Michael Adams
Michael Adams

Latest posts by Michael Adams (see all)

   A common goal among any gym goers is to build more muscle, it could be to support a performance goal, simply look better, or they are pursuing the path of bodybuilding. Muscle growth is an important factor in weight loss, and sport performance.  More muscle means more power. So lets get into, how do we optimize our muscle growth.

   First thing we need to understand is muscle growth is about recovery. We can do all the workouts in the world, but if we cannot recover its pointless. Recovery vs work is split simply into two concepts. Maximum recoverable volume (MRV) and Minimum effective volume (MEV). MRV represents the maximum volume load a muscle group can handle and still recover and grow. MEV is the minimum amount of volume needed to induce a training effect.

   So what is our MEV? This will depend on where you are in your training. A beginner has a very low MEV. They can walk by weights and grow. Where as an advanced lifter may have an MEV very close to their MRV. For most intermediates and advanced novices this will be between 8 and 12 sets per body part per week. Taking into account that optimal training frequency ranges from 2 to 4 times per week for any body part, this means 2 to 6 sets per session.  Now of course this is the MEV, so with that comes minimal growth.

   Now with our MRV, we want to avoid going over this, as it creates damage that is not recovered, and if this is done repeatedly done it can lead to injury. Typically MRV is about 20 total sets per body part. Some can take more then others; shoulders for example can handle 25 or so. With the same training frequency as discussed earlier that will account to 5 to 10 sets per training session.

   The intensity that is to be used to best create muscle growth is typically around 50-60% of your 1RM, however some studies have shown that lifts done as low as 30% can work.  The real king of muscle growth remains volume. As we move up intensity it can create much more fatigue and increase recovery times, making training less efficient.

   Exercise selection will vary based on training level.  Beginners should stick to a basic selection of compound movements to build up their strength in those movements for 6 months to a year. Good choices are Deadlifts, Squats, Overhead Press, Bench Press, Barbell Row. It is a mistake to include too much variety, as the body gets resistant to hypertrophy gains in movements over time. So stick to a more basic selection, then after 6 months, change out movements. The goal with variance in exercise selection is simply, as little as is needed.

   So get out there, lift heavy things, get that physique you always wanted. More muscle is almost always a great choice. No matter what your other goals are.