The reason that many newcomers to the gym don’t make progress is that they don’t have specific goals. They have vague ideas to ‘get in shape’ but without outlining what this means how can you train effectively to reach this goal? By setting a specific goal and focusing your training on achieving this then you will see the best results. In this article I’m going to focus on how to train to maximise muscle growth for those who wish to put on size.
How do muscles grow?
The principle of training is that you go to the gym to stimulate the muscles, then by resting they repair and recover larger than previously. This occurs by hypertrophy, an increase in size of the muscle fibres which in turn increases the cross sectional area of the muscles. The mechanism behind this is an increase in size and number of myofibrils that make up the muscle fibre. Current evidence suggests that contrary to popular belief hyperplasia (an increase in the number of muscle fibres) does not occur in humans.
Training to stimulate hypertrophy
Optimal training involves a balance of frequency, volume and intensity. Frequency refers to how often you train each muscle group. After a workout protein synthesis will be heightened for up to 48 hours, after this if you do not re-stimulate the muscle then you are losing opportunities for growth. Therefore each muscle group should be exercised every 3 days to maximise hypertrophy.
Volume refers to how many reps and sets you should perform in each workout. When training for hypertrophy reps should be 8-20 and sets should be 3-6 per exercise. The number of total sets in a workout should be 15-25.
Intensity refers to how much rest between each set and how heavy the weight is relative to your strength. To stimulate hypertrophy rest should be relatively short, between 30 seconds to a minute and a half. Weight should be selected so that at the end of the set you are 1 or 2 reps away from complete failure. Training to complete failure each set may seem optimal – however the early sets in the workout will utilise too much energy, hence the total load lifted throughout the workout will be lower as your performance will suffer in later sets.
The above information is a general guide that works for the majority of people. However it is important to pay close attention to your training to see if this works for you. If you find that your strength has decreased from one week to the next then you haven’t allowed enough time for recovery. Further to this it is important to frequently change your workouts in order to re new your motivation, consistency is the biggest key to success.