When you lift to optimize strength, you do in fact get bigger, but the methods won’t maximally increase muscle size. Instead, you’ll want to use a slightly different approach — one that requires you to choose a weight which you can instead lift for 8 to 12 reps. Still, you must meet these two conditions.
One, your form must be as clean as possible. There are any number of ways to cheat a weight up, but those recruit outside muscle groups and oftentimes momentum. Cheating effectively reduces the workload on the target musculature. That’s why you must learn how to do each exercise properly and keep practicing over and over, until it becomes second nature.
Two, it must be a true set of 8 to 12 reps. Anyone can put a few pounds on a bar and simply stop a set at 12, even if they could do another 20. A true set is one where you very nearly reach muscle failure by your target rep. Adjust the load accordingly to reach it.
As with strength training, muscle building primarily targets fast-twitch fibers. But here, the objective is to make them as large as possible. The workout changes to target muscle groups, and secondary exercises work the body part from different angles to maximize overall muscle development. While the intensity is lower than the strength trainer’s, because relatively lighter loads are used, the volume is higher and rest times are shortened.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing hypertrophy-based workouts for 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. But, we’ve tweaked that formula to put a slightly greater focus on strength earlier in your workout when fatigue is lowest, use volume to enhance fatigue (by including exercises that target the muscle group from different angles) and finish off with higher-rep pump training, which also contributes to hypertrophy.
If you have a workout partner, don’t be afraid to do a forced rep or two on your heaviest sets of any given exercise, especially toward the end of your workout to emphasize the pump.
TIPS ON HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE
- Do a 5 to 10-minute warm-up to elevate your heart rate and focus your mind. Progressively increase your warm-up intensity without overexerting.
- Do as many as you need warmup sets as you need, but never take them to failure.
- From one week to the next, strive to complete an additional rep or two, so long as you stay near the target rep or add weight (5% to upper body exercises, 10% to lower body).
- Ask for a spotter on your heaviest sets and take your heaviest or final 1 or 2 sets of your main multi-joint exercises to failure, even doing a forced rep or two.
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