In this series of Q & A’s, we tap into the knowledge base of some of the most respected and knowledgeable heads in the industry, this episode with Project AD coach – Austin Stout, drawing on massive experience in prepping athletes for the sport he loves.
Is it best to vary rep ranges when training solely for hypertrophy/muscle gain, or is there a sweet spot bodybuilders should generally stick to?
You will see a lot of debate on this in the community but its mostly hear say based on preference. When we look at the actual literature on the topic, it really doesn’t matter much. The “effective” range for hypertrophy is pretty broad. We can progress in the mid-single digits clear up to the 20+ range.
One factor to consider here though is intensity. Regardless of the rep range, the literature shows that we need to meet a minimal intensity threshold. Even then, the intensity range varied a lot. There were still pretty similar results in the 30% of max load range compared to much higher.
At the end of the day, where the person feels best and performs best is probably best. We know that progressive overload is also important. Progressively overloading on a regular basis in the 15+ rep range might be a pretty daunting task. Knowing you must try to crush PR sets of 15 on squats is enough to psych anyone out. Others may love it though. Bottom line is it doesn’t matter much. I prefer to see a wide range of rep counts used in a program depending on the exercise and context.
What is the optimal training frequency for muscle growth?
This is much like the topic of rep ranges in that it doesn’t really matter much. Some newer research may point toward slightly higher frequency but at the end of the day it depends heavily on volume. A person needs to complete the amount of volume required to progress. How they spread it out in terms of frequency isn’t really important.
In general, I feel people recovery better and have more productive training sessions with a bit less volume per body part per session spread into higher frequency but that’s not across the board. Some do perfectly fine with the traditional “bro split” spreading volume per body part over 1 day each week. Body parts that are lagging and need more attention may play into frequency set up as well.
Training twice per day: are there any circumstances where you would advise this for muscle growth if somebody has the time?
Its possible sure, just not going to be doable for most. Time would be part of the concern, but the recovery equation is main concern. Now if we go back to the frequency question, you can see how 2x per day could work. If you are still hitting the correct volume, you could certainly spread it out over 2x per day sessions. The person may simply be able to get themselves more mentally in tune for shorter sessions. On the other hand, hammering the nervous system 2x per day could really run them down quickly.
I have used a 2 x per day scheme with a few people over the years but its usually short terms. It’s usually intentionally periodizing overreaching due to their schedule. For example, I have worked with some people that will do things like work 10 days on then 10 days off and repeat. Or they have very heavy seasons at work and seasons where they are hardly working at all. I will intentionally periodize really demanding training blocks during the light times and 2 x per day sessions could very well be part of that. Then during the heavy workloads, I will have them back off training drastically since they are already under higher stress.
Armed with your new knowledge, go out and attack progress like never before! Austin is one of the most respected in the game, so take the time to assimilate his info and go and apply it to your own training and nutritional regime to get results.