Training Recommendations—Exercises, Sets, Reps, and Rest Times
In today’s lesson, we will look at training recommendations, paying attention to exercise selection, along with guidelines for sets, reps, and rest times.
The good news is, you definitely don’t need to be in the gym five or more times a week for more than an hour each time; it’s unnecessary and quite frankly, isn’t lifestyle friendly. Remember, if you’re not a professional athlete, bodybuilder, or powerlifter, then you DON’T need to train like one.
Contrary to much of the typical advice in the fitness industry, I’m a firm believer that you can and will build muscle in just three or four one-hour workouts a week, provided they are set up correctly. I have found this to consistently be the case for myself and my clients. This also allows sufficient time for your body to recover between sessions, which is where the real growth happens.
What Are the Best Exercises for Muscle Growth?
Without a doubt, compound exercises are king when it comes to building strength and packing on muscles. A compound exercise is any exercise that works multiple muscle groups through multiple joint actions, i.e. the bench press, which works the chest, shoulders, and triceps and requires movement at both the shoulder and elbow joint.
The compound exercises are great because they work multiple muscles in one exercise, which allows you to gain more strength, lift more weight, and in turn, build more muscle. For this reason, they should form the foundation of your training plan.
Examples of compound exercises:
• chest—incline press, flat bench press, dips, press-ups
• shoulders—military press, arnold press, handstand press-ups
• back—deadlifts, chin/pull-ups, rows
• legs—squats, lunges, step-ups
Always prioritize your compound movements before adding any isolation exercises to your routine. My recommendations are:
• Use one to three compound movements per body part.
• Rest two to three minutes between sets on your big compound movements.
• Use isolation exercise on the smaller stubborn muscle groups, i.e. middle shoulder head, calves, rear shoulder head, biceps, and triceps.
What about Sets, Reps, and Rest Times?
There is limited research available on how many reps are optimal for muscle growth, but there is a general consensus within the industry that 30-60 reps per muscle group, per workout, is optimal.
With this in mind, here are a few general recommendations for setting up your sets, reps, and rest times:
• Always aim to leave a rep or two in the tank; don’t push to muscular failure.
• Rest two to three minutes between sets on compound exercises.
• Rest one to two minutes between sets on isolation exercises.
• For compound movements, work within the three-to-nine rep range for three to five sets.
• For isolation movements, work within the eight-to-15 rep range for two to three sets.
Avoid the temptation to keep adding more and more, as there is such a thing as the point of diminishing returns. It’s foolish to keep thinking you can add more exercises, more sets, more reps, and more training days while still being able to adequately recover and progress. More is not always better. Instead, focus on getting stronger on your main compound lifts and adding in a few isolation exercises as needed to help round out your aesthetics.
Tomorrow, we will look at workout plateaus, what they are, and what to do when you reach one.
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