Muscle. We all want it NOW, but the bodybuilder tells you “BODY PART SPLITS”, and powerlifter says “HEAVY DAYS/DYNAMIC DAYS”. It’s easy to get lost in analysis paralysis. I’ll be going over 3 tips for stimulating muscle growth.
Not Training to Failure
The point where the full repetition cannot be completed without assistance or drop in form. We start our first workout program. We grow. We plateau. We think “more is better!” We kick up the intensity and max out every set till we’re burnt. No pain no gain right? Ehhh maybe not so much.
The issue lies within your nervous system. We get “central fatigue” after it's been taxed from a couple failure sets. Simply put, we lose the capacity to perform at the same intensity on subsequent sets. Your 3 sets of 10 becomes a set of 10,8,6. If you kept 2-3 reps in the tank, you’d be able to get all 3 sets for 10.
When you’re training to failure, you’re increasing resting levels of cortisol, and suppressing growth factors such as IGF-1. There is also overtraining as well as increased likelihood of injury.
Take Away: Instead of absolute failure each set, try stopping 2-3 reps short of failure.
Frequency of Training
“CHEST DAY!” The young bro exclaims to his lonely self.
Sometime in the 60’s, magazines made body-part splits cool, but beforehand, bodybuilders all over used to be doing full body. Yes, even Arnold. There’s also the little caveat that most bodybuilders gains from a split routine are….”enhanced”. The average lifter can’t keep up or recover from the same amount of work.
The reality is, we actually do better hitting the same muscle groups 2-3x a week. Why? Muscle protein synthesis. Similar to protein dosing your meals, there is a cap to how much stimulation a muscle can receive in a session. Past that, we hit the law of diminishing returns. Adding more frequency allows repeated elevations in MPS, and time spent in a positive net protein balance. It’s also been proposed that high frequency induced greater mass gains than a body-part split even when volume was matched. This was likely due to more frequent breakdown of muscle tissue and subsequent protein synthesis.
Hitting it with enough volume to stimulate, but not overtrain that muscle, your recovery time is quicker thus allowing you to train it more frequently throughout the week.
Take Away: Focus on hitting muscle groups 2x a week. This can be done though full body, push/pull, or upper/lower routines. Our MAPS programs recognize the repeated bouts benefit and have it implemented already.
Question. Who would produce better gains - an individual doing all strength phase routines, hypertrophy, or endurance? Hint: If you chose any individual phase as a standalone you are incorrect. Thank you sir may I have another.
Answer: The individual rotating ALL phases. While the hypertrophy group may get better growth in the short term, long term, spending time in ALL rep ranges builds muscle the best, focusing on different aspects of muscle growth. All three complement each other and mitigate plateaus. Normally, we stick with what our body responds best to, and stay there (it becomes efficient). That only emphasizes the need for the other phases.
Take Away: Use 2-3 week cycles in each phase of muscle growth, matching rest periods and exercises to each phase. Once again, the MAPS programs already beautifully lays out all this information.
Try these new take-aways, and let us know what you think.