First and foremost, let’s talk about whom this article is for. Plain and simple, this is for ANYONE who wants or needs to build muscle.
So who is that? Literally everyone.
Most don’t realize the benefits of having more lean muscle tissue on your body. And no, I’m not talking about Mr. Olympia muscle mass – that’s debatably not very healthy for your body.
But having a larger amount of muscle on your body (naturally – drug free) than the average American is extremely beneficial. Lets run down the list of why:
- Reduced Injury Risk
- Better Joint Heath
- Disease Prevention
- Bone Health
- Bone Decay and Osteoporosis Prevention
- Healthy Body Composition
- Life Span and Longevity
- More Fat Loss
- Mental Health and Clarity
Honestly the list could keep going, but you get the point. No matter who you are reading this, you should consider building muscle as a primary and important goal to achieve.
Now, we all have those body parts we wish were either bigger or more define. Many times it due to lack of motor recruitment (you cannot get the muscle to fire properly), too much body fat on or around the muscle (need to burn calories/lose weight first in this case), or your programming is far from on point (To Apply Now for Specific Programming and Expert Coaching, Click Here)
If you’ve been consistently training for over a couple years, it’s very likely that the later is the reason behind your lack of muscle mass or definition. Because at the beginning, shit – it all works!
But eventually things slow down and you must invest in proper programming in order to see continuing gains from your efforts.
But with all that being said, no matter which stage you’re at or which issue you’re facing that is holding you back from seeing more muscle mass and/or fat loss – this article is going to be your “Part by Part Guide” to achieving that goal.
And by saying part by part, I literally mean taking you from body part to body part and explaining how to train each for maximal effectiveness.
Before getting into each body part, we need to cover the reason why each muscle group should actually be trained differently.
The body has different muscles, all in which are made up of different size muscle bellies and different fiber types. They’re also used for different purposes and different movements.
But see most fail to see the purposes, only see the movements. We know the hamstring is meant to curl the knee and extend the hip. Cool, that’s great and is some need-to-know information to grow.
But what about the how here? How is it meant to do that movement pattern? Or better yet – What is the optimal way of doing that movement, for that muscle, in order for it to grow bigger and stronger, most optimally?
This is where we look at a sprinter and marathon runner, again (seems like this comparison is used for every single HIIT vs. LISS cardio blog out there… But in my article, it serves a different purpose!).
Lets specifically consider and notice their hamstrings… On the top, dude is a fucking monster. Massive hamstrings, super muscular legs, and clearly a bigger dude – #GAINZ.
Now look at the guy on the bottom, pretty skinny and very small frame. Not someone you would consider jacked, muscular or having massive hamstrings.
But why? They both run constantly for their sport…
Because the sprinter is using his hamstrings as they’re made to be used, in their most optimal function and capacity. Where as the marathon runner is actually doing the opposite.
Now arguably the guy on the left lifts more, eats more, blah blah blah… Yeah I know, comment below if you want to debate it all. But lets be real, the fact is that he’s still using his hamstrings for what they were built for.
EXPLOSIVE – POWER – SPEED – STRENGHT.
See this is where I’m going with this blog, muscles have fiber types – in other words, they have purposes. The hamstrings are very predominantly type 2 (fast twitch) muscle fibers. This means they work best under heavy, explosive, short duration training modalities.
What is a sprint? It’s explosive, could be considered heavy compared to jogging, and it’s done for a short duration. This is exactly how we should train them.
That’s why low rep, heavy sets, of RDL’s are such great hamstring builders and also why doing high rep, lighter weight, RDL’s are NOT the best way to build your hamstrings.
Now to the contrary, there are some muscle groups that are predominantly type 1 (slow twitch) – meaning higher rep, more constant tension, and a slightly lighter load (enough to finish reps given) would be better for building muscle mass.
YOUR PERSONAL FIBER DOMINANCE.
Before we break down the table of which muscles are what and how to train which, lets talk about what you’re personally dominant in.
See each muscle has a dominant fiber, some have ratios of 90/10 or 65/45 or even 50/50 – but they all have been studied, which means we can learn to split up our volume evenly for each muscle or we can shift into a dominance of one vs. the other.
But just like each muscle has their dominance, we as people actually do as well. By this I mean it changes slightly from person to person and one guy may be predominantly type 1 vs. type 2. Here’s a great example.
This is myself on the right and my training partner Theo Bowie on the left. Don’t like to toot my own horn, but in this shot you can see that we’re clearly both pretty jacked.
Now if I told you we were training partners and then showed you this pictured letting you know we’re both this jacked, you would assume we follow the same program… Nope. Because we’re polar opposites.
As much as I wish I could say I’m mainly a fast twitch fiber guy, I’m explosive as hell, and train with heavy ass loads… I’d be lying to you and myself, which would not help my training or my gains.
He’s predominantly type 2 and predominantly type 1 muscle fibers. Majority of my training is higher rep, more tension based, and I use a lot of overall volume to grow.
Majority of his training is lower rep, heavier loads, intensity based, and uses a lot more focus on explosive work to grow (intensity refers to weight/load).
Using the hamstrings again, here’s an example of how our training may differ slightly on a movement like the RDL – he would be performing 4×5 at a heavy load and I may be performing 3×6-8 with a slow controlled negative stretch on the way down.
Both ways of training would benefit us both, but if we want to be optimal, which is the goal here; this is how we would differ our training programs.
Now one may ask, “Ok so how do I find out which I am? And when I do figure that out, is that how all my training should be based??”
First, lets answer the later because that’s a lot easier to answer – No, you should never really stick to one single modality for all of your training. If you’re predominantly slow twitch like me, than I would suggest about 2/3 of your training fall into that category.
It’s important to work each intensity level in your training and to build your weaknesses up, plus this is usually the best way to break through a big plateau you’re facing.
Now, the first question… There is no 100% accurate way of knowing without doing a cadaver, so good luck there. But the best way to guess is to first look at training history.
How have you almost always trained? If you’ve been staying in the 8-20 rep range damn near your entire lifting career, then you’re likely slow twitch regardless of what you’re “meant” to be – because you’ve essentially programmed yourself that way.
You may find that switching it up is exactly what you needed to finally grow or you’ll find that switching it up didn’t lead to as many gains, but built some solid strength and when you shift back to your previous training style you discover massive gains.
The next way to find out is the muscle fiber test. Pretty simple…
Take 80% of your 1RM and perform an AMRAP set on the given lift.
(I suggest doing this with multiple compound lifts; such as the bench, OHP, squat, and deadlift).
If you get less than 8 reps, you’re likely a more type 2 dominant person – fast twitch.
If you get more than 8 reps, you’re likely a more type 1 dominant person – slow twitch.
Ok, so now you know what type of lifter you are and how you should structure the majority of your training. But the biggest key is still to program this exercise by exercise; according to what that specific muscle group will respond best too.
So below is a table that shows us the muscle, the fiber type, the training modality it will respond best too, and the rep range to use for it specifically.
|MUSCLE GROUP||FIBER TYPE||REP RANGE||NOTES:|
|Slow Twitch||8-20||The calf muscles are trained daily in a low intensity fashion – you walk constantly, which is probably why they’re naturally this fiber type. So a smart way to grow them, is to actually practice explosive, heavier, reps.|
|3-8 and 8-20||Pretty simple here; train them heavy in the lower rep range and lighter in the higher rep range. A great way to break plateaus and spark growth, try squats in the 25-30 rep range…|
|Fast Twitch||3-8||Explosive movements like sprints and jumps or heavy stiff leg deadlifts and glute ham raises are the best for building your hamstrings – go heavy, be explosive, and/or add slow negatives for these.|
|Slow Twitch||8-20||Glute activation is key, so finding the mind muscle connection is a great way to help build your glutes. Do high rep hip thrusts, ad pauses, and implement tension techniques like band resistance and abduction cues.|
|Slow Twitch||8-15||It’s just not smart to train the low back heavy, you’re asking for injury and pain. Focus more on quality reps, use things like back extensions and reverse hypers, and fire the glutes/hams when training it to avoid overloading the spinal erectors.|
|3-8 and 8-20||This makes a lot of sense when you think of jacked dudes in the gym… Majority of them deadlift and row super heavy weight, but they can also crank out chin-ups. Best way to build these, deadlift heavy and row/pull in every rep range possible. Deadlifting properly is CRUCIAL, before attempting it – check out each variation and how to perform them the right way, here.|
Traps are a misunderstood muscle group. Most people grab the heaviest bar they can grip, then shrug away without purpose, control or tension in the right muscle. I suggest going lighter, focusing on tempo, pausing at the top, and not only elevating but also retracting the scapula.
|3-8 and 8-20||Just like the lats and the quads, it’s split pretty evenly. The best growth I see comes from programming a heavy overhead press 1-2x per week along with high rep DB, cable and band resisted exercises that create a lot of tension in the muscle. As I said, the barbell OHP is the staple – learn how to do it right, here.|
|Fast Twitch||3-8||Bench heavy shit. Plain and simple, this is going to be your best bet. Plan to bench 1-2x a week in the 3-8 rep range and have some DB, machine or cable work to accompany it – the only time I recommend training the chest in rep ranges above the 8 is when testing AMRAPS or implementing cable/band fly exercises. Check out my video here to learn how to properly bench, pain free.|
|Slow Twitch||8-20||I typically recommend doing some heavier curls and extensions in the 8-rep range, along with adding high rep sets in the 20+ rep range. Getting a combo is best and when it comes to forearms, you should be getting plenty of work in from lifting heavy – but if adding more is desired, go with heavy or long distance carries.|
The table above is literally GOLD for anyone looking to effective program for themselves or trainers who need to program accordingly for their clients. I wish I had something like this handed to me when I started, but I’m glad to have made the mistakes so I can help people avoid what I did.
Don’t keep your training basic or overly repetitive. I believe in keeping it simple but at the end of the day, it will be much more effective if you get specific and create programming that works with your body for optimal growth.
Sometimes, though – the best solution is an outside perspective coming in, providing the solutions to what you actually need to work on, and most importantly providing you with the accountability needed to stay consistent.
If you are in need of serious accountability, expert coaching, group association, and access to the top programming knowledge – Click Here Now.