When the temperatures start to drop at summer's end, most people begrudgingly store their bathing suits and suntan lotion. Those with muscle on their mind know it's the time of year when they can focus on size and getting as big as possible.
Let's take a look at the training methodology that will enable you to maximize your muscle mass.
How to Build Muscle
Studies show that if you want to increase your muscle mass, you should focus on the volume of work done in your workouts. Volume refers to the number of exercises, sets, and repetitions that you perform at each session.
The mistake that many lifters make is asking, "What is the ideal range of sets and reps per workout?" It's important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
If you want to increase muscle size, the real question is, "How many total repetitions should be completed each week?" Once you have this number, you can break down everything by workout.
For higher volume workouts, studies suggest that larger muscle groups such as the quadriceps and the back require between 90 and 120 weekly repetitions, depending on the amount of weight used. The heavier the weight you use, the fewer repetitions are required. The smaller muscle groups such as the biceps and triceps need between 50 and 70 repetitions.
Training the Same Muscle 2-3 Times per Week
If you want to reach your weekly repetition goal and increase muscle size, I recommend training each muscle group 2-3 times per week. Sure, you can dedicate one day per week to hammering out 10 or more sets, but there are a few reasons I would recommend against this:
- Proven science: Studies show that targeting each muscle group 2-3 times per week with fewer sets results in greater muscle mass than once-per-week workouts that contain many sets.
- Avoiding burnout: Aside from volume, the amount of intensity you bring to your workouts is important for tearing down muscle tissue and triggering growth. Training each muscle group 2-3 times per week with fewer sets enables you to maximize your intensity in each workout.
- Lower risk of injury:Fewer sets spread out over a few workouts can help you avoid overuse injuries. What's more, if you can avoid burnout and stay in the zone during the entire workout, it will decrease your risk for injuries caused by absentmindedness.
How Many Exercises per Workout Should You Do?
If you have less than a year of experience with weight training, I recommend using full-body workouts, one exercise per muscle group, three times per week, on this schedule:
- Monday: Full-body workout 1
- Tuesday: Rest or cardio
- Wednesday: Full-body workout 2
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: Full-body workout 3
- Saturday: Rest or cardio
- Sunday: Rest
If this isn't your first rodeo, I recommend using an upper-body/lower-body split. Each week, perform two upper-body workouts and two lower-body workouts, with two exercises per large muscle group and one exercise per smaller muscle groups.
- Monday: Lower-body workout 1
- Tuesday: Upper-body workout 1
- Wednesday: Rest or cardio
- Thursday: Lower-body workout 2
- Friday: Upper-body workout 2
- Saturday: Rest or cardio
- Sunday: Rest
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How Many Exercises per Muscle Group?
If you choose the full-body routine, you'll be exercising each muscle group three times per week.
Full-Body Workout, Large Muscle Groups:
- 90-120 weekly repetitions divided into three workouts
- 30-40 repetitions per workout
- 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions per exercise
Full-Body Workout, Smaller Muscle Groups:
- 50-70 repetitions divided into three workouts
- 15-25 repetitions per workout
- 2 sets of 8-12 repetitions per exercise
If you choose the upper/lower split routine, you'll be exercising each muscle group two times per week.
Split Routine, Large Muscle Groups:
- 90-120 weekly repetitions divided into two workouts
- 45-60 repetitions per workout
- 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per exercise (two exercises per muscle group)
Split Routine, Smaller Muscle Groups:
- 50-70 repetitions divided into two workouts
- 25-35 repetitions per workout
- 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions (one exercise per muscle group)
- Schoenfeld, B. J., et al. (2016). Effects of resistance training frequency on measures of muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 46(11), 1689-97.
- Wernbom, M., et al. (2017). The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Medicine, 37(3), 225-64.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., et al. (2015). Influence of resistance training frequency on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(7), 1821-9.