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Which One Is The Best Bodybuilding Routine To Make The Quickest Gains

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shot of a male bodybuilder as he lifts a weight.
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Question: Which One Is The Best Bodybuilding Routine To Make The Quickest Gains
I’ve been bodybuilding for a year now and while the first 8 months I made some really good bodybuilding gains, they now seem to have come to a standstill. I’ve been using the same routine that I got out of a bodybuilding magazine for the past 6 months. This routine really delivered good results at first but now it does not seem to do much for me. Is it that I am using the wrong routine? Is there a better bodybuilding routine out there that I should be using?
Answer: When I'm asked which one is the best routine to perform when looking for bodybuilding gains, my answer always is to use a bodybuilding routine that you have never used before. In this manner you always keep the body guessing. The quickest route to stagnation and lack of gain is to follow a bodybuiding routine for months to an end with no changes to it.

Initially, when you start using a new bodybuilding workout your body needs to learn how to cope with the stress. It does this by growing the muscle, provided that your bodybuilding diet and rest are in order. However, once the nervous system begins to adapt, the body then starts activating less and less fibers every time that the workout is performed. This is one of the ways in which the body prevents itself from growing out of control. You have to keep in mind that your body does not want to change and it will do whatever it takes to stay the same. Remember from your biology class that the body likes to stay in a state of homeostasis (a state of balance and no change). The way to get around this is by varying your bodybuilding workouts.

In your bodybuilding journey you will discover that the more advanced you become, the more you have to vary your training tactics. Now, variation works best when it is performed as part of a logical plan of periodization, which is just a fancy term that means changing your sets, repetition and rest parameters in a way that will yield the fastest results. The best way to periodize your workouts in my experience is to alternate periods of high volume (high sets, high reps, small rest in between sets) with periods of lower volume (lower sets, lower reps, and longer rest in between sets). The reason I like this periodization model the most is because the muscle grows in two ways:

  1. Hypertrophy caused by an increase in energy substances in the muscle cell (such as creatine and glycogen): This type of hypertrophy is caused by training that is high in volume (8-12 reps) with limited rest in between sets. This type of training enhances growth hormone output and lactic acid production. (Note: If you stop training that is the reason that the muscles shrink so fast. The amount of the stored substances inside the muscle cell just go back to normal and the muscle shrinks).

  2. Hypertrophy caused by an increase in the diameter of the muscle fiber (actual muscle growth): It seems that this type of muscle growth stays longer after a period of no training than the first type. I don't know if there are any studies out there that will back this up, but based on empirical evidence, this seems to be the case. This type of growth is caused by training that emphasizes long rests in between sets (2.5 to 3 minutes) and low reps (4-8). This type of training enhances testosterone level output. It seems like it takes longer to achieve this type of growth than the first one, but it is well worth it.
Variation, of course, is also achieved by varying the bodybuilding exercises themselves, so for instance if you were using a barbell incline bench press on your last routine, switch that to its dumbbell variation on the next routine. Every change that is performed to your bodybuilding workout will elicit an adaptation response from your body in the form of increased muscle growth. As you even get more advanced you can then even begin to vary the exercise tempo, which is the speed at which you move the weight up and control it on the way down. Other advanced techniques like partial reps, descending sets and forced reps can be incorporated as well, but again, this is after a good 5 to 6 years of solid training. For now, play around with the variables of sets, repetitions, rest in between sets, and exercise selection.

Sample Bodybuilding Routine Using Periodization
For a sample bodybuilding routine that uses periodization, please click here.

After you complete that routine successfully, then go back to a 1 Week Active Recovery Phase as stated on the routine above and then, after that, you can use my favorite bodybuilding training routine which is the 10 sets of 10 reps method.

After 3-6 weeks of doing this sort of high volume training, it is time to switch to a heavier type of workout in order to keep results coming. This is where the 5 Sets of 5 Reps Routine can come into play. Do it for 3-6 weeks also and then go back to an Active Recovery Week.

Keep in mind that in order to make the best bodybuilding gains, your nutrition needs to match your goal, so please take a look at my Sample Bodybuilding Diets Guide in order to learn how to design an individualized diet plan.

About The Author
Hugo Rivera, About.com's Bodybuilding Guide and ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, is a nationally-known best-selling author of over 8 books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men", "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women", "The Hardgainer's Bodybuilding Handbook", and his successful, self published e-book, "Body Re-Engineering". Hugo is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion. Click here for more information on Hugo Rivera.

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