various rogue weights on the floor

The most important thing is to increase volume (slightly) over time (Fact)

The science of building muscle is complicated, and you would need a PHD to truly understand the complexities and mechanisms of muscle growth – but as world renowned powerlifting coach Louie Simmons would say “You don’t have to have invented toilet paper to know how to use it” . The truth, is growing muscle is relatively simple, if you ignore all the noise, false claims and gimmicks that surround the subject.

All you need to do is stay in the muscle building rep range 5-20 Reps (Yes, it’s wide) and slowly push up volume over time according to (Schoenfeld et al 2017).

Volume being : Sets x Reps x Weight.

Let’s take the example of a squat :  4 Sets of 10 Reps at 100kg = 4000kg

Then for your next work-out, you would increase to :  

4 Sets of 10 at 100.5kg = 4020kg    or    5 Sets of 10 at 100kg= 5000kg      or        4 Sets of 11 at 100.5kg = 4400kg

Increase one variable in the equation, slightly over …. boom new muscle.  Otherwise, over the course of months increase set, then reps, then load, there is no strict rules apart from, increase SOMETHING. However, a word of warning, if you intend to increase sets, which isn’t a bad idea at all, and is my go to ,then don’t go above 6-7 Sets . Indeed, according to Amirthalingam et al  (2017) sets above 6-7 induce overtraining and going above 6-7 doesn’t  increase muscle growth for the average trainee.

Young muscular woman in sportswear squatting with heavy barbell in spacious gym.
healthy food in lunch box

Eat some food (Fact)

This is simply thermodynamics, you cannot create or destroy matter only merely change it. So, how does this apply to muscle growth ?  Muscle don’t come out of nowhere, you need to be in a slight calorie surplus with about 2g of protein for every kg of BW (Body Weight). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked “why aren’t are growing” ;  only you ask “how much have you been eating?” followed by a shrug of the shoulders. Understanding what  you need to eat is most of the battle when it comes to growing muscle. Put that work in the kitchen or at least have a plan.,

Light weight will make you toned (Myth)

Toned is not a thing! If your consulting with a trainer and you decide to say to the coach “I want to get toned”,  congratulations , you have just made the trainer want to jump from a window and face planet into the concrete or poke their own eyes on with scissors. Don’t worry, they won’t.

“Toned” is a body fat% around 10-12% for men and 15-18% for women with a certain amount of muscle development.Lights weights will not achieve this. If this is your goal, then the question is, where am I starting from?

If you have muscle but a layer of fat covering that glistening six pack , then fat loss and muscle maintenance is your path. You must lift some reasonable heavy weights (that you can lift at least 10 times) and be in a slight calorie deficit to achieve this goal.

However, if you have low body fat but no muscle then, yes you need to build some muscle without putting on fat ; once again, you need to lift some reasonable heavy weight and manipulate your food intake. So, please but the 2kg pink dumbbell away, it won’t help.

series of colorful dumbbells on the floor
Man Lifting weights in Gym

Time under tension (Myth)

I heard this mantra repeated by a lot of iron freaks and even other personal trainers. It was popularised by Charles Poliquin, the legendary strength coach.

It has been prophesized that the optimal way to build muscle is that every rep has to last between 4-8 seconds with an agonizing downward phase. Unfortunately, this isn’t echoed in the science research. Indeed, with a meta analyse from Brad Schoenfeld (2016) demonstrating that increasing the downward phase, anything past 0.6 second doesn’t make any difference.

So, the moral of the story is just control the downwards phase.  Although, standardizing every rep with a specific tempo does make recoding your workout more precise and we like precise.

Change up your exercise every workout (Myth)

The ADD approach to exercise selection is a sure-fire way to hold back your progress. Switching to whatever the fad of the week exercise because your favourite instagram influencers has posted it, is not a good idea.

Look, it’s human nature to be drawn to novelty, so when you see something new & shiny, you’re going to be drawn to it, but don’t fall for this trick; Some of the best progress I’ve seen are when a client get better for rep of 8-12 on squats, pull-ups, bench, bent over rows, overhead press and bent over rows (the classics if you want) not cable kick back and frog pumps and box jumps.

In short, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, keep it simple, track your progress and change the exercise every 12 weeks at the least.  Muscle confusion is pure bro science.

cross fit balls on the floor of a gym


So in a nutshell, what you have to remember from this article is the 5 below points : 
  • Increase Volume Load Over Time
  • Be in slight calorie surplus, make sure you get 2g of protein for every kg of body weight
  • Light weight doesn’t make you toned
  • Controlling the downward phase of lift is good enough
  • Change up your exercise every 8-12 weeks and track your progress


Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, 35, 1073-1082.

Amirthalingam, T., Mavros, Y., Wilson, G. C., Clarke, J. L., Mitchell, L., & Hackett, D. A. (2017). Effects of a modified German volume training program on muscular hypertrophy and strength. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 31(11), 3109-3119.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., & Krieger, J. W. (2013). The effect of protein timing on    muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10, 53.

Stone, M. H., Stone, M., & Sands, W. A. (2007). Principles and practice of resistance training. Human Kinetics. (Different between beginners and other)

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