Top 10 Ways to Train for Muscle Size

Hello my dear readers,

Today’s article is all about training to increase the size of your muscles (i.e., hypertrophy). This information comes from the personal training development center ( The reference is at the end of this article. Enjoy!

1. Hypertrophy training is based on three things: volume (total work done), muscle damage, and variety of movements.
The volume must be higher than that of max strength training. So we’re looking at averages of 6-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets. Muscle damage refers to literally tearing up your muscle (feel the burn, anyone?) to initiate a growth response during recovery through sleep and food. Finally, the movements must be varied to build a muscle from different angles. For example, there are several different exercises you can do to build a solid back because there are the muscles in your upper back, middle back, and lower back. Unlike strength training where you’re using mainly compound movements, hypertrophy training can be done effectively with a mixture of compound and single-joint moves.

2. Keep the lifting tempo smooth – neither too slow nor too fast.
Tempos are the time it takes for you to complete the move. This occurs in three parts (concentric, amortization, and eccentric phases). All you need to know is that a number of seconds can be ascribed to each phase. For example, take a bicep curl. On the concentric (curling the weight up) the tempo is usually 3 seconds. The amortization (pause at the top right before you let the weight back down) is usually 0 seconds. The eccentric (letting the weight back down) is usually 1 second. So you have a temp of 301 for the entire bicep curl. Now, I’m a big fan of saying screw the numbers. So in my opinion, simply control the weight on every lift you do and you will see results. Don’t be that dude who can’t curl without looking like you’re about to have a seizure, please. 

3. Each set should last about 40-50 seconds.
This much time under tension will sufficiently tear the muscle fibers of whatever body part you’re working that day in order to build them back up for the next workout. Generally speaking, when your moves are controlled and efficient, you should be able to crank out anywhere from 10-20 reps on a given lift. But again, everyone is different and every move is different, so try timing yourself and see how many you get in 40-50 seconds.

4. Rest intervals should be between 45 seconds and 75 seconds.
Any shorter and you are training for conditioning, and any longer you should be training for strength. Honestly, I would say you’re ready to go for the next set when you feel mentally prepared and your muscles don’t feel too sore from the last set.

5. 70% of 1RM is the sweet spot when choosing proper load.
While percentages are accurate, it’s meticulous to calculate 70% of your one-rep max. So you might not want to do it. That’s why I recommend using a weight that you can do 8 reps with while maintaining good form. Nevertheless, if you’ve figured out a weight that you can only lift once (your 1-rep max), then multiply it by 0.7 and you’ve got your weight. Obviously, round to the nearest whole number (I’m doing bench presses of 225.2232 lbs. Where you at?)

6. When in doubt, 3 sets of 8-12 reps with a 301 tempo is a great choice.
As I mentioned above, this general set-rep scheme is very effective for tearing down the muscle and initiating the growth response. Although the original article says the tempo should be 401, I changed it to 301 because 4 seconds on the way up is a long time. Decreasing it by one second isn’t going to make a significant difference in the gains you’ll get.

7. Split up your workouts according to body parts.
A typical split you’ll see goes something like this: Monday is back and biceps. Tuesday is legs (quads, hams, calves). Thursday is chest and triceps. Friday is shoulders and core. That’s just one example. Some hardcore bodybuilders will split their workouts on one body part alone per workout and completely annihilate that body part in the entire workout. Is this realistic and actionable for the average Joe? Nope. Just wanted you to know that such a way of life exists at the gym.

8. If you’re advanced in your lifting ways, use pre-exhaust and post-exhaust techniques.
The name of the game is to tear up the muscle. This means increasing volume and making the muscle do more work. Pre-exhaust means performing isolation exercises on a muscle group before using it in a compound move. Post-exhaust means performing a compound move then finishing with an isolation move. Let’s take the shoulders for example. Pre-exhaust means performing a set of lateral raises (isolation move focusing on the middle head of the shoulder) followed by a standing overhead press (compound move using all three heads of the shoulder). Post-exhaust means performing the overhead press (all three heads of the shoulder) followed by lateral raises (focusing on the middle part of the shoulder). This is done to increase the overall stress on the muscle, which provokes it to grow more than it would have without the added stress of the isolation move before or after the compound move.

9. Training 3 out of every 5 days works very well for hypertrophy
This sets a good balance between getting enough volume and recovery. Now, if you’re advanced in your ways, you can work out 4 days per week. For example, you can exercise on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Take Wednesday and the weekend off. Or you can workout 5 or 6 times per week, but only if you’ve been lifting for at least 2-3 years. 

10. Don’t take sets to failure when training for size.
Leave one or two reps in the tank to insure you can perform the total volume required in the workout and recovery sufficiently. Save the all out efforts for the max strength training days when you need all the energy you can muster to out-perform yourself, smashing records and all that good stuff.


I hope you found this article helpful! Let me know if you have any other health and fitness questions. I’d love to answer them!

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