Bodybuilding routines are quite dissimilar to other weight training routines, which do not necessarily involve goals that are purely conducive to gaining muscle. For example, weight training routines geared toward enhancing performance in sports must be configured in such a way that allocates much consideration to enhancing speed, agility, and explosiveness, which do not involve bodybuilding goals. And for this reason, these routines avoid lifting primarily for maximum muscle growth, which diminishes mobility in most cases. The two most significant ways in which bodybuilding routines dramatically differ from other weight training routines involves the volume of sets performed for each body-part as well as the number of times individual muscles are worked per week.
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How many sets should I perform per body-part?:
To achieve maximum muscle growth, it is best to train each body-part of yours only once a week, but with a high level of frequency and intensity, which is a fundamental staple of the standard bodybuilding routine. Instead of training half of your entire body everyday with only a few sets for each individual muscle, work one or two of them each day and thoroughly exhaust them.
Altogether each body-part should be hit once a week with somewhere around 10-30 sets depending upon the capacities and gender of the individual. When I first began training each body-part once a week, I executed 25-30 sets per body part, which is a lot. Today I execute about 15-20 sets. Females should generally engage in less sets than males due the physical disparities between the genders, but not necessarily in all cases. And younger people should do more than older bodybuilders, but again, not necessarily in all cases.
Keep in mind that I am just offering guidelines here. You are the one who needs to experiment with set ranges and set your own barometer. Go with what feels natural to you and not a specific predetermined number. Although the number of sets that you perform per body-part in your bodybuilding routine should lie somewhere between 10-30 as mentioned earlier. Listen to your body. If you feel like you are capable of doing more than you are currently doing, do so, but if you ever feel like you need to to less, then do less.
Why should I train each muscle of mine only once a week?:
Because muscle growth is perpetuated while you are resting. If you were to perform only 5 sets a workout for each muscle, then you would be able to train each body-part 3 or 4 times a week. However, if you opt to perform 12 or more sets for each muscle group during your workouts, then it is physically impossible for your body to properly recover after such an excessive regimen.
Mass Exercises vs. Isolation/Shaping Exercises:
Although the average person is not aware of this, there are more than several exercises for each body-part. These exercises can be categorized into mass and isolation exercises, both of which are essential components of a sufficient bodybuilding routine.
Mass movements allow you to push heavier poundage’s which are conducive to gaining mass (keep in mind that if you use a light weight and execute over 20 reps of a mass exercise, it will not make you more massive, but instead shape and tone the muscle being worked, so even if your goal is only to become more toned, still perform these types of exercises because they will get you closer to your goal at a faster pace than isolation exercises).
However the downside to these types of movements is that they usually require more assistance from other body-parts aside from the targeted one to execute them. For example the bench press which is a chest exercise, also requires some assistance from the shoulders. To offset this consequence, good technique when performing mass movements is required. Isolation movements on the other hand require minimum assistance from other body-parts, allow you to push less weight, and promote muscle definition as opposed to mass. Also many bodybuilders strategically begin their workouts with an isolation movement to pre-exhaust their targeted muscle before moving on to a mass movement.
When lifting with heavier weights, you will naturally be able to do less reps in one set than you would be able to with when handling lighter weights when going to exhaustion, and vice -versa. If your goal is to get stronger and gain mass, lift heavier weights and perform less reps. But if your goal is to manifest a body that is more defined, you should lift lighter weights for more reps. Also, keep in mind that lifting heavier weights for less reps is more taxing on the body so when centering any workout around low rep ranges, you should perform less total sets during that workout.
To put things into perspective, a low rep rage would be 5-7 reps. A mid-range one is 8-12 reps which many experts actually claim is the ideal rep-range for producing muscular gains, and anything higher than 12 reps is considered a high rep range.