Muscle building with volume workouts is shown by research to be the most effective. Volume is weight x reps x sets. This would also indicate that the duration of the workout was important.
Research Tests Multiple Groups of Exercisers
Research in many tests showed scientists that a certain amount of volume optimizes muscle growth while an excess reverses results and too little creates no measurable benefits.
It is also suggested that for variety and greater likelihood of affecting all muscle groups intensities can be varied. Optimum results are found lifting loads at 60% capacity for ten reps and four to six sets.
Some research found that five sets of 10 reps and 10 sets of 10 reps were about equal depending on the exercisers capacity to complete workouts. Other research has shown that maximum strength and muscle growth occurs from lifting 80% plus of capacity in sets of 4 to 6 reps.
What is common is that lifting to near failure but not to failure provides the greatest measurable muscle growth and longer duration workouts tax muscles efficiently to cause tears and cause for rebuilding stronger and larger.
A next variable is the frequency. How often does an exerciser want to work out or have time to workout. In this frame, it is important to consider recovery. Muscle is built during rest and can be permanently damaged from too little rest.
Exercisers intent on fat loss with some increase in strength and endurance can lift 50% loads at 20-25 reps in sets of 3 to 8 five days a week. The high rep low load sets don’t tear muscle and recovery is quick.
Loads at capacities of 60% to 80% of One lift Maximum start stressing muscles and exercisers should consider resting a day between workouts or exercising different muscle groups. If the lifter is doing circuits, than rest days are needed. If the lifter is working specific muscle groups, then more successive days can be worked with a two day rest perhaps on the weekend.
Once load capacities begin at 80% to 100%, then work out duration and frequency have to be calculated. The more intense (greater load), the shorter can be the work out. Muscle groups exercised near maximum load should be rested at least 72 hours. Muscle groups can then be alternated on days.
Varying Exercises During the Week
One day might exercise the largest muscle groups with squats, dead lifts, incline and flat bench presses, and military presses. The next day might emphasize smaller muscle groups and more pulls with curls, tricep pull downs, latt pull downs, bench cable rows, single are rows, leg press extension, hamstring curls, and calf raises.
I work out two or three times a week and increase intensities every week. On some exercises I will add load in sets of 4 to 6 reps. On some I will add sets of 10 reps. I might mix the two on one exercise warming up with sets of 10 reps and then push for record weight with sets of 6 reps.
I journal every work out and count the total sets and reps. I also track the weights of every set and can monitor progress on which muscles seem to be getting stronger and more capable of growth. I am cautious to maintain form in all exercises and stop or reduce weights if I am losing form or feel too much strain.
Avoid Injury as a Priority
My first goal is to get through workouts having increased my capacity and not injured or strained any muscles. My second goal is to increase intensity in at least some muscle groups every week. There can be a time when plateauing is adequate to prevent injury and maintain strength.
Maintenance is difference than growth. Growth requires stressing muscles that have adapted. Maximum strength and muscle size growth requires high capacity lifting with 4 to 6 reps. The above research showed that lifting volume with ten sets of 10 reps can create similar gains, but most research suggests sticking with 4 to 6 sets.
Research is often measuring and differing by just a few percentage points. Therefore, zooming out on the overall picture, lots of variety can have the proximate measurable affects and be more fun.