If you want to know how to build muscle most efficiently and effectively – without spending hours in the gym every day, then you want to read this article.
“What are the best exercises for building muscle?”
“Should I use heavy or lighter weights?”
“What’s the best rep range?”
“What type of workout split is most effective?”
“How many days per week should I train?”
These are just a few of the questions many people have about building muscle.
Chances are you’re wondering some of the same things.
I’d also be willing to bet that this isn’t the first article you’ve read looking for answers, and that you’re at least slightly baffled and frustrated by the amount of contradictory advice and opinions on the subject.
It makes one wonder if there even is a universal “best” way to build muscle or if it all comes down to genetics, trial and error, and luck.
Well, I have good news for you:
There is a simple science of building muscle.
At bottom, there are diet and training principles that, when applied, work invariably. Some people see faster results than others, but everyone sees results.
And in this article, I want to focus on the training side of that equation.
By the end of this article, you’re going to know what makes a good muscle building workout and what doesn’t, and how to get the most muscle gain out of your time in the gym.
I have to warn you, though–the truth isn’t sexy.
- It’s simple. Much simpler than you’ve been led to believe.
- It’s devoid of shortcuts. The price must be paid and the process followed.
- It’s hard work. And no matter how much progress you make, it never gets easier.
If you can accept that, then you’re ready to break free of all the nonsense and learn, once and for all, what it really takes to build the body you want.
How Heavy Should You Train to Build Muscle?
One of the first questions I had when I started lifting was how heavy I should be training.
That is, which rep range is best, and why?
Is the 10 to 12 range espoused by most fitness magazine workouts the way to go? Higher? Lower?
Well, I quickly learned that getting a simple answer to this question is far from simple.
The amount of dissent among experts leaves you scratching your head, wondering whom to believe.
That was years ago, though, and I’ve done a lot of studying since and have worked with a few thousand people, and I feel I have an answer worth sharing.
And the good news is you’ll be able to quickly verify my advice. Put it into use and within 4 to 6 weeks you will know whether it’s working for or not.
To unravel this mystery, let’s begin with a quick review of the physiology of muscle growth.
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How to Stimulate Muscle Growth
There are three primary ways to stimulate muscle growth:
1. Progressive tension overload
This refers to progressively increasing tension levels in the muscle fibers.
The most effective way to do this is to progressively increase the amount of weight you’re lifting over time.
2. Muscle damage
This refers to the small tears in muscle fibers that are caused by high levels of tension.
This damage necessitates repair, and if the body is provided with proper nutrition and rest, the muscle fibers will adapt to better deal with similar stimuli in the future (i.e., grow stronger and bigger).
3. Cellular fatigue
This refers to pushing muscle fibers to their metabolic limits through the repetition of actions to muscular failure.
You can think of these three factors as separate muscle growth “pathways,” and they can be emphasized differently in your training.
For example, low-volume, high-weight training emphasizes progressive overload and muscle damage, and high-rep, “pump” training emphasizes cellular fatigue.
Now, out of each of these pathways, progressive tension overload is the most important for building muscle and strength.
This is why your primary goal as a natural weightlifter is to get stronger, and especially on key compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench and overhead press.