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We throw a lot of information at you in Muscle & Fitness every month, but that doesn’t mean you have to start applying it all at once. Too many lifters overthink their training, trying to figure out how many reps of curls they need or if their rest periods are short enough. Analyzing your program to this extent will only hold you back.
You want to know which approach works best? Consistency. And hard work. You see, all kinds of exercises, rep ranges, and rest periods will bring gains. Case in point: This year, the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport compared two kinds of periodization programs and their effects on strength. One was old-fashioned linear periodization, in which you start off using lighter weights and higher volume and then progress to heavy weights and low volume. The other was undulating periodization, in which the volume and intensity change each workout. The result: Both protocols brought strength gains, and there was no significant difference between the groups.
The inexact science of muscle can be good news for you. It means less time stressing over the small factors and more time applying the principles that get results. Here’s what you need to do.
1. Use a Wide Range of Reps: Sets of one to five are best for strength, while medium reps (six to 12) will build more pure size. Occasionally, sets of 15 or more can be used as well to target the growth potential of more endurance-oriented muscle fibers.
2. Stick With Basic Lifts: Everyone knows that squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows get the job done. However, doing these lifts from different angles and using different pieces of equipment will challenge your muscles, too.
3. Train as Long as You Like: A new study showed that subjects who trained in different time blocks that all equaled 60 minutes over the course of a week got the same results. So as long as you get the work you need to grow, workout length doesn’t matter.