During your workouts there is a window of opportunity in every set in which to stimulate the body to build muscle.
You CANNOT afford to mess this up so please take this short time to read this article.
MuscleHack specializes in muscle growth. Other sites may focus more on functional strength, bodyweight training, overall metabolic conditioning, and so on. But this place is unapologetically about enlarging you muscles, getting lean and looking good!
This being the case, we specifically want our body to make the ANAEROBIC adaptation of increasing the size of the muscle fibers, in particular, the fast twitch fibers. This is in contrast to say increasing the number of mitochondria in the slow twitch muscle fibers.
Obviously then we must train in a way that MAXIMIZES anaerobic adaptations and consequently produces most muscle growth.
Unfortunately our bodies do not have an unlimited ability to adapt to everything you throw at it.
Marathon gym sessions, long intense cardio workouts, high reps, 20 sets per body part and so on, are recipes for disaster. Going to the gym with a fuzzy, general goal of getting big and therefore doing “a lot of exercise”, is misguided and actually counterproductive.
A certain type of stimulus produces a certain type of adaptation.
Your goal of increasing your muscle mass must be approached intelligently and scientifically, especially if you weren’t blessed with killer bodybuilding genetics.
Read here for more on the case against cardio, but for now let’s look at what I call “The Anabolic Window”.
Specifically what I mean by this phrase is amount of time in a given set in which to stimulate a muscle to grow.
You will sometimes hear this referred to as ‘Time Under Tension’ or ‘Time Under Load’.
In order to train for muscular GROWTH, you must keep working sets below 90 seconds at very maximum.
You already know that you should train to failure; high-intensity training ignites growth. Therefore your last, teeth-grinding, rep should occur before 90 seconds is up and usually around the 1 minute mark.
This is the ‘Anabolic Window’ and you need to train within this time-frame.
Here’s the deal:
For each body part and each set, pick a weight that causes you to hit failure around the 1 minute mark, and 90 seconds at an absolute maximum.
If you are using a weight that you can contract against for over 90 seconds, your aerobic system will be generating a large portion of the energy requirements. (Go here to learn more about the body’s 3 energy systems and more on why creatine supplementation makes sense).
The longer the set lasts, the more you split the stimulus between the anaerobic side (increases in muscle mass) and the aerobic side.
This is not what Muscle Hackers want!
The above information has led intelligent bodybuilders to conclude that they must use a repetition range that maxes at about 12 reps since high rep ranges are not optimal for muscle growth.
Another strategy is simply to use a stopwatch to record the Time Under Load. Once your TUL at a given weight reaches above 1 minute, you could then increase the load slightly for your next workout (progression). This is a perfectly good strategy if not a little awkward to implement.
In conclusion, keep your sets intense, train to failure, and it keep them short ‘n’ sweet. Couple these effective workouts with your own Peak Overcompensation Point, and you’ll begin to experience the fastest muscle growth you’ve ever had!