Building Muscle 101

"So you've come to terms with eating pasta and chicken for the foreseeable future, and you got yourself a gym membership. Awesome. What to do now?" - Noah Ray Sundell

So you’ve decided that it’s time to get your body the way you envision it. Gyms are perhaps one of the most hyper-masculine spaces that exist, and they can be very daunting. The best way to combat this is an air of confidence that screams, “I know what I’m doing here.”

For those of us that would actually like to weigh more and build what we see as gender-affirming muscles, the battle is sometimes an uphill one. Whether or not you’re currently taking hormones, the protocol remains the same. Let’s look at a few things to consider first.


  1. There are three general body types. Ecto-, meso-, and endo- morph. It’s basically small, medium, and large, respectively.  Do online research and you will find a plethora of information on each body type and how to adjust your nutrition for your specific body type and goals.
  2. You CANNOT gain muscle (weight) without eating more of the right foods, no matter what body type you have. If you are going to commit to a new workout routine for size, commit to eating more cleanly, otherwise some, if not most, of your effort will be wasted.
  3. Muscle building is not functional training.  A very common misconception about the fitness world is that dudes who are huge and cut are very strong. Surprise!! This is not always the case. The strongest competitors in the world are, perhaps, Olympic weightlifters. Most of them have big bellies, but can squat more than I’ll ever be able to. In a zombie apocalypse, they’ll be the one’s lifting trees off of people. Body and muscle building is for aesthetic, it’s to look a certain way.  Be honest about what you want out of your training. Are you geared more toward outward appearance, or health and stamina?  It’s possible to have both size and function, but your training regimen should reflect this.


So you’ve come to terms with eating pasta and chicken for the foreseeable future, and you got yourself a gym membership. Awesome. What to do now?


  1. How To Build a Workout Plan

– If you get in contact with me, I can build you a custom plan. But a general one is fine to use to get into the swing of things! If your gym offers a personal trainer, take advantage of what he/she has to offer in the way of advice.

– Determine how many days a week you can realistically get to a gym and build around that. Spread out your muscle groups over that many days. Focus on: Legs, Biceps, Triceps, Back, Chest, Abs, and Shoulders. Combine ones that make sense to you, or are generally used together for exercises.

For example:

Monday – Back & Abs

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Legs

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Biceps & Triceps

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Chest & Shoulders


Although many men are excited to get started and feel like the more they work out, the more quickly they will see results, rest is of the utmost importance. If a man does not rest and repair his body with protein, water and stretching, he is liable to do serious damage to his muscles, or maybe not even see results at all, often times leading to frustration and failure to stick with his goal plan. Think of rest and repair as an integral part of your workout.


– Dumbbells and barbells intimidating you? Hop into a shoulder press machine, and keep an eye on others doing shoulder exercises, try them next week. Some machines will even give a tutorial on the face of the machine stand. If you’re still unsure, you can google the proper use of a machine until you get the swing of things. There’s nothing wrong with using machines, especially if your goal is muscle building. They are the safest and most consistent option.


  1. Exercise Specifics

– To focus on size, your rep range needs to be between 10-15. That being said, your last rep should leave the muscle group you are working on,shot. If you can do much more than 15 reps, up your weight by fives.  If you can only do 8 reps, or only do 10 but you find yourself  cheating with momentum, drop the weight. Sure, curling 35lbs in each hand looks cool in the gym. That is, until you haven’t made any gains in four months time because you’re cheating on every rep.

– I recommend a rest period of 60-90 seconds between each set, and 3 to 4 sets for each exercise. For each muscle group, 4 exercises should be adequate.With that being said, while an exercise regimen should cause some discomfort, it should never cause pain. If you experience anything like pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or blurred vision, please discontinue your workout and seek the medical advice of your general practitioner.


  1. Building for your body type



Ectomorphs will not gain muscle easily, but will also not retain much fat. While reaching for your 10-15 reps for each set, I recommend that you get as close to 15 as possible, even if that means dropping the weight lower than you’d like. Remember that it should still be quite challenging; find your sweet spot. In addition to higher reps, I also recommend compound sets for this body type (the one I happen to fall into). Compound sets are back-to-back exercises for the same muscle group, but perhaps targeting different muscle heads. An example of this is: 8 reps of bicep curls on a cable machine, then immediately picking up 15 lb dumbbells and doing 8 hammer curls (a hammer curl is a weightlifting technique designed to target the bicep by using flexion movement, repetitively). This counts as one set. You might be worried about the reps falling below our range of 10-15, but remember that it’s the same muscle group with no rest, so this can be counted as 16. Compound sets are brutal, but they will grow with this method. I do recommend little to no cardio training for ectomorphs trying to gain muscle, as it can sap calories that are so crucial for us. Running once a week or light walking daily should not hinder results too much, if truly desired.



Mesomorphs are the people with the “good genes”, an active metabolism and steady muscle building capabilities. Congrats on the genetics lottery! Since muscle building here is not as difficult as it could be, I recommend following the 10-15 rep range for most of your workouts. However, I would also take advantage of this by adding in some functional strength building exercises here and there (examples of this are lunges, squats, pushups pullups and rotations). Your muscles will still respond to this and you may even see some extra growth. Strength sets are generally between 6-8 reps, but I would advise getting as close to 8 as possible. Remember that lifting heavy for strength is a bit more of a safety concern, so grab a buddy for spotting or use a machine. I do also like to see mesomorphs do a moderate amount of cardio training, but excess is not necessary. Find an easy hiking trail and about three times a week, jog it up and down, twice. Have fun with it! Do some pushups or squats every ten, fifteen minutes during your routine.



Endomorphs do gain muscle easily, but also hang on to a lot of fat. The good news here is that muscle actually does boost your metabolic rate, but the bad news is you’re still going to have to do the most cardio out of the three body types. You can take two avenues here: drop as much weight as possible then tone up later, or build muscle up and rid the excess fat that you have. The former calls for high intensity interval training (HIIT), and the latter simply calls for half weight training and half cardio. HIIT training is a blast, and far more effective in calorie burning than running.  There are different kinds of interval training, but I’ll save more information on that for another article. Here’s a beginner HIIT workout that will get your heart racing.


The following will be completed three times through, doing one exercise for 45 seconds, then resting for 15 seconds before moving to the next one. In this example, there are 5 exercises and 3 rounds, meaning it will only take 15-18 minutes. You can rest about a minute between rounds. Got it?

  1. Push-ups (Modified is fine)
  2. Jumping Jacks
  3. Dips (Use a bench/couch edge if not in a gym)
  4. Burpees
  5. Squats


Don’t forget to scarf down carbs and protein in a 3:1 ratio before and after your workout! Crush your goals, folks. I believe very firmly that anyone with an interest in fitness was made for it. Look for more articles by me relating to fitness! I offer advice and mentoring in avenues such as strength building, nutrition, specific workouts and more.


REMEMBER: If someone is paying attention to your workout, they aren’t working hard enough on their own. Don’t forget to walk into they gym exuding the mantra “I know what I’m doing here!” Even if you don’t believe it at first, eventually you will. **


** All of the training advice given in this article is solely for novelty purposes only. Please check with your general practitioner before beginning  to make sure you are currently capable of exercise. The author of this article, nor FTM Magazine take any responsibility for the advice given. Work out and use this article as a guideline at your own risk!

By:Noah Ray Sundell