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The Ultimate Muscle Growth Training Guide

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calendar-iconMarch 12, 2021

Foundational Training Series

Training

Heads up! This article is connected to our Muscle Growth Journey page. For the complete picture on how to build muscle using our evidence-based system, check it out here!

The muscle growth process begins with training. You need to give your body the signal that it needs to build more muscle. 

With so many different types of training out there, you may be wondering “what’s the best way to train to build muscle?”

In this guide, we’ll answer that question and more. We’ll cover the most important variables in any training plan when it comes to building muscle, along with some frequently asked questions, all using evidence-based research. 

Welcome to the Ultimate Muscle Growth Training Guide!

How to Train for Muscle Growth

While there are many methods of training that can build muscle, resistance training, or lifting weights, is one of the most (if not the most) efficient ways to do so.

You may be wondering "What kind of resistance training is best for optimal muscle growth?" and “How can I design my resistance training program to maximize my muscle growth?” 

Fear not! In this article we’ll break down everything you need to know when constructing the perfect muscle growth workout. We’ll cover the three training “macro variables” of resistance training, as well as the importance of exercise types and exercise order. 

How to Train for Muscle Growth

While there are many methods of training that can build muscle, resistance training, or lifting weights, is one of the most (if not the most) efficient ways to do so.

You may be wondering "What kind of resistance training is best for optimal muscle growth?" and “How can I design my resistance training program to maximize my muscle growth?” 

There are a few simple rules you should make sure your lifting routine satisfies if you want to make sure that it maximizes muscle growth:

  • Try to keep your intensity, or how heavy you lift, in the range of 60-80% of your one rep maximum. This translates to a rep range of between 8-20 repetitions per set.
  • The ideal weekly volume, or how many reps of any given exercise you perform per week, is in the 40-80 repetitions range when it comes to muscle growth and retention.
  • You want your frequency, or how often you hit any muscle group per week, to be 2-3 times per week for optimal muscle growth and retention.
  • Use a variety of exercise types, including compound, isolation, free weight, machine, unilateral, and bilateral exercises. 
  • Perform exercises the most important exercises earlier in your workout.

If you follow those rules, you can be sure that your lifting routine will optimize muscle growth! Simple as that.

Next, we’ll be diving deeper into each of these rules and break down exactly what each of them means, and how they affect your resistance training routine as it concerns muscle growth. 

The Best Intensity For Muscle Growth

Intensity is how heavy you lift in a resistance training workout. Ideal intensity for muscle growth is 60-80% of your 1 rep maximum (this translates to a rep range between 8-20 reps per set).

One variable to consider when constructing a workout for optimal muscle growth is intensity, or how heavy you lift for any given exercise. 

In resistance training, intensity is the amount of weight lifted or resistance used in an exercise. Research shows that if you lift with more weight, you will get stronger faster. Since muscle strength and muscle size tend to grow together, lifting heavier will also generally lead to muscle growth.

Intensity is usually measured as a percentage of your 1 rep maximum (1RM), or the maximum amount of weight you can lift for 1 repetition for any given exercise. For example, if your 1RM for squat is 200 lbs, squatting 100 lbs would be lifting at 50% intensity. It is generally recommended to lift within the range of 60-80% of your 1RM for optimal muscle growth. 

Since you can figure out your 1RM based on the amount of repetitions you can perform, you can also work backwards and figure out what number of repetitions is associated with 60-80% of your 1RM. 

Don’t worry- we’ve already done the math for you. To stay in the 60-80% intensity range and maximize muscle growth, you generally want to use a weight that allows you to perform between 8 and 20 reps per set if your priority is to maximize muscle growth.

The Best Volume For Muscle Growth

Volume is how many reps per week you perform with any given muscle group. Ideal volume for muscle growth is 40-80 reps per week!

Another important variable in a resistance training program is the total number of repetitions performed during a training session at a given intensity, also known as volume. Research shows that volume is one of the most important factors to muscle growth

Volume is typically measured on a weekly basis by exercise or muscle group. For example, if you do 3 sets of 10 squats with 100 lbs on Monday and on Friday, your weekly volume for squats is 60 reps at 100 lbs (3 sets x 10 reps x 2 days of the week).

Studies also show that any muscle group for any given exercise shows the greatest growth when there are 40-80 repetitions per week per exercise. The lower end of this range would be appropriate if you are lifting more weight, and the higher end of this range if you are lifting lighter weight.

The Best Frequency For Muscle Growth

Frequency is how many times you exercise a muscle group per week. Ideal frequency for muscle growth is 2 times per week!

Another variable to consider when constructing your training plan for maximum muscle growth is the number of times a muscle group is exercised within a training week, also known as frequency.

Similar to measuring volume, frequency is typically measured in terms of specific muscle group or exercise. For example, if you do squats on Monday and Friday, your frequency for squats is twice per week.

Research suggests that a frequency of 2-3 times per week per muscle group has been correlated with optimal muscle growth. Simple as that!

The Best Exercise Types For Muscle Growth

You may also be wondering what exercises are best for your training routine if you want to prioritize muscle growth. To answer this question, you have to be able to identify exercise types.

To figure out what exercise type any exercise is, there are three questions to ask about the exercise you choose:

  1. Does the exercise hit multiple muscle groups (compound exercise ) or does it hit just one muscle group (isolation exercise)?
  2. Does the exercise hit one side of the body (unilateral exercise) or does it hit both sides of the body (bilateral exercise)?
  3. Does the exercise involve free weights (free weight exercise) or does it involve using a machine (machine exercise) ? 

The answers to these questions will determine the strengths and weaknesses that any exercise will have in your training routine as it concerns muscle growth. 

For example, a barbell bench press is a compound, bilateral, free weight exercise, and will carry all the benefits of those exercise types. A machine fly will carry the benefits of an isolation, bilateral, machine exercise, and gets the benefits of those exercise types.

If you were trying to maximize muscle growth in your pectorals, it would be wise to incorporate both a bench press and a machine fly in your workout routine.  Between the two exercises, you're hitting your pecs with a variety of exercise types and boosting muscle growth!

To maximize muscle growth for any muscle group, a routine that includes a mix of compound, isolation, unilateral, bilateral, free weight, and machine movements is the best option.

We’ll break down each exercise type and their benefits in more detail right here. 

Compound vs Isolation Exercises

You'll want to include both compound and isolation exercises in your workout, as they each have their advantages!

One choice in building your workout is between compound exercises and isolation exercises.

Compound exercises are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time, like the bench press or military press.

Research shows that compound exercises are more efficient means of muscle growth because they recruit multiple muscle groups at a time. This creates greater training volume and intensity, both of which lead to greater muscle growth.

Isolation exercises are exercises that work a single muscle group at a time, like a bicep curl or tricep extension. Research suggests that isolation exercises can be useful targeting specific muscles for muscle growth, and in stressing muscles that aren't worked directly in a compound exercise.

Isolation exercises can also be particularly useful if one muscle group is lagging behind another and creating imbalances within a compound exercise that relies on the strength of multiple muscle groups.

Knowing this, when choosing between compound and isolation exercises:

  • It's best to utilize compound exercises to hit more muscles at once
  • Use isolation exercises to address growing a specific muscle

So, whether you choose a compound or isolation exercise will depend on what you want to accomplish, but you’ll want both to be involved in your workouts to get the best of both worlds. Variety is key!

Free Weight vs Machine Exercises

You'll also want to include both freeweight and machine exercises in your workout, as they each have their advantages!

In creating your lifting routine, you'll also be faced with the decision of using free weights or machine exercises. 

Free weight exercises are exercises where the resistance is provided by a barbell, dumbbells, or any other free moving object, such as a barbell squat or a dumbbell bent-over row. The object being moved is on a free path – no cables, no attachments – nothing. Research shows that free weight exercises are useful because they recruit more muscle fibers, which is beneficial for muscle growth. This is because they require more muscles to control the path of resistance.

Machine exercises are exercises that provide resistance through a fixed path or range of motion, such as a smith machine bench press or leg press machine. While they don’t offer the same benefits as free weight exercises, machines exercises offer their own advantages, such as:

  1. Safer to perform
  2. Prevents improper form
  3. Easier to perform

Research of resistance training does note that machines also allow for the performance of some exercises that are not practically accomplished with free weights. For example, imagine doing leg extensions with free weights! 

Knowing this, when choosing between free weight or machine exercises, it depends on the situation. It's best to utilize free weight exercises to stress your muscles more dynamically, and use machine exercises while learning a new motion or to add more weight to specific motions that are difficult to perform with free weights. 

Similar to the choice between compound and isolation exercises, using a mix of both free weight and machine exercises will allow you to get the benefits of both when it comes to muscle growth.

Unilateral vs Bilateral Exercises

Lastly, you'll also want to include both compound and isolation exercises in your workout, as they each have their advantages!

A final choice you'll have to make when choosing the exercises for your workout is between unilateral and bilateral exercises. 

Bilateral exercises are exercises where you perform a motion with both sides of your body simultaneously, like an overhead press. Bilateral exercises are useful because they allow you to use greater resistance while both halves of your body work together. Bilateral exercises are also time efficient – you don't have to take the extra time to perform repetitions for each side of your body.

Unilateral exercises are exercises where you only use one side of your body independent of the other, like a dumbbell lunge or a single arm overhead press. Unilateral exercises can be useful when you have an injury that prohibits the use of an arm or a leg. Studies show that unilateral exercises also have different levels of muscle activation, which can be useful for progressive overload.

Research shows unilateral exercises are just as effective as bilateral exercises when it comes to muscle growth, so don’t worry about losing any potential strength gains or muscle growth by doing one over the other.

When choosing between unilateral and bilateral exercises, each has its own benefit for specific situations, but using a mix of both over time will help to maximize muscle growth. 

The Best Exercise Order for Muscle Growth

Exercises performed earlier in your workout will enjoy a number of benefits!

Once you’ve chosen what exercises you want in your workout, another important choice is picking the order of those exercises. 

While this may seem like a minor detail, research has shown that the order you do your exercises in can have significant implications on your muscle growth and overall performance.

You’ll want to prioritize the exercises that include the muscle groups that you want to grow the most in a workout. Doing those exercises earlier in your workout will lead to more muscle growth, volume, neural activation, and decrease the perceived difficulty.

We’ll break all that down in more detail here!

Exercise Order and Muscle Growth

Order affects the rate of muscle growth you'll experience from any given exercise. Research has shown that greater muscle growth occurs in muscles utilized by exercises performed earlier in workouts. In other words, if you perform your bench press before your overhead press on an upper body workout, you can expect greater muscle growth in your chest than in your shoulders.

Exercise Order and Volume

Research also shows that the volume of any given exercise decreases the later that exercise is performed in a workout. This means if you perform your bench press before your overhead press on an upper body workout, you can also expect to perform more reps on your bench press than if you were to perform it after.

Exercise Order and Neural Activation

Further, studies show that the neural activation of muscles goes down the later the exercise is in a routine. This means that exercises performed later in a workout have lower overall muscle activation and lower output of strength relative to exercises done earlier in a workout. These studies also noted that the performance of an exercise is negatively affected even if none of the exercises before it involved the same muscle groups. This means that even if you were to perform squats before your bench press, where there is no crossover in muscles involved, your bench press sets will still suffer compared to when you perform them first!

Exercise Order and Perceived Difficulty

Lastly, research shows the order of exercises can affect the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of an exercise. In other words, where an exercise falls in a routine can affect how difficult the exercise feels. That means that how difficult your squats would even feel is more difficult if you were to perform them last in a workout rather than first.

An Example Muscle Growth Workout

To illustrate everything we’ve gone over so far, here is an example workout that satisfies all of the above criteria! We pulled this workout for day 1 of our 3 Day Maximum Muscle Growth Workout Plan.

You can see that rep count for each exercise falls within the 8-20 rep range, which corresponds to a 60-80% intensity which will lead to optimal muscle growth. 

Each of the muscle groups involved, which in this case are primarily chest, shoulders, and triceps, are hit with optimal total volume for muscle growth. For example, if we consider that the bench press, seated dumbbell overhead press, and lateral raise all hit the shoulders, the total volume would be about 66 reps, and that's well within the ideal 40-80 range. 

While performing this workout once per week would certainly lead to muscle growth, we can optimize the frequency variable by performing it twice per week.

This workout also incorporates compound, isolation, free weight, machine, and bilateral exercise types. This variety will help in speeding up muscle growth, and we can even perform some of the exercises unilaterally for more of a muscle growth benefit.

Lastly, the compound bench press and standing military press are prioritized first in the workout in order to get the most out of the compound movements, which will hit the most muscles and lead to greater overall muscle growth.

Conclusion

That wraps up our Ultimate Muscle Growth Training Guide! With the information here, you should have everything you need to train for optimal muscle growth. In this article, we covered:

  • When constructing a resistance training plan for muscle growth, you should consider optimal intensity, volume, and frequency.
    • Try to keep your intensity in the range of 60-80% of your one rep maximum, which corresponds to a rep range of 8-20 reps per set.
    • The ideal weekly volume for muscle growth is in the 40-80 repetitions range.
    • A frequency of hitting a muscle group 2-3 times per week leads to the most muscle gains.
  • When picking exercises for your workouts, include a combination of compound, isolation, unilateral, bilateral, free weight, and machine type movements for maximum muscle growth.
  • Using a variety of the above exercise types can ensure you maximize your muscle growth.
  • Prioritize exercises that you want the most gains for so they occur earlier in your workout. 

For the next step in your muscle growth journey, be sure to visit our Muscle Growth Journey page!

Frequently Asked Questions 

Here are some frequently asked questions about muscle growth training!

How should I perform each rep of (exercise name here) for maximum muscle growth? Are there any general rules for exercise technique?

While there are different techniques for every exercise, there are some general rules you should always follow in order to get the most out of any exercise and build the most amount of muscle. 

You’ll want to use the full range of motion whenever you can, put emphasis on both the eccentric and concentric motion of each repetition, and work in isometric movements occasionally to overcome plateaus in strength.

We’ll go into more detail here.

Range of Motion

One aspect to always keep in mind while performing an exercise is range of motion. Full range of motion is the full movement potential of a joint, or its range of flexion and extension. For example, in a bicep curl, the full range of motion is covered as you move your arm from a straight position to a position where it is completely bent. We’ve illustrated that in the figure below!

Full range of motion means taking a muscle through the entire range in which it is able to move. This figure shows you the full range of motion for a bicep curl. Full range of motion will help your muscles to grow more quickly!

Research shows that full range of motion allows the maximum amount of muscle to be worked, which is the stimulus for muscle growth.

It is important to note that there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes an injury or lack of flexibility can limit your range of motion, in which case you should only use the range of motion that is comfortable to you. Further, some exercises purposely limit the range of motion in order to add variation to an exercise or target a weak point.

Eccentric and Concentric Motion

When performing an exercise, the range of motion can be divided into two parts: the eccentric and concentric motion. 

The concentric motion of an exercise is the muscle shortening portion, while the eccentric motion is the muscle lengthening portion. 

For example, in a bicep curl, lifting the weight up and shortening the bicep is the concentric portion of the exercise, and lowering the weight back down under control and lengthening the bicep is the eccentric portion of the exercise.

Oftentimes the eccentric portion of an exercise is neglected – this is a big mistake when it comes to muscle growth. Research shows that lengthening the time spent in the eccentric portion of the exercise has been linked to increased muscle growth. This is partially because your muscles are able to sustain more weight during the eccentric portion of an exercise, so you can actually use greater resistance by isolating this part of the exercise.

So, to promote maximal muscle growth during the repetition of an exercise, attention should be paid to both concentric movements as well as eccentric movements. To ensure this, it is generally recommended to perform each repetition with a tempo of 1-2 seconds each direction, at a moderate velocity. 

Isometric Exercises

A plank is a great example of an isometric exercise, or an exercise where there is no joint movement or change in the length of your muscle.

The vast majority of exercises are covered with concentric and eccentric motion, but there is actually a third time of movement (or lack thereof....) when it comes to resistance training: isometric movement.

Isometric movements are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during the exercise. These “movements” involve stationary muscle tension, like holding a heavy weight above your head or performing a plank. 

Studies show that isometric exercises can be extremely useful in a program for muscle growth, as they facilitate greater muscle recruitment than both eccentric and concentric movements.

There are primarily two types of isometric movements:

  • Overcoming Isometrics: Exercises where a joint or muscle is moving against an immobile object (e.g., pushing against a wall)
  • Yielding Isometrics: Exercises where a joint or muscle is held against resistance (e.g., holding up a heavy weight)

In a program designed for muscle growth, research shows you can utilize isometric movements to add variance to your routine, overcoming stalls in progress, and increase strength as well as muscle recruitment.

To really keep your muscles guessing, you can even perform overcoming isometrics at any “sticking points” within your range of motion that may need some work and extra muscle recruitment!

Can you explain the biological process of muscle growth?

Muscle growth, also known as muscular hypertrophy, is the process of making your muscles grow larger

Various studies show there are three primary factors that are theorized to cause muscle growth. They are:

  1. Mechanical tension
  2. Metabolic stress
  3. Muscle damage

You can create all three of these variables with resistance training, which is why it is a great way to build muscle.

We’ll go into a bit more detail on each variable here.

There are three main causes for muscle growth. You can cause all of them using resistance training (lifting weights)!

Mechanical tension

One of the ingredients for muscle growth is mechanical tension.

Mechanical tension in resistance training is the force that is used to move weight in an exercise. 

For example, you create mechanical tension during a bench press in order to push the weight off of your chest. 

Chris Beardsley describes mechanical tension as the type of force that is used to try to stretch a material.

Metabolic Stress

The second variable that contributes to muscle growth is metabolic stress.

Metabolic stress training is training that maximizes blood flow in the muscle. This increased blood flow drives metabolites into the muscle, such as lactate and hydrogen, that facilitate muscle growth. 

In gym culture this increase in blood flow is called "the pump", a term popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Muscle Damage

The third and final variable that contributes to muscle growth is muscle damage. While it may sound harmful, muscle damage is crucial to muscle growth! 

Through exercise, you can create small tears in your muscles. With proper rest and nutrition post-workout, your body then repairs these micro-tears and builds the muscle back, oftentimes bigger and stronger. 

How quickly can I grow muscle?

You may be wondering: just how fast can I put on muscle? The answer to this question lies in your training age. 

Your training age is how many years of optimal training you've had. This is an important concept because it has a significant correlation to how quickly you can grow more muscle.

Muscle growth is fastest during your first 2 years of optimal training, and it slows down as you reach your maximum muscular potential.

Research has shown that those who are just beginning to practice resistance training can expect a faster rate of muscle growth, while those with a higher "training age" should expect their rate of muscle growth to slow down over time.

This means you could be able to gain 6-8 pounds of muscle in your first 3 months of training, but maybe 4-6 pounds in the following year months. 

As your training age goes up, you get closer to your 'maximum muscular potential', or your genetically predetermined level of maximum muscle mass. Research shows that the closer you get to your maximum potential from your training age, the slower the rate of muscle growth will be.

How do I find my training age?

So how do you find your training age? 

Currently there is no official way to measure training age, as it is an individual’s progression towards his or her "genetic ceiling", which cannot be empirically determined. We do have reliable methods of estimating your training age, though.

One way to estimate how close you are to your genetic ceiling is to compare your strength to the average strength of others with the same body mass. There are several algorithms that can be used to calculate this, but the Wilks Formula is widely employed in strength competitions. 

The wilks formula will give you your “Wilks Score” which is your estimate of how close you are to your maximum strength! When applying the Wilks Formula, individuals who are relatively weaker than most people with the same body mass are considered to have a younger training age, and therefore can expect a faster rate of muscle growth.

Here is a calculator to determine your Wilks Score and relative strength! That will give you an idea of your training age.

Will I lose muscle if I stop working out?

A common anxiety is that you'll lose all of your muscle after a week or two off from the gym. Fortunately, studies show that there isn't much to worry about: muscle breakdown usually only begins after 2-3 weeks of not working out, and even then it comes back more quickly than it did initially as soon as you start training again.

A common concern with taking time away from the gym is the risk of losing your hard earned muscle mass during your time off. Fortunately, you can rest easy knowing that the chance of you losing muscle during a week or two away from the gym has been greatly exaggerated by the online fitness community.

Research on muscle atrophy, or the decrease of muscle due to a lack of resistance training, indicates that atrophy usually only begins after 2-3 weeks of not working out. 

More than that, when atrophy does take place, studies show that the lost muscle mass will grow back more quickly than it did initially once you pick training back up. This has been hypothesized to be due to "muscle memory".

You may also notice a decrease in muscle size and strength during a short break, but fear not! Studies show that decreased muscle size during a break is mostly due to decreased glycogen storage and water retention. This is a temporary effect, and will reverse itself quickly once you resume training.

I’m following all of the guidelines, but my strength and muscle growth are stalling. What gives? 

You may find though that even with a perfect training plan and optimal performance, your muscle growth can stall from time to time. So what do you do?

In this scenario, you need to find some way to change your routine so that your muscles keep growing. You’ll want to utilize the concepts of progressive overload and periodization.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload means placing higher and higher demands on your muscles (between periods of lighter demands) in order to gradually increase muscle mass and strength!

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon muscles during exercise training. It is central to growing bigger, stronger and more fit.

During a training program, your body adapts to a given workload over time. Studies show that as the body adapts to a particular exercise, it becomes easier to perform and less muscle mass is recruited

In other words, after you do the same exercise for multiple workouts, your muscles get used to the exercise and they don't work as hard. With lower muscle recruitment, less muscle growth occurs. Progressive overload is the key to keep that muscle growth going!

In other words, progressive overload helps prevent your muscles from getting too used to any particular exercise which helps to continually increase muscle growth.

So how can you implement progressive overload in your workouts? In resistance training, there are a number of ways to introduce progressive overload. Below are some of the most popular methods:

  1. Keep changing your exercise intensity – or the weight you use for an exercise.
  2. Adjust the volume of work you are doing, or the number of repetitions you perform for an exercise
  3. Change the frequency of an exercise, or how many times you perform it in a given week.
  4. Change the tempo of how you perform your exercise reps- vary between a faster tempo and a slower tempo every few workouts to keep your muscles guessing
  5. Alter your rest between sets and exercises – changing between less rest and more rest will hit your muscles differently

So if you’ve found yourself stalling, you can implement progressive overload by changing one or more of these variables! Whether it's the weight, number of repetitions, frequency, tempo, or rest time, introducing change will force your muscles to adapt and keep growing.

Periodization

The second key to keeping your muscles growing is periodization. 

Periodization is a system you can use to repeatedly introduce progressive overload. You just learned about the variables you would alter to introduce progressive overload – periodization is a system you would use to introduce those variables over time. 

There are three commonly used periodization models that have been proven successful. These models focus primarily on changing the intensity and volume of your workouts:

Periodizing your training plan will help create the variety your body needs to build as much muscle as possible, as quickly as possible. Here are the three most common models of periodization!
  • Classic Model of Periodization (Fig A, Graph 1) – In this model of periodization, a resistance training program begins with high initial volume (repetitions) and low intensity (weight) and, over time, shifts to a lower volume and higher intensity workout.
  • Reverse Model of Periodization (Fig A, Graph 2) – In this model of periodization, initial resistance training is performed at high intensity (weight) and low volume (reps), and gradually is shifted to a low intensity and high volume workout.
  • Undulating Model of Periodization (Fig A, Graph 3) – This model of periodization utilizes a variety of volume (reps) and intensity (weight) levels within a given training phase. Instead of focusing on a certain volume or intensity level during a period of time, the undulating model utilizes a range of volume and intensity throughout a workout regimen. Over the course of a year, month, or even a week, you would switch between high volume-low intensity and low volume-high intensity workouts.

Each model of periodization has been shown to be effective when it comes to muscle growth so you can choose whichever model you prefer. By varying the volume and intensity of your training regimen over time, your muscles are forced to constantly adapt to new stimuli, and therefore, continue to grow!

How often should I workout the same muscle group/exercise?

It has been shown that it typically takes at least 48 hours to properly recover from an exercise. Protein synthesis peaks about 24 hours after exercise, so performing the same exercise within a 48 hour window breaks down muscle that has not yet recovered or grown since the last time it was exercised

With this said, it's recommended that you give your muscles 48 hours of rest before exercising the same muscle group again.

For example, if you hit leg day and did squats on Monday, hold off on another leg day until at least Thursday or later.

Should I ever take time off from training? If so, how often? 

Absolutely! Believe it or not, though, stopping to take a rest every once in a while is not only acceptable, it’s recommended if you want to keep your muscles growing as quickly as possible.

With sufficient rest, you can perform at higher and higher intensities. Without it, you'll just end up breaking down your body and make it more vulnerable to injury!

It may sound hard to believe, but well-timed rest and recovery are paramount if you want to stay at 100% and stay in your workout rhythm.

Recovery is an important variable in any training plan. Studies show that muscle growth occurs during recovery from resistance training, so adequate rest is essential.

What happens if I never take time off from lifting? 

Without proper recovery time, you risk overtraining. Overtraining is defined as exceeding your body's ability to recover from strenuous training. 

Overtraining is associated with numerous harmful and deleterious symptoms. Studies have shown that someone suffering from overtraining will experience fatigue, decreased physical performance, lower motivation, worsened mood, poor sleep quality, and general disturbances in their hormonal, psychological, and neurological systems.

In serious cases, it can take weeks and sometimes even months to fully recover from overtraining. Milder cases of overtraining (known as "overreaching") usually only take a few days to recover from. 

You can avoid overtraining with proper sleep and nutrition, incorporating deload weeks into your regimen, and making sure to take time off if you begin to feel any symptoms of overtraining. 

Taking a week off may feel unproductive, but in the long run, avoiding overtraining will allow you to maximize your time in the gym and ensure you are making as much progress as possible.

What should I do outside of training to build as much muscle as possible?

Building muscle requires optimal training, nutrition, and sleep. 

For the big picture on how to build muscle, head on over to our Muscle Growth Journey page. We built this so you have absolutely all of the information you need to build muscle in one place. 

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Last Updated: July 16, 2021

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