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The Best Way to Stimulate Muscle Hypertrophy (Build Muscle) Part 2

Der Beste Weg eine Muskelhypertrophie zu stimulieren (Muskeln aufzubauen) Teil 2

After describing what the term hypertrophy means and how you can stimulate hypertrophy in the first part of this article, in this second part of this article I will discuss training frequency and show you how you can put all this theory into practice using some example training programs. Last but not least, I will briefly discuss supplements that can help you build muscle.

How often should you train a muscle group?

You may have heard that training frequency is like protein intake. Many people say that training a muscle group only once a week is like eating a low-protein diet - neither will help your muscle growth. But this is simply not true.

Increasing your training frequency just to increase frequency will not necessarily improve your results. Training everything two to three times a week is not necessarily better for muscle growth.

How often you can and should train each muscle group depends on the intensity (load) and volume (repetitions) of your individual training sessions. And here is a general rule:

The higher the volume and intensity of your individual training sessions, the less frequently you can perform them. In other words, if you increase the intensity of your training, you have to reduce the volume. And if you reduce the intensity, you can increase the volume.

The reason for this is that heavy training with weights - and especially training with heavy multi-joint exercises - puts an enormous strain on the body. You can only do a certain amount of heavy training per week before you start to experience problems associated with overtraining.

This is why popular strength training programs like Starting Strength and others have you doing squats and deadlifts two to three times a week...but only 3 to 5 sets per workout.

And this brings us to the next point:

A well put together training program does two things for every major muscle group in your body:

  1. It emphasizes heavy basic exercises whenever possible.
  2. It keeps you in an optimal range in terms of the total number of sets per week (the volume).

Number one is quite simple - choosing exercises and rep range based on percentages of 1RM weight.

Number two is a bit more complicated as it is difficult to set guidelines that are suitable for every exerciser. As you know, volume must necessarily be modified based on intensity, but there are other factors such as diet, training experience, quality of sleep, genetics, etc. that come into play.

We can seek advice on this from the scientific literature (and where this overlaps with anecdotal experience). A good starting point is a comprehensive review of studies on training with weights conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg (1).

This review concluded that the optimal volume is in the range of 60 to 180 repetitions per muscle group per week when using weights in the range of 60 to 80% of 1RM weight. As you would expect, the lower end of the repetition range applies to heavier weights and the upper end to lighter weights.

So, for example, if you perform the majority of your sets in the range of 80 to 85% of your 1RM weight, then your total reps per week and muscle group should be in the range of 60 to 80. On the other hand, if you're using significantly lighter weights, then your total weekly volume should be closer to the upper end of the repetition range near 180 reps.

And if you're using a program that has you moving moderate weights in the 70 to 75% range of your 1RM weight, then your total weekly reps should also be somewhere in the middle of the 60 to 180 rep range.

Another good paper on this topic that is worth reading is a large study review conducted by researchers at Arizona State University that came to similar conclusions (2). The conclusion of this review was that when it comes to building muscle, training frequency is not as important as intensity and total weekly volume. In other words, training with heavy weights and achieving an optimal weekly volume are more important than the number of training sessions you complete.

There is evidence that increasing frequency can increase hypertrophy (3), but we need more research to answer important questions on this topic and better categorize these results. Here's what the author of the study, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, had to say on the subject:

All of the muscles we studied showed greater growth with higher training frequency.

For the biceps, the results were "statistically significant", meaning that there was a 95% higher probability that these results were not due to chance. Although the results for quadriceps and triceps did not reach statistical significance, other statistical values indicate a fairly clear benefit of a higher frequency training program.

The results appear to be consistent with the time curve of protein synthesis, which lasts for approximately 48 hours (there is evidence that this time curve is shortened with increasing training experience).

Theoretically, repeated stimulation of protein synthesis after this has subsided would result in greater gains over time.

But before you jump on this bandwagon and throw your current training program out the window, there are a few things you need to consider if you want to translate these results into practice. First of all, it's important to remember that in this study, volume was equalized across the different scenarios.

This was done to isolate the effects of frequency on muscle adaptations - an essential strategy for determining causality. However, the primary benefit of a split program is the ability to increase volume per training session while allowing adequate recovery between training sessions.

Since there is a close dose-dependent relationship between volume and hypertrophy, weekly volume must be factored into this equation. Certainly, it is possible that a split program with a higher weekly volume may work as well or even better than a full body workout - or maybe not. We simply don't know based on the currently available literature.

In addition to this, the vast majority of subjects in the study reported using a split program as the basis of their usual training, where the muscles are trained only once a week. This of course opens up the possibility that the unfamiliar stimulus to the body may have influenced the results.

Indeed, there is some research showing that muscle adaptations are increased when program variables are altered outside of traditional norms. It is therefore conceivable that subjects in the whole-body training group could benefit from the unfamiliar stimulus of a higher training frequency.

Therefore, considering the current state of the scientific literature and anecdotal evidence, I think it is reasonable to say the following:

  • Each type of training split has its pros and cons: A well put together training split by muscle group will be better than a poorly put together full body training program and vice versa. You should choose a training split and program that best suits your circumstances and needs.
  • You should look at training frequency as a tool to achieve your weekly target volume...not as a non-negotiable aspect of muscle building (like progressive overload, for example).

Muscle building programs that really work

Every word I've written and every study I've linked to would be meaningless if you couldn't use this article to get results. So I want to end this article with a few workout programs that will show you first hand how all the pieces of this puzzle fit together.

Here they are...

The 5 day training program

  • Work sets at 85% of 1RM weight (4 to 6 reps) unless otherwise noted.
  • Warm up by performing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions with 50% of your 1RM weight.
  • Rest 3 to 4 minutes between sets.
  • Rest 1 minute between warm-up sets
  • Increase the weight when you reach the upper end of a repetition range for a set.

Day 1: Chest & abs

  • Barbell incline bench press - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Dumbbell incline bench press - 3 work sets
  • Barbell flat bench press - 3 work sets
  • Face pulls - 3 work sets of 8 to 10 repetitions per set with 1 to 2 minutes rest between these lighter sets
  • 3 Ab Circuits

Day 2: Back and calves

  • Barbell deadlifts - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Barbell rows - 3 work sets
  • Pull-ups with wide grip - 3 work sets (with additional weight if possible)
  • Optional: Lat pull-ups with a narrow grip - 3 work sets
  • Optional: barbell shoulder raises (shrugs) - 2 work sets
  • Standing calf raises - 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions
  • Sitting calf raises - 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions

Day 3: Shoulders and abs

  • Barbell shoulder presses standing or seated - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Side raises - 3 sets
  • Side raises bent over - 3 work sets
  • 3 abdominal muscle circuits

Day 4: Legs

  • Squats - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Leg presses - 3 work sets
  • Romanian deadlift - 3 work sets
  • Calf raises on the leg press - 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
  • Donkey calf raises - 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions

Day 5: Upper body & abs

  • Barbell incline bench press - warm-up sets and then 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps with 1 to 2 minutes rest between these lighter sets
  • Barbell curls - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Close bench press - 3 work sets (no need to warm up after the incline bench press)
  • Alternating dumbbell curls - 3 work sets
  • Seated tricep press - 3 work sets
  • 3 abdominal muscle circuits

The 4 day training program

Day 1: Chest & triceps & calves

  • Barbell incline bench press - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Barbell flat bench press - 3 work sets
  • Dips (chest variation, with additional weight if possible) - 3 work sets
  • Seated tricep presses - 3 work sets
  • Standing calf raises - 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions
  • Sitting calf raises - 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions

Day 2: Back & biceps & abs

  • Deadlifts - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Barbell rows - 3 work sets
  • Pull-ups with wide grip - 3 work sets (with additional weight if possible)
  • Barbell curls - 3 work sets
  • 3 abdominal muscle circuits

Day 3: Upper body & calves

  • Barbell incline bench presses - warm-up sets and then 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions with 1 to 2 minutes rest between these lighter sets
  • Barbell shoulder presses sitting or standing - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Side raises - 3 work sets
  • Side raises bent over - 3 sets
  • Calf raises on the leg press - 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
  • Donkey calf raises - 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions

Day 4: Legs & abs

  • Squats - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Leg presses - 3 work sets
  • Romanian deadlift - 3 work sets
  • 3 abdominal muscle circuits

The 3 day training program

Rest at least one day between each training session.

Day 1: Pulling & Abs

  • Deadlift - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Barbell rows - 3 work sets
  • Pull-ups with wide grip - 3 work sets (with additional weight if possible)
  • Barbell curls - 3 work sets
  • 3 abdominal muscle circuits

Day 2: Presses and calves

  • Barbell incline bench press - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Barbell shoulder presses standing or seated - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Barbell flat bench press - 3 sets
  • Side raises - 3 sets
  • Optional: Close bench press - 3 work sets
  • Standing calf raises - 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions
  • Sitting calf raises - 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions

Day 3: Legs

  • Squats - warm-up sets and then 3 work sets
  • Leg presses - 3 work sets
  • Romanian deadlift - 3 work sets
  • Calf raises on the leg press - 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions
  • Donkey calf raises - 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions

Do one of these workouts for the next 8 weeks and see how your body responds. In terms of results, the 5 day program is better than the 4 day program, which is better than the 3 day program.

What about supplements?

I saved this topic for last because, quite frankly, supplements are far less important than proper nutrition and training. Supplements don't build great bodies - proper nutrition and training are necessary for that.

But even though supplements don't necessarily play a vital role in muscle building and fat loss, and can sometimes be a complete waste of money, the right supplements can help. The truth is that there are safe and natural substances that have been scientifically proven to provide benefits such as increased strength, increased muscle endurance, increased muscle growth, increased fat loss and more.

Here are some supplements that can help you build muscle

Creatine

Creatine is a substance that occurs naturally in the body and foods such as red meat. Creatine is probably the most studied compound in the field of sports supplements and hundreds of studies have come to a very clear consensus: supplementing with creatine helps:

  • In building muscle mass and strength (4)
  • Improve anaerobic endurance (muscle endurance) (5)
  • Reduce muscle damage and muscle soreness (6)

Protein powder

While you don't necessarily need protein supplements to build muscle, considering the amount of protein you need on a daily basis, it can be difficult to get all your protein from natural foods. This is the main reason I use protein supplements, with whey protein being particularly good for post-workout protein intake.

Pre-workout booster

A good pre-workout supplement can give you extra energy in the gym and boost your stamina and performance. You should look for the following ingredients in a good pre-workout product:

  • Caffeine gives you much more than an energy boost. It can also increase muscle endurance and strength.
  • Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that can reduce exercise-induced fatigue, increase anaerobic exercise capacity and accelerate muscle growth.
  • Citrulline malate is an amino acid that can increase muscle endurance, reduce muscle soreness and increase aerobic performance
  • Betaine is a naturally occurring plant compound that can increase muscle endurance and strength, as well as growth hormone release and IGF-1 production in response to exercise.
  • Theanine is an amino acid found primarily in tea that can reduce the effects of physical and mental stress, increase nitric oxide production and improve alertness, focus, memory, mental ability and mood.

The bottom line on hypertrophy

As you can see, the science on muscle building is pretty straightforward. In the future, science will continue to deepen our knowledge of the underlying mechanisms and how we can further optimize our results, but we "normal exercisers" who just want to be muscular, hard, lean and strong already have all the knowledge we need at our fingertips.

If you follow the advice in this article, then you can already tap into most of your genetic potential for building muscle.

Here is a brief summary:

1. we should emphasize heavy weights in our training

Training with high reps has its uses and applications, but if you want to build muscle as quickly as possible, you should focus on weights in the 75+% of your 1RM weight range.

2. we should focus on multi-joint exercises

Again, this topic would deserve its own article, but a well-constructed training program that builds on basic exercises will outperform any program that includes mainly isolation exercises - every time.

3. we should ensure progression

Regardless of the rep range used or exercise selection or anything else, you need to ensure that you achieve progression over time. And this means performing more reps with the same weight, which will eventually allow you to increase the weight on the bar, whereupon you try to perform more reps with the new weight, etc.

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17326698
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16287373
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25932981
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12945830
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16287344
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19956970

Source: https://legionathletics.com/HYPERTROPHY-HOW-TO-BUILD-MUSCLE/

By Mike Matthews

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