As bodybuilders, we’re always searching for the fastest, most effective way to build muscle and achieve great results. It’s our impatient qualities that keep the supplement market flooded with new products, many of which are nothing more than hype. We continuously look for new ways to build muscle faster. Many turn to steroids because they are unwilling to wait for results or experiment to find a way that works for them to build muscle naturally. However, there are efficient ways to gain size naturally, and if you keep reading, I’ll tell you about them.
Overtraining And Muscle Building
There’s been a bit of concern lately about overtraining and if it exists. Now, I can tell you many reasons to support that overtraining is more than just some myth. Overtraining is reality; however, that’s not what this article is about. I’ve overtrained, and in about two months, I lost 10 lbs of muscle. But we aren’t going to be talking about overtraining here. This article is about under training, or better yet, what many would call under training and how under training can bring you results faster and more efficiently than you might ever imagine.
First, have you noticed a change in training styles since the ’70s? In the 70’s it was unheard of to train each muscle less than three times a week. The notion then amongst most trainees was that “more is better.” The truth, however, is far from that. During the ’80s, Frank Zane, Lee Labrada, and Clarence Bass all made changes in their training routines.
All of these bodybuilders switched to training each muscle only once every 5-8 days and started either training at the maximum intensity or not at all. Most thought Dorian Yates was at his prime when he adopted an abbreviated training style; however, none could ignore the impressive gains he made under the supervision of Mike Mentzer in only a year.
The Perfect Set To Build Muscle
As I was saying before, most bodybuilders look for faster, more efficient ways to build muscle, but most go about it totally wrong. How many hours you spend each week at the gym? 6-10? What if you could get the same results from spending 1/3 of that time in the gym per week? Would you do it?
To increase muscle size and strength, the muscle must be stimulated. We do this by lifting weights; each repetition closer to failure creates more inroads in the muscle (stimulates more muscle fibers). Multiple sets per exercise can be effective to build muscle; they add up to create the same amount of inroads as one set to failure, but only when done properly.
It is also much easier to overtrain using multiple sets since it can lead to a catabolic state quite quickly in the body. And let’s also not forget that too many sets of too many exercises can also lead to tendinitis and increase the risk of other injuries due to overuse.
Many people also debate the amount of time that should be spent in the gym in reason to build muscle and strength. It’s been scientifically shown that after training for 45 minutes to an hour, the body has used up its entire glycogen store and then turns to the muscles as a source of fuel by releasing cortisol. I suggest limiting your time in the gym to a maximum of 45 minutes from the start of your first failure set to the end of your last one.
I also suggest taking a maximum of only 2-3 minutes between sets, depending on the complexity of the exercise. A set of all-out squats to failure will no doubt require more time to recover and catch your breath before the next set then a set of curls to failure.
Now, let’s say you are doing a set of bench presses with 225 lbs. The first rep is easy, and your intensity is low, but as you continue in the set, some of your muscle fibers are overloaded, and new ones are recruited to meet the demands of the weight. This continues until all your muscle fibers are overloaded and no longer able to raise the weight.
Make sure you lower the weight as slowly as you can until the last remaining muscle fibers are overloaded and they too give out, and then, and only then, have you reached momentary muscular failure. That was an intense set. After doing a set like this to failure, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to do another set with the same amount of weight for anywhere near the same amount of reps. Job well done, you can now move on to a new exercise.
The Bare Minimum To Build Muscle
Any training program can be effective to build muscle if it contains the necessary exercises. First, there must be some form of stimulation to the muscle. You must overload the muscle and create inroads. You must give the muscles the time and nutrients they need to recover. Remember that you only grow outside the gym. Lastly, there must be progressive resistance. If you’re not going up in either weight or reps every 1-3 weeks, then there is a problem in your diet or routine or both.
The following are the bare minimum amount of exercises needed for building muscle. For each workout, you should use only the least amount of exercises needed to get a result. Of course, you will want to change exercises for their variants every so often to shock your muscles and keep things fresh, but there is no need to overlap exercises.
Chest: Bench press, Dumbbell Flies
Back: Chin-ups, Barbell Rows, Deadlifts
Thighs: Squats, Straight Leg Deadlifts
Shoulders: Military Press, Bent over lateral raise
Biceps: Barbell curls, Dumbbell Hammer curl (you can substitute supinated dumbbell curls in for both)
Triceps: Lying Triceps extension, Triceps Press
Calves: Standing calf raises
Workout To Build Muscle Fast And Easy
Here is a quick example of one of my favorite routines that I highly recommend to hard gainers:
Bench press: 1 x 6-8
Pullover: 1 x 6-8
Incline DB flies: 1 x 7-9
Preacher curl: 1 x 7-9
Supinated DB curl: 1 x 7-9
Squats: 1 x 8-10
SLDL’s (Stiff-Legged Deadlifts): 1 x 10-12
Calf raises: 1 x 10-12
Military press: 1 x 8-10
Bent over DB raise: 1 x 8-10
Shrugs: 1 x 10-12
Chins: 1 x 7-9
T-Bar rows: 1 x 7-9
Dead Lifts: 1 x 4-6
Over Head triceps extension: 1 x 6-8
Triceps Press: 1 x 6-8
Crunches: 1 x 18-20
I used the one below when I worked construction during one summer and gained back the 10 pounds I lost using volume training:
Weighted Dips: 1 x 6-8
Incline Flies: 1 x 6-8
Chin ups: 1 x 8-10
T-bar rows: 1 x 8-10
Military press: 1 x 6-8
Bent over lateral raises: 1 x 8-10
Deadlifts: 1 x 4-6
Squats: 1 x 8-12
SLDL’s: 1 x 10-12
Calf raises: 1 x 10-12
Supinated DB curls: 1 x 8-10
Lying triceps extension: 1 x 6-8
Triceps Press: 1 x 6-8
Crunches: 1 x 18-20
Ensure to warm up properly before beginning the exercise. A light 4-5 minute jog followed by a few light sets to warm up the muscles you will be using, and stretching is all that is really needed. There’s no reason to do countless amounts of warm-up sets in the gym before each exercise.