For years now, several bodybuilders have used many different ways and have been trying many different things to see what causes maximal hypertrophy (muscle growth). You might have seen different ways to do exercises that many say cause a high growth effect. Different techniques like drop sets, rest-pause, double contractions, partials, etc. have been invented over the years, and do seem to work.
I am going to explain the most basic variables for a beginning weight lifter to use to achieve maximum results while going through this whole experience. Variables for workouts are known as reps, sets, tempo, rest time, and frequency.
Workout Variable 1: Reps
This is one of the most important variables to consider. You have to be in the right rep range depending on your goal in order to achieve maximum results. Most people who are looking to put on muscle do not actually know the correct rep range for hypertrophy, because instead of doing research, they just listen to what their friends say, or ask the fellow gym rat.
The rep range for Maximal Hypertrophy is 6-12 reps. 6-12 reps meaning that on the last set of that exercise, you should be going to absolute failure within that rep range. Any lower than that, and you are in the strength training range and any higher than that means you are more in the endurance training stage.
Workout Variable 2: Sets
The amount of sets you do per exercise decides how much volume your workout contains. Volume is all of the acute variables of a workout taken into one consideration which turns into the simple question, “how much?” The correct number of sets is 3-5 per muscle group. So let’s say that it’s chest and triceps day: you want to do 3-5 sets for chest, and also 3-5 sets for triceps. So you actually have a choice whether your body reacts to a low or high volume setting for maximal hypertrophy because every single person is different. Some people workout for only 35-50 minutes, and get the same if not better results than someone who works out for two hours and vice versa.
Workout Variable 3: Tempo
Tempo is basically the speed of the concentric, eccentric, and isometric movements. The best tempo for hypertrophy is 2-0-2 which means a 2 second eccentric movement, 0 second hold, and a 2 second concentric.
So on a bench press for example, raising the bar is the concentric, once the bar is fully raised is the hold, and lowering the bar back down is the eccentric. So for muscle growth, a consistent tempo of 2 seconds is the best way to achieve hypertrophy.
Workout Variable 4: Rest Time
Again, one of the most controversial variables is how much rest you should be taking in between seconds. Scientifically, the best rest time is 0-60 seconds in between sets. So for all of the guys standing around talking to one another during their workout, you are losing muscle gains by doing that. 0-60 seconds provides the best intensity in a workout to get that muscle growth. It isn’t too intense, but just enough to keep you focused and moving throughout your workout.
Workout Variable 5: Frequency
Frequency is how often, or how many times a week you should be in the gym lifting weights. Again, this is another variable that depends on the person, because some people grow faster and have better recovery while others have slower recoveries. The number of times you should be in the gym to begin with is 3-6 times a week.
This provides a wide enough range for people who like to go in almost every day, to those who can only make it in a few times per week. The muscle groups that you like to split up are all dependent on the person. Some people like doing full body workouts, while others like to split it up as much as possible. For growth the more you go to the gym, the better, because then you are able to isolate each muscle group more and get better results.
This setup is not meant for the advanced lifter, or more competitive athletes; these numbers are the most scientifically proven ones to use as a base if you are a beginning lifter. The more advanced lifters will use different techniques and variables to break that plateau of muscle growth.
Every single human being is different, but this is the best way to start out and then tweaking a few things here and there to see what works for you.