The Best Ways To Gain Muscle Mass & Keep the Stomach Flat

When you are trying to build muscle mass, you often end up gaining a little bit of fat as well. This is because you need to make changes to your diet that favor bulking up. Gaining muscle while keeping your stomach flat takes a little more work, but as long as you have the discipline, it can be achieved.

Bare torso of a woman. (Image: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Caloric Increase

Any time you want to bulk up, you need to eat more calories. Being that you want to keep your stomach flat as well, you should not to take this to the extreme. According to the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center, a daily increase of 250 to 500 calories can lead to about 1/2 to 1 lb. of weight gain a week. Stick to the lower end of this guideline. For example, if you determine that your current intake is 2,100 calories, make your new intake 2,350. Select foods that are favorable for muscle growth and that give you energy like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy, beans and whole grains.

Exercise Selection

Multi-joint, or compound, exercises require you to work more than one muscle at a time. This leads to a high amount of overall muscle fiber recruitment and beneficial gains in size. When doing your routines, stick with multi-joint exercises for the majority of your lifts. Bench presses, dips, shoulder presses, bent-over rows, squats and deadlifts are examples. As an added benefit, these exercises cause you to forcefully contract your abs to generate power. This causes you to get an ab workout by default.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is a catch-22 when it comes to gaining muscle mass. You need to do some to keep your belly flat, but you do not want to overdo it. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 60 to 90 minutes of cardio to lose weight and 30 minutes to maintain health. Stick to the lower end of these guidelines and work out no more than three days a week. Choose a type of cardio that you like so you will stay motivated to perform it.

Ab Exercises

Abdominal exercises can keep your stomach tight and toned as you are bulking up. Perform exercises from multiple angles to maximize your muscle recruitment. Sit-ups for example, only work the upper abs. Include other exercises into your routines like hanging knee raises, side crunches, bicycle kicks and v-ups to work your whole abdominal area.

Rest Days

Rest days are equally important to gaining muscle as training days. To avoid injury and allow your muscles time to heal, take at least one day off before working the same muscle group. Sleep is another important component of gaining muscle. If you are sleep deprived, you will not have energy to exercise and your muscles will not get needed recovery time. According to the Centers for Disease Control, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.

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