Optimizing Strength Training

TL:DR both high and low weight routines can trigger hypertrophy, with longer than average rest times beneficial to total volume. Working out the muscle group twice per week is preferred.

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This is a continuation of my re-evaluating my own training regimen. Part 1 (Cardio) is here. I'll be back to my regular content (i.e. actually PEDs related) tomorrow-ish, with Tren, DNP and RU58841 articles to come.

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Heavy Weight & Low Reps or Light Weight & High Reps?

Both low load (LL) and high load (HL) can build muscle. LL were assigned 25-35 reps per exercise, while HL were assigned 8-12 reps and each performed 3 sets of 7 different exercises covering all major muscle groups, 3 times per week for 8 weeks. HL had a greater increase in 1RM's (6.5% v 2.0%) while LL had higher endurance (16.6% v -1.2%). In both quad muscle gain was roughly the same. Conclusion here is that the wisdom that low weight high reps improves endurance while heavy weight low reps improves strength is accurate.

Optimal Number of Sets

10+ sets per muscle per week is better than <10 sets for hypertrophy. No shit.

Prilepin’s Table

Alexander Prilepin was a head coach in the USSR who, by trial and error, determined the effective % of 1RM and # of reps that was optimal for strength and endurance. Actually, he did a lot more than just that - if you have 10 minutes, this is a decent read of his findings.

The table itself is abridged. Prilepin took a lot of other things into consideration including the stage of the athlete, rest between sets, and barbell speed (crucial in Oly lifting).

This is in addition to any warm sets, generally three at lower 1RM%. Training should be split up so that you have a max effort days and dynamic days, using the lower % of 1RM. This may add some complexity for the average gym goer, but this kind of variation in training can be commonly found in intermediate and advanced programs. My bro-science opinion is that it the light days help reduce load on weaker spots such as joints while still enabling hypertrophy, and allowing you to hit 1RM’s on your strength days (if that’s your goal).

Prilepin was also specifically referencing a type of movement too. The total rep ranges are not total rep ranges for the muscle group, but instead are rep ranges to progress for that specific exercise. For example, the snatch which was a focus of his. I would advocate utilizing this table for key lifts that you are looking to consistently improve - in my case, that would be bench press, OHP, trap deadlift and front squat. Your supporting exercises are going to be a little different.

Once you are able to exceed the goal reps, increase the weight by 2-10%, and start again.

Data on the TOTAL volume that a muscle group grows at most optimally is a missing data point in my review. I’ve seen mentioned between 60-120 reps per muscle group per week is optimal - that’s a total of all reps that hit that particular muscle group - but how they arrived to that number is fuzzy.

Rest Period

Where volume and intensity is the objective (i.e. you want to move the maximum amount of weight within a given amount time you have to spend at the gym) you want to have a 3-5 minute rest between sets. In this study, the number of reps that could be achieved after a 4 minute rest period was significantly more than those with lower rest times. On average, with only a minute rest between sets subjects did 3.66 and 6.77 less reps in their second and third sets respectively.

Personally, I opt for 3-5 minute rest periods on my working weight, though I tend to have shorter rest periods in my warm-ups to each exercise. Since many of us have short windows in which we look to make the most our time in the gym, pairing two unrelated exercises together can help get through exercises. Example: in between sets of OHP, do leg raises.

How Often?

Exercising each muscle group twice per week is superior than doing it once per week.

Recovery

After workout, muscle protein breakdown is increased but to a lesser extent than muscle protein synthesis, except where the body is a caloric deficit. Muscle hypertrophy is possible only when net protein synthesis occurs: when muscle protein synthesis exceeds breakdown.

Synthesis and breakdown will spike about 3 hours post exercise, and return to baseline at 48 hours post in a linear-ish fashion. Synthesis will be far greater in enhanced individuals such as ourselves.

Training Differences On Cycle & Off

This comes up all the time in /r/PEDs, and is an incredibly subjective question. In my opinion, training should be different on cycle. Firstly, your cardio becomes less a luxury and more of a necessity. Work it in as much as you can without impacting your routine.

Second, your lifts are going to progress much faster on cycle then off, and you can take advantage of this benefit. Your progressive overload should be more aggressive, and since your protein synthesis is higher you can work out major muscle groups more often, at least twice a week.

If you typically follow a 4 week progressive overload program, such as 5/3/1, you might want to consider opting for a simpler progression, adding some weight every workout session from about the second week onward. Due to these changes, some customization of your program is generally in order.

Conclusion

Work out muscle groups more than once per week. Rest between sets. Choose your rep range depending on if you want to be strong like man, or weak like pussy. Consider using Prilepin’s table to create alternating strength and hypertrophy days, using the % of 1RM and rep ranges for your key exercises.