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Gaining 20 pounds of muscle will make a huge difference to your physique. Muscle gain rate varies from person to person, writes nutritionist Lyle McDonald in "The Protein Book." Under most circumstances, the maximum amount of muscle you can gain naturally is around half a pound a week. However, beginners or those undertaking drastic training, dietary and lifestyle changes can add significantly more. London-based personal trainer Nick Mitchell, owner of Ultimate Performance Training, helped "Men's Fitness" editor Joe Warner -- a typically skinny, vegetarian, long-distance runner -- to add 22 pounds of muscle in three months while dropping body fat using techniques that you can implement in your own training.
Bump up your calorie intake by 500 per day. Building muscle requires an excess of calories, but be warned -- too many can lead to fat gain. Many mass-building plans often recommend consuming up to 6,000 calories per day, but for most people this is too high and will make you gain fat, claims bodybuilder and nutritional scientist Dr. Layne Norton. A 500 daily excess should ensure steady muscle gains with minimal fat accumulation.
Train four times per week, hitting your upper body twice and lower body twice. Base your workout around basic barbell and body-weight exercises such as dips, military presses and squats, advises Mitchell. These compound exercises hit more muscle fibers than single joint isolation or machine exercises and build muscle faster. In your lower body workouts, perform one squat variation, a deadlift variation, lunges and a calf exercise and do dips, presses, rows, chinups and curls for your upper body. Start with three sets of eight on each using the heaviest weight you can manage while maintaining good form and aim to lift more or perform extra repetitions each session.
Weigh yourself each week, always on the same day, first thing in the morning and on an empty stomach. To gain 20 pounds in three months, you'll need to put on roughly one and a half pounds each week. If you're not achieving this, then increase your calories by 250 per day; if you're over, reduce them by 250 per day. Keep an eye on your body-fat levels too. While muscle gain may be your priority, you shouldn't put on too much excess fat as this can be extremely difficult to cut later on.
- Ask a trainer to assist you with exercise techniques if you're unsure.