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Mar 3 / Jeremy

Weight Training to Build Muscle


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Lifting weights for bigger musclesA lot of people first start lifting weights because they are interested in increasing the size of their muscles, and there are a lot of different theories out there about the best way to use weight training to build muscle.  In this post I am going to lay out the approach to building bigger muscles that has worked best for me.  If you follow a workout plan that utilizes the  methods outlined below then you will see results.

Defining Muscle Growth:

People looking to develop bigger muscles, as opposed to dense, compact muscles, want to aim for sarcoplasmic hypertrophic muscle growth during every workout.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the scientific term for the increase of fluid in the cells of the muscle.   The increased fluid expands the area of the muscle.  With constant training for Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy muscles can increase in size significantly.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is best achieved by thoroughly fatiguing the muscle and training to failure.  Many bodybuilders will hit the gym 6 days per week focusing on a different muscle group each day and blitzing the muscles so hard that it takes nearly a week for those muscles to recover.  If hitting the gym 6 days a week is not feasible, then you can also achieve much of the same effect by following a three-day split.  This means focusing on two to three muscle groups and using two to three lifts that target each muscle group.  If you utilize a three-day spit it is best to pair upper body pushing muscles together on one day, legs on the second day, and upper body pulling muscles together on the third day.  I recommend a three-day split that looks like this:

Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
Day 2: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves
Day 3: Back, Biceps, Abs

NOTE: If you are not interested in increasing the size of your lower body Day 2 can be dropped and you can operate on a two-day split following the same principles outlined below.

A general rule of weight training for sarcoplasmic growth is to start with a compound lift that will utilize all targeted muscle groups directly or indirectly, then gradually isolate each muscle group from largest to smallest for maximum fatigue.  For example, on the first day you would start with incline bench press because that will engage your chest, shoulders, and triceps.  Then you would select one or two more lifts that isolate your chest, followed by two lifts to isolate your shoulders, finishing with two lifts to isolate your triceps.

Sets & Reps

Since the aim is to fatigue your muscles as much as possible you want to complete 4-5 sets with high reps using relatively lighter weights.  Rep ranges should stay between 6-12 reps with at least one set going to failure for each muscle group.  I recommend thoroughly fatiguing the muscle before going to failure, this means at least 4 sets achieving 6-12 reps each set followed by one set to failure. If you lift to failure too soon then your nervous system will stop sending strong impulses to the muscle and your ability to lift will be negatively affected before fully fatiguing the muscle which could inhibit sarcoplasmic growth.

Train to failure; then stop

Bodybuilders who train a different muscle group each day for 6 days use a lot of techniques to ensure their muscles are so thoroughly blasted that they need a week to recover.  They will use drop sets, partial reps, and negative reps so that they have absolutely nothing left.  If you are using the two or three-day split outlined above then you really should not try to blast your muscle anymore after lifting to failure.  If you do, your muscles will not recover in time for the next training session and you risk overtraining and frying your nervous system.  One set to failure for each lift is enough.  If you’ve thoroughly fatigued your muscles then you will need at least two days to recover before you hit that same muscle group.  On a three-day split you should aim to complete 6 training sessions in 8 days or lift four days per week on a two-day split.  Sticking with this type of regiment will ensure that you achieve sarcoplasmic hypertrophy during every session and your muscles will grow.

Final Thoughts

Your lower body has the greatest potential for mass building.  If you want to put on some quick muscle mass, then focusing on your lower body is the quickest way to go.  Even though I do not commit a full day of training to my lower body I will often start my training sessions with a few sets of heavy squats or deadlift.  Why?   Because putting your body under the strain of a few sets of very heavy lifts like these releases HGH into your system and primes your nervous system for some heavy lifting.  I’ve found that doing a few sets of these lifts before focusing on my upper body helps me to lift heavier weight and helps me more quickly build strength and mass in my upper body.

Using weight training to build muscle as outlined above will lead to impressive gains in muscle mass, and you will leave the gym feeling completely drained.  The amount of stress this puts on your body can be taxing over time so I recommend lifting in this way for no more then 12 weeks at a time.  Then take some time a full week off to let your body recover.

If you are interested in a weight training program that will explore these muscle building strategies in greater depth then I strongly recommend checking out Visual Impact Muscle Building.

If you are new to weight lifting then we recommend reading our Complete Guide to Weight Lifting for Beginners.

If you are looking for a weight training program that will help you pack on pounds of muscle then check out our Recommendations and our post on the Best Workout Programs for Building Muscle.

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2 Comments

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  1. Great article.
    Your tips are excellent for building muscle and the best thing is that with a 3 day split it is easier to keep a consistent schedule.
    It is very difficult for many to do a 5 or 6 day a week workout routine but a 3 day split is easier to manage.
    -Sam

  2. Very good muscle building strategies focused on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. I don’t think it’s the best way to train on a permanent basis but when you want a nice increase in muscle size, the routine and tips you outlined are great.

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