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6 “Everyday” Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated

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6 “Everyday” Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated

Want to make little-to-no gains in the gym? Make these weightlifting mistakes.

 

There’s a reason why the majority of people that work out regularly don’t have much to show for it, and why so few people ever build truly impressive physiques. And, contrary to popular belief, it’s not (the lack of) steroids–many drug users are just as flabby and weak as the next guy.

The reason why so few people are able to build muscular, strong, lean, healthy bodies is they are doing too many things wrong in and outside of the gym.

Training and eating right isn’t particularly complicated, but there are quite a few moving parts that need to be integrated and coordinated. It’s not as simple as “train hard and eat big.” There aren’t a couple “secrets” to getting big, lean, and strong. There are a collection of principles that must be properly and consistently applied.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the training side of the equation. Specifically, the biggest weightlifting mistakes that I see people make, and why they keep you small, weak, and frustrated.

Let’s get to it.

Weightlifting Mistake #1:
Focusing on High-Rep “Burnout” Workouts

workout mistakes

If you want to work your ass off for little-to-no results, especially as you move beyond the “newbie phase,” and eventually hit an unbreakable plateau, then you want to emphasize higher rep ranges in your weightlifting.

And by “higher rep ranges,” I’m talking about the widely recommended “hypertrophy” rep ranges of 8 to 10 and 10 to 12 reps per set.

I used to be a dedicated high-repper and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in dramatically (and naturally) transforming my physique is just how important heavy lifting is.

You see, for nearly 7 years, I bounced from one high-rep, high-volume magazine workout to another… did all kinds of frequency splits…spent close to 2 hours in the gym every day… wasted hundreds of dollars per month on supplements… and this is what it got me:

bodybuilding mistakes

As you can imagine, I wasn’t very thrilled.

I was so used to my routine that I just went through the actions every day, but I was certain I just didn’t have the genetics to look good or get really strong, and that even if I did, I thought it would require steroids.

It turns out I was wrong. By changing the focus of my weightlifting to heavy (4 – 6 or 5 – 7 rep range, or 80 – 85% of 1RM) pulling, pushing, and squatting, here’s how my body changed in the 2.5 years that followed the year 8 shot:

best weightlifting routine

I added close to 15 pounds of muscle during this period (which is very impressive considering how long I had been lifting for), increased my strength by 50 to 100% across the board, and greatly improved my overall proportions. (And yes, I also learned how to diet properly along the way!)

The bottom line is working with 80 to 85% of your 1RM (which puts you in the 4 to 6 or 5 to 7 rep ranges) 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.

You, as a natural weightlifter, will get nowhere with their routines. It took me years of spinning my wheels to learn this.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Weightlifting Mistake #2:
Doing a Bunch of Isolation Exercises

muscle building mistakes

This mistake is a natural outgrowth of the last, as the high-rep burnout workouts almost always have you doing a bunch of isolation work.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, an isolation exercise is an exercise that mainly involves one muscle group (it isolates it). For instance, a dumbbell front raise is an isolation exercise that targets your anterior (front) deltoid muscle.

The opposite of an isolation exercises is a compound exercise, which is one that involves multiple muscle groups. For example, my favorite compound exercise for shoulders is the Seated Military Press.

So, in my old workouts, probably 70-75% of my reps were isolation exercise reps. and I almost never did compound exercises vital to building a big, strong physique such as the DeadliftSquat, Bench Press, and Military Press.

Isolation work has a place in a natural weightlifter’s workout routine–I don’t completely shun it like some gurus–but it should never constitute the majority of reps performed in workouts.

[tweet “Isolation work should never be the focus in a natural weightlifter’s workout routine.”]

The bottom line is compound exercises should be the bulk of your workouts, even if you’re an advanced weightlifter.

Weightlifting Mistake #3:
Ascending Pyramid Training

beginner weight training

Not only did I used to focus on high-rep workouts, I also followed a standard pyramid protocol that went like this:

Set 1 – light weight: 12-16 reps

Set 2 – light/medium weight: 10-12 reps

Set 3 – medium weight: 8-10 reps

Set 4 – heavy weight: 4-6 reps

This type of protocol sucks because by the time you get to anything remotely heavy, you’re so fatigued from your previous sets that you can barely move the weight and thus can’t sufficiently overload your muscles

When you’ve already exhausted your muscles and then try to load up the plates, you’re going to find that you can’t lift nearly as much as you could if you hadn’t done all the lightweight work. For example, if you can Bench Press 225 pounds for 5 reps when you’re fresh, you’ll be lucky to get more than 5 reps with 185 pounds using an ascending pyramid workout structure.

The real problem here relates to progressive overload, which boils down to progressively increasing tension levels in the muscle fibers over time. That is, adding weight to the bar, progressively lifting heavier and heavier weights over time.

Progressive tension overload is, in my opinion (and the opinion of quite a few experts much smarter than me), the most powerful driver of muscle growth. A simple rule of thumb for us natural weightlifters: if you want to get bigger, you have to get stronger, and ascending pyramid training is horrible for building strength.

[tweet “A rule of thumb for natural weightlifters: if you want to get bigger, you have to get stronger.”]

Yes, muscles can get stronger without getting bigger (thanks to neuromuscular adaptations), but there comes a point where additional strength requires bigger muscle fibers, and progressive overload is the key to making that happen.

When you start your workout with a bunch of high-rep work, you’re causing a lot of fatigue in the muscle cells, but this isn’t a primary driver of muscle growth.

Instead of following an ascending pyramid structure, I recommend you warm up, jump right into your heavy lifting, and move up in weight once you reach the top of the rep range you’re working in.

For example, if you’re training in the 4-6 rep range and get 6 reps on your first set of an exercise, you move up in weight (5 pounds if using dumbbells, 10 pounds if it’s a barbell exercise).

You then work with this new weight, with which you’ll likely get 4 reps on the next set, until you can lift it for 6 reps (this may take one week or three depending on the exercise and how advanced of a lifter you are), after which point you move up, and on it goes.

In this way, you will lift heavier and heavier weights over time, and will be using progressive overload to your advantage.

Weightlifting Mistake #4:
Resting Too Little in Between Sets

workout mistakes to avoid

Most people are in the gym to move and sweat, so sitting around in between sets seems counter-productive. Thus, they keep rest periods as short as possible or, in some cases, eliminate them altogether with super-sets, drop-sets, “metabolic conditioning” bouts, and other methods of staying in motion.

If their primary goal is to build muscle and strength, however, they’re looking at things incorrectly.

As you now know, building muscle and strength requires heavy lifting, and when you lift heavy weights, you push your muscles to their full contraction capacity. Sufficient recovery time in between sets is what allows you to repeat this process enough to achieve the optimum amount of muscle overload to stimulate and force new growth.

If you’re lifting weights to build muscle and strength, adequate rest in between sets is vital.

[tweet “If you’re lifting weights to build muscle and strength, adequate rest between sets is vital.”]

Basically, the whole point of resting between sets is to prepare your muscles to lift maximum weight in the next set. This isn’t just theory, either—clinical research has correlated intra-set rest times and gains in both strength and muscle size.

For instance, one study conducted by researchers at the Federal University of Parana (Brazil) found that when subjects performed the Bench Press and Squat with 2-minute rest intervals, they were able to perform significantly more repetitions per workout than when rest intervals were shortened in 15-second increments (1:45, 1:30, 1:15, and so forth).

This is significant because total workout volume (the total amount of reps performed each workout) is a major factor in achieving overload and stimulating muscle growth.

Thus, it’s not surprising that this study conducted by researchers at Kennesaw State University found that subjects gained more muscle when training to failure with 2.5-minute rest periods as opposed to 1-minute periods.

Furthermore, an extensive review of weightlifting studies conducted by researchers at State University of Rio de Janeiro found the following:

“In terms of acute responses, a key finding was that when training with loads between 50% and 90% of one repetition maximum, 3-5 minutes’ rest between sets allowed for greater repetitions over multiple sets.

“Furthermore, in terms of chronic adaptations, resting 3-5 minutes between sets produced greater increases in absolute strength, due to higher intensities and volumes of training. Similarly, higher levels of muscular power were demonstrated over multiple sets with 3 or 5 minutes versus 1 minute of rest between sets.”

These findings were echoed by another study conducted by scientists at Eastern Illinois University with resistance trained men:

“The findings of the present study indicate that large squat strength gains can be achieved with a minimum of 2 minutes’ rest between sets, and little additional gains are derived from resting 4 minutes between sets.”

In another paper, the same research team analyzed Bench Press performance with the same subjects and found the following:

“When the training goal is maximal strength development, 3 minutes of rest should be taken between sets to avoid significant declines in repetitions. The ability to sustain repetitions while keeping the intensity constant may result in a higher training volume and consequently greater gains in muscular strength.”

The evidence is clear: when you’re lifting heavy weights and building strength is the goal, 2.5 to 4 minutes of rest in between sets is the way to go.

[tweet “When you’re lifting heavy weights, 2.5 to 4 minutes of rest in between sets is the way to go.”]

It’s worth noting, however, that rest times can be shortened when loads are lightened without negatively impacting performance. If you’re working in the 8 to 10 or 10 to 12 rep range for sets, you can cut your inter-set rest times down to 60 to 90 seconds.

Weightlifting Mistake #5:
Using Improper Form

weight lifting for beginners

One of the most painful sights in gyms is the ego lifters spastically throwing around big weights with reckless abandon. I cringe not only out of pity but out of the anticipation of injuries that could strike at any moment.

The sad truth is most people don’t have a clue about proper form on many exercises and this ignorance stunts their gains, causes unnecessary wear and tear on ligaments, tendons, and joints, and opens the door to debilitating injuries (especially as weights get heavy on the shoulders, elbows, knees, and lower back).

Some of these people just don’t know any better, and some are more interested in looking cool than in making real gains. Others were just taught wrong.

While an in-depth discussion of proper form on various articles is beyond the scope of this article, start here:

How to Train Your Chest With Proper Form

How to Train Your Back With Proper Form

How to Train Your Shoulders With Proper Form

How to Train Your Arms With Proper Form

How to Train Your Legs With Proper Form

Weightlifting Mistake #6:
Overtraining

weight training for beginners men

Generally speaking, the harder you work at something, the more likely you are to win at it. Weightlifting is different, though.

Yes, it takes a lot of hard work to build a strong, muscular body, but if you get too zealous in your efforts, it can become counter-productive. Or even destructive (you can lose muscle and strength if you train too much).

You see, your muscles can only take so much of a beating every week before your body falls behind in repair and recovery. Just because you feel like you could add another 30 minutes to your workouts, or another day to your weekly rotation, doesn’t mean you should.

Research has shown that even in resistance-trained, college-aged men, full muscle recovery can take anywhere from 48 to 96 hours depending on how they trained, ate, and slept, as well as other physiological factors like hormones and genetics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we look at other recovery-related studies, we see that most people’s muscles take closer to 72 – 96 hours to fully recover from an intense weightlifting session, that older men need more time to recover than young, and that larger muscles need more time to recover than smaller.

Intense weightlifting also places a lot of stress on the nervous system, and research has shown that this fatigue can “accumulate” from workout to workout. If it becomes too great, overtraining symptoms set in, which includes a dramatic reduction in performance, depression, sleep disturbances, and more.

Finding scientific help on the matter of optimal training volume is tough due to the number of variables involved, but something of an answer can be found in a large review conducted by researchers at Goteborg University.

I’ll get straight to the point and quote the research:

“Overall, moderate volumes (~30 to 60 repetitions per session for [Dynamic External Resistance] training) appear to yield the largest responses.” 

While advanced lifters seem to be able to stretch this range a bit, it has a lot of anecdotal support and is commonly recommended by educated, experienced weightlifters and bodybuilders. If you look at many of the popular, tried-and-true routines out there, the weekly workout volume generally falls in there somewhere (30 to 60 repetitions performed per major muscle group per 5 to 7 days).

For example, my Bigger Leaner Stronger program has you do 9 to 12 sets of 4 to 6 reps per major muscle group, per week. You move up in weight once you get 6 reps (which usually knocks your next set down to 4 reps), so the workouts range between 45 and 60 high-intensity reps. And people make fantastic strength and size gains on the program

My program for advanced weightlifters, Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, entails doing about 60 to 75 reps per workout, with a combination of very high-intensity, high-intensity, and moderate-intensity work. This workout volume—both the number of reps and the intensities used—has both scientific and anecdotal evidence on its side. It works, period.

What do you think about these weightlifting mistakes? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Jolo300

    In TLS I’m following 8-10 reps per set but in mistake 1 you say this will provide little results… Should I change to the 5-7?? I rest about 60/90 seconds per set to stay within the 1-2 minute rest recommended in the book, is this correct? I’m a little confused now! I have reached a bit of a plateau with both strength and weight loss but am still cutting so as far as I understand this is normal? I’m just about to enter my rest week from the end of phase 2. Thankyou 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question!

      The reason why I recommend 8-10 reps for women is simply because the majority I’ve worked with were already quite intimidated by the weight necessary to work in the 8-10 rep range. The 4-6 rep range was REALLY uncomfortable for them (generally speaking).

      The reality is 4-6 reps does work fine for women, but they can do great with the 8-10 rep range as well. There’s also the issue of overtraining to consider–women’s bodies can’t repair nearly as much muscular damage as guys’.

      So, if you’d like to work in some 4-6 training, I recommend doing no more than 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:

      Squats

      Military Press

      Bench Press

      Deadlift

  • Kevin Ross

    I’m on week 6 of the BLS program. With respect to progressive overload, I think I’m not optimizing my effort, but not sure how to change.

    Let’s use incline bench as an example: last week was 135lb 6/5/4 reps. This week I did 135, but did 6/6/3.

    If I understand what you are saying above, I should have moved up to 145lbs on the second set. Given that, I may have done 4 reps, but also given that my last set today fell below the 4 rep mark, I may have been stuck at 1 rep.

    Using this example, how should I have gone about my incline press workout today?

    • Sounds like you did great. Move up to 145 the week after you max out all 3 sets at 6/6/6.

    • Michael Matthews

      I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

  • Chris

    Mike, some of the lifts I do my body simply can’t hang with the weight needed for 4-6 rep range. Usually elbow pain. So in the 10 to 20 rep range I don’t get the pain for that weight amount. So am I expected to not make much progress? I don’t see how 6 reps or 50 when trained to failure with the same rep timing each week would yield better results either way as long as you are able to increase the weight in the lift?

    • Tony Spinelli

      I know you are giving advice that works for you but for my body the 4/6 rep range is completely out of the question for me. To say that a higher rep program is basically a waist of time is very discouraging to many bodybuilders epically ones that are senior to you. So if on my back and bicep day I finish of with 3 sets of hammer curls using 50 lb Dumbbells for 10/12 reps followed by 3 sets of ez bar curls with 80 for 10/12 a waist of time what am I supposed to do? Using 65s for 4/6 kill my shoulders. Injuries cause setbacks. Don’t you think the lighter weights are a better option and not a waist of time as you stated? I didn’t get up to 50s if I weren’t making progress. Injuries at my age (65) are devastating!!!

      • Michael Matthews

        You bring up a good point.

        I email with a lot of guys aged 40-60+ and while some do fine working away with 80-85% of 1RM, others need more recovery and what we do is periodize their training like this:

        Week 1: 4-6 rep
        Week 2: 6-8 rep
        Week 3: 8-10 rep
        Week 4: 10-12 rep
        Week 5: Deload
        Repeat

        In some cases we leave out 4-6 altogether (usually due to previous injuries).

        • Abhijit

          Mike, I have to agree with @tony_spinelli:disqus . I am still very much a beginner and I feel I am in a very vulnerable position when targeting the 4-6 rep range. I had a couple of injuries because of my fixation with that low rep range, which had me sit out of the gym for close to 3 months. Now, whether or not I used perfect form is moot. The 6-8 rep range just seems more comfortable and better for progression. Most importantly, I am injury free as well. In fact, for exercises like lateral raises I am having to go as far as 10 reps. Anything lower puts too much stress on my teres minor/major. But that just me. Maybe I don’t have a good strength base. Could be different for others.

          • Michael Matthews

            I hear you. 6-8 is a good rep range as well. You should be able to make good gains. And as you get stronger, I bet you’ll be able to go back to 4-6 and do well.

    • Michael Matthews

      If body weight is enough, that works.

      Check this out for your other question:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

    • Michael Matthews

      I believe I answered this elsewhere?

  • Chris

    Although I agree that heavy lifting is important and should be part of any good routine I think that you hate higher rep work for no reason, really.

    Brad Schoenfeld has stated that for hypertrophy you should train with a variety of rep ranges for maximum results. I think he knows a thing or two about hypertrophy.

    There are several studies out there that shows that rep ranges doesn’t matter that much once TOTAL VOLUME is equated. So, working at 4-6 reps will produce similar hypertophy than 10-12 reps. Not strenght, but hypertrophy.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24714538

    http://trainology.org/PDF/6%20Skeletal%20Muscle%20Hypertrophy%20How%20important%20is%20Exercise%20Intensity.%20Loenneke.pdf

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12436270

    http://jap.physiology.org/content/jap/early/2012/04/12/japplphysiol.00307.2012.full.pdf

    “chronic training studies confirm the acute findings that volume, not exercise intensity is the mediating factor for skeletal muscle hypertrophy.”

    “The data suggests that skeletal muscle hypertrophy recommendations on the basis of exercise intensity are too simplistic and more focus should instead be placed on total exercise volume”

    So, saying that working with sets of more than 7 reps is useless is very simplistic in my opinion.

    AND, you say that when you started lifting heavy you learn how to diet correctly. That should be the reason why you started to see improvements, not that you stopped training at 8-10 reps.

    • wayneo

      I don’t have a great scientific stance on this, nor do I present myself as any kind of expert, but what I will say is that I reached a plateau very early, and had a very difficult time breaking through it whenever I worked in the 8-12 rep range, and did volume style workouts. I was spending 2+ hours per day in the gym and really banging away at total volume, nd making sure I hit every rep. In fact if you added up the “tonnage” or weight x reps that I did during that period it would be close to triple the amount that I am lifting currently on the BLS program….and I was fat, fatigued, and in horrible shape comparatively to what I am now.

      Now I spend less than half the amount of time in the gym, and get all of the results I have been looking for while in the 4-6 rep range and following the BLS protocol.

      I can’t dispute the studies you linked, but I have to ask, if you have been using this type of protocol, how has it worked for you? I am still yet to meet someone not on drugs that has been able to improve their quality of work in the weight room without heavy compound lifting in the 4-6 rep range. Now, granted, my sample size is small, being myself and about 5 friends that I consistently work out with….but, if you have found volume training to be the secret to hypertrophy and have made it work, I wonder how you have succeeded where so many have failed?

      • Chris

        My favourite protocol is, without a doubt, one that involves heavy lifting and “”hypertrophy work”” also. So, a 5/3/1 is great, a PHAT is great, DUP is fantastic, etc..

        If you were fat and fatigued is probably because your nutrition wasn’t on point and you trained way to much. Marrying to one rep range is wrong in my opinion. Every rep range offers advantatges and disadvantatges, that’s why the greatest programs out there make you use various rep ranges.

        Again, I succeeded where you failed, but milions of people succeded as well. I’m not special, and a lot of trainers around the world have had great results with a periodized training. No magic there. You can train with more than 6 reps and have great results. Those minimalistic aproaches are usually wrong by default.

        As for the studies being done in newbies….the first one is on WELL-TRAINED men. The second is a review on various studies some of them involves trained individuals as well. The third amd fourth are on non-trained individuals. But again, Mike also says that as a beginer you shouldn’t train with higher reps if you don’t wanna spin your wheels. ¿How about no?

        • Michael Matthews

          5-3-1 is great. I’ve yet to meet a natural weightlifter that can run PHAT for more than 2-3 months WHILE bulking without overtraining. FORGET about cutting.

          Look around any gym and you’ll find the majority of people working exclusively in higher rep ranges, and rarely ever will you see an impressive physique or lift.

          • Chris

            PHAT is great if you know how to autoregulate yourself. That’s why no begginer should be attempting it.

            Besides higher rep workouts you see a TON of people in the gym that doesn’t know squat about nutrition. Probably thats a big reason why you see too many people with no impressive physiques.

          • wayneo

            I haven’t even seen PHAT, so I can’t speak on it….but what you are describing seems really close to what Mike has in his book Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger. That makes me think you are probably a more advanced lifter….

            Also, I think it is without a doubt that I was out of shape on volume training in part to diet, but another contributing factor that I have found anecdotally is that I had an easy time cheating form when I was working in the 8-12 rep range….something that is very unforgiving in the 4-6 rep range. It really made me pull it together and focus on correct form, and using my muscles more effectively on each lift. It is also WAY easier to concentrate on form through 4-6 heavy lifts rather than 8-12 lighter lifts….I, personally, do not have the same form degradation mid-set as I did with volume training.

            I am not naive enough to think that BLS is the end-all be-all of workout programs, and that nobody can accomplish results without it. Obviously, if someone is form strict on lighter lifts and has a proper diet, perhaps they can get around some or all of the obstacles that stood in my way on volume training….but the BLS program has worked for myself and on 5/5 of my friends, and that is why I will continue to use it and recommend it.

          • Chris

            If it works for you then its a good routine, no doubt about that. At the end of the day you can have all the studies you want, that if you don’t enjoy your workout you will have inferior results, no matter what.

            I’ve been training for 5 years now and I still have a lot of room for improvements, but in my experience the best routine for me is an upper/lower 4x a week with periodized rep ranges.

            Cheers, and thanks Michael for you site again, is great even though we may not agree on everything ^^

          • Michael Matthews

            Very true on the enjoyment factor.

            Keep up the good work Chris and thanks for the kind words. I appreciate the back-and-forth and honestly we basically see eye-to-eye on the matter.

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks for the comment Wayne.

            I never claim that BLS or BBLS or any other program are the ultimate for everyone. But they DO get good results with everyone, so that counts. 🙂

            Keep up the good work brother.

          • Michael Matthews

            I’ve spoken with advanced lifters in tune with their bodies that just couldn’t make PHAT work without dramatically decreasing the frequency/volume. If natties can make it work, it’s definitely tricky.

            That’s true but I’m talking underwhelming size and strength, not just body fat percentage.

          • Chris

            Yeah, I have to admit that the way PHAT is layed out is probably too much. But, the idea of an Upper/Lower followed by a P/P/L is a smart idea imo, because you still have good frecuency and you also get a specificity factor so you can get the volume and the poundage in.

            However, you should adjust the volume to your recovery, that’s very true. And deload often, too haha.
            But again, PHAT is not meant for a begginer.

          • Michael Matthews

            The concept of PHAT is great and can definitely be made to work. You just need to know your body and how much of a beating it can take, haha.

      • Bob

        I actually did all the “right” things per this article for a long time but didn’t really start seeing results until I mixed in high reps — everyone is different so can’t have one scheme that works for everybody

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting Chris. Check out this article of mine:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      I discuss http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12436270 in it.

      You may also like my interview with Mark Rippetoe, who talks about the state of exercise science at the moment:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/mark-rippetoe-interview/

      The bottom line is there is no definitive scientific answer as to optimal rep ranges for hypertrophy (for strength, we know it’s lower rep ranges and heavier weights).

      The anecdotal evidence is very clear, though: the biggest natural weightlifters are almost ALWAYS the strongest, and ALWAYS emphasize heavy lifting in their workouts.

      Note I said EMPHASIZE. I’m not saying higher rep ranges are worthless, but they aren’t worthwhile until you’re an intermediate weightlifter that can actually move decent weights for 8 to 10 reps.

      I talk about this in my book Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, which also has a periodized program.

      • Chris

        “The anecdotal evidence is very clear, though: the biggest natural weightlifters are almost ALWAYS the strongest, and ALWAYS emphasize heavy lifting in their workouts.”

        100% agreed.
        That’s why I think heavy lifting should be definately a part of your routine, but if you are looking for aesthetics only and not so much about strenght or being the biggest dude in the gym I think higher reps could be a great add on to a routine.

        Again, every single routine with tons of success stories have them.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah the high-rep stuff can help with cellular fatigue but honestly you could completely leave it out–never do any higher rep work–and build an awesome physique.

          Leave out heavy lifting though, and you’ll (not you, speaking impersonally) likely never get through the “mediocre” phase of being kinda strong, kinda “aesthetic,” etc.

  • James

    Hi mike. Completely agree that you shouldnt be utilising high rep stuff (8-10 reps) until you can actually move some decent weight about. Let’s be honest building muscle is hard and the body isnt going to build much moving 20 pound dumbells around lol
    Quick question on dumbells vs barbells – I’ve just switched to dumbells for chest and I can’t lift as much weight obviously – does that mean I’m getting a less effective workout? Im assuming not but why is that? Lol cheers you the man!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah without the requisite strength you just don’t overload or damage the muscles much by throwing around light weights for a bunch of reps.

      Nope that’s normal and DB work is great for overall chest development. I do recommend you include some BB too though.

  • D

    Hey Mike, great article. Regarding that Goteborg University study you cite for the 30-60 reps per session – from what I understand, that 30-60 reps is based on 75% 1RM lifts in the study, which they found to be a “peak” for hypertrophy. It also states that 12-14 reps per session is just as “optimal” when using 90% 1RM. Basically, it translates to doing about 4 sets of whatever rep range you choose per session for a muscle group. However, the same study also seems to indicate (or at least suggest) that 2 sessions per week is better than 1. So that would be 30 to 60 reps twice a week. Do you have any comments on either of these facts? I made great progress on your 1x per week frequency BLS program, but I’m curious if you have any thoughts about these things. I’ve been trying to come up with my own routine that hits each compound twice a week instead of once and gets the volume right on a weekly basis as well. Thanks!

    • Jonn

      Hey Mike, great site you got here mate. I particularly enjoy your diet articles. Ve got a similar question as ‘D’ here, so I’ll pop it here as well.

      A Rather famous research study by Wernbom et al, (Göteborg) states protein synthesis only lasts 1-2 days, or in advanced subjects, only 12-16hrs. This would indicate one could train a body part at least 3 times / week, if not more. What are your thoughts on this? By only training a body part once / week, do we waste valuable time waiting for the next bout?

      The same study states the optimal loading for hypertrophy is 75-85% 1RM with a total rep range of 30-60 reps / session (30 upper/60 lower body) for trained subjects.

    • Michael Matthews

      Good questions!

      Check out this article of mine:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      The reality is wading through the vast amount of confusing research on muscle building is tough and requires quite a bit of experience working with others and seeing, in the real world, what consistently works best and what doesn’t.

      Unfortunately just about every training style imaginable can be equally “backed by science,” but they will NOT all be equally effective.

      If you stick to 9 to 12 heavy sets per week per major muscle group, with anywhere from 3-6 lighter sets (if you want), you will do great.

  • Amber

    Hi Mike! I have completed year one of your Thinner Leaner Stronger program and am now on year two (great results so far, by the way!). In TLS, you recommend an 8-10 rep range for women. After reading this article, do you think I should instead be lifting in the 5-7 rep range at this point? Thanks in advance!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job Amber! That rocks.

      The reason why I recommend 8-10 reps for women is simply because the majority I’ve worked with were already quite intimidated by the weight necessary to work in the 8-10 rep range. The 4-6 rep range was REALLY uncomfortable for them (generally speaking).

      The reality is 4-6 reps does work fine for women, but they can do great with the 8-10 rep range as well. There’s also the issue of overtraining to consider–women’s bodies can’t repair nearly as much muscular damage as guys’.

      So, if you’d like to work in some 4-6 training, I recommend doing no more than 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:

      Squats

      Military Press

      Bench Press

      Deadlift

  • Tonya Allison

    What about woman. What rep range should we work in?

    • Amber Bustanoby

      Wondering the same 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      I recommend 8 to 10 to start and once you’ve built a foundation of strength in this rep range, you can work in some 4-6 rep work.

      • Tonya Allison

        Thanks mike. Yeah that’s what I have been doing whilst following thinner leaner stronger!

        You mention below about overtraining. How could this be avoided if working in the 4-6 rep range?

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! I would limit your 4-6 rep sets to 3 per workout. Do them with your first big compound lifts.

  • Jules

    Hey mike, what’s the best way to rest? I am stoked on your muscle building program, did 2 leg workouts so far and I’m flexing my hamstrings and they feel hard, which makes me so happy. I had been under eating for a while soi t is nice to feel strong. I weigh 117 and I deadlifted 100 lbs for 8 reps yesteday!! 🙂 however, I’m under some stress from exams and a close family members illness.

    I’Ve just started TLS (adding some standing calves in the mix as well ) and I haven’t done any hiit yet. For HIIT would you suggest I do it 3x a week after weights even if I want to build muscle? We talked through email and you let me know I was 20-22% bf and I should focus on muscle 🙂 I am just making sure the HIIT won’t keep me from progressing. As for macros, is it multiply weight by 1.2P/ 1 C/ .2 F ?

    Thank you!! And your motivational articles are AWESOME!!

  • Shelly

    Hey Mike. I have naturally muscular upper legs that were big even before I started lifting except the puny calves 😉 . I like gaining strength on my squats and deadlifts, but I really want to keep growth in my upper thigh to a minimum. I’m 5’8″ with 23.5″ upper thigh for reference and 14.25″ calves. Is lower volume and heavier weight a viable option for me?

  • Rar12g

    Great Article!!! I will for sure guide my workouts from now on. I have been making a couple of these mistakes. Now, what do you think about muscles that are commonly known for “demanding” high reps (15-20) with not a lot of weight? Like abs and calves? Would it work the same way?

  • Mark

    Hi Mike. I’ve been using the BLS “formula” for almost a year. I was a complete newbie and 48 years old. It took me a little time to figure out how much to lift to hit the 4-6 reps but then it went very well. I was increasing my weights regularly and never hit a plateau. I was steadily adding muscle mass and was feeling great. Then I damaged a trapezius muscle during a military press. It seized up and caused pain & numbness from my neck down to a couple of my fingers for weeks. It took ~6 weeks of PT to get it to completely relax. This was in my left, weaker, arm.

    After that my arm was even weaker. I had to drop back on my weight but I increased reps to re-hab. Is this a good strategy or should I have jumped back into 4-6 reps (using my left arm as the limit)? I was afraid of causing another injury.

    • Michael Matthews

      Shit I’m really sorry to hear that. A couple things:

      1. Definitely dial back the weights when necessary to avoid injury. We want to be in this for the long-term.

      2. You may benefit from periodizing your training like this:

      Week 1: 4-6 reps where possible, lighter where needed to avoid aggravating past injuries

      Week 2: 6-8 reps where possible, ditto.

      Week 3: 8-10 reps

      Week 4: 10-12 reps

      Week 1: Back to 4-6, etc.

      I have quite a few guys in their 50s and 60s working like this and they’re doing very well. I’m going to be adding to the second edition of BLS.

  • jessica

    Hi Mike,
    I usually do 2 sets for each exercise (8 exercises). The first one being in the 3-5 rep range (get 6 reps move up) and the second set much higher in the 12-15 rep range. Are you saying both sets should be 3-5 reps for all exercises? Also what are your thoughts on fewer sets for each exercise compared to say 4 sets that alot of people tend to do? I’ve read studies that show no extra muscle growth from performing more sets. Thanks Mike I love reading all your articles!

    • Michael Matthews

      Reverse pyramiding like this is a good way of going about it.

      As a girl I think it’s also a good idea that you don’t do your entire workouts in the lower rep ranges as your body isn’t able to repair muscle as efficiently as a guy’s.

      How many exercises you do doesn’t matter, really. Your total sets per workout matters a lot more, and yours may be a bit high. I like to see 9-12. But if your body is responding well, you can keep up 16.

      • Jessica

        Thanks! This week I’ve been trying 12sets with 4 exercises (3 sets for each exercise) sort of based off your workouts and it’s been really good, I enjoy the lower rep ranges as I’ve been lifting for 2 years now and it’s a good change. I will take into account what you’ve said about muscle repair though.. maybe one set at 3-5 reps and my second and third sets at 7-10. At the moment I’m eating ~150g protein/day so hopefully that helps my muscle repair!

        Thanks for all your help, you’re amazing!

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! I’m glad to hear you’re doing well.

          In my experience some women’s bodies are able to deal with all the heavy lifting better than others’. I would just play it by ear and see how your body does.

          Thanks! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Harry

    Hi Mike. I totally respect your experience and knowledge but heavy lifting may not be right for everyone. I started heavy lifting in the 4-6 range and 1 month later I developed a rotstor cuff injury and have been out of training for almost 6 months now. Just in case you are thinking, no I did not have bad form, although I did have a previous minor injury which I assumed had completely healed.

    • Michael Matthews

      Shit I’m sorry to hear that. Injuries definitely need to be accommodated.

  • Maria

    Hi Mike! Is this concept suitable for women too? And how about your book Bigger Leaner Stronger? I’ve already worked through the exercises on Thinner Leaner Stronger but I want to grow muscle mass? What do you recommend? Thanks!
    Maria

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes although I recommend women start in the 8-10 rep range as 4-6 can be VERY hard. You can work into heavier lifting but you can’t do as much as men.

      If you want to incorporate some heavier lifting into your workouts, start with 3 sets of 4-6 reps on your big movements: Squat, Deadlift, Bench, and Military. Do the rest of your sets in the 8-10 rep range.

  • Andre

    Hi Mike, great insights. Question: Is it Overtraining or UNDER-training that leads to a perceived Overtraining that is the real culprit? What if one does heavy bench and use rest time to train abs, does it count as not adequate rest time as well?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Andre! Overtraining takes time–you wouldn’t feel it come on in a specific workout.

      That said, I often do abs in between sets for primary muscle groups and find it doesn’t cause any issues.

      • Chad Avalon

        Are there other excercises that I could do in between sets? I’m going to be switching over from P90 to your program and so the rest time in between is probably less calories burned overall, I’m thinking. I just want to cut and grow as efficiently as possible since I’m only ~1.5 months in and so still have some time for newbie gains 🙂 Thanks for any advice!

        • I’d be okay with you doing calf exercises between sets as well. Other than that, you want to be actually resting so you can lift as heavy as you can each set.

          Enjoy the newbie gains!

          My pleasure. 🙂

  • Franc

    Hi Mike! Is Franc, from Brazil! Your TLS book is best investment I have ever did in my overall fitness life! Thank you very much!

    But Mike, I don’t know if you have time do discuss this, but I think that review of weightlifting studies conducted by researchers at State University of Rio de Janeiro have a contradictory conclusion, when they say: “When the training goal is muscular hypertrophy, the combination of moderate-intensity sets with short rest intervals of 30-60 seconds might be most effective due to greater acute levels of growth hormone during such workouts.” Thanks!

  • Robson Cota

    Hey, Mike, you wrote:

    “Yes, muscles can get stronger without getting bigger (thanks to neuromuscular adaptations), but there comes a point where additional strength requires bigger muscle fibers, and progressive overload is the key to making that happen.”

    How can I make sure I’ll get bigger and not only stronger (if it happens that I get these “neuromuscular adaptations”), by doing the 4-6 rep range?

  • Tilak Raj

    Great article…..Thanks mate.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • António

    Hey Mike,

    Do you think the following approach/mentality is correct? Let’s say I want to bulk(which I am doing right now). I aim to gain 1lb a week, and do this until I either reach 16/17% bodyfat or I feel I am too fat. Let’s say that this goes on for 6 weeks. I gain 6 lbs, and assuming 50 % of that is muscle , I have gained 3lbs of muscle. I then cut for 6 weeks to lose the 3 lbs of fat I gained and some extra fat I already had to get close to 10% body fat. I then repeat this process.

    Do you think this is correct?
    For every pound you gain , what % will be muscle on average?

    Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      The basic idea is right but 6 weeks is short. You should be able to bulk for 3-4 months at a time, if not a month or two longer.

      If you gain a pound of muscle for every pound of fat, you’re doing well. Any more muscle than that and you’re doing REALLY well.

  • Started Michael Matthew’s Bigger Leaner Stronger program 11.08.2014 and grew 16,5 pounds the first 8 weeks of working out. People are asking me for training advice now, which is exactly what the book promises! Thanks for writing it man, I’m reccomending it to everyone.

    • Michael Matthews

      Amazing job! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

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  • Bruce

    Hey, Mr. Mike! Great website with a lot of useful article!!
    Have lifting for 8 months, gained 30 pounds, but I m currently reached a bit plateau, no weight gain in last 1 month, already adding my calories intake but didnt seem worked, what’s your opinion?
    Regards!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Hmm first let’s check your body fat %:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      If you should still be bulking, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      • Bruce

        Really useful article those you share, I think I have about 15%, in your article, u wrote about cutting first when we hit above 17% BF, can’t I keep bulking until I hit the size I want then cut for once?
        And do u think I should do abs workout since I’m still bulking? Dont want ended having big belly cause muscle under layers

        • Michael Matthews

          I wouldn’t go past 17%. The impaired insulin sensitivity is going to make it harder to build muscle and the cut is going to suck if you’re starting around 20%.

          Yes definitely do abs while bulking.

          • Bruce

            Got it! Thanks!

          • Michael Matthews

            YW!

  • Nagi

    Hey Mike, good article. I completely agree with most of it. After all the studies, “facts”, and figures, I keep coming back to the old adage, “We are all different”. I have found in over 40+ years of training that to be quite true. Granted, the studies are valuable to give us information on the human body, but if you are aware of your body and how it is reacting to your training (and diet), then what someone else is doing and profiting from is really a mute point. To me, that is why the articles in bodybuilding mags are useless. Would you agree?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      I agree that science points us in the right direction but some people’s bodies respond better to certain types of programs than others.

      Diet is much more cut and dry though. All our metabolisms run on the same laws of thermodynamics and the mechanisms for gaining and losing weight are uniform, person to person.

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

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  • Kalyn

    I think this is a great article. However, I do ascending pyramids and find they work well, as long as that’s not my only workout format. I mix it in with drop sets, 5x5s and other formats. I have only been lifting for a year and I’ve seen awesome results so it works for me, but I know everyone is different .

    • Thanks! If you mix them in with other modalities it can be a good way to induce metabolic fatigue but, then again, you could just do a bunch of high-rep sets instead.

  • Thomas Wang

    Hey Mike, I’ve been following your BLS program throughout the summer (6 weeks) and I’ve made some good strength gains. I do believe that I have good form, but certain exercises like the squat and military press puts too much pressure on my spine.
    I’ve been reading many articles and have found that most teenage transformations have been focusing around the 8-10, 10-12 rep range, where they grow big with great muscle definition. Does BLS suit me (I’m 16) with the 4-6 workouts? Because i really like your training philosophy.

    And sorry but another question: I’ve been cutting for the past 6 weeks and have gone from 71 to 67 kilograms (16.1% BF ~ 14%). Do you think I should keep doing this as a teenager? I feel I look really small now and i can’t really see my muscles besides the blob of stubborn fat on my lower abs. Should I start lean bulking?

    • Awesome! I’m glad to hear you’re doing well.

      You’re at a good age to start lifting heavy but form is VERY important. Don’t be an ego lifter. If you’re ultimately not comfortable in the 4 to 6 range, 8 to 10 is totally fine.

      I wouldn’t spend much time in a calorie deficit at your age. It’s not good for your body. I’d recommend eating around TDEE and keep training/playing sports and let your body develop. Worry about getting “shredded” when you’re 18+.

  • David

    Good article. I know you are used to train with the heaviest weight possible, to focus on strength, however, I’ve heard many scientific researches found out that high intensity training and drop sets are effective for hypertrophy. One reason is that you will first get a heavy tension in your muscles. Then directly after you want a pump which will cause your muscles to get more water into the muscle cell. The muscle cell now are “streched out”. The walls on the muscle cell will also get tension from the blood flowing. The muscle will then send a signal to start fortifying the strength on the walls on that muscle cell. Which will cause muscle growth or hypertrophy. At least that’s what I understood after watching a video from the youtuber Athlean-x. He also says: of course you can build muscle with high rep ranges as well as low. I guess it just different muscle types and some may give more and faster results (as 8-12 reps). In this video he explains why you should be doing all of them rep ranges:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzWqlpe5d9U

    Still though all this is very confusing to me, I don’t know how to train sometimes. Your training style seems really great but it feels like it will leave me with many plateaus and thus not progressing. High intensity seems good as well as low intensity. High reps vs low reps, I don’t know. All in all I just see that you and him is training a bit differently, he trains like an athlete, often high intensity and you train low. Who should i listen to? Both of you have science based research. Do you also think I should be doing some workouts high intense and some low intense but heavy? Many different rep styles? Or is it different for different muscle groups, for example, does abs need higher intensity than other muscle groups?

    Thanks for answering, I’m sorry for asking this much, kinda big tricky question hehe…

    • Thanks! There are a LOT of opinions out there on the subject and I talk about it some here:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      And if you want the best of all worlds, periodize your training:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-pyramid-training-workout/

      • David

        These were interesting articles, and I’ve learned a lot from them. I’m clearly focusing on cellular fatigue and therefore sarcoplasmic hypertrophy when I work out intense, or when I do drop sets or supersets. I Thought that the best rep range was 8-12 for hypertrophy (of course it will vary), but I’ve not ever tried focusing on myofibrillar hypertrophy. The more research I do the more sense does it make.

        I’ve been working out for a little longer than a year, so I will try the 5-7 rep range instead of periodization, for now. And see if I get any different results. Maybe throw in a drop set once in a while, but I won’t focus on that.

        Thank you!

        • David

          But still though, I got one more question, why doesn’t 1-3 rep range work for building muscle? It is like full myofibrillar and I guess you will gett progressive overload even faster. I know that it’s something called neurological adaptations that wont give you size, just strength. But couldn’t also 1-3 rep range result in myofibrillar hypertrophy? This would make more sense, now when I know that sarcoplasmic responses to high rep ranges and wont build as much/fast size. Why not keep the rep range as low as possible then? Do you recommend some pure strength training when focusing on hypertrophy, once in a while at least?

          • Training exclusively in that range isn’t feasible. Your body just wouldn’t be able to take it and you wouldn’t be able to do quite a few exercises.

        • Sounds good! LMK how it goes.

  • Anton

    Hello Mike, I’m a newbie in weight lifting. I don’t go to the gym but I have weights here in my house. Though I only understood a bit of your article, do you mean that if I lift a barbell of 10lbs per side (20lbs in total), I should only do a 4-6 rep per set and not 12 or 15 reps per set? And if so I did 4-6 reps per set, is it ok to add an additional 5 or 10lbs per side after my first set, almost as if from begginers, to intermediate to advance lifting in one workout session? Currently I’m 21, 5’11” and only weighs 58kilos. Thank you very much for your helpful response!

    • You need to be lifting as heavy as you can for 4-6 reps. If you can do the weight for 6 or more reps, you need to add weight. If you can’t get 4 reps, you need to decrease the weight.

      From there you keep going up in weight every time you hit 6 reps at a certain weight.

      Hope that makes sense!

  • JASON

    GREAT ARTICLE any ideas on proper diet to go along with lifting i’m in week 2 of my transformation started @ 291 down to 280 doing lots of cardio everyday, lifting every other day. Am i on the right track? i’m 35 I did this type of regiment when i was 22 and lost 92lbs in 10 months but i’m trying to do it much healthier than i did then because i’m older. Any ideas or supplements to aide would be awsome

  • JASON

    I think you are a genius, I really get it now and this reassured me that with a little tweaking i’m on my way. I’m one whose in that tricky spot of trying to lose weight and build muscle at the same time which from what you mention in your article isn’t easy but it’s working for whatever reason on a small scale. Because i’ve been down this road before muscle memory has me ahead of schedule i guess but i want serious definition in my core and arms. Last I had reached out I was down to 280 now i’m @ 277 so i may need to slow down a bit because as per your article i may be losing too fast but I really appreciate you sharing this information with me. It’s extremely helpful!!!

    • Thanks for the kind words and support Jason!

      Cool to hear you’re effectively losing fat and building muscle.

      In how much time did you lose the 3 pounds??

      • JASON

        I weigh myself every morning at the same time so Tuesday when i first reached out to you I was 280 yesterday 24 hrs later 277. This morning however same time again i’m 282?? LOL I eat pretty much exactly the same thing everyday and yesterday was lift day for me which was exciting because i got to try out your methods of heavy lifting with less reps and I LOVE IT!!! I now swear by this philosophy! But the weight fluctuation what’s that about? Maybe gaining more muscle??

        • That much weight change in so little time wouldn’t be muscle. It would be glycogen and/or water weight. Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/water-retention-and-weight-loss/

          LMK what you think.

          • JASON

            Awsome and funny you said that about the cheat meal I decided to cheat for a day with some not so terrible foods mainly seafood and i had a small shake with peanut butter and next day i had lost weight so you’re dead on about this. I’m into session 3 of your heavy lifting suggestion and i must say it’s already showing results more than whatever i thought i was doing. My question is My heaviest i can lift 4-6 is about 180…I know pretty sad at my weight but how many sets should I do? I usually break em up in sets of 5 also machine curls i’ve been using the same philosophy lift as heavy as I can is this ok?

          • Happy to hear the weight went back down.

            For how many sets you should do, I recommend 3 sets per exercises and 3-4 exercises per workout (9-12 heavy sets). Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-a-workout-routine/

            Yup, lift as heavy as you can in the 4-6 rep range.

  • CMB

    I like to move around and get hot while working out, and I’m simply too impatient to enjoy waiting 2- 3 minutes between sets. Do you think it would it be fine to workout one set of muscles (e.g. military press), then workout another set of muscles (e.g. squats) inbetween? Thanks!

    • Ehh. I understand wanting to keep moving and burning cals, but with this kind of training, you want to be lift as heavy as you can each set and that requires rest.

      I don’t recommend switching off sets with different muscle groups. Rest between sets. If you’re pushing as hard as you can for 4-6 reps, you’ll want to rest and you’ll get used to it.

  • David

    Mike, I’m 58, 6-2 and 230 lbs, I just read your entire page and have a question that is driving me crazy. I’m getting MUCH stronger but I’m not getting the size and physique I so want. I have a 315 bench, a 405 dead, 275 square, etc and work out like a dog but don’t seem to get what I want, Am I to old? Do I need drugs? My strength has moved up Exponentially But why aren’t I getting bigger and looking better. Frustrated

    • Good job on the strength gains. You’re strong as shit.

      As to getting bigger, the usual problem is people not eating enough. Are you gaining .5-1 pound a week?

      • David

        Thank you for answering, I actually didn’t expect that. Am I gaining .5 to 1 pound of body weight? I’m actually scared to death to gain more weight at my age (58). All the weight tables say I’m obese at 230 and THAT PISSES ME OFF. However, I don’t actually have an answer to your question. If I think about it, I guess I should be around 255 plus, that would scare me as well. Anyway, I’m completely frustrated and lost about all this stuff. Not giving up,just lost. Hey, why don’t you start an 8 week live in, size and strength camp, I will be your first test subject! Thank you again, sorry for all the complaining.

  • Josh

    Mike,
    I think I made some beginner weight lifting mistakes. When I first started working out about 8 months ago now I was using the 3 sets 8-12 reps and pyramid technique in the gym trying to push heavy weight to quick. I have since stopped working out because I have noticed that my right side of the body (bicep, tricep, lat, deltoid, trap) have grown more than my left side. I am right hand dominant and it feels like I am able to contract my right side muscles a lot more than my left. I think I may have used some improper form as well because when I try to conduct exercises with my left side muscles it seems like my left pec and forearm bare all the weight. It seems like my left side pec and forearm are bigger than my right indicating that they do bare all the weight in my exercises. Not only are most of my upper extremity muscles on my left side slightly/ smaller than my right I also notice my left side abs are less developed as my right and left leg is slightly smaller. When I try to work out my abs and left leg I am not able to get the muscles to contract properly. I do not know what to do in this instance to correct these issues as you can imagine they’re quite aggravating.

  • SoldierJ613

    I’m frustrated that’s why I stumbled on to this blog. I eat 5 to six meals a day and I have lost over thirty pounds, but I can’t seem to tone or lose the belly. I went from a size 40 to a 36. 230lbs to 200 lbs. But I want to be built and cut up. I have spent a lot of money , can anyone help?
    Sincerely Military Vet who would appreciate it

  • Dar9898

    The whole beginning of this article about high reps not building muscle unless you are on juice is false and very ignorant. The problem with the fitness world is people telling other people what will and will not work for them. I personally do lift heavy but that is what has worked for me to grow. I am a correctional officer in a prison where there are no weights and I have seen inmates gain a lot of mass during there time on high volume creative working out. I am using them as an example because they are not on juice. Volume training has been proven over and over to build mass for people just as well as lifting heavy. People need to do what works for them and most importantly what they enjoy doing.

    • I’m not saying you can’t build muscle on high-rep but as a natural weightlifter, you want to emphasize heavier lifting, that’s all.

      Hmm I’ve emailed with quite a few guys in prison and they talk about how rampant steroid use is?

      I definitely agree that overall enjoyment is a big part of long-term progress.

  • Vespin

    Mike, between year 8 and year 11, were you doing body recomp or did you focus on either bulking or cutting first?

    • Several bulks and cuts actually. 3 to 4 if I remember correctly.

  • Bill Haverchuck

    Hey Michael, I’ve been reading a lot of your posts and I’d be interested to hear what you think about my problem. I’ve been a typically skinny guy for much of my life. When I first started lifting seriously is when I was in my best shape, I think around 170 at 5’10. Looking back, even then I wasn’t in amazing shape. In the last year, I’ve been attempting to “bulk”. What that’s lead to is me being around 190 lbs and looking more out of shape than I ever have, with very little mucsle to show. I don’t look fat necessarily, but skinny fat. You can see it in my face especially. How do I get the body I want, and will the type of lifting mentioned in this article work for what I wish to achieve? Essentially, I want to get back around 170 but I want to be able to pack on muscle I’ve never really had.

    • I hear you Bill. This should answer all your questions:

      https://legionathletics.com/skinny-fat/

      LMK what you think!

      • Bill Haverchuck

        Hey thanks for the link! One question though, this article, like many I see about fitness, seems to suggest that this info would work better for beginners. Since I’ve been lifting for a while but don’t have much to show for it, would these techniques still be viable for me?

        • YW!

          It depends, have you been hitting the heavy, compound lifts?

          Regardless, you’d still want to lift heavy, decrease the cardio and diet properly.

          If you’re new to this style of weightlifting, you have the added benefit of being able to gain muscle while losing fat.

          Hope this helps!

  • Jonathan Martinez

    Mike,

    I understand what you are saying but I have a question about Ascending Pyramid training.

    For example: I am going to the gym to do my chest workout and start lifting 180lbs on my first set. Wouldn’t I be more likely to get an injury? my muscles are cold and you don’t recommend doing cardio before lifting so I always thought that progressing overload was the best path to get your muscles warm and familiar with the new weight.

    What kind of warm up routines would you recommend for the lift days?

    • I definitely recommend you warm-up properly before doing your heavy, working sets. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-prevent-and-recover-from-workout-injuries/

      Progressive overload is the goal, but not by starting light on your working sets. The goal is to gain reps and/or weight on your lifts each week while lifting as heavy as you can.

      • Jonathan Martinez

        That is what I was looking for. Great article Mike. Thanks as always.

        One more question. On average, how long does it take to get from 20% to 10% BF, following the recommended diet and 5 /day week workout for a 30 year old man? I obviously don’t want an exact time but I would like to know if I am doing the right thing or I need to change something.

        • YW.

          Hmm let’s say 20ish weeks. Keep this in mind too:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

          • Jonathan Martinez

            That is a relief. lol! I started my Journey with 22%BF (173lbs) and now I am at 13-14% (166lbs) in about 14 weeks. I was a little worried about the weight because I haven’t been losing not even a pound per week but I am losing BF%. I guess I am gaining some muscle considering I used to workout a couple of years ago.

          • Haha yep. You’re doing great!

            If you’re new to this style of training, you’re definitely building muscle. Muscle memory helps too.

            Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • kirby

    Finally…someone had the balls to write the Truth.

  • kirby

    Also..if your older and have any type ofa chronic disease (such as severe asthma) diabetes etc. Your recovery is very limited. Try mon. Bench wed squat or legpress fri deads or pullups. This was a great read…and the TRUTH.

  • DAVID

    Thanks Mike. i think I have made every mistake that you have mentioned in this artice and your supplement article. I will definitely change training. Thanks again Mike.

    • Welcome! Well now you know. 🙂

      LMK how it goes after making the changes!

      Happy to help David.

  • Alex M

    Hi Mike, two quick questions. 1. When do you recommend aiming for 4-6 vs 5-7 rep ranges? 2. You mention that long rest periods of at least 2.5 – 4 minutes is best for strength gains. What about for a cut/fat loss? Should rest times be that long or can they/should they be shorter (i.e. less than 2 mins)?

  • Shahvi

    Thanks for such great info. But i was unable to understand your 3rd point….. could you please elaborate.

  • mario

    hi, any tips on how to focus on working out? about 2 months out of the year I work a job that doesn’t give me any time to work out at all, I usually start weights right after work is over. this year ive tried but my motivation is not there at all.. I just get this feeling of, ill start tomorrow.. any help would help, thx

    • I hear you Mario! It can be tough when your schedule gets busy.

      This should help:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/workout-motivation/

      LMK what you think!

      • Defected

        Is it true our mussels once used from the past, come back faster when you start working out again? Forget what its called, but I noticed i’m getting into shape faster than expected.

        I rotate my seasons. legs day 1. upper body day 2. repeat two times then rest 48 hours.

        At this moment I’m making gains and strength, but I guess if progress slows, I will need to change it up.

        One thing i’m having issues with is eating 5 meals.

        • Muscle memory is definitely a real thing!

          If you prefer, you can eat three bigger meals. As long as you’re hitting your macro targets, meal frequency doesn’t matter all that much.

          • Defected

            what about a timeline for Muscle memory? How many years before you lose memory?

          • Defected

            I will say the hardest part for me is starting over. No longer benching high weights and struggling to lift. Or, simply looking at my failed self in the mirror.

            For anyone out there about to give up — DON’T DO IT! I lost my daughter at age 1 and from that moment I wanted to live in misery and drug addiction. Then I found faith and hope – and the realization of my selfish behavior.

            Stood up and said “I’m done with this shit”! Said a prayer, looked at my daughters grave and swore to live life for her.

          • That’s great you made the decision to turn it around. Good job!

            Working out with only dumbbells is a bit tough because you can’t squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press (and these are the most important exercises in any program, really).

            My first standard recommendation is to get a proper home setup (a power cage or multi-press rack with an Olympic bar and plates), or work out in a gym instead. Here are the products I like:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/recommendations/equipment/home-gym/

            That said, if neither are possible, you can focus on the dumbbell exercises given in the “approved exercises” section of the book. For instance, a chest day would look like this:

            Incline dumbbell press: warm up and 6 sets 4-6 reps
            Flat dumbbell press: 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps

            While that might seem redundant and inefficient, it’s actually a great chest workout. I did that for nearly 6 months a couple years ago and was amazed by the gains I was able to make.

            You can also add a couple exercises to make your legs day more challenging:

            Goblet squats are decent, albeit limited.
            One-legged squats are challenging even without weight.

            For your back, I recommend doing a lot of dumbbell rows and weighted wide-grip pull-ups.

            You also have the option of working in some modified body weight exercises, as discussed here:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

            I hope this helps and let me know what you think!

          • Defected

            Thanks! Very informative. I think you’re right about going to a local gym.

          • YW!

          • Defected

            One more question. What if I need to workout when I feel stressed out? Would it be fine to do lighter weights if I need to hit the gym, even though I already completed one the other day?

          • Ever consider HIIT or bodyweight workouts like tabata? That’s a better option.

          • Defected

            Tabata looks evil! lol. But, I will try it for fun.

          • Haha it’s no picnic, but definitely will take your mind off whatever is stressing you out.

          • Defected

            I threw up big time the other night and then the following morning I tried to do my workout and failed. Should I be trying to workout if I feel weak? I did not want to miss a day since I already took a 2 day rest.

            Guess I was concerned about losing strength if I missed today’s workout. I wanted to finish it tonight if I feel better, but I still feel like crap. Think I got food poisoning.

          • Yikes! Sorry to hear about that. Your first priority is to recover. It’s well worth the time off.

          • Defected

            yeah I feel better now, but still a bit weak! Crazy it takes this long to fully recover from food poisoning! Never had this before. I ate one of those chickens pre-cooked from the grocery store.

          • Awesome. Yeah it can take awhile sometimes.

            All good! Cooking your own, you can portion it out better anyway. Win-win

          • Defected

            Oh my push-ups are increasing every weak! started doing them August 1st and could not even do 2! Now I can hit 30. I want to peek 100 just for kicks.

            its crazy how fast i’m gaining strength! I recall back in the day I stopped getting strong and just failed to push hard weights. Though back then I was not doing any kind of structural meal planning.

          • Nice work! Keep it up man.

          • Defected

            Thanks man! I can no curl 40s, but only 4 times… Sometimes 5. is that enough for building? I know the count will increase over time, but I wanted to be sure 4-5 reps is good?

  • James

    Hi Mike, love reading your stuff and listening to your podcasts. I recently read BLS and began the 4 day split routine documented in the book. i came to the website to see if i could find an answer to a question i have but cant seem to find it anywhere so thought i would ask. you say in BLS & in this article that you should add weight to the bar once you reach the top of the rep range. i understand that when working in the 4-6 rep range you should add weight, but it this the case during day 3 of the 4 day split when you advise to work in an 8-12 range, as in the book you say add weight at the top of the range but prior to that in the book you say add weight when you hit 6 reps. i have been adding weight when hitting 6 reps regardless of the rep range but i am unsure if i am doing it right. look forward to hearing from you, keep up the good work, purchasing the one year challenge at the end of this month. thanks

    • Hey James! Glad you’re enjoying my stuff. 🙂

      Yep, it’s the same no matter the rep range. The goal is always progressive overload so once you hit the top of the rep range, you should add weight.

      Hope this helps!

      Thanks for the kind words and awesome you’re picking up 1YC. LMK how you like it!

      Talk soon.

      • James

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for the reply.
        So just to make sure i’ve got this right…

        4-6 reps – add weight at 6 reps
        8-12 reps – add weight at 12 reps

        Cheers

  • Dustin

    How do I get to these pod casts? Also I look basically the exact same way as your first picture but with much less defined pecs, I seem to be making all of these mistakes… Frustrating to say the least.

  • Sarah Elaine Heath

    Hi Mike!!

    I’m by nature a very slender, lean body type. I have had two children in the last 3 years and am ready to get toned back up(was formerly a crossfitter, but would like to focus more on the lifting moving forward). I have been fortunate enough with my genetics/metabolism and am back at my pre-pregnancy weight. My struggle is keeping on fat and muscle. I’m looking to build more muscle, but in a healthy way and while accentuating a feminine figure(I don’t have much booty or hips).

    All of that being said, would you recommend I follow the men’s guide or the women’s guide? I do not want to get thinner. I want to make gains. I’m currently at 127 lbs, 5’9″.

    Please let me know what you recommend. Also note, I’m still nursing my youngest(he’s 11 months-sorry if this is tmi), so my caloric intake will also need to be increased even more while lifting, but I’m not certain by how much. We eat a very healthy, balanced diet with lots of veggies, good quality proteins and fats (organic/grass fed/pastured), etc., etc.

    Excited to begin this journey. Would appreciate your help!!

    Cheers,
    Sarah

    • Hey Sarah!

      Congrats on the kids! Glad you’re ready to get back on track and awesome that you’re already back to your normal weight. 🙂

      For what you’re trying to do, you should follow the women’s program laid out in TLS:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/thinner-leaner-stronger/

      I’ve worked with quite a few women that breastfeed and the typical extra cals burned from breastfeeding is 500-700 cals. So make sure you add those cals when you calculate your intake:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      Glad you’re sticking to healthy foods, and I look forward to seeing your results!

  • Skyler

    Hello Mike I have two questions for you.

    So I’ve always had an extremely difficult time to put on weight. After reading up a bit on what not to do and having to eat about 4500 calories a day, I finally eclipsed a 225 bench press. I’m about 5’9″ and 150 lbs. I noticed though that my fat percentage was really high (12%), so I started to cut and got down to about 9.5 percent with more cardio and limiting myself to about 1500-1900 calories a day with one cheat day a week. (The goal was 8%) It was working but now my lifting has extremely suffered and I’m nowhere near a six pack which leads me to ask, how can I achieve a six pack but still keep my gains?

    And secondly, for some reason my gains would show results in the gym, but never outside of the gym. It was like I was getting stronger but only the muscle I had was getting stronger, instead of building more to look bigger and more defined. I have a very odd work schedule so my workouts are usually 3x for about 25 minutes, three to four times a week. I can only get about two different exercises in per gym visit. And each gym visit is spread apart by at most 3 hours.

    Do you have any suggestions? Anything would be very appreciated. Thank you.

    • NP! Thanks for all the info. Great job on benching 225 LBS at 150 LBS. That’s strong.

      Hmm. First, those cals are probably way too low if you had to eat 4500 cals to gain. How much were you losing a week? Also, keep this in mind:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-body-fat/

      Regarding gaining strength but not necessarily muscle, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

      Your gym schedule shouldn’t be an issue.

      Check those out and LMK what you think.

      Welcome!

      • Skyler

        I was losing about a lb/week and could start seeing my abs pretty well but then I could notice a very big deficit in my lifts, which is telling me I’m losing muscle, not fat. I mean I get that it’ll take a while but I don’t want to believe that I can either bulk and get a belly or cut and look super skinny with abs. I’ve taken a few notes and written down your muscle building workout with 4-6 reps instead of doing the usual 8-12. I’ll see how my body responds after 6 weeks.

        • Oh that’s great. You want to be losing 1-2 pounds a week.

          Hmm. Yeah you should be able to maintain strength. To help make sure you’re losing fat and not muscle, check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-body-fat/

          Cool you’re training in the 4-6 rep range. Good call.

          Check out the article I linked and LMK how it goes.

  • Scott

    thanks for the knowledge, I’ve paid top dollar for a trainer for 8 months now, and have put in 200 % effort on everything I’ve been advised to do, and I’m smaller than when I began, and not that much stronger. I’m told it’s genetics, and I believe that’s about 70% [email protected]#t. I’ve had nice gains along the way, but with every gain, there’s a setback. Although it happens in life sometimes, the only thing that’s been consistent is me going through peaks and valleys. I’m 6’2″ in height, I started 189lbs, and 14.8% body fat, 8 months ago, and today , I’m 186lbs and 12.2% body fat. As cool as my trainer is, sounds like it’s time for me to make a change, and I’m more confused then when I got started

  • Scott

    I also have a daily post workout protein shake, and take a multi vitamin, and recently out of disappointment, and against better judgement started taking a pre workout drink ( on blood pressure medication) to try to break through this plateau. I’m 32 years young, and in desperate need of some solid professional advice

  • Don C

    Hey Mike

    Im 19 and trying lose loose weight. Im over 300 pounds and I’ve started weight lifting. Im in college and its hard to keep the diet of healthy foods here and I usally have to wait untill 5 at night for my first meal and then 9 for another. I feel like im starving myself all day. I know nothing will work if im not getting food in me let alone the right foods so im stuck. Do you have any ideas of what kind of foods I should be buying that will last but not do harm to my progress?
    Thanks

    • Hey Don! I get where you’re at.

      I recommend eating nutritious foods and getting several servings of fruits and veges. However, in terms of results, as long as you hit your target cals and macros, you’ll get the results. You can calculate your targets here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      Welcome! Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Andy Pro

    The mistakes you pointed out are pretty basic,but let’s not forget that maybe for you 5-7 reps is the best while for other guy 8-10/12 reps range mai give better results,from what I understood from an article it depends on the type of muscle fibers we have more.

  • Hello Mike, quality article as always. You never replied to my email but that’s ok. I have been on your program since the end of last year and although I’m struggling to make gains I have made some progress and I think a lot of it is just about staying positive and being patient.

    You obviously don’t build your dream body in a matter of months especially if you are not taking drugs. I am doing all the things you are saying in this article. I have thought about trying high reps, drop sets, muscle burn, etc just to see what happens but since I am going for size I thought it didn’t make much sense anyway.

    What do you think?

    • Hey hey! Thanks! Hmm. Not sure what happened to your email! I still make sure all emails are answered… Email me again?

      Cool you’ve been rolling on the program! Sorry to hear about the trouble you’ve been having.

      Nope, that’s for sure. Have you tried setting up and sticking to a proper meal plan and following a proper workout split with lots of rest between sets that focuses on the 4-6 rep range?

      Check these out:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/muscle-building-workout/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Yup I followed your program accurately, although I just started recently with the strength weeks and deload week. I used to just do every week the same and then take the deload week completely off.

        I also just recently started with the bulking whereas before I was just maintaining. So I think things are going fine. I was being too impatient and hard on myself.

        It’s tough when you are sore all the time and go to great lengths to make sure your diet is right and then see guys that are so much bigger than you but that is where persistence and patience come in.

        I just gotta give myself credit for the small gains and take a more long term outlook. I believe in your program and I’m not just gonna give it up after a few months!

        The email probably just got lost somewhere. I’ll send it to you again some other time. You may be able to judge better about my progress too.

        • Cool you’re following the program accurately and are now incorporating strength weeks and deload weeks.

          Awesome you’re bulking now too. That is KEY for building any significant amount of muscle. Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

          Keep up the proper training and dieting, and you WILL get the results.

          That’s a good way to look at it. Well done on what you’ve done so far. Let’s just get the workouts and diet in tune to speed up results. 🙂

          Sounds good on the email!

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Fuark Yuu

    Hello Mike!

    My name is Wayne. I read your article and thank you so much for the information. I’m a beginner with weight lifting and I want to get big. I’m 5’9 and 150 pounds, my 1RM on the bench press is 213. I’m weak and I want to get strong, but mainly want to put on mass. I read what you said about doing the compound lifts. My question is, should I do compound lifts everyday and have that be my only workout for a while (maybe good 6 months)? Everyday, Monday-Fri, bench press, squat, deadlift, and military press? Is that a good way to make gains, or should I not do those particular exercises every single day? Someone once told me that I shouldn’t do those exercises everyday, but instead, I should do them every couple of days, so my body will have plenty of rest and recovery. What do you think? I would be more than happy to do these exercises daily, but I just don’t want to “overdo it”. Is it a good idea to strictly do bench pressing, squats, deadlifts, and military pressing every day for great mass and strength gains (around the 4-6 rep range, and 2-3 minutes of rest between sets)? Or should I maybe have a split, resting every other day or two days when only doing strictly compounds and nothing else?

  • Fritz

    I don’t have a gym to go to so I have a set of 15 and 20 lb. dumbells. I do 4 sets of 10 curls on the 15s and 4 sets of 15 bench presses on the 20s. I alternate days so 1 day I’ll curl and the next I’ll bench. I’m really just looking to put on a little muscle considering I’m only 120. Is this routine alright or should I change something?

  • Tyeler Durrden

    This is a great article. Thank you for the info. I’m a 48 year old male. 5 8″ 158 lbs. I recently got a bowflex PR 3000. I never worked out in my life. I always have had a big chest but spindly arms. I want to get in better overall shape and build some muscles in my arms

    My workout consists of
    Days 1,3,5,7
    Seated pull downs. 3 X 25 @ 210lbs
    Seated bench press 3 X 15 @ 210 lbs
    Seated tricep extension 3 X 10 @ 160 lbs
    Seated abdominal crunch 3 X 30 @ 160 lbs
    Seated biceps curl 3 X 10’@ 100 lbs
    Seated wrist curl 3 X 20 @ 210 lbs
    Triceps pushdown 3 X 10 @ 100 lbs

    Days 2,4,6
    Seated pull downs. 3 X 50 @ 100 lbs
    Seated bench press 3 X 25 @ 100 lbs
    Seated tricep extension 3 X 20 @ 100 lbs
    Seated abdominal crunch 3 X 60 @ 100 lbs
    Seated biceps curl 3 X 20 ‘@ 60 lbs
    Seated wrist curl 3 X 30 @ 160 lbs
    Triceps pushdown 3 X 20 @ 60 lbs

    I alternated between each exercise doing 1 set of each then going back to to the top. On days 2,4,6 I try to keep rest periods under 90 seconds to get a bit of a cardio workout.

    Is it bad to alternated high reps and lower reps of the same muscle groups?

    It is my understanding that high reps build endurance and low twitch muscles while low reps build mass and strength. I almost never feel sore. I’ve also cut sugar, starch and low grade carbs from my diet so I think that has helps minimize inflammation. Thank you in advance.

    • Thanks Tyler! My pleasure!

      Ehh, what matters is weekly volume, but that is a LOT of volume, and I recommend focusing on the heavy, compound lifts in the 4-6 rep range. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/muscle-building-workout/

      I also recommend you take 1-2 days off completely a week.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Hass Batanovic

    I used to train almost exactly the way
    you are describing in your article and my diet was strict and on point( I wouldn’t even chew gum because I was worried about its suger content) yepp, it was that extreme! Iv trained that way for three years and although my strength level increased dramatically there was little to no physical difference. It was only when I began training with lighter and more moderate weights, including isolation exercises, and higher rep ranges (15 reps) I began to grow. I was always tired and worn out training under my old regimen because I was lifting heavy all the time and exposed myself to injury while going heavy. Since I started training with moderate weights and higher reps I put on more size in only 5 months and feel like I’m not burning myself out. By going for a higher rep range I was allowing my muscles to burn longer and resist the weight for a longer period of time. As with isolation I believe it has its place in bodybuilding because if your training a single body part for that day you want to isolate it and focus all your energy and effort just on that body part to stimulate it greater. Compound lifts are great but by just doing them your spreading your effort on other muscle groups and not on the primary one you are training for that given day.

  • david

    hi mike I love the site and rerad the book twice ,but i have a problem
    i see a lot of people in the gym who got a great body( better than me and i do as you said about 10 months now) and they do i 10-12 reps for almost all exresice, i ask a lot of them and they say they take only whey protein
    1.how can you explain that ? maybe each person have different reps range which is best for hes body ( that what they all say -that you need to trial and error on your body)
    2.is the trial and error system is right ?

  • Mark Dinsdale

    Hello Mike, I’m in week 10 of a lifting cycle atm and about to have a rest week. The thing is I hate the rest weeks as I can’t go to the gym. Is there a way around this where I can still lift weights but not tire myself out badly? Also how long do bulks usually last? This is my first real bulk and I’ve been going roughly 3 months and with slight gains in strength but no real physique change and same weight. Thanks

    • Mark, you can still go to the gym and lift a 50% load. You don’t have to take it completely off.

      If you’ve plateaued in both strength and physique, it’s time to bump up calories. Follow this guide:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

      Bulk until 15-17%, then cut back down to 10%.

  • Alex

    Hey I run 1 mile a day, do curl ups with a bar that equals up to 60lbs I do 5 sets of that, then I do 3 sets of 55 curlups with 20lbs dumbells, then I do 6 sets of 50 sqauts then 150 sit ups then do 5 sets of 15 push ups everyday except Sundays. Is this unhealthy and should I do this every other day or am I fine also im 16 years old

  • Alex

    Also do you have any workout tips for me I’m a beginner whose not that strong but am willing to do whatever it takes to get stronger

  • Lei Tiger Qu

    Regarding rest time. Do you start counting it when you finish the last rep? It may not be super crucial as long as I keep within 2.5 min to 4 min right? Right now I set the timer to 90 secs so because before I lift I like to do rituals😄😄💪💪. So typically ends up 2 min to 2.5 mins. Is this too short? My schedule kind of tight but with this rest I can finish lifting within 1 hour, which is a time frame best suit for me…

    • I start counting right when the last rep is finished. As long as you’re in the 2-4 minute rest range, you’re fine.

  • Defected

    Hey guys one more question. What if I can only lift the weight 1 time? Is that still useful?

    • Nah, except to test your 1RM…if you’re a competitor. But, you can use a calculator for that if you’re not:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/one-rep-max-calculator/

      • Defected

        Do you think just for one moth to speed up toned legs, the 300 squat challenge would be beneficial to me at this starting point?>

        • Check this out:
          http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

          The key is progressive overload to build muscle. You won’t get that with the 300 squat challenge. Furthermore, for tone to happen, you have to drop body fat, which means a cutting diet. With these two in place, then you’ll start to see toned legs.

          • Defected

            I’m willing to eat the same meal over and over! Can I even eat the same meal over and over for a cutting diet?

          • Sure!

          • Defected

            Always on the go and at times I never have time to eat launch. What would be a suitable substitute for meal style bar?

          • Eh…not a fan of bars. Way high in fat and not satiating at all. If you can down a shake and have some fruit, that should tide you over until you can eat a proper meal.

            If you must have a bar, qwest bars aren’t too bad.

          • Defected

            Thanks again for all this help! It truly gave me a nice bump in my intro faze.

          • NP!

  • Brandan Lopez

    hi i mike i keep reading things on eric helms and how he says volume is the key to muscle growth how much volume do we need to stimulate muscle growth?

  • JesseBrooks

    Great article, sadly Im in a position where hitting the gym is financially impossible. But i do have hav a set of 15, 25, and 35 lb dumbbells. I have been battling pneumonia for a solid year now. Now that I have my lungs back I can start lifting again. Im 5’11 200lbs, lost alot of mass and strength but Im confident I can return to normal again. When i was in shape i weighed 215, and regularly hit the gym for a wider variety of equipment. Im skeptical still about using only dumbbells but meh we’ll see

    • Glad to hear you’re doing much better now.

      There’s a lot you can do with dumbbells, but you’ll need to pick up heavier ones to continue to make progress.

  • Mary Smith

    I can’t put on muscle no matter what I do. My DL has been stuck at 185 for reps for months on end (didn’t begin doing it seriously till mid age). I’m 53 and from the neck down can pass for 30; so firm, tight, defined (not ripped; BF isn’t low enough), and I’m actually quite strong for a woman, but dang, can’t grow my muscles. I’ve tried everything (metabolic, 90 sec rests, two minute rests, changing exercises–currently do a mix of metabolic one-min rests and lower rep very heavy weight with longer rests–DL 3 minute rests). Don’t tell me to eat more. If I eat more it’ll go to my waist while my my muscles and strength remain the same. I do eat plenty of protein. I’ve tried different dietary approaches, drink plenty of water, get adequate rest, use proper form. I look more like a yoga instructor than the tough-looking muscle woman I long to look like. I don’t mean bulked up like on steroids, but I’d love a physique where, if I’m walking down the street in a tank top–people stare in awe.

    • Hey Mary, nice work on your deadlifts! Let’s get those moving again. Have you looked at this yet?

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      LMK what you think.

      • Mary Smith

        Thanks Mike, I just skimmed it, and the one thing I for sure have not tried is to cut back on the cardio. I’ve been doing it 3x/week, occasionally 2x/week, but sessions typically exceed one hour. I’ll see what 30 mins does, but being that I hate cardio, I do find it hard to believe that my DL problem comes down to doing too much cardio. The hour is not an hour of hard work; it’s the total time on the treadmill, but it’s interval training, so lots of easy walking in that hour’s time.

        • Pretty intense stuff with 1 hour HIIT sessions! Keep us posted.

        • Steelo

          Lose the cardio all together, just for a few weeks and see what happens. If you’re weight training with intensity then the cardio does have an impact on recovery. Asking for different results but doing the same thing will just have you spinning your wheels.

  • Heath Pierce

    I turned 50 last year. For the last 10-years all I’ve done is cycling. I love endurance sports and cycling is the best fit for me. I love the suffering of a long ride and the soreness and fatigue I get from a 4 to 5-hour ride. I want to start lifting again, not for cycling, I want to get back to lifting hard and building muscle. What I need, and haven’t found on here yet, is a routine. What lifts should I do, what days, what order, etc. Do you have a book or article that can help me structure my routine so I don’t waste time? Thank you!

  • Chandler Maples

    Hey there, i’m 17 and 5’5″. I probably weigh about 110 lbs or so and im looking to grow in weight and strength. Being short seems to be a disadvantage i guess, so im looking for some help on enhancing my body. I also would love to be able to get ripped and toned for myself, but im new and i feel almost overwhelmed. In honesty, i wish i had someone here i could rely on to push me, and even go to the gym WITH me, but thats not the case, im on my own. What would you recommend for me? Is there any way you can help? Perhaps even help with making a regimen and diet? Thanks, -C

  • Teodor

    First you argue about doing less reps with greater weight but then you talk about how more rest between sets allows you to do more reps in the next set?

    • Of course. You want to lift in the heavy 4-6 rep range. If you take a 1min break, you’ll probably pull of 2-3 reps. If you rested for 2+min you’d likely do 4-6. Does that clear it up?

  • DoubleJH

    Hey, I’m 15 and 5’9″. I weigh about 170 lbs. I’ve been going to the gym with a goal of just wanting to be bigger. I really just try to do workouts to make my chest into pecs, make my biceps bigger, and triceps. That’s all I really do. But there’s an issue; I do my workout for about an hour and my arms look and feel slightly bigger, but then about an hour later or so, my arms feel and look like the way they were before I lifted. I really want to see results. I want to know some excersizes that I can do to make my arms bigger and stay that way, if you could tell me. And as for my chest; I’m trying to get pecs because I’m not happy with how my chest is. When I wear some clothes, they don’t look very impressive and without a shirt on, I really want to have an impressive upper body. Please help me, and maybe I could get some diet and workout advice?

  • ♡TheRealNewalla♡

    Thank you so much for this! I am a 40 year old mother of 5 and I have just started my weight lifting routine to finally get my body back on track and to be strong and healthy! I lift in my garage with a weider cross bow gym. I am 5’5 and 240 pounds!! And i need to lose major weight but I would also would like to build muscle and be strong instead of look like a string bean with loose skin. Can you please tell me what I can start out lifting as in sets, reps, and resting intervals to maximize my results! And to start seeing progress and lean muscle. I know that muscle weighs more than fat and Im not really worried about the scale results I just want to see results in my self and the way my clothes fit and be able to do more than 2 push ups! I have read millions of articles and yours is the first one that made sense and made me even more motivated to not stop! Thank you so much for your article and for any advice you can give me!

  • MJM

    This is just what the proverbial doctor ordered ! Precise and to the point. I am a woman 5’9″ 54 135. Yes! You could never guess my age if you saw me in public. I am thin framed always have been. I don’t want to be. So I have started lifting again. I were an avid lifter on and off but I want that mass now. My metabolism is thru the roof ! I eat just to keep my weight on. The way lifting has changed from when I was on the circuit back in the day and is so technology massive now. I would lift heavy, bulk up then lose it in two days no matter my diet. I was also running 5.1 miles per day which helped cardiovascular but now I’m told defeats the purpose so I stick to sprints. I have instant result (gentics) I’m told. But lose the mass . Strong yes but thin. This helped me greatly!
    I want my ass back ! Thank you !

  • Neil

    Neil here from Blighty! Really good article Mike (this one and the Hypertrophy one) which made me stop and think about what I was doing after years of hitting the weights with very little growth albeit increase in strength (following traditional body part split, pyramids, high rep/volume training, isolation exercises etc.). I found a coach who shared similar views on hypertrophy (your other article), focus on upper/lower splits with push/pull, H/V lifting. What can I say, in 1 month I’ve already noticed a difference in mass (although changed my diet to eating more protein) by sticking to sets in the 8-10 rep range using RIR of 3 then moving down to RIR of 0 with progressive overload. I’m hoping I can achieve my goal of stripping fat and adding bulk…. cheers and all the best!!

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