What is the Best Workout for Building Muscle?

Best Workout for Building Muscle - Arnold Schwarzenegger

People want to know what the best workout is for building muscle, fast. Unfortunately, there is no one workout that works for everybody, because if it did, we would all be doing it and we would all look like fitness models! The key to finding the perfect muscle building workout is to find the variables that work for you and your body, and stick to them. There are countless workout routines out there, most of which will have worked for somebody at some point in time. Much of bodybuilding is trial and error, and the more experience you have with lifting weights, the easier it will be to separate the effective workouts and exercises for yourself. Below I'll discuss just a few of the most popular workout routines, and if you should give them a try.

Rippetoe's Starting Strength

Mark Rippetoe is a well-known strength and conditioning coach and ex-powerlifter, and his workout program ‘Starting Strength' is one of the most popular routines around the world, aimed at increasing muscle and strength in as short a period of time as possible. Mainly geared towards beginners and intermediate trainees, Starting Strength focuses around barbell training, and the key compound exercises - Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Military Press, Power Clean, Power Snatch. It's from these exercises that most strength and power gains can be attributed to, and for novices especially, is one of the fastest tried and tested methods of gaining strength. The workouts are heavy and intense, although short in duration and only performed three times per week. The typical split looks something like this:

Squat 3x5Squat 3x5Squat 3x5
Bench Press 3x5Overhead Press 3x5Bench Press 3x5
Deadlift 1x5Power Clean 3x5Deadlift 1x5

As you can see, the exercises are all around the 5-rep range, which is in that strength-building zone. When combined with a high caloric surplus (Rippetoe suggests drinking four litres of milk per day), novice and intermediate trainers should be able to recover well enough to increase the weights used each workout. It is this heavy, low rep compound training, combined with a high intake of calories that will push strength and muscle building to the next level.

German Volume Training

Known around the world as one of the more intense workout routines, German Volume Training (GVT) is an extremely intense program that is based on 10 sets of 10 reps for one body part per training session. Each muscle group is trained once every five to six days due to the intense toll it takes on them. GVT first came about in the 1970's in German Olympic weightlifting circles as a way to build mass. It's been used since by weight trainers anywhere from novice to expert level because it works. Here is a typical GVT split:

Squats 10x10Bench Press 10x10Military Press 10x10Repeat Monday
Seated Leg Curls 10x10Chin Ups 10x10Lateral Raise 3x10
Calf Raise 3x10-15Skull Crushers 3x10Hammer Curls 3x10

The weights used are around 60% of your one-rep max, and it is the volume that takes its' toll and causes hypertrophy. Each exercise is performed under strict control, with only 90 seconds rest between sets. It's usually around set six or seven that the lactic acid really builds up and the workout becomes extremely difficult. Rest and recovery are key elements to successful implementation of German Volume Training.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Bodybuilding Routine

The most famous bodybuilder of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been a great source of inspiration and knowledge for bodybuilding enthusiasts worldwide. His Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is widely regarded as the bible of bodybuilding, and in it he documents everything from diet, exercises, posing, bodybuilding supplements, psychology and everything else he can think of, to be successful at building muscle. His workout routine is extremely intense - six days per week, and around two hours per workout.  Arnold usually split the workout into a morning and an evening session, training opposite bodyparts such as chest/back or legs/shoulders. This program is geared better towards intermediate trainers - those who have mastered the basic lifting techniques of each exercise, and those who have begun to plateau in their training. Here is Arnold's typical split:

Monday & ThursdayTuesday & FridayWednesday & Saturday
Bench Press 4x6-10Clean and Press 4x10Squat 4x15
Incline Bench Press 4x10DB Lateral Raise 4x10Lunge 4x15
DB Pullovers 3x10Upright Row 3x10Leg Curl 3x15
Chin Up 3x10Arnold Press 3x10Stiff Legged Deadlift 4x10
Deadlift 3x10Barbell Curl 4x10Good Mornings 3x10
Crunches 5x25Seated DB Curl 3x10Calf Raise 4x20
Close Grip Bench 3x10Crunches 5x25
Seated Tricep Press 3x10
Wrist Curl 4x10
Reverse Crunch 5x25

As you can see, this is an extremely high volume program, certainly not for the feint hearted. As with all of these programs, food intake and rest are absolutely vital to prevent overtraining.

There are three of the most popular training routines for gaining muscle. All of them have been around for many years, and still remain popular today. For beginners, Starting Strength will promote the fastest strength gains, after which German Volume Training (intermediate) and Arnold's Routine (advanced) can be utilised for further growth. Be sure to document your workouts so you know what weights, rep ranges, training splits, rest periods etc work best for you. Happy training!

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