3 factors that play a role in developing your body to its maximum potential in the fastest time frame possible: high intensity workout, recovery, frequency!
High intensity workout means challenging yourself constantly throughout a given workout, and keeping the pedal to the God damn metal for the hour you're in the gym.
How many big guys do you see who dick around throughout their gym time? Nobody! The biggest and strongest guys are the ones limiting conversation, busting ass, sweating, and banging out the iron. It hurts some people just to watch the way I train, because I'm all about time under tension.
To simplify what I'm saying here, I'm all about putting my muscles through the most drawn out frikken hell I can in a given work set. This does not mean rep after rep until I hit 10 reps, or 15 reps, or whatever. This is about treating every rep like it's the most important rep of the set and the only rep I'm going to perform, then the next rep I try to make even stricter and harder. All of my negatives are at least 4 seconds, even sometimes on positives. Sometimes my negatives are 10 seconds long, sometimes I'm under that workload for a couple minutes in just 1 set.
This is called high intensity friends! Most people go at it with a mind frame like this; they perform their set and it's a quick 1, 2, 3, 4 ,5… arggghhh… 6, arrrggghhhhh… 7… argggg 8! and done. My mind focuses on each rep as ARRRGGGHHHH! Not a quick bullshit several reps and then a few grueling ones at the end, each rep is treated as a single and I squeeze those muscles as hard as I can.
Do you think you need more recovery as a newbie doing squats with 135 lbs, or as a seasoned lifter using 315? I would hope you'd choose the latter. Yes, you can condition your body so it's more used to heavy loads, but the nervous system can only take so much punishment.
Using weights as a tool for muscular development will yield a much better recovery than using weights trying to hit a certain rep count or a certain personal best through shitty form and havoc on your system. I always use lighter weights than I know I can do. If I know I can incline bench press 125 lb dumbbells for 15 reps, I PURPOSELY grab 110's and make it my goal to make those 110's feel harder than those 125's.
The way to make it harder is to do my reps slower, and squeeze my pecs harder. It's not about getting the weight from point A to point B and doing it several times, it's about maximizing those muscular contractions under a load. I frequently use 25's and 30's for alternate DB curls, I HAVE USED 80's, but I do not get a damn thing out of going that heavy. It's fucking stupid! Nobody in the gym isn't getting big arms because they don't do curls enough. They don't know how to lift right and eat. That's why they don't progress!
Lifting to train the muscle and not the nervous/recovery system is how you grow, because it allows you to train more frequently while being fully recovered. You're getting out of the hole you dug before the next workout, not digging your hole deeper and deeper to where you can't climb out of it. You actually want to be recovered and beyond before your next lift, not “just recovered”. This is key to becoming anabolic, a state your body needs to be in to grow muscle.
Now let's talk about training frequency. He who trains his muscle more times in a given year will grow faster than someone who does not, provided he is recovered before he lifts. Frequency is not a bad thing if you know what you're doing. Sometimes when I'm in the gym I will put a muscle through a full blown workout of several sets, and sometimes I “touch” on a muscle group with just a couple sets, but I don't destroy it.
This allows me to do 2 things, #1- recover and #2- stimulate. Just because I don't destroy a muscle group does not mean I cannot benefit from stimulating it. So let me give you an example here, and this goes totally against the grain and what most guys would advocate you do. If you were to tell most guys with experience, “Yeah, I train my biceps 3 times a week” they would tell you that you're over-training and you won't get results. Not true if you train like I'm telling you!
This may be how a given week would look for me. Let's say I wanted to hit my biceps on Mon/Wed/Fri, this is how it would look:
Barbell curls – 3 sets of 12-15 reps with 60 lbs, 70 lbs, 80 lbs
Alternate DB curls – 3 sets of 12-15 reps with 20's, 30's, 40's
Concentration curls – 3 sets per arm with 20's 10-12 reps
E-Z bar curls – 2 light warm ups of 10-12 reps
1 work set – HEAVY with SLOW NEGATIVES, 10-12 reps, DONE!
Incline DB curls – 3 sets (light weight for 20 reps a set, maximum squeeze!)
Light cable curls – 3 sets, real slow for 20 reps a set, maybe 40-50 lbs?
So taking a look at those 3 bicep workouts throughout a given week, you have a traditional looking day with 3 different exercises, a heavy day with just 1 main work set, and a super light day where you're pretty much just flexing your arm/posing under a little resistance. That is not over-training to me. That is a way to stimulate that arm 3 times a week and grow faster!
It's all about training smarter, not harder. That workout is not taxing the shit out of my nervous system, it's working the muscle. Remember, shitty form and heaving weights is what kills the nervous system. Do you want to have a nice body or do you want to be a fat guy who lifts a lot of weight?
I'm hoping this helps some of you guys out there.