T Nation

High Intensity/High Sets/Low Reps to Increase Muscle Mass


My general workouts consists 8-10 sets, of 5-8 reps, just short of failure in the last 4-5 sets, with 60-120 seconds rest between sets.

I have tried to higher reps but due to me using a Accutane a year ago, my joints are seriously messed up when i have to do the same movement over and over again, even running can be painful in the ankles when running longer then a minute.

As soon as i reach 10 reps my joints just seriously ache and are painful, even though i have not stressed the muscle.

I find short bursts i can really hit the muscle hard, without any pain in the joints, i have tried to mix this up by lowering the weights in a very slow controlled manner (5 seconds) to get the intensity there, but i dont appear to be gaining much muscle mass, which is my main goal.

My diet is in check, 20% Carbs (oatmeal, veggies, fruit), 60% Protein (chicken) 20% Fats (fish oil, peanut butter) Im taking in 3200 calories a day and weight is increasing, which seems to me be fat.

Anyone have any advice for me?


I don't know how many times per week you train, but if say 3 times per week, 24-30 sets per week is pretty low volume.

Now, it could be, I don't know, that your joints might not do well with higher volume either. In that case you may not be able to change your volume.

There are so many other things that potentially might be areas for improvement, but for which there is no information, such as your exercise selection, split, etc.

Of what is given, the macronutrient composition is bad. Protein should not be 60% of calories; when "natural" fat should not be so low as 20%.

Try more like 40/30/30 to 30/40/30 protein:carb:fat and broaden your fat intake to include for example eggs as a food source, dairy fat, and coconut oil, and you need not be paranoid against fat from meat in reasonable quantity.

Man was not evolved to get a high percentage of dietary fat from peanuts.


I meant 10 sets per excersise with a 5 minute rest when i reach 4-5 sets, then resume, my workout is;

Back (upper+lower)


Go with what Bill says, also you might try DC Training, see if only 10-15 breaths between sets is ok, that way you can do 8 reps then another 3-4, then another 2-3, and have done enough work to encourage growth and get stronger etc.


Oh, and if your not a more advanced lifter DC may not be a good choice for you, and you should try something like a 5x5 program as to not strain your joints as you say, and still get uber strong!


Now I understand; then low total volume is not your problem but (of course) the same volume can give very different results according to how it's done.

For example, maybe you personally or you personally at this time might do far better with 5 exercises done 2 sets each for each bodypart than only one exercise done for 10 sets.

You might do better with a periodization program, for example working from higher (relative term: in your case not very high) reps down to lower reps with weight increasing each week such as to allow one less rep per week.

You might do better even if doing a large number of sets for one exercise to do them under a different protocol, such as the ladders protocol Dan Johns wrote about in the Techniques You've Never Tried article (as just one example.)

Or as skohcl said, maybe DC or 5x5 would suit you.

It isn't surprising that a 10 sets per exercise protocol tending to stay in the same rep range and with basically the same method every week could over time easily find itself in a rut.


a) Forget about blogspot as a DC resource (go and read intensemuscle-> Doggpound) and b) DC is not for beginners (as in "they won't manage to make it work as it should").

Go with 5*5.

Alternatively, read one of Professor X's training threads ("Professor X : A request" or some such) to get a grasp of basic BB training.
The way he trains is a lot easier on the joints and tendons and generally easy to recover from (read it through... If you end up doing 3-4 sets at the same weight, then you haven't read right).