Is your goal to build lean muscle? If so, there are certain science-based principles that are key to a successful bodybuilding routine. Whether your goal is to feel confident in a bathing suit at the beach, or to stand on a bodybuilding stage with a fake tan and a speedo, these principles are the cornerstone of any solid routine.
It doesn't matter what split you use for your workouts. (A split is how you structure your workout routine); Upper/ Lower, Push/Pull/Legs, or Full body workouts. (Although I don't recommend bro-splits). These principles will optimize your training approach when applied. These muscle- building principles are based on the most up to date research that science has to offer. They are easily applicable and I recommend that you incorporate them into your training program ASAP and watch what happens.
1) Train each muscle group 2-3 x per week. 1x a week for a muscle group is inferior to increased frequency, even when the same amount of total work is performed. Spread your volume out over the week. For example if you typically do 14 sets of chest exercises all in one workout you could take a couple exercise and switch them to another day. You could also perform the same exercises twice in the week, but just perform half the sets in each session.
2) Work in the 5-30 rep range. I spend most of my time between 6-15 reps per set. Prevailing wisdom used to say that 8-12 reps was the optimal muscle building zone. That has since been debunked and the range has been proven to be much larger. I still stay around that range due to the fact that lower rep sets can be unduly fatiguing and increase recovery cost due to the heavier loads used. Higher rep sets can cause form breakdown in less experienced lifters. They can also be more difficult to gauge how close to failure you really are due to the metabolites that build up at higher reps. Because of this I like to stay between 6-15 reps 95 % of the time.
3) Perform 10-20 sets per muscle group per week (This varies based on training age, genetics, and recovery.) For someone, 10 sets may be more than enough to grow their chest, someone else may need closer to 20. Start on the lower end of the range and work your way up as needed. The minimum effective dosage is always what you want to shoot for. Do note that as you train longer, you will need more stimulus to grow. You also may have to decrease volume as lifestyle factors like increased stress, or even worse sleep, come into play.
4) Take sets 1-3 reps before failure. Going to failure every set is counterproductive and will hamper progress. It is important however, to ensure that you are pushing yourself hard every set. Anything less than this and you are not working hard enough to properly optimize your muscle growth. Constantly going to failure will unnecessarily fatigue you. I do recommend going to failure from time to time on your core lifts to give yourself a reference of what 2-3 reps before failure would really feel like. People often underestimate how hard they are really working.When it comes to isolation lifts I am a little less meticulous and will go to failure more often, since these lifts don't impact recovery as much. (A bench press is much more fatiguing than a tricep extension)
5) Focus on Progressive Overload. This means every workout you should be looking to progress on your lifts. This can come in the form of more weight, reps, or an extra set. More advanced tactics will include shortening rest times, slowing the tempo of the exercise, adding intensity sets such as supersets, and more. I recommend tracking your workouts so that you can keep yourself accountable and keep progressing as often as you can. Progress will undoubtedly slow as you advance in training years, but the goal remains the same, to keep getting stronger.
In closing, these principles are all a part of the current scientific consensus on the most effective ways to maximize muscle growth. These protocols are superior to many traditional methods and bro ideologies.
It is important to note that these are ranges. Everyone is an individual and may respond differently. Use these guidelines to find what’s best for you.
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