Building Lean Muscle, Part 1: Mindset

Around this time every year, many football and basketball athletes are bound and determined to figure out the fastest way to gain muscle. Late spring seems to be the season when athletes are looking to put on more muscle, gain more strength, and build a new body to enhance their physical prowess and performance in their sport.

And so, many athletes look for a diet to help them gain muscle, and the right workout program to complement it. Because of this influx in athlete interest in nutrition, I thought it would be helpful to outline the steps necessary to safely—and realistically—build lean muscle.

This is the first post in a 10-part series over the next several weeks, and focuses on the first step to developing a successful strategy to build muscle: getting your mindset right.

MINDSET

Before you begin counting your macros, or even calculating your daily calorie expenditure, the first step to building lean muscle tissue is to get your mindset right. “Mindset” just refers to the mental space you devote to a particular task or goal—whatever you set your mind to. If your mindset is right, you will have mental focus and direction toward your goal, which sets you up for success. One major mistake far too many people make is failing to adopt the right mindset, and then falling off the bandwagon before they really even get started.

Remember, everything you do on a day-to-day basis is going to influence whether you’re successful in gaining muscle, so you need to make sure you’re mentally on track.

Let’s look at 5 quick tips to help you mentally prepare yourself to learn the fastest way to gain lean mass, and to follow your game plan through to success.

1. Set Specific Goals

Once you’ve committed to gaining lean muscle tissue safely, you must set some very specific goals. How much muscle do you want to gain? 5 pounds? 10 pounds? Don’t estimate or generalize—you will need to be specific, as this is what will help hold you accountable to follow through and see results.

Those who don’t outline exactly what it is they want to achieve are going to have a hard time figuring out the right direction to take with their diet to put on muscle in conjunction with their workout program. Write down your goal and put it somewhere you will see it every day: a post-it on your bathroom mirror, a note on your phone’s lock screen, in Sharpie on your bedroom wall—anywhere you will see it on a regular basis.

Make your goals specific. Write them down!

Make your goals specific. Write them down!

2. Prepare to Have Patience

Once you’ve set your specific goal, it’s time to practice patience. Building muscle isn’t going to take place overnight, so if you aren’t prepared for a long journey, you’re wasting your time. Far too many athletes expect results in 1-2 weeks, and then lose interest when their desired muscle gain doesn’t happen.

Most athletes can build about 1-3 pounds of muscle per month, depending on how well their diet for muscle gain is set up, and how hard they’re working. If you expect to gain 10 pounds by next month, you’re going to be disappointed.

3. Understand the Meaning of Hard Work

Another thing you must do to get in the right frame of mind for success is to understand the meaning of hard work.

Think muscle gain comes easy? Think again. Why else would there be so many expensive “mass building” powders and supplements on the market? It’s hard to build muscle, and there is no shortcut. If you’re someone who is always looking for the latest quick-fix that promises rapid results with little effort, you will, again, be disappointed.

Nothing short of a good diet designed to put on muscle in addition to constant effort in the gym is going to get you the progress you’re after. The sooner you can accept this and be prepared to put in the effort going forward, the sooner you’ll be on track to gaining lean mass safely.



4. Avoid Comparisons

Another trick to avoid getting stuck in a negative mindset as you progress with your diet and workout plan is to avoid comparing yourself to others.

Do not compare your results to those of other people. Remember, they don’t have your body—you do! Everyone’s body is unique and different. Just because one person builds muscle at a certain rate does not mean you will, too.

The more you compare yourself, the more likely you are to run into disappointment. Focus on your goals, your plan, and your results—and you will be much better prepared, mentally, to succeed.

#VoltFamily member @stanislaussoftball getting their squat on! Hard work in the weight room pays off on the field!!

A photo posted by Volt Athletics (@voltathletics) on

5. Get Committed

Finally, in order to improve your muscle-gaining mindset, you must work on getting committed. This means mentally preparing yourself to work towards this goal for at least a few months—if not 6-12 months—if you have a significant amount of muscle to build.

If you can focus your mindset on the longer-term goal right from the start, you won’t expect immediate results, and this can help you stay focused for the duration.

Furthermore, you’ll want to implement key motivational strategies along the way to help keep you on course when things get tough. Journaling, taking progress pictures, and having a workout/diet support buddy or partner are great strategies to help you commit to staying focused for the long haul. Whatever tools or techniques will help you stay committed to your goal, put them into practice.

THE FINAL WORD

So there you have some important points to know and get covered if you want to achieve safe muscle gain and reach your bodyweight goals. Go on and check out my next installment, where I dive into the specifics of constructing a muscle-building diet based on your individual caloric and energy needs.


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Mike Bewley, MA, CSCS, C-SPN, USAW-I is a guest contributor to the Volt blog. He is a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Clemson University, a specalist in sports nutrition, and the founder of online nutrition platform NutraCarina.