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With a whole host of strategies that are available for the picking, the world has no shortage of muscle building strategies that can take you where you would like to go and achieve what you'd like to with your physique. However, with so much information comes the very real possibility of getting lost in it all.
"This guy claims his way is better."
"That coach has made a ground-breaking discovery."
"This guy is a champion so he must be right."
The fitness industry has become a cornucopia of information that, in reality, is actually quite a perplexing maze. As a result, it is quite easy for one to get caught up in following too many things at once and lose sight of principles that have shown consistent results for decades.
Therefore, we're going to have a look at 3 mistakes that you could be making as a result of trying too many things at once. Fix these and you're going to be well on your way to making those hard-sought-after gains.
It's a well-documented fact (not conclusive, of course) that training with a rep range between 6 - 12 reps is optimal for muscle growth. This principle is taught in all major fitness courses around the country, put on almost every workout guide and plan and something every person who's gained a significant amount of muscle will tell you.
And why should it be any different? This rep range is where hypertrophy occurs, right?
Correct. But when you rigidly stick to the same patterns, you end up hitting a wall. That's inevitable.
Something every experienced lifter will tell you is that you have to get stronger to get bigger. There are no two ways around that. Maximal muscular development is built on a foundation of strength and this requires that you spend time training within that 1 - 5 rep range and develop your strength. Stronger muscles mean that you can create greater tension within that 6- 12 rep range and then set the stage for greater muscular growth.
On the flip side of that coin, higher rep work (15 - 20) reps help to increase the threshold at which lactic acid begins to accumulate. The problem with lactic acid is that beyond a certain point, it begins to hamper the muscle's ability to contract effectively which, in turn, affects how many reps you're able to perform. However, training in the higher rep range improves your muscle buffering capabilities and this allows for a delay in the lactic acid build-up. As a result, you develop a greater tolerance for higher volumes of work which is an important component for maximizing hypertrophy.
Whichever training program you choose to go with, make sure you include the full spectrum of loading ranges.
For the purposes of this section, we'll refer to the number of working sets one chooses to employ when training a certain muscle. There's a whole host of information out there claiming what set a range is optimal for muscular development. A lot of people even go so far as to say that 3 is the optimal set range and that anything beyond this is pointless.
One thing that research is clear about is that that multiple working sets are a must when trying to grow your muscles. The problem lies in the fact that even if you train using multiple sets per exercise, your training volume may still not be enough for the muscle you're choosing to work.
A key factor one must take into consideration when choosing the number sets to work with is the size of the muscle. Obviously, a muscle group like back or legs would need a much greater training volume vs, for example, arms (which already get a lot of auxiliary work when training big muscle groups).
One more factor to consider is your training split. According to Brad Schoenfeld PhD, "The composition of your split will influence training daily volume (a 3-day split allows for a greater volume per muscle group compared with a 2-day split). Accordingly, training volume is best determined on a weekly basis as opposed to a single session."
Just keep in mind to periodize your training. In other words, if you go high volume for weeks on end without changing it up to something that's a little slow or lower in intensity, you could suffer the effects of overtraining. So be mindful when selecting your training strategy.
Everyone who lifts doesn't just want to get big. They want to get lean as well. And yes, when you're first starting out, this is a very possible result when it comes to your training. However, once you've passed that initial phase, any veteran lifter will tell that such results are a thing of the past. The reality after that is you need to make a choice: either focus on building or focus on cutting. You can't do both.
You have to realise that when trying to combine both goals and achieve them simultaneously, you get in the way of all the processes that drive anabolism. According to Brad Schoenfeld PhD, “This is consistent with the AMPK-PKB switch hypothesis, which suggests that endurance and strength-related exercise activate and suppress distinct genes and signaling pathways, and these pathways have conflicting actions.” In other words, actions geared towards shredding and building result in conflicting signals being sent.
Now that’s not to say that when you’re building, don’t do cardio. Cardio is a vital component of any healthy individual. What you shouldn’t be doing is an hour on the treadmill while trying to build. A safe bet would be that anything beyond 20 minutes is a no-go when trying to build up.
The take-home message is this: If you’re going to focus on gains, focus on gains. If you’re going to focus on shreds, then focus on shreds.
We hope this clears up a few uncertainties that you may have had. Adhere to these three principles and you'll be well on your way to achieving the physique you want without too much information and indecision getting in the way.