Are you frustrated with busting your butt in the gym hour after hour, month after month, and year after year with little or no results to show for it? Are you frustrated with all of the conflicting information about how to train? I AM PROMISING YOU RIGHT NOW THAT IF YOU FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE TO A TEE, YOU WILL BUILD MUSCLE IN THE SHORTEST TIME POSSIBLE - GUARANTEED!!! I am confident that you will see me as a source for all of your bodybuilding, health, and fitness pursuits. How do I plan to do that? Simply by providing you with the truth and a plan that will work at least three times faster than anything else you have ever tried before. My mission is to spread the word and educate as many as I can...whether that be just one, one hundred, or one thousand.

What I am going to uncover in this article is the basis for all my training. It is not the ONLY way that I train by any means. But it does form the foundation for each of my training cycles and it is always by far the most result producing of all my phases and, subsequently, makes all of the phases that follow more productive. I did not create the following concepts that I am about to dispel to you. But, for over a fifteen years now, I have taken the combination of scientific knowledge and real world trial and error (through not only training myself, but almost 2,000other individuals) and provided our industry with a no B.S. approach to weightlifting. I am giving you a very valuable tool - - a tool that has created some of the greatest drug-free competitors in our sport (Skip Lacour, Jeff Willet, Derik Farnsworth, and Earl Snyder).

The basis of my training lies on the fact that there is not just ONE way to train. Obviously there isn’t, as proven by the countless training styles of such great physiques throughout history. Through trial, error, and research I have formulated the perfect cycling method for everyone. The body is a very adaptive organism and to insure that we avoid the dreaded “plateau” as well as injury, smart/calculated changes need to be made on a consistent basis.

The scope of this article is going to cover the one true variable in all the phases of my cycle training approach - “overload.” You may or may not know what the definition of overload is. If you do - great. If not, learn it inside and out, upside and down. Put it to use 1000% and reap the rewards. Overload is the #1 factor in all training.

Overload Training

Before I dive in, I want everyone reading this to do one thing for the rest of his or her training life - Always, always ask yourself "why" you are doing something. If you do not have a logical, scientifically proven reason to your "why," do not do it. I tell you this because as I lay the program out for you, I will explain each principle in detail. You will not just walk away knowing the "what’s," but you will be educated in the "whys."

To understand the principles behind Overload Training, you must first understand the physiological process of building muscle. One thing and only one thing is responsible for building muscle, providing your muscle(s) with a stress that it is not used to and this is accomplished three different ways:

1. Increased weight used
2. Increased reps done with the a certain weight
3. Doing the same reps with the a certain weight in a shorter period of time.

Guess what? That right there is overload.

That is why so many people can train so many different ways and achieve some sort of muscular response from it. Some will do 6 reps, some 12 reps, and even some 15 reps or more. Some people use supersets, some straight sets, some drop sets. Everybody has their own way of how to build muscle and they all work to some degree.

How can that be?

If you are providing your muscle with more work (weight, reps, sets, etc) than it was previously used to, no matter how you stimulate it, it is going to respond with some growth.

You may be asking what difference does it make how you train if all training has the ability of stimulating some growth.

Well if you are like me you are not after just some growth…you are after MAXIMUM GROWTH! And if you are anything like me you are after it in the shortest possible time. We are unfortunately involved in an activity that allows us to do things (for lack of a better word) "wrong" and still get some results. Do not settle for some results. Train the BEST way possible and maximize your results.

The Cycle Training Approach

As mentioned, cycle training is your best approach. Cycle training allows you to avoid injury, avoid plateaus, train all muscle fibers for maximum growth, and stay mentally stimulated (just to name a few). I virtually use a 3 phase system - Maximum Strength Phase, Hypertrophy (or Muscle Stimulation) Phase, and the Muscle Defining (or Fat Burning) Phase. All phases (outside of transitional phases, which are more of an Active Rest phase) are based solely on one of these three phases or a combination of two. No matter what phase I am in or what the priority of the phase may be, one thing remains constant - the overload principle.

My Ultimate Training System usually starts with a pivotal Maximum Strength and Growth Phase. Whether you train using a cycle training approach or not, the principles behind my Strength and Growth Phase should be respected and followed at some point in your training. Let’s take a look at the principles behind this phase:

Principle #1
Do not train for more than an hour.
It is scientifically proven that this shorter duration training maximizes your hormonal spikes. Training any longer is going to increase your secretion of cortisol, a catabolic hormone. Your routines also need to have a "sprint-like" quality to them to maintain maximum intensity. If you train too long you are going to pace yourself, whether that be consciously or subconsciously. No matter what phase I am in, I try not to go over the one hour mark.
Principle #2
Train only 1 to 2 major muscle groups (and maybe 1 minor muscle) in a workout.
This allows you to take advantage of Principle #1, yet still take a multi-angle/multi-exercise approach to training your body parts. It has psychological benefits, as well. You are more apt to pour more into your workouts if you know you are only hitting one or two muscle groups in a given workout. Note: if you are only able to get to the gym 3 times a week, then this principle is obviously obsolete.

Principle #3
Perform no more than 4-6 exercises TOTAL in a workout.
More is not better! Depending on how you split your bodyparts up, this will allow you 2-3 exercises per major muscle group. That is plenty if you are hitting it hard enough! I am not counting the minor body parts in this total (abs, calves, forearms, etc.)

Principle #4
Do no more than 2 heavy sets per exercise.
If you are pouring maximum intensity into your workouts, you won't need more. And if you are performing 3 exercises for a major muscle group, that will be 6 heavy, result-producing sets. The stronger and more experienced you are, the less you may need. Also, with the given rest periods that will be prescribed, this is about all you could accomplish in the recommended time frame. Note: “Heavy” sets do not include warm-up sets.

Principle #5
Do 4 to 6 reps per compound movement AND 5 to 8 reps per isolation movement.
This is the heart and soul of the Strength and Growth Phase. It is one of the Principles that separates it from other phases. For you to get the most muscle growth possible, you want to attack the muscle fibers that have the most growth potential - - your white, fast-twitched muscle fibers. Any other fiber has minimal growth potential in comparison and it is scientifically documented that the way to hit these white fibers is with a heavy weight in a 4 to 6 rep range. The reason I say do 5-8 reps for isolation movements (lateral raises, curls, tricep extensions, etc.) is that the leverages on those movements are just not great to go as low as 4-6. Do so, and you will probably find yourself with some nagging training injuries very quickly like tendonitis or bursitis.

Higher rep ranges draw excess lactate into the muscle, thus fatiguing the muscle (not always a bad thing, but definitely what we are after in this phase). Remember... overload builds muscle, not fatigue. If you are constantly pulling lactate into the muscle, you will hinder your performance and shortchange your overload. Lastly, the added benefit of the 4 to 6 rep range is the "focus” element. It is a lot easier to put forth 100% mental intensity into a set that lasts 15-20 seconds than a set that would last double that time.

Principle #6
Rest 2 to 3 minutes between sets of a compound movement.
This is another element critical to the Strength and Growth Phase. A scientifically proven aspect of performance is that it can take anywhere from 90 seconds to 3 minutes for your Krebs’s cycle to recover maximally, depending on the muscle being worked, the amount of weight used, and the exercise being performed. Again, if you do not fully recover between sets you are going to compromise your next set performance. Thus, in turn, would shortchange your overload on your target muscle. Optimal rest-time between sets in a Strength and Growth Phase would be 2 1/2 minutes, so set your stopwatches.

Now, because of the reduced overload and the enhance recovery factor, isolation movements don’t need as long. Half of the above recommended time is usually enough. A good rule of thumb that I use is rest 1 minute for every joint that is moved within a movement. That means the more compound the movement, the more rest. For example, in the squat you have movement at the hips, knees, and ankles - - thus I would rest for three minutes between sets. For bench presses, there is movement at the shoulders and elbows - - I would rest 2 minutes. And movements like calf raises where I only move at the ankle (1 joint) - - I would rest 1 minutes between sets.

Principle #7
Train only 4 days a week with weights AND not more than two days in a row.
Recovery is key to growth! Train too much, too long, or too often and you will impede your recovery…aka, your growth. Plus, your intensity will suffer! You will find yourself hungrier for your training if you don’t do it every day.

Principle #8
Train each muscle once every 5 to 7 days.
It has been shown time and time again that a muscle can take up to 9 days to fully recover from a heavy, high-intensity workout. Get this straight if you don't already know it...WE DO NOT GROW IN THE GYM! Our lifting is just the stimulus for muscle growth. The recovery process is where the muscle responds by growing stronger and bigger, readying itself for future stress. If you do not allow full and complete recovery of your muscles, you will impede your growth and soon venture into the realm of overtraining.

Now that I have laid out the principles of Strength and Growth for you, you are probably asking yourself what a typical routine would look like. Below is one that I have used myself as well as with my personal training clients with great success. This routine is a great template for all of you to start with in your quest for MAXIMUM MUSCLE!

Mondays – Shoulders and Triceps
Seated or Standing Barbell Press (4 warm-up sets) 2 x 4-6
Seated Dumbbell Press 2 x 4-6
Side Lateral Raise (1 acclimation set) 2 x 5-8
Closegrip Bench Press (2-3 warm-up sets) 2 x 4-6
Decline Lying Extensions (1 acclimation set) 2 x 5-8
Pushdowns 2 x 5-8

Tuesdays - Legs
Leg Press (4 warm-up sets) 2 x 4-6
Front Squat (1-2 acclimation sets) 2 x 4-6
Leg Extensions (1 acclimation set if needed) 2 x 5-8
Leg Curls (1 acclimation set, if needed) 2 x 5-8
Stiffleg/Romanian Deadlift (1 acclimation set, if needed) 2 x 5-8
Standing Leg Curls 2 x 5-8

Thursdays – Back & Rear Delts
T-bar Row (4 warm-ups) 2 x 4-6
Pulldowns 2 x 4-6
Pullovers (1 acclimation set) 2 x 5-8
Rear Delt Machine 2 x 5-8
One Arm Dumbbell Row 2 x 4-6
Incline (face down) Bent Laterals 2 x 5-8

Fridays – Chest and Biceps
Incline Press (4 warm-up sets) 2 x 4-6
Flat Dumbbell Press 2 x 4-6
Cable Crossovers 2 x 5-8
E-Z Bar Curls (1-2 acclimation set) 2 x 5-8
Hammer Curls 2 x 5-8
Reverse Curls 2 x 5-8

• You can add abs and calves as you see fit. I usually do abs twice a week and calves 1-2 times per week in the above split - - 2 exercises for 2 work sets each.

There you have it. All of the whats and whys to get you started onto new and fast muscle growth. For more on my Ultimate Training Approach, visit my website - . Any questions, you can e-mail me at Tune in next time when I will show you how to eat for Maximum Results. In the meantime, train hard!

James Cipriani – CFT, CSCS
Cutting Edge Personal Training

Author's Bio: 

James Cipriani received his education in Exercise Science and has completed his countless certified personal training credits from the top orginizations throughout the years. He has competed in powerlifting and bodybuilding as well as being a leader and standout athlete in team sports.

Jim has trained numerous elite athletes from various sports (13 different sports), ranging from pros and top level amateurs right down to young teenage athletes. Over the last few years he has specialized in transforming individual physiques from all walks of life - - helping people reach their all time best shape.
In addition to his work as a coach/personal trainer, Jim is a popular speaker, giving seminars on both training and nutrition. He has also published three books including the best-selling Body Transformation Manual - RxCHANGE! on top of the many Personalized Training Manuals he creates for his Online Clients.

All of this is available at