What is the most effective way to gain muscle for a starter?After attacking the iron for about 16 years, and steadily for the past 12, I can tell of you of many, many mistakes that I've made. Rather than go in to that whole unfortunate list we'll simply keep it to this:
If I was starting all over with weight training knowing what I know now, this is what I would do.
1) Understand first off that my mobility sucked a little bit, even at age of 18. Getting down for full depth on squats and deadlifting properly would probably take me about 2 weeks to learn if I had me teaching me them now. I never asked anyone so I didn't learn them for years. Mistake. I would learn to stretch out my hips, hamstrings, shoulders and pecs.
2) Don't scoff at the person 'deadlifting 365 pounds wrong' when I had yet to pick up anything close to that. Learning squats and deadlifts has taught me more about the iron than learning any other lifts. I'd hire an obviously strong looking trainer to teach me these lifts immediately. I didn't. Mistake.
3) I'd count my calories for exactly 4 days just to learn what food amounts looked like. I would not be an obsessive compulsive calorie counter, but rather learn what baseline amounts of calories and grams of protein would both look like and feel like to consume and make sure I was getting adequate amounts of quality foods to help build the machine. I wouldn't sweat the details b/c they're endlessly debatable.
4) I'd keep a workout log for my weights on bench press, overhead press, squat and deadlift to manage my numbers and know what weights I needed at least on those lifts for every one of those workouts. (So many years wasted -weeps into hands-). I didn't. Mistake.
5) I would understand that bulking and cutting would lead to fat gain and then strength loss, respectively. Rather than subject myself to seemingly endless cycles of this nonsense, I would simply plan on slowly adding strength and size over the long-haul without excessive fat-gain. I didn't and it was a big fat mistake.
On one hand it is almost impossible to learn some things without experiencing their lack so these mistakes have come with them an appreciation that would not otherwise be there. For that exists gratitude.
On the other hand if I knew these things from the start I would likely be much stronger than I am now. Learn from my mistakes and go add strength and size now and be ahead of me when you're my age.