How to Prevent a Muscle Building Plateau

One of the first and most common problems bodybuilders find themselves in weight training is overcoming a plateau in muscle building or increasing strength. Plateaus come in the form of muscle building where you stop putting on muscle and in your workout routines where you have trouble increasing strength or reps. Many bodybuilders actually give just bad advice on how to stop a plateau. They make plateau prevention way too complicated. You hear them talking about how you gotta do this fancy new program that is a plateau buster routine or you gotta try some supplement or some other crazy idea. Some bring in the concept of periodization which is a very complex laid out plan to switch up your routine in certain phases. This is all the wrong way of doing it. Its actually very easy to prevent a muscle building plateau or stop them once they happen.

Ways to prevent a muscle building plateau

1) Calories: You must increase calories if you feel a plateau is coming on. If your struggling to add weight every week and your muscle gains are slowing its time to increase calories. Calories is the most important aspect of muscle building and strength gains. If you don’t increase your calories to gain a steady amount of weight each week, your strength and muscle gains WILL plateau. Period.

2) Progressive overload: Make sure each week you try to make your routine a little harder. Try to squeeze out an extra rep or increase weight on some of your sets if possible. Not every week you will be able to do this and don’t force it if your not stronger. You don’t want to injure yourself with bad form trying to do more than you could if you really aren’t stronger. The goal is to try to do it on a regular basis when you can.

The calories will be the impetus behind your growth, the progressive overload just works together with it so your muscles have more reason to grow. If you don’t use progressive overload on a consistent basis you might as well not even weight train because your not stimulating your muscles by introducing new loads. Progressive overload enhances your muscle gains as you gain weight.

3) Don’t overtrain: If you do way too many sets a week your body becomes drained after awhile and your body just stops adapting to changes and you hit a plateau. It then enters a state of overtraining where you make things worse every time you workout. Instead of increasing calories to make things better, you should lower your volume first to an amount that doesn’t make you feel exhausted and unable to recuperate. Naturals really only need about 3 days a week of weight training.

4) Take breaks: Even if you do a volume that is suitable for you after 2 or 3 months your body will be worn down and start over training. You can not stop this completely because our body becomes resistant to too many changes over a certain period of time. Therefore, just continuing to work out every week won’t make the situation better. You will eventually once again enter a state of overtraining.

You could increase calories and probably keep gaining, but your gains will be lousy and eventually your body will plateau. The only way to stop this is to just stop excercise completely for a couple weeks and let the body reset mentally and physically at a hormonal and cellular level. There is studies that show that after a break weight trainers hormones like testosterone, IGF-1, and growth hormone back to normal resting levels. It also gives your brain a chance to feel mentally refreshed again because subconsciously are brain gets exhausted of the same workout week after week.

4) Stick to compound exercises mainly. Compound exercises don’t plateau in strength as easily as the isolations. Compound exercises also have the most potential for mass building. If your routine is built around a lot of isolations or machines and not compounds, your gains will stall easier and be lousy.

There you go. Thats how you prevent a plateau in muscle building or strength. You don’t need to change your routine to shock your muscle. In fact if you just change your routine or keep adding weights week after week without increasing calories or taking a break, your going to go backwards as you overtrain or stagnate. You may do that if you are getting bored of your routine and want to try something else mentally, but its not necessary in curing a plateau.

Do Squats and Deadlifts Help Upper Body Muscle gains?

Im so sick and tired of newbie guys in the gym who only want to work their upper body. They usually get a little annoyed by us telling them to do squats and deadlifts. They think were being elitist bodybuilders and they think its silly and too much work to do legs. All they care about is just getting big arms and chest and some abs. These guys will never get truly big and probably will quit after a few months and certainly will never step on stage for a bodybuilding competition.

Why doing squats and deadlifts help upper body gains

All the advanced bodybuilders do squats and deadlifts. The most important reason they do it is because it helps overall body gains. Working squats and deadlifts just doesn’t help your leg gains, it helps your upper body gains too. There is plenty of ancedotal evidence at all levels to support this.

You can’t name any natural bodybuilder that has ever developed great upper body gains without doing squats or deadlifts seriously. Even newbie bodybuilders who neglect legs find their gains are improved when they start squatting and deadlifting. No matter how much leg gains impact the upper body you should do them anyways. It looks ridiculous to most gym goers and even some that don’t workout, when you have the ridiculous light bulb look. Most won’t take you serious if it only look like you work your upper body just to look good at the beach. And skinny legs look even worse on someone with a big upper body.

Scientific evidence on squats and deadlifts effect on body

If all the anecdotal evidence isn’t enough to convince you, then lets just delve into some science. There is thousands of studies and research that show the amount of testosterone, growth hormone, cortisol, that are released are related to how large the excercise is among other factors. Squats, cleans, and deadlifts have a much larger hormone release than any other excercise. Small isolation excercises have very little release of these hormones. Multiple sets done with short rests and medium reps release more overall of these hormones than less set volume, less reps, and longer rests.

Here is one study below that showed the hormonal response from bench press was 7.5 percent however in a jump squat only using 30 percent of their one rep max (light weight) they had double the release at 15 percent. So even a light jump squat had a much more pronounced hormonal response than a heavy bench press.

Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise.

J Appl Physiol. 1994 Mar;76(3):1247-55.

Manipulation of resistance exercise variables (i.e., intensity, volume, and rest periods) affects the endocrine response to exercise. Twelve men performed a bench press exercise protocol (5 sets to failure using a 10-repetitions maximum load) and a jump squat protocol (5 sets of 10 repetitions using 30% of each subject's 1-repetition maximum squat) with 2 min of rest between all sets.

There was a significant (P < or = 0.05) increase in postexercise T compared with preexercise values for both the bench press (7.4%) and jump squat (15.1%) protocols; however, C was not significantly different from preexercise concentrations. These data confirm that high-intensity resistance exercise results in elevated postexercise T concentrations.

In the study below one set of squats had no impact on testosterone immediately after workout, but 6 sets had a 20 percent jump. So volume does matter in weight training. You can’t just do one or 2 sets and call it a day.

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Jan;93(1):35-42. Epub 2005 Jan 25.

Nine resistance-trained men (age=24.3+/-4.4 years) performed the squat exercise for 1 (SS) and 6 sets (MS) of 10 repetitions in a random, counter-balanced order. No acute elevations in serum total testosterone were observed following SS, whereas significant 16-23% elevations were observed at IP, 15, and 30 min post-exercise following MS. No acute elevations in plasma cortisol were observed following SS, whereas significant 31-49% elevations were observed for MS at IP, 15, and 30 min post-exercise.

Which helps body gains better squats or deadlifts?

There is some debate on whether squats or deadlifts are superior to overall body gains. It’s important to know because if one is a lot better than the other we would want to focus most of our sets exclusively on that excercise. I haven’t seen much scientific evidence to suggest one is superior to the other. Only one obscure study by mens health that reported that the deadlift was superior to the squat by releasing more growth hormone and activating more muscles. The study is questionable and there is more than meets the eye.

I don’t believe the answer is very definitive. First off squat and deadlift strength generally is very close to each other. Many say their deadlift is stronger than squat, but in some cases its just the opposite. For example, Im about as strong in my deadlift as my squat. I think structural differences in which muscles are our strong point determine which excercise we are stronger in and by what degree. I tend to be more lower body developed than upper body, which may explain not being a lot stronger in deadlifts. My theory is that deadlifts involve more upper body and less lower body than squats so someone who is genetically not as good in the upper body may do just as well if not better in strength for squats.

Since squats and deadlifts are so close in how much weight they move and there are differences between individuals, I think whichever you are stronger in is probably the most effective excercise for you. Whichever your lifting more weight in is probably affecting more total muscles in a way that will release the most hormones.

Either way, since they are generally close in strength there won’t be much difference no matter which you choose. Deadlifts use less range of motion on lower body, but involve more muscles. Squats involve less upper body muscles but use more range of motion in legs. So from an anatomical standpoint they should be fairly close. This leads me to believe that squats and deadlifts will release similar amounts of testosterone and growth hormone. Therefore, you should work both together in almost equal amounts. That way you don’t have muscle imbalances in your body and you have well rounded development of your lower body. If you only squat you can wind up causing an imbalance between the quads and hamstrings that could lead to knee injuries.

When squats or deadlifts do not matter in upper body gains

Steroid users don’t need squats because their body gets artifical sources of elevated testosterone. Many of the guys with big upper bodies in the gym who don’t do squats and deadlifts are usually steroid users from my experience. Natural bodybuilders need deadlifts and squats to get big upper body gains.

Is Periodization Necessary for Optimum Gains & Avoiding Plateaus?

Periodization has been a technique used by powerlifters and bodybuilders for decades as a way to avoid plateaus in muscle and strength gains. The terminology and science behind periodization sort of scares off new bodybuilders, so sometimes other terms or phrases are used such as “shocking your body” or “switch up your routine to avoid a plateau”.

What is Periodization and it’s purpose in training

Periodization is basically where you radically change your training at certain times in a schedule. Periodization can help avoid overtraining and plateaus. The reason is because if you keep training a certain way week after week your body will start getting resistant to those changes. Its how our body is, it likes to stay in equilibrium. This is called the General Adaptive Syndrome. Our body will change its body hormonally and at different ways in the cellular level in order to resist those changes. It takes a lot of extra energy for our bodies to change, so its natural reaction is to not want to adapt to the same training for too much and for too long.

Periodization advocates radical changes to your training to keep your body guessing and to not do training to close to each other. For example the first few weeks you might do medium reps heavy weight high volume at short rests to gain muscle. Then the next phase for 2 weeks might be a powerlifting routine where you do very low volume, low amount of excercises, very heavy weight at low reps and long rests. Then you might do a endurance phase for a couple weeks where you do high reps, short rests light weight at very high volume. Then finally you go back to your main program for a few weeks again where you are doing medium reps at high volume.

As you can see each phase works different muscle fibers and it gives your body a chance to rest from working one type of way. It also makes it harder for your body to adapt because each phase is so different from the rest.

Different types of Periodization

Linear Periodization is where you do each workouts for weeks in special phases for weeks sequentially. There is another type called non-linear periodization where you alternate between each workout every week. For example you might hit chest 2 times a week. One workout is high reps lots of volume and short rests, the other workout is medium reps heavy weight and medium volume and rest.

Is Periodization Necessary for optimum gains?

I don’t believe Periodization is necessary for optimum gains or even at all, for a couple reasons. People get so caught up into this idea of Periodization they lose sight of the big picture. Periodization won’t even work effectively by itself if you don’t gain weight simultaneously in order to build muscle and get stronger. When you increase calories you will gain weight and build muscle, regardless if you do periodization or not. Calories is extremely anabolic, which is why you won’t gain substantial muscle without gaining weight. Increasing calories will break any plateau. Over time as your metabolism adjusts you need to slowly adjust calories up periodically to continue gaining weight and break a muscle building and strength plateau.

Even when you are gaining weight, your body will still wear down physically and mentally over time to resist those changes. However, this doesn’t mean you need periodization to solve it. I believe taking a full week or 2 off from excercise at least every 3 months or less is enough to recuperate the body to avoid the overtraining from the General Adaption Syndrome. When you take a break you reset the body and allow hormones and other chemical reactions to return to normal. You are desensitizing and reversing the body from any adaptions it made under the General Adaption Syndrome. You can return to your old routine when you return. There is nothing wrong with using the same routine again.

The second reason I don’t believe Periodization is necessary is because when you work your muscles a certain way, you wind up losing the adaptions on the other. You get a mediocre average between the results between the two. For example lets say you are doing high rep phase and are focusing on working your slow twitch muscle fibers, capillaries, and increasing glycogen retention. When you switch to lower reps your working fast twitch or medium twitch fiber groups and endurance fibers and capillaries and glycogen retention aren’t getting hypertrophied much. The opposite happens when you train the other way. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too, but it doesn’t work exactly like that. When you train one way it has a negative impact on the other side because it is getting neglected.

To make matters worse studies have also shown that high endurance training following lower rep training actually causes your muscle fibers to shrink.

(Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1990;61(1-2):37-41)

One group did high reps and the other did low rep strength training in 2 different phases sequentially. The results showed that for the first phase, both types of training increased the fiber size of I, IIA, and IIB. However, the group that did strength phase 2nd, showed a increase in size in the I and IIB fiber types, but the endurance group in the 2nd phase showed decreased size in all fiber types. This study suggests that both types of training increase all fiber type sizes, but switching to endurance training after strength training, will reverse the hypertrophy gains.

(Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Nov;88(1-2):50-60. Epub 2002 Aug 15.)

This study shows that in the high rep group not all fiber types hypertrophied, but in the low and medium rep group all fibers hypertrophy.

Even if you alternate between the training during the week like in non-linear periodization, you’re only do half the volume for each side that you would normally do. Therefore, not really stimulating the muscles to the necessary optimum volume for optimal muscle gains. It also doesn’t change the fact that working the endurance fibers with high reps light weight can reverse the gains from the other type of training you got in the week.

According to studies I have come across, Periodization has enhanced gains over those who didn’t use periodization. I have a problem with the studies though. They don’t say whether either group was gaining weight or not. If both groups are at the same weight and stay that way the whole time it doesn’t disprove my theory that periodization isn’t necessary and that there is an alternative that works just as well. If neither group isn’t gaining weight in these studies, then it doesn’t disprove my theory that you need to gain weight to break plateaus and build muscle. You can’t grow significantly if your not gaining weight regardless if you are periodizing or not. However, if you are gaining weight simple calorie increases and periodic breaks from training will keep you growing and avoiding a plateau. If the group not using periodization was gaining weight, they would probably gain just as well if not better than the group gaining weight who was using periodization. At that point, Periodization is completely unnecessary because you are using calories to break the plateau and breaks to avoid overtraining.

Can Taking a Break from Weightlifting Help with Plateaus?

Almost all bodybuilding workout routines today advocate taking a 2 or 3 weeks off from training once in a while to avoid plateaus. Even the old periodization routines developed decades ago, advocate a rest phase. There must be something helpful about a rest that makes it actually productive in the long run if so many advocate it.

Research on breaks from training

The most recent study I found was published in J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Aug;21(3):768-75. 46 men did 16 weeks of continuous resistance training. One group completely stopped it for 4 weeks afterwards, while the other group slowly tapered their set volume for 4 weeks. The rest group had a 9 percent drop in strength and an increase in IGF-1, a potent anabolic hormone. THe tapering group had a very slight increase in strength, but also a increase in IGFBP-3 resting levels. IGFBP-3 is the protein that binds to IGF-1 to make it not active while it is binded to the protein.

Another relevant study to our topic I found was J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Aug;16(3):373-82. 16 recreationally resistance trained men, were seperated into two groups, one put on a break from training and the other continued weight training for 6 weeks. One rep max, power, and hormonal levels were measured at the 3rd and 6th week of both groups. While the bench press strength increased in the restistance group there was no changes in any group for 1 rep max squat, body or muscle mass, body fat percent, or resting concentrations of growth hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, sex hormone-binding globulin, testosterone, cortisol, or adrenocorticotropin. One theory I have is that because they were recreationally trained, they didn’t train often or serious enough to see a serious drop in strength or change of hormones.

Another study published in Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1993 Aug;25(8):929-35 was done on 12 serious long term powerlifters. After 2 weeks they measured their muscle fiber composition, strength, and body hormones. Although their type 2 muscle fibers (mainly responsbile for hypertrophy) decreased significantly (by 6.4%), they had almost no drop in strength and Growth hormone levels increased 58.3%, testosterone increased 19.2%, and the testosterone to cortisol ratio 67.6% increased, whereas plasma cortisol -21.5% and creatine kinase enzyme levels -82.3% decreased.

Conclusion:

The studies i have found support what many bodybuilders and strength athletes knew all along, that a long rest is beneficial for you. If for any other reason, it returns all your bodies hormones and chemicals to a pre-training state again, so you can be ready for the next growth cycle. Think of it as taking 1 step back to take 2 steps forward to bust through your old plateau.

Effects of WeightLifting on Muscle Fiber Composition

You may have heard some bodybuilders talk about how weight training has a permanent effect on your muscle fibers. Two different ways that the muscles can change through vigrous weight training routines over a course of a few weeks, is through muscle fiber composition changes and hyperplasia.

Before we look at studies and theories, let’s understand how the muscle is made up. There is two major types of muscle fibers, type I and Type II. Type I are functionally best for endurance. Type II are good for strength and power, but not good for endurance. Type II can actually be dividedfurther into fiber subtypes. Type IIB and Type IIA. Type IIB are white colored, unlike the other fibers IIA and I. They are also the most responsive to hypertrophy (Muscle growth). There are many other fiber sub-types in the body, but the most common are Type I, IIA, and IIB.

There is evidence from studies I have found, that muscle fibers type changes from weight training. In other words, One Type can become more like another fiber type, depending on your type of training. This tells us that our muscles adapts to weight training, so it can try to gain muscle easier in the future. When there is more Type II and less Type I acting fibers, it means it’s easier to stimulate future muscle gains. If their is more type I and less Type II, than it becomes harder to gain muscle. It also tell us, that we have to make sure we do the right kind of training to stimulate the right changes in fibers for maximum muscle growth.

Muscle Fiber change research studies

A study published in Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Nov;88(1-2):50-60. Epub 2002 Aug 15. 32 men who were untrained were put into low rep, intermediate rep, high rep, and control groups. High rep group did between 20 to 28 reps with 1 minute rest. The intermediate group did between 9 to 11 reps with 2 minutes of rest for 3 sets. The low rep group did 3 to 5 reps with 3 minutes of rest for 4 sets. The excercises chosen for all groups were squat, leg press, and knee extension done 2 times a week for first 4 weeks, then 3 times a week for the final 4 weeks. The low and intermediate rep group had muscle growth (hypertrophy), but the control and high rep group did not have nearly any. Most interesting however, is that all resistance trained groups had a decrease in IIB fibers and increase in IIAB fibers. Type IIAB sub-type fibers are slightly less effective at building muscle and strength than pure IIB fibers. This study tells us that although high reps around 20 or so do not do much for hypertrophy, they induced the same muscle fiber type changes as even the very low rep ranges(3 to 5 reps).

Another study J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000 Jul;55(7):B336-46 was done on 18 older men. Half did resistance training, the other half served as control. The routine was leg press, half squat, and leg extension for 16 weeks with 6 to 8 reps to muscular failure and 1 to 2 minutes of rest. Results showed that everyone’s muscles hypertrophied, but IIB fibers decreased and IIA fibers increased. Once again, the fibers are changing away from the IIB fibers.

One other study I found published in Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1990;61(1-2):37-41 They had 12 college age men do strength resistance training for 7.5 weeks, than 5 week break to then go onto 5.5 weeks of endurance training (high reps light weight). The other group started with endurance then went to strength. Results showed that both groups in phase 1 had hypertrophy and increase in sizes of all the major fiber types. The endurance group that did strength in the 2nd phase, also had more hypertrophy gains in all fibers during the 2nd phase. However, the group that went from strength to endurance in 2nd phase, reversed all hypertrophy gains in all fibers. This tells us that endurance training after strength training reverses all hypertrophy in all the muscle fiber types. The reason the endurance group probably had some hypertrophy even in phase one, is probably cause they were untrained (not previous lifters).

The results are stunning for me from these studies. I thought it would show a change to more IIB at the lower rep ranges. Instead, all the common rep ranges of lifting for bodybuilders, whether they be in the 6 rep range or the 20 rep range, all had similiar changes in muscle fiber types. The studies also show us that the common rep range bodybuilders use between 6 to 12 reps, all stimulate the major 3 types I, IIA, and IIB for hypertrophy simultaneously. This is well known by bodybuilders and this is why it is the best rep range for muscle gains. The last study cited is useful in that it tells us that switching to endurance training after strength training, will lead to muscle shrinking. This is something bodybuilders have known all along from experience. You can’t maintain muscles lifting weights at the 15 + rep range, as you had gained from lifting in the 6-12 rep range. This is one reason why I don’t advocate high reps during dieting.

Training to Failure Best for Muscle Building?

The most basic question everyone building muscle and strength has, is should I train to absolute muscle failure on each set or just get close to it. When I first trained, I assumed everyone went to muscular failure. Later I learned this topic has become quite controversial.

Two opposing viewpoints on Training to failure

Usually the low set volume advocates, say you should give every rep to failure and sometimes even pushing beyond that, with forced reps. They believe intensity is what ultimately stimulates muscle gains. Anyone who does sets right to failure vs. a couple reps short, will tell you there is adifference in intensity.

High volume routines usually don’t advocate to failure. It would be too grueling mentally and on the bodies recovery, to do a high volume set always to absolute failure. Some routines don’t really say much on the matter. These routines focus on the fact, that as long as your progressing by adding weights, that is what actually matters in the end. Some workout gurus are so adamant about their position on this, that the only way to change their minds is to use actual studies to find out which is the best way to train.

Research Studies on training to muscular failure

Only in the last few years has studies even been done on training to failure. The first one was published in J Strength Cond Res. 2005 May;19(2):382-8. They had 26 basketball players divided into a failure or non-failure resistance training routine. The failure group did 4 sets of 6 repetitions every 260 seconds. The non-failure group did 8 sets of 3 repetitions every 113 seconds, a shorter rest interval and more sets to make up for a change in the lower intensities of the set. The failure group was found to have a larger increase in strength compared to the non-failure group. This is not shocking since many arguing against failure, have thought that failure training benefit is for strength gains and not actual muscle building. One also has to consider the time under tension differences, one is doing only 3 reps and the other 6 reps and a different. I’m not sure that by adjusting set rest time, number of sets, and repetitions, you can accurately figure out whether training to failure is beneficial because your changing so many different factors.

The following year another study was published in J Appl Physiol. 2006 May;100(5):1647-56. Epub 2006 Jan 12. In this study one group did failure training for 11 weeks, the other did non-failure training for 11 weeks. Immediately after this, both groups did phase 2, where they all did the same workout to see the effect of the previous 11 weeks of training differently. Both groups were found to have the same one rep max. What was more interesting is that they found an increase in muscular endurance in the failure group and power in the nonfailure group. More importantly was they found that the non-failure group had lower cortisol levels, higher testosterone and IGF-1 levels. This means that the non-failure group were inducing a more anabolic environment hormonally, which means they should get better muscle gains. I was surprised to see that that the one rep maxes were the same and that power was better among the non-failure group. I believe the differences in resting hormone levels, gives us a much better confirmation that not training to failure is better for muscle building. I’ve read that the last rep to failure releases a lot of cortisol and that may be what explains the higher cortisol levels and lower testosterone levels.

JM Willardson, a renowned excersie research scientist who has done some many studies that I reference on this blog for many of my articles published a abstract on the issue of trainig to failure in J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):628-31. Willardson there is not yet enough studies to prove that training to failure is not ideal, but he did recommend it for busting through plateaus. He doesn’t recommend it for long term because he believes it leads to higher chance of injury. Whether or not you believe training to failure is better for muscle growth, there is a definite higher chance of injury.

Conclusion:

I don’t think the controversy will ever be ended because there is always those who don’t want to listen to research, but instead rather follow what some bodybuilder did years ago. Training to failure is very popular because it is hard not to train to failure. I know when I workout, I usually wind up training to failure because I can’t resist, even though I know it’s not needed for muscle building. It helps me judge my progress in strength because each workout I’m using the same reference point, by going as far as I can on a set.

Does Changing Workout Routines Prevent Plateaus?

The idea of a plateau is commonly misunderstood among weightlifter. The idea that gains will stop suddenly doesn’t make sense to people. Eventually all weightlifters will experience a halt in their muscle and strength gains after a few weeks. I’ve seen some people lift the same weights and excercises for months and wonder why their gains halt. You cannot expect to do the same exact workout and always gain. Eventually, your body overadapts and your gains halt. Your body does not like major change, so it was setup to only have short bursts of change at a time.

That is where the principles of periodization come in. The Periodization Method was actually developed for strength athletes by a Russian named Leo Matveyev. The purpose of periodization is to change your workout in phases after a specic amount of weeks, in order to prevent your body from adapting to workouts. The differences in phases are based on different types of training. For example, one phase is for muscle growth, the next is for power, then followed by a strength phase, and another for light weights. I personally believe besides keeping your body from plateauing, changing your workout also helps you in the long run because it gives your muscles a more well rounded development. By drastically changing your workout intensity you stimulate different fibers and stimulate them in a different manner, leading to different adaptions of the muscle. This well rounded development can only help you in the long run.

It may seem silly to work with light weights or on power, if your goal is muscle growth. The point of periodization, was to take 2 steps forward and one step back. By constantly changing the workout and how your muscles were stimulated you kept one step ahead of a permanent plateau. Another way to look at is, When you go up a hill you have to change to a lower gear on a clutch in order to eventually get over it, you don’t simply try to hit the gas pedal and burn your engine trying to get up it. Likewise, simply trying to stack on more and more weight won’t always work. You have to change your workout or you will stop getting stronger no matter how much weight you stack on.

Periodization controversy

Not everyone is at a consensus that Periodization is better than simply adding weights (progressive overload principle). There are some workout routines, such as HIT, and some bodybuilding gurus that don’t believe in radically changing workout routines to avoid plateaus. I think the only reason why some have gained on HIT is because they were doing other workouts before HIT and it was just new gains to a new routine. Taking weeks off of training can also desensitize your body, and make it less likely to hit a plateau from the same routine. I consider taking a few weeks off every once in a while, a crude form of periodization. When you take a break and come back to weight training your body is going to gain muscle and possibly bust through your old plateau because you are shocking it after a long layoff. Studies have shown that those who followed periodization gained more strength and muscle than those who didn’t. I’ve only been able to get past workout plateaus by either taking a break or changing my workout radically.

Do bodybuilders need to follow periodzation method?

Periodization is a developed routine method, but you don’t have to follow it exactly. The point is you should understand it’s principles, to help you understand how to change your workouts at specific phases. If you are always lifting heavy with slow negatives, it would help you to switch to a more endurance and less intense workout for a few weeks. For example higher reps, shorter rest time, and faster negatives to make it a more endurance type workout. Simply switching excercises or their order is not enough, you have to change at least 3 of some of the intensity parameters like rep speed, rest time, rep range, and set volume.

HST Workout Routines

HST stands for Hypertrophic Specific Training and this workout routine was developed based on some research studies on the best workout to build muscle. This seperates it from most bodybuilding workout routines, which are usually based on some bodybuilder guru or pro-bodybuilder claiming a workout worked for him, so he recommends everyone his own workout. The problem with using someone else’s workout is just because a workout works for him, doesn’t mean it is the best for YOU. The person could have excellent genetics and grow well off any workout routine or his individual genetics may do best for that particular workout. So, its good to find workout routines that have some research basis like HST and not because some pro-bodybuilder recommends it.

HST Workout Principles:

The studies they did led to them forming some of these major principles for every workout.

Mechanical Load: This is obvious, you need to lift weights to build muscle!

Progressive Load: You can’t build muscle without small increases in weights. Ex. If you
always squat with 100 lbs you will never keep getting bigger.

Low volume: Low workout set volume. Research shows one or 2 sets per excercise is adequate to stimulate hypertrophy.

Chronic vs. Acute Stimuli: Workout a muscle more than once a week. Protein synthesis and hormonal adapations last only 48 hours. This means 5 other days of the week are being wasted, not being stimulated by another workout.

Strategic Deconditioning: Help avoid plateaus by reducing weights to desensitize your muscles to a certain stimulus.

Compound excercises: Compound excercises are the best mass builders, so HST focuses on mainly compound.

Progressive Rep Ranges: Every 2 weeks you should lower the rep range. This is to keep up with the increasing heavy weights you are adding to each workout because of the progressive overload principle.

HST Workout Routine Guidelines:

You can make your own small variations of a HST workout routine, what is important is that your workout routine follow the core principles of HST because most are based on their research findings. Every HST workout must be a full body workout done 3 times a week, for example monday wednesday and friday. You don’t have to pick the same excercises each workout, but you need to workout each muscle in every workout all 3 days and most of the excercises should be compound. All workout sets are low volume, doing only 1 or 2 sets per excercise and 1 or 2 excercises for each muscle. Workouts start at about the 15 rep range on week 1 and about every 2 weeks you will decrease your rep range and increase your weights. Usually you will do something like 15 reps week 1, 12 reps week 2, 10 reps week 3, and so on.

After a few weeks and staying at the lower rep ranges of 5 to 6 for a couple weeks, then it is time for you to lower the weight and do the same low rep range for a week. This means you will be doing a weight that is very far from muscular failure. This is the Strategic deconditioning portion mentioned earlier as a major principle of HST. This deconditioning helps give your muscles a semi-break and helps against long term plateaus. The following week you will start another similiar workout cycle all over again, with light weights in the 15 rep range.

How To Build Up Muscle Mass

I’ve compiled a list for newbies of all the basic of what every bodybuilder needs to do to build up muscle mass. Even if your not new to bodybuilding, you should look over the list because there may be things you didn’t know.

Eat more than one gram of protein per pound of lean mass

How much protein you eat, will depend on your total calorie intake and whether you are in a bulking or cutting phase. Your p should always be between 30-40% of your total calorie intake. During bulking, the calorie amount you require is what you need to build up muscle mass, without excessive fat. During a cutting phase, it’s what you need to lose fat, without excessive loss of muscle mass.

Lift heavy

Lifting heavy for muscle growth, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to lift at very heavy weights. The optimum rep range for muscle building, depends on your individual muscle fiber makeup for each muscle. This is because each muscle has various percentage of type 1 vs type 2 fibers, which makes some muscles respond differently to various rep ranges. Significant muscle growth can be stimulated around the 5-15 rep range.

Training to failure is not necessary for muscle building

Some workout routines advocate training each set to failure. There is no evidence in research or ancedotally from bodybuilders, that training to failure is superior. Training to failure may have a negative impact long term because it increases risk of injury and cortisol levels during workout. What’s more important is a principle called progressive overload. Progressive overload is small increases long term in the weight you use, which stimulates the muscles to grow. This is why strength gains usually lead to long term muscle growth because it allows you to lift more weights, which in turn stimulates growth.

Avoid pain killers and alcohol

Alcohol and over the counter pain killers, like Asprin and Tylenol, have been shown in research to completely stop protein synthesis. Serious bodybuilders should not user either, unless you want to seriously hinder your muscle building efforts.

Get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep

Slightly noisy surroundings during sleep, have shown in studies to increase cortisol levels during sleep. Higher cortisol levels will hurt your muscle gains. Waking up in the middle of the night or constantly changing your sleep schedule, will make it hard for your body to recover and grow.

Avoid overtraining

Most bodybuilders only require a 3 day split to grow adequately. How much volume you require for optimum muscle building, depends on your genetics, whether your bulking or cutting, and the intensity (weights) you are using. Unlike endurance training, more is not always better for muscle growth. If you always feel tired and have trouble sleeping at night, you may be overtraining and will need to lower your set volume.

Change your workout (periodization)

Research has indicated changing your workout routine, called periodization, helps in better long term muscle gains. Powerlifters have been doing it for decades. Periodization is where you change your workout signficantly every few weeks, called phases. It helps avoid muscle building plateaus. For example, you can not continually lift heavy weights at the 6-8 rep range 1 minute rests and not expect a plateau after a few weeks. The body gets used to the same routine and will eventually resist change. Using lighter weights at 12 reps and shorter rest times to 30 seconds, may be one way to switch from this routine. YOu can change your workout in rep speed, rep range, volume, rest time, split, excercises. Just make sure you change at least a couple parameters at the same time.

Take a break from lifting:

Taking a break from lifting once in a while, is important for long term gains. Studies show taking a break helps boost anabolic hormone levels in the body back to normal or higher. No matter what supplements or workouts you try, you can not expect to workout 3 times a week for months and continue to grow muscle week after week. Over time, you will deplete your energy and hormones and will need a break, to re-energize your body and hormone levels.

DoggCrap Workout Routine

DoggCrap also known by his real name Dante Trudell, is the creator behind the DoggCrap workout routine. DoggCrap has been around since the 90’s and has gained a lot of popularity among bodybuilders with his unique training styles. DoggCrap now personally trains some top serious bodybuilders in the world.

Basic Principles of the DoggCrap Workout Routine

DoggCrap emphasisizes a high intensity low volume workout, but unlike other high intensity workout routines, he believes the muscle should be worked out more than once a week. DoggCrap believes that more frequent workouts leads to more chances for muscle building. Depending on your recovery abilities and the excercise you are doing, you may also incorporate static holds, rest-pause sets, and extreme stretching into your workout. Static holds are holding the way in midair for 20 seconds. In rest pause sets, it is like one workout set broken up into 3 workout sets. You rack the weight after the set, rest for a few deep breaths then do another set with the same weight, rack it again and do some more deep breaths and pump out a couple more reps in a 3rd set. DoggCrapp believes in these extra high techniques to add intensity, which really forces the building of muscle. The purpose of the extreme stretching, is to allow the fascia tissue under the muscle to stretch. This in theory is supposed to allow muscle gains easier in the future.

While each workout will have to be tailored to your recovery and training ability, everyone doing Doggcrap workout routines will follow some common principles. You will do just one workout set for each muscle per workout day. If you do rest pause sets, that is also considered one workout set. DoggCrap does not count warm up sets. He always does one or more lighter warmup sets leading up before the workout set for each excercise. All regular workout sets are done with slow controlled negatives and a fast explosive positive rep speed done to muscular failure. After 6 to 12 weeks, DoggCrap recommends you lighten your workout load for the next 2 weeks where you do less volume and intensity.

Sample DoggCrap Workout Routine:

DoggCrapp advocates you workout each muscle 2 times per 7,8, or 9 days, depending on the recovering abilities and the scheduling of a persons workout week. For all newbies and those with average recovering abilities, 2 times every 8 days is the standard recommendation by DoggCrap. Before DoggCrapp recommends rest pause or statics sets he starts people on a standard base program where every muscle is worked 2 times every 8 days with regular workout sets. Below is a way he would start it for a newbie to the program.

Day one (monday):
Chest
Shoulders
Triceps
Back width
Back thickness

Day two (wednesday):
Biceps
Forearms
Calves
Hamstrings
Quads

Day three (friday):
Chest
Shoulders
Triceps
Back width
Back thickness

**Weekend off***

Day four (Monday again)
Biceps
Forearms
Calves
Hamstrings
Quads

You will continue alternating back and forth between chest and leg day. You will see that over 16 days you hit the chest/back and legs 4 times each. Keep in mind these are regular slow workout sets. Only if your recovery abilities allow it, then DoggCrapp recommends adding static holds to the straight sets. If your recovery is even better than that, instead of doing static sets, he recommends rest pause sets and static holds immediately after the rest pause set. Those with above average recoveries may also be recommended to try a slightly higher workout frequency where you excercise each muscle 2 times every 7 days.


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