Muscle Growth for the Average Person: Hypertrophy, Frequency, and Maintenance
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or powerlifter to reap the benefits of the best and latest muscle growth practices. This blog post, although just a brief overview, can be applied to any age group, any level of fitness proficiency.
Believe us, we understand how difficult it is to navigate the turbulent seas of conflicting information out there. Especially with all of the sources out there telling you that working out “X” amount of times with “X” amount of sets and reps will get you the body you desire.
Instead of just offering a “do this and see these results” type of blog post, we figured that it would be best to give you a small overview of three key concepts involved in the whole muscle-building process. Yes, there are recommended numbers and sets involved, but only to illustrate the points talked about!
As always, it is the science involved that is most important to consider; what you choose to do after learning these concepts is up to you: you can hire a personal trainer (recommended), get online coaching or even do further research if you want. Seize the day!
Hypertrophy: Muscle Building and Progressive Overload
It’s more than likely you have heard the term hypertrophy before. This technical sounding word in this context simply means muscle growth.
Hypertrophy has been approached from all angles and the most effective means for achieving the optimal amount of hypertrophy is always changing. But, the golden standard for achieving the best results on your muscle growth journey is through progressive overload. Again, it is simple when seen from this context.
Progressive overload is simply adding more weight to your routine and program over time. Progressive overload can also mean adding a few more sets with the same weight or changing the type of rep style: static contraction, pause reps, slower reps, or with more of an emphasis on ‘explosive’ movements during the rep.
For hypertrophy, to gain more muscle and thus get stronger and more efficient in workouts, some sort of progressive overload should be focused on. This means that once you have a program in place, you can certainly stick to the same workout and maintain that current level of fitness, but you run the risk of growing bored or eventually getting too strong to reap as many positive benefits from working out.
Just something to consider! The next consideration is just how much one should workout during the week.
Frequency and Volume: The Amount of Sets and Reps Per Week
According to Dr. Mike Israeltel of Renaissance Periodization, we should always look to keep the amount of repetitions we perform in an effective range. Just cranking out 3-4 reps with weight that is too heavy isn’t as effective as doing a quality set with proper weight.
Dr. Mike also says more volume is better than less, for most cases! But this doesn’t mean that one should perform hundreds exercises that are extremely simple. You will waste your time if you sit at a machine and perform hundreds of reps with weights that are hardly strenuous. Instead there has to be a balance struck between intensity and the proper amount of volume to see noticeable changes in muscle strength and definition.
Instead, one should establish a one-rep max and look to perform lifts that are in the 60%-80% range of your max. The rep range should be somewhere between 8-20 as well for each set. This guarantees that enough intensity is performed and enough sets are hit during the week. Yes, this number is flexible to a degree, but if you are performing 3o sets of squats at 25% of your one-rep max, more than likely you are wasting your time and overworking your muscles.
Maintenance: Keeping What You Got
Eventually, after putting all of that time and effort to meet your goals and expectations, you will hit the point where visits to the gym are strictly for maintaining your hard-earned muscle. Maybe you are already at the point now! But there are certain guidemarks for muscle maintenance that one needs to follow for fitness upkeep. Fortunately though, there’s a lot of good news. The more you workout, the easier it becomes to keep your muscle!
To draw from the expert himself again, Dr. Mike Israeltel says this: “ you can keep almost all of your muscle with as little as 6 working sets per bodypart per week in most cases.” He goes onto say that even the most advanced athletes have similar percentages of maintenance volume they need to perform (the same goes for beginners and intermediate lifters). So, with just 6 working sets, after you have committed to a program and have put the work in, you can be sure to keep your body looking exactly like you want it!
Of course at the end of the day, there’s no pressure! Working out is working out. You do you! We just want you to work with all of the best tools on your fitness journey; no matter what level or stage you are at, thinking about muscle and strength training from a strategic focal point is important. Consider hiring a personal trainer or a nutrition expert to help you further along your fitness path.
This is a very specific approach and is not the only way to achieve your fitness goals. It is certainly a highly-effective approach backed by the latest science, but not an exhaustive approach by any means. The content of this blog article is largely taken from the fitness expertise of Dr. Mike Israetel, co-founder of Renaissance Periodization and author of Training Volume Landmarks For Muscle Growth. For further implementation, information, and direction on your fitness journey, be sure to consult a fitness professional before committing to a program or the methods involved!