T Nation

Bodybuilding Training, Can We Make This Clear?


CT wrote this month (bold mine)

For hypertrophy, using sets of 4-8 reps per set and doing 2-3 hard work sets is best. And if you’re ramping up it could be 2 slightly lighter preparation sets and then 2-3 challenging work sets. Four work sets can work very well too.

As far as weekly volume per muscle group is concerned, Brad Shoenfeld has presented data showing that doing 10 sets or more per muscle group a week leads to more muscle growth (+9.8%) than doing 5-9 sets per week (+6.6%) or less than 5 (+5.4%).

A safe assumption is that for maximum hypertrophy 10-15 sets per muscle per week is optimal. This would mean doing 4 or 5 exercises per muscle group for 2-3 work sets. More than that could end up being detrimental to gains.

**The weekly volume can be spread over 1, 2, or 3 weekly sessions. You can either disperse the volume equally, or do more volume for a muscle one day and less another."

You see where he wrote one weekly session? And everything he outlined is typical bodybuilding training.

This really speaks to me. It was only last month that I tried “density training” to lose weight and gained three pounds. One the other hand, reading Christian’s “star complexes” article was one of the best things I did for the tactical level of thinking about weight lifting, even if I toned it down a little.

Where did people get the notion that bodybuilders don’t try to add weight to a bar… or Dumbbells … or a machine?!


That it can work does not mean it is optimal.

“The weekly volume can be spread over 1, 2, or 3 **weekly sessions” does not take into consideration steroid use which the posts I posted did.

Doing 10-15 sets in a session where you most likely are hitting two groups (chest/triceps) is way too much work. Intensity should also be taken into consideration and a natural will not be able to do that.

His next paragraph states, “Frequency is king. It’s true for hypertrophy and even more true for strength. Researchers have concluded that training a muscle at a higher frequency is superior than a lower frequency. Hit each muscle a minimum of twice per week for maximum growth.”

The more one increases the frequency the less room they have for optimal exercise sequencing and pre-exhaust where necessary. The more frequency, the more body parts must be hit in one session, which presents a whole other problem.


And we can see CT’s writings are inconsistent. I don’t mind because I like him a lot. @xXSeraphimXx

That is why 2 times a week legs/push/pull is ideal.

“The more one increases the frequency the less room they have for optimal exercise sequencing and pre-exhaust where necessary.” How so?

I do not see them as inconsistent. What you posted was in regard to just training. My post as well as what I posted by CT was in regard to the natural trainee.

Why don’t you just ask CT to clarify this IN HIS FORUM? He’s right here on T-nation…


I do not doubt that a push/pull/legs split done twice per week is ideal to gain strength and size. I’ve done it…been there, done that. But, from my own anecdotal experience, that split doesn’t help me SHAPE my muslces and proportions; rather, it just helps me add overall size (and strength, of course).
That’s not a bad thing at all. But it did create a lot of imbalances in my physique (it made me extremely torso-dominant). What I mean to convey with this is that a split like the one @BrickHead is describing is much better for targeting imbalances and creating a better illusion of shape and proportion (isn’t that what bodybuilding is all about?).

Can you explain this to me? I’ve never taken steroids in my life, and this isn’t too much work for me. Unless, of course, you mean 10-15 sets PER GROUP…30 working sets in one workout IS too much (at least for me and my own recovery).

Shaping a muscle? What is that? Can you give me a sample day that was creating these imbalances?

He meant per muscle.

You cannot necessarilly “shape” a given muscle as that muscle already has shape. I get that…I was using a phrase. But if you add more mass to your delts, for example, the shape of your body changes (illusion). Think of a silhouette. The silhouette’s shape changes when a given muscle group gets larger or fuller, etc.

And why do I feel like I’m defending myself to you? That’s absurd.

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Is it really that hard to comprehend that different people will respond differently to different styles of training?

It’s been mentioned many times that nutrition has to be tailored to specific people depending on there response to macro splits, calories, and what works well in one persons prep won’t exactly be perfect for someone else.

Training is the same, find what works. Folks are built different.


That was my mindset with my initial post…I should have been more blunt and just said it. (Hence my whole “PPL works, but this works too based on my own experience” comment.)

Thank you for just saying it…

I disagree, and as a natural I routinely do that much volume, closer to 10-12 sets per muscle but I have and continue to do that, and more. I used to do a full body routine 3x per week that had 40-45 working sets depending on the day, I did it for 4 months and even did a show prep on that plan. It might not be optimal forever, but it is most certainly sustainable for a natural trainer who can slowly get their work capacity up to that volume.

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Depending on the frequency and muscle group, if you’re hitting twice a week then obviously the session contains less volume than it would if you were doing one session. Sometimes it might be good to have a longer session for let’s say, back, because you can have a longer sequence of exercises and training methods than if you split it into two workouts. Currently I’m hitting back twice a week, one workout is thickness based, one is width based, different exercises for each, but each workout contains 5 exercises and 3 working sets for each one, and I’m handling it well and making good progress.

Might be ideal for some, but not for all, and additionally programs should be rotated every now and then. So where as a PPL split might work for a while, the body will adapt more eventually and a change would stimulate more growth and adaptation. Right now my frequency is high (shoulders, arms and back get twice a week, everything else once) but soon I’ll be going to a normal 4 or 5 day split to allow for some more recovery, and then will modify further eventually. To say “research shows ‘x’ program is ideal” is HELPFUL, but is not gospel and certainly doesn’t mean other programs don’t work. Considering the vast majority of bodybuilders, natural or not, hit a muscle once per week and obviously get great physiques, a once per week standard 5 or 6 day split is a good program.

This sport is largely based on anecdotal evidence, so finding the program that works best for YOU should always be the priority. Use the information available to shape your programming, but don’t restrict yourself just because you read something somewhere.


Just want to say thanks to you and everybody in this topic, so much great information here, and btw, you are looking great bro, one of the bests motivations to natural bodybuilders for me here
do you mind if i ask a couple of questions?

  • what do you did to bring up your chest?
  • How often you change your training and what do you change ?
  • How do you know when you got to stard doing cardio/hit when doing pre contest?
  • How often do you low your calories during pre contest?

40-45 sets per session not muscle.

What were the rep ranges like? Pretty close to 40-70 or 80-210 total reps per week?

I am interested in what will give optimal results not what is sustainable or can be done. You did what had to be done (your schedule allowed) not what would have been best.

“For training, we settled on a full body program, 3x per week. It’s a modified version of a full body program I did last year I got from an article on the site, Leroy Colbert’s full body routine. 3x per week (M-W-F), with 2 exercises per muscle group, 3 sets each totaling 6 working sets per muscle group, so about 36-40 sets total. We modified it slightly to rotate the exercises each day, so I can get all of the angles and keep good variety in there, and also added a 4th set for the lower rep work. So, 7 working sets per muscle group, plus some calves added on, about 45ish sets and 2 hours to complete start to finish, including some warm up sets”

I was not attacking you I am asking how these imbalances are created simple because you follow a p/p/l routine?

Push day example
Incline DB
DB Press
Meadows destroyer set
Rope Push Downs
skull crusher

If you feel you need more shoulder you either remove a few sets from another exercise, focus on shoulders your next push day or learn to target the muscle better (mmc)

Lol thanks for copy and pasting what I wrote. I actually remember my training without you pointing it out to me. And since it was what had to be done with my schedule, it’s what was best at the time.

So total I was doing about 18-21 working sets PER MUSCLE per week.

You seem to not understand that there is no “best” program. ALL programs will offer various benefits. There is only what is “best” at the time, and whatever is “best” now will not be “best” 6 months from now. How long have you been training?