Over the past weekend I was thinking about how to simplify the fundamentals of training to maximize muscle growth.
I mean, is there one rule that can sum it all up?
This 1 principle should contain all others and should be simple enough to be understood by ANYONE that wants to real deal on how to build muscle.
Before we really get into this, let’s look at WHY the body builds muscle in the first place.
Did you realize that building muscle is a DEFENSE mechanism that the body employs?
If the proper stimulation is not given, the body WILL NOT build any new muscle. Basically, your body needs to be brought to its 100% maximum strength limit which prompts it to ‘think’….
“Hey I better protect myself from more of these brutal onslaughts. In order for this same intensity of exercise to feel easier next time, I’ll synthesize more muscle tissue.”
However, next time (if you’re smart and read MuscleHack.com 😉 ) you don’t lift the same weights or complete the same amount of reps; you INCREASE the intensity and once again push the body to it’s MAXIMUM, and now higher, strength limit.
By this time the body is wondering what the hell is going on and once again builds more mass to cope better with your intense workouts.
Repeat this cycle over and over and you have the simple logic of building muscle mass. You’d think it would be obvious to most gym-goers, but surprisingly it’s not.
Now, if your answer to my question in the second sentence of this article was ‘Progressive Overload‘, your answer was incomplete.
Yes, you absolutely MUST increase weight and/or reps over time to continuously build muscle. Simply put, you NEED to get stronger to get bigger. A good muscle building program is, in essence, a strength training program.
HOWEVER, strength gains are a means to an end for us Muscle Hackers, NOT the end itself.
But progressive overload doesn’t describe it all…
What about intensity? Should we train to failure?
Should we reach failure on the 2nd, 10th, 20th, 100th rep?
What we need is a concept that sums up the following…
- Get stronger by lifting progressively heavier weights
- Train to failure to ensure 100% maximum intensity
- Reach failure at progressively heavier weights to force the body into ongoing adaptation
- Work in a rep range that activates the ANAEROBIC pathways, NOT the aerobic ones
After a few hours lying in my back yard catching some rays and mulling this over, I got it!
Here it is. Drum roll please…
The principle of Progressively Maximizing Anaerobic Intensity
In a nutshell, the above principle states that in order to maximize muscle growth you have to force the body to grow/adapt by pushing it to ever-increasing strength limits by working with 100% intensity of effort in an anabolic rep range. Phew!!!
This one phrase encompasses all the following…
- You must get stronger to get bigger
- Your effort must be maximal AND ever-increasing i.e. working to failure at higher and higher weights
- You must stimulate muscle GROWTH above all else i.e. reps should not be too low where strength gains take precedence, and reps cannot be too high which is essentially an aerobic workout
If you memorize this concept you’ll NEVER go far wrong my friends. No gym rat or muscle rag will ever lead you astray again.
P.M.A.I. – Please pass on this concept to any beginners you know or anyone that you know who’s doing it all wrong.
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Great read! It makes complete and total sense explained in detail like this. Thanks!
when you said “aerobic” reps, do you mean stuffs like we do in bodypump or bodycombat etc ? so it actually ruining the whole anaerobic progressive overloads in a whole?
nice little wrap up man this is it right here – although I agree totally with what you have said, nutrition, in my opinion, is very important as well
Another great chunk of infotmation, which makes sense and perhaps more importantly, helps me stay motivated.
On the evenings when I’m tired and not in the right mood… these posts help me to do that last important re.
Another great chunk of compressed info. Helps me know what I should be doing, but more importantly, helps me stay motivated.
When I get to those last few reps… these posts help me to keep going.
Thanks for taking the time to keep us all motivated.
You’re doing great work at producing articles that are full of useful and correct information! I think the definition is a good one.
Perhaps, in a future article, you could elaborate on the estimated duration of anaerobic energy production in resistance training?
hi mark, agree totally with what your saying. but in my case ive found myself not always able to keep upping the reps and lifting bigger weights….i seem to find myself at a wall! quite a broad question i know, but any advice?
Hi Mark, I was wondering if you could clarify for me, I am at a body fat percentage of 20-22% and struggled to move very much fat on T.S.P.A. I read in one of your posts that people with body fat percentages such as mine may benefit more using M.A.N.S. I was hoping you could expand on this for me in more detail including calorie adjustments and cardio implementation. Any help would be great. I seem to be getting stronger easily but even when I had reached the later weeks of T.S.P.A. body fat levels had hardly changed.
Great Article 🙂
Every day i learn something new from your great site .
Thanks a lot
@Sandeep – read this https://musclehack.com/8-reasons-for-hitting-a-plateau-and-how-to-smash-it/
@mic – I’ll email you soon man
@Ahmed – Thanks bro
First off, I want to really, really thank you for providing such a great information service on bodybuilding.
I’m just about to turn 50 and I’ve been back in the gym for about 7 months after about a 22 year hiatus (with little month here, month there visits to the gym along the way). I used to bench 3 sets of 12 reps of 250lb free weight with great form in my late 20’s, but for the life of me all I can get out of my workouts now (twice a week) is 135lb free weight with good form for 3 sets of 8-10 reps, and only if I rest for 4-5 minutes between each set. I currently have a 44″ chest with 15 1/2″ biceps, and 11 1/2″ forearms, I am 5’10” and weigh 190lbs.
My question is this: at my age, do I need to just settle for for this size and strength or with new and continued effort can I eventually get back near my old lifting range?
(ps: I have controlled type II diabetes and managed 1st stage kidney disease)