You have probably heard this before…
Doing 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps with 60 to 180 seconds rest between sets is THE BEST way to build muscle.
In fact, this is why the vast majority of beginners fail at muscle building. Sure it may work for them early in their weight lifting career. Pretty much anything you do – with a decent effort – will get you at least some results early on. But here lies the problem.
That same beginner will eventually hit the dreaded muscle building plateau. Their previously rapid muscle building gains dwindle until they are barely maintaining their muscles. So what do they end up doing? Going from one muscle building workout style to the next in an attempt to continue with their growth – TRX, kettlebells, crossfit, circuit training, super high reps, super low reps, then back to their original workout routine, and so on.
But eventually that beginner will completely lose motivation with muscle building and stop working out altogether. Does this sound like somebody you know?
The Perfect Muscle Building Workout Does Not Exist
First of all, I think I need to be absolutely clear about something. There is no such thing as the perfect muscle building workout, and the worst thing you can do is believe the myth that there is a magic workout that you should do year in and year out to stay on a vertical path for your muscle building gains. If such a workout existed, we would all look as if we were carved out of stone.
You will often hear of forums littered with die hard fans of one style of training or the other who believe that the theory of training they are following is the absolute best way to build muscle and strength. Usually these theories are on extreme opposite ends of the scale… high reps, low reps, high volume, low volume, and the list goes on and on.
As I mentioned previously, there is NO such thing as a PERFECT muscle building workout. There is however an optimal way to train for a specific period of time, or phase, but the most thought out workout and best periodization in the world won’t make any difference if you make the most common muscle-building mistakes.
#1 – You aren’t using a muscle building program based on your body type
Forget what you are most comfortable with. It is often the workouts that we are comfortable with that give us the least muscle building gains. Remember, your body will create a training adaptation to anything you throw at it. The longer you use a particular style of training, the more likely you will hit a plateau because your body learns and adapts to it.
You need to train according to your BODY TYPE, not what you are most comfortable with.
For example, pure ectomorphs are more comfortable with a routine of 10 to 15 repetitions because they “feel it” more. However, if they shift their focus for a while to a lower repetition range of 6 to 8 with fewer sets but more frequent workouts, they will respond better.
Mesomorphic body types respond in the range of 8 to 12 repetitions, training each body part once a week. As well, mesomorphs will use more sets but need less frequent workouts.
Endomorphs typically respond best to repetitions in the range of 10 to 15 since they tend to have more strength, but not much in the way of muscle endurance. Endomorphs respond best to higher volume workouts with greater frequency.
#2 – You don’t record and PLAN your muscle building workouts
This is a trap I see SO MANY people fall into. They go to the gym, aimlessly go from machine to machine, then choose an arbitrary time to pack it in and go home.
That’s like trying to save millions of dollars without ever taking a look at your bank statement or using a financial planner. It is a HUGE waste of time and effort.
How do you fix that? First off, buy or create your own PERIODIZED muscle building workout program that has proper PHASES. Each phase should be roughly one month long, with four days off for rest between phases.
Then you need to RECORD your workouts. Do not be the guy (or girl) who uses 50 pound dumbbells one week, 70 pounds the next, and 45 pounds the week after that. You need to work on a steady progression of improvements if you want true muscle building. If you don’t record what you did last time there is no way you will remember what you need to do when you next hit that body part.
#3 – You don’t know the FUCTION of the muscle and how to apply TENSION
If you don’t know how the muscle is supposed to move, then how do you know you are working that muscle?
You have probably seen that guy (or girl) in the gym doing barbell curls but only moving his HIPS. There is no TENSION in the working muscle. Like I often say, it does not matter how many reps you do if they all SUCK!
Or maybe you have seen that guy that may take 10 seconds to do 10 repetitions. He would be just as well off doing 1 rep using a 5 second concentric (contraction) and 5 second eccentric (lowering) motion. At least that would actually reduce momentum and apply tension to the working muscle and inspire growth.
If he understood the premise of a biceps curl is full elbow extension and flexion, his muscle building gains would improve astronomically.
It is imperative that you EDUCATE yourself to get better results and prevent injury. Through education you will achieve your goals faster while maintaining a healthier – and injury resistant – body.
Again, everything I have written is not carved in stone but the basic underlying principle remains. You need to plan, plan, and plan some more based on your individual muscle building needs, goals, and time frame. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
The theories above will give you a great starting place to optimize your muscle-building program and help you achieve EPIC results.