T Nation

"Single Best Muscle-Building Method", Volume and Frequency Questions


#1

Hey CT,
Just done reading your article- https://www.t-nation.com/training/single-best-muscle-building-method

It has opened my eyes in how to gain optimal hypertrophy and has cleared my mind with how I should treat isolation exercises that I do, especially with how to determine your weight used where its more on how you feel the targeted muscle vs maximum weight. Also, the fact that reaching failure is the trigger for hypertrophy, not the weight used, taking the pressure off the mind set of trying to lift more each session.

Just on your recommendations for my biceps and triceps, you have suggested 6 x week using a couple warm up sets then 1 set to failure. Within the article, it found- ‘In the study, having three “failure triggers” caused more hypertrophy than having only one failure trigger. And as long as you had those triggers, the hypertrophy was the same regardless of the weight lifted.’

  1. So, you mentioned ‘Three sets seems to be best for an exercise.’ How do you work out what’s the best amount of work per session along with frequency?

  2. Using your 6 x week of 1 set to failure, would doing 3 sets to failure 6 x week be too much? Again, using the 6 x week amount, would 2 sets to failure 3 x week be best or 3 sets to failure 2 x week be best?

  3. What is the ultimate formula for frequency and amount of failure sets per session per muscle for optimal hypertrophy per week, for instance for biceps and triceps?

Thanks for the help and enjoying reading and learning from your articles,
PK


#2

Set a weekly target volume. Weekly volume per body part is handy because then you can just divide it up by the number of days you train. This can be counted as the number of working sets so warm ups don’t count.

The concepts of training volume landmarks, including maintenance volume, minimum effective volume, maximum adaptive volume and maximum recoverable volume, can be used to decide how much should be done and why. Dr. Mike Israetel has an article on Renaissance Periodization titled “Training Volume Landmarks for Muscle Growth” if you are interested.

These volume landmarks, including MRV which is the max volume you can recover from, are individual to people and body part and can vary. Israetel found that for the biceps, if you have plenty of pulling/back work, MEV was 8 sets, MAV was 14-20 sets and MRV was 26 sets per week.

Frequency is a variable you can control. If you control volume and intensity you can have whatever frequency you want from once a week (not optimal tho) to 14 times per week.

There’s no ultimate formula for everyone but there’s probably one specific for you. Try out 6 days a week of 3 working sets = 18 total working sets per week. Since this doesn’t even exceed MAV you’ll likely be able to recover and grow given your diet and such is in order. If you don’t progress, tho unlikely, it was too much. If you can recover why not add a set or two next week and there’s your progressive overload.


#3

Thanks for the reply khangles…

But I was interested in CT’s views with the 1 set to failure protocol he presents now a days. In terms of the best frequency and volume.

As mentioned above if you may have missed-
Just on your recommendations for my biceps and triceps, you have suggested 6 x week using a couple warm up sets then 1 set to failure. Within the article, it found- ‘In the study, having three “failure triggers” caused more hypertrophy than having only one failure trigger. And as long as you had those triggers, the hypertrophy was the same regardless of the weight lifted.’

So, you mentioned ‘Three sets seems to be best for an exercise.’ How do you work out what’s the best amount of work per session along with frequency?

Using your 6 x week of 1 set to failure, would doing 3 sets to failure 6 x week be too much? Again, using the 6 x week amount, would 2 sets to failure 3 x week be best or 3 sets to failure 2 x week be best?

What is the ultimate formula for frequency and amount of failure sets per session per muscle for optimal hypertrophy per week, for instance for biceps and triceps?

Thanks for the help and enjoying reading and learning from your articles,
PK


#4

There is no answer to that. Sorry.

It depends on your neurotype (some people do better on higher frequency/lower volume, some on higher volume/lower frequency… within reason as well as the rest of your training (if you do a ton of indirect work for triceps and biceps you can’t do as much direct work for them).

Furthermore you seem to be obsessed with arms (you asked about 5 questions about them). I will be blunt: some people have muscles that are just not really responsive to training. YES you can improve them, but there are no magic solution that will “blow up” a lagging muscle. SURE it’s good marketing strategy to claim to have magic solutions. But really you will always be limited by your own natural muscle “blueprint”.

So my recommendation is to stop obsessing about finding the best formula for arms. There is none. Provided that you do enough overall work for them at a sufficient level of intensity/effort, that you are doing a solid general routine and that you are eating enough to support growth, your arms will grow at their own maximal rate. Sorry to sound negative but that is the truth. BTW I myself have lagging biceps. I get away with it because I have good triceps and short arms so it gives the illusion of bigger arms. But biceps have always been my lagging point. I was able to make them a bit better over the years but never make them “blow up”. And I tried everything.


#5

It’s not what I present “nowadays”… its ONE approach I show you guys. I don’t have ONE method. I’m a generalist and I have tons of tools and present them. Sometimes the titles are chosen to make the articles more appealing.


#6

Hey CT,
Thanks for the reply, understood just trying to work out whats best for me, taken your advice…

Ive found for me that hitting biceps and triceps 3 times a week works best for me, with that what protocol would you recommend would be the most appropriate in terms of sets to failure-

  1. 3 times a week with 3 sets to failure each session
  2. 3 times a week with 2 sets to failure each session
  3. 3 times a week with 1 set to failure each session

As your article suggests 3 sets to failure caused more hypertrophy, but does that then limit the frequency per week or can it be done 3 times a week?

This done along with the HPM program where I do No other assistant work.

Once I can work out a plan of attack I can leave you alone!

Thanks again for the help, appreciate it,
PK


#7

3 sets to failure on one (well two… one for biceps and one for triceps) isolation exercise 3x per week is not too much. I might not say the same thing about compound movements. But the neurological demands of isolation exercises is very low so I wouldn’t worry about it.


#8

God I hope so because it combines two of the topics I HATE the most: arm training and obsession about one minor thing


#9

Haha ok I hear you…

  1. Just finally, for the 3 sets to failure, should this be with the same exercise or should you use this with 3 different exercises?
    For instance, 1-2 warm up sets than 1 set to failure on 3 exercise per session? I do triceps on push days and biceps on pull days.

  2. Oh and finally, with the Hang Pull and Muscle Snatch both from the hang, is it best to to this continuously for the whole set, or to pause in between each rep?

Thanks again,
PK


#10

1 exercise… if you do 3 exercises and you do 1-2 warm-ups per exercise you go from 4-5 sets to 6-9 sets. Even if some are not to failure they still cause fatigue


#11

Use the approach that you are the most comfortable with and allows you to use the most weight


#12

I tried the 3 sets to failure and it did feel better in terms of feeling the muscles and the pump effect, this vs 1 set to failure.

Just one more thing, I use a home gym so is it best to do the isolation work after my main workout or can it be done as a second workout 4-6 hours later in the day? Its just that my main workout may take 60 mins to complete, is doing isolation work beyond the 60 min mark still ok to do. What is a better approach?

And is doing 1 arm exercises at a time ok?

Thanks again for the help,
PK


#13

PA-RA-LY-SIS BY OVERANALYSIS.

Seriously I’m super annoyed right now. Not by you specifically but by your mindset. Yes it’s important to have a good approach but stressing over so many minor and insignificant things will HURT YOUR CHANCES OF REACHING YOUR GOALS.

EVERYBODY that I’ve seen reach a high level of success “just did it”. They did not stress about minor stuff, they looked at the big picture.

Yes if you train more than 60 minutes you will lose all your gains… in fact if you train 61 minutes you will actually lose muscle mass. COMMON MAN!!! doing your 3 sets might increase workout time to what, 65 minutes??? It DOESN’T MATTER!!! Tons of guys get great gains 90-120 minutes… heck when I was at Tate’s compound their workouts lasted 3 hours. I’M NOT SAYING THAT YOU SHOULD TRAIN FOR THAT LONG. But there is nothing wrong with training a bit more than an hour.

FOR YOUR OWN GOOD I will no longer answer your questions. My goal is to help people achieve their objective. And WITH YOU it means stop feeding your obsession for details. Do it for a month then you might ask questions again. IF they are not about details that make zero differences.


#14

Understood, thanks again for the help


#15

CT, I salute your patience. I never would have lasted this long.
Good call on ending the discussion. There was never going to be a final question.


#16

As I have understood it Dr Mike advocated starting at you MEV and working up to your MRV during 4-6w and then deload.
Does anybody have an opinion of it would be a good idea to take the average volume for this period and split it into alternating high and low volume week to week with no actual changes in intesity, thus keeping the same routine with the same rep ranges?

Example: Say you do on average 20 sets of chest work during 6weeks.
Then alternate between one week doing 23 sets of chest and the following week doing 16 sets of chest work and then repeat this 3 times?


#17

Hej CT thanks for the already provided value!

What is you opinion of the following types of volume cyclings:
Say I aim to do rougly 20sets of chest and back work per week over a 6w period.

Opt1: Doing 20 sets of back&chest every week.
Opt2: Starting at MEV, adding sets and working up to MRV example: 10,13,16,19,24 sets.
Opt3: Dividing volume in high and low volume with no change to the intesity/rep ranges!
Example : Alterating weekly between 23 sets an 16 sets and repeat for 3 times thus still
averaging 20 sets per week? :slight_smile:

Thanks!