When people hit the gym, most will just pick a machine or a weight that feels right and do repetitions until they feel it’s enough. If you want to get where you’re going fast, then there are guidelines that you need to follow when doing resistive exercise!
So, what are you looking for?
Hypertrophy (muscle mass increase, “get ripped”): do a total of 8-10 exercises and 3-6 sets of each with 8-12 repetitions per set. Rest periods should be no longer than 120 seconds between each set. This allows for some muscle recovery, but keeps them fatigued at the same time. How many exact sets and reps you do will depend on the type of lift, how experienced you are, and what muscles you’re working. It’s a safe bet to stay in the 3-4 set range on all exercises.
Strength (making big strides in overall muscle strength): 3-6 exercises, 5+ sets, and 1-5 repetitions. The strength cycle relies on moving HEAVY weight and doing high set numbers with low repetitions (because the weight is so heavy). Rest periods in the strength phase should be at least 3-5 minutes to allow for maximum recovery. This cycle would include maxing out in all of the large muscle groups: bench press, squat, deadlift.
Endurance: 10-12 exercises, 1-2 sets, 12-25 reps. This phase is perfect for endurance athletes who want to keep muscle tone. Endurance lifts won’t typically make anyone put on a significant amount of muscle mass; therefore, no change in body weight. Lifts that include 25 reps would be the leg press.
Power: Power is only necessary for athletes that will need explosiveness in their respective sport. These types of exercises would include plyometric (jumping) work and taking conventional lifts and implementing an explosive technique. For example: using light weight on the bench press or squat and having a slow eccentric movement with an explosive concentric movement. So, lowering the bar down slowly and exploding upwards. Power training will result in significant gains for athletes.
All of these phases should be used by experienced lifters. If you are hitting the weights 4-5 times a week, you may want to use 3-4 week cycles for each phase. With proper nutrition, seeing gains should be a snap! Those that just want to be in the gym a couple times a week to resistance train should choose what fits them best and stay in that range. Most people will find the hypertrophy or endurance phases best for their needs!
Move to the beat of your own drum.