Building muscle takes time, effort, patience and knowledge.
The more muscle you add, the more work it takes to keep the muscle. On top of that, if you want to add more muscle mass, you have to increase the workloads.
One must understand their own physiology and apply the correct amount of work in order to stimulate more muscle growth. To keep the body growing, it must constantly be making improvements in order to keep moving forward.
This is the key to building muscle mass – Making improvements in your workouts day after day, month after month, year after year.
There is simply no other way of building muscle and this is why it takes a tremendous amount of work and commitment to keep building more muscle mass.
The real trick is to figure out which methods work best to keep making improvements in your workouts. By this, I mean how to constantly increase the intensity of your workouts that will allow you to keep moving forward. The harder you force your body to work, all things being equal, the higher the chance of building more muscle mass.
The question is how do you keep increasing the intensity of your workouts in order to keep improving? Well, there are a variety of techniques to do this but it comes down to understanding your own physiology and body type. For example, some guys do extremely well working with low repetitions and heavy weight with longer rest periods while others get the best results from using medium / light weight performing higher repetitions with little rest in between sets. Please keep in mind that everyone is different and no two people will respond the same for a given workout routine.
However, in my personal experience, one can improve the intensity of their workouts by using the following measures:
• Use heavier weight than the last workout for the same exercise for the same amount of repetitions and same rest periods;
• Use the same weight as your last workout for the same exercise but for more repetitions using the same rest periods;
• Use the same amount of weight and repetitions as your last workout but do the exercise is less time;
These 3 methods all have one thing common – They help increase the intensity of a persons workouts. All 3 are meant to help one improve from workout to workout with increasing levels of intensity.
However, there are other methods that incorporate the above noted techniques by manipulating exercises, sets, and repetitions. One such technique is called super sets.
If you’re not familiar with super sets, it’s basically a process that allows you to perform two exercises in a simultaneous manner with a minimum of rest in between each exercise. For example, let’s say I want to perform a super set between barbell curls and the close grip bench press. I’d first do a set of barbell curls and immediately do a set of close grip bench press’ with absolutely no rest in between each exercise. This would be considered one super set.
The key to a successful super set is to ensure there is minimal rest time in between each exercise. By doing so, it ensures a higher intensity level that forces your body and muscles to work harder. I’ve personally had great success using super sets because it allowed me to lift heavy weights, work at a faster pace, and perform my workouts in a faster manner. All in all, a great technique to increase intensity levels.
There are varying degrees of super set combinations that will allow you to train at different levels of intensities. Some will perform super sets between two opposing muscle groups (Back and chest for example) while others will perform super sets for the same muscle group (Chest for example). However, to really take your body to the next level and really increase the intensity of your workouts, compound super sets is one sure way to go. It’s one thing to perform a solitary compound movement such as squats but it’s a whole different ball game to super set squats with another compound movement such as stiff legged dead lifts.
I first learned of this technique back in the mid 1990’s from a body building friend of mine in Toronto. I first witnessed him doing super sets between two totally opposing muscle groups. He would bench press 425 pounds for a set of 8 and than do a set of 8 repetitions in the stiff leg dead lifts with 315 pounds. This guy was a total freak but I’m telling you, whatever he was doing, it was working. So I asked him what the deal was with the super sets and he replied that by doing compound super sets, it forced his body to work unbelievably hard. It increased his intensity levels to super human efforts which all translated to hard, dense muscle mass.
I couldn’t argue with the guy because he was a huge, ripped freak!!
As you already know, performing single compound exercises takes an extremem amount of effort. Squats is a perfect example of this and why it’s not as popular as the bench press. It is an extremely hard exercise to perform.
Squats are the perfect muscle building exercise but to get the most from this exercise, you have to put in the effort. Now imagine doing two compound exercises such as squats and barbell bent over rows in a super set fashion. This type of exercise (Compound superset) will take a huge amount of effort but the rewards far outweigh the effort.
With that in mind, I performed my own experiments with compound super sets. I wanted to take a break from my current training routine and try something totally different. With that in mind, I re-arranged my training routine and experimented with compound super sets for 6 weeks.
Here is the type of compound super set routine I used at the time:
Day 1: Super set chest and back
Exercise 1: Super set bench press with barbell bent rows
Exercise 2: Super set incline dumbbell press with chin ups
Exercise 3: Super set dips with barbell dead lifts
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Super set quadriceps with hamstrings – Trained calves alone
Exercise 1: Super set squats with stiff leg dead lifts
Exercise 2: Super set leg press with lying dumbbell curls
Exercise 3: Super set lunges with standing leg curls
Exercise 4: Perform standing calf raises
Day 4: Super set shoulders
Exercise 1: Super set barbell press with standing side dumbbell laterals
Exercise 2: Super set dumbbell press with bent over laterals
Exercise 3: Super set upright rows with barbell shrugs
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: Super set biceps and triceps – Trained abs alone
Exercise 1: Super set standing barbell curls with close grip bench press
Exercise 2: Super set seated alternate curls with standing cable press downs
Exercise 3: Super set barbell preacher curls with lying barbell extensions (Skull crushers)
Exercise 4: Ab crunches
Day 7: Rest
The results were simple amazing. The super sets forced my body work to insanely hard levels and each workout was harder than the next. Because of the super high intensity levels, every part of my body grew. I actually burned body fat while my muscles kept growing! I think it was because this type of routine forces your body to burn a huge amount of calories while forcing your muscles to work harder and harder.
However, I could only keep this up for 8 weeks before my body started to stagnate. I don’t know what it was but I couldn’t take my body any further. It is for this reason that I will perform this type of routine once, maybe twice a year to really shake things up and increase the intensity of my weight training program. I won’t make this type of routine a staple routine because it is simply too taxing for my body type. I will, however, use this routine to boost intensity levels when it is needed.
A word to the wise. Use this type of routine only if you have the will, commitment, time, and dedication to really work hard. This routine is not for the faint of heart so if you want to try something totally different and take your program in a different direction, give compound super sets a try.
As I was mentioning before, understanding your own physiology is very important in determining how well you respond to different types of weight training routines. It has taken me years to figure out which types of routines and diet works best for me. If there is one thing that I’ve learned in the iron game is that no two people will react the same to an identical routine and diet. I’ve written a whole article about this phenomenon at the following address:
For those of you who want a complete, custom 9 week system designed for your body type, you have to check out Kyle Leon’s program “The Evolution of Building Muscle”. I highly recommend this system. You can check it out here.
All the best and good luck,
P.S If you need to see exercise descriptions and illustrations, please click the following link:
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.