Anyway, I received an e-mail earlier today asking me what the single greatest "approach" is for building muscle mass. In other words, what kind of workout program seems to elicit the best gains in both building muscle mass and garnering strength gains. I started to answer with one of the more popular lines from strength coaches (and one of the most redundant): "The best workout program is the one you're not doing."
Then I decided that was a bit of a cop-out.
Truth is, I do have a favorite approach. And that's the high-set, low-rep approach. I'm talking 10 to 20 sets of anywhere between 1 and 5 reps. Pick one or two exercises at each workout. I also like to pair an upper body pulling movement with a lower body pushing movement on one day, then an upper body pushing movement with a lower body pulling movement on another day, then have a day reserved for arm training, calf training, ab training—you know, the small stuff. I find this is about as good as it gets.
Here's what a good workout might look like:
Squats: 15 sets of 3 reps
Wide-Grip Chins: 20 sets of 3 reps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses: 20 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts: 15 sets of 2 reps
Barbell Curls: 20 sets of 3 reps
Skullcrushers: 15 sets of 5 reps
Ab Wheel: 20 sets of 5 to 10 reps (Okay, I know that the reps are a little bit higher here, but that's for those of you who are conditioned enough to handle it.)
Repeat with a different 5-day cycle of exercises
Simple, but highly effective stuff.