Alright, so you want to put on some serious size, and you want to do so as quickly and effectively. This mass gain workout guide is for you. We’re going to cover…

No nonsense, no fluff, just evidence-based mass gain workouts to get you jacked and tan.

*Mass Gain Rule Number 1: For the following advice to properly work, you need to be following a mass gain diet. That means at least 300-500 extra calories per day. Don’t come crying to me if you eat salad and granola for 12 weeks and don’t build any muscle.

shirtless person showing muscles

Exercises for Mass Gain

To gain as much mass as possible your focus should be on high stimulus exercises. These tend to be the big, multi-joint, compound exercises that recruit the most muscles. Therefore mass gain exercises include…

  • Squats
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Deadlifts
  • Pull-Ups
  • Barbell Rows

Plus close variations of all of the above (i.e. pauses or different grips)

You can then top these up with smaller isolation type exercises as needed.

Mass Gain Stimulus Versus Fatigue

If you want to pack on mass as quickly as possible, there’s also going to be a significant amount of fatigue that you have to accept as a cost.

All of the exercises above are great for building mass, but they’re also much harder and more fatiguing than smaller isolation exercises like cable work or band work.

So if mass gain really is your main goal, recovery through sleep and food needs to be on point (I wrote the linked guide for Olympic weightlifting, but it still very much applies to mass building)

Bodypart Focused Workout Plans for Mass Gain

Chest Workouts for Mass Gain

  • Flat Barbell Bench Press: 3 to 5 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 to 5 sets of 10-20 reps

Shoulder Workouts for Mass Gain

  • Barbell Overhead Press: 3 to 5 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Dumbell Side/Lateral Raise: 3 to 5 sets of 10-20 reps

Arm Workouts for Mass Gain

person performing arm workout

For your arms, I like to divide workouts into tricep focused and bicep focused, so they’ll look something like…

Tricep Focused Workout for Mass Gain

  • Tricep Dips: 3 to 5 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Cable Pushdowns: 3 to 5 sets of 10-20 reps

Bicep Focused Workout for Mass Gain

  • Barbell Curls: 3 to 5 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Curls: 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps

Leg Workouts for Mass Gain

For your leg workouts, I like to divide workouts into quad focus and hamstring focus, as it’s hard to train both on the same day with proper intensity.

Quad Dominant Leg Workout for Mass Gain

  • High Bar Squats: 3 to 5 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Leg Extensions: 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps

Hamstring Dominant Leg Workout for Mass Gain

  • Romanian Deadlifts: 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Hamstring Curls: 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps

Back Workouts for Mass Gain

  • Pull-Ups: 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps
  • Barbell Rows: 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps

Putting it all Together: Your Complete Mass gain Workout Plan

Now that we’ve covered individual workout plans for mass gain, it’s time to put them together into a proper mass gain workout routine.

“The main goal is to work every muscle group hard enough to create a stimulus for growth, but not so hard that you’re sore for the next workout.

This is because overlapping soreness has been conclusively shown to reduce muscle growth potential.

We also ideally want to hit most muscles more frequently per week, at least twice, as research (Schoenfeld 2016) and years of experience shows that this is superior for muscle growth as it usually allows for more high-quality volume to be completed (Sorry folks, that means it’s time to leave those old bro splits behind and get a bit smarter with our training)

Here’s what I’ve come up with…

3 Day Mass Gain Workout Plan

4 Day Mass Gain Workout Plan (Upper/Lower Split)

8 Week Mass Building Program / 12 Week Mass Building Program Recommendations

The mass gain workout plans above are designed to be used for 8-12 weeks. Personally, I like to have my athletes work for 5 to 6 weeks, then take a deload week, then work for another 5-6 weeks.

After that, we’ll move into a mini-cut phase or maintenance phase.

Progression throughout the weeks of the program

Start with the minimum number of sets for each exercise, and over each 5-6 week block, increase those sets towards the maximum number.

For most exercises, this means starting at 3 sets and ending on 5 sets. So this might look like…

Week 1: 3 sets

Week 2: 3 sets aiming for more reps and weight

Week 3: 4 sets

Week 4: 4 sets aiming for more reps and weight
Week 5:
5 sets
Week 6:
5 sets aiming for more reps and weight
Week 7:
Deload week

Then weeks 8-12 repeat the cycle.

Weight selection for Mass Gain Workouts

The best way to select your weights for your mass gain workouts is to use RIR (Reps in Reserve)

Start week 1 at around 3 RIR for each exercise, and finish week 6 at around 1 to 0 RIR.

This gives you a good balance where training difficulty increases over time to keep gains coming, without burning you out by pushing too hard too soon.

Trust me, it’s okay if week 1 feels a bit easy, because by week 6 you’ll be doing more sets with more weight, all closer to failure, and you’ll wish you were back at week 1!

Looking for a Complete Mass Gain Programme?

Mass gain programme

I’ve put together a 17-week hypertrophy programme.

The programme is 4 days per week and combines everything we’ve looked at on this page and more.

It’s evidence-based and is designed with 3 distinct blocks of training that use different set and rep schemes, as well as different exercises, to maximise your muscle building.

You can find out more about the programme here.

Mass Gain Training Frequently Asked Questions

How to gain mass as a skinny guy?

Exactly the same as anybody else, pick one of the programmes above and follow it consistently for multiple months whilst eating plenty of food.

Is it hard for skinny guys to gain muscle?

Nope, it’s actually easier. In my experience, most skinny guys are primed to gain loads of muscle, they just need to consistently train and consistently eat. Personally, I’ve moved from being a 68kg skinny guy to a 94kg olympic weightlifter, it just takes a lot of consistency, and making sure that you eat good amounts of good quality food multiple times per day.

How can I build muscle quickly?

How fast you build muscle depends on 3 things, your genetics, your training and your nutrition. Since you can’t control your genetics, you’ll have to pay close attention to your training and nutrition. The better they are, the faster you’ll build muscle. That means tracking your training and tracking your macros.

How often should you workout to gain muscle?

For most people, 3-5 times per week is ideal. Much more than that and you might find it hard to recover, much less and you just won’t be training enough to make optimum progress.

Next Steps for Mass Gain

Alright, that’s enough reading for today, time for action…

1) Get in the gym and start working through the 3 or 4 day per week programme. Stay consistent and aim to improve each week for around 12 weeks.

2) If you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.

3) And if you’re looking for 1:1 strength and conditioning coaching, you can find more information about my services here.

‘Til Next Time


strength coach

Alex Parry, MSc, BA

Alex’s experience includes 7+ years within strength & conditioning, including supporting 2 major universities, 2 national talent pathways and a selection of international level athletes.

He is also a tutor and educator for British Weightlifting