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In the last 20 years of being in the exercise industry, this is what I learned about building muscle:
- You must make the muscle stronger
- You must make the muscle fatigued
Strength: You need to make the muscle stronger with high-tension work (using 1 to 5 reps), because this inflicts microtrauma to the cells. This damage calls in inflammatory cells (macrophage and neutrophils) which are believed to provide growth-promoting factors, thus triggering sarcolemmic hypertrophy, or increased muscle size due to added cellular structures.
Fatigue: You must induce intense metabolic fatigue in the muscle with higher repetitions (6 to 12 reps, or more). This fatiguing work causes a cellular influx of blood, nutrients, and growth factors. This is believed to produce sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, or increased muscle size due to added cellular fluid.
Muscle strength. Muscle fatigue.
Anything Else is Useless Complication
A complicated exercise program has its place; it should be reserved for those who have reached 98% of their muscular growth or competitive sports potential.
For the Elitists with Strange Bulges (and Linebackers)
People who may benefit from a complicated exercise program are typically elite athletes of various sports, including bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic-style weightlifting… and those using or abusing steroids for aesthetic reasons, like those deriving psychological satisfaction from the achievement of grotesque muscular bulk.
When an individual is hovering right under his muscular growth potential, the intelligent manipulation of exercise programming becomes more important just to achieve a slight improvement — which at this level may be the difference between first and second place. An exercise program, in this circumstance, can and should be complex.
For the Rest of Us Immortals with Hot Bodies
OK… for the rest of us average folks who just want a nice, lean physique with decent muscle to look good in (or out of) cool clothes, a simple exercise program will be more than sufficient for appreciable muscular growth — so long as we progressively make our muscles stronger, and induce metabolic fatigue in them.
So if you’re not into building the huge, gigantic body of a meathead, then keep your training simple. This way you won’t have to live in the gym and can still enjoy the many facets of life.
[Just use this, and periodically use bigger ones.]
There’s Something for Everyone, but For Many the Choices Are Obvious
Gentlemen, below, your pick for a Sushi date? Or, ladies, which body would you rather rock?
Do you prefer a “fighter look” like this elite competitor?
Or like these “average people” who happen to be great actors?
Believe me, it does not matter what kind of workout you do, just as long as you work hard and incorporate the two basic principles — increase muscular strength, and induce muscular fatigue. The clients I work with have all experienced this personally, and I’ve seen it first-hand and second-hand.
Keep it simple…