hated doing stuff at the gym and as my broken ribs heal I can do he types of things Mark does at the gym.These type of exercising have more purpose that I knew about so it will be fun !
    p.s.your statements about hormones and such makes sense.Too bad I can’t read everything at once but now I know how much info there is and where to get it I will read more!

  136. Wow – the absolute sickest (I mean that in the best way possible) article I’ve ever read. I feel like I should pay you for this information! (Don’t worry, I own a copy of your book!) Very informative and you leave nothing to question. Thanks for this Mark!

  137. It’s a vicious circle – if you don’t take supplements and eat the correct food you wont build muscle mass quickly. In order to facilitate all those supplements though you must exercise.
    So there’s no easy way around it – dedication to your body and good advice on what supplements to take and why.
    I hate some of the side effects of taking some supplements and I experiment with ones that are kinder to my system and make me feel like exercising. Seeing the results makes up for all that time and effort.
    Your comments are great and I trust your advice. Thanks…

    1. You do not need supplements to build muscle. Stop waisting your money on them and eat the food you need to grow, instead.

  138. Really enjoy the information presented here. i’ve had a hell of a time gaining weight eating purely paleo. (I compete in strongman) Couple things that helped me was adding in a buttload of sweet potatos into my diet. i also make huge shakes of fruit. Besides that I add in lots of calories in grass fed butter, olive oils, coconut oil, nuts etc etc. All the good stuff Mark writes about. Besides that, heavy lifting and lots of sleep! You can check out all of my training and eating at

    I write everything I eat and all my training. This stuff works!

  139. I’ve been on paleo for about 2 months now and have been doing a modified ‘bodyweight only’ version of crossfit and have shredded off a lot of my body fat. My initial goal was to lose enough fat until my abs can be clearly seen, then I build up the muscle mass. I was wondering if it would be best to continue my training program? Or would lifting heavier weights still continue to achieve fat loss?

    1. Lifting heavy weights can help with fat loss because it increases muscle size, which then requires calories. In a fat loss phase a strength session once a week or so is a great idea.

  140. I like the post, but I certainly do not agree that you need to lift WEIGHTS to get strong/massive. Look at gymnasts – they don’t have room for lifting because of their demanding training, and don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to look like one of them! Chevy out Coach Sommer’s “Building the Gymnastic Body”.

  141. I like the post, but I certainly do not agree that you need to lift WEIGHTS to get strong/massive. Look at gymnasts – they don’t have room for lifting because of their demanding training, and don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to look like one of them! Check out Coach Sommer’s “Building the Gymnastic Body”.

  142. Thanks for the response Roy. Are you saying that the increase in muscle size will bring the body fat percentage down? Or are you saying that having more muscles will naturally burn the fat away?

    I’ve been lifting weights 3 times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). I’m still going with my regular short high intensity workouts 5 times a week (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays). These consists of sets of 100m, 400m and 800m sprints with sit ups, squats, push ups, lunges, etc. These workouts normally go for 20 minutes. Every 3-4 weeks, I will go for a 5-10km run, just so I can assess my endurance levels.

    Since I started the weight lifting excercises, I’ve noticed some increase in size (Bigger arms pectorals and back muscles). The only problem is, I can’t seem to get rid of that last little bit of fat around my belly thats covering my abs. Any advice? Or should I just continue with my training program and see how it goes?

    1. The increase in muscle size will naturally burn more fat because the increased size will require more calories to be burned.

      Sounds like you are doing all the right things. Don’t worry that last little bit is the hardest for almost everyone!
      Maybe increase the sprint time and cut some of the squats, pushups, lunges, etc. Sprints are usually more taxing, for fat loss, than these bodyweight exercises. Leave the muscle building for your 3 weight training days (steady progress on getting heavier on the weights).
      What is your current lifting scheme/program for those 3 days?

      You might also look into intermittent fasting, which might help in this area. You can do a search on MDA for that topic and get some good info as well as a general google search.

    2. Most people will lose plenty of fat when they switch to good eating and training, but in the end, calories do still count, and if you’re eating too many of them, you can’t continue to lose fat.

      The last bits are very hard to lose, and they don’t come without sacrifice. Sounds like you are training hard, but adding more training probably won’t cut it. It’s going to be too much.

      Doing the IF is a good idea, as that will give you an extended time to burn some fat. Just make sure you don’t overdo it AFTER the fast. Don’t eat away your fat loss.

  143. Hi Mark,
    Would you recommend primal fuel for hard gainers?
    I know it says weight loss tool, but would it be beneficial for hard gainers as well?


  144. The dogma of post workout nutrition – especially intense strength training – is to eat high glycemic carbs (along with protein) in order to replenish glycogen stores, repair muscle tissue, reduce post-workout soreness, raise testosterone and growth hormone levels, and reduce cortisol levels.

    Mark spoke to no evidence of increased protein synthesis (though other studies found online contradict the study cited in this article), but what about the other benefits of post workout carbs listed above? Have those benefits been debunked as well or does the overall health (reduced systemic inflammation and increased fat loss) of eating relatively low carb “outweigh” those benefits?

    Is the low carb advice post workout best when attempting to lose weight, then okay to add some carbs back in post workout when desired bf% is obtained?

    Thanks if advance for your response(s). This blog/website has been extremely informative.

    Tim – active weightlifter and athlete (nothing much over 5k), recovering carboholic.

  145. Talk about an amazing article. Man this article is spot on with what I was trying to figure out. I am just trying to figure our what I should go eat now, a dozen eggs? or a 16oz piece of steak?

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm……. 🙂

  146. Great post Mark and well written. And I agree 100% about the eating. You have to eat and eat lot.

    As for training, there really is no need for multiple sets to build lean mass.

    Training to failure hits the FT fibers so a single set of any exercise is more than enough so long as the weight is heavy enough to render failure in under 2 minutes. Research is quite clear on this. And this saves people a lot of time in the gym.

    Intensity not volume is key.

    Keep the great posts coming!

  147. Wow! This is really great and detailed article, thanks for sharing! I liked how you mentioned about eating the right food. Because a lot of fitness enthusiast sometimes forget about healthy eating and only focus on pulling weights. I would also recommend to intake a high rich protein substances right after the workout.

  148. Mark,

    cool name by the way 😉

    I want to add that it can really be quite simple:

    If you completely overload the structure(s) you want to make grow for about a week or two at a time and then give it a rest for say 5-7 days, you will achieve “super-compensation”.

    In the case of elite level athletes this would be overreaching: train your butt off for 7-14 days and then recover from that, you will grow bigger and stronger.

    Simplest beginner case-scenario:

    Just do 50-100 chin-ups per day, every day (squeeze them into a 24 hour-window any old how) and after a week of that you can’t pick your nose.

    Then take time off, eat well, and watch that upper body grow !;-)

    Same applies to any body part.

    Hope you find that useful,

    Thanks and keep up the great stuff,


  149. Great article. As someone who has been primal for 4 months and loving it, im wanting to build some mass and have been reading up on GOMAD. Im a bit worried about the insulin spikes and undoing all of my body fat loss though. The dozen eggs a day seems better in that i wont get big insulin spikes and can keep carbs low.

    Has anyone tried this and if so how did it work out?

  150. gyday from australia…

    i notice these replies are from 2009…but anyway;

    marks right…i tried it and it works….and it works like you just wouldnt believe…

    im 45 now…i was a paratrooper and sufferred an horriffic parachuting injury..

    went nuts for 18 months..booze..pizzas..icecreams…low self esteem..depressions..anxiety…

    that was 7 years ago…..

    i now have gone 80% primal with olympic lifting(not crossfit)..and beach sand running barefoot…..with gymnastic bodyweight exercises between 1km sand runs at 75% max speed. I also do jump squats into the water and out of the water….

    anyway….i eat like a monster…but only when im hungry…i can easily not eat the whole day….point is…i just listen to the spirit within guiding me to train-sleep-eat-rest-play and do it with a Primal focus…


    i came back from the dead….im 45 and i am more energetic than most 30 year old paratroopers in my unit….

    its actually so bloody simple ….

    just do it guys.

  151. I have a simple question Mark. Can I cut out carbs of my diet and gain muscle?

    If not, can I when I centre carbs only around my workout?

    Or can I when I take carbs for a day after my workout?

    How does it work?

    I don’t want to be puffy, but I do want to gain muscle mass.

  152. Which foods can I eat to get the amount of fiber I need a day? I think it’s 40g recommended. Or do you advise not taking fiber at all, since they’re always carbs?

  153. I’m confused about the best pre and post-workout nutrition. I have read on this site that eating carbs after a workout is good because of the affect it has on insulin, which pumps nutrients into the muscle and restores the glycogen levels in the muscle. I have also read on this site that forgoing carbs and eating protein and possibly a little fat is the way to go post-workout because it does not promote/inhibits an insulin response, which is beneficial post-workout because insulin secretion suppresses growth hormone after intense anaerobic exercise.

    Also, I have read (not on this site) that restoring your muscles glycogen stores is important because your muscles will break themselves down in order to replenish their glycogen if carbs are not ingested. Subsequently, I have read (on this site) that growth hormone has a protective muscle protein mechanism; it helps prevent muscle breakdown.

    I am very confused about these two conflicting pieces of information.

    Is the insulin response better than the release of growth hormone after a workout or is the reverse true?

    If a person does not eat carbs and the glycogen stores are not replenished in the muscles, does that mean that the growth hormone resulting from an intense workout will protect the muscles from breaking down in attempt to create more glycogen?

    Regarding pre-workout nutrition, I have not read much on that. It seems to be a less researched topic. If anything, I have heard that it might possibly be more important than post-workout nutrition.

    My workouts are never longer than an hour, and, on average, they last around 45 minutes. I typically do anaerobic full body workouts. I mix things up with Crossfit, Olympic lifting, and general compound lifting for strength. My goal is to build muscle and the strength that accompanies the size. My goal is not to be an athletic mannequin (bodybuilder)… please help

  154. mark i really need an answer from you here plz. does protein cause insulin spike? if so what should be my limit of intake?

    1. You guys should realize that this blog post is almost a year old, so the author is unlikely to still be monitoring the comments. You can go over to the forum for even more Q&A, though.

      Over there, you can search on insulin spikes, pwo nutrition, etc.

  155. Awesome article thanks for this!

    I’ve always been very confused about what I need to do to get in shape. After reading the primal blueprint. The next obvious step was to figure out a workout plan that could help me get massive results as quickly as possible.

    I’ll do some extra research on 5×5 stronglifts. But I’ll definitely give it a go today. Thanks Mark!

  156. I am a 55 year old female who has been a hardgainer my whole life. I have been doing crossfit for nearly a year now. I weigh about 124#. I would really like to know what to eat before a crossfit workout and how soon before the workout should I eat it? If I don’t have something high in carbs on board it seems I can barely get through a WOD. I am feeling pretty discouraged, I don’t feel I’m progressing as I’d like. I xfit 3-4 days/week. I appreciate any help 🙂

  157. Great Article! Thanks for posting. I always tell my personal training clients that the growing happens when we sleep and rest not in the gym.

  158. Mark,

    I have been a hardgainer for my entire life. I recently graduated and played lacrosse. Always been a small guy and when I went to college, I was 5’7″ 145 pounds. After eating like it was my job and lifting like a mad man, my weight was up to 172 at its peak. My senior year, I started eating primaly without even knowing it. I wanted to get lean as summer was approaching and I ate a ton of plants and animals, some fats like coconut oil and almonds. I am now down to about 154-156 and I’m not sure where to go at this point. I want to be lean so I have been following the Primal Fitness book and workouts and am on my way to mastering the the 5 exercises, but I just read your article on building muscle and I’m unsure where to go at this point. SHould I continue with the primal fitness bodyweight circuits or move on to lifting heavy things again?

    John O.

  159. Nice article. Got a question though. I am 5-11, 168 lbs and have never exercised in my life. I am lean and don’t have large muscles. I have recently started doing lunges,pushups and the like but want to get into weight training as well to build up the muscles. My dilemma is that I don’t know what weights to start off with. Since I will be creating a home gym, I am looking to buy only weights/machines I can start off with and then buy heavier ones when I get enough strength. Any thoughts?

    1. Buy all your equipment on craigslist if possible. People buy stuff, never use it and sell it cheap to get rid of it… all to the benefit of us who do train.

      Simply start off with a power rack, an olympic bar and some olympic weights. That will be enough to put together a routine (you could last for years with just that if you wanted/needed).

      From there you can begin to grow with things like dumbbells, kettlebells, gymnastic rings, sleds, etc.

      Here are some links to help out:
      Power rack:

      Olympic bar:,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1280&bih=939&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi

      Olympic weights:

      Here are some extra goodies for the future:

  160. I noticed I cannot seem to eat 1gm of protein per pound of body weight. I can eat around 25 to 30gm per meal and have 3 meals a day so that is approx 100gm total. My body still feels full and I cannot add anymore.

    How do I get around this? I understand I should wait until I feel hungry, but you made it sound as though we have to try cram more in whether I am hungry or not?

    1. Karl, you WILL have to eat more than you are hungry for. Waiting to feel hungry is a great Primal Blueprint tool for good health, losing and/or maintaining weight, but doesn’t work when trying to add weight. Muscle growth is triggered by resistance training and hormones, but fueled by eating more than you need to just maintain.

  161. Mark, I truly appreciate you for putting together this article … I am a typical Hardgainer. I had much more power, but not everything to go with it. I do not want to be the typical muscle head stereotype, all functional fitness is fine for me though, 10-15 pounds would be a good (up to 170 pounds at the time. Just like you said increase the intake! I have noticed more strength throughout the three weeks of training plus increasing the calorie per day, including intensive training (but based on the higher consumption of carbohydrates). made a difference Thanks!

  162. Modern science says that a fatty person likes to eat food which has a lot of cholesterol.
    So who have extra weight they need to quite to or avoid to eat that types of food.

  163. Science tells us that growth hormone(GH)
    release 20-24years old normally .
    After that it lose to secretion.

    But American Neuro Scientist has said that our mind force can change our DNA.

    So if want we grow after these age.

  164. Hey great article here very informative will be checking back regularly for further update


  165. best exercise to get real though is punching the heavy bag..punching it for hours,,till u cant feel your arms,,when someone who is huge and muscular comes your way,,you will find it the easiest task to put him down to sleep or coma…physical exercise is the best,,lift light weights in large amounts and you will have strong fast and defined body..

  166. hi!,I love your writing very much! share we keep up a correspondence extra approximately your article on AOL? I need an expert in this house to resolve my problem. May be that is you! Taking a look ahead to peer you.

  167. Really valuable post.

    I’ve been using the 5×5 program with a lot of success. Never been stronger and feeling more like man. Especially doing the deadlift.

    I haven’t focused much on the bulking aspect. Since I always bulk with carbs such as pasta. Which in my knowledge ain’t considered paleo.

  168. really valuable info, thanks. I’m currently experimenting with the cortisol & testosterone part (stress reduction, etc.)

    this really helps me to focus throughout the day.

  169. Good stuff here.


    Getting every rep perfect is really important but often forgotten when people actually get in the gym and lift – keep it as the number one though in your mind while lifting…PERFECT REP!


    1. Hello Jim,

      how can you be reached?
      I am interested in your book model muscle…, but I can’t find it anywhere.

  170. Its like you learn my thoughts! You seem to understand so much about this, like you wrote the guide in it or something. I think that you can do with a few percent to force the message home a bit, however other than that, this is magnificent blog. A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

  171. I have a curvature in my spine, and have always found squats, even with a limited range of motion to be hard on my back. However, leg presses don’t seem to put the same pressure on my back. Is leg presses a good alternative to squats?

  172. The reason the Dozen Eggs a day diet won’t work is simple: CALORIES!!!!!! The GOMAD diet is considered easier because one gallon of milk would contain 2400 calories as compared to a measly 800 for the eggs. To bulk up you need at least 4000 calories a day. How do I get the rest of the calories without the CARBS? I realize that oats and grains are bad and blah blah, but grains are extremely calorie dense. And price is a big factor as well. Oats are cheap. How to get that many calories, without breaking the bank and following a paleolithic diet?

    1. The key is to find a mix of foods that you can easily eat and won’t cause you any irritation. If eggs work for the protein and fat, then look for something high calorie that can provide the carbs. While not truly primal, white rice could be a good fit, assuming you can eat enough of it.

      If you can’t hit the GOMAD calorie levels, then just hit the calories that you can hit.

      BTW, if one is maintaining their weight, they only have to eat more calories to grow, not a huge amount more. Adding a dozen eggs to current calories will still make you grow, just not as quickly. The key is to make sure you don’t reduce other foods when you eat so many eggs.

  173. Calories comes from fat like avocado, fresh butter, coconut oil, etc.

    When you combine quality protein and fat, your body makes it own glucose so you shouldn’t be eating carbs like rice, pasta etc. Your body prefer source of energy is fat not carbs.

    look up Brian Peskin. he is the leading expert on human diet.

    1. It’s extremely difficult to get that many calories from fat and protein. A lot of fat gives you diarrhea, or people would just slug back olive oil or lard to bulk up. As to conversion of protein to glucose, you don’t actually need the glucose to bulk up, but you eat glucose because you can only eat so much P and F.

      I agree on the pasta, and somewhat on the white rice. It’s fairly low on the bad scale. Sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, and bananas would be good sources, but that gets pricey, too.

      You have to balance health, costs, and calories and make the best decision that gets you to your goals.

  174. magnificent submit, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector do not realize this. You must continue your writing. I am sure, you have a great readers’ base already!

  175. Would you do this like a circuit?
    i.e. 5 squats, pull-ups, 5 overhead presses, repeat sequence 4 more times OR 5 sets of squats, 5 sets of pull-ups, 5 sets of overhead presses.

  176. An informative article with great tips on the best way to gain muscle and increasing weight. Also good to see some diet tips, a lot of people don’t realise what to eat to gain muscle and that eating correctly is a key part to getting results and the body you desire.

  177. Hi Mark,

    Is there an optimal amount of protein that the body can digest at each meal? The reason I ask is that at 210lbs, to build muscle I need 210g of protein daily as per the guidelines above. Which, over 5 meals a day (my typical daily average) is +40g per meal. Should the 210g be spread over additional protein-only meals/shakes or can the body efficiently digest 50g at each sitting?

    1. Gavyn,

      Your body will can handle well over 50g per meal. All protein is eventually digested and then distributed through various channels in your system (blood, liver, etc.) for use down the road. You have constant protein reserve at the ready!


      1. I agree with Roland. I routinely eat meals containing over 100grams of protein and have had no issues leaning out and building muscle. Don’t buy into the myth of your body only being able to digest 40 grams at once. Go for it and eat big!

  178. Hi Mark, I work Monday to Friday on a farm so I can’t exactly go to the gym every other day. There is plenty of physical work on the farm but increasing strength is a goal of mine over the next few months. What are the best exercises that I could do without weights on the farm? Would push ups, chin ups and boy weight squats be enough?

  179. I have a question about presses and my body type.

    My torso is a little on the shorter side, but my arms/legs are extremely long in proportion to the torso (the end of my middle fingers reach about 3/4 down my thighs). I started a more serious lifting program recently and found that I had solid beginnings and progress on DL, Squat, pullups,chinups,dips, etc. But benching and overhead presses are completely pathetic, it’s embarrasing how little weight I can press in either case. I assume this is because the center of gravity is an issue with extended arms, and compressing decompressing my arms at the down position is really tight on space. Also I’m just weak : >

    Any pointers on how to deal with this? Here are the regular upper body exercises I do and Within these exercises is there enough to cover most of what I would get from the bench / overhead press?

    weighted pull ups, weight chin ups, weighted dips, weighted inverted ring rows, weighted ring push ups with feet elevated, pushups with feet elevated, overhead press pushups with feet elevated.

    Or do I need to adjust my press technique in some particular way and/or just lower my expectations?

    1. Joe,

      The description of yourself matches my profile almost perfectly. I’m giving the Sronglifts program a go for a while. If you haven’t read up on it, the essentials are a 5×5 program using 5 lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench, overhead press, and barbell row). You workout 3 times each week, doing 3 alternating lifts each workout (squats are done every workout, so really only 2 lifts change). The interesting part, though, is the low weight with which you beging lifting. The programs starts you at 45 lbs (so just the bar) for everything except deadlifts and rows, which start at 65 lbs. This is done to facilitate the mandatory 5 lbs increase that is to take place each time you workout. It is a little embarrassing to be doing squats and deadlifts with such light weight, but if you are able to add 5 lbs every time you lift, you can see that by the end of the 3 month period you will be lifting a significant and satisfying weight. I’m just beginning so I can’t offer any personal evidence of the validity of the system, but I feel that while I might not be able to add 5 lbs to my overhead press every time I lift, I will certainly see an improvement… with the paltry weight that I can currently presss overhead, an improvement won’t take much. I hope you find something that works for you. Take care.

      1. That’s a great program. I know alot of people at the gym doing it as well. Have you tried the diet that sorta goes along with it? It’s called the Anabolic Diet and it works pretty well for putting on size and strength. I tried it for a while and it worked really well for me. I even did a primal version. Its 5 days of fat/protein then all weekend you refill muscle glycogen by eating mainly carbs. That monday/tuesday after the carb refill is bloody amazing! I felt like the HULK!!

  180. interesting read. I am a not-so-hard-gainer, but I have been really sick for 3 months, eating hardly anything and not able to workout. I lost about 10 pounds. I have been back in the gym for six weeks and only gained back about 6 of them (I know I can grow more, I once gained 6 pounds in 3 weeks!) feeling a bit frustrated. any advice?

  181. Great article. I want to begin adding some muscle to my very lanky frame, and have had a keen interest in the old school (and still brilliant) “art” of Vince Gironda. I notice your primal diet is sort-of a modified version of his, as well as your information here. It has the scientific back-up, similar strong points, and adds for the same basic day of light carbs to help balance out your body. I have been reading Vince’s stuff relentlessly, but being it’s old and you get no user-input, I think you’ll be my new read for a change of pace.

    Hooray for eggs! =)

  182. That’s a really comprehensive post on building muscle for beginners or hard gainers.

    Personally though I think when you have been training for a while squatting every session becomes too much, and should be cut to alternate sessions.

    Also I think using 5 X 5 with the same weight becomes too taxing as well. Better in my opinion to use the first two sets as work up sets, and do the last three sets with the top weight. Train hard but avoid failure with a routine of this sort.

  183. Great post, I always though I was a hardgainer (and in fact I am), but the truth is that, as you said, diet is 80% of your results.

    I began to eat more and specially pay attention to post workout nutrition and I bulk easily 5 pounds in one month (it used to take me a year to put so much weight).

    5×5 is a great method, I also used HST which gave me great results.

    Thanks for the post!

  184. great article Mark . Not only does building muscles great for weight gain, it is also great for burning body fat and losing weight..

  185. I would classify myself as an easygainer, but I still benefitted greatly from reading this article. This is an excellent starting point for more research into the area of natural hormone production (This is how I discovered I should avoid Soy). Keep them coming Mr. Sisson!

  186. Great article. When my protein levels dip much below the 1g/lb. level, I notice a sharp dip in strength. I’d also like to add “Carry, drag, and pull heavy things!” In addition to regular lifting, these types of exercises put a different type of strain on the body, and cause a type of whole body adaptation I don’t think you get otherwise.

  187. This is the way I have been training for the last two months and I have seen an increase in both size and strength, but still I have to learn more about paleo nutrition.

    The fact of restricting carbs for the PW meal being a hardgainer is something that did not work for me when I was trying to put more weight on.

    Great post,

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  188. I welcome all suggestions on the road to get started. I’m female, 45, and weight is at 105 lbs, 5 ft tall, yet I look fat because the bulk of the weight is centered around lower abs, and hips. The past two months I have been at the gym 3-4 times a week with little results (I did drop from 108 to 105) but the INCHES will not come off. I’ve received a lot of ‘misinformation’? on what to do. Now I’m totally confused!

    I’ll do 45 mins of high cardio on the elliptical every time I am at the gym in addition to the weights (and I primarily use the free weights – barbells and dumbell exercises). I also was told my carb intake is too high. I know I do not eat enough calories, which is why I cannot understand no loss of inches! My caloric intake is about 500 less maybe more than what I should consume; however, I will say that it is true the bulk of those short calories come from carbs. I was going to try a very low carb diet, but not sure what to do. I had NO energy or strength the last time I tried an Atkins diet and could not work out at all. I need a plan of action. I’m going to order the Primal Blueprint book at Amazon.

    In the meantime, high carbs, low carbs? more cardio? or reduce cardio? increase calories (I don’t want an even larger midsection)? Help!

  189. I’m 33 yrs old, 5’10”, 160, 11-12% BF.
    Been lifting since college, mixing up split routine, full-body, bodyweight only training, etc. My BW was consistently at 170 until about 8-10 months ago when I started losing weight with no change in calorie intake (right around 2000cal/day). Now I’ve been holding at 160 for the last 6 months.
    Would I be considered a hardgainer?

  190. Why are you at a point where lifting heavy things increases your chance of injury? Is it age? Just wondering because in the article you recommend lifting heavy things but then say you don’t…
    Cool site, by the way!

  191. If you want to increase your maximum weight..If you want to change your physical personality & increase your body size.or you want to be attractive & Good looking personality. Visit site for more stayfitnutrition website.

  192. A great article on sound nutrition and training principles for hard-gainers, and the comments are fantastic as well. I do agree that it is important to take in some carbs immediately post-workout as you want to stimulate some insulin release and stop protien-breakdown aftera grueling training session. But how much will depend on the individual. For me, a cup of mixed fruit, (usually berries), some protein and saturated fat are the perfect mix and I’ve managed to retain most of my muscle mass even though I train heavily, (3 – 4 hours a day, a mix of Bikram Yoga and Weights). If you have to train a lot, then you have to eat more, and you have to constantly replenish liver and muscle glycogen. Thanks for sharing all the great information!!!

  193. The best way I find to gain muscle mass is to start the session by lifting really heavy. For example the chest. I would do a bench press of about 60% maximum and lift for 5 reps. I would then move to about 80% and do 3 reps. I would then do my work set for a maximum of 4 reps. decrease the weight by 10% and do 5 reps, decrease again by 10% and do 5 reps.

    For the rest of the chest workout I would select a weight I can do for 6-15 reps and really work toward fatigue hitting all angles of the chest.

    I would do this for all muscle groups for about 2 months and then switch to a program like Mark described above for a month. This would limit plateaus and make sure you gain a mix of sarcoplasmic (size) muscle and myofibrillar (strength) muscle.

  194. I’ve been doing Stonglifts for 11 weeks and eating in accordance with the BP. I’m a naturally lean (with the unfortunate tendency of story my fat in the sub-Q area… in other words, not ripped) 6’3″ guy with a history of regularly running in the 5-10K range. My starting weight on the program was 185. I am now 207 with a slight drop in body fat (from 12.5% to 11.5%). I can’t laud Stronglifts enough. I’ve progressed to 275 on squats with no injuries or illness (both of which should probably be credited to the BP) and hope to reach 315 in a couple weeks. It’s a great beginners program if you’ve been off for a while and has two subsequent programs (MadCow and SL-Advanced) if you want to keep lifting. The combo of the BP and Stronglifts is an unquestioned success for me… now if only I can get those abs to show a little more…

  195. Ok this might be a bit long but I’d appreciate any help!

    I’m in my forth week of Starting Strength and it’s been a battle. The first 10 days I did the GOMAD as best I could (at most 2/3 of the gallon) but it was just creating chaos in my body. At that time I read the PB and this article, so I started eating more meat, eggs, coconut milk, and nuts. About 3-4,000 calories daily. But honestly I don’t think I’m getting stronger at the rate that SS requires. I’ve gained a few pounds but not that much, and for the looks of it it’s a lot of fat. This week I’ve eaten with abandon and added lots of peanut butter (reluctantly but I wanted to know if it helped cause lots of people recommend it). So if I’m doing the lifts, and increasing the weight regularly, and eating like crazy, why would I not be getting stronger at the rate required? and why would I be getting fatter? (I started this knowing I’d gain fat but Mark says in this article that you shouldn’t worry about it if you’re within PB)

    Thanks in advance!

  196. Dinner for breakfast I like that. I somehwat do that now but I reserve eggs for the morning time. Going to try and make it a full on dinner meal.

  197. Mark,
    My 12 year old son is VERY skinny. I try to feed him primal but dad still eats a SAD diet & gives treats often. Last week I started him on your 4 essential movements 2x week & sprints. He is constantly walking/jogging & not at all inactive but has little strenth or speed. Is this all I should do for him right now?
    My whole family are hardgainers. We also have a lot of diabetes in our family. Could the treats (icecream, candy, pizza, chips) be derailing him?

  198. I’m 52 yrs. old, 5’8″, and weigh about 173. I’d like to get to 180/185, have been pretty much a hard gainer most of my life. I’m at a major plateau now and I’m going to try the 5X5 method. Questions:
    How much rest between sets recommended?
    Best alternatives for pull-ups (two bad shoulders)
    Do any specific bi or tri exercises, and if so, 5X5 as well?
    Recommended ab exercises?
    Protein shake ok after workout vs. solid food?

    1. Mike,

      I’m not an expert by any means, but for myself (I’m 26 and by no means a peak athlete), I began with 30 seconds between each set. That time has since risen to 2 minutes between sets on squats, but I just reached 300 so the weight is considerably higher than at the start. I can’t give you any advice on the pullups. As for the bi/tri exercises, I imagine a standard curl and extension exercise would do the trick. I don’t do them, but I admit that I would like to see my arms grow a little to match my legs and shoulders so I might start in a few weeks. I would recommend patterning the progression after the other lifts; i.e. start light, add 5 lbs after each successful completion of a 5×5 lift, and do them every other time you lift. As for the abs, if you’re doing squats and dealifts properly, you probably wont need them. My abs have grown immensely since starting this workout and, from what I have read, unless you build your abs like any other muscle, just reducing belly fat won’t really matter if you’re wanting to show them off. Even if you’re just looking to strengthen your anterior core, the growth I’ve seen in them tells me they’re getting stronger. Finally, as for the shake or solid food question, either should be okay. I would imagine that preference should be given to real solid food, but if you have a shake that isn’t loaded with carbs, you would be fine. Again, this is coming from a 26 year old who studies classical philosophy more than human physiology, but I have seen great results from combining the StrongLifts program with a 80-90% Primal diet. I wish you the best, my friend.

  199. Hello all,
    This is my first time visiting this site, looking to gain weight but not at the expense of my health. I know this article is fairly old but I was just curious about how one could consume so many calories from protein sources and still be healthy. I mean two eggs is more than enough cholesterol for an entire day yet he is advocating a dozen. You will have to forgive my ignorance, like I said I am new to this site. I just want to be healthy, so any response that could explain this to me would greatly appreciated.

    1. John,
      You need to read more about paleo/primal lifestyle. Cholesterol and fat are not the enemy….

    2. John,

      Explore the sight a little more. The documentary FatHead (available on youtube) is also a good place to start. It isn’t Primal per se (Tom Naughton experiments with eating fast food for an entire month to disprove Spurlock’s claims), but it examines the relationship of fat and cholestoral comsumption to health. It’s very good and where I got my start on Primal Blueprint.

  200. I want to eat alot more so I can gain more muscle but I have stomach problems. The source of the problem is still unclear– doctors have been looking into it for 7+ years and still no result. The bottom line is, the more I eat, the more bathroom trouble I have. Bathroom trouble translates to an 1hr+ visit multiple times a day. It’s impossible to eat enough and have enough time to work out with this particular situation.
    Protein powders (even egg-protein derived) make me sick, as do protein bars. I use the protein powder because I don’t know what else to use. I hate being sick every time I work out.
    To paraphrase my question and save alot of typing– how can I eat 1g protein per lb of lean body mass without feeling like I’ve consumed a ton of food? What protein packed super foods could I eat in a low quantity and achieve the same result without terribly upsetting my stomach?

    1. I am on a diet incredibly similar to PB (love PB, Mark) which has helped my intestinal problems. It excludes a few foods with the objective of healing the gut. Once things get better, the foods are to be reintroduced.

      Mark’s website has tons of recipes which I use while on the scd diet. In fact, Mark’s site has turned me on to coconut which I haven’t been using much. Coconut has really helped my energy level. I do CF and didn’t realize that I needed additional fat in my diet after excluding grains.

  201. Anyone looking to gain mass needs to lift heavy and eat big like you mention. The focus should be on compound movements. Too many magazines and websites will give it’s readers the workout of an IFBB pro and tell you this is the best way to gain muscle when it’s not. These guys are already huge. Training should be different when you’re not.

  202. I’m not trying to be an asshole, but I’m not quite sure where this whole 1g per “pound” of BW came from. I have yet to find it in any real scientific literature,apart from fitness magazines and the usual bodybuilding dogma. It’s actually 0.8-1.5g per KG of BW. That’s a big difference! In other words, a 180lb bodybuilder would only need to consume anywhere between 80g- to a maximum of 120g of protein a day, and not 180g to 270g. Allot less than this made up number of 1g per lb of BW! It’s just a waste. I mistakingly followed the 1g/lb of BW for over 10 years until I looked deeper into the subject of nutrition. Remember that too much protein will also trigger your MTOR to up regulate cell production and shorten your telomere strand leading to premature aging…Up your calories by upping your good fats and keep the protein to a minimum to build or maintain lean body mass based off of the 0.8-1.5g per KG of BW calculation. You’ll not only save money and animals, but you’ll look younger doing it! hahahah! P.S. Primal/Paleo nutrition has changed my life!

  203. hi i am a lady a bit underweight and really want to gain and jeep and imrove my tone but i do not have any access to anything more than resistances bands all diff weighted ones is this enough with body weight exersices to gainthe lean mass outlined here?

    thanks everyone, i am 23.120 at 5’10

  204. When i perform this workout do i perform A B and C on the same day? or one letter per day

  205. Mark, overall good aricle, however, I dont agree whatsoever with your statement on bodyweight exercises not giving strength and mass increases. Look at gymnasts and hershcel walker for one, and for two, I will use my own self as an example. I put the most size on my chest when I did….High volume dips/pushups. I got the most size in my lats when I did….High volume pullups.

    Other than that little point, good article.

  206. These are great tips – thanks

    I’ve been doing something like this at home. Doing push/pull/legs in one workout. However at home I don’t have power rack or barbells (I like dumbbells better anyway) So for leg I do Tabata on inclined treadmill, and this is not easy. An incline really makes a difference. and for push pull, I rotate the compound exercises on different days. I can do this in about 30-40 minutes, 3 times a week and really works great.

  207. hey…. this is mukesh i’m 19 years old and my weight id about 51 only how can i gain weight and muscle…..and i’m willing to go for a gym to gain muscle say some tips forme…. i’m an indian boy………..

  208. Great articles and I really enjoying it. Thanks 🙂

    I ain’t sure when you say “1g/lb body weight”, I suppose you refer to cooked food not raw, correct? Assume this is right, cooked food is harder to measure as we may over- or under- cook, the weight may change from time to time..

  209. If one does sprints or crossfit like activities (ie max efforts) they will increase their sugar burning and stop burning fat as an energy source. The term “cardio” is misleading because it is possible to work the anaerobic system and burn mainly sugars even when one is jogging. It all depends on the heart rate.

    Lifting heavy to build strength is important and I agree that the big natural movements like squats and deadlifts need to be done but the all out sprints and burpees should be limited. Also, if one has never done sprints before, please slowly increase your speed until you can handle the activity. The last thing you want is to be sidelined with a hammy.

  210. I have had aknee replacement and my other knee is bone on bone ,so exercise is really hard, what do you think I can do to build up my endurence while on primal?

  211. Mark,

    I am trying to gain some lean muscle while also get rid of a little love handle fat. I mostly just want to gain lean muscle while keeping my body fat percentage relatively low like it is now. I bike 30 miles a day 4 days a week, take 2 rest days and 2 days I swim or jog. Will the primal dirt suit me with these type of workouts? Also will I be able to lose some excess body fat and gain lean muscle with the primal diet? or do I need larger amounts of carnal to gain lean muscle with longer endurance type workouts? Thanks so much. I love the site and look forward to becoming primal.

  212. Have lost 50 pounds in the last 2 years, feel great. Am working on building mass. As I gain mass I gain weight in the stomach. This has been a challenging area. I have cut out processed foods for apprx 6 months now, drink plenty of water, exercise (push ups, sit ups). Frustrated and looking forward to some ideas.

  213. This is a great post. I wanted to read through all the comments but this thread goes back to 2009. I’m a tall guy at 6″5 and eating primal for 18 months has me down to 168lbs and I have maintained that weight for months. I would really like to add 5-10 pounds of lean muscle mass but my body seems very happy to be in the lean 160’s. I’m going to start with more food supplemented with dead lifts and other compound movements to see if I can accomplish this goal. Thanks for another great post! I love your blog!

  214. Hi Mark, picked up you book on a trip to Toronto recently. Thrilled to read it and have started on the Primal diet. My concern is that I have a BMI of 21 and I may loose more weight with the diet. I have always lived on a heavy carb diet since childhood and my family is worried sick that I might tip to the anorexic side. I certainly think that there are a lots of good in your system.
    Any advice on a slim person like me who is launching into this major dietary change? Would be great to hear fro you. Regards Sanjay

  215. I’ve only been eating primal for a week and I can honestly say I am already reaping the benefits. I don’t really have any “weight” to lose. I switched to the primal lifestyle so I didn’t have to “work” so hard at maintaining my weight, so I didn’t have to embrace hunger, and to rid myself of inflammation and random bouts of arm eczema. I already look way more cut since I don’t have all those useless card stores taking up space under my skin and with all the extra fat I’m eating my skin looks amazing (first time in my life I have not had to put lotion on) and (excuse my bluntness) I am pooping the best I ever have!! Who knew it was grains reeking havoc on my body. Thank God I gave up that unhealthy vegan diet. Why do people do that to themselves?

  216. I read somewhere that cortisol has the opposite effect, and it is involved in protein synthesis.I don’t agree with this affirmation, I also think that cortisol must be avoid.We must do the exercises and have the nutrition that stimulates the secretion of testosterone and GH.

  217. I found this kind of confusing because I didn’t realize until halfway through that this particular article was directed at men and didn’t apply to everyone (the reference to testicles clued me in 🙂 ). Why not put a sentence at the beginning clarifying that? (I don’t think the ‘hardgainer’ reference means anything to most readers). It’s not just confusing (since I don’t know what’s specifically male and what’s a basic human thing), but it’s also unpleasant and discouraging to be always reading so many fitness-related things that just assume that the reader is male (disturbingly often when reading about strength training). Otherwise I do enjoy reading your blog and appreciate all the time you put into it!

  218. Mark….when you talk about hardgainers and protein intake….1gram per lb of bodyweight! Don’t you mean 1gram per kg of bodyweight?

    1. I am almost positive he means per pound of weight, if you are 150 pounds you should be eating 150 grams of protein.

  219. But if you take extra testosterone, than you’d have more DHT which causes hair loss. So yeah, you can get bit, but with a bald head. But I definitelly agree with the rest. Too bad if you’re a vegeterian.

  220. Hi Mark
    What about recent research that links high Proetin diet and high levels of IGF-1 to a significantly higher risk of cancer , is having Protein as the bottom of the food Pyramid really as healthy as the advocates say ? The latest research seems to indicate the opposite

  221. Hey Mark, great blog my friend. From personal experience I achieved the best gains through strict and disciplined exercises. This often meant sacrificing weight on the individual exercise I was performing, however, focusing on the actual technique gave me the best and fastest muscle gain.
    Also interesting are your comments on generics. This is by far the most important element of all. By understanding how you are made up will help you achieve far more in a quicker time than trying to achieve what you may not be capable of.
    Once again great blog, glad I stumbled across it!

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    Anything that impacts a man’s testosterone in any way could possibly
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    Begin your exercise program these days! Keep in mind the rush following a good work out? It’s proven that exercising has thousands of benefits such as: boosting
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    Deep breathes Did you know that merely trying deep breath exercises every day can assist increase circulation amounts and reverse impotence? Start with large exhales and inhales for 5 minutes and do this three times daily.

    All males over the age of 30 encounter impotence as least once within their lifetime. Estimating the numbers is hard because less than 2 men in 10 seek remedy for impotence problems. The conclusion is impotence is a very common issue in men.

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    consequence, the man’s failure to communicate his problem may contribute to frustration,
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    Woman’s emotions regarding the impotence of her partner could be complex as well. But she must not forget that the male partner is going through comparable strong emotions.

    Woman’s help and understanding of situation is really important.
    Inside a spirit of friendly cooperation, she must provide her support in solving partner’s issue going together to see a physician.

    Male impotence is really a condition whereby a man isn’t capable of sexually pleasing the woman in his existence.
    This may be because of a weak erection a lot more popularly recognized as erectile dysfunction.

    When you think about it for a while you slowly realise that a
    big portion from the male population prides itself for becoming effectively dangerous in bed.
    And while some of those allegations might be true a big whole lot
    of them are false.

    These substances greatly decrease the circulation of blood close to the body simply because of the deposition of fats in major arteries.

    The moment blood pressure decreases the veins within the penis are starved from the
    rapid circulation they have to erect a penis that’s stiff enough for successful sexual penetration.

    Substance abuse has been cited as a cause of erectile dysfunction. Alcohol; cigarettes; and difficult drugs like cocaine must be gotten rid of right way.

    Not so long ago it was discovered that impotence and diabetic issues go hand in hand. This means decreasing ones intake of foods with a lot of sugar is one way of fighting impotence.

    When you have diabetic issues and continue to abuse sugar your diabetes will worsen and so will impotence have an effect on you a lot more adversely. Should you do not know for those who have diabetes it would be a great tie to know so that you head straight into insulin remedy.

    The following time you have sex be sure to become calm and confident. Sometimes sexual intercourse related difficulties are attributed to anxiety and nervousness. Possibly you’re too
    embarrassed about showing a particular part of the
    body you think she will laugh at.

    Overlook about everything and attempt to possess fun.
    A carefree attitude is essential when it comes to sex.

    Viagra is a pharmaceutical drug that is used by a lot of males
    to trigger and preserve a stiff hard-on. For some men this works
    really nicely but you will find people who do not have that a lot success with it.

    But sometimes the problem of getting a hard erection stems from getting too
    much intercourse within a short period of time. To have the ability to get a quick and difficult erection you
    should have the space of about three days until you’ve sex again.

    Impotence is happen when a guy can not accomplish or maintain an hard-on inside sufficient time to please himself and of course, his partner. Impotence is frequently only though of affecting older men, however it is quite typical location in youthful men as well.

    Impotence in youthful men can be very stressful and it can also turn out to be a downward spiral due to the fact that 1 poor encounter can cause a large amount of self doubt and anxiety.

    Impotence in youthful men can cause further problems with low self esteem and other life issues in themselves as nicely as their relationships. But, possibly simply because impotence isn’t some thing which can be openly discussed.

    Most males will develop impotence at some point within their existence.
    But in the majority of cases it is a 1 off occurrence, not
    a lengthy term one. When impotence occurs more than the lengthy term it’s deemed a problem and this is when professional advice and testing is required.

    The options for impotence treatment in youthful men are generally not to take strong prescription medicines. An option is herbal remedy as these are gentler and don’t
    cause side results.

    A youthful male is also extremely unlikely to want
    to take Viagra as they consider becoming an older mans impotence drug.

    The following choice is to have a wholesome way
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    Take a healthy and balance eating habits.

    Impotence in young men usually disappears as they gain encounter and
    confidence in sexual circumstances and is
    very rarely triggered by a severe actual issue.
    At the exact same, practicing a wholesome lifestyle is much better choice
    then to cure the impotence later.

    Physical exercise has literally hundreds of advantages but
    one particular 1 is that it will boost flow amounts to the penile regions.

    It has also been shown to reduce stress.

  223. Seriously Mark THANK YOU for this post. I had no idea that testosterone affects weight and muscle gain! As far as caloric intake what would you recommend for me?

    I’ve been able to go from 135lbs to 175lbs so far but I’ve hit some roadblocks. I need to know how many calories I should focus on daily to help me get to my goal of 195lbs by end of the year.

    I posted some of my progress on but I definitely need some more assistance. Thanks!

  224. I have news for you. Anaerobic cardio=sprinting=muscle gain. When you sprint, you are using all the different types of muscle fibers in your legs for a short time.

  225. For people who want to lowercortisol, cut out most fruits, (cept avocado/rasberries/grapefruit/cherries) eat more low glycemic foodsRaw Carrots
    Red Peppers
    Green Beans
    Red Peppers

  226. This is a great article. If you ask any competitive body builder or fitness model out there who actually works for their physique and doesn’t cheat or have stellar genetics, everything this article says is 100% legit. The only thing I would add is variety. 4×4, 5×5, heavy basic movement workouts 3-5x’s a week is going to pack on the pounds in terms of lean muscle, provided you follow a diet that enables your body to grow. Diet is the biggest thing, something I’ve always struggled with. Then again, I didn’t really pay that much attention to what I was actually eating. My diet consisted primarily of protein and unsaturated fat. I was missing a very important component – carbohydrates. Ever since I started incorporating good carbohydrate sources (vegetables), in large portions, into my diet along with lean protein, I really started to gain. But of course, with your 4×4 or 5×5 workouts you eventually hit a plateau. Hence the need for variety in your workout routine as well. One of the best workouts for gaining size and strength I have come across is what I like to refer to as the 3-way. It last 6 weeks and can be modified into a longer term workout. Here’s the basics: Week 1 – 4 sets of 10-12 reps. Week 2 4 sets of 12-16 reps. Weeks 3&4 – Circuit training or HIT. Go from 6-8 reps of one compound movement to failure of another compound movement, preferably a complimentary movement. For example bench press followed with bent rows, or squats followed with leg press. And weeks 5&6 are pure power. 4-5 sets of 4-5 reps. Pure bodybuilding basics. Day one chest, day two back, etc. The muscle group(s) you exercise one day should be sore until you exercise it again. You cannot eat enough during these weeks. Your muscles need all the nutrients they can get during this period. After this cycle is over you can start it again and modify it to keep your body guessing. You can do it in reverse or change weeks to suit your goals. It’s really one of the best workouts I’ve ever done for aesthetic purposes. You will look great and feel great if you do it once or modify it into a routine.

  227. Mark, I’ve been Primal now for 3 years and lost 40lbs. Recently a friend let me know about a documentary “Forks over Knives” which is available on Netflix instant download. I don’t know how to respond to folks except to show them my blood work which improved drastically on Primal. Would you consider an article responding to that documentary?

  228. Hi, I always thought I am a bit underweight. Recently I decided to start doing something about it and now I’m trying to hit the gym 3 times a week with some heavy training. I am more concerned about the diet though – it’s hard to manage to eat much more than I do now so I have been doing some research into dietary supplements. I know there are these whey powders that are also high in calories – for both protein intake and body mass. I am thinking about trying out one of those but I can’t decide if it’s a good idea. What is your opinion about these products?

  229. great read
    but what about those of us who enjoy going to the gym every day? I like the get up and go I get from a good workout before work.

    I’ve found that hitting the major muscle groups 1-2x per week is the best. For me this looks like

    M: legs
    tues: chest
    wed: shoulders
    thurs: deads
    fri: upper back/lats/pullups
    saturday or sunday: sprint day

  230. Bodybuilders require more protein and fat than most people. These increased needs are due to the intense physical demand placed on them through hard workouts. Protein and fat sources are especially helpful during the thirty minutes after a exercise to help repair and build additional muscle.

  231. great article! I like the cortisol part, though a bit doubter if i inhibit the cortisol by medicine it would give some side effects. Also I like the egg part, milk is even costlier than eggs and eggs are more pure than milk..a good amount of pure protein I guess..

  232. Schwarzenegger has wrote that having too few carbs when bodybuilding induces meridian, which he says can cause the body to cannibalize muscle tissue…Mark, is this true and should I worry about it. I eat under 100 g per day already. I like the PB, but I also respect the greatest bodybuilder of all time and his advise. Any help?

  233. I’ve looked at the comments to make sure this wasn’t asked already it seems like it hasn’t. So I decided to make my own workout for Tuesday including Tabata Sprints, crunches, push-ups, and jumping-jacks but what should I do Thursday? I know many of you will say rest but I really want to know what else is there to do and add?

    1. If your goal is to gain weight or build muscle, then why are you adding things?

      Eating and rest will help the existing program build muscle; adding more work won’t. Go ahead and walk or play around, but you’ll also have to eat more to make up for the energy you burn. There are limits, and getting tired and beat up is one quick way to stop gaining.

      1. Thank you, I’ll slow it down and take things off. It’s just i’m so used to doing so many things often with having wrestling practice everyday and doing things that just don’t get me tired anymore.

  234. My problem is I work till 5 or 6 pm. And when I go home, I’m already tired and only want to sleep or take rest. I want to try to do weight lifting, but I cannot imagine I can do that when I’m tired.

    Any suggestions?

  235. Excellent and informative article as always Mark.

    I sit at a desk most days. However, I’ve a timer set and after each 30 min desk work I do my 5 minute workout sessions, which are mostly body weight exercises and I spread these throughout the day.

    Each exercise focuses on specific muscle groups. As I’m in my mid 40’s I focus a lot on my back as this is so important for posture. For me this is better than cramming one intensive program into one 45 minute session.

  236. Hi,
    I recently read a book by well-known nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, called The Beauty Detox Foods, and in it she says “digesting animal protein creates all sorts of bi products in the body, like purines and ammonia products. These are absorbed into your blood stream and circulate through the body. When your blood is clogged with toxins it cant circulate as many beautifying minerals, and these toxins can age and clog the skin cells of your face. Furthermore, excessive protein consumption overworks the lvier and kidneys. Ammonia, which is a breakdown product of a high-flesh food diet, is a direct toxin to the body. It has been found to create free-radical damage and cross-linking (a process associated with wrinkles and ageing). Ketosis, which may result out of a low carb diet, makes the blood acidic. An acidic body tends to age faster. Take a look at people who are on high protein, low carb diets and see for yourself. These people tend to look “hardened” and older than they are, which is what I call the “old-skinny” look when the skin has lost all its youthfulness.”

    Kimberly says that if you must eat animal protein, eat it once a day at the most and at dinnertime, so that during the day your body’s energy is not wasted on digesting animal protein and can be used for detoxing, cleansing and free to create beauty and energy.

    I just wondered what you think of this? I know that the Primal diet is all about balance, but a lot of the meals at breakfast and lunch and dinner do focus on animal protein and I just thought i’d raise this controversial issue….!

  237. Dear Mark,

    I recently read a book by well-known nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, called The Beauty Detox Foods, and in it she says “digesting animal protein creates all sorts of bi products in the body, like purines and ammonia products. These are absorbed into your blood stream and circulate through the body. When your blood is clogged with toxins it cant circulate as many beautifying minerals, and these toxins can age and clog the skin cells of your face. Furthermore, excessive protein consumption overworks the lvier and kidneys. Ammonia, which is a breakdown product of a high-flesh food diet, is a direct toxin to the body. It has been found to create free-radical damage and cross-linking (a process associated with wrinkles and ageing). Ketosis, which may result out of a low carb diet, makes the blood acidic. An acidic body tends to age faster. Take a look at people who are on high protein, low carb diets and see for yourself. These people tend to look “hardened” and older than they are, which is what I call the “old-skinny” look when the skin has lost all its youthfulness.”

    Kimberly says that if you must eat animal protein, eat it once a day at the most and at dinnertime, so that during the day your body’s energy is not wasted on digesting animal protein and can be used for detoxing, cleansing and free to create beauty and energy.

    I just wondered what you think of this? I know that the Primal diet is all about balance, but a lot of the meals at breakfast and lunch and dinner do focus on animal protein and I just thought i’d raise this controversial issue….!

    1. There are also many pictures comparing wrinkly, unhealthy looking vegans to people who eat meat, so don’t buy into that argument.

      While purines are certainly a biproduct, your blood doesn’t get ‘clogged.’ Both sides can come up with all sorts of interesting ways, that in theory cause skin damage, but I’ve never seen anything concrete.

      On the primal side of things, there’s a manual/book called Skintervention, by Liz Wolfe that you can check out.

      You might have better luck in the forums, because this blog post is four years old, and Mark doesn’t check back on them that long.

  238. Thanks Roland for your reply,

    I definitely don’t want to cut meat out of my diet – I tried that once and ended up really low energy and anaemic. I’ll check out Skintervention, thanks for the tip! I have noticed that since being primal I have lost facial fat and my face does look a little “harder”, how Kimberly describes it, and my cheekbones are much more pronounced, which is something I’ve not welcomed because I prefer the old youthful look I had with fuller cheeks. Have you found that? But I don’t know whether I have simply not been eating enough carbohydrates and fats…


    1. Having been fat, myself, when I lose enough weight to be happy with my belly, my face looks a little shrinky (as my wife puts it). I’ve found a happy medium, but I will continue to hope that things balance out over time. 🙂

  239. Mark, awesome article 🙂 great way to break the stigma that it is impossible to gain weight while eating primal/paleo. Only thing I found I disagreed with was the statement about bodyweight exercises not being effective. Of course, endless amounts of pushups won’t get you anywhere. The key is doing something that’s difficult to complete for between 3-10 reps. Pushups wouldn’t be effective, but parallel bar dips, ring dips, pullups, muscle ups, pistol squats, planche pushups, one arm pushups, these are all difficult exercises that will absolutely blast the CNS and can be scaled to any strength level.

  240. Hi Mark,
    I am 45 years young and just starting using the system. However, I am juicing green veg with lemon or lime. Then I cook a curry with the greens, i.e. cabbage, cauliflower, with meat. No other sugars and I have eliminated most of the carb intake bar a few chunks of chocolate that I will shortly remove completely (after I finish the bar).

    I just want to make sure that juicing is okay? As I hate eating veg and without juicing I wouldn’t be able to eat any. So can juicing or does it bridge the gap of eating veg?

    I’d like to ensure that I am doing it right.

  241. Since women have much lower levels of testosterone than men, how would we adjust this program to get the same effects. Do we have to do more reps/more weight, mmore reps/less weight? I eat strictly paleo and I am having a hard time with getting to where I want to be regrding muscle mass.

    Thanks for the article!

    1. You’re going to have eat more to gain muscle. Are you gaining any weight already?

      Assuming not, try adding in things that are easy to overeat, but don’t conflict with any gut issues you might have. My personal choices are sweet potatoes or potatoes, cooked with butter or another fat (bacon, coconut, etc.). Mashed potatoes are the easiest to overeat for me.

      Personally, I would eat white rice when gaining weight, since I don’t have a gut issue with it. I would eat it with butter and sunny side up eggs, like my Hawaiian step-father served me as a kid.

      Get plenty of protein, and cook your protein well, so it’s processed better by the body and easier to chew.

      Training: I would keep reps in the 8-12 rep ranges for primary exercises, but don’t be afraid to do some sets of 20 at the end. Muscle needs to be worked to grow.

      Make sure that a set of 12 reps uses weight for 12 reps. If you could have done 14-15, then it was too light. Go heavier. Push yourself.

      Please don’t let me find you on a Bosu ball, doing curls or overhead presses. or doing any one legged balance training ‘for the core,’ because it works ‘every muscle in the body.’ It doesn’t. All it does is lower the weight that you can use and dissipate force throughout the body until it’s no longer a stimulus for muscle growth.

      I recommend Lou Schuler’s NROL series of books. The best one is called New Rules of Lifting Supercharged, as it’s the latest and most up to date as far as exercise selection, movement quality, etc. It is for men or women.

      I hope this helps!


  242. If I wanted to get the puffed up look using srasplsmic way, what do I need to do?

  243. When doing this workout routuine, do you suggest you go 5 straight sets of squats then 5 straight sets of pull ups or 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1

  244. Squats AND deadlifts are some of my favourite exercises but I go sets of either once a week. If I don’t get adequate recovery, it’s all downhill.

  245. I’m 62 and have been lifting since I was 12 years old. I was a wrestler in school and coached for over 30 years.

    Squats are absolutely the best overall bodybuilding exercise you can do! They actually will help lean out the whole body better than jogging, while maintaining muscle mass.

    I do 5 sets: 20, 15, 10, 5 and 5, increasing the weight with each set. And sometimes I’ll do a warm-up set and do 5, 5, 10, 15, and 20, reducing the weight each set. Be religious about the rest period between sets. You might start out with 2 minutes and cut it 10 seconds each week until you’re resting 60 or less seconds between sets. This builds endurance and stimulates the CNS more that resting too long.

    One last thing, for those who can’t hold the bar on your back (never the back of the neck!) because of old shoulder injuries, or because you want to prevent them, you need to check out the Top Squat, by Dave Draper. I’ve had one for about a year and it attaches to the bar with two handles to the front so you can easily hold and stabilize the bar in the proper position on your back to prevent injury. It keeps the work in the hips and legs where it’s supposed to be, not in the low back. You can lift more weight with proper form and get more out of this #1 exercise.

    You’ll find that doing squats with perfect form will actually strengthen your back
    when combined with spinal flexibility exercises.

    Hope this helps, and stay Primal!

  246. Your suggestion of a push, pull and lower body exercise three times a week are correct. But, squatting three times a week is too much. You will overtrain and risk injury to your lower back and knees. Do leg presses, or lunges one of the days and trap bar deadlifts or regular deadlifts the other day.

  247. that’s a great information but there for me as a Personal Trainer i think that the strength training should start from 3-5 reps and it will make hypertrophy too but not as if u did 8-12 reps ,, that will make a great hypertrophy in the muscle …… for me i do 3 sets in each single exercise but in the first set i do 12 reps for the right weight and increase the weight and do 10 reps in the second set , then increase the weight more and do 8 reps in the third set ,,,,,, so that i improve both hypertrophy and muscle endurance ,, since i started this i feel good :)))

  248. How for you gain weight when you eat all the time and my weight just stays the same. I’ve tried to gain muscle mass and weighy. I just think that its in my gens not to be big. I’m tall and slender, and I have muscle tone but not where I want to be. I want to get big and ripped. What can I do???

  249. A really solid article with a ton of great resources that I have bookmarked.
    You’ve got it right… hardgainers really need to eat more of the right foods (carbs & enough portions of protein p/day) to help sustain or rebuild muscle. Having such a fast burning metabolism allows them to eat more fats and not really put on much weight. One of the perks of having a fast metabolism!

  250. Wow, this is a very detailed post. However I prefer somewhere in the 8 to 10 rep range, instead of 5. In my experience you get better hypertrophy that way. With a lower rep range you get stronger, however the growth of the muscles is not as big as with the 6-12 rep range. Of course everything depends on the individual person and what works for one person, might not always work for another one.

  251. HI just adding this to your talk about Degenerative Disk issues, like everything if the diet is right the body will heal itself. Dennis might be interested in it. All comes down to the foods we eat. check it out it is very interesting to read.

  252. Any suggestions to get the Growth Hormones going while not being able to do,

    “Squats and deadlifts are absolutely required. No excuses.”

    As I’m missing my right leg just above the knee. I do a lot of upper body workouts with dumbbells.

    Maybe some recommendations on how to optimize my upper body workouts?

    I turn 53 in February.


  253. Good article. I was curious about what I should do if I have already bulked up to where I want to be and want to cut. How would this work with the Paleo diet while still maintaining my muscle?

  254. Great article. I agree that squats can be done three times per week if you are a beginner. But when you get a bit more advanced it will be difficult to recover from doing them with that sort of frequency. At the intermediate stage a transition from full body workouts to upper/lower splits will probably give better results.

  255. Another great post Mark, Going to lower the rep range to 5/5 and see what difference it makes to me, it seems to be more aimed at a powerlifter then a body builder though wouldn’t you say? But lifting is the easy part , eating clean is the hard part for me. Anyway ill try it for 3 months and give some feedback .. Primal All The Way

  256. Stack 1500 mg Test, 800mg Decca and 500mg EQ for some primal gainz

  257. Great tips there. I bookmarked your site so I can come back and have a look around when I have more time.

  258. 1. Antioxidants help to reduce swollen uvula

    Antioxidants search and destroy harmful substances in the blood, helps to increase immunity. These fruits contain antioxidants such as: bilberry, apples, plums. The ingredients of these fruits combine together to form a very rich oxidant fruit juice, very good in the treatment of angina.

  259. It is very important to avoid cortisol indeed. It is hard to do with our stressful lifestyle, but it is an absolute must if you want to gain muscle and body weight.

  260. As as a Hargainer (maybe former hardgainer now – gained 10 pounds in last month) compound movement sets are really the best ways to put on mass, you recommended 3 times a week, I work out about 4-5 times.

    Great Post

  261. Excellent article. I did 5×5 previously and thought it was great at building a base strength. Started stalling so moved onto a 5/3/1 derivative workout for 18m. I’m hitting higher rep ranges just now (newly started, range 8-12) but all compound movements. Will be interesting to compare against SL.

    Once I’m finished the cut I might go back to SL, such a great routine!

  262. This is a great article for building muscle.. If you happen to live in the Stouffville or Toronto area check out for in home personal training and stretch therapy.

  263. This is an AWESOME article… I think this is the fourth time I’ve read it! Everything is related, we are a VITALISTIC species. Hormones, the nervous system, the musculo-skeletal system, etc. Eat real food, lift heavy things and BE healthy. Sometimes people make things way too complicated.

  264. I can’t stand seeing those hoping to gain muscle, while ignoring their bodies other abilities like speed, agility, strength and all of those things that we’re meant to have!

    There’s always someone with a big upper body but with tiny, weak legs. I never understood why someone would wish for such a physique. It’s unbalanced, unhealthy and can’t be good for the long run. I’d rather be a jacked up guy who can perform all kinds of things than someone who can just stand around to look all pretty!!

    Another great one mark!

  265. This issue I have, is that I want to put on muscle mass on my top half (which is definitely getting more muscled slowly, but is still kinda scrawny and bony) but I have fatty deposits on my bum and thighs that I want to get rid of. So while I prefer to work out in a fasted state first thing in the morning, I worry that I’m just burning through what little muscle I do have and it’s a case of 10 steps forward and 9 steps back.
    But then, I worry if I eat lots and especially pre-workout, I’m never going to get rid of those fatty bits. It’s a conundrum!
    I am 40yr old woman who strength trains 3 times a week, and I do a high intensity boxing class once a week. I eat a primal diet with the occasional bit of sweet potato and white rice (no more than around 100g carbs a day, at the most), plus I have raw milk and whey protein shakes post workout and take creatine daily.
    So how can I increase muscle mass and get rid of those problem areas at the same time? Any ideas?

    1. Hi AnnaD,

      I do have the same issues you have. I am 43 and have been eating paleo for almost 4 years now. I lift 3x/week and I have gained considerable amounts of muscle over the last 2 years, but this year I have gained fat in the back of my arms and belly and I have had trouble getting rid of it. I suspect this is a hormonal issue, and in trying to figure this out I have stumbled across the female phase training protcol on Dr. Jade Teta’s website His website has a lot of good information on the importance of hormones and weight management and muscle building/preserving.

      I feel the paleo circles fail to address women’s hormonal issues, especially older women’s and how they relate to body composition. Women’s hormonal make up and how they work is different from men’s, and how and when we store fat depends on our menstrual cycle. Our reproductive hormones are very closely tied to insulin and cortisol, also as we age our bodies store fat in different places. The paleo diet is great but in our case I think the fats and carbs need to be adjusted (possibly more fat and moderate carbs depending on what phase of the cycle). I hope this helps you!

  266. My pumps are stronger at the gym, my mood is better and I have great stamina and energy to get my work done. I am using a herbal formula testosterone booster.

  267. I started doing Stronglifts 5×5 but by the third week, I was having a lot of back pain. I suffer from bad posture due to APT (Anterior Pelvic Tilt) from long hours working at the computer. So I had to stop that program, can’t do squats or dead lifts. I wouldn’t advise anyone with posture or back problems of any sort to do squats or dead lifts, and definitely not the barbell row, that one is a real killer. I’ve been trying to correct my APT by foam rolling the hip flexors and trying to stretch, but really just no improvement. I’d go to a chiropractor but with my shitty obamacare insurance I have now, literally nothing is covered until I meet my $6,350 deductible! I am having more luck with He preaches the use of machines to build muscle and strength but to use them correctly.

  268. Great article thoroughly enjoyed it ! I just squatted today 225lbs then 275 didn’t go much above that although I can squat 385 maybe 400 and deadlift 425lbs. I am a avid heavy lifter rep out around 4-7reps. And I know the importance of eating enough. I like go primal on eating most days. Eggs 8 whole eggs. Does wonders, I need go get some more eggs! I have some of the greatest orgasms also!!

  269. Good tips on building muscle, especially for beginners. After a while though squatting three times per week will become too taxing, so I personally prefer alternating squats with deadlifts. And when one is a bit more advanced an upper/lower split will work better. I agree that size without a corresponding increase in strength is not much use.

  270. There can’t really be a generalization when it comes to how a person can gain weight or build muscle. It is very different and specific for everybody. In my view, the most important thing when you start trying is to take some time to see what works for you, don’t just expect to do it by eating a lot and exercising but actually research it. See what food works for you, read about it more, educate yourself, try a bunch of different exercises to see which is the right fit for you.

    Another thing is not forgetting to do it, because the moment you stop all your progress could be gone (at least at first). You’re in a way teaching your body to do something that it isn’t used to. A common mistake is people who focus on cardio instead of exercise that actually build muscle, so you should make sure you are not doing that.

    It’s very important to eat as much as you feel like you need to but still not junk food. Sure, it’s an easy way to gain weight but focusing on the proper food that your body needs to gain weight is a much better alternative. Don’t leave food like fish and vegetables out of your meal even though they may not be as fattening.

  271. Great article, Mark! Lots of great links to read through. I have found the same and doing then in a circuit fashion. I get the most benefit from 9-12 reps. I look forward to future posts for sure!

  272. Has anyone tried using plant based superfoods like maca or spirulina for protein?

  273. Knees are shot, torn meniscus in 1, & the other “talks to me” when I put it under heavy load. Have assumed that squats & similar exercises are not smart for me. After reading your article & parts of this blog, am wondering if I should attempt with just body weight? I can bike ride 25-30 miles w/o knee pain….am just concerned with adding weight training am I asking for trouble…?

  274. This is right on. I accumulated a good deal of lean mass and lost a lot of fat when I started doing pretty much only compound movements while eating primally and left behind my obsessive daily routine of over an hour of cardio per day. One acquaintance at the gym complimented me recently by saying, “You do really well at walking that tight rope that is being both big and lean.” That felt good, because I was not a strapping guy in my teens or early 20s. I was a McDeath glutton with my value meals.

  275. Despite all the hoopla about people needing to lose weight, the weight gain crowd was left until I discovered your well-detailed post. My desire is to gain muscles fast the old fashioned way without steroids.

  276. As a beginner, I’m gaining insight into muscle building. Although I prefer to gain muscle naturally rather than swallowing a lot of supplements. Is there a quick way without going through this short cut? What particular food should i eat for quick muscle mass?

  277. Great article, good to see someone with some passion write something that is easy to understand! Not easy to pack on muscle while losing fat too. Keep up the good work!

  278. OK Mark, a question for you. Would you change the advice in this post at all if you were talking specifically to a female? I’m still in the fat burning stage but more muscle is an ultimate goal of mine (and why can’t I do both at teh same time :-). Should I be doing anything different than the above? How about for a woman over 40?
    Thanks very much.

  279. Compounds are great exercises. But doing them traditional like the bench press, deadlift, and squats will wreck most people over time. Also why would you not want to add in some isolations? Isolating those secondary muscles are important because they are usually give out first in the “kinetic chain” to give out before your primary muscles. With the amount of pressing and pull ups will cause a shoulder imbalance resulted an internal rotation plus our daily lifestyles we do everything in front of us. Isolations, especially in the back such as the rear delts, rhomboids, middle and low trap are often needed in order to rebalance, strengthen, and protect your shoulder joint. I understand that your advocating minimalism but to totally avoid isolation has its draws back too… Don’t forget those rows either!

  280. It’s late, but I must say it’s a great post. If anybody want to gain weight, then it is very important that you do it right like eat calories more than your body burns, include proteins,eat 3 Times a day etc.

  281. Lots of great information. After a losing 50 pounds. I have been trying to put on more muscle. I am struggling with eating more calories than what I am burning.

  282. Great info here. I’ve always had trouble building muscle, and I’m thinking that not eating enough protein , and possibly not eating often enough was a factor. I’ve been consciously eating more lately, but how do you know if you’re eating too much protein? How often should one eat for optimal gains? What are your thoughts on whey protein? You state in this article that you don’t endorse mass amounts of milk for muscle gain, but what about a few cups of kefir a day? I apologize for the somewhat haphazard nature of this comment. Responses from anyone with experience in this realm are encouraged. Thanks.

  283. I have a hard time gaining weight and I have always been athletic. I do weight lift and have been for some time, but I am not putting much muscle on and I am at a loss now. I know part of my problem is not getting enough protein, but I cannot consume as much as others due to stomach issues, so I use whey protein shakes before and after my workout. I have noticed that I do have more muscle than I began with, but still not enough and I have to be careful because I cannot afford to lose weight either. Does anyone have any suggestions that could help me gain more muscle and still keep weight on? A routine? Thank You!

    1. Health.pdf?_ga=2.243744069.1334938734.1524765090-1199446581.1523852150

  284. Solid article with lots of good info. The only thing I would disagree with is the statement of “lifting heavy is optimal for building muscle”. I actually believe higher rep ranges and increased time under tension is superior for muscle growth. You mention 5×5 as a good muscle building program. In my experience people gain a lot of strength on this program but not much size.

  285. Terrific article in addition to great assistance about lean muscle growth. It is very true that should you want to quicken muscle improvement, you need a blend of healthy feeding on, supplements, as well as a training plan designed specifically for build muscle large. Thanks for expressing valuable specifics of muscle development.

  286. Hey Mark, do you think excess lifting is bad for somehow your overall health. Ive been lifting hardcore for over a decade and I need quite a lot of volume to progress, volume which I cannot press into a fullbody routine 3 times a week. I workout 6 days a week with an upper lower split setup. For my powerlifting purposes, its perfect for me, but is it too much for my health?

  287. Mark do you still believe that 1g per pound of bodyweight is not too much? My question is serious. I am currently trying to add some more muscle following primal principles with little success it seems. I am taking in over 200 fat grams daily to get my calories above maintenance and I feel like I may be losing weight at this point. I don’t believe I’m losing muscle, but still weight.

  288. great article, eating healthy proteins is what helps to build muscle. no matter how much you exercise if you do not take control of your diet you will never gain muscle fast!

  289. Wow, great and indepth post. I have bookmarked a lot of the links you shared as well. Thanks for sharing this info. It is just in time for my weight loss journey!

  290. Really a great article, Mark, thank you so much for sharing the article. One of my friend is looking for bodybuilding. I think this article will really help a lot. Building muscle is not so easy. It highly depends on your diet. So everybody who’s thinking about to gain weight and muscle building should follow the tips of the post.

  291. The truth is simple, here it is. LIFT BIG AND EAT BIG.
    that is all there is to it. Easier said then done though. You must put the time to reap the results.

  292. Can I use a hex bar for squats and deadlifts and dumbbells for bench and overhead press? I’m 50 and want to minimize injury.

  293. Hi , I’m a 60 year old woman who has recently embraced the reset diet with great success. I am very happy ( thank you mark)!and I believe I have a balanced approach to my new lifestyle . However, one thing has caused me great concern I have lost muscle mass and I am not sure as to the best way forward to regain . Can you please advise me . I’m new to the world of weight lifting
    Thank you

  294. Hey Mark, would be curious to hear your thoughts on strength training for martial arts. How have you found your heavy lifting program has impacted your flexibility?

    For me, maxing out my mobility is really important for Muay Thai kicks and BJJ techniques. I’ve always been hesitant to get into a serious lifting program and have focused more on bodyweight exercises. What do you think?

  295. Great Article! Thanks for posting. I always tell my personal training clients that the growing happens when we sleep and rest not in the gym.

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  297. Great article. By how much do you suggest increasing caloric intake to build muscle (ideally looking to do a “lean bulk,” which is what it sounds like you’re referring to)?

    Also, what do you recommend the macro % breakdown should be for this “lean bulk” as well?

    Lastly, I have been splitting my training into a 4x/week split (see below), and I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on it because my strength and size has certainly plateaued (however, my intuition is that the plateau is mostly due to my nutritional confusion over how much [more] to eat and how much of each macronutrient to eat…. I’ve been nervous to put on ‘bad weight’):

    Mon/Thurs: Upper Pull + Lower Push
    Wed: intervals running
    Tues/Fri: Upper Push + Lower Pull

  298. Outstanding information!! This article really covers all the bases of building quality muscle and breaks everything down into a solid strategy.

  299. Hi Mark,

    I was curious about how lifting heavy weights could impact endurance and flexibility.

    My biggest hesitation has always been that carrying more muscle could hinder my cardio strength against myself.

  300. Hi Mark,
    This is nice article you shared great information I have read it thanks for giving such a wonderful Blog for reader.