Whats Best for Increasing Muscle Mass and Strength

Written by Robbie Durand

Mike Mentzer was correct in that there is an exact science to training. In the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research this month, it was reported that you can take two identical workouts and train with the exact same total work performed yet have different gain. It has been my experience, that many bodybuilders can learn how to get better results by periodizing their workouts. Periodization is simply the organization and planning of training. In sport, this planning is usually based upon achieving maximum physical abilities (strength, speed, power, etc.) for a given competition or period of competitions. For a more in depth look of how to changing your training routine can make a difference, please visit my interview with Eric Broser of NO JUICE BODYBUILDING on the new MD AUDIO ONLINE Page which can be found on the Muscular Development homepage.

Training is an exact science

-Mike Mentzer

Mike Mentzer was correct in that there is an exact science to training. In the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research this month, it was reported that you can take two identical workouts and train with the exact same total work performed yet have different gain. It has been my experience, that many bodybuilders can learn how to get better results by periodizing their workouts. Periodization is simply the organization and planning of training. In sport, this planning is usually based upon achieving maximum physical abilities (strength, speed, power, etc.) for a given competition or period of competitions. For a more in depth look of how to changing your training routine can make a difference, please visit my interview with Eric Broser of NO JUICE BODYBUILDING on the new MD AUDIO ONLINE Page which can be found on the Muscular Development homepage.

Among the periodization models, there is the classical linear periodization (LP), which divides a strength training program into different periods or cycles: macrocycles (9-12 months), mesocycles (3-4 months), and microcycles (1-4 weeks), gradually increasing the training intensity while decreasing the training volume within and between cycles1. Reverse linear periodization (RLP) follows the modification in intensity and volume, however, in a reverse order as compared with LP, increasing volume and reducing intensity2. So basically, reverse linear periodization starts with a higher weight poundages and then gradually reduces the weights as the weeks go on, whereas a linear system starts out with lighter weights and then gradually increases the weight poundages. The researchers from Brazil devised a really interesting training routine to compare the effects of linear versus reverse linear training systems on strength and muscle. Another important variable considered was that for both training groups, the intensity and the volume were equated. In linear periodization, training intensity (load, or weight) is increased each microcycle (1-4 weeks), and the volume (amount, or number of repetitions) is decreased. The researchers varied the training to vary between a 4 repetition maximum and a 14 repetition maximum.

1.One group started off with higher reps and a lighter weight and gradually increased the weight, while decreasing the reps. – gradually increasing the training intensity while decreasing the training volume within and between cycles.
2.One group used a heavier weight with less reps- increasing volume and reducing intensity.

Sample Training Systems for Linear and Reverse Linear Training
Whats Best for Increasing Muscle Mass and Strength
Prestes, J, Lima, C.; Frollini, A,; Donatto, F 2; Conte, M. Comparison of Linear and Reverse Linear Periodization Effects on Maximal Strength and Body Composition. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 23(1):266-274, January 2009.

Linear Periodization Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Greater than Reverse Linear
At the end of 12 weeks, the volume and intensity of the two programs were exactly the same however, the results were dramatically different. Both groups increase muscle strength; however, the linear periodization program had greater increases in upper and lower body strength. More shockingly, the linear periodization program increased lean muscle mass and decreased body fat, however the reverse linear program made no noticeable changes in lean muscle mass or strength.

The study concludes that if you plan your workouts for the next few weeks, always plan to train from a lower training intensity to a higher one. Traditional strength gains The occur during the first weeks of training are more dependent on neural adaptations (1-8 weeks); therefore, after this period, more significant alterations may occur in muscle mass and fat mass. The present study suggests that exercise routines constantly need to be changed for progressive increases in strength and muscle mass but the adaptation period in an essential part; always train from a perspective of gradually increasing training intensity.

Key Points:

A weight training program that uses a periodized training system (gradually increasing the training intensity while decreasing the training volume within and between cycles) is superior for increasing lean muscle mass and strength compared to a reverse linear program (increasing volume and reducing intensity.)

1. Rhea, MR, Ball, SB, Phillips, WT, and Burkett, LN. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodization with equated volume and intensity for strength. J Strength Cond Res 16: 250-255, 2002.
2. Rhea, MR, Phillips, WT, Burkett, LN, Stone, WJ, Ball, SB, Alvar, BA, and Thomas, AB. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for local muscular endurance. J Strength Cond Res 17: 82-87, 2003.
3. Prestes, J, Lima, C.; Frollini, A,; Donatto, F 2; Conte, M. Comparison of Linear and Reverse Linear Periodization Effects on Maximal Strength and Body Composition. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 23(1):266-274, January 2009.


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