The thought of building large, sleeve-busting muscles can be very appealing. The work required to achieve them? Not so much. Although a ripped physique looks glamorous, the effort involved in creating it is anything but. Simply put, building muscle is tough, especially for advanced lifters, who often see their gains become more incremental over time.
The amount of work needed to grow muscles varies from person to person. Some people can add pounds of lean tissue with apparent ease, while others struggle to gain a single pound. Genetics matter. Proper lifting routines, diet plans and supplementation all play significant roles in building a physique, but the largest factor influencing the ability to grow muscle is determined at conception.
However, no one is doomed to have a rail-thin torso and lackluster legs. Several strategies can be employed to help pack muscle on even the skinniest of frames. One of the simplest, yet most effective methods is to modify rep ranges. Lifters looking to add size should experiment with low (1-5), medium (6-12) and high (13-20) rep sets when training. By incorporating all three, they will hit a variety of muscle fibers and shock their bodies into producing muscle at a more rapid pace.
Structuring Your Training Session
Training sessions should start with a multi-joint, full-body movement like a Deadlift or Hang Clean, which targets many muscle groups. Perform this exercise for three to four heavy sets in the low rep range.
After the big lift, move to an exercise that targets a few select muscle groups like a Dumbbell Row or a Barbell Good Morning. For these exercises, do three sets of medium range repetitions.
Finally, implement some high rep sets using isolation exercises that target specific muscles, either for enhanced development or to address a muscle weaknesses. Depending on age, experience and how you feel on a given day, you can perform anywhere from one to five sets of higher repetitions at the end of a workout for maximum fatigue. Appropriate exercises for this section of the workout include Hamstring Curls, Glute Bridges, Lateral Shoulder Raises, Barbell Curls and Calf Raises.
Sample Upper-Body Day
- Push Press - 3x3
- Supported Dumbbell Single-Arm Rows - 3x8
- TRX Pull-Ups - 2x muscle failure
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises - 3x15 using a drop set technique (A drop set with Lateral Raises might start with 15-pound dumbbells for 15 reps, followed by the 12's for 15 reps and finished with the 8's for 15 reps)
Sample Lower-Body Day
- Sumo Deadlifts - 5x2
- Bulgarian Split Squats - 3x6
- 45-Degree Back Extensions - 2x15
- Body Weight Lunge Iso-Hold - 1x muscle failure (Perform one set on each leg, holding the lunge position with your back knee about an inch off the ground for as long as you can.)
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