In my other life I do personal training for people in a local Crossfit Gym. One of the very first things we do is talk about goals. Their goals. The men all want one thing, whether they know it or not: bigger muscles. More mass. If they can get less fat with it, they’ll admit to that, but most guys I know really do want to be bigger, myself included. You’re probably busy like me. So what I would like to do in this article is give you a snapshot of how I perform my muscle mass workouts (where size is the goal) in less time.
I believe–and my own results with myself and with clients bear this out–that muscle building is as simple as doing more work in less time while pursuing movements that are beneficial to the body. My stance on this will vary from much of what you’ve probably heard. I don’t follow programs, I choose my exercises every workout with a method called biofeedback testing a la the Gym Movement protocol. If you’d like to investigate that further, I’d recommend checking out Adam Glass’s Grip and Rip 2.1 DVD, which outlines the method very well.
Tracking total volume during workouts
But you certainly don’t need to do that to the point of the article. As to doing more work in less time, the simplest way for me to ensure that I am always making progress is to count my reps and then add up the total amount of pounds lifted during a weight training session.
There are a lot of ways to structure these workouts. In Escalating Density Training the lifter moves between two or more lifts, alternating various rep schemes. The goal the next time the identical movements are performed is to lift more total pounds. If that number went up, you are now stronger (I believe that there are many ways to measure strength, not just the weight on the bar). If you are stronger, then you are probably building muscle.
The tool is not that important either. If you want to use kettlebells, cheap dumbbells, barbells, or anything else, that’s fine. The total load is what matters.
Let’s take the bench press for instance. Today you’re feeling great so you go in and put 300 lbs on the bar. Within 15 minutes you do 50 reps.
At 50*300 you lifted 15,000 pounds in 15 minutes.
The next time you come into the gym you decide that you are going to do bench press again. This time, here are the possible avenues of progress:
- You lift 51 reps (or more) with 300 pounds in 15 minutes
- You lift 50 reps with 300 pounds in fewer than 15 minutes
If you’re lifting with a different poundage than 300, you can simply make that your baseline and shoot to do more work in less time with that weight the next time you return to it.
There is nothing magical about 15 minutes. Or 90. Or 5. The thing I try to be consistent with is beating the amount of weight lifted in whatever a previous time interval was. Meaning: if I want to know if I made progress in a ten minute block, I need to look through my training log to the last time I did a ten minute block. This is a great way to get productive, short workouts in if you’re consistent with tracking your numbers. If your workout time only ever lasts ten minutes, so be it, as long as you’re always lifting more.
Tracking your data is the best way to make sure that you are always moving forward. If the numbers go up, you’re doing it right. If the numbers go up, congratulations! You now know the “secret” to building more muscle. It is to get your muscles to the point where they can handle more weight in less time. More work. More size. It really is that simple.
Of course, if you choose bigger movements like the deadlift and squat, the amount of work and volume you do will go up way more than if you’re focused on lateral raises!
And for the record, I’m not going to be winning any bodybuilding competitions, but I have put on 30 lbs of lean mass in the last year, and I’m about to turn 33 years old, so I’m pretty pleased with that.
Have fun, lift heavy, be happy.
Strength Training for body and mind