Vail Daily column: How to recover for muscle-size increases |

Vail Daily column: How to recover for muscle-size increases

If you are interested in chaffing thighs and having people comment on how you must have taken steroids to promote the overwhelming thickness around your chest and back that is exemplified as you accidentally rip your shirt seams attempting to change a light bulb at the office … read on. All kidding aside, last week’s article discussed the basic principles and exercise selections needed to promote muscle size increases.

Today, I will discuss what happens after the initial stage of training induced disruption and how to capitalize on the environment primed for muscular growth.

The biggest road block to gaining muscle weight for hard gainers is the inability for them to recover from the disturbance caused by strength training. There are three variables needed to produce sizeable muscle gains. Training, sleep and nutrition are synonymous with heat, oxygen and fuel. You can’t have combustion (fire) unless all three are present; you can’t build large muscles unless you train hard, rest and eat large quantities of food.

Let’s assume that you follow my guidelines and train hard as I detailed last week. What’s next?

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It is imperative first and foremost to eat large quantities of food. Earlier this year, I was working with a young athlete who desperately needed to gain weight for collision sports. After all, increases in muscle weight provide a natural armor effect as muscle girth helps protect the joints from impact. After three months of initial strength gains because of neurological adaptations, Michael plateaued. After investigation, his slight 141-pound frame hadn’t been putting a dent in the scale at all.

Even though Michael assured me he was eating ample amounts of food, I had my suspicions. I suggested that he eat a half dozen eggs for breakfast with all of the fixins; to go to the nearest buffet at lunch and eat until his belt stretched to dire disrepair. I commanded him to ingest an entire large meat pizza at dinner time. Also, I told him to wake in the middle of the night and eat if he had to. Whatever needed to happen, but the scale had better start moving. I told him that the alternative would be a Midwestern, corn-fed 220 pound tackle named Butch would gladly meet him middle field to let him know what it takes to gain weight. I don’t know exactly what he did in the culinary department, but he crept up to 170 pounds within six months of that meeting.

Disclaimer: Before any accuse me of promoting unhealthy eating habits in the name of muscle weight gain, I also never stated that playing collision sports or participating in the sport of bodybuilding, powerlifting or strongman is healthy either. I would rather promote a surplus of not-so-healthy calories for an underweight athlete to gain muscle, than to risk hospitalization from Butch’s fury. Pizza, burgers, tacos, BBQ and other hearty foods are dense calorically that are a skinny guy’s best friend for inducing weight gain. Can you gain weight from eating healthy food? Of course, but good luck eating enough grilled chicken, yams and broccoli if you already have a fast metabolism and persistently burn too many calories disabling you from inducing ample muscle gain in the first place. Clean eating and muscle gain does happen though. Look at the bodybuilding culture, these professionals have it figured out.


Lastly, the trainee must get ample rest. It’s difficult to gain muscle if you don’t get at least eight hours of sleep per night. During sleep, human growth hormone is at peak production and the parasympathetic nervous system is working full force to repair the damage incurred from training. The muscles grow during rest, not in the gym when the damage is being done in the first place. Midafternoon naps, going to bed earlier and sleeping later in the morning are all good tools to use for gaining size. Along with limited sleep, scrawny lifters often can’t sit still and go like the energizer bunny all the time. It is the rare exception that I see an underweight lifter who vows to follow the proper guidelines for weight gain.

Skinny folks often respond to my straightforward-simple guidelines by asking what else they can do for exercise. My response is always the same. You will rarely get anywhere in your quest for muscle gains if you are doing all the other auxiliary stuff. The body doesn’t work this way. It’s all about priorities, and you can’t be all things all of the time. Muscle size increases is conflicted with long distance cycling, working long hours without eating, snowshoeing, running, etc.

To truly gain weight, you must lift heavy, eat heavy, and sleep heavy. If you wish to gain weight, following these guidelines with proper training will generate chaffing thighs and seam busting arms in no time!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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