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July 03 2010 The “best” way to add mass

By Iron Addict
Copyright 2009,

I am often asked what training protocol is the “best” for adding sheer size to ones body. When I give the answer, most people that know of me and the “usual” methods I use with “most” of my training clients are usually quite taken aback and confused about my answer.

The answer is “volume” training. Yup, that means tons of sets, lots of lifts, and many days in the gym each week. The majority of the biggest bodybuilders have used this method, both past and present. And the fact is, it works absolute wonders for the “wonders” that it works for. The problem is it only works for a relatively small percentage of the population, regardless of what some would have you believe. I train guys using volume and really like using it. When I am working with a guy that does well on volume work, I am usually working with someone that makes my job easy, because they already posses the genetic predisposition for tolerating high capacity workloads and are generally quite blessed when it comes to adding size.

Back to the real world Joe and Joanne average. Most of us don’t have it so good. I can tolerate volume for 3-4 weeks before I start getting progressively weaker. If I wave load it, I can do it on the long-term, but…results are less than a lower volume routine, for ME. I can’t count the number of people over the years that have said the same thing.

Any time a question like this is asked, it must always contain the context of who is asking. For most people lower volume and frequency is the key to making things happen. But, I will also state that a large number of people do very well on mid-volume routines provided the intensity is low enough, and the frequency is kept to no more than 4 days a week in the gym (3 days being better for most). Low to mid volume bodybuilding routines, conventional and Westside Barbell powerlifting/powerbuilding routines, DC training, and for those that need it, very abbreviated “hard-gainer” style routines are the best way to add mass for “most” people. Why? Because they focus on strength. Many believe if they just spend enough time trying for size they will eventually add enough strength. That is a total backwards way of thinking until you are out-lifting about 90% of the guys in the “average” gym. Most guys are simply not strong enough and therefore lack size. And yes, I am fully aware that if you go too low with the reps, size gains will be limited. A balance is what most people need. Always focusing on adding the next few pounds to the bar, and the next, and the next, and the next…

Strength is not the be-all end-all in bodybuilding. But until you have a solid foundation, it needs to be your primary goal. Most guys are nowhere close to being strong enough to carry the size they aspire to achieve. Lift big, eat big, and you will likely be damn big.

All too many of you reading this are either totally, or at least somewhat convinced that you must do a large number of lifts every session to “hit the muscle from all angles,” thus ensuring “complete” development.  Never mind that your weights are almost totally stagnate, and progress is marginal at best.

So for most people with a limited ability to handle major capacity workloads, the question becomes,”What is the best way to get strong without the training being SO strength-based, that there is not enough time under tension for it to stress the muscle enough that the gains are mostly neural adaptations?” (Which is what very low rep work ends up being for the most part).

What is the best way to get strong? My favorite are Westside Barbell variations as there is enough rep work for great size gains, while providing enough pure strength loading to get you strong ASAP. The low rep work carries over wonderfully to higher rep ranges. Meaning if your 3 rep max bench and squat go up, your higher rep work goes up also. However, the higher reps do not carry over near as well to the lower reps which are better for maximal strength gains.

But keep in mind most of the WSB based routines I write for bodybuilders are MUCH different than the standard WSB format, and are based on the INDIVIDUAL’S ability to handle a particular weekly loading level, as even the standard WSB format over-trains MOST people in a hurry, and needs to be abbreviated from a frequency standpoint, and often volume-wise also. Just because WSB variation are my top pick doesn’t mean I find any fault with low-mid level bodybuilding consisting of 4-9 sets a body-part, as long as they are based on the big compound lifts. Conventional powerlifting, hard-gainer style, and another particular favorite, DC style training, are all wonderfully effective at adding weigh to the bar, and weight to your frame. Max Over-Training even has a few templates that are damn good. These methods are more likely (on a percentage basis) to work for the average trainee, which is what the very VAST majority reading this right now are.

The most important thing most of you will ever do with your training is to quit worrying about, or comparing your training with what others do, and start only worrying about and doing what works for YOU!

Iron Addict

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