Many new bodybuilders and strength trainers make the mistake of following the “More is Better” philosophy when it comes to training. The problem is that this is seldom true in training muscles for optimum growth. Muscle growth is a direct result of intense, heavy training and rest. Muscles grow during rest, not during training. Without adequate rest, the muscles will not be able to grow .
So, if muscles grow during rest, why do we need to train? The answer is that in order for muscles to grow during rest they must have a stimulus for growth. That stimulus comes from the workouts. The weight training exercises tear down the muscles and deplete energy stores. The body does not like this, so, during rest it super compensates, making extra muscle fibers and stuffing the energy stores, so the next time the muscles won’t suffer as much damage. This is where the increased size occurs.
Okay, with this in mind, we can see that training everyday for hours at a time is not a good idea. But what is the optimal level of training to gain size? For some people, muscle building is very easy and they recover very fast. They can get by with longer workouts and training more often. The average person requires more rest time and shorter duration workouts. During a workout, calories are burned for energy. These are the same calories that will be needed during rest to rebuild. So, long, drawn out workouts are not the best choice.
Short, high intensity workouts are best suited for muscular growth. These workouts do not burn as many calories over time, but they do tax the muscles and create growth-inducing damage. The short duration also allows for heavier weights to be used and each set and repetition to be done with ferocity. This means more muscle fibers involved and more stimulus for growth.
Basic, compound exercises are the best for these workouts. Many muscles can be exercised with one movement. These exercises can also be executed with large amounts of weight, safely. Squats, dead lifts, bench presses, power cleans, overhead presses, and rowing exercises are all good examples of compound exercises that can be used to train multiple muscles at once. A workout that focuses on these exercises can be done in short amount of time and all of the major muscles will be hit.
Below is an example of a workout for the whole body that can be completed in 30 minutes (40 minutes with the 10 minute warm-up).
General warm-up (bike, jog, stair machine)- 10 minutes
Squats- Do 1 warm-up set and then 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions (rest 60 seconds between sets)
Dead lifts- Do 1 warm-up set and then 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions (rest 60 seconds between sets)
Bench Press- Do 1 warm-up set and then 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions (rest 60 seconds between sets)
Overhead Shoulder Press- Do 2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions (rest 60 seconds between sets)
Barbell Curls- Do 2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions (rest 60 seconds between sets)
This workout, if adhered to, and performed with weights heavy enough to cause temporary muscle failure at 8 to 10 repetitions on every set (except the warm up), will tear down the muscles and stimulate growth. This will work even for lifters who have been lifting for a while and just need a change to get past a plateau. Adequate rest between workouts is essential. Perform this workout on Monday, rest Tuesday, do a lighter weight, higher repetition workout on Wednesday (skipping any muscles that are sore) and then rest again Thursday, followed by this routine again on Friday. Skip the weekend (although some light cardiovascular work is okay to facilitate recovery on Saturday, with complete rest on Sunday) and then repeat the process on Monday.
The exercises can be changed after 4 to 6 weeks, substituting another compound exercise for each muscle group, but stick to the basic format. Give it 12 to 18 weeks and see where your physique is at that point. This workout can deliver monstrous mass in minimal time.