On one end of the spectrum you have a group of people who think it's easy. They think they'll somehow accidentally gain too much muscle. On the other end of the spectrum you have a group of people who think it's impossible. They think the only way to gain any appreciable amount of muscle is to use anabolic steroids, other hormones or peptides, SERMS and SARMS, and various other drugs. Both are way off the deep end. There are incredibly inexperienced YouTube kids who have created a sort of "career" out of speculating on who is and isn't using drugs based on little more than their own frustration with muscle gain from their short-lived effort and looking around the internet. Like the first group of people who think muscle just magically packs itself on, these online "experts" haven't ever worked full time in a legitimate gym environment with thousands and thousands of people. So their naive philosophies continue to influence the public, making "muscle building" this largely mythical and purposely misunderstood subject.
For the first group, it's true: lifting weights can stimulate muscle gain. However, even for someone who quadruples his or her strength through lifting weights, the muscle gain they think they experience was over at about the sixth week. You have to purposely eat in an unimaginable way to continue gaining size. For the second group, it's true: for the adult, the average person, the non-elite athlete, it's next to impossible to gain any significant muscle beyond the beginner adaptations of year one.
The average person should actually be worried about losing muscle, not gaining it. That's how hard lean tissue is to build. In fact, on average, people lose about a pound of bone, tendon, ligament, and muscle every year after age 20 or so. Most of obesity has to do with being incredibly weak and lacking muscle. Skeletal muscle is an endocrine organ which regulates hormone signaling in the body. If you aren't training to become stronger, you are training to become weaker and fatter.
Among the ignorant nouveau people in the fitness industry, they're just too weak-willed, inexperienced, and lazy to understand what it takes. For substantial mass gain, the athlete must be prepared to keep eating more food than the prior week or month. When 5,000 calories doesn't cut it, it's time for 6,000. When 6,000 doesn't get it done, 8,000. This endeavor requires a mentality which almost no one in the influencer sphere could understand. Especially for the natural athlete, you are going to have to gain 20-100lbs of body fat in the effort.
You can see that almost no one is wiling to do this when you watch popular YouTube channels. People who are too self-conscious and always want to remain lean never gain any real size even when they go on drugs. I have to laugh when I see this one skinny character on YouTube talk about size gain. He's got one of the most popular channels, looks like he weights 140lbs but claims to be over 170lbs, always looks exactly the same, has absolutely no full time coaching experience, but somehow is an "expert" on the subject because he is a "celebrity athlete trainer", whatever that even means. He is built like I was when I was 15 and hadn't started lifting consistently heavy. He has ZERO credibility on hypertrophy. Yet this is the type of person "educating" the public on training and building muscle. It's ludicrous.
Put aside the controversy for a second. And, for the moment, also table the discussion about NET lean tissue gain after a hard diet cutdown. Lee Priest in this clip (https://www.instagram.com/p/BxGlNbWD2Sl/) is still saying something valuable. Thanks @leeapriest.
You have to eat a lot AND train a lot FOR A LONG TIME to feed performance and tissue increases. I can't overstate this. For over a decade, I’ve told people if you aren’t willing to train crazy, eat over 12,000 calories per day, sleep more than 8 hours per night, and gain at least 40lbs of body fat in the pursuit of lean tissue development, just don’t even talk to me about “hard-gaining” or necessity of drugs. Over that same course of time I've seen an increased trend in the ignorance on this subject. It's so bad that in recent years I have met people who think they can just train modestly or stay lean and pack on measurably more muscle. One guy came to me thinking he was going to become a pro bodybuilder by putting on about 15lbs in the offseason. It's laughable. By the time he cut down, he had ZERO net gain. You want to force the body to add muscle? Gain 150lbs while you consistently lift substantially more weight for 10-20 years.
I drank over 20 tablespoons of oils per day when I decided in 2006 to test this whole natural-athletes-can’t-gain-size fiction. That’s not counting full meals, over ten scoops of protein powder, full bottles of honey, and cups of oats mixed into shakes every single day. I question the resolve of anyone claiming he's bent on gaining muscle but wants abs more than 1-2 months per year. Because I was using no PED, I had to go up to 287lbs of bodyweight in order to have about a 10lb net muscle increase in the course of a year or so. That isn't going to happen on accident, people.
Even WITH drugs, you see guys look pretty much the same for years. I know guys who've been on piles of anabolics and drugs for years, decades for some. They look pretty much the same with basically the same athletic performance as 5-10 years ago.
Just like with weight loss and getting lean, the eating component is indispensable for building muscle. There is no magic. There is no pill which will allow you to bypass this. The type of food intake it requires to make big moves can be absolutely insane. It isn't going to happen by accident. That said, high difficulty isn't impossibility. Building muscle is actually quite well understood, just not by average people or popular influencers.