Best Routines for Building Muscle
Hypertrophy is the scientific name for increasing muscle size. Or as the laymen call it, getting yoked. However, there are discrepancies between what actually works and what the research says. Furthermore, you also have plenty of “experts” trolling the floor at your local gym and touting that they know the best sets and reps for building muscle. You would think that the physical evidence would back up the information that these guys give out, but that’s not always the case.
One thing that nearly ever iron pro agrees on is that in order to build muscle, you need multiple sets. A meta analysis of research studies found that multiple set protocols induced 40% more hypertrophy than single set routines (1). In the world of training, 40% is a huge deal, and just about any guy with a decent head on his shoulders would pounce on those results. For beginners, researchers state that 2-3 sets per exercise is best, while more advanced trainees need 4-6 sets.
That’s where the research pretty much comes to a stop. If you’re waiting for research to come out with the studies on protocols for advanced bodybuilders, you shouldn’t be holding your breath. You have better luck waiting for Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey to get back together for Point Break 2. Researchers just can’t find the subjects that would be willing to put themselves through such brutal protocols.
Speaking of those muscle trashing workouts, let’s talk some of the best routines for building muscle:
- 4 x 8 Any one serious about building muscle, but new to the game, can’t go wrong with 4 sets of 8. Unlike 3 sets of 10, 4 sets of 8 follows the guidelines of multiple sets to induce fatigue, but the 8 rep protocol induces a moderate intensity to allow a trainee to experience some heavy weights. Usually trainees choose weights that are too light to force any adaptations, and the 8 reps makes you put some weight on the bar.
- 5 x 5 Speaking of putting some weight on the bar, the classic 5 x 5 protocol has been used for decades with success. It’s pretty simple; your first set of 5 should be around 80% of your 1RM. By the last set, you should be lifting around 87 to 89% of your 1RM. It’s simple, tough, and effective. Long time strongmen like Reg Park swear by the 5 x 5 method and used it themselves to build their impressive physiques.
- 10 x 10 If nothing else is working, and you’ve been training hard for well over a year, then the 10 x 10 method may be just what you need to pack on some muscle. Although he doesn’t take direct credit for it, Charles Poliquin modified the 10 sets method by calling it German Volume Training. The premise is simple: select a movement and nail 10 sets of 10 reps. If you can get all 100 reps, then bring the weight up for the next workout. It sounds simple, but it leaves pretty much every muscle fiber demolished- training the same muscle group twice within one week is just foolish. In fact, 3 days of training with this model is all you need to gain 5 to 10 pounds.
The best routine won’t do you much good without an adequate diet. This isn’t the time to be afraid to eat, and if you can, then be prepared to look yoked up.
1. Krieger, J.W. “Single vs Multiple Sets of Resistance Exercise for Muscle Hypertrophy: A Meta-Analysis.” (2010) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24.4, 1150-1159