Muscle for life

The Absolute Best and Worst Ways to Build Muscle

The Absolute Best and Worst Ways to Build Muscle

Advice on the best ways to build muscle will send you off in all kinds of directions, but here are two fundamental truths that cut through the BS.


When it comes to building muscle, many people spend far too much time chasing “hacks,” shortcuts, and “secrets” and far too little time focusing on the fundamentals–the 20% that delivers 80% of the results.

I should know because I used to be one of those people. I used to spend hundreds of dollars on worthless supplements every month. For years I hopped from workout program to trainer to another, and from one diet regimen to diet “hack” to another.

To make a long story short, I made just about every “muscle building mistake” you can imagine, and now that I’m on the other side of it all, I can say I’ve learned a very valuable lesson…

Building muscle just isn’t that complicated. It requires that you understand a handful of principles and do a handful of things consistently and correctly. It requires patience and diligence, not innovation and extremism.

In this article, I want to share with you what I feel are the two most important aspects of building muscle. Get these two things right, and you will build muscle and strength. Get them wrong, and you’ll struggle just as I once did.

The Best Way to Build Muscle:
Lift Heavy Weights

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my years in the gym, and one of the biggest was doing too much high-rep, “hypertrophy” training.

You know, the types of workouts we see in all the magazines: 8 to 12 reps per set, tons of sets, drop sets, super sets, giant sets, and so forth. I did these types of workouts for about 7 years, 3 to 5 days per week, with no major breaks, and all it got me was about 25 pounds of muscle and middling strength.

Here’s what I’m talking about–a shot of me at about the 6 to 7-year mark:


I guess I looked okay, but not for 7 years of consistent training. And I was, relatively speaking, pretty darn weak too. I could bench press and squat about 225 pounds for a few reps on a good day. I could shoulder press what I curled. I wasn’t deadlifting at all.

My body wasn’t changing, either. I had looked more or less like this for the previous 2 to 3 years and thought I may have just reached my genetic potential.

Well, I wasn’t anywhere close to my potential. Soon after that picture was taken, I dramatically changed my training methods and here’s a shot of me about 2 years later:


And here’s a recent shot of me, after 3 more years of proper training and eating:

Sure, I had learned to diet along the way, but I was also stronger than ever. There were a few “watershed moments” that account for these dramatic changes, and the primary one was the realization of how important heavy weightlifting is for building muscle.

The big “a-ha” was that high-rep training and “feeling the burn” should never be the focus of a natural weightlifter. Our primary goal in the gym is to get stronger.

An emphasis on high-rep training simply can’t build the amount of muscle it takes to go from “normal” to “ripped” (about 40 to 50 pounds for the average guy, and half that for the average girl). The only reliable way to do this is to push, pull, and squat large amounts of weight, week in and week out.

The single rep range I’ve found most effective is the 4 to 6 rep range, which has you lifting about 80 – 85% of your one-rep max. This rep range is an incredibly effective way to stimulate both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, resulting in big, dense, strong muscles that don’t disappear when your pump subsides or when you get lean.

Trust me on this one–the big, shredded guys that do 15-25 sets per workout, 10-12+ reps per set, with supersets, drop sets, and other fancy rep schemes, can only look like they do because of drugs.

This applies equally to men and women, although women generally can’t do as much heavy weightlifting in each workout as men as their bodies produce much less testosterone and thus can’t repair muscle as effectively. This is why I recommend women start in the 8 to 10 rep range and, as they get stronger, start adding in some 4 to 6 rep work on their big compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, military and bench press.

I spun my wheels for years before learning this lesson. Don’t make the same mistake.

As Professor Ronnie so eloquently puts it: “Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift this heavy ass weight.”

The Worst Way to Build Muscle:
Bulk and Cut Incorrectly

Every aspect of getting fit–diet, training, supplementation–has its heated controversies, and one of the ongoing nutritional spats is whether “bulking and cutting” actually works.










Many people believe in “keeping it simple, stupid” and stick to the old bodybuilding adage of having to “eat big to get big,” and to the ordeal of near-starvation and hours of incline treadmill walking to get lean, while others claim that bulking and cutting is antiquated and nonsensical, and that building muscle without gaining fat (“recomping”) is the new era of bodybuilding.

Well, the truth is both of these groups are right and wrong. When done correctly, bulk and cutting is the most effective way to build an impressive physique, and when done incorrectly, it’s an extremely effective way to stick yourself in a narrow, deep rut.

To understand why, let’s review a a quick bit of physiology.

One of the big “secrets” to building muscle is eating enough food.

Most people know that you have to eat enough protein to build muscle, but many people don’t know that you also have to eat enough calories.

You see, your body burns energy to stay alive and you feed it energy by eating food. The relationship of these amounts–energy burned versus energy consumed–is known as energy balance.

If you feed your body less energy than it burns every day, you’ve put it into what is known as a “calorie deficit.” This is a negative energy balance (the body is burning more energy than it’s consuming), and the result is weight loss (the loss of water, glycogen, fat, and sometimes muscle).

One of the “side effects” of being in a calorie deficit is your body’s ability to create muscle proteins becomes impaired. That is, it can’t build muscle efficiently when it’s in a calorie deficit, and that’s why it’s generally accepted that you can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

Thus, if you want to build muscle as quickly as possible, you want to make sure you’re not in a calorie deficit.  This is why you have to, in a sense, “eat big to get big.”

No matter how you eat your food–intermittent fastingcarb cyclingIIFYM, etc.–if you’re in a calorie deficit several days per week, and if you’re a relatively lean, experienced weightlifter, you will build little-to-no muscle. There’s just not way to naturally cheat this physiological mechanism.

The easiest way to ensure you’re not in a calorie deficit is to slightly overshoot your body’s energy needs, keeping it in a positive energy balance or “calorie surplus.” This is what “bulking” is, and it’s scientifically sound and supported by decades of bodybuilding research and results.

Many people take it too far though…

The big problem with the traditional “bulk.”


The traditional “bulk” is like a dietary sledgehammer: it has you slamming down thousands upon thousands of calories every day, getting fatter and fatter, without really knowing why.

While that’s one way to ensure you’re in a calorie surplus, does building muscle really require that much eating? Fortunately for our wallets, stomachs, and sanity, it doesn’t. And in fact, it can actually be counter-productive.

The major problem with maintaining a large calorie surplus is you gain fat very quickly, and this in turn gets in the way of building muscle.

What many people don’t know is as body fat levels rise…

As the body becomes more insulin resistant, its ability to burn fat decreases, and the likelihood of storing carbohydrate as fat increases. Furthermore, insulin resistance suppresses intracellular signaling responsible for protein synthesis, which means less total muscle growth.

As testosterone plays a vital role in the process of muscle building, and high levels of estrogen promotes fat storage, the downsides here are clear.

The bottom line is the fatter you get, the less muscle you’re going to build, and this is why I recommend that guys never go above 15 to 17% body fat and that girls never go above 25 to 27%. And that once someone reaches this point, he/she diets down to about 10% (men)/20% (women) before going into a calorie surplus again.

How to calculate a proper calorie surplus for building muscle.

Here’s the rule of thumb for proper bulking:

Eat 10% more calories than you burn every day to maximize muscle growth and minimize fat storage.

An accurate way to measure how much energy you’re burning is to use the Katch McArdle formula to determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and multiply it as follows:

  • By 1.2 if you exercise 1-3 hours per week.
  • By 1.35 if you exercise 4-6 hours per week.
  • By 1.5 if you exercise 6+ hours per week.

This gives you a good approximation of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which is simply the total amount of calories you’re burning each day.

To put yourself in a 10% surplus, multiply your TDEE by 1.1 and voila, you’ve got your starting point.

For example, I currently weigh 193, I’m about 7.5% body fat, and I exercise 5 – 6 hours per week. My BMR is about 2,200 calories per day. I then multiply that by 1.4 to get my total daily expenditure, which is about 3,080 calories per day. I then multiply that by 1.1 to get my bulking calories, which is 3,400 per day.

You’ll know you have it right when you’re steadily getting stronger and gaining 0.5 to 1 (men)/0.25 to 0.5 (women) pounds per week. 

And in terms of muscle:fat ratio, most people will gain at a 1:1 rate (1 pound of muscle for every pound of fat), but some people tend to gain a little more muscle than fat while others experience the opposite. That’s genetics for you.

The worst way to lose fat.


So that’s bulking. Let’s now talk cutting, which requires that we keep our bodies in a calorie deficit to lose fat.

There’s no arguing the physiology–no calorie deficit means no fat loss–but there are right and wrong ways of going about it. And the wrong ways are much more prevalent and are what give cutting a bad name.

Specifically, the most common (and worst) way to cut is to dramatically reduce your food intake and do a ton of exercise.

The combination of a large calorie deficit and high amount of exercise is simply disastrous.

A much better way of going about it is maintaining a moderate caloric restriction of about 20 to 25% (eat about 75 to 80% of the energy your body burns every day). This will enable you to lose 1-2 lbs of fat per week while preserving your metabolic health, energy levels, mental balance, and mood.

And in terms of exercise amount and intensity, a good place to start is 3 to 5 weightlifting sessions per week and 3 20 to 25-minute high intensity interval cardio sessions per week. This will burn plenty of energy to help accelerate the fat loss, and it’s also effective for preserving muscle, which is just as important as losing fat when you’re in a calorie deficit.

The second worst way to lose fat.


When the goal is building a great physique, another big fat loss mistake is “slow cutting,” which is the slow loss of body fat over time by using a smaller calorie deficit of 5 to 10%.

At first, slow cutting would seem to be beneficial. You get to eat more food, which means less hunger and better workouts, and you still lose fat (albeit slowly).

The problem, however, is that the slight calorie deficit still impairs muscle growth, which means the longer you “slow cut,” the more time you’re not building muscle.

This insidious mistake that can really hurt your long-term results because if you’re still working on your physique and need to build more muscle to reach your goal, you can waste a lot of time and potential muscle growth.

I’ve seen people really mess this up and gain anywhere from 1/2 to even 1/3 the amount of muscle they could have over the course of anywhere from 6 to 12 months by simply remaining in a mild calorie deficit for far too long.

This is why I recommend people use every safe, scientifically validated strategy for maximizing fat loss when cutting. The goal is to get rid of the fat as quickly as comfortably possible and get out of the calorie deficit and back to building muscle.

Putting it all together: correct versus incorrect bulking and cutting.

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, so I’d like to give you a simple summary of bulking and cutting.

The Ineffective Way to Bulk and Cut

  • Eat way too much while bulking and gain way too much fat too fast.

This slows down muscle growth and forces you to flip to a calorie deficit to lose fat after only a couple months, which isn’t enough time to build a considerable amount of muscle.


  • Eat way too little and exercise way too much while cutting and lose nearly equal amounts of muscle and fat.

This often causes you to lose whatever muscle you gained while bulking and puts you back to square zero in terms of body composition.


  • Drag your cuts out for way too long, losing in 6 months what you could have healthily lost in 2 months.

This means you spent 4 months building little-to-no muscle when you could have been bulking instead.

The Effective Way to Bulk and Cut

  • Follow a proper meal plan while bulking, ensuring that you’re in a mild calorie surplus, and don’t let your cheat meals get out of hand.

This prevent drastic overeating and allows you to stretch your bulks out for as long as possible–4 to 6 months for most people–and build a noticeable amount of muscle and strength.

  • Utilize a safe-but-aggressive calorie deficit and proper exercise and supplementation regimen to rapidly strip off fat while preserving muscle.

This allows you to keep your cuts relatively short (2 to 3 months for most people) and retain the muscle gained while bulking, which lets you get back to adding more muscle to your physique as quickly as possible.

The Best Ways to Build Muscle Are Simple and Effective

If you make these simple changes to your workouts and diet–if you focus on heavy, compound weightlifting and if you bulk and cut correctly–you’ll see drastic changes in your body.

You’ll gain muscle and strength faster than ever before and come to same realization that I did–that if you just do this long enough, you’re guaranteed to get the body you truly want. No more anxiety or frustration or mysteries. And that’s the real payoff–feeling completely in control of how your body develops.


What are your thoughts on the best ways to build muscle? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Conrad

    Michael, what are your feelings about using a fitbit to track a daily calorie burn? I work inconsistent days of the week for varying hours, and it is labor intensive so my daily calories usage can vary by as much as a thousand. Do you think a fitbit is a good way to track this and subsequently meet my daily caloric needs?

    • Michael Matthews

      I think it’s worthwhile if you’re moving around a lot.

      • Conrad

        Ok, thanks! I love your site and book btw

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! 🙂

  • MsJadensDad .

    Great article as usual–would you mind giving your thoughts on incorporating a reverse diet strategy while transitioning from cutting to bulking? I thought your interview with Sohee Lee was interesting but lacked a clear cut strategy for actually incorporating a reverse diet into our (your) programs. Thanks.

  • Debbye S. Sparks

    Man, I tend to gain fat sooo fast, I’m so scared that if I start bulking I’ll gain more fat than muscle, but like you said, that’s genetics #SucksBeingAGirl

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha it can be annoying, yes.

  • James

    Hi mike, what’s your thoughts on the 3-5 rep range? It’s actually very similar volume to the 4-6 rep range if you do 12 sets compared to 9 sets in the 4-6. I like lifting heavy

    • Michael Matthews

      3-5 is good as well but I wouldn’t only train in that range unless I was powerlifting. If anything I would move to 5-7 if I were to change.

  • James Buckley

    Have you ever read Stuart McRobert, Mike (http://hardgainer.com)?

    Back in the 90s McRobert was inspiration for many lifters, and still is today. As with yourself, he has an unrelenting focus on big lifts and progressive overload and sensible bulking and cutting. It’s that 20% of lifting that really matters – and it’s a shame that people are still so confused about it 20yrs after I read McRobert’s 1st book, Brawn.

    • Michael Matthews

      I haven’t read his books but I’m familiar with his work and definitely agree with his overall approach.

    • Billn

      I have several of his books. Just bought an updated one recently. His books were the first I found with progressive free weight training and anti-steroids. Pretty innovative at the time.

      What I still love about his books is his instruction on lifting safely with proper form. I think he’s borderline OCD about those topics because he wrecked his body following magazines and broscience. Passionate over-achiever.

      For the record, I’m getting better results with BLS.

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks for the comment Bill! Glad to hear you’re doing well with BLS.

  • Bart

    Mike, Im 35, been lifting for about 2 years solid, I agree with some of these lifting ideas, just that rep range is scary to me, i find my form is junk, I can hold it together if I keep in the 6-8 rep range. Is there any difference as far as hypertrophy goes? Im not that strong, I prefer front squats to back, so my best lift for that 170 for 6, incline bench is 160, overhead press is 115 for 4-5 and Deadlift is with a trap bar at 315 for 5. Im just trying to look better not necessarily lift the most weight, can I get that at 6-8 reps?

  • Georges Yacoub

    first i would like to thank you for such great info! one question:
    if i’m trying to loose fat i have to cut 20 to 25 % of my TDEE?

    • Michael Matthews
      • Georges Yacoub

        Thx micheal! It was very enjoyable reading some of your articles. Looking forward to reading more. I will stay in touch for other question.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! Sounds good!

  • Martin Jones

    Great article Mike. Would like to emphasise to beginners, ‘Heavy Weights’ is relative to your current ability. Don’t go copying established lifters and injuring yourself like I have in the past.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks and yes, that’s right!

  • Pete

    Just a suggestion… your articles are scientific, motivating and a great read but when I click on your email article links, I get your pop over which obscures the article. There does not seem to be a delete button on the pop over, so if I click on the link again, I get the article without it. Is this just my browser or do other people have a problem trying to get rid of the pop over?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Pete. I’ll check this out.

  • Eric Farto

    You nailed it, as always! Congrats!! 🙂

    I did a clean bulk for quite some months, and reached 79kg. Been cutting for 2 weeks now, 4 pounds lost.. I’m following every single rule of yours, Mike..

    Soon I’ll get back to bulk, don’t want to lose the gaaiiiiinnzzz 🙂

    Question: Beyond BLS will come to Brazil?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! That’s great! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      Yes I think so. Next year, possibly…

  • todd

    I’m just starting out lifting weights. I’m at 22% body fat. Should I try to gain muscle first or lose body fat first?

  • Wilson Le

    i started trying this out and im sure i was at a even larder deficit than i should be at. In one week i lost 5pounds and around 3% body fat, is this even possible or are my calculations/measurements incorrect. I think its only possible since i have a surplus of body fat, went from 21% to 18%, i did not lose any strength as far as my lifts go so maybe im just cutting in a super extreme way? I went with the Katch BMR method and did the multiplications according to this artcle which works out to be 2163cal per day and i know i never went higher than that and some days i was even short of that.

    • Michael Matthews

      You lost a lot of water, which would register as bf % if you’re calipering. 5 lbs down in one week is easy to do if it’s week 1 or 2.

      You’re doing well. Keep it up.

  • Adel-Alexander

    Mike I wanted to ask, what is the maximum weight that I should progressively add on my lifts to increase the progressive overload over time?

    And what should I do with dumbells that go 2 kg up in weights but ends up being too much for me to lift in order to increase the overload? For instance I can shoulder press 10 kg just fine.. but the next one in the line is 12 kg and that is slightly too much. :S

    • Michael Matthews

      I like to go by reps. Once I reach the top of the rep range I’m working in, it’s time to add weight.

      Shoulders can be a bitch. Work with current weight until you can get 3-4 more reps and then move up.

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  • Thanks Mike for this great article.

    I completely agree with the points you adressed regarding cutting and bulking and I see way too many people out there struggling to learn these important lessons early on and save themselves so much time and frustration.

    And I can especially agree with your point on lifting heavy weights.I used to train only in high rep-ranges (like yourself) my first 2 years in the gym and I saw little progress.Once I decided to do my compound movements in the lower rep-ranges with longer rest, I saw significant strength gains over time and I started to get more and more muscular.A better deadlift improved my strength on a range of different exercises and therefore my progress skyrocketed.

    Thanks again for this informative piece!


    • Thanks Philip! I appreciate the comment and that’s great you’ve learned those vital lessons. It took me a while, haha.

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  • JoeyCole

    Hi Michael,

    I’m a guy who is 32 years old, 76 kg, between %15-20 fat (my abs can’t be seen, a little belly fat) and want to build more muscle. Should I cut, bulk or gain muscle lose fat at the same time? You tell us no to bulk if we’re over %15 fat, so i wonder your advise.

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  • Lorenzo

    Hi Michael thanks for all the great and very useful info in how to properly build muscle. Question : i read in other websites that we need need to do high reps in order to activate every muscle fiber and that low reps 4-6 will not hit every fiber thus leaving you with an incomplete muscle gain what are your thoughts on that?

  • Liam

    I like you and your insight mike! Before I can accept you as a fitness guru though, being from a powerlifting background, I gotta call you out and ask what you’re putting up in the big 3 lifts.

    • Thanks!

      Haha my recent bests were…

      Bench: 295 x 2 to 3

      Deadlift: 435 x 2

      Squat: 355 x 2 to 3

      I have videos on my Instagram somewhere.

  • Rouge Surreah

    Hey Mike 🙂 Been so addicted to your site lately! I was having a really bad psychological moment with food (literally … living through a self imposed hell through a traumatized relationship with food following my first bodybuilding competition) and your site really eased my anxiety. So thank you so much. Such a relief to know theres someone out there who humbly wants people to be happy in their bodies. I am so ready to be happy in my skin someday soon!! EEEEEEk.
    Ive already emailed you and cant wait to get a meal plan!! 😀 I am a little confused because based on certain articles, Im using the formulas and getting different numbers. There was a formula on your IG (carbs x 1, protein x 1.2, fats x 0.2) – which would put me in a huge deficit… did that for a few days and it just didnt seem like enough food. Anyways I give up on doing it myself and want you to do it for me. Hope to hear from you soon 😀

  • LifeForMuscle

    hi mike!

    i have a question if u dont mind. oh wait u dont have a choince XD. (im joking)

    anyway… u always advise the people for rep scheme of 4-6. but what about muscle Hypertrophy and preparatory? do we just leave them aside? im pretty sure we need incorporate it in the workout. what do you think?

    hypertrophy = 10-12 reps
    preparatory = 15 or more reps

    please tell me your opinion thank you!

  • Dan

    In my opinion instead of bulking and cutting it’s better to just eat at your maintenance calories that way you look more defined year round.

    Some more tips that i’d like to add:

    1. Know the number of calories you need to grow bigger

    Your calorie needs depend on your age, gender, current weight and how active your lifestyle is. For the sake of simplicity, multiply your current weight in pounds to 20. If you weigh 130 pounds, that’s 130 x20 = 2600 calories daily. This might come as a shock if you’re not used to eating that much in a day.

    2. Exercise big muscle groups to jumpstart the muscle building process

    Studies show that training big muscle groups jumpstarts the muscle building process leading to faster and bigger muscle gains. Make sure you involve these muscle groups at least once a week. The largest muscle groups are the leg, back and chest muscles.

    3. Lift progressively

    As your muscles get used to the heavy load, you may need to shock it by constantly changing the weight you lift. If you used 100 pounds on your bench press during your first week of training, try to add 10 pounds for the second week. Add another 10 pounds on the following week and so on. The same goes for other body parts.

    Progressive lifting makes sure that your muscles don’t get complacent and stop growing. The additional weight tells your body to grow more muscle fibers to keep up with the load. Watch yourself get bigger and stronger every week.

    4. if you’re just starting out or are looking to try a new routine, then try a proven workout program. B e careful though there are a lot of cons out there a good site that has in depth reviews on a number of workout programs is http://workoutprogramreview.com/

    5. Alter your exercise routine

    If you’re working out three times a day training two body parts, try to spread it to six days working only on one body part per day. If you’re doing chest and biceps on Mondays and back and triceps on Wednesdays, make it chest and triceps then back and biceps. This puts more stress on the common muscle groups (biceps and triceps) forcing your body to grow more muscle fibers.

  • Colin Van Winkle

    Do you recommend slashing your calories from your estimated TDEE or the calories you are currently bulking at?

    • I’m not sure what your question is…

      If you’re trying to calculate your cutting cals, you subtract 20-25% from your TDEE. If you’re trying to calculate your bulking cals you add 10% to your TDEE.

  • Colin

    Hi Mike, To get the dream body that I want, do I bulk first then cut or cut first then bulk?

  • Kristina

    I need some help! I used the calculator you gave us and it sais my at rest expenditure is 1378, after I used another calculator to find out I was 27% body fat. Times that by 1.2 I’m supposed to eat 1653 cals a day while wait lifting? After protein (846 cals) that leaves me with 807 calories per day. But as a nutrition student I was taught that 50% of my daily intake should be carbs and 20 to 30% should be fat. After calculating out fat I have 477 cals left! There’s no room for enough carbs and certainly none for veggies. I’m 26, 141 lbs, 5’5. I feel like I’m in this skinny fat stage where I look fit but feel kinda flabby. I don’t do cardio anymore bcuz then I get to skinny. I just lift weights 3 times a week for 30 minutes. I really want to feel toned and tight but thick, not skinny or cut at all, I don’t find that attractive. I just really need some advice on what to do!

    • NP!

      The macro needs for athletes is different than the standard recommendation.

      Let’s follow the cals/macro numbers you get from my calculator and see how you do.

      Cool you’re lifting weights!

      I get the body you’re going for. Let’s make it happen. 🙂

      Also, to help the skinny fat situation, take a look at this:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • John Triathlete

    Mike, when cutting do I need to keep the macro percentages the same as when bulking? i.e. since I weigh 160 +/- should I keep protein at 160g/day and fat around 38g/day?

  • Harper

    Much of your recommendations seem to go against the recommendations of Brad Schoenfeld. He recommendeds

    1. Vary the rep range, train with low, moderate and high reps and loads for full muscular development. This goes against your advice of sticking to heavy training (in the 4-6 or 5-7 rep range) as much as possible.

    2. Train with high volumes. There is a dose-dependent relationship between volume and hypertrophy. Again different than your view on volume being secondary to muscle hypertrophy.

    3. Use a variety of exercises to hit all fibers of a muscle. He specifically states that just sticking to the “big lifts” won’t get you very far and isolation exercises are a must for complete muscular development. Multi-joint and Single-Joint exercises are equally important for muscular development, emphasizing multi-joint so much as to neglect single joint exercises that better target the muscle is a mistake. Read his article on T Nation.

    4. Use a periodization scheme that strategically increases volume and frequency that culminates in a functional overreaching period. He tends to favor manipulating volume as being more important for muscle hypertrophy that focusing on lifting heavier and heavier loads.

    Finally, your definition of progressive overload as meaning lifting more weight overtime is wrong, or should I say incomplete. In Dr. Schoenfeld’s own words “Important to note that the principle of progressive overload does not necessarily mean increasing the weight of an exercise. There are a number of ways you can challenge the body in a novel manner, including increases in volume, frequency and effort, decreases in intraset rest, using various specialized techniques (i.e. drop sets, supramaximal negatives, etc.) and others.”

    He also recommends training each muscle 2-3x/week as being optimal, not once every 5-7 days.

    It’s not that you can’t build appreciable muscle with your recommendations, but they appear to be suboptimal according Dr. Schoenfeld who is one of the leading experts and researchers of muscle hypertrophy in world.

    • Jason

      Also when volume is equated the differences in rep ranges for muscle growth disappear. The practical rep range for muscle growth is 6-12 reps because it’s the sweet spot for accumulating a high amount of volume (sets x reps x load). Dr. Schoenfeld actually did a study comparing heavy powerlifting style training (1-5 rep sets) to traditional bodybuilding style training (8-12 rep sets) with volume equate and found no difference in muscle growth between the two. But the powerlifting group faced a lot of injuries and burnout plus took on average 70 minutes to complete the session. Where as the bodybuilding group faced no injuries, still had high motivation to train and only took on average 17 minutes to complete their training. Take away is moderate rep range is the most practical rep range to accumulate volume needed to growth. Focusing mainly on low reps for hypertrophy goals is inefficient and impractical.

      • Trevor

        Eric Helms also recommends doing most of your work in the 6-12 rep range as it the most practical way to accumulate and progress volume. And that getting all of your volume from sets of lower than 6 reps is impractical if your main goal is hypertrophy. Only powerlifters should do most of their volume with reps below 6 because their focus is on maximal strength, not maximal hypertrophy.

        • Reggie

          Greg Nuckols wrote a great article on how rep ranges really don’t matter for total hypertrophy, it’s just the total volume done with sets within 2-3 reps of failure. He stated that the 6-15 rep range is the most practical rep range for accomplishing this. Lyle McDonald had the same position the 6-15 rep range is the most practical rep range to work in for accumulating volume need for hypertrophy.

          • Kevin

            I think the important thing to realize is that Mike double progression IS increasing volume over time. Volume is set x reps x load. So when you keep the sets and reps roughly the same but increase the load you are automatically increasing training volume. It’s the progressive increase in training volume which is driving the hypertrophy rather than the gains in strength for working in a low rep range. So I think he thought the increase in strength was causing hypertrophy when really he was progressively increases his total volume without realizing it, which was the reason for the hypertrophy.

    • Hey Harper!

      Thanks for the comment.

      I address much of that here:


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