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Muscle Gain: Size, Symmetry and proportion.

Muscle Building Guide for Beginners. Part 3.

Check out the Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 | & Part 5

Some quick comments about “Volume” and “Intensity” are in order as in this article we’re going to discuss both of these training parameters in depth. Volume is simply how many reps you’re clocking for every muscle group in a workout session and the Intensity is the weight with which you’re clocking those reps.

Some sources and research papers consider volume as the total amount of work done by integrating the weights being lifted into the equation. Also known as the “total poundage” of a workout session.
The most comprehensive research paper catering to training volume Wernbom et al 2007: The Influence of Frequency, Intensity, Volume and Mode of Strength Training on Whole Muscle Cross-Sectional Area in Humans uses [Sets x Reps x Intensity(load)] as the defining volume parameter. Everyone should read the paper in whole, it’s surprisingly devoid of any obtuse medical jargon.

Since we’re going to address Intensity separately, Volume is Sets x Reps = Total Number of Reps performed. 5 x 4 = 20!

Anyway, this research paper is truly relevant with the topic because: “the analysis for DER deals with training using combined concentric-eccentric muscle actions with previously untrained subjects.” In other words, Beginners moving some serious Iron!
It gets even better when you consider that the mean Training Frequency was 2.8 days a week in this research review. Here intensity means “number of sessions per muscle group per week” and since it’s established in the part 2 of this guide that beginners should be training 3 days a week full body (every muscle group every session); the paper holds all the more true for the Beginners.
graph of training frequency vs growth in csa showing 3 days a week as the most superior

The research review clearly shows that largest increase in the muscle cross section(size) occurs within the 30-50 Rep range whether it’s purely concentric/purely eccentric or the more natural combination of both muscle actions. 30-50 reps showing dense data points and larger growth Notice the trend that higher reps only led to overtraining and much smaller gains compared to the optimum 30-50 rep range. Enough evidence to ditch out “specialization” or split routines in the Beginner phase. You simply need to perform lesser reps (30-50) per muscle group more often (3 times a week).

Now that Volume is dealt with, let’s grapple with Intensity.
Intensity is the total weight being lifted, the weight of plates plus the bar. It is usually expressed as a certain percentage of 1RM max while setting a training regimen. 1 RM (repetition max) is the maximum weight you can lift for one repetition only.

Imagine you loaded the bar with 20 kg (44lbs) plates, 2 on each side on an Olympic bar. That’s 44x4 + 44 (weight of a standard Olympic bar) = 220 lbs (100 Kgs) of Intensity. You set out to perform squats, going down and coming up took considerable efforts. You think you can eke out the 2nd rep by grinding your teeth and huffing and puffing beforehand. You go down with utter determination and you’re…stuck. Sad.

Hope to God that either you’re in a Power-Rack or your spotter isn’t looking for some cheap revenge.
Now you know that 220 lbs is your 1RM and next time you might wanna train with 70% of 1 RM = 70kg (154 lbs) to get some quality Reps done. So 154 lbs would be your training intensity for squat in the next session.

Good news, you don’t have to put your back/knees/neck in jeopardy to test your 1 RM for squats or any compound lifts for that matter! There are formulae for that, some are more accurate than others. I did some calculations and find out the mean values from the most cited ones. Pay close attention because you’re going to use this data for every workout and training routine.

If you can perform 4 reps with a certain load/weight/intensity, multiply the load by 1.10 to get your 1 RM. For 5 reps 1.15, for 6 reps 1.20, for 7 reps 1.25 and so on until 12 reps. can you see what’s going on here? every consecutive rep pushes your 1RM by +5% . Just increase the multiplier by .05 for the next rep after 4th. Simplicity is so elegant.

Say you did 8 reps on the bench press with 180lbs (82kgs). So your 1RM would be: 180 x 1.30 = 234 lbs (106kgs). By this method you can easily predict and mentally calculate your Intensity requirements for Reps. What if you wanted to train with sets of 4 now. Easy, just divide your 1 RM with the rep-count-coefficient for 4 i.e 1.10 [ 234/1.10 = 212 lbs ]. Now you know that with 212 lbs your 4 rep sets would be at just the right Intensity!

I hope that it’s all clear now. The formula works both ways: For finding 1 RM by multiplying Intensity with rep-count-coefficient PLUS finding the right intensity for a certain rep range by dividing 1 RM by rep-count-coefficient. Where the “rep-count-coefficients” are 1.10, 1.15, 1.20, 1.25, 1.30…and so on for 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,…Reps. Respectively.
Intensity x rep-count-coefficient = 1 RM it’s basic algebra guys.

Now I’m going to ask you to go find your 1 RM for Bench-press, Deadlift, Squat, Overhead press, Dumbbell rows, & Barbell curls. Yeah, go pick up a weight light enough to crank more than 4 reps with, if the weight is so light that you managed more than 12 reps then add more weight and try again. Multiply the RCC with the number of Reps you managed in each of these exercises to find your 1 RM and meet me in the next part for the reps and sets scheme. Most of you would’ve figured it already but there’s Always More!

Check out the Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 | & Part 5


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