Strength Training/Building muscle mass


Hi Mr. Gunn. I have a couple of questions for you:

1. I had a roommate in college, a biology major, that gave me advice for strictly gaining muscle mass - not strength or endurance. He said doing very few reps (3-5) for 2 sets with as much weight as possible, every 2-3 days was the most efficient way to gain muscle bulk. He also said to do NO cardio - or as little as possible. Do this for 3-4 months to gain bulk, and then switch to more reps and plenty of cardio to get "ripped" - gain definition and endurance.
  From everything I have read on this site and others, to strictly gain muscle mass, some experts seem to agree with my roommate, others say 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, and yet others say many more reps! The only things everyone seems to agree on is working to muscle exhaustion and giving at least 48 hours of rest to the worked muscles.
  I want to gain muscle mass (especially in a couple of areas) and don't want to cut out cardio if cutting it doesn't help gain mass. Can you shed some light on this subject?

2. Another biology major said something I find hard to believe - that people always have plenty of protein in their blood, provided they have a normal diet, and that protein supplements don't help. My doctor recommended protein supplements for gaining muscle, as have most of the experts I have read online. Could this biology major be right, or did they miss something regarding protein metabolism?

3. What is meant by "technically unable to perform" an exercise (as opposed to plain "unable to")?

Thank you so much for your time!

Hey Jay, the generally accepted protocols for adding mass (hypertrophy) is 67-85% of 1RM for 6-12 reps, 3-4 sets, 1-2 mins rest between sets. This leaves a lot of room for variation in an exercise routine. I start my clients with 3 sets of 10 with a weight you can do 10 times on the first set. 90 secs rest. When you can complete all sets, then add weight. This is the basic approach to progressive resistance. There are as many opinions and routines as there are persons you can ask out there. Consistency is always the key. Proten requirements increase with strength training and you can generally get enough in your diet provided you eat right. Most people find it difficult to eat enough protein without using a supplement. Supplements just make it easier to get adequate protein. You generally need about .8 grams of protein for every kilo of body weight or to make it simple 1 gram for every 2 lbs of weight and this is if you are not training. As training goes up so does the protein requirements. In your case maybe 1.5 grams per 2 lbs of weight. Aerobic training can hinder mass gains to some extent and how much you do depends on your overall goals. I have never heard the "technically unable to perform" phrase. Could mean that cannot perform a strict rep....good luck

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Joe Gunn


Master's Degree with majors in Exercise Science and Psychology. Teach college courses in weight training, jogging/fitness, and wellness. Expertise include strength training, long distance running, sprinting, general fitness, weight loss, and nutritional education.


Over 30 years as a personal trainer of athletes as well as average individuals.

Certified strength and Conditioning Specialist with the the National Strength and Conditiong Association. Certified Club coach with the United States Weightlifting Association. Certifed Level II long distance coach with the USA Track & Field.

M.S with majors in exercise science and psychology

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