Men are victims to thinking they know more than they really do. Especially when it comes to lifting weights.
“When I was in high school I used to do this.”
“I read that I should always do 3 sets of 10 to gain strength.”
“I’m going to lose all my fat first and then start adding muscle.”
“I lose weight on high reps and bulk with low reps.”
“I only use machines because they make my muscles pop.”
When I get a male inquiry I immediately recognize that I have a lot of work to do. I have to break down so many walls of misconception that we don’t even start to make progress toward the goals they have for a few months.
Admit it. You’ve probably been lured into reading a magazine article with a headline such as the one above. These types of claims are the norm rather than the exception in social media and fitness websites. The promise of a Holy Grail workout routine that will maximize your muscle development is an enticing prospect to say the least.
The problem is, no such routine exists.
I read somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 to 3 hours a day. There is no research article out there where you can extrapolate a guaranteed muscle building program. It’s essential to realize that the response to resistance exercise is highly individual. Remember that research reports the averages. So if a study reports muscular growth after a given protocol, you can bank on the fact that some subjects grew a lot more and some a lot less.
Now the fact that people respond differently doesn’t discount that there are certain principles that should be inherent in any routine designed to maximize muscle-building.
There are definitely 4 strategies that have shown there head time and time again that should be in all programs. I’ve used these strategies myself and variations of them to help me progress over the past 12 years.
- Use Different Loading Strategies: Using different rep ranges that vary from one rep to as many as you can count. WebFit clients will often say that I’m crazy or high because of the 50 rep sets that they have to perform. Use heavy, moderate, and light loads. This will ensure that you stimulate the full spectrum of muscle fiber types in a fashion that produces maximal growth.
- Reps x Weight Wins: There is compelling evidence that shows the positive benefits of high volume training. The relationship between volume and hypertrophy are starting to show a correlation. There is a reason why bodybuilders generally have better aesthetics than powerlifters. Although a single set to failure can produce large increases in muscle growth, multiple sets are needed for maximal gains.
- Perform A Variety Of Exercises: Muscles have varying attachments and individual fibers are often compartmentalized so that they are innervated by different nerves. Research shows that a single exercise is not enough for maximizing whole muscle growth. To ensure complete muscle development, you need to have sufficient variety of exercise selection that takes into account basic applied kinesiology principles.
- Periodize Your Training: This means that you need to manipulate variables over time. In particular, volume and training frequency should be varied over the course of training to prevent plateau. Ideally, when volume is high then training frequency should be lower because recovery takes precedence. A period of deloading/active recovery is needed every 4 to 8 weeks when training frequency is higher. The body is always seeking to maintain a state of homeostasis so it will constantly adapt to the stress from its environment. Training is simply the manipulation of the application of stress and the body’s subsequent adaptation to that stress to maintain homeostasis. Having moments during training cycles where simple variables change such as volume and frequency will help you maximize muscular gains.
There are no cookie-cutter prescriptions for getting big, gaining muscle and getting stronger.
There is no “best” muscle-building program; only a best program for a given individual.