How hard do you have to train to build muscle?

Posted: December 18, 2016 in Muscle Building

I’m not sure why, but this question came into my mind today and it’s a good one. But it’s also a tricky one to answer although I’m going to attempt to all the same.

When training for cardiovascular improvement we can gauge our intensity by measuring heart rate.

When doing high repetition weight training, we can judge successful training by cell swelling/ a massive pump.

When pure strength training working “hard” generally means (or should) increasing the load with consistent form.

But if your goals is “building muscle” it becomes a little less clear, especially since it takes a long time to make noticeable (natural) gains.

When it comes to adding size to muscles we have to force the body into a state where it thinks it has no other choice to survive than to build muscle, but despite what Mike Mentzer would have you there is more to it than just lifting heavy weights for one or two reps. There is a fascinating study called the “mechanisms of hypertrophy” that suggests that adding size comes down to maximizing mechanical tension (heavy weights – 6-8 reps), cell swelling (high, 8-15 reps), Metabolic stress (building up lactic acid).

One of the things that is often overlooked in all of this the rest between sets, which plays a key role in my latest attempt to maximize the mechanisms listed above. By gradually decreasing rest time between sets, while simultaneously adding the number of sets you are increasing overall volume or workload, as well as incrementally making it more difficult metabolically.

But what about weight, won’t it have to get lighter over time if the rest time is shorter? Aaaaah, well here’s where it gets fun… to accommodate this what I’ve implemented is the idea of jump-sets – going from one set with one body part to a set with a different body part. This essentially gives you double the amount of rest time for that body part so load does not suffer too much.

But if you are gradually increasing volume how can you increase load? Another great point… how I’ve decided to overcome this is by using a sort of zig-zag pattern, where I gradually decrease rest/increase volume for 3 weeks, then de-load by spending 1-3 weeks with low volume. Then I will start where I left off at week 2 but with increased load and decrease rest for another 3 weeks then de-load.

I must stress that this is theoretical at the moment, but I guess the idea I want to express that by setting up a program with built in progression in as many areas as possible, you are likely to find that working “hard enough” will fall into place even when you can’t rely on muscle soreness or other signs.

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