I’m guessing you’ve been there:
You want to build muscle. You start lifting weights. During your first few weeks, you get bigger and stronger fast. You’re happy.
But after a few months, you notice your gains have slowed down. You don’t lift that much heavier, and your body has stopped getting noticeably more muscular. You wonder if your program is still working. What’s going on? Read the full story here:
Congratulations: you just leveled up. You were a beginner, and almost any kind of training allowed you to make progress. But now, you’re an intermediate lifter, and you need to start training well if you want to continue growing.
In this article, we’ll look at the major training variables, and how you should change them as you progress if your goal is to continue building muscle.
I’m honoured to publish it as part 1 of a 3-part series on progression for hypertrophy with Dr. Mike Israetel
. I have huge respect for Mike’s work, and feel it’s a privilege to explore this question with him.
Here’s the short of it:
Summing Up: Guidelines on How to Progress Your Training for Size
Increase load and volume on a core set of exercises that you perform in rotation. Specifically:
- Load: Increase load every workout for as long as you can. When you can’t anymore, use easy workouts to recover.
- Volume: Add 1-2 sets per body part per week until load drops. Take a step back. This is your maximum recoverable volume.
- Frequency: Start working out each muscle 2-3x a week. Progress to 3-4x a week for upper-body muscles and 2-3x a week for lower-body muscles.
- Exercise selection: Start with machines. Learn a few multi-joint lifts. Add new exercises in rotation as you max out old ones.
Mike will announce part 2 soon. In 1-2 weeks, in part 3, we’ll present our joint position statement, critique, and guidelines. Follow Mike
on Facebook to get part 3 when it’s out.
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By the way, I’m a bit sad to announce that this should be the last science review newsletter I’ll be publishing in the foreseeable future. I’ve been focussing more and more on my training app Dr. Muscle
, and it’s taking all my time. Lots of people are loving it. I’m grateful for that, and I feel I owe them to make it as good as I can. So, it’s pretty much my only focus now.
Thanks for sticking with me, and for reading these issues. To read past issues (all 53 of them), check out the archives
Carl Juneau, PhD