A scientific consensus is the prevailing view of the scientific community in a particular discipline. While such a consensus may not yet be the ultimate truth, it can provide valuable information. Now, eight heavyweights from muscle growth science, including Brad Schoenfeld and Eric Helms, have reached a consensus on the best way to build muscle mass, in terms of training. The entire document with stands can be found here, we briefly list them for you.
1. TRAINING WEIGHT
In principle, you can optimally build muscle with both low and high weights, as long as you train close to muscle failure. But in practice, training with light weights causes “discomfort, displeasure and a higher degree of perceived exertion”. Check it out for yourself: squatting with a weight with which you do 20 repetitions is not at all pleasant. Very heavy weights, on the other side, put a strain on your joints and tendons. That is why it is best to train with medium weights, in the range of roughly 6 to 15 repetitions.
In addition, it can benefit you if you also do some work outside that rep range, in short, if you combine different rep ranges.
2. TRAINING VOLUME
Training volume is the amount of work you do, ideally expressed in hard sets. Do at least 10 sets per muscle group per week.
As you get more advanced, you may benefit from higher volumes, especially for muscle groups that are lagging. A possible strategy is specialization blocks where you train lagging muscle groups with higher volumes and the other muscle groups with lower volumes.
3. TRAINING FREQUENCY
With training frequency is meant usually the number of times per week that you train a muscle group. If you do 10 sets per muscle group weekly, you can safely put those sets in one workout; no benefit has been shown from spreading those sets over several sessions per week.
If you do more than 10 sets per muscle group per week, you may benefit from a higher training frequency. In short: do a maximum of 10 sets per muscle group in one session. If you do more sets, spread them over at least two sessions a week.
4. REST INTERVALS
Rest for at least 2 minutes between sets of multi-joint exercises (compounds), such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. With single-joint exercises, such as biceps curls, triceps extensions and leg extensions, you can use shorter rest times: 60 to 90 seconds.
5. EXERCISE SELECTION
A muscle growth program should include a variety of exercises that train muscles from different angles. Also, alternate between single-joint and multi-joint exercises.
6. TRAINING TO MUSCLE FAILURE
A much-discussed topic is whether you should train sets to the limit (until muscle failure, the point when you can no longer do a decent repetition), or whether you should stay away from it, to avoid disproportionate fatigue. The extent to which you train to muscle failure is also called intensity of effort.
The consensus is that novice strength athletes can safely stay a bit away from muscle failure and still achieve optimal muscle growth. As you get more advanced, the intensity of effort becomes more important, which means that you have to keep fewer reps ‘in the tank’. Advanced bodybuilders may benefit from training a few sets to complete muscle failure. But there is also some restraint: preferably you do that only in the last set of an exercise and only in single-joint exercises.
7. ADVANCED TRAINING METHODS
Advanced training methods include techniques such as drop sets, forced reps, supersets and heavy negatives. Whether these provide benefits when training for muscle growth is not clear from the literature so far. Nevertheless, the consensus is that such techniques may provide a new training stimulus and that they can save time, allowing you to train more efficiently.
The entire paper can be downloaded here in PDF format.