By John Litteral 12-15-22
The strength and muscle building cycle is a phase where you train with heavier weights and lower reps, and a meal plan that calls for a calorie surplus. A calorie surplus is essential for making significant strength and muscle gains. I will go into greater detail later in another article concerning regulating your nutritional intake. My intention in this article is to discuss resistance training for building strength and mass.
When it comes to gaining muscle and strength as compared to cutting down, your resistance training routine and exercises can stay fairly close if you choose. Reps and sets per exercises do not have to be drastically different between the cut down phase vs the strength and muscle gain, you just need to find what your body responds to the most, whether you increase volume or intensity. Typically, it is preferred by many bodybuilders to increase volume and go lighter on the weights and increase rep ranges during the cut down cycle, while lowering the volume, increasing the weight, and lowering the rep ranges during the strength and muscle building cycle. I have experimented with doing lower reps and higher intensity during the cut down cycle and got satisfactory results. But when it comes to building strength and muscle, I highly recommend lower volume, higher intensity, and lower rep ranges with heavier weights. The reason that I recommend that is because that is what my body responds to the best. But it is very important for me to point out that not everyone is the same, and we need to find what best works for ourselves. Some fitness experts teach that higher volume and less intensity works better for them when it comes to gaining strength and muscle mass.
The example above compares the chest workouts between the cut down cycle and the strength and muscle building cycle, and it demonstrates that both training sessions can look almost identical other than tweaking the rep ranges for the multijointed movements. As for the rep ranges for the cutting down cycle for the multijointed movements, I recommend doing 8-12 reps, while 5-7 reps for the strength and muscle building cycle.
REST PERIODS BETWEEN SETS
One important adjustment between the cut down cycle verses the strength and muscle building cycle is the rest periods between sets on multijointed movement exercises. During the strength and muscle building cycle you should rest between sets for however long it takes for you to fully recover from the previous set. Five minutes should be sufficient to fully recover and to do the next set with little fatigue. If you do not fully recover and you start the next set fatigued, then you will not be able to lift as much weight and get as many reps, which will make that set less effective for gaining strength and muscle. It is not as important to take as long rest periods between sets during your cut down cycle because you are more focused on burning calories at this point than gaining muscle, and it is unlikely that you will gain any actual muscle mass and strength during your cut down cycle anyway, unless you are a beginner. Beginners can gain some muscle mass even during a cut down cycle because their adaptation is high at that point. A person can still take long rest periods between sets during multijointed movements while training during the cut down cycle. Or one can blend long rest periods and short rest periods during a multijointed movement exercise while training the cut down cycle. But I highly recommend sticking with long rest periods while training during the strength and muscle building cycle.
You will need more rest between sets during multijointed movements than you do with isolation movements because you are lifting heavier weights and more muscles are involved in the movement of the set. I usually like to only rest 30-60 seconds between sets when doing isolation movement exercises, and that goes for whatever cycle that you are training. Rest periods should stay the same for all isolation movement exercises whether you are training for the cut down, strength and muscle building, or maintenance cycle. One habit that I have had for the past 5 years is stretching between sets. I make a point of stretching whatever muscles that I am training at that time. If I am training chest, I stretch the chest and shoulder muscles in between every set. Same goes for every other body part that I am training. I hold the stretch for 10 seconds at a time. This allows you to do something extra productive in between sets. The rest period allows your muscles to recover for the next set, and the stretching improves mobility and range of motion, therefore helping to prevent injuries. I will go into more detail about what stretches that I recommend for each body part in between sets in another article.
THE STANDARD TRAINING SPLIT I FOLLOW
A common question that I get is “how many days a week do you train?” My answer is not the typical answer that people are expecting. When the average person thinks of a “week” they usually think in terms of the construct of what society artificially operates by, that is 7 days a week. But when I am training, my training split can start off on Monday and end next Tuesday of the following week. This is because my training split runs for 8 days and then begins and repeats on the 9th day. I have learned over the years that rest and recovery is just as important as the training itself, therefore I train very intense for 3 days straight and take a rest day, and 3 more days straight and then take another rest day. The day that I work abs and calves is a semi-day of rest because that workout is not nearly as intense as the other days of training. It does not matter to me what day of the week it is. It has no impact on what body parts I am training. Below is the standard training split that I follow.
DAY 1: Back
DAY 2: Chest
DAY 3: Biceps and triceps
DAY 4: Rest
DAY 5: Legs
DAY 6: Shoulders
DAY 7: Abs and calves
DAY 8: Rest
DAY 9: Cycle repeats