Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oct 15, 16 y/o: Gaining Muscle, Isolation Exercises & Best Form of Cardio | Muscle Building Q&A

Question: Hi, I'm 16 and have one year left before I graduate high school. Nearly all the guys in my grade go to the gym. We're all trying to gain muscle mass. I have 3 things to ask you:
Should I increase my bodyweight every month? If so, by how much?I've been told that, for each small muscle group, I should do 3 exercises for 3 sets of 8 reps. Is this true?Is walking the best form of cardio to do when trying to build muscle mass?I hope you can answer these questions for me. Thanks a lot!

– William (Cardiff, United Kingdom)

Answer: Thanks for the questions. It's cool that weight training is such a common activity with kids in your school. Almost nobody at my high school lifted seriously, if at all.

Now, to answer your questions...

If you've only recently started lifting weights, then you should definitely be gaining weight every month. The actual amount of weight depends on a number of personal factors (e.g. bodyweight, age, strength progress, body type)...

...Generally, though, the average guy your age should expect to gain an average of 3 pounds per month, for the first several months of training.

That said, don't try to gain weight just for the sake of gaining weight. Your goal isn't to simply increase the numbers on the scale.

Rather, the weight you gain should be relatively lean mass. In other words, a majority of the weight should be muscle mass. Some fat gain is a necessary evil for most people. But the point is that the fat gain should be limited. (Note, too, that some of the weight you gain may be from water retention.)

If you haven't done so already, please read my article: bodybuilding diet. It explains how to plan your diet by calculating your daily caloric and macronutrient requirements.

If you plan your diet correctly and stick to it, then you needn't worry about gaining too little muscle or too much fat (assuming you train properly and get enough sleep).


Don't take any training advice from whoever told you that. Unless you're an advanced bodybuilder, that is entirely too much training volume (total sets x reps) for small muscle groups. You'll get nowhere fast with such a poorly suited training approach.

Contrary to popular gym dogma, beginners don't need any isolation training for great gains.

In fact, performing more than a few sets of one exercise for one minor muscle group, per workout session, can actually be counterproductive to your overall muscle building and strength progress.

Instead, you should focus on compound exercises, which work multiple large and small muscle groups at once. This will most definitely get you big. But more importantly, it will get you strong, which in turn will allow you to get even bigger.

I recommend doing the MYx8 routine. It's perfect for someone like you. Plus, it does allow you to do 3 sets of one isolation exercise (bicep curls or bent over lateral raises) at the end of each workout.


Walking is certainly a good exercise in general. However, it won't give your cardiovascular system much of a challenge, since you're young and I'm assuming, in decent shape.

Plus, walking burns calories at a relatively slow rate. (I realize you're trying to bulk up, but burning extra calories can help to minimize fat gain).

You may have seen or heard of competitive bodybuilders doing walking for cardio in order to maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss...

...However, they typically only do this a few weeks out from a contest, when they're at such a low bodyfat percentage that muscle loss from more intense cardiovascular activity is actually a threat. And they do it for multiple hours at a time in order to actually burn enough calories.

My advice is to do 20-40 minutes of moderate intensity (i.e. jogging pace) cardio, two times per week. This isn't limited to just running on a treadmill. It can be any other type of activity, like biking, swimming, rowing, playing basketball, or jumping rope, among many other activities.

– Alex

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