How many times have you seen ads that claim to have the easiest way build muscle or “the secret”? “One Weird Trick To Get HUGE!”
The thing is, there is no secret to the easiest way to build muscle and strength.
We’ve known the answer for over a hundred years and that answer has not changed in the slightest. The “secret” is deceptively boring: Progressive Overload. What does that even mean?
Progressive Overload is a term that means quite literally what it sounds like.
Progressively loading the stimulus over what you did last time. For example, that could come in the form of more weight than you did last week, more repetitions of an exercise than you did last time, or even less rest between sets of repetitions that you did last time.
Now here is the tricky part (spoiler: it’s not tricky)… How can you make consistent progress over time without plateauing?
Literally anyone can walk in a gym, lift some weights for a bit, and then gain strength and muscle for about 16 weeks. It really is that easy. However, once that period of “Beginner Gains” are over, your body has adapted and now we need at least some semblance of a strategy.
This is the best and easiest way:
Out of all the variables, volume, or total weight lifted, is the easiest to work with. All you need to do is start your first week with a certain number of sets for a given muscle you want to grow.
Let’s say I want bigger biceps (I actually do). I will start with ten total sets per week of any exercise that directly stimulates the biceps. I will add then add two sets per week for four weeks, then I will be at a total of 18 sets of direct biceps work per week.
I recommend doing about 8-12 repetitions per set of each exercise, as that is what current research suggests is optimal for muscle growth.
Week 1: 5 sets of curls, 5 sets of chin-ups
Week 2: 6 sets of curls, 6 sets of chin-ups
Week 3: 7 sets of curls, 7 sets of chin-ups
Week 4: 8 sets of curls, 8 sets of chin-ups
Week 5: 9 sets of curls, 9 sets of chin-ups
Yes, it really is that easy. I don’t even have to change the weight I’m using! In addition, it doesn’t matter how you spread out those sets throughout the week. You could do three sets here, one set there, or even all of them in one day. It does not matter as long as you get the weekly volume in and the sets are making you work hard.
How do I keep long-term progress?
After those five weeks are up, I will go back down to 5 sets each in Week 1, increase the weight 5-10 lbs per exercise, then restart.
Why? You have built more muscle. A bigger muscle is a stronger muscle. See the chart above describing progressive overload.
The little “dips” are when you reduce the volume and increase the weight. This ensures continuous improvement in what is the easiest way to build muscle and strength.
That’s really it. That’s the easiest way to build muscle and strength long-term without having to think too much.
It is that easy and you could ride that program for years before really running into problems. So, if you are confused or don’t know where to start on your fitness journey, try this. Two sets a day add up quick!