One of the most popular phone calls I get from new clients go something like this "My son is a good athlete, pretty fast, he just needs to get bigger. He lifts 5 days a week at Fufu Fitness Center and hes just not gaining any weight." This is a good call to get because I know that I can help the client immediately, if they show up consistently.
This is how the progression goes:
1. We first establish the client's training age and ability. Training age is simply how many years the client has been lifting......correctly. For my kids who are under 15, their training age is automatically zero unless they prove otherwise. Kids like this are going to gain muscle simply by performing total body lifts with correct techniques. We add load as strength improves. We change programs every month and sets and reps usually range from 6 to 10. NEVER are we doing a chest day, a leg day or the worthless arm day.
2. For my clients who are in the 16 - college age and have training experience, this is when we really step it up. Depending on how many days per week the client is training, we use a combination of heavy upper body lifts, heavy lower body lifts, explosive lifts, high rep lifts and some body building exercises. This is when my job of program design really comes into play. I know when to pile it on and when to take a step back. One week we might Squat heavy, the next week we might Dead Lift heavy. Its pretty simple - Get really strong in the right exercises and eat a lot of good food. Sets and reps can vary dramatically from week to week and even day to day. This is one of the main differences between training under professional supervision and going to the gym and doing your own thing.
Here is where the average skinny person goes wrong:
1. Diet. They either don't eat enough good calories or just don't eat enough period. You must take in 500 cals more per day then you are expending to gain 1 lb. of muscle per week. For some really active 16 year olds, that could be well over 3000 cals per day. Your protein shake must have calories from carbs and fat in it. Just a protein shake will not get it done. If the protein shake you are drinking says 200 calories or less, give it to your grandma because its not going to put mass on you. The shake we use at SOAR has over 600 calories per serving - we taper the servings for smaller kids.
2. They go to the gym and do 3 sets of 10 reps on every machine for 1 body part. They do chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, shoulders on Wednesday, arms on Thursday and then probably chest again on Friday. Maybe they squeeze some leg extensions in there somewhere. This is the number one way to not get strong in the weight room. Get off the machines and pick up some free weights. Change your sets and reps by the week. Do total body lifts or a reasonable split if you are training 4x per week. There is no need to lift 5 days per week under any circumstance. Also, there is no reason to lift for more than 60 minutes. If you are spending 2 hours in the gym, you are either wasting your time or wasting someone else's time by talking too much.
3. Lack of rest. If you do not rest, your muscles will not grow. Sleep at least 7 hours per night. Take at least 1 day, preferably 2 days off from strenuous activity per week.