Gym goers are always in the look out for the optimal number of reps, sets, or exercises. While some basics should be kept in mind, but consistency matters.
Now, now physique is built over a few months. It takes years of consistency to achieve that “Instagram-worthy” physique. To put things into perspective, let’s elaborate our discussion.
For one, let’s discuss the number of workouts per muscle to be performed in a week.
1. The Muscle Hypertrophy
Now, the world of bodybuilding is divided into two groups: strength training and muscle hypertrophy. While, in strength training, a person training to lift as much weight for one rep as they can. In muscle hypertrophy, one is only concerned about building a muscular physique. The interesting part is that they both are interrelated. However, here we are only concerned about muscle hypertrophy.
1.1 The Science
Whenever a person works out, they wear and tear their muscle fibers. This is done by providing appropriate resistance to the muscle. Whether it is through dumbbells, barbells, or machines. Now, when you rest and sleep, the body repairs these broken muscle fibers. It does so that once repaired, they would be bigger and stronger. So, the next time the muscles can withstand the resistance. Thus, muscles are built in your sleep.
1.2 The Relation
Now strength and hypertrophy are inter-related. To build muscle, one has to progressive overload. Our muscle gets used to resistance over time. Therefore, you need to challenge your muscles with a heavier resistance. So, automatically you have to gain strength to build muscles. That’s why, whenever you see a huge muscular guy, he is strong too.
1.3 The Training Approach
Usually, for muscle hypertrophy, the best range is 8-12 reps per set. However, one can go up to 20 reps and still build muscle. The range after 20 reps is for muscle endurance. Try to challenge yourself in those 8-12 reps. A set should be trained till failure. The 12th rep should be such that you couldn’t do anymore. That’s called “achieving muscle failure”. Try to do 12-20 sets per muscle group for optimal growth.
1.4 A Protein Rich Diet
You can’t get huge muscles until you feed your body with nutrients. Protein is an integral part of building muscle. They have amino acids in them, which in turn help the body repair broken muscle fibers. Usually, the recommended range of protein for muscle growth is 1-1.2 gms per pound of body weight. Carbohydrates and fats are an essential part of the human diet too.
Carbohydrates help fuel your workout and fats help lubricate your joints. These can be distributed according to personal preference. Also, to build muscle, it is important to eat in 200-300 calorie surplus over your maintenance calories.
2. How Many Workouts Do Your Need Per Muscle?
Just like life, some small things make a huge difference over time. In the first year of training itself, you will build the most number of muscles. No matter what your diet or training split is, it works nonetheless. After spending a year working out, over time your progress slows down. That’s the time when you should start changing your workouts. That’s the time that you should research more about muscle hypertrophy.
However, it is very easy for us to overtrain. Seeing those Instagram influencers bragging about “the optimal” sets or reps or workouts intimidates us. But in reality, the basics always work. It is okay to workout a muscle once a week as long as you are doing between 12-20 sets. However, new studies suggest that training twice per week is the most optimal for muscle building. It’s for you to decide how you distribute the overall volume of sets per muscle.
3. Workout Splits to Train
It’s important to understand how to distribute that 12-20 sets per muscle in the whole week. There are many ways to train. But the three staple methods of training are listed below.
3.1 The Bro Split
A bro split is when you train every muscle on a particular day. Usually, the chest is done on Monday, back on Tuesday, arms on Wednesday, shoulder on Friday, and legs on Friday. This is the usual way; however, you could take a day off on Thursday and then again, a rest day on Sunday. This helps prevent fatigue and gives an appropriate time for your muscles to recover.
This is the most popular yet most criticized one. Every beginner starts working out in this way only. The compound lifts are done at the start of the workout followed by the isolation movements.
3.2 Push Pull Legs
The PPL or push-pull legs split is trending on the internet and in gyms nowadays. It is claimed to be the best muscle builder out there. In this split, one trains back and biceps on the pull day. This is followed by chest, shoulder, and triceps on the push day and then legs. The idea is that, on chest days, the shoulder and triceps are the secondary movers. Then it’s better to train them on the same day. The same is true with the back and biceps. However, the leg is given a separate day as it is and big muscle containing the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
Usually, push day is Monday, pull day is Tuesday followed by leg day on Wednesday. Then it’s a rest day on Thursday. Again, there’s push day on Friday and pull day on Saturday. This way each muscle is trained twice per week. However, you could train your legs twice a week by skipping a rest day. But a separate day is enough for our legs.
3.3 The Full-Body Split
A full-body split is the most time-efficient split. In this split, you train every muscle, every other day. In this way, you train a muscle thrice a week. Plus, you give an ample amount of rest to your muscles to grow. This split is especially for those who are ridiculously busy but still want to remain fit. Also, you could build muscles by doing this split.
Usually, a full-body workout is done every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are usually the rest days. But you can mix and match and find the best for you. Just try to do as many compound lifts as possible. It involves most of the muscles to perform them.
3.4 Make Your Own Split
However, these are basic splits, an individual can design their own split too. These all can be molded according to your preference. Just make sure you give at least 24-48 hours of rest between training two muscle groups. This ensures optimal muscle recovery. Keep a goal of doing 12-20 sets per muscle group for increased muscle size.
4. Things to Remember When Exercising Your Muscles
4.1 Importance of Compound Lifts
The best exercises to increase muscle size are done with a barbell. These involve the most number of muscles to perform them. Remember to incorporate these lifts at the beginning of your workout. Doing too many isolation exercises would hinder your progress.
4.2 Doing Too Much
It’s very easy to get intimidated by the “big muscular dudes” in the gym. It’s okay to idealize and learn from them. Doing the same as them is what needs to be prohibited. They have built a strong foundation and have been training for years. It is okay for them to increase volume according to their needs. But you are not yet there. First master basics for 3-5 years and then incorporate other things.
4.3 Too Heavy, Too Soon
A 250 kg deadlift is intimidating surely. But don’t try and make it a goal. Try to first learn the movement, and then over time increase the weight. Ego-lifting is probably what causes the most injuries. Some of these could also stick with you for life. So, perform every exercise with the appropriate technique to reap the most benefit out of training.
Now you know the science behind training splits and muscle building. Start incorporating these from your next workout and see the change for yourself. And always remember, if the foundation is strong, then the building is always stable and everlasting.