The 5-Step Comprehensive Guide to Gain Muscle as a Footballer:
(Make sure you read the whole article and don’t skip around. You may find a Free 1 Month Gym Program somewhere ($600 Value for Free))
Are you tired of getting shoved around on the pitch?
Do you feel you’re constantly getting pushed off the ball?
Maybe you’ve been trying to put on muscle but just can’t seem to find the proper training and nutrition tips to get it done and improve your performance on the weekend?
I’m guessing you’re here because you’re looking to bulk up and gain some muscle mass?
If you’re constantly getting injured, consistently getting shoved off of the ball and feel like you’re getting outmuscled, this 5 Step Comprehensive Guide to Gain Muscle will help you out a lot!
In this post, we’ll be discussing how you can gain muscle as a footballer in 5 simple steps :
1- WHY you should Gain Muscle as a Footballer
2- Proper Weightlifting Advice
3- Proper Nutrition Tips
4- Timing + Patience
5- Sample Diet
Before we get into it though, let me cover a few points that I feel I need to get out of the way … And that are super important.
You’re a footballer!
I’ll get to this again later in this post, but please don’t confuse putting on muscle as a footballer with bodybuilding.
You are a footballer, not a bodybuilder.
Yes, when you’re trying to gain muscle, a lot of the techniques you may use are “bodybuilding related,” because in order to gain muscle, you’re going to have to train with a high amount of volume (lots of sets and reps).
But the point is, you are in the gym to get better on the pitch for match day and to help your team win matches.
You’re not in the gym to look better at the beach..
Even though it’s an added benefit to eating and training right 🙂
I just want to make that as clear as possible.
The last thing you want to do is hop on the first Legs/Push/Pull 6-day-a-week gym program you find on YouTube or Instagram.
Sure, you’ll put on some muscle with these programs with time, but they’re not football-specific whatsoever.
You’ll end up building a body that doesn’t move as well as you want it to, because the focus will be on aesthetics and appearance rather than muscle efficiency and biomechanics.
As a footballer, you want to gain muscle in the “right places” based on your position, your “strengths” as a player and ultimately, your style of play.
‘Never blame genetics:
Sure, genetics can play a role in your ability to gain muscle..
When you see Adama Traore’s body and muscle potential, it’s clear that we aren’t all built the same.
BUT it’s important to remember that genetics should not be an excuse.
While some players may have a genetic advantage when it comes to building muscle quickly and easily, everyone has the potential to gain muscle with proper training and nutrition.
And at the end of the day, the goal is for you to reach your ultimate genetic potential!
I wasn’t blessed with great genetics when it came to building muscle.
Though, with hard and consistent work, I was able to maximize my natural abilities regardless of genetics.
Of course, it’s easy to blame your genetics and complain but comparing yourself to others and not focusing on yourself will not help you reach your goals.
You need to shift your mind and your perspective. A key mindset shift I made was that I have my own strengths and weaknesses as a footballer, and so does everyone else.
Dwelling on your weaknesses does you no good.
Instead, your goal should be to maximize your genetic potential with what you’ve got.
Because as I always say, you can only control what you can control. You must leave the rest up to the higher power.
Instead, your genetics should be viewed as another factor which can help shape your individualized approach to gaining muscle mass.
Anyway, enough of those disclaimers, let’s hop right into the real reason you’re reading this today:
HOW to Gain Muscle as a Footballer in 5 steps-
1- WHY you should Gain Muscle as a Footballer:
Gaining muscle will significantly increase your strength and power as a footballer, which will translate to better performance on the field.
Like I already mentioned, this is what we want from our gym work.
Gaining the right amount of muscle mass paired with proper plyometrics and explosive training will help you:
-Run faster, jump higher, tackle harder, be more agile, not get shoved around, and much more…
As we both know, football is a high-impact sport.
We’re constantly getting knocks, putting stress on our bodies, and pushing our muscles to their absolute limits.
By gaining muscle as a footballer, you’ll build a more resilient body that will be able to sustain the stressful demands of football.
With the right workouts and nutrition, you’ll improve your joint & ligament stability, the right muscle fibers and structure and muscle endurance, which will reduce the risk of injury.
Again, you can’t help your team win games and improve as a baller if you’re constantly on the sidelines! We want you on the pitch.
I know what you’re thinking: “Ric, you said we’re not bodybuilders, it’s not about the aesthetics and looking good for the ladies!”.
Yep, I did say that, and I will continue to say it..
However, as with everything, there’s a fine line.
Bodybuilding has its purpose, as long as it’s in moderation, used in the right way and not overdone.
Do I think you should be hitting a Legs/Push/Pull split 6-days a week as a footballer?
Of course not.
But do I think you should supplement your footballer-specific workouts with some hypertrophy-based exercises, especially if you’re trying to gain muscle?
I do think adding some isolation movements into your workouts here and there, like bicep curls for example, will help your confidence.
Think about it: on game-day, when you put on that jersey. If it fits nice and snug around your arms, and your pecs are nice and visible, how will you feel going into the game?
It’ll definitely give you that small boost, and probably give that same vibe to your teammates too! Plus, it could unconsciously intimidate your opponents.
The beautiful game’s all about details my friend… Don’t neglect them!
As promised, before reading further, you can check out my Free 1 Month Gym Program and Free “How to Become a Pro Masterclass”.
If you want to become more confident on the ball, become faster and stronger on the pitch, and eventually play in the top leagues in the world, this is exactly what you’re looking for and it’s FREE! ($1500 Value for FREE). Just enter your email below:
2- Proper Weightlifting Advice
Focus on the fundamentals
Like I’ve said multiple times, as a footballer, your workouts should be tailored to improving your performance on the field rather than just building muscle for aesthetic purposes.
When searching for gym exercises, I always advise going for complex movements.
Complex exercises challenge a larger amount of muscles and involve multiple joints moving through their range of motion.
Some great exercises for footballers include deadlifts, squats, lunges, bench press and pull-ups. Here are the top 10 gym exercises you should focus on as a footballer looking to gain muscle mass.
These are all compound exercises that will give you the most bang for your buck as a footballer.
First and foremost, they’ll increase your athleticism and performance, which is the key. But they’ll also help you gain muscle in the most effective way to help you translate your gym gains to the pitch.
And of course, if you’re doing all of this hypertrophy training looking to gain muscle mass, you better add in some plyometrics for speed and explosiveness, as well as some injury-prevention work to take care of the smaller muscle groups, specifically targeted to you based on your past injury history.
You may ask:
“How do I know what exercises to do based on my past injury history?”
Unfortunately, since this is a “general article for everyone,” I can’t prescribe specific exercises to you and your past injury history.
But, that’s exactly why I developed my 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program, where I work with tons of professional, semi-professional, college and high school players all around the globe to tailor a specific program to them, their goals and their past injury history.
If you are interested in this, and you want results like this, feel free to apply to my 1-1 program here:
But please make sure you read the whole coaching page and what I require from you because it’s not an easy program and requires at least a 6-month commitment from your side.
Supplement Compound Movements with specific hypertrophy movements:
It’s important to supplement compound movements with specific hypertrophy training.
This means doing exercises with “semi-lighter” weights (around 50-75% of your 1 Rep Max) and higher reps (6-12 reps) to build muscle mass.
Generally, I don’t advise players to focus on a specific muscle group.
But this is the one circumstance.
If you want to build your shoulders for example and have a wider frame so you can be better in 1v1 duels and shoulder-to-shoulder challenges, this is when I would prescribe an exercise like lateral or front raises.
Time Under Tension:
Time under tension (TUT) is a term that refers to the total amount of time a muscle or muscle group is under activation during a set.
When you can increase the time under tension on a specific muscle group, this can lead to muscle growth, also known as hypertrophy.
The goal here is to control the movement to allow more time under tension.
This will fatigue the muscle and cause small micro tears within the muscle which is important for you to build muscle.
This is why recovery plays such a huge factor in muscle growth!
You don’t gain muscle in the gym when you’re training hard.
You can muscle when you’re out of the gym and recovering.
Proper sleep and proper recovery strategies; like nutrition, sauna, massage, and hydration will allow the muscle to grow stronger, bigger and have better quality fibers.
Hypertrophy-specific exercises include dumbbell curls, tricep extensions, cable flyes, lateral raises or calf raises, among others.
Hypertrophy specific/accessory exercises should be placed at the end of your workouts when your muscles are already fatigued from compound movements and/or plyometric work, which is more taxing on the body and more important for your progress on the pitch.
Progress, Progress, Progress:
Progressing the amount of weight you move in the gym, and the amount of sets and reps should be your goal when trying to build muscle as a footballer.
This is the process of your body getting stronger.
Be smart with this though!
Listen to your body and never fall into the trap of doing too much too soon.
That is why it’s called progressive overload:
Progressive overload is a method of strength training that advocates for the gradual increase of the stress placed upon the musculoskeletal and nervous system.
The principle of progressive overload suggests that the continual increase in the total workload during training sessions will stimulate muscle growth and strength gain.
This improvement in overall performance will, in turn, allow you to keep increasing the intensity of their training sessions.
But, remember, the priority is always team training and games during the season, so you want to feel fresh for those.
Slow Progress Over Time:
It’s quite tough to gain muscle in-season but I’m not saying it can’t be done…
It will just have to be done much slower because it’s not smart to train with a lot of volume during the season, because your priority is how you perform on the field.
If you are challenging yourself in the gym with a lot of sets and reps and you’re going to failure, you’re going to be very sore.
Soreness is okay, but too much in-season soreness is a recipe for disaster.
If you are very sore, you won’t be able to perform at your maximum speed, and you and me both know, in today’s day and age, football is played at a very high intensity.
So, it’s okay to have a little bit of soreness, because that can be dealt with through proper activation and warmup, but you shouldn’t overdo it to where it’s tough to sit down on the toilet seat, LOL.
Off-Season > In-Season:
The off-season is the best time to put on some muscle mass because you can load yourself with a ton of volume because you’re not having to compete week in and week out.
In the off-season, you don’t have to think about the next game or team training and you can always take an extra day off if your body tells you that it needs rest.
Consistency > Intensity
If you’ve been around my content for a while, we always talk about consistency > intensity.
This is key when trying to gain muscle as a footballer.
Work hard, work smart, stay consistent but also be patient and don’t rush the process!
Like mentioned before, proper sleep and nutrition are just as important as the workouts themselves, which brings us to the next point!
3- Proper Nutrition Tips
Hit all macros, don’t neglect micros !
As a footballer, it is essential to maintain proper nutrition in order to optimize performance and overall health.
Since you’re trying to gain muscle, this is no different : health always comes first and balance is key!
This means not only hitting all macros (carbs, proteins and healthy fats) but also ensuring that you are getting sufficient micronutrients too.
Micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are vital for helping your body function properly and helping you steer clear of seasonal colds.
The right fuel is key to play at your best and allow your muscles to repair after a football match or session so you can adapt and be ready to go the next day.
This is the key to putting on muscle mass, and a lot of guys and girls go wrong with this.
You may think you’re eating enough, but you may not be…
You need to consume more calories than you burn: aka be in a caloric surplus.
You should be aiming for a 150-300 caloric surplus.
I’ve found that’s the best way to go with 1-on-1 clients and the hundreds of people I’ve worked with online to help them gain muscle.
It’s a healthy range to start at and sustain to gradually increase muscle mass as a footballer.
Like I said before, if we try to rush and go too quickly, we run into pitfalls.
For example, if you increase your calories too quickly, you are likely to gain a lot of body fat.
Sure, you’ll gain muscle as well, but as a footballer, you don’t want to gain too much body fat in the process because it will slow you down.
That’s exactly why I said in the beginning that we can use bodybuilding techniques for some things, but we must tailor it around you as a footballer.
You can’t bulk and cut like a traditional gym bro. You need to do it in football context and football terms.
How to Get into a Caloric Surplus:
You want to find out your basal metabolic rate and add the calories from there if you want to do it precisely.
You can do that here:
After that, you’ll need to calculate how many calories you burn during your daily activity and training.
Then you proceed into calculating your caloric surplus:
I wouldn’t recommend this unless you really need to gain a lot of weight, but for maximum muscle gain (bulking) try to eat 15-25% more calories than you burn.
As a footballer, I would recommend trying to minimize your fat gain (lean bulk), so try to eat 5-15% more calories than you burn.
Tracking Calories as a Beginner “may be useful”
As a beginner, I would recommend tracking the calories of foods you eat often if you are unfamiliar with how many calories certain foods have compared to others.
You can do this simply by using “My Fitness Pal” and tracking your calories throughout the day.
For example, did you know a tablespoon of olive oil has the same amount of calories as a small portion of french fries?
Yes, olive oil is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, but when we’re talking about body composition (whether you want to gain or lose weight), calories matter most.
All of my 1-on-1 clients don’t track calories because I don’t want them to get over obsessed with the numbers.
I would rather them be focused on how they’re performing on the pitch and in the gym.
Instead of calorie counting, I take a different approach.
They send me a 3-day meal diary (of 2 weekdays and 1 weekend day) and I see their “eating behavior” and how they feel before and after they eat certain foods.
Based on that and based on their goals, I edit their meal diary and give them simple to follow tips that they can use to improve how they feel, perform and look.
This allows them to focus on improving their performance in the gym and on the field with simple tips, so they don’t have to do so much thinking.
Based off of their meal plan I give them, they send me Snapchat photos every day to keep them accountable of everything they’re eating so they can remain disciplined and smash their goals!
I mean, check out my 15-Year Old Client, Ananth, he gained 7 pounds (about 3-4 kg) of lean muscle in 6 months!
If you don’t have access to a coach, counting calories in the beginning can help you realize how much you actually need to eat and what the best foods are for you to make building muscle mass easier.
The two best ways I have clients’ measure progress are:
1. Progress Pictures
-Clients with a specific body composition goal will send me new pictures every week to keep themselves accountable and to see visual changes in the mirror.
-This is also another interesting option if you are super curious, but I wouldn’t go as far to say that it’s very important. It’s just a “scientific & proven” way to measure progress.
I don’t recommend this a lot. Especially if you have an emotional connection with your weight. Your weight can change based on many things’ day to day.
If you want to weigh yourself, I recommend weighing yourself weekly to see how your body is adapting to your caloric surplus. When you weigh yourself weekly, you can see trends monthly, which is what I care about most.
I don’t care about what you weigh day to day..
Because it fluctuates so much…
Measure Trends Monthly Instead of Weekly:
If you haven’t put on any weight within a month of starting the caloric surplus, you should add calories.
If you’re putting on weight too fast, cut down the calories to achieve a healthier and more gradual increase in weight.
After counting calories for a while and knowing how many calories most foods that you eat regularly have, you’ll have enough knowledge and intuition where you can judge if you’re getting enough calories in depending on your goal.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to be that guy showing up with a food scale in restaurants or holiday parties..
Food is more than just numbers and helping you reach your goals and potential.
Foods allows you to “break bread,” share good times and the unique part of culture with people you love. Food brings people together.
There’s no need to be overly strict where you can’t attend social events and go out to dinner with family and friends.
The 80/20 Rule:
We’re not robots.
80% of the time, eat the foods aligned with your goals
20% of the time, eat the foods you love!
Nutrition is about enjoyment and pleasure, and going out for a nice dinner with a friend – or a special someone 😉
No Food is “Off Limits”
There’s no such thing as a food being off-limits !
You can eat every single food that you would like as part of a well-balanced diet.
The Problem with Characterizing Food as Good or Bad:
When you have the mindset of a food being off limits, it makes you want it more and it can create a bad relationship with food that could lead to a variety of eating disorders, and most likely result in binge eating.
Have the Pizza or the Burger: Don’t Stress!
If you love pizza, have a pizza! Even better, get your pizza after 3 well earned points on the weekend!
It will taste that much better!
As always, consistency over intensity!
4- Timing and Patience:
As with every great thing…
Great things take time, effort, hard work, smart work, consistency and patience!
That’s why it’s so difficult to achieve anything great.
Because most people don’t want to put in the time and the effort…
Best time to put on muscle mass:
Timing is everything when it comes to gaining muscle as a footballer.
Ideally, you want to aim for the off-season when gaining muscle.
This will allow you to dedicate more time and energy towards your workout routine and putting on mass without it being a detriment to your performance on the field.
Like I’ve said many times, you must realize that you are a footballer.
You are judged on your performance on the field, not on your performance in the gym.
Therefore, whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle, your approach must be different!
You can’t lose weight and gain muscle as quickly as a regular gym goer.
The main reason is because your performance matters most and most of your energy needs to go towards how you perform on the pitch.
Therefore, during the season, most of your “adaptive” energy needs to go towards how you perform on the pitch.
Despite what David Goggins and Jocko Willink say, you do have a finite amount of energy in a day, a week, a month, and a year.
So, you do have to set priorities.
Although you can go into a caloric surplus in season, I’ve found that it can potentially affect your performance on the pitch in the short run as your body’s movement has to adapt to your added muscle mass.
When you gain muscle in the off-season, it allows you to come into pre-season with your desired physique and then you can proceed to work on your biomechanics with your added muscle mass, which will improve your movement.
When you come into pre-season, you can get into a healthy maintenance phase with a consistent diet plan for the whole season and add muscle very very slowly over time.
Take your time:
Gaining healthy muscle mass takes time and effort but don’t rush it by overdoing it at once… slow progress beats no progress every day of the week!
Plus, gaining too much weight in a short period of time is a sure way to shock your body and decrease its ability to move efficiently: which is the last thing you want to do when you’re trying to impress your coach and play games!
5- Sample Diet Plan
I always get asked for diet plans and a sample meal plan…
The reason I don’t talk about it often is because it’s impossible to give out a “generic meal plan” or “diet plan” because it needs to be tailored specifically to the individual.
Yes, that means: stop buying generic plans from your favorite fitness coaches out there!
With that being said, please keep in mind that I can’t give specific quantities or foods for you as an individual : everyone has different caloric needs, potential allergies or food preferences.
A certain number of calories consumed in one day might be a caloric surplus for you and might be a deficit for your teammate due to the amount of calories we burn daily based on daily movement and genetics.
That means you would put on muscle mass and your teammate would lose weight…
You get what I mean. Different things work for different individuals.
As a rule of thumb, for a typical meal when you want to gain muscle, you want a quarter of your plate to be your carbs, half the plate to be a lean protein, and the last quarter to be veggies!
On training days, I would recommend bumping up carbohydrates and protein and keeping your fats a bit lower.
On rest days, keep your carbohydrates slightly lower, bump up your healthy fats and as always keep your lean protein, high.
Without getting to “sciencey”…
The reason we implement this is because carbohydrates are the best and most efficient fuel source for you as a footballer.
When you’re training, you need more fuel.
When you’re not training, you need less fuel.
Anyway, like we mentioned in the previous part with the nutrition tips, we want to keep a balance between all macronutrients and get in some quality micronutrients for optimal health and performance.
Here’s the Meal Plan to Gain Muscle for you :
Oatmeal with banana slices, one scoop of your favorite protein powder (still waiting on that coupon code from Sunwarrior!), a pinch of raisins and pumpkin seeds and a dash of cinnamon.
> Check out Ricky’s special oatmeal recipe here, it won’t disappoint !
Greek, Turkish or Bulgarian Yogurt (yes, I had to include all, otherwise I wouldn’t hear the end of it) with mixed berries (excellent source of antioxidants).
Grilled chicken breast with wild rice and steamed broccoli
Protein shake made with some unsweetened almond milk, berries, ½-1 full banana, 2 dates, drizzle of oatmeal, and 1-2 scoops of your favorite protein powder!
Check out my full recipe here: perfect for a post-session refuel!
Baked wild salmon with sweet potato and roasted vegetables
Before Bed Snack :
Cottage cheese with apple slices
Like I said, please follow that diet accordingly and don’t copy it exactly! Just use it as a template to build off of.
A Few Last Words:
In conclusion, for you to gain muscle as a footballer, it will require a lot of dedication : both in the gym and in the kitchen.
Focus on football-specific workouts with the primary focus on compound movements supplemented with some hypertrophy movements.
Go into a slight caloric surplus consisting of nutrient-dense foods such as lean meats, healthy fats, good quality complex carbs, fruits & veggies.
Remember that timing matters too – off-season is the best time to gain muscle mass as a footballer, and please don’t rush results!
Lastly, never underestimate the power of sleep.
Sleep will help you strengthen your muscles effectively and increase performance, which is key!
Overall, no matter your genetics, no matter your situation: with patience & consistency combined with all the tips I provided to you, gains will come!
Once you reach your optimal physique, your performance on the pitch will skyrocket … It’s just a matter of time 🙂
Good luck my fellow baller. Let the gains begin!