TC's Article -- The Best Way To Build Muscle, According to Science

This was a good read. Regarding the volume consensus of ~10 sets per muscle group per week, I’m wondering if this means total sets or working sets. I’m guessing it is probably the former since I would assume scientific studies count all sets, including warm up or prep sets and not just working sets. 10 total sets per muscle group per week seems low to me if warm ups are counted. Thoughts?

That’s a very big assumption that’d change everything, but it’s easy enough to verify by checking the data. The overwhelming majority of studies I’ve seen, and what I’ve seen in a quick check of a few cited by the study in the article, drew conclusions on working sets only, not including warm-ups.

Studies along these lines often use a general warm-up followed by training with the target sets and reps at a given % max/intensity (typically straight sets unless something specific is being investigated). Including warm-up sets in the final conclusion would require factoring extra variables like extremely sub-max loading and reduced intensity-per-set.


Thanks! That intuitively makes a whole lot more sense to me than the conclusion I was drawing. I looked at the Shoenfeld paper itself, but didn’t think to check the studies cited in it – I’m slow this morning apparently!

I mean, dude, the paper is 22 pages long followed by 8 pages of references. The thing’s a monster, it’s not an issue of you being slow. :laughing:

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Interesting findings regarding volume and frequency :wink:

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Good read. I guess ill be cutting my volume in half now, lol… Very good :slight_smile:

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IMO, AAS’s allow increased volume because the cortisol has no binding sites to adversely affect muscle growth. Those binding sites are occupied by AAS’s.


Well, AAS might ALLOW higher volume, but the question is - is it NEEDED? Just because we can survive a grind, doesnt mean we gain from it.
I believe that the amount of sets wouldnt change on aas because aas allows higher intensity as in - more weight on the bar, so the sets themselves become more intense. I have noticed that i can easlily overtrain on high amounts of drugs also, and i believe its because i am lifting much heavier, therefor creating more stress and damage.
But its just my opinion - i have no real clue. But lowering sets would be nice. Its annoying trying to get 20 sets of everything in all the time.

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That’s interesting.

How long does it take for cortisol to bind and mess up my gains?

As I understood the bro-science in the '90’s, when you train (stress the muscle) your body releases cortisol. The more the stress, the more cortisol is released. The cortisol floated through your blood stream looking for a cell to attach itself.

All the cells that cortisol attached were less apt to accept nutrients required for growth. More cells with attached cortisol, less growth potential. That was the beauty of high testosterone levels. The higher your testosterone the more cell binding sites are occupied by a growth accentuated hormone. The cells that are occupied with testosterone have no place for the cortisol to attach.

Any time cortisol is present in your blood system the gains are much slower. Stress causes cortisol release, whether it’s emotional, mental, or physical stress.


There was discussion in those days that it wasn’t so much the benefits of AAS’s that caused muscle to grow, as it was there was no place for cortisol to attach, thus all training (physical stress) provided muscle growth potential.

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what @readalot @iron_yuppie have to say about this? i am very interested in this topic…

I understand this is 90’s bro science, but it does line up with actual science pretty well here. The question I have is about the release of cortisol from physical stress… One could assume the more you train, the more stress and cortisol is produced, thus leading to worse nutrient acceptance. Conversely, if one does not induce the physical stress of training, the muscles would have no need to accept muscle building nutrients. Do you think this alludes to the ‘sweet spot’ of 10 sets per muscle per week as mentioned in the article?
too many sets = too much cortisol
too few sets = not enough need for muscle building nutrients

I’m no sure where the bro science stopped and the real science started in this, so please correct me if i’m wrong.

Not sure if its’ common practice here or not, but I used to be on a forum that allowed ‘bumping’ so the post/thread gets attention… I’m pretty interested in this as well :sweat_smile:

I enjoy these discussions as well.

To add my thoughts, when training an upper lower, it’s hard to get 5 good sets in on every muscle (twice a week so 10 sets per week) because my energy levels go.

So I get a good compound chest and compound back movement in, then the secondary back and chest less so, then shoulder and arms even less so.

With a body part split it’s a good focus for the day and you know you are getting some top quality sets for every muscle group.

There are so many threads on this site that talk about bro vs frequently split but im always intrigued by them. It might just be that certain people get better results with one than the other so no rule fits all.

Edit: also I only use 1:30 minute rests for big exercises and usually 1 minute rests. Wondering if more rest will help overall (although cost me longer at the gym).

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60-90 seconds rest for regular exercises is recommended.
Big lifts, 2-3 minutes if not overly heavy and 3-5 minutes if very heavy.

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I have nothing to back this up, but I really feel like people tend to “respond best” to whatever they tried first. Like everyone seems to more or less come back to whatever split they did in high school.


Max effort lat pulldowns and 21s


I’ve not evolved far

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I had a decently built P.E teacher who was also the strength coach for the football team. He had us on a 3x per week program, which was effectively PPL now that i think about it, where major lifts had 2 warmup sets and 3 working sets and standard lifts had 1 warmup with 2 working sets. It was a decently well rounded program tbh but it started lagging in density as i progressed more.
To your point though, I guess PPL has been the best program for me and it was basically what i was doing in high school.

Came here to say ‘you’re wrong’ and wound up saying ‘you’re right’ lol