Muscle Building 101 | Part 1 – Measuring your workout

Female Performing Bench Press With Specialty Bar

When the task at hand is to build as much quality muscle mass as possible, there are two things you should look at: Your training and your nutrition.

Muscle gaining is technically a process of stimulus, followed by a period of recovery.

At its very essence, muscle gaining is just your body preparing for bigger challenges, ahead of time.

In this series of articles, we’ll take you through everything you need to know, in order to create your PERFECT muscle-building blueprint.

The first part of the series goes over one of the most important things for the goal, namely, analyzing, measuring and setting up your workout.

How to measure a workout

If you think about it, when you are in the gym, you’re working with weights…

Those weights are numbers and when we have numbers, there is a certain level of mathematics involved.

That is to say… There’s actually a mathematical formula for muscle gains!

Your workout can be measured by 3 main variables:

  • Intensity
  • Volume
  • Density

Intensity is a measure of how close you get to your maximum strength capabilities.

The closer you get, the higher your intensity is, meaning that it increases as your working weight goes up.

Volume is a measure of your total working weight, for all of your exercises, sets, and reps.

You can measure volume using this formula: Weight * Sets * Reps = Volume

For instance, using 100 kg for 2 sets of 10 would create a volume of 2000 kg (100*2*10=2000 kg)

Last but not least, we have density, which is a measure of your volume, related to the total time needed for its completion, including rest times.

To measure density, you use this formula: Volume / Total completion time = Density (kg per minute)

For instance, if those 2 sets of 10 with 100 kg take you 2 minutes to complete, this would be a density of 1000 kg/min.

But How Do You Measure Intensity?

Alright, so far you learned the following:

  • Volume = Weight * Sets * Reps
  • Density = Volume / Total completion time

But how exactly can you measure intensity…?

Well, here comes the practical part!

To get an idea of what 100% intensity looks like for you, for a certain exercise, you have to find out the weight you can lift for one single repetition – This will show you your maximum strength capabilities.

To do this, you will use the “One repetition maximum” method.

Again, this method implies using a weight that will take your muscles to failure after one single rep, meaning that you will not be able to complete a second rep unassisted.

How to test your 1 rep max

Before we get to the actionable steps, if you are a beginner, avoid testing your one-rep max, as it may lead to injuries.

Instead, use the same scheme but go for a 5 rep max instead, where you use a weight that takes your muscles to failure at around the 5th repetition.

Here are the steps to testing your one-rep max:

  • Warm-up well – 3-5 minutes of light cardio
  • Do a brief dynamic stretching routine to get each joint through its range of motion
  • Do a set of 8-10 repetitions with no weight on the bar
  • Rest for a minute
  • Load the bar with a decent weight and do 6-8 repetitions
  • Rest for 2 minutes
  • Load the bar with a weight that will allow you to do 3 challenging repetitions
  • Rest for 3 minutes
  • Load the bar and attempt a one-rep max
  • If successful, rest for 3-5 minutes and increase the weight
  • Keep doing steps 9 and 10 until you reach the weight which is certainly your one-rep max

This same scheme can be used by beginners for the 5 rep max method.

Why you need to know this

Alright, this important bit of information we just gave you, is part of what will allow you to create your muscle-building blueprint.

The reason why this is important is that the ratio of these variables is what will determine how the muscles work, what type of energy it uses, and thus, how it develops.

In the next article, we’ll explain to you exactly how these variables affect the way the body provides energy.

See you in part 2!