Do you know what it takes to build muscle? It isn’t just a simple matter of eating more.. there is a sweet spot where you want to avoid adding necessary fat tissue, and at the same time avoid spinning your wheels by being afraid to gain any fat and thus not making the gains in muscle tissue that you are after.
But how much is too much? And what training in the gym is best to augment this process?
I will break it down for you into the simplistics…. No scam, no magic pill, no false promises.
Break the muscle down – in the gym
- [a] progressive tension overload (aim = stronger over time) + [b] metabolic stress (aim = fatiguing / PUMPing the muscle), + [c] muscular damage (actual damage to the muscle tissue itself).
Supply the muscle with the tools to recover: CALORIE SURPLUS AND PROTEIN.
YES! a more effective workout routine or diet will work better/faster than less effective ones or ones pulled off the net not tailored to you… but even with all system in place that are “just right” REALISE THAT MUSCLE GROWTH IS AN EXTREMELY SLOW PROCESS!
- Men: 0.2 – 1.5kg of muscle gained per month.
- Women: 0 – 0.5kg of muscle gained per month
Training status determines where in that range you fall
Make sure you have realistic expectations and don’t try to force growth because you will just gain unnecessary fat and waste valuable growth time cutting off the edges to get back to a more optimal state to be in a growth phase again. On the other spectrum, avoiding gaining fat could set you back also as you’ll end up short cutting yourself.
FOR TRAINING MUSCLE GROUPS : a higher frequency (2-3 times per week) is more effective than a lower frequency
YOUR WORKOUT SPLIT should take into account your training frequency, schedule, recovery, training status and preferences. – I myself prefer to put my clients on a powerbuilding type split where there is a compound of high metabolic cost that demands a lot of energy to repair the muscle and CNS post session, followed by assistance work then conditioning or metabolic work depending on goals… more functional moves targeted at weak points if it plays a role in their goals and program.
So frequency and split are covered but you need to also figure out a VOLUME you can adapt to AND recover from. You need that sweet spot between too little that we don’t see the gains we wish, or too much that it hinders our progress or leads to a suboptimal reduction to another aspect of our program to compensate.
- Bigger muscle groups can handle more reps and need more reps to grow
- Smaller can deal with more frequency but don’t need as many reps (arms..calves..abs) I say delts are in between as they can be a bugger to grow
Personal experimentation will be needed to get any more specific than that…
Find the sweet spot intensity that, just like volume, doesn’t interfere with the other parameters. How many reps are you doing per set? 1-6? Cool you can chuck on more weight. 8-12? 12-15? Adjust your weight accordingly to still take you to about RPE8-9 which is what I say is the sweet spot. I leave RPE10 for overreaching week at the end of a training cycle before an RPE6-7 deload week 😊
Primary compounds I like to keep in the lower rep, higher intensity area… 2ndarys I leave in between, and isolation / accessorys in the 10-15 rep range.
Depending on your goal is where you want to spend most of your time. Hypertrophy? Spend time in the 8-12. Want strength? Spend time in the lower rep range. I like alternating between both as strength and size come hand in hand and compliment each other in the real scheme of things.
Plan your weeks into increasing intensity and volume then deload. The length of these cycles depends on your training status and history.
Failure? Leave it for the last set of your exercises and I prefer it left for the latter exercises in a training day, as failing frequently and earlier on in the session can impede on your performance in the following exercises and impede recovery and adapations.
Exercise selection and order. You want it to be SPECIFIC and in an order that builds upon each other. Is there a place for machines? I say yes. There is a place for free weights and machines and body weight. They all go hand in hand. Machines allow more overload and isolation of that muscle group without calling into play the core with the other two options being more functional, metabolically demanding, and generates more whole system coordination.
Consistent progressive overload
Consistent recovery and adaptation from consistent overload
Re-sensitising your muscles to the stimulus to allow #15 #16 and #17 to happen via deloads and mesocycles (the increasing of intensity and volume before deload, rinse, repeat)
Sleep. Sufficient sleep. It keeps insulin, hunger, cognitive function, recover, cortisol and testosterone in check among many other health benefits.
And now to make it an even number I will give you a bonus #20 - Place value on your MICROnutrients. Not just the macros.
Your PERI WORKOUT NUTRITION IS IMPORTANT!
What you eat before to fuel but not hold back your workouts, and what you eat after to replenish your body.
Now all you need to do is put it into action and be consistent. Don’t overcomplicate the simple things, and don’t go program hopping.
Find the sweet spot that keeps you happily progressing, get a program you can stick to and continue to make small progressions over time.