T Nation

Looking to Pack On Muscle?

Are you a beginner looking to pack on some extra muscle mass? Well let me explain to you how exactly this can be achieved.

First of all, I would like you to empty your mind of everything you have ever read in the muscle magazines. Completely. In case you are unaware, 98% of what you will read in any magazine like that is complete BS. Now, why would a magazine want to publish BS, well, there are two reasons: 1. these programs are written by professional bodybuilders.

People seem to think that if there is a picture of a big guy next to a an article, it must be right. Well it?s not. Most of the time, they will publish bodypart splits, one of the most least effective ways to train, especially for a beginner. About 30 years ago, it would be the generally thing for bodybuilders to do fullbody routines 3x a week. Why? Because it worked.

Then steroids got into the picture. And bodybuilders found that while taking steroids, splitting each body part up throughout the week is more effective. Then they published their routines to the general public, who does not take steroids. See what I?m getting at here? 2. The second reason is, how do you feel when you complete 12 sets of chest exercises in one day? Great! You?ve got a huge pump, and the next day, you feel sore. It must be working!

Well unfortunately, neither the pump nor soreness have anything to do with a program?s effectiveness. But you didn?t know that. You felt great doing your Muscle & Fitness program. This is gold for them. Because it builds a subconscious bond with them. And you know what that means? You?re going to believe the crap they publish about their supplements.

See, you have been fooled (well, hopefully you knew that)

Now, how does a muscle grow exactly? You?re probably thinking ?the muscle breaks down, then builds back up?. Sadly, that is actually only a very small part of the equation. Think of the body as one system, rather than a bunch of individual muscles. Compare the two following situations:

  1. You increase 100lb on the squat in 6 months

  2. You dick around on the calf raise and seated calf raise machines for 6 months. You generally do high reps to get a big pump.

Which one do you think my calves would have gotten bigger with? I?m going to go with situation 1. Why? Because the body adds muscle to the system as a result of it getting stronger. It?s kind of like out of fear. All your body is worried about is survival. The last thing it wants to do is add muscle, because extra muscle means extra calories required for survival. But, if I?m getting a lot stronger, and I?m eating a caloric surplus, the body will have no choice but to add muscle in order to keep up with this.

So now that this has been established, what program am I getting at? Well, since you?re a beginner, we?ll do the Starting Strength program written by Mark Rippetoe. It?s your standard 3x a week fullbody routine. You will squat every workout. Why? Because squatting is the absolute mass builder. You cannot beat this exercise. Here is a basic outline of the program itself:

You will switch out workout A and workout B every workout, on three consecutive days during the week. For example, Monday - A, Wednesday - B, Friday - A, next Monday - B, and so on.

Workout A:

Squat - 3x5
Bench Press - 3x5
Deadlift - 1x5

Workout B:

Squat - 3x5
Power Clean - 3x5 (may be substituted with rows if you wish)
Overhead Press - 3x5

Yes, it is very simple. But it?s as basic as basic gets. You will add weight to the bar every workout. And you will add a great deal of overall mass with it. Again, if you add 50lb to your bench press, there is no direct tricep exercise that can draw a spoon to the mass your triceps will have put on.

But one thing that I know you?ve heard a million times, but I?ll say it again. You have to have a caloric excess. You won?t grow if your body doesn?t have calories left over after burning them.

As for power cleans, I know a lot of you are not very experienced, and could very well injure yourself doing power cleans. They are a very difficult exercise to master. You can sub these with barbell rows (Yates, Pendlay, whatever).

The program should last anywhere from 3-4 months. Once you stop being able to increase for at least 2 weeks, change programs. After a few weeks on the program, you may add in some isolation work (calf raises, tricep extensions, bicep curls, shrugs, etc), depending on what you feel your weaknesses are. Ab work is also vital. Don?t overthink this. Just do a few sets of leg raises or sit-ups 2-3x a week. Find which way you prefer.

This is my first post, so I?m not 100% certain how this works. But you can post any questions in this thread regarding this program orany questions in general and I will do my best to answer, as well as I?m sure there are many other knowledgeable members that would be happy to answer your questions or comments.

Best of luck with your training!

[quote]homer1 wrote:

People seem to think that if there is a picture of a big guy next to a an article, it must be right. Well it?s not. Most of the time, they will publish bodypart splits, one of the most least effective ways to train, especially for a beginner. About 30 years ago, it would be the generally thing for bodybuilders to do fullbody routines 3x a week. Why? Because it worked.
[/quote]

I haven’t read the rest of your post, but “30 years ago”, bodybuilders were using body part splits in majority…AND THEY STILL ARE…because they work. I don’t know where you got your info, but it’s off. I also know that splits are not the “least effective way to train”. I started lifting using a split routine and have never used anything BUT a split routine. It worked just fine. People can have preferences, but to say one entire scheme of training is less effective simply because you are doing isolation movements is retarded.

If anything, I would RECOMMEND that to just about everyone unless their strength is so weak to start with that they need to simply focus on getting up to what passes for “average” before they really get going.

The part about using steroids is a nagging question I’ve had in the back of my mind. I’ve read elsewhere that steroids allow for higher volume/intensity, and that a routine for someone on steroids wont work for someone that isn’t.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
homer1 wrote:

People seem to think that if there is a picture of a big guy next to a an article, it must be right. Well it?s not. Most of the time, they will publish bodypart splits, one of the most least effective ways to train, especially for a beginner. About 30 years ago, it would be the generally thing for bodybuilders to do fullbody routines 3x a week. Why? Because it worked.

I haven’t read the rest of your post, but “30 years ago”, bodybuilders were using body part splits in majority…AND THEY STILL ARE…because they work. I don’t know where you got your info, but it’s off. I also know that splits are not the “least effective way to train”. I started lifting using a split routine and have never used anything BUT a split routine. It worked just fine. People can have preferences, but to say one entire scheme of training is less effective simply because you are doing isolation movements is retarded.

If anything, I would RECOMMEND that to just about everyone unless their strength is so weak to start with that they need to simply focus on getting up to what passes for “average” before they really get going.[/quote]

Well go ahead and read the rest.

I am not referring to splits in general, I am referring to body part splits. Like Mon - Chest, Tues - Quads, Wed- Shoulders, and so on. Performing splits in this way are not nearly optimal for most, as linear progression is not as probable. Also, doing training like this would require most of the exercises to be isolation exercises.

Now, there are some very effecetive splits out there that do allow for progression optimally. Such as upper/lower splits or push/pull/leg (powerlifting-type).

But the fact is, beginner trainers will be able to increase on their lifts very frequently due to their “newb gains” if taken advantage of. This is why I believe your basic 3x a week fullbody would be best. You can increase probably 2-3x a week on squat and generally 1x a week on the other lifts, sometimes 2x.

[quote]Sliver wrote:
The part about using steroids is a nagging question I’ve had in the back of my mind. I’ve read elsewhere that steroids allow for higher volume/intensity, and that a routine for someone on steroids wont work for someone that isn’t.[/quote]

That’s true. Also, body part splits may be optimal for a pro bodybuilder who takes steroids (or may even not take steroids), who is not looking to add maximal mass overall the body. They are looking to basically “shape” the muscles, and bring up lagging parts… and parts of parts.

Keep in mind, these guys already have tons of mass on them to start with. Your beginner trainer should not be looking to hit every muscle from every angle. If they want the muscle to grow, they would want to get stronger overall.

I am just curious why you chose something like this for your first post?

[quote]homer1 wrote:
Are you a beginner looking to pack on some extra muscle mass? Well let me explain to you how exactly this can be achieved.

First of all, I would like you to empty your mind of everything you have ever read in the muscle magazines. Completely. In case you are unaware, 98% of what you will read in any magazine like that is complete BS. Now, why would a magazine want to publish BS, well, there are two reasons: 1. these programs are written by professional bodybuilders.

People seem to think that if there is a picture of a big guy next to a an article, it must be right. Well it?s not. Most of the time, they will publish bodypart splits, one of the most least effective ways to train, especially for a beginner. About 30 years ago, it would be the generally thing for bodybuilders to do fullbody routines 3x a week. Why? Because it worked.

Then steroids got into the picture. And bodybuilders found that while taking steroids, splitting each body part up throughout the week is more effective. Then they published their routines to the general public, who does not take steroids. See what I?m getting at here? 2. The second reason is, how do you feel when you complete 12 sets of chest exercises in one day? Great! You?ve got a huge pump, and the next day, you feel sore. It must be working!

Well unfortunately, neither the pump nor soreness have anything to do with a program?s effectiveness. But you didn?t know that. You felt great doing your Muscle & Fitness program. This is gold for them. Because it builds a subconscious bond with them. And you know what that means? You?re going to believe the crap they publish about their supplements.

See, you have been fooled (well, hopefully you knew that)

Now, how does a muscle grow exactly? You?re probably thinking ?the muscle breaks down, then builds back up?. Sadly, that is actually only a very small part of the equation. Think of the body as one system, rather than a bunch of individual muscles. Compare the two following situations:

  1. You increase 100lb on the squat in 6 months

  2. You dick around on the calf raise and seated calf raise machines for 6 months. You generally do high reps to get a big pump.

Which one do you think my calves would have gotten bigger with? I?m going to go with situation 1. Why? Because the body adds muscle to the system as a result of it getting stronger. It?s kind of like out of fear. All your body is worried about is survival. The last thing it wants to do is add muscle, because extra muscle means extra calories required for survival. But, if I?m getting a lot stronger, and I?m eating a caloric surplus, the body will have no choice but to add muscle in order to keep up with this.

So now that this has been established, what program am I getting at? Well, since you?re a beginner, we?ll do the Starting Strength program written by Mark Rippetoe. It?s your standard 3x a week fullbody routine. You will squat every workout. Why? Because squatting is the absolute mass builder. You cannot beat this exercise. Here is a basic outline of the program itself:

You will switch out workout A and workout B every workout, on three consecutive days during the week. For example, Monday - A, Wednesday - B, Friday - A, next Monday - B, and so on.

Workout A:

Squat - 3x5
Bench Press - 3x5
Deadlift - 1x5

Workout B:

Squat - 3x5
Power Clean - 3x5 (may be substituted with rows if you wish)
Overhead Press - 3x5

Yes, it is very simple. But it?s as basic as basic gets. You will add weight to the bar every workout. And you will add a great deal of overall mass with it. Again, if you add 50lb to your bench press, there is no direct tricep exercise that can draw a spoon to the mass your triceps will have put on.

But one thing that I know you?ve heard a million times, but I?ll say it again. You have to have a caloric excess. You won?t grow if your body doesn?t have calories left over after burning them.

As for power cleans, I know a lot of you are not very experienced, and could very well injure yourself doing power cleans. They are a very difficult exercise to master. You can sub these with barbell rows (Yates, Pendlay, whatever).

The program should last anywhere from 3-4 months. Once you stop being able to increase for at least 2 weeks, change programs. After a few weeks on the program, you may add in some isolation work (calf raises, tricep extensions, bicep curls, shrugs, etc), depending on what you feel your weaknesses are. Ab work is also vital. Don?t overthink this. Just do a few sets of leg raises or sit-ups 2-3x a week. Find which way you prefer.

This is my first post, so I?m not 100% certain how this works. But you can post any questions in this thread regarding this program orany questions in general and I will do my best to answer, as well as I?m sure there are many other knowledgeable members that would be happy to answer your questions or comments.

Best of luck with your training!
[/quote]

First, welcome to the site.

With that said, I cannot say I agree with this post entirely. I have to say it sounds like an advertisement for Waterbury. Nonetheless, while compound movements are improtant and have their place, there is simply no replacement for concentrating on a body part. Any ascertion that one method is the only method to achieve X goals is not correct.

Lets look at your calf scenario. I personally do not consider squats good for my calves. They do zero for my calves. To each his own. Lets replace the guy doing high rep calf raises, with a guy doing low rep(5-15), “down the rack” sets. Each set he goes to near failure then drops the weight with no rest and continues through 3-4 weight changes. That’s one set.

I really dont see how the guy doing the squats could come close to or even match the calves of the guy doing concentration down the rack calve raises.

Whatever, let’s suppose the squat guys calves get freakishly huge and he somehow beats the guy doing the calve raises.

With no direct arm work, how can the above routine compare with the arms of a trainee that incorporates direct arm training into the same routine? In my humble opinion it will not happen.

Personally, I have done split routines, and total body routines, and circuit routines, and continuos motion constant tension partial rep, and any other type of routine I have gotten may hands on. What works best for me is splits.

I have already put out a challenge for splits vs. total body training. Anyone is welcome to join that challenge. I am pseudo competing with one person from the date of the post to December (pseudo because he has help I dont have, and it is 9 weeks, not 6 months). The original challenge is 6 months worth of gains/physique building and I stand by the challenge. My beginning status onset of the 6 months are in the post:

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1300566&pageNo=0

One last note, when did all these “beginners” indulge in so many muscle magazines?

I keep seeing this, and I really dont get it. I mean, how is someone such a beginner that they are making tremendous gains in secondary muscles like arms and calves off only compound movements; yet they have been reading muscle mags so avidly they gleaned knowledge from them. So much knowledge they need to “empty your mind of everything you have ever read in the muscle magazines.” Jesus man such a newb, most likely just read the crap!

[quote]KO421 wrote:
I am just curious why you chose something like this for your first post?[/quote]

Why not? haha, I was originally just going to make a brief statement on the subject of musclemags, but got caught up in the moment and decided to explain further what I was referring to.

petedacook, sorry, I don’t have time to read and reply to your post at the moment. I need to get my sleep :). I will reply to it tomorrow so I may give a proper response to it. Thanks for posting here, though.

[quote]homer1 wrote:
KO421 wrote:
I am just curious why you chose something like this for your first post?

Why not? haha, I was originally just going to make a brief statement on the subject of musclemags, but got caught up in the moment and decided to explain further what I was referring to.

petedacook, sorry, I don’t have time to read and reply to your post at the moment. I need to get my sleep :). I will reply to it tomorrow so I may give a proper response to it. Thanks for posting here, though.[/quote]

LOL, no prob man.

By the way, KO421 asks the question because what you have posted is a highly contested/argued subject here. I might add; it is argued among people that are very respectable.

Try this one out to see how the flame wars go:
http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1295623&pageNo=0

Want more? How about the authors differing?

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1295118
http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1298307

I think the consensus is that NOTHING is the stead fast best method for each person, just as faces differ, so do responses to training; however, there are some constants…every face has a nose.

Again, welcome to the messiah of bodybuilding forums.

[quote]Petedacook wrote:
I have already put out a challenge for splits vs. total body training. Anyone is welcome to join that challenge. [/quote]

I would probably have taken that challenge if I had seen it sooner. I’ve used both splits and TBT. TBT works better for me (designed with both compound and isolation lifts). I’ve used Waterbury’s programs for a long time and always get great results. I recently did CT’s HSS-100 program and didn’t really care for it.

[quote]homer1 wrote:
Well go ahead and read the rest.

I am not referring to splits in general, I am referring to body part splits. Like Mon - Chest, Tues - Quads, Wed- Shoulders, and so on. Performing splits in this way are not nearly optimal for most, as linear progression is not as probable. Also, doing training like this would require most of the exercises to be isolation exercises.[/quote]

I’m sorry, but how long have you been training? First, what is wrong with isolation exercises and why do you think “compound movements” wouldn’t ALSO be a part of someone’s program? Most people do BOTH and still train certain body parts on different days. I’ve trained one body part a day (at the most two depending on what is being trained)for over 6 years now and it is working just fine. I honestly believe some of you need to concentrate on what you eat more than this because splits WORK. That is WHY the people the most successful at making HUGE physical transformations use them.

What you don’t seem to get is that it will NOT be best for everyone and I am glad I never listened to anyone like you.

You are simply repeating what you’ve heard from some trainers recently.

[quote]LarryJr wrote:
Petedacook wrote:
I have already put out a challenge for splits vs. total body training. Anyone is welcome to join that challenge.

I would probably have taken that challenge if I had seen it sooner. I’ve used both splits and TBT. TBT works better for me (designed with both compound and isolation lifts). I’ve used Waterbury’s programs for a long time and always get great results. I recently did CT’s HSS-100 program and didn’t really care for it.

[/quote]

You know man, it is really not too late to take the challenge.

I am going for 6 months, before and after. It doesnt matter when your 6 month time frame began or ended. The thread I linked shows you where my 6 month period started, the thread also shows you where I am at 9 weeks into the 6 month period, the thread does not show you my currennt status, or where I will be in February 2007 when the 6 months are over.

The only thing I ask is that people obey the stipulations in the challenge and be honest: no juicing, no gymnast training, etc.

And it is not limited to total body training people. Anyone can accept challenge.

I’ve gained 20 pounds in the past 2.5 months using a bodysplit program. I did a GVT-like routine and ate enough to keep me full at all times.

As a back story, these are what I consider close to be beginner gains as I’ve taken the past 6-7 months off of proper lifting to overcome some injuries. Either way, those diminishing bodysplit programs should try them before they belittle. I’m glad I listened to what those have made significant progress have written.

Homer, you seem to be a person fond of sweeping statements and absolutes.
Characteristics usually found in young folks who think they know everything, or the ignorant who won’t listen to others.

Perhaps you’re not in either category, but you’ve certainly opened up with some statements in a few posts that suggest if you see a tall, bald man steal something - then all tall bald men are thieves…

[quote]Petedacook wrote:
homer1 wrote:
KO421 wrote:
I am just curious why you chose something like this for your first post?

Why not? haha, I was originally just going to make a brief statement on the subject of musclemags, but got caught up in the moment and decided to explain further what I was referring to.

petedacook, sorry, I don’t have time to read and reply to your post at the moment. I need to get my sleep :). I will reply to it tomorrow so I may give a proper response to it. Thanks for posting here, though.

LOL, no prob man.

By the way, KO421 asks the question because what you have posted is a highly contested/argued subject here. I might add; it is argued among people that are very respectable.

Try this one out to see how the flame wars go:
http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1295623&pageNo=0

Want more? How about the authors differing?

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1295118
http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1298307

I think the consensus is that NOTHING is the stead fast best method for each person, just as faces differ, so do responses to training; however, there are some constants…every face has a nose.

Again, welcome to the messiah of bodybuilding forums.

[/quote]

Cool stuff. I’m not really challenging split routines or their effectiveness. I’m more emphasizing the importance of progression. The thing with compounds is, you can do more weight with them. Therefore you can progress on them faster. Not to mention the fact that they work much more fiber. Therefore progressing on them would outweigh the progression of isolation exercises.

The thing with fullbody is, I think it woudl definitely do a beginner the best, so that they can increase on the big lifts as often as possible. As opposed to maybe 1-2x a week like on a upper/lower split.

I really don’t think bodypart splits are very effective for the purpose of adding a maximum amount of muscle mass all around. As the body will naturally grow as a whole, not on an individual muscle basis.

Now, isolation exercises certainly are effective. But again, it’s about progression. You either need to increase weight or workload in some way with them. Meaning, doing 3x10 with 40lb on curls for a year won’t do much.

Regarding your thing about doing the calf raises vs. squats. Well truly, I think if your increased 100lb on the squat, there would be no comparison. But the fact is, that is not likely for trainers who already have a high squat and have been training a while. That’s where isos have their place. But there’s a reason Mark Rippetoe has no isolation exercises in his beginner program. Because he knows that building a great deal of core strength on anyone will build mass in every muscle that assists in this rapid increase in strength.

Thanks for your warm welcome to this board. From what I hear, it is a very good board filled with other very knowledgable members. I left bb.com due to the fact that 90% of their users are ignorant teens who don’t kow the first thing on the subject and are just looking to start flame wars.

I look forward to spending some time on here.

[quote]engerland66 wrote:
I’ve gained 20 pounds in the past 2.5 months using a bodysplit program. I did a GVT-like routine and ate enough to keep me full at all times.

As a back story, these are what I consider close to be beginner gains as I’ve taken the past 6-7 months off of proper lifting to overcome some injuries. Either way, those diminishing bodysplit programs should try them before they belittle. I’m glad I listened to what those have made significant progress have written.[/quote]
Hi duke, I’m going to quote Mark Rippetoe here, “for a beginner, everything works. some things just work better than others.” It’s true. Yeah, you’re going to gain doing anything. I mean, your system has never been experienced this kind of stress before. So it will rapidly increase muscle mass as a result. But think about it in the long term. You want to have a good base of strength. This will mean that you have the potential of growing much easier.

If you went back in time and did a program like Starting Strength and build a great foundation of strength, I think you would have gained more than 20lb.

Remember, those programs are writteb by pros who already are 300lb and have a terrific foundation of strength already.

[quote]duke wrote:
Homer, you seem to be a person fond of sweeping statements and absolutes.
Characteristics usually found in young folks who think they know everything, or the ignorant who won’t listen to others.

Perhaps you’re not in either category, but you’ve certainly opened up with some statements in a few posts that suggest if you see a tall, bald man steal something - then all tall bald men are thieves…

[/quote]
It’s not a matter of me not listening to other people or me seeing one thing and assuming it about everything…

Like the guy said, homer, you’ve stepped into a current and irreconcilable debate about full body vs splits.

I’ve read some of this stuff looking for insight beyond my training age, and the objective truth seems to be- methods work for trainees, until they don’t. Then it’s time to try something else. High-intensity/low-volume methods like a bodypart split seem to be advocated by already-big-guys.

That aside, cheers for the messages man. you do have a bit of a self-aggrandising name, and this is a strange first post, but safe anyway.

I’m not about to buy any books by Rippetoe though, however much you suggest i do.

you have good points but your way to far in one direction, I do a body part split working each body part twice a week,
I start every workout with a heavy compound exercise bench press, squat, row, deadlift, varation switching it up now and than.

I will gurantee you I do more compound movements now on a body part split total than I did doing a body part split 3 days a week.

now I know some people use 4,5, or even 6 body part splits a week, I bet that works its a hell of alot of volume!
I cant imagine squating heavy 2 days in a row, hell my calves and quads have been sore all week from working them out twice.

I agree beginers should focus PRIMARLY on the big lifts. But by ONLY focusing on them you will not grow with whatever parts of your body are the strongest
IE from doing just compound movements= barrel chest no biceps big hips and glutes, dominating front delts, lack of complete delt devolpment, etc.

I have been corecting this doing more isolation work and doing body part splits emphasizing on the parts that take more volume/load to grow which I have learned from EXPERINCE and getting in tune with how my body works.

[quote]KO421 wrote:
you have good points but your way to far in one direction, I do a body part split working each body part twice a week,
I start every workout with a heavy compound exercise bench press, squat, row, deadlift, varation switching it up now and than.

I will gurantee you I do more compound movements now on a body part split total than I did doing a body part split 3 days a week.

now I know some people use 4,5, or even 6 body part splits a week, I bet that works its a hell of alot of volume!
I cant imagine squating heavy 2 days in a row, hell my calves and quads have been sore all week from working them out twice.

I agree beginers should focus PRIMARLY on the big lifts. But by ONLY focusing on them you will not grow with whatever parts of your body are the strongest
IE from doing just compound movements= barrel chest no biceps big hips and glutes, dominating front delts, lack of complete delt devolpment, etc.

I have been corecting this doing more isolation work and doing body part splits emphasizing on the parts that take more volume/load to grow which I have learned from EXPERINCE and getting in tune with how my body works.[/quote]

I understand what you’re saying. But keep in mind, even with isolation exercises, you would have to progress to grow. The Starting Strength program is not just going to give you big front delts and lagging medial delts. Think about the overhead press. If I increase it by 50lb, do you think there is even a chance my medial delts wouldn’t have exploded? How else would I stabilize all the weight? Read this article by madcow2:

How do you think people get bigger exactly? A bigger muscle is a stronger muscle - what do you think your body is adapting to when it adds muscle as a result of exercise? Why is resistance at a fairly high percentage of your maximal effort necessary for hypertrophy? I mean, you don’t get too big walking around and bodyweight exercises seem to cap out after a while.

Things that make you go hmmm. I’m not saying a bigger person will outlift or be stronger than a smaller person (physics/leverage/neural components weigh in on this), but I’m saying that when you get bigger you will have gotten stronger. No one added significant muscle that didn’t add weight to the bar or just do a ton more work. You are stressing the muscular system here and the adaptation of hypertrophy is a method the body uses to cope and improve to be able to better tolerate the stress.

I would hope it’s hitting you like a bolt of lightning now and that you aren’t lost. If you are lost reread the above.

Now what’s necessary for hypertrophy vs. just pure strength. Well, obviously there is some type of intensity (% of 1 rep max or weight on the bar) involved in both. People say that 8-12 reps is for hypertrophy but 1-3 reps is for strength, why? I mean, intensity (%1RM) is linearly related to potential for microtrauma right? Why do you need to do more reps and why isn’t a heavy weight better. Well, a heavy weight is better. The problem is, is that you can’t do a whole lot of work with it and get a reasonable amount of microtrauma for hypertrophy - hence, it mainly stresses the neural components more than the muscular.

So in fact, a rep is a rep, it’s finding that happy medium between intensity (%1RM) and the number of reps performed. Hey wait - why do we do sets if we can just do 25 reps with some weight and be done. Well, because the weight you can do for 25 reps has to be low intensity to get 25 back to back (hence, less microtrauma). So we cluster reps into sets to keep the intensity high and still get a given number of reps done. This is why you can break the rule with 3 rep sets being for strength only if you lower the intensity (%1rm) to where you can do 8-10 sets and get 24-30 reps. You’d probably get more total workload too (reps X sets X weight used) as the time density is lower with additional clustering/rest. There are few absolutes. Microtrauma is also why static holds with very heavy weight tend to not work so well, you need to move a weight over a range of motion and leverages to get the microtrauma.

Also, let’s not forget the neural components that have nothing to do with hypertrophy . Hypertrophy over a period is strategically induced microtrauma through progressive loads (i.e. increased workload by raising weight/more work with same weight/combination). Enhanced neural capability leverages your ability to do this and the resulting hypertrophy gains. Better neural = better potential hypertrophy. Don’t believe me, think about the much loved “newbie gains” where everything works. What is this phenomenon - muscle is muscle? Well the main driver is rapidly developing neural adaptation and that drives weight on the bar which drives hypertrophy. Doh.

So now we know hypertrophy and that neural adaptation is a good thing not some unrelated oddball of nature to be shunned. I’m not saying you need to do a pure powerlifting or peak strength routine and focus on the extreme end of max singles and doubles either - merely that some neural focus is quite helpful. Well what’s the best way to get a lot of hypertrophy for those looking to add muscle mass? Well, the body is a system and adapts best as a system. This is what makes squats, deads, rows, cleans, presses, and snatches very effective. You are using a large portion of your body’s musculature to move a heavy weight (think intensity) through a fundamental range of motion. This is full body microtrauma stressing a large portion of the body’s musculature all at once. So adding weight to these exercises should net hypertrophy over the entire body. And we all know how hard it is to grow a muscle in isolation and that the body tends to stay within reasonable parameters of balance (otherwise the curl boys would all have huge arms - the training is there, the body just doesn’t work like that).

So what’s the deal with the 5x5 stuff? Well, first tends to focus on the most effective lifts or the ones with the highest potential for hypertrophy. We are not concerned with balancing the outer head of the triceps here, this is for pure muscle, triceps are included but nothing in isolation is being heavily focused on. So what’s with doing the big lifts that often and not splitting it up day by day? Two things:

  1. How do you train for any sport or motion? Do it a lot, as much as possible until it’s 2nd nature. Why? The nervous system and your body adapt to performing the motion and become much more efficient and better at it (doesn’t that sound like weight on the bar - if you didn’t get it reread it). Well why not do it every day then? The intensity that you are dealing with is too high and beats on your body’s systems too much. Just the nature of the beast in weight training and why powerlifters don’t just do max squats, deads, and benches every workout - it’s the most direct way to train but it can’t be done for long. And in the weight room, just like in life, it is very hard to get very good at a lot of things all at once or when changing those things all the time. You need to focus on a few things and hammer them to really get good at them.

  2. Recovery is fairly fast, once your body gets used to training your muscles repair themselves fairly quickly generally within 2-3 days. Also, you need not be 100% recovered to train again. When you tan do you tan real hard one day and then wait inside until you are pasty white again? No, you have tolerable periodic exposure and this is how your body adapts. So more frequency is desirable up to a point but 1x per week tends to suck as a default. In addition, remember when we proxied microtrauma with workload (reps X sets X intensity or weight used)? Well do you think you could handle doing 15 sets of squats in 1 day? Think back to the pasty white skin tanning - is it better to get fried for hours and then sit inside whitening up or is it better to get some tolerable amount more frequently.

But still understand that the total amount of microtrauma from the squat can be much higher if spread out over 3 days during the week - i.e. you can tan in three 30 minute sessions without burning but a single 90 minute session might toast you (so in 1 session a week maybe they can only get 60 minutes - hence 90 minutes is more). Also, think about volume and intensity (%1RM).

What’s a good balance to get enough microtrauma - well think back to workload. You could do one 25 rep set, weight too light probably (this is why there are intensity based cutoffs for workload calcs and walking doesn’t make you big, intensity is too low), what about 3 sets of 8 - sure that would work that’s fine, enough weight and work, well what about 5x5 - that works too, and with less density it’s probably the way to get a good amount of workload with some pretty good weight (intensity).

So that’s the jist and how strength and hypertrophy are related. That’s also the jist on how why the 5x5 or any similar setup is structured that way and designed to work. Oh yeah, the other essential ingredient is food. Caloric excess will move the scale. If you aren’t gaining weight, you aren’t eating enough. You cannot add another wing to your house with only enough material to make small repairs on the existing structure.

And why the different templates and structures - just different ways of going about getting the body to acclimate. If you can acclimate fast enough to add weight to your best set of 5 three times a week - do it. If you can only add weight 1x per week that will work too and then you wind up with undulating loads during the week. When you can’t add weight weekly, well then it’s done periodically and your undulations move beyond purely weekly into larger blocks and you get periodization. All different ways to skin a cat, go with the fastest you can. And variables change and are altered. Different ways to get stronger - getting your squat from 200x5 to 220x5 can be handled in a lot of ways. Maybe it’s 4 5lbs increases, one a week. Maybe it’s taking your best 5 sets of 5 with 180lbs and pushing it up to 200. Maybe a combination or working on a weak link.

I hope this has helped someone. But that’s the whole deal. Not too hard is it. And as to the original topic, programming is just about efficiently organizing work. To get as big as possible in the shortest period of time, a split with a ton of different exercises done 1x per week and lot of isolation is probably a very bad choice (and if you read above, you know why). But training the whole body or a big portion of the body in a session will let you get enough frequency and let you really focus on the lifts that can make that mass pile on as fast as possible. Then again, if you don’t really want to add muscle and just want to work on your conditioning and aesthetics and balance - well, if you are pounding the compounds hard with that kind of frequency, it’s hard to fit this work in. Figure out what you need to do and plan for it. It’s that simple. You don’t need to do everything at once and for most people they should focus on aesthetics on an as needed basis rather than trying to preempt all possible future problems that my arrise while hobbling their high priority mass gaining phase.

  1. Welcome to T-Nation.

  2. Who is Mark Rippetoe? I have never heard of him.

  3. Are you sure that you aren’t Mark Rippetoe here trying to sell your books? If so, we have plenty of authors here, and plenty of books to buy.

Not meant to be offensive, but your first post with us is about some guy and how his books and his methodology are better than what we all already know. You didn’t really say hello, or get to know anyone first, you immeadiately stepped up on your soapbox in a foreign land, and started preaching. It may be Sunday, but I’m not in church.

You, or anyone for that matter, can not call out the effectivity of the split, or say you know first hand that steroids make the split workout useless. It just can not be done. Unfortunately for you, people here are too intelligent, well read, and well trained to fall for it.

Also, why do you feel the need to explain everything to us, that we already know, as if you are writing a high school english essay? If you wish to write essays so badly, I’m sure there is a local college at which you could take a course.

I started on a traditional split routine, made great progress at it, and have been in the game for a long time now. The key isn’t what one does to start, the key is that they start. If everyone started with the same thing, nowhere near as many would stick around.

Please, in regards to next time, consider the character and reputation of the author, as well as the readers before preaching.

In conclusion, Welcome to T-Nation Mark. I will not now, nor ever, be purchasing one of your books. However I truly reccomend you purchase one written by a T-Nation author. It would be good for you.