A Busy Man's Guide To Building Muscle And Getting Strong

by Dean Palibroda in


 

Over the last 10 years I've personally experimented with every muscle building and strength increasing protocol under the sun. Through trial and error I've developed a recipe that takes into consideration the hard science needed for optimal muscle growth and strength gains, while simultaneously minimizing overall time spent in the gym, difficulty in performing the exercise, and risk of injury.

My desire in creating such a formula stemmed from my transient lifestyle ­ travelling dozens of times per year. I wanted to streamline the muscle and strength building process so I could shift my limited willpower and focus to other areas of life.

Now obviously there’s a nutritional component to muscle building, however I will not be addressing this just the stimulus necessary to increase strength and elicit muscle growth.

This program is not intended for the new trainee with absolutely zero training experience. I’m assuming you have a general understanding of weightlifting vocabulary and exercise form. If you don't understand how to preform any of the exercises mentioned below, book an hour session with a personal trainer and get him to show you. Amazing return on investment. This program is also not intended for trainees using performance enhancing drugs, or competitive bodybuilders or powerlifting athletes whom need customized approaches.

Now rather than listing supportive research to back up the claims I make in this article, I’m going to reference videos and articles from other people that know much more than I do about the science and can support claims with peer­-reviewed scientific research.

The Science

For optimal muscle and strength gains, one naturally needs to stimulate each major and minor muscle group in the body, while utilizing different movement angles ­ simulating different muscles that make up the major muscle groups.

Let’s take the shoulders for example.

To increase width and mass, prevent rounding of the shoulders and improve posture, one must isolate the lateral and posterior heads with movements such as lateral flys or facepulls.

Next, we need to consider how we split up the exercises over the course of seven days, making sure to take into consideration rest time and time for other activities.

For natural trainees, the optimal frequency is 2-­3 times per week. Take chest for example: through the course of 7 days, one needs to stimulate the muscles in the chest a minimum of twice to ­three times being optimal.

In the video below, Jason Blaha outlines the history and effectiveness of a full body training split:

I prefer 3 times a week myself, because it reduces gym time. When I say this, I’m taking into consideration preparation time, travel time and that unproductive energy depletion that I’ve found comes after each training session no matter what was done.

Although each session may be longer, limiting our weight training sessions to 3 days per week, gives us the time and energy to focus on other physical activities, whether that be sports, rock climbing or yoga to name a few.

I suggest preforming as many of the workouts below as you can in a week based on the priority building muscle and strength has in your life along with your ability to recover from each workout. 

Here are some signs that you may need to scale back the amount of times you preform the workouts or take a deload (see below): 

  • Decrease in sex drive 
  • Decrease in erection quality 
  • Overall fatigue
  • Depression
  • Increased Anxiety  
  • Trouble focusing at work 

The Split

Now before I outline the exercise order, sets and reps I wanted to make it clear that you must get adequate sleep, or else you run the risk of burnout.

Alternate between Workout A and B. Here's an example of a few weeks: 

  • Week 1: Monday (Workout A), Wednesday (B), Friday (A) 
  • Week 2: Monday (B), Tuesday (A), Thursday (B), Sunday (A)
  • Week 3: Tuesday (B), Saturday (A)

Although this protocol is designed to be performed in a commercial gym, I've provided the exact exercise variation to really perform it anywhere with minimal equipment.

Here goes:

Workout A. 
Leg Press: 2 sets X 8­-10 reps.                                                                                                           Stiff Legged Deadlifts (Barbell or Dumbbell):  2 sets X 8-10 reps
Standing Shoulder Presses (Barbell or Dumbbell): 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Chins (Overhand, Underhand Or Neutral-Grip): 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Cable Standing Facepulls or Dumbbell Reverse Flys: 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Calf Raises (Seated or Standing): 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Standing Bicep Curls (Barbell or Dumbbell): 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Standing Cable Crunch or Myotatic Crunch (Ball or Bosu Ball) : 2 sets X 8-10 reps

Workout B.
Leg Press: 2 sets X 8­-10 reps
Pendlay Row or Standing Dumbbell Row: 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Flat Bench Press (Barbell or Dumbbell): 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Leg Curls: 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Side Lateral Raises: 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Reverse Crunch or Myotatic Crunch (Ball or Bosu Ball) : 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Tricep Pushdowns (Straight Bar or E-Z Bar): 2 sets X 8-10 reps
Calf Raises (Seated or Standing): 2 sets X 8-10 reps

You'll be using a 2-0-1-0 rep. tempo for all exercises. Here's an article that explains rep. temp if you're not already familiar with what it is.

Training to failure is to be avoid. This is when you use a weight that if your target is 8 reps, you'd select a weight where 8 is the last possible repetition you could perform using good form. What you're be doing on this program is starting at 8 reps and selecting a weight that you COULD do 10 reps for. Or the 10 rep would be muscular failure for you. This is the sweet spot. 

You'll rest 3 seconds between each exercise (basically how long it takes for you to move and/or set up equipment). Below are the set rest times for each workout. The length is based on how taxing the exercises is to preform thus allowing your enough time to recover.  

Workout A. 
Leg Press: 3 second rest between sets                                                                                                           Stiff Legged Deadlifts (Barbell or Dumbbell): 3 second rest between sets
Standing Shoulder Presses (Barbell or Dumbbell): 3 second rest between sets
Chins (Overhand, Underhand Or Neutral-Grip): 3 second rest between sets
Cable Standing Facepulls or Dumbbell Reverse Flys: 2 second rest between sets
Calf Raises (Seated or Standing): 2 second rest between sets
Standing Bicep Curls (Barbell or Dumbbell): 2 second rest between sets
Standing Cable Crunch or Myotatic Crunch (Ball or Bosu Ball) :2 second rest between sets

Workout B.
Leg Press: 3 second rest between sets
Pendlay Row or Standing Dumbbell Row: 3 second rest between sets
Flat Bench Press (Barbell or Dumbbell): 3 second rest between sets
Leg Curls: 2 second rest between sets
Side Lateral Raises: 2 second rest between sets
Reverse Crunch or Myotatic Crunch (Ball or Bosu Ball) : 2 second rest between sets
Tricep Pushdowns (Straight Bar or E-Z Bar): 2 second rest between sets
Calf Raises (Seated or Standing): 2 second rest between sets

Where you're given an option with an exercise (ex: pendlay row or standing dumbbell row) simply select whichever one you prefer bases on equipment available. 

As for the repetition range, this has to do with the progression, something I learnt from a 1­-on-­1 coaching session I did with Jeff Alberts over at 3D Muscle Journey.

Let’s take the leg press for example: Week one for all workouts during that week you’ll do 2 straight sets (same weight for both sets) at 8 reps. Now for week week, if without going to failure AND maintaining the 2-0-1-0 temp, increase the reps to 9 for each sets of the week's workouts. Then again for the following week if you can main temp and not hit failure, increase reps again to 10. 

You may (and will) stall for weeks. So you might need to stop at 9 reps or even stay at 8, if you're too close to failure or can't maintain temp. 

Now if you're during 10 reps and could increase at the beginning of the week, increase the weight 5 pounds or the smallest increment you can increase the weight and return to doing 8 reps with this new weight. This is how you'll progress. 

If you stall at a given weight or reps for say a month, you MAY need to take a deload week. To deload, starting at the beginning of the next week, keep the rep ranges your been using the same, and decrease the amount of weight you're using by 30 to 50%. This will help you recover and you'll often by you're strong when you increase the weight the following week after you've given your body a change to recover. 

For tracking my progress I’ve used pen and paper for years. I'd recommend this for ease and not having the distraction of your phone.  

Now take this split and put it into practice; try it out for a few months and see what you think.

Finally if you’d like a much deep understanding of the muscle building process, here’s some peeps I’d recommend:

Ian McCarthy
Layne Norton
Lyle McDonald
Jason Blaha
Allen Aragon
3D Muscle Journey Team
Vince Del Monte

To your results!