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Weight Training Programs
That Build Muscle

Solid weight training programs are critical to accomplishing the build muscle and gain weight fast goal. It isn't enough to just walk into a gym and throw around some weights, not if you want to be successful in short order.

You must instead have a weight lifting program that is tailored to accomplishing your specific goal - to build muscle mass.

On this page, we will work through the many components that go into the design and implementation of weight training programs that demand muscle growth. It will be your attention and dedication to making each of these components strong that will allow them to come together and produce the muscle building results you are after.

As important as weight training programs are to success, it is also important to remember they are not the only important factor. There are three factors that contribute to building muscle mass - diet, training AND rest. All are equally critical to success. Fail to account for one factor and you will fail to maximize your muscle building capability.

When a solid weight gain diet is combined with a well-planned weight training program and sufficient rest, it can be a powerful force.

Without your diet supplying the raw materials your body needs to build muscle, all the hard work you do in the gym will be wasted. If you don't provide the body enough rest time with which to repair and rebuild muscle, all your weight training will be wasted.

The most common mistake beginner and intermediate trainers make in their mass gain approach is an over-emphasis on their weight training and an under-emphasis on their eating and rest.

The Two Dominant Weight Training Philosophies

HIT Training Philosophy FanA lot is made over weight training philosophies and you will not need to venture far in the bodybuilding world before encountering someone willing to argue to the death that the philosophy his or her weight training program is based on is the end-all, supreme, hands down best way to work out all the time with absolutely no exceptions.

When you meet this person, save yourself a lot of grief, smile politely, and walk away.

There are two dominant basic weight training philosophies:

The above descriptions are brief and, in being brief, necessarily unfair to each philosophy. Each philosophy has much more to offer. In practice, they are much less strict then their presentation here. HIT, for example, in practice does indeed incorporate some variety in reps and sets which is essentially a form of periodization. The basic difference is that HIT recommends always doing high intensity workouts while periodization advocates cycling your intensity.

BodybuilderThe most commonly employed mass gain weight training strategy used today is what is sometimes referred to as hardgainer training. In a sense, this is a hybrid of all the main philosophies. This site focuses on weight training programs using a version of hardgainer training that utilizes low volume, training splits and maximum intensity in an effort to build muscle fast.

The most common training regimen and the one most hardgainers (most people) seem to find the most productive for mass gain is a 3-day split training routine with each muscle group being worked just once per week. This is an excellent place to start.

Weight Training Exercises That Induce Big Muscle Gains

For a look at the major muscle groups and the best weight lifting exercises to get them growing, complete with illustrations, basic descriptions, variations and tips to performing the exercises correctly, check the following page…

Weight Training Exercise's Database

From the above pages we know that weight training programs designed to gain weight fast must focus on the compound weight lifting exercises. Compound exercises allow you to stimulate the most muscle fibers in the least amount of time. In other words, they give you the biggest bang for your buck. Performed correctly and at challenging resistance, the two most important compound weight lifting exercises are the squat for the legs and the bench press for the upper body.

Below is a table of some of the best big muscle producing weight lifting exercises for each body part.

Eight "GET BIG" Exercises
Squats (Legs)
Calf Raises (Legs)
Bench Press (Chest)
Pull Ups (Back)
Bench Dips (Arms)
Bicep Curls (Arms)
Military Press (Shoulders)
Crunches (Abs)

There are no fancy, complicated exercises requiring complicated or cool-looking gadgetry in the above table. Nothing above requires an advanced degree in exercise science to figure out. Muscle mass is built with the basics. It isn't built wasting time trying to hit each and every muscle with its own special exercise.

Best Muscle Building Exercise For an Island

If you were forced onto a deserted island and could take only eight exercises, the weight lifting exercises above would be excellent choices. And when designing weight training programs, these are excellent choices (these or suitable alternatives) to include in all your weight training routines.

The Best Sets and Reps

For the purposes of this site, I will divide the amount of reps done per weight lifting set into three categories: heavy, medium and light.

  # of Reps Primary Objective
Heavy 1 - 6 Strength
Medium 7 - 12 Muscle Building (Bodybuilding)
Light 13+ Fitness, Endurance

The numbers in the above table are general ranges. They are based on going to fatigue or failure (i.e. for an 8 rep set, the weight used results in the physical inability to perform a ninth rep due to muscle exhaustion).

Weight Trainer Flexing MusclesFor bodybuilding goals (muscle size), weight training programs should concentrate on medium sets where maximum hypertrophy (muscle growth) will occur. While this should be the emphasis, it isn't necessarily wise to use these rep ranges exclusively.

Working heavy and light set routines into your weight training program can be an effective technique to keep your muscles responsive and growing. These routines can provide a change-of-pace that will make follow-up medium set routines more effective (a periodization technique).

In addition, keep in mind that different muscle groups will sometimes respond better to different rep ranges. For example, the calves and abdominals often respond best to higher repetitions. Changing your rep range emphasis, whether making it heavier or lighter, can often help you break past stubborn plateaus.

Progressive Overload: The Key To Gains

Progressive overload is a simple concept, simply meaning that with each successive workout you increase the demands placed on the muscles. You do this by increasing the amount of weight lifted or by increasing the number of reps in the set.

You have to convince the body that it NEEDS to build muscle. To do this, you have to continuously push the envelope.

Trainer doing Push UpsDoing 25 push-ups a day for a year is NOT encouraging the body to build muscle. It is instead encouraging the body to condition the muscle it already has in place. To get muscle growth you have to progressively increase resistance.

In order for weight training programs to help you gain muscle mass, they MUST utilize progressive overload in some manner. To learn more about progressive overload, hitting the right muscle fiber types and forcing your muscles to grow, check the Building Muscles article.

Rest, Rest and More Rest

What a lot of beginner and even more advanced trainers have trouble grasping is the important role rest plays in building mass.

"Muscles Grow At Rest, Not In The Gym"

You will hear the above saying tossed about a lot in weight training circles. Learn what that means and PAY ATTENTION to what it is telling you.

Trainer Planning to Build Muscle
Trainer planning to build muscle

Trainer actually building muscle (sleeping)
Trainer actually building muscle

When you lift weights you are not actually building muscle, you are breaking muscle down. In the gym, you are essentially planning to build muscle. You are delivering the blueprints to the builder.

But the build isn't going to get done unless and until you've given the builder the appropriate time to complete the project.

Your body builds muscle while you are resting - while you are sleeping and while you are sprawled out on the couch watching DVDs. It is only when the body is not busy with keeping you functioning in some way that it will find the time to work on rebuilding the muscle tissue your training broke down.

If you want to build muscle, you must give the body the opportunity to do the building that your weight training programs encourage. Give the body insufficient rest time and you will get less than optimal results.

How much rest is sufficient will vary by individual but below are some guidelines that all but the most genetically gifted or chemically enhanced would be wise to adhere to....

The above are not optimal suggestions, just maximums that most trainers will be best served not to exceed. The trainer that works five days a week will not necessarily gain more muscle than the one who trains two.

If you are spending a maximum of 5 hours a week in the gym, what do you do for the other 163 hours of the week? You concentrate on eating and getting your rest. Again, quality dieting and quality rest will prove as important to your mass building goals as your weight training programs.

If you intend to become the guy with the impressive physique, you will have to learn to appreciate the importance of rest to the muscle building equation. For more on the value of rest and sleep, check the long-titled article, Adequate Rest to Avoid Overtraining & Increase Muscle Growth.

Putting The Muscle Building Weight Training Program Together

Trainer in Bodybuilding GymWith an appreciation of what makes for good muscle building routines, a good idea of what you want to accomplish and how to accomplish it, the next step is deciding on your weight training routines. There are many bodybuilding routines available to you, on the net and in books. You can use them as they are, modify them to your capabilities and needs or design your own from scratch.

Check out my Sample Bodybuilding Routines

You are NOT trying to find a routine that will last you a lifetime but rather multiple routines that will work off of each other within your weight training programs. With time and the information gleaned from your tracking program you will get an idea of the weight training routines that are most effective for you.

Don't place undue emphasis on the routines. Your success at building muscle and gaining weight fast will be dependent on many factors of which the routines you use are just one. Along those lines, check out this...

Bodybuilding Tips Checklist

Use the above bodybuilding tips as a tool to evaluate your weight training programs. It can help identify the areas where your program may be weak and therefore limiting your gains.

More Factors...

The more proven bodybuilding techniques you learn and apply, the bigger and better results you can expect. The basics to the successful mass building weight training program are above, but there is much more that can help you gain muscle below...

Sound like a lot to absorb?

For experienced trainers, the basics of weight training programs to build mass become second nature. For beginners and intermediates, however, understanding and correctly applying all there is to solid muscle building strategy can be a daunting task.

There are an infinite number of ways to stray off course and end up limiting your gains. That's why I recommend that the beginner as well as the more experienced but frustrated trainer seek some guidance, either from a qualified personal trainer or through one of the top online muscle building programs.

Doing things the right way doesn't take any more time than doing them the wrong way but it produces measurably better results.

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