Get Stronger & Bulk Up
Resistance is resistance.
Want to build some muscle?
If you want to increase your strength and muscle size efficiently, you need to not only eat the right things, but eat enough of the right things. And you need to not only exercise, but perform enough of the right kinds of exercise. There are many different ways of performing resistance training. The right kind for you will ultimately be decided by what is sustainable in your circumstance or by what your end goal or vision is. Making sure you can get it done regularly, and that you repeatedly challenge and push yourself to near failure before a brief recovery rest during your workouts, followed by a longer period of rest to recover after your workouts, are the main keys to building strength and muscle. Whether it's heavy weight low volume, or lighter weight high volume, or even a combination of both, so long as you do this, it all still builds muscle. Use what you have accessible to you to make sure it gets done. Basically, whatever method of resistance training you use, to efficiently train for strength or to bulk up you need periods of progressive overload followed by periods of rest. The overload process uses resistance to break your muscles down, and the rest process allows them to be repaired. Along with eating enough protein for your body mass and activity levels as part of a calorie controlled balanced diet, sufficient overload can keep protein synthesis elevated and heightened in your body for anything up to 48 hours at a time, enabling your body to generate more muscle mass as it repairs and strengthens your muscles during the rest periods after your workouts.
Strength Train & Bulk Up with Diet.
You are what you eat.
Diet plays a very important role in getting results from any form of exercise. If you are training for both strength and burning fat, you will need to create a calorie deficit. If you are training for strength alone, eat enough to sustain your bodyweight for the level of intensity exercise you are doing. If you are looking to bulk up, you will need more calories than usual as your goal is to increase your body mass. You don't want to eat to get fat though, you just want a little higher than maintenance calories, after taking into consideration your workouts calorie burn, to ensure anabolic effects are being promoted efficiently. So how much you need to eat all depends on the intensity and the duration of the sessions in your programme relative to your end goal. It should be noted that you can still build muscle in a calorie deficit, but it is more effective to do so in a calorie surplus as protein synthesis lowers relative to the size of a calorie deficit, making muscle growth slower and harder to achieve.
Macro nutrient balance and supplements.
Make sure you are eating healthy proportions of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates to provide energy for the workouts, protein to rebuild after the workouts and fat to increase testosterone levels, lubricate joints and aid recovery. The nutrition calculator will help you with this. Your optimum protein levels, are decided by your bodyweight and the intensity of exercise you are doing. When training to increase your size, carbohydrates should be the highest component of your diet as they provide the most efficient fuel to power your workouts, and preserve protein. Consuming protein over that optimum protein level in a calorie surplus would still get you results, only you would likely get more efficient results from consuming more carbohydrates or fats instead. When training to reduce your size, your optimum protein levels should still be maintained, and your carbohydrates and fat levels should be reduced accordingly to keep you inside your calorie deficit. So basically, your protein levels can remain the same what ever your goal, and your carbohydrate and fat intake should be adjusted accordingly depending on what your caloric goal is, and what your personal preferences are.
A more detailed macro nutrient example can be found in the protein section along with how to work out your optimal protein intake for the type of activity you do, and the benefits of taking protein supplements, such as whey, in order to meet that essential protein requirement in a healthy way.
As general rule when strength training, most people opt for one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
But that is actually more than is required on the basis that it's better to have slightly more than slightly less. Protein studies have shown that 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is enough for good muscle growth. Protein is the essential corner stone of building muscle. Just as a flower cannot grow without sufficient sunlight, a muscle cannot grow without sufficient protein. So ensuring you get enough protein really is essential for muscle growth. But protein isn't the only essential ingredient. Be sure to read the balanced diet section to find out why.
Other optional supplements.
Whilst getting the right amount of protein is absolutely vital for good results, creatine, glutamine, and fish oils whilst useful in their own right, are optional fine tuning extras.
Creatine, or creatine phosphate, is a safe, and proven highly effective supplement that really works. It enables your muscles to keep contracting with intensity. The more of it in your system the more you can lift. It enables you to work harder so you can put more intensity into your workouts and get better results. You can also get it from your diet by eating lots of red meat.
Glutamine is an easily attainable amino acid. It can be found in almost all major food sources that are also rich in protein including beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, dairy products, cabbage, beets, and beans to name few. It assists protein synthesis and therefore aids muscle production. It also supports and aids the immune, and dietary systems. Given that excess glutamine just goes to waste and that it is found so readily in a balanced diet, you should not need it as a supplement unless you are on a low calorie diet and think you are not eating enough of the mentioned types of foods to sustain your muscle mass. People take glutamine in an attempt to try to minimise catabolism / muscle loss as much as possible. Whilst it does work, it's most effective on a low calorie diet where catabolism of muscle tissue becomes an issue.
Fish oil supplements supply your body with omega 3 to help reduce inflammation after work outs and aid the lubrication of joints. If you suffer badly from this after workouts, it's likely you are not getting enough omega 3 in your diet so fish oils supplements would be a good investment.
Whatever your resistance training method. Train hard.
If you are eating more to bulk up and don't put in sufficient intensity in your workouts to utilise these extra calories, or you eat a bad unbalanced diet for your goal, you will most likely just put on unwanted body fat. You may also be raising your bad cholesterol. Be sure to read the food guide, dieting guide and food ratios sections for advice on making good choices towards eating healthily for an active lifestyle. Use the nutrition calculator to find a balanced food ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fats tailored to your specific calorie goal and weight. To avoid unwanted weight gain, you could always start at your maintenance calorie levels and add calories gradually if you find your results are too slow after a few weeks.
Work out how much you need to eat.
Use the calorie calculator to find out how many calories you should be consuming daily. Remember this is just a guide, everybody is slightly different.
Assuming that you are working out sufficiently 3 to 5 times a week, find your 'day to day' metabolic rate and then add 300 to 500 calories for building muscle and bulking up, or deduct 300 to 500 calories when losing weight or cutting, to get your recommended daily calorie intake.
Alternatively, find your 'mid' activity level metabolic rate and multiply it by 1.1 (add 10%) for building muscle and bulking up, or by 0.8 to 0.75 (20% to 25% reduction) when losing weight or cutting. The calorie calculator actually does this for you.
You'll notice the figures are slightly different. That's fine, either way, at this point it is just about finding an estimated good place to start. It can be adjusted to your body's feedback later on. Remember, when it comes to gaining weight, you don't want to eat to get fat, you just want a little higher than maintenance calories, after taking into consideration your workouts calorie burn, to ensure anabolic effects are being promoted efficiently. Your body will have an upper limit on the amount of nutrients it can utilise for muscle growth. Above that you'll just get fatter. Again, to avoid unwanted weight gain, you could always start at your maintenance calorie levels and add calories gradually if you find your results are too slow after a few weeks. It's just a starting point and will more than likely be tweaked later anyway depending on your body's feedback. Be on a suitable progressive overload strength training programme to accelerate protein synthesis as much as possible in order to utilise these extra calories to good effect, and don't forget to do some cardio too for health reasons. Whatever calorie intake you decide on, the limit should be adjusted higher or lower once you get going depending on results.
Want to bulk up?
You only need to eat more when intending to bulk as protein synthesis slows down proportionately to the size of a persons calorie deficit. How much more you need to eat depends on how many calories you are burning, which in turn will depends on the frequency and volume of training you are doing (how often and how long you are working out for, and how much you pack into each workout). 10% above your calorie maintenance levels, inclusive of your activity levels, and eating sufficient protein for your size and activity levels should be enough to ensure you are maximising protein synthesis without promoting rapid fat gain.
If you are trying to put on weight to bulk up, you want to gain muscle not fat. So take it gradually and keep monitoring your body's feedback increasing the resistance each week and adapting your routine every month to stimulate more growth. It should be noted that your body's feedback when bulking up is much easier to monitor when starting from a relatively lean healthy condition. If you are very overweight and out of shape, you might want to seriously consider burning fat and toning up before attempting to eat more than usual to bulk up.
Why it's best to get leaner and healthier before you eat more to bulk up.
In the long run, bulking up from a leaner body state will pay dividends for several reasons. Firstly, it is much healthier, as if you are already overweight to begin with and eating more to build muscle this can be very detrimental to your health. Especially as it means you are unlikely to have sorted your diet out that led you to your current shape in the first place. If you are lean you will also know your lean healthy weight which will help you to decide on the ideal weight you want to become as you get heavier from gaining muscle. This is a lot harder to do if you are already carrying a lot of visceral body fat. Secondly, it is much easier to visually monitor if you are getting fatter or more muscular starting from a leaner body state. This is crucial when adjusting your calories and cardio accordingly to get the vital balance of growth. Also, you will actually look visibly better, rather than just bigger, and actually be much healthier, through your whole process of bulking up. This is a great psychological advantage in achieving your end goal as you will feel absolutely amazing and proud of your body throughout the whole process. Thirdly, you'll probably actually achieve your end goal much faster and in a more sustainable manner starting from a leaner healthier position. The sudden switch of training styles from total body HIIT to more focused resistance training, once you have lost a bulk of body fat in the shortest time possible, combined with the increased calorie intake, is also perfect for preventing the plateau that would have inevitably occurred from slogging away at resistance training and endless treadmill runs on a calorie deficit diet for months on end trying to lose weight. Sometimes you have to break your end goal down into sub goals to achieve it more efficiently and effectively.
You need solid foundations to build anything - including your muscles.
Although it may not be the goal you want to achieve right now, you should think of getting leaner before trying to bulk up as first ensuring you have laid solid stable foundations before attempting to build your house. Or even better, stripping down a damaged building to the core so you can rebuild it stronger and better, rather than just trying to patch up the damage that is already there. Be clear on what your objectives are and how to get there. Don't mix up your goals in an attempt to cut corners. Remember you can't turn fat to muscle, you need to be in a calorie deficit to burn fat and this can be detrimental to building muscle. You don't want your goals to cancel each other out from the outset. Get rid of the fat, get in shape, optimise and improve what you already have, then focus on building the muscle healthily. The 4 Minute Max Outs can also be focused to be a total body conditioning programme that will burn fat fast, improve your cardio, and shape and strengthen your muscles leaving you in prime shape for bulking up in a short space of time.
Monitor and make adjustments when needed.
As a rough guide and assuming you are starting from a relatively lean healthy bodyweight, 3 to 4 weeks after initially commencing on your diet and routine to bulk up, make any necessary changes to your diet and then continuously monitor weekly or fortnightly, making changes again if necessary. Use the tape measure around the waist over the belly button. Monitor strength gains. Use the mirror. You need to ensure weight gain is muscle and that you are not making your self fat from the changes. This is best done by taking things slowly and finding the right balance between diet and exercise for your body. Although you want to be in calorie surplus for your size, you don't want the surplus to be too big or you will accumulate body fat much faster than muscle. Aiming for 2 pounds a month is a good rate. Any more than that and you're most likely just accumulating additional fat.
Watch for signs you are straying from your goal.
Again, as a rough guide, if you are losing weight, you can't be eating enough, so add 500 calories per day. If your weight is the same, you are not achieving your goal, so add 350 calories per day and review your progressive overload strategy. If your gains are too slow, add 200 calories per day and review your progressive overload strategy. It's not just about calories, it could be you need to mix up your workout routine or increase your overload. If your gains are spot on, stay as you are. If you feel you are getting fat, drop your calories by 250 per day and or consider upping the cardio / HIIT in your routine to increase your calorie burn. If you find it very hard to put on weight, you can add another 150 to 200 calories to those additional calories above. So basically, after the first 3 to 4 weeks you should keep monitoring your body's feedback weekly or fortnightly and adjust your calories and workouts according to your end goal if required. Don't make adjustments every week just for the sake of it. Only do it if you need to, that is, if you notice that you are putting on fat very rapidly or else you are losing weight consistently as these show that you are straying from your target goal. Try to give your body a couple of weeks to adapt to changes.
Always try to find out more.
When strength training or bulking up, it's important to eat healthily as well as eat enough for your goal. See the protein, carbohydrates, and fats sections to find out how each of these macro nutrients effect your body and the type of foods you will find them in. See the dieting guide section for useful information on eating a healthy balanced diet for an active lifestyle. See the food guide section for a summary of the main macro nutrients found in common foods along with their approximate calorie values. Read the food ratios section and use the nutrition calculator to find a balanced food ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fats tailored to your specific calorie goal and weight.
Strength Train & Bulk Up with Exercise.
Resistance training is a form of high intensity exercise that works just the anaerobic system (as opposed to HIIT that works both the aerobic and anaerobic systems), utilising glycogen in the muscles as the main source of fuel.
Bulking up is a general term used for those performing strength training to build lots of muscle mass. The difference between strength training and bulking up is just that bulking up requires you to eat more calories as you are aiming to optimally increase your body mass, rather than just training to improve general strength with more moderate gains in muscle mass, which can be achieved on maintenance calories and even in a modest caloric deficit. The process for strength training and bulking up is exactly the same. Resistance training.
To efficiently train for strength or to bulk up you need periods of progressive overload followed by periods of rest. The overload process during your workouts breaks your muscles down, and the rest process after your workouts allows them to be repaired. Along with eating enough protein for your body mass and activity levels as part of a balanced diet, this process will keep protein synthesis elevated and heightened in your body for anything up to 48 hours, allowing your body to build more muscle mass over time.
What provides the overload in your workouts, whether it be weights, kettle bells, or your own bodyweight, is up to you. Resistance is resistance. It all stimulates protein synthesis to an extent. Repeatedly working your muscles to near failure followed by a period of rest inside of your workouts is the key. In the absence of heavy weights, if that means more volume, so be it. You will still build strength and muscle. If you have access to a large enough range of them, and know what you are doing with them, heavy weights are the most efficient option to rapidly increase muscle size, as they are the most focused and adjustable to keep any exercise within the optimal range of reps for best results and time saving. However, any form of resistance can get the job done under the right conditions. It depends on your circumstance and what methods are accessible to you, or your ultimate goal and vision, as to which is the best method for you to perform.
For the vast majority of people, bodyweight training can return the kind of results that most people find visually desirable. Good lean muscle growth and tone along with solid strength and functional fitness gains, and all round agility that translates well to improved performance in sports. If your vision is to be a bulky body builder type, however, you'll really benefit most from lifting lower rep heavy weights, that are far greater than your body weight can provide. Provided they are accessible to you of course. Saying that though, you'd be surprised just how much resistance body weight can provide. Think how many kilograms your body is due to gravity alone. With leverage and motion you can spread or multiply that weight and apply it to any part of your body at will. That's your adjustable weights rack.
Free weights vs bodyweight.
Resistance is resistance in whatever form it comes. Don't be fooled by the lack of equipment with bodyweight training. Bodyweight is still resistance. Itâ€™s all about focus. Think how many kilograms your body is due to gravity alone. With leverage and motion you can spread or multiply that weight and apply it to any part of your body at will. That's your adjustable weights rack. Bodyweight training is notoriously tough. Although using weights is the most efficient way to strength train and bulk up, provided you have a large, readily accessible, and heavy enough range of them that is, this is only because they can allow you to lift much greater than your own body weight if that is what is required for your goal. But then so does plyometrics with bodyweight training. It's certainly not to say that you canâ€™t build muscle or strength without equipment. What matters is that the resistance used brings your muscles to near failure, even if that means more volume. You have to also consider what you'd do to keep things sustainable when you don't have access to a large selection of weights or can't afford gym membership?
No matter your goals, it always pays to have a portable no equipment workout, such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, to ensure you never have to skip workouts.
So long as the principles of progressive overload and rest are maintained and you wear your muscles down to the point of near failure inside the workout, you can certainly increase your strength and muscle mass just by using your own bodyweight.
You need to overload a muscle by repeating a movement with resistance (known as a rep) enough times until the muscle reaches the point of near failure (the whole process is known as a set).
The resistance whereby performing one rep would bring your muscle to the point of near failure is known as your 1 repetition max or 1RM for that exercise. The 1RM is used as a relative figure for the resistance intensity you should aim to use for that exercise. For example, do set 1 at 60% 1RM and sets 2 and 3 at 80% 1RM is telling you to increase the resistance (overload) for sets 2 and 3 from 60% of the maximum you could lift in a single rep, to 80% of the maximum you could lift in a single rep.
For 'maximum efficiency' when strength training, for hypertrophy (muscle growth), it is optimal to use enough resistance so that your muscle can only repeat each rep 8 to 12 times before reaching the point of near failure. This rep range optimally works your muscle fibres for growth. Being able to do many more reps than that becomes less efficient for hypertrophy as your weight is too light, however this weight would be good for endurance training. Not being able to do as many reps as that also becomes less efficient for hypertrophy as your weight is too heavy, however it would be good for training power and raw strength and explosive bursts rather than optimally for muscle growth. After each set you need to let the muscle recover for up to a minute, or longer depending on the weight of the lifts, before doing it over again. Repeating this process 3 times would be termed 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Depending on how many sets and reps is required this process is usually written something like this
3 sets x 8 reps
3 sets x 10 reps
3 sets x 12 reps
3 to 5 sets of your desired amount of reps are usually performed to get good gains.
The actual amount of sets and reps you do depends on your goals. With dynamic set training, looked at below, you can pack much more volume (sets) and intensity into your workout time.
Slow, intermediate and fast twitch muscle fibres.
Muscle fibers are recruited according to the resistance being applied. If slow twitch fibers cannot handle the resistance being applied, intermediate fibers are recruited, and when they cannot handle the resistance applied, fast twitch fibers kick in.
Low rep range - 3 to 6 reps
Low rep ranges with high resistance recruit all your muscle fibres and result in the best increases in strength and power. The classic and most effective approach for building strength and power is the 5 x 5 training method whereby you do 5 sets of 5RM of compound exercises 3 times a week. An simple basic example of this could be doing bench press and weighted pull ups in session 1, squats and dead lifts in session 2, and seated row and overhead press in session 3, so by the end of the week you have trained the whole body and each muscle group will have plenty of time to rest before the next week. Very simple, but very effective. Whilst in a calorie surplus and intaking enough protein for your body mass, those 6 compound weight lifting moves, are the most effective way to build brute strength and deep muscle mass by working the body's largest muscle groups to near failure with low reps. You can then add isolation work around those in the moderate and high rep ranges once you have seen good advances in strength. It was a technique used to maximum effect by Reg Parks in the 1950's to gain 20 inch arms and a 500lb bench press, and also by Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he mentored. There are many ways to mix up the exercises in 5 x 5 training which a quick search online will show you.
Moderate rep range - 8 to 12 reps
Moderate rep ranges recruit the slow, intermediate, and some fast twitch fibres and result in the best increases in muscle size (hypertrophy). It is the most commonly performed rep range. Although, the lower rep range will build your strength much faster, enabling you to lift greater weight in this rep range over time. It's good to do the core heavy strength work first to build your strength up. Then integrate the moderate reps and weight ranges with isolation exercises, such as incline press, biceps curls, lateral raises, leg curls etc, into your routines. This will add progressive overload initially by increasing your workout volume, and serve help to maximise hypertrophy whilst still ensuring advances in strength so you can continue to efficiently advance on the weight being lifted too.
High rep range - 15+ reps
There's an old joke saying from those weight lifting to bulk up that 'anything over 8 reps is cardio'. But how true is that? High rep ranges recruit the slow and intermediate twitch muscle fibres and result in the best increase in muscular endurance. Traditionally high rep training with lighter weights was thought to produce less muscle growth than the moderate and low rep ranges. Whilst this may be true if you are not doing enough volume or lifting enough to bring yourself to near failure in your workouts, new research shows that lower weight high rep training actually returns similar growth to higher weight lower rep training. What matters most, more than the rep range and weight, seems to be a combination of time under tension, recovery times, and repeatedly doing enough work to bring your muscles to near failure. So, while the lower rep heavier weight ranges remain more efficient at continoulsy increasing muscle mass and strength if you have the weight ranges accessible to you to do so, despite conventional beliefs, higher volume lighter weight training can increase strength and grow muscle too.
Never decide to do nothing.
Something important to note is that the above guidelines are about 'maximum efficiency' towards your goal 'on paper'. Never decide to do nothing just because the 'most efficient' option isn't available to you. All set ranges can build muscle if you do enough volume and frequency to bring your muscles to failure and then allow enough rest to repeat the process. Depending on your strength to weight ratio, The 4 Minute Max Outs Burn Max Outs will cover the moderate to high rep range for a lot of movements, but will almost certainly have you reach failure in the lower rep ranges too as the workouts progress. Doing a combination of higher rep lighter weight / and lower rep heavier weight training covers all the bases. When training for pure strength, it depends on your circumstance and what methods are accessible to you as to which is the best rep range to perform for you. Remember all set ranges can build muscle, just at different rates. Also different training types can bring added advantages over others. HIIT for instance, which bodyweight strength training can easily be integrated into, also utilises fast twitch muscle fibres. Bodyweight training is also excellent at generating all round functional strength and agility for your size, which lifting heavy weights alone is incredibly poor at doing.
To get effective muscle growth results over time, you need progressive overload. As said, ideally the overload should be heavy enough to bring your muscles to near failure by the time it reaches 8 to 12 reps. That is, it would be hard pushed to do another rep after that without rest before another set. However, as your muscle grows and adapts to this overload over time on your rest days, you will find it becomes easier to lift the same weight for the same amount of sets and reps or even more. This is when you should think about progressing the overload in order for the muscle to grow at the same rate. You progress the overload by any combination of either increasing the weight, increasing the amount of reps and sets (volume), reducing the time in between sets, or slowing the movements down. You could also increase the frequency of your workouts if you find you are recovering very fast between sessions.
Time & technique vs weight efficiency.
In a gym you have a huge selection of weight variance. So you'll often see advice saying things like you should structure your sets so that you can do a preparation starting set of 12 reps with a say 60% 1RM. Then do a set of 10 reps with a say 70% 1RM. Followed by a set of 8 reps with a say 80% 1RM. Followed with 2 power sets of say 4 to 6 reps at 85% 1RM to completely finish off that muscle group. And there's nothing wrong with that pyramid style of training as just one way of doing things. Or even better, swapping it round and performing a reverse pyramid structure whereby you lift the heaviest weights first to failure whilst you still have the most energy, enabling you lift even heavier weights than the other way round, then drop the weight with each set, each time working to failure to work your way through the complete range of muscle fibres.
However, when you step back and consider that key motivator, accessibility, this advice may actually put a lot of people off starting weight training who simply don't have the equipment or money to do that. Your average person at home with dumbbells wanting to build a bit of muscle will unlikely have that amount of weight variance so it's much more ideal for them to start with a weight that allows just 3 x 5 - 8 reps. Then as they get stronger over time, it gives them plenty of scope to increase the reps, and increase the sets, before they need to pay out more money to increase the weight to satisfy the progressive overload requirement. Always remember, what matters more than maximum efficiency is, the maximum efficiency that you can achieve from your circumstance. Nobody can do better than that.
You could just increase the weight straight away of course, which is the ideal scenario and perfect if you're in a fully equipped gym as it keeps your workout time shorter. However not everyone has that luxury. So it's important to know how to get the most of your home dumbbell set for muscle growth if that's all you have accessible. It's still certainly enough to see results. If at home with home weights your options of additional weights will probably be much more restrictive and also very expensive to buy every time you want to progressively add more resistance. However, increasing the reps and sets before you increase the weight, will allow you to use the same equipment for longer and still progress the overload when needed. Unfortunately, it will increase your workout time and volume, but it's better this than just banging away at the same routine with no progression and seeing no results. With resistance training, you need to continuously shock your muscles to keep results rolling in or else they simply adapt to the routine. Below are some tips on how to do this without all the weights in the world available to you.
Tips for those with restricted equipment.
Here are some great tips to get the most out of your home dumbbells when you are restricted for additional weights to progress the overload in your workouts.
- Firstly, the simplest thing to do is start by doing your moves in your workout in a different order each time. This will put different strains on the various supporting muscles and cause every exercise to serve as a pre fatigue for another exercise in different way than it did before.
- Secondly, as said, time and time again, weights are not the only way to build muscle. Bodyweight training such as The 4 Minute Max Outs can see great gains in strength with no equipment needed at all. And as The 4 Minute Max Outs continuously throws up workouts in a different order every time, it continuously puts different strains on your body to keep your muscles shocked. As The 4 Minute Max Outs also has a dual focus for each Max Out, you can even easily incorporate strength Max Outs into your weights routine to augment it.
- Increase the sets and reps in each set before you go upping the weight. Also remember that the range of 3-5 sets of 5 to 12 reps is the optimal range for strength and muscle growth but that doesn't mean more than 12 reps wont build any muscle or stimulate increased protein synthesis. It just means you wont build as 'efficiently' as if you were in the 5 to 12 rep range. It might mean more reps and volume, but so long as you take your set to near failure before a short recovery, it will still build muscle and is vastly superior to just fixating on the same rep, set, and weight range and expecting to get results. You have to push yourself. If that means more volume in the absence of heavier weights. So be it.
- Do slower more controlled movements going slower on the eccentric phase of the movement (the extension of the muscle. The contraction of the muscle is known as the concentric phase). The eccentric phase utilises less muscle fibres than the concentric phase causing higher relative resistance with the same weight and creating more micro tears and muscle damage that leads to improved growth.
- Aim to keep Time Under Tension (TUT) for each set between 40 to 70 seconds. This stimulates the optimal testosterone response for muscle growth. So if you were doing 8 reps per set you could start by allowing 5 seconds for each rep, 2 seconds in the concentric phase and 3 seconds in the eccentric phase. Try to keep a general rhythm going. The set would be completed in 40 seconds. 10 reps would take 50 seconds. 12 reps would take 60 seconds. You then have leeway to do reps even slower as a form of overload and still stay in 40 to 70 seconds TUT range.
- If you are resistance training for weight loss, keep the rest time after each set as close to 30 to 45 seconds as you can. After really heavy lifts, allow up to 120 seconds for recovery. Otherwise, try to keep your rest breaks around 60 seconds. Although rest is compulsory to recharge when working out, you don't need to take a whole body minute break between sets. You just need to rest the muscle last worked for around a minute. The idea is to allow just enough time to recover so that you can re perform the set at the same intensity as before. This is why the weight of the lifts alter the time needed to recover between sets. See dynamic set training below for more on this.
- Incorporate plyometrics (jumping techniques). Take Lunge Left to Lunge Right for example. If you have no where to go additional weight wise, to add progressive overload try Lunge Left JUMP TO Lunge Right. This requires both more explosive power in the concentric jump phase and more resistive eccentric strength in the land phase as gravity and momentum force downwards adding more weight for you muscles to resist. Pay particular attention to your form if doing this however.
- Do exhaustion sets. Once you have finished your sets with weights, you could do bodyweight strength moves such as those found in The 4 Minute Max Outs upper, lower, and complete body Burn Max Outs to bring your muscles as close to the point of failure as possible and work your muscles in a more varied way to help avoid results plateaus.
- Do pre fatigue sets. Tire individual muscles by doing isolated focused movements for each muscle in a specific area. Then do a compound exercise to cover all those muscles together. This way you can still bring your larger muscles to fatigue in the compound exercise that you would otherwise have needed much more weight to train efficiently. With pre fatigue sets, more emphasis is also put on the stabilising muscles in the motion. Again, doing bodyweight strength moves such as those found in The 4 Minute Max Outs upper, lower, and complete body Burn Max Outs could serve as a good pre fatigue set and also help avoid results plateaus by varying your workout style.
Pre fatigue set examples using dumbbells at home, where you don't have all the weight you would ideally put on a barbell in a gym, could be:-
For the lower body you could do dumbbell split squats (these are one leg at a time so it's like a weight double up on each leg), dumbbell lunge pulses (also one leg at a time) then dumbbell full lunges (full body) followed by dumbbell box squats (full body).
For the upper body you could do 360 rotation flys (need lighter weight as works outer fibres of chest), wide grip bodyweight press ups (works outer fibres of chest also) then dumbbell bench press (uses whole chest and stabilising muscles).
If you're in a gym on the other hand, it's more efficient to just up the weight for the progressive overload to save time on that muscle movement, however, that said all these techniques will work your muscles in ways they are not necessarily adapted to and could be good techniques for switching your training up a bit over time to see if it breaks a growth or strength plateau.
Take a look at the recover section to find out how to effectively rest during workouts, day to day, and month to month. Although rest is compulsory to recharge when working out, you don't need to take a whole body minute break between sets. You just need to rest the muscle last worked for around a minute. This is where dynamic set training comes into play to get the most you can out of that 30 to 60 minute workout where testosterone production is optimal for muscle growth.
Dynamic Set Training.
Single Sets - 1 exercise only.
Super Set - 2 exercises no break. Opposing muscle groups.
Giant Set - 3 to 4 exercises no break same muscle group.
Multi Set - 3 to 4 exercises no break different muscle groups.
Power Set - 4 to 6 rep sets to work on power.
Progressive Set - High to Low- Rest-Low to high. 15,10,8 - 90 seconds rest - 8,10,15.
Combo Set - works more than 1 muscle group.
Circuit Set - Multiple exercises one after another with no rest.
Tempo Set - Holds a contraction for set time to work on isometric strength.
Pre Fatigue Set - work individual muscles before working whole muscle group with a compound exercise.
Exhaustion/Drop Set - drop to a lighter weight after sets and do several reps to bring muscle to failure.
By using dynamic set training, its possible to work out many more muscles in many different ways in a shorter space of time and still allow ample rest for each muscle to recover before heavily re working the muscle all over again. This is a great way of increasing your training volume and intensity, without increasing your training time too much. The 4 Minute Max Outs uses a combination of giant, multi, circuit, power and tempo sets to ramp up the variety and intensity of your bodyweight strength training in a compact space of time.
Testosterone is the most important hormone for muscle growth by a long margin, as it accelerates protein synthesis the greatest. It is produced naturally in the body and helps significantly in boosting muscle growth. It is produced most when:
-You eat a balanced diet to ensure all vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are received.
-Your total workout time is under 60 minutes.
-Your time under tension (TUT) for each set is in the 40 to 70 seconds range.
-You are doing compound exercises.
-You do HIIT.
So in other words, eat a balanced diet, keep your workout duration under an hour, complete each set in between 40 to 70 seconds, do compound exercises, and perform regular HIIT, if you want to boost your chances of making greater gains in adding muscle mass by having increased testosterone levels in your body.
In a study that involved groups of men, one that lifted weights and had additional testosterone, and one that just lifted weights and had what they thought was additional testosterone (placebo), the higher testosterone group gained 3 times more muscle over the same period of time. A final group was tested that had additional testosterone and did no weight training at all. Almost unbelievably, by doing nothing at all, they gained 60% more muscle than the placebo group that lifted weights 3 times a week.
Men have more natural muscle mass than women as, generally speaking, women produce roughly a tenth of the natural testosterone of men. But male or female, you can boost your testosterone levels any time you like, simply by doing HIIT routines, such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, that keep workouts under an hour (aim for 28 minutes if you can), contain focused 60 second sets throughout, contain plenty of compound exercises, and utilise the HIIT protocol to great effect.
And remember, this helps not just for building muscle, but for increasing the percentage fat lost when losing weight in a calorie deficit, as muscle is greater preserved. So even if you are lifting heavy weights as your form of strength training, your best bet for your cardio contingent is still HIIT to save time, receive maximum cardio benefit, speed up fat burn, and importantly, unlike other forms of cardio that can actually promote catabolic effects for muscle, keeps your testosterone levels and therefore protein synthesis naturally boosted at the same time.
How will The 4 Minute Max Outs build my strength?
The 4 Minute Max Outs contain Max Outs that consist of bodyweight resistance moves focused for upper, lower, complete, and core body strength, speed or power. They are similar to traditional forms of resistance training in that they are essentially focused giant, multi, circuit, power or tempo sets. Performed in 3 repeating sets, they combine multiple resistance, plyometric, isometric and ballistic moves that target the different muscles in the same muscle group, to give a complete workout for that body region. You will find that different Max Outs will enable different rep ranges from low(5 to 6), mid(8 to 12) and high(15+) depending on the move, your ability and energy levels, enabling recruitment of both slow, intermediate and fast twitch muscle fibres in your workouts. All ranges stimulate muscle growth and the dynamic set training will increase this in the time worked (ie. the more you increase the training volume). As the resistance is your own bodyweight and level of health, the overload in workouts is always progressive as as your strength and anaerobic threshold grows, you will improve the point at which failure occurs. So as your fitness improves, you will be able to make more reps before failure or the time expires, be able to take shorter rest periods between sets, and be able to complete more focused strength sets in succession. So, when focusing The 4 Minute Max Outs on strength, although the key is still to put in maximum intensity and effort into each set, it's ok to perform reps slower. You will find you will naturally anyway as the workout progresses. Try to do as many sets as you can. After a few sets, you will absolutely need that minute rest each time it comes round. If you don't, shorten the break by tapping the screen. Don't stop the workout if you experience failure. This is desirable. Take your rest and continue again once the next set comes round. You have to push yourself.
Stacking Burn Max Outs for strength and muscle gains.
Stacking Burn Max Outs of the same body region focus is not dissimilar to doing sets with weights and will wear your muscles down to the point of near failure just the same. So you could use The Max Out Mixer to create a custom 20 minute Max Out plan of an Upper Rush Max Out to warm up, followed by 3 different Upper Burn Max Outs, and ending on an Upper Burst Max Out to give you a complete compact upper body workout. Extend or shorten the workout duration as required. When The 4 Minute Max Outs routines main focus is resistance, this makes for a very demanding workout so you will most probably need to take longer breaks between sets. It's recommended when using The 4 Minute Max Outs for strength focused routines, that you switch the focus to Rest Based Training (RBT) to allow the necessary recovery time between sets to continue. You'll unlikely go the distance otherwise. Or, if you want to stay in pure HIIT mode, you could integrate speed sets in between the strength sets to relieve the muscle burn whilst maintaining the high heart rate and allowing more active recovery time. As you get stronger, the breaks can get shorter and speed sets less as a form of extra overload. The following day, you could do the same but with the equivalent lower body Max Outs. By repeating day 1 and 2 on days 3 and 4, with day 5 focused for core strength and cardio, day 6 a complete body strength day, and day 7 as a rest day, you will have a very challenging complete custom progressive resistance training schedule for the week that you can do at home. No equipment required.
Max Out Schedule for strength /muscle gains.
If you don't fancy constructing your own strength workouts each day, there is a progressive Max Out Schedule focused on helping you to get the most out of strength/muscle gains when using The 4 Minute Max Outs. There are 7 different weeks that you can repeat as much as you like to maximise strength and muscle gains.
Integrate Burn Max Outs into other strength routines.
You could also inject a Burn Max Out into your current strength training routine to serve as either a pre fatigue set to get the most efficiency out of the free weights you have, an exhaustion set to work your muscles as close to failure as possible after a set of weights, as a final fat burning challenge added to the end of your workout, or just to mix up your training style to help avoid results plateaus, or even just to add variety to help prevent boredom. There are actually several ways you could integrate The 4 Minute Max Outs into a weights routine. Take a look at the 'Integrate' page in the 'Schedules' section for ways to do this.
Accessibility ensures things keep getting done.
One of the greatest assets of bodyweight training is the effect that its accessibility has on your daily psychology. Whilst it's very easy to make excuses for not going to the gym, after all there are many genuine reasons that will often legitimately prevent you leaving your own house, let alone allowing the time to get to a gym and then the time to actually workout efficiently on top of that and then get back home again. There is no reason for anyone to put things off or make excuses for not doing The 4 Minute Max Outs. Especially seeing as you can set your own workout time and do it in the smallest of spaces. When the resistance is your own bodyweight, there are no real excuses. No matter where you are, it's right here, right now. Get it done. Get results. Save time.
Don't neglect your cardio.
Remember, traditional resistance training methods like weight training work your anaerobic system only. Don't neglect your cardio vascular system and heart. The 4 Minute Max Outs works both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, and can therefore reduce your heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol. All things that may creep up when bulking up if left unchecked. HIIT routines, such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, are the best and fastest way to improve your cardio and burn body fat whilst maintaining, shaping, and building your muscle mass.