I have put in a great deal of effort researching and thinking about how to maximize the results I see from lifting while minimizing the time I spend in the gym. Like most people, I have many other things competing for my time and I like to see fast results. I am going to talk about a few pieces of misinformation commonly spread in the fitness community that could waste your time and effort. So, whether you are about to start your first lifting routine or have been a gym rat for years, here are a few ways to maximize the results and efficiency of your weight training.
Ditch the Bro Split
In a drug-free lifter, muscle protein synthesis is only elevated for 24 to 48 hours after being stimulated by exercise. This means that if you want to make the most of the time you spend in the gym and gain strength and size as quickly as possible, you should be working out all the muscles you want to grow every 48 hours. The all too popular “Bro Split” routines have a person hitting each muscle group once a week. These routines are not optimal for drug-free athletes because they will only induce muscle growth in each body part 2 days a week. Full body routines or upper/lower splits should be used instead.
Ditch Isolation Movements
Isolation exercises confine all movement to one joint (think bicep curls and calf raises) while compound lifts involve movement in multiple joints (think bench press and squats). Many bodybuilding routines rely heavily on the use of isolation exercises but this is not time and effort efficient. There is certainly a place for isolation exercises to target specific muscle weaknesses but the most effective workout routines are built on compound lifts. Not only do compound lifts save time by working out multiple muscles groups simultaneously, but they have also been shown to increase testosterone more effectively than isolation exercises.
Ditch the Pump
Many bros focus on maximizing the “pump” or temporary swelling of muscles due to an increase in blood volume. They don’t focus on progression and end up using the same weights workout after workout, week after week, and not making substantial gains. That is because, in drug-free lifters, the pump is not a driver of muscle growth or strength gain. What will result in substantial gains is progressive overload or the increase of work and intensity over time. This can mean lifting more weight, doing more sets, more reps, or taking shorter breaks between sets. In any case, making progress every week in each exercise is the best way for a drug-free lifter to make consistent strength and size gains.
To give an example of what an efficient routine might look like, here is a sample full body workout that I might do every other day. It focuses on all the major muscle groups, can be completed in as little as 30 minutes, and offers major gains if used with the principle of progressive overload.
Bench Press 3 sets x 5-8 reps
Squat 3 sets x 6-10 reps
Rack Pull 2-3 sets x 5-8 reps
Chin Up 3 sets x 6-10 reps
OHP 3 sets x 5-8 reps