For years the "Bro-Split" has been seen as the best workout method to pack on the muscle and get the body builder/ super hero aesthetic that so many of us aspire to achieve. For those who aren't familiar, the Bro-Split entails that you hit each major muscle group once a week with a rep range between 8-12 reps per set.
Don't get me wrong, this will absolutely get some results and if you plug away with it long enough (and stay disciplined with your diet like any plan requires) you will hit your goal. But wouldn't you like to know that you are going about reaching your goals in the BEST way?
Over the last decade Dr. Brad Schoenfeld has taken it upon himself to challenge many of the norms that were seen in hypertrophy (muscle gainz). I will not force you to sit through the dense research paper writing as I have (look up Brad on google if you would like to do so), so I will summarize what I have taken away from his papers in regards to the "best practices" for gaining muscle mass, beginning with the nutritional aspect.
Nutrition for Hypertrophy:
Calorie Intake for losing weight- 13-14 calories per pound of ideal body weight.
Calorie Intake for maintenance- 17 calories per pound of ideal body weight.
Calorie Intake for weight gain- 20-21 calories per pound of ideal body weight.
Make sure you are consuming at least 1.6 - 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for muscle synthesis. This protein needs to have a full compliment of essential amino acids. If you take an animal based protein, you are fine. If you take a plant based protein, you'll need to do some research to make sure it is a full compliment and if not, supplement the missing amino acids.
The post-exercise anabolic window is NOT limited to 20 minutes. It depends on when you ate your last meal, but typically you won't need to consume more protein until 4-5 hours after your last meal to avoid catabolism. There is no downside to consuming protein quickly after your workout, so if you can, do so.
Fitness Guidelines for Hypertrophy
Frequency- Muscle growth was the highest when each muscle group was trained 2x/week (rather than the bro-split 1x/wk). Legs should be prioritized as they play a big part of muscle mass.
Volume- 10+ sets per week per muscle trained showed much greater muscle growth than anything less. With more trained individuals, this number may need to climb closer to 15-20 sets per week, but be sure to deload and bring the volume down every so often to avoid overtraining.
Rep range- The typical 8-12 reps @ 65% - 75% intensity has been debunked as the "ideal rep range" for muscle growth. Will this still work? Sure! But ultimately it depends on what your goal is. Similar muscle growth was seen with a range of 12-25 reps @ 50% - 60% intensity and showed higher type 1 fiber growth as a result. This rep range would also help with Muscle Endurance. The biggest factor is to work in various different rep ranges. The most counter-productive thing you could do for muscle growth is stay in the same rep range forever. Variety is key!
The importance of variety- If you are looking to maximize muscle growth and stay healthy it is hugely important to vary your exercises, rep ranges, and volume. Planned variation is called periodization and if you struggle with this aspect of workout design, one of our trainers can gladly help you! Periodization helps to ensure that you maintain healthy movement patterns, move all joints through all ranges of motion, and prevent overtraining which can result in serious injuries.
What workouts to focus on- Unless you are a very experienced body builder, it is important to build the foundation of your muscle and strength with compound movements (squats, bench press, deadlifts, pull ups, etc). You can do some isolation/ single joint movements (curls, tricep kick backs, etc) but this should not be the focus of your program. It is too time consuming and neglects key movement patterns.