There are a few things that need to happen in order to produce muscle growth. You need to use significant load when lifting weights Enough time under tension to create structural damage to the muscle tissue Enough stimuli to up-regulate anabolic hormones and increase protein synthesis Proper recovery and workout nutrition Many people often think that if they lift as heavy as possible, or use as much volume (sets and reps) as possible they will […]
The best way to build muscle is to perform full-body strength training sessions frequently throughout the week. The combo of lower and upper-body movement that involves multiple muscle groups done in a circuit fashion stimulates anabolic hormones and protein synthesis which are two of the major players at stimulating muscle growth.
Performing multiple full-body strength routines must be done correctly in order to produce results. Hitting each muscle group 3 to 4 days per week can be a lot for some if you don’t vary the rep ranges, tools, and exercises. Through variation, not only do you reduce your chances of overtraining and risk of injury, but you are also able to include power and endurance rep ranges as well.
This program is designed to set the foundation for muscle hypertrophy (growth). You will be allocating four days a week to hypertrophy training, with an optional fifth day to work on areas of the body that need a little extra or to make up the exercises that you missed during the week due to time constraints. The most optimal training split would be two on, one-off, one on, one-off, one on, optional workout, or off.
Your week could look like this.
- Monday workout one
- Tuesday workout two
- Wednesday off
- Thursday workout three
- Friday off
- Saturday workout four
- Sunday optional or off
The key, of course, is recovery. When you train 4 days per week it doesn’t allow you to always have a full day off between each workout. The most effective schedule I’ve used is 2-on, 1-off, 1-on, 1-off, 1-on, and 1-off (e.g., Mon/Tue/Thur/Sat). But the most important thing is to get in the four workouts each week.
So that means the first two workouts that are back-to-back must complement each other. Put another way: the first two workouts need to be drastically different from each other to avoid overtraining. You can’t lift heavy both of those days, and trying to lift heavy a day after you performed high reps isn’t good, either. Alternating lower rep sets (5×5, 10×2, 6×6), with higher rep sets (3×15, 4×12) works best for both recovery and optimal stimulation.
Exercise selection is also very important. You will alternate horizontal and vertical pushing exercises, horizontal and vertical pulling exercises, squats, lunges and hinges, and core work with loaded carries. These will allow you to hit your upper and lower body four times a week, but in a different pattern to avoid overtraining and produce muscle. Remember, the key to muscle growth is to build up more than you break down.
The volume per workout will not be as high as your traditional bodybuilding workouts. Performing ten to twenty sets per body part only one to two days a week is not an optimal method to produce muscular gains for athletes and the working class. Instead, working more muscle more often will produce large increases in anabolic hormones (testosterone, growth hormone) and protein synthesis, thus leading to more muscle. Hitting each muscle with high frequency and less volume will allow protein synthesis and anabolic hormones to remain high, and allow for sufficient recovery.
You should focus on the 5 fundamental movement patterns of hypertrophy training:
- Heavy Carry
These movements will make up the cornerstone of a hypertrophy program. There will be some additional movements in the workouts, such as biceps curls, lunges, and core work that you can add, but these movements will be the most critical. Remember, more muscle worked at one time across the body will improve muscle hypertrophy much more efficiently than isolating muscles.
Utilizing these 5 fundamental movement patterns will also reduce your time in the gym. With your busy schedules, it will be hard enough to fit in 4 solid workout programs each week. These workouts will be brief, yet focused, and will last 45-55 minutes, depending on the workout.
Below is an example of a 4-week hypertrophy phase program before you progress to more difficult movements:
Perform in a circuit fashion. Rest no more than sixty seconds between exercises. All movements except for the swing should be done with control.
- Soft Tissue Work (foam roll and ball work on the glutes, quads, t-spine, shoulders, etc.) as needed for five minutes
- Any correctives or mobility drills (hips, T-spine, ankle, shoulders) as needed for 5 minutes
- Turkish Get-ups 3 per side
- Jump Rope or jumping jacks for two minutes to activate the nervous system
1A Dumbbell Bench Press 5 x 5
1B Trap Bar Deadlift 5 x 5
1C Chin-ups 5 x 5
1D Farmers Carry 5 x 40 yards
Finisher: sled push for 3 sets of 40-50 yards. You can substitute all sled work with regular sprints. Same volume and distance will apply.
1A TRX/Bar Inverted Row 4 x 12
1B Goblet Squat 4 x 12
1C Half kneeling dumbbell overhead press 4 x 12
1D Hardstyle plank 4 x 20 seconds
Finisher: 2-hand kettlebell swing, 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off for 5 minutes
1A Pull-ups 6 x 6
1B Romanian deadlifts 6 x 6
1C Standing 2-KB Kettlebell Strict Press 6 x 6
1D Goblet carries 6 sets of thirty to forty yards
Finisher: sled push for 3 sets of 40-50 yards
1A Push-ups 5 x 10 (add weight if needed)
1B TRX/Bar Inverted Row 5 x 10
1C Goblet squat 5 x 10
1D Stability ball stir the pot 5 x 5 reps each direction
Finisher 3 sets of 10 of dumbbell biceps curls and lying dumbbell triceps extensions
Perform the warm-up and pick one movement pattern and perform 3 sets of 8 reps for that movement pattern (push/pull/hinge/squat). You can also choose to do anything that you missed throughout the week. For increased recovery, perform 20 minutes of cardio on the airdyne bike or concept 2 rower.
Frequent Training = More Muscle
When it comes to hypertrophy training, the volume will be the key factor. In order to get the proper amount of volume in you must training muscles frequently in order to cause enough stimuli to the muscle yet not over train. Blasting each muscle group with 20-sets once a week will not be enough frequency to elicit proper muscle growth and recovery for most mortals. Train muscle groups frequently to keep your muscles growing.