50 Things You Should Know About Strength And Muscle Building

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
August 14th, 2013
Updated: June 13th, 2020
99.1K Reads
50 Strength & Muscle Building Tips You Should Know
What do you need to make quality gains? While most lifters rush towards complexity and training overkill, what they really need simplicity and training refinement.

If you are immersed in the world of muscle building magazines or online bodybuilding culture, then many of the items on this list may surprise you. Magazines, many Internet articles and even e-book gurus do such a good job at making you think that lifting is complicated, and without their advice or information you are sure to fail. The opposite is, in fact, true.

You really don't need to worry about much as long as the basics are in place. With that said, here are some things to consider as you explore Muscle & Strength. Remember that these rules and tips are aimed at beginning to intermediate lifters and are not meant to tell advanced bodybuilders and powerlifters how to train.

You Need To Know:

1) Start each workout with a maximum of 2-3 high impact, heavy compound movements.

2) Limit your total exercises per day to around 4-5.

3) Most people only need to train 2, 3 or 4 days per week.

4) Don't train for a new one rep max week in and week out.

5) Don't train your deadlift above 90%. There is very little return on investment.

6) Train the entire body rather than training body parts.

7) Build an incredible strength base from head to toe.

8) Training frequently is generally slightly more optimal for muscle building.

9) You need rep work for form practice and muscle building, even if you're "only" training for strength.

10) You need a potent strength base, even if you're "only" training for muscle.

11) If you are a teen you shouldn't be counting calories. You should eat until full and eat when hungry.

12) If your weight is bothering you, lose the fat so you can move on.

13) Training templates are only starting points, not complete road maps.

14) Eating plans are starting points that need to be tweaked.

15) Focus on training evolution based on needs.

Muscle Building Tips

16) You can never have enough back strength.

17) You can never have enough tricep strength.

18) Balance your upper body training between back, chest and shoulders.

19) Don't overwork your arms. This is a fast track to tendonitis.

20) You never master form. Keep working on it.

21) Progressive overload is essential, regardless of the approach.

22) Without consistency very little will matter. Get your butt to the gym and stop missing workouts.

23) You don't need to confuse your muscles every 8-12 weeks by changing workouts. This is complete nonsense.

24) Natural muscle builders can't get as big as their steroid-using counterparts. It's physiologically impossible.

25) Train highly technical lifts first in your program (snatches, overhead squats, power cleans, etc.).

26) Half squats and quarter squats are one of the worst thing you can do for your knees. They are anterior dominant and unbalanced.

27) It doesn't matter how much when you eat, or how often you eat, as long as you are eating enough calories and not undereating macronutrients. Use common sense and listen to your body.

28) Try to make 80% of your diet consist of nutritionally dense, low/no processed foods.

29) Nutritional supplements aren't magic, but that doesn't mean they are useless.

30) Firsthand experience is more valuable than blindly following the opinions of other lifters. Try reasonable things yourself.

31) If something is working, don't change it.

32) Don't deload or take a week off every time you have a bad workout. Bad workouts are part of the journey and don't mean anything is necessarily wrong.

33) Train for gains, not for pain. Progress and live to fight another day.

34) Never waste a set.

35) It's ok to use a few "pet exercises" each week, even if they aren't the most effective. As long as the first 80% of your training is solid, a fun exercise won't hurt anything.

Man With 6 Pack Abs

36) Which workout system is best? The one that most motivates you to train.

37) You will not become catabolic and ruin your workout if you miss the "anabolic window of opportunity."

38) You don't have to bomb, blast and blitz a muscle from every possible angle.

39) Simplicity is usually the best answer, regardless of the question.

40) You can't change the shape of a muscle using specific exercises, you can only make that shape bigger.

41) You don't need high volume training. You just think you need high volume training.

42) Compound exercises are better choices than isolation exercises.

43) Don't try to turn a compound exercise into an isolation exercise in an attempt to feel only a single muscle group.

44) Don't turn an isolation lift into a pseudo-compound movement by using too much weight.

45) If you can't get in a quality workout within 60 to 75 minutes, you have no business working out longer.

46) Eating fat is not evil.

47) Protein will not damage your kidneys.

48) Training to failure is absolutely not needed. Progression is.

49) There are no magic workout programs, but there are inefficient ones.

50) The slowing of gains is normal. It doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong.

Posted on: Thu, 01/01/2015 - 21:31

what did you mean by points 16 and 17?

Posted on: Wed, 10/08/2014 - 11:02

hai steve, little bit confuse here on number 19. U said dont overtraining your arms but now i'm working on your 5000 reps workout arm training! Is it overtraining

Todd H.
Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 07:00

A lot of good tips here, most confirming what I have been learning/suspecting. Keep putting them on paper and I'll keep reading 'em.

Posted on: Sun, 06/15/2014 - 13:20

I've seen you deadlifting on youtube. Are you married ?

Posted on: Thu, 02/27/2014 - 23:49

#45? explain this please...with 2 minute rest periods you could easily blow through 30 mins of down time and with 15-30 cardio sessions when will I expect to lift? I'm not arguing intensity mind you but I think this is case sensitive...

Posted on: Mon, 02/17/2014 - 22:28

hi steve, im training to the failure of power rather than training to failure. what is the best rep range for strength and mass im currently doing 6-8reps.

Posted on: Tue, 10/22/2013 - 16:56

Great tips! I tell a lot of my more beginner friends a number of these things. If I were to write a list, it would look pretty much the same (not that I'm an expert, but I've done a lot of research and I've been lifting for 15+ years). Thanks for posting this.

Posted on: Sun, 10/20/2013 - 00:28

Hi Steve, I had a problem with strength. I've been stuck to lift more weight than I do now (50kg) even for at least 8 reps. Before, I've been making progression by lifting more weight little by little and targeting for 8-12 reps failure. What am I do wrong? Help please... Thanks.

Posted on: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 15:36

10) You need a potent strength base, even if you're "only" training for muscle.

This means that a high volume based program is useless for beginners? I love my 4daw atm, it's high volume and i make gains but you mean lower rep & higher sets with it it's better to go?

Posted on: Wed, 09/11/2013 - 21:03

51. Dont do any of this in the gym. If you're confused about any of it. Then you are probably one of these people.

Youtube: /watch?v=D1iGDvdIihk

NIkhil Alagh
Posted on: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 21:54

Hello sir,
your these tips are really helpful to me,i have a little bulky stomach and i want abs can u suggest me the excercises which could help me..
I just want to clear my misconception dat protien and gainer never effect our body as i m taking MUSCLE PHARM ASSAULT and ON's MASS GAINER 12lbs..
Any advice would be much appreciated.

usman jaan
Posted on: Sun, 09/01/2013 - 09:08

i am thin and i start gym butt not changing in me plzz give me tips

Lisa A. Gonzales
Posted on: Thu, 08/29/2013 - 19:08

I was a full time firefighter and critical care medic. I was built and cut!! Now I have 2 hip replacements and a plate with 11 screws and 1 pin in my right arm. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and started working out again. I only take whey protein as a supplement. Working out has turned things around for me for the better. Any suggestions to a work out that will increase muscle mass and decrease fat? I have been very displined on dieting, I work out approx 3 hours a day 4-5 days a week. The only supplement I take is the whey protein.

Posted on: Wed, 08/28/2013 - 01:56

i do exercise every day includes of cardio and weight training and control my calories by eating vegetables , fruits and protein but i cant lose weight . what is my mistake ? please guide me.

Posted on: Mon, 08/26/2013 - 15:47

Hi Steve,
I'm following one of your 4 days a week routine.The only body part which isn't getting bigger as others in my back.Actually, it is the only weaker part in my body.Can you help me to make it biiger.I just do following exercises for my back ;
- Deadlifts 4 power sets with 5 reps each
- Barbell row 3 sets with 6-12 reps each
- Front Pull Down 3 sets with 6-12 reps each
- Machine row 2 sets with 40 reps each

I am really trying to get my lats wide but unfortunately they are not giving me the results i want.

Shiyam Mohamed
Posted on: Mon, 08/26/2013 - 04:31

Hi! Steve, Thanks, it was a wonderful article, i am from Maldives, a small, but a beautiful country in South Asia. Shiyam.

Posted on: Sun, 08/25/2013 - 23:26

Hi Steve, Are Protiens good for health i mean can we take them because my dad says that it makes the intestines weak so what should I do I want to take protien can you help me out and which is the best one please?

Posted on: Sun, 08/25/2013 - 20:50

Hi Steve I find your article very informative and helpful, one thin that is hardly ever mentioned in these 50/100 things you should know/myths etc. is about the never ending argument about training in the morning or evening? can someone give me definitive answer please?

Posted on: Sun, 08/25/2013 - 19:50

Hey Steve, I'm having trouble gaining weight and cant figure out why, I'm at the gym 3-4 times a week and eat well but I just can't seem to gain. Any tips?

Posted on: Fri, 11/22/2013 - 18:42

Increase your food intake. more calories= more weight gain. Simple as that. 3500 calories not burned by the body will result in 1 pound of weight gain. So begin increasing your calories every day, and make sure you're eating enough protein.

Posted on: Sun, 08/25/2013 - 17:02

Gr8 stuff, I lije number 45, 49 and 50 fo-sho

Glenn QN
Posted on: Tue, 08/20/2013 - 19:44

Hi Steve,

Excellent article. Keep it coming.

Jean Carlos
Posted on: Sat, 08/17/2013 - 23:32

Hi, I can't afford a good nutrition right now even though my lunch is healthy (low on salts and oil, etc) and I use whey protein 3 times a day (wake up, pre and post-workout). What should I do?

16 years old
Sorry for any typo, I'm Dominican

Posted on: Mon, 08/19/2013 - 20:15

Focus on nutrient dense foods. Chicken, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, greek yogurt, oatmeal, rice, milk, nuts, avocado, etc.. eliminate empty calories soda, chips, breads, etc..

Learn to add calories to your shakes like oatmeal, oat flour, peanut butter, etc..


Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 21:34

Awesome points Steve. Thank you for all the contributions you have made over the years. Your knowledge has really helped me workout a lot smarter, better and harder and your Youtube videos have been a real inspiration to me. I wish you and your family the best for all of your lifting endeavors.

Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 18:45

hi i was wondering as a 15 year old guy would it be fine if i used whey protein powder

Posted on: Mon, 08/19/2013 - 20:10

Of course, my 8 year old takes it every day (just one serving) and my 75 year old mother! It's just a protein supplement. Life Extension just published an excellent article about whey supplementation and its benefits even on life-span extension. YES, take it.

Posted on: Mon, 08/26/2013 - 20:28

Hi! Thanks for your posts! Can you post the link to the Life Extension article you just mentioned? I'd love to read it (and share it w/people I know.) (I tried googling for the article but couldn't find it.)

Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 16:16


I've finally got my ass into gear and started strength training to gain some proper muscle. I'm doing something a long the lines of 3x5 Squats (3 times a week), Deadlift, Bench Press, Pendlay Row, Overhead Press, Chins, Pull up (alternating Workouts A / B).

The one thing I'm struggling with is Squats. My groin is starting to tighten and although I can still push the weight up, it feels like an injury waiting to happen. I tried deloading last workout and it helped rest it, but as soon as I kicked off again today I felt a slight tightness as though my leg had given up on flexibility (even though I can squat past parallel). Anything you've experienced (or anyone else for that matter) and have a tip on what it could be.


Posted on: Mon, 08/19/2013 - 20:18

Add bent-leg deadlifts or hyperextensions. Then search YouTube for hamstring release/stretch, soas stretch, etc.. and stretch every day after workout not before.


Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 10:14

Hey Steve.
Just wanted to say how excellent and simple these tips are. I've slowly been learning many of them on my own. Love the article, love the page in general. No doubt the best and most honest muscle-building webpage I've seen out there. Keep up the good work!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 12:55


Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 07:32

hi steve,

great article again, i always find your stuff spot on!!

i just wanted to cross my scenario by you if i could because i haven't fallen into any of these traps yet especially the one about changing workouts (i always had a feeling that didn't make much sense).
i've always been an active person and boxed as training for years too. this year i have taken on to building strength and muscle more "seriously" rather than just straight cardio style fitness. i've found that in certain areas i am really not as "fit" as i thought i was and it's been a real eye opener (eg. not being able to do 10 wide grip pull ups unassisted for one). i've been currently using your 3 day split plan for a better part of the year now and find i have been progressing pretty well. i had planned to continue doing it for the rest of the year (or atleast i can do those pull ups unassisted damn it!!), what do you think? is this much time on the same plan too much or is this a good plan to build a solid base and then look to either get more intense or just maintain what i have?

thanks mate!!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 12:58

Hi Matt,

Thanks! You could use that plan and then add in some bodyweight exercises after each workout. I would also make sure to do some conditioning work each week.

These things won't hinder gains as long as your eating is reasonable.

Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 13:04

yeah sounds good!! i've been doing ab work 2 days out of 3 but i will definitely look into adding some body weight exercises in to each day also. i'll check out the site for some ideas but if you have any essentials please please send them over.
i always make sure i am doing a cardio session or 2 a week also to keep my fitness up but if there is any conditioning essentials you could recommend that would be killer!!
big thanks again!!

Ian Son
Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 05:30

Awesome read :)

Not directly related but I've been doing your 4 day power muscle burn routine and really enjoying it, I have a question regarding warm up sets, I currently do 2x5 just the bar, 1x5 approx third of weight, 1x3 half of weight, 1x2 approx three quarters of weight then onto working sets.
Is this suffient for a warm up? There's that many contradictions on the Internet that you never know who's right or wrong.
Thank you.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 12:54

Sounds fine. If you feel warmed up then I wouldn't change anything.

Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 03:22

Just wondering about squats...No 26 - you have totally confused me there.....how should I be doing them....cheers

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 12:51

Do you squats to parallel. Anything higher is anterior chain dominant and harsh on the knees.

Lee P
Posted on: Wed, 08/14/2013 - 23:18

Hi I'm just a bit confused with #3 when compared with #8. #8 says that training more frequently is better for muscle, but #3 seems to suggest that less frequent (2-4 days) workouts are ideal?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 12:49

More frequency means training each muscle group 2x a week in an upper/lower split (4 days of training) or 3x a week in a fullbody (3 days a week training).

Posted on: Wed, 08/14/2013 - 21:46

Could you please explain what you meant by: 17) You can never have enough tricep strength.?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 12:47

Tricep strength is golden. It helps all your pressing movements. You can never have enough.

Posted on: Wed, 08/14/2013 - 18:28

hi Steve,
i was just wondering if you had any advice or exercises that are good for teens

Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 10:41

Steve has offered plenty of workout routines. Click on his profile and see the workouts he's written.

And FOLLOW his advice above... COMPOUND movement first and concentrate on them.

Dead lifts
clean and jerk

Posted on: Wed, 08/14/2013 - 17:30

Hi Steve
Thanks for article..
"45) If you can't get in a quality workout within 60 to 75 minutes, you have no business working out longer."
Welll i read a lot about how bad is prolonged workout, and after 45 min the testosterone level of body decreases at a very low point.
But many of my workouts takes 90 or 120 min.... So am i going so far wrong with that?? I really try to decrease the time but i was not really successfull...
And whats your opinion to get succeed??

Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 10:37

You're simply resting too long between sets and/or you have too many exercises.


M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 12:45

I know plenty of lifters who train longer than 75 minutes. This bit of info is really overhyped. With that said, many guys that train longer take long rests between sets, and aren't actually doing more work.

Posted on: Wed, 08/14/2013 - 15:23

Hi Steve
6) Train the entire body rather than training body parts.
Are you against having a day just for back, bicep, chest, ect? I usually train 5-6 days a week and I try to work a push,pull,legs,push, pull, legs type of split. Should i just stick to doing 4-5 full body work outs then?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 08/14/2013 - 15:56

No, not at all.

The main problem I have with bodybuilding is that people tend to lump compound movements into single muscle group categories. Like placing bench press as a chest movement. Bench builds freak front delts over time, and triceps. So I want a trainee to consider a broader picture for each movement.