What You Need to Know About Strength Training for Muscle Growth

Woman performing goblet squat

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Strength training for muscle growth is also known as hypertrophy training. It is a type of resistance training that involves focusing on specific techniques and goals that will increase muscle size and mass. People pursue muscle growth for various reasons, such as supporting health goals, preventing injury, gaining a sense of accomplishment, and even changing appearance.

"Many people want to build muscle to [change] their body proportions," explains TJ Mentus, an ACE-Certified personal trainer, weight lifting coach, and Garage Gym Reviews expert panel member. "For some people, this means wanting to add significant muscle size and be bigger. For others, it means creating more muscle definition, which is what people mean when they want more tone."

While there are many tips and methods for training to grow muscle—from beginner to advanced—below is a basic summary backed by science that can help get you started.

What Is Strength Training for Muscle Growth?

Strength training for muscle growth is a type of resistance training with the goal of growing muscle. Muscle growth training doesn't focus on increasing strength. Instead, the workout program is designed to optimize and increase muscle mass.

Typically, this means gradually increasing the volume of your workouts over time. To determine your current lifting volume, take the number of sets you do, multiplied by the number of reps, multiplied by the amount of weight you lift. This number will be your baseline and will gradually increase over time.

Benefits of Muscle Growth

There are a number of reasons why people include a hypertrophy-focused (or muscle growth) phase in their workout regimen. For instance, it increases strength during future strength-focused phases. It also can be part of injury management.

"The more muscle you have, the more potential there is to build strength," says Mentus. "Building muscle [also] can help bring up weaker areas as well, which will help rehab from an injury or prevent future injuries. This will help improve balance, stability, and overall movement."

As these areas are improved and maintained, muscle growth programs help a person become more independent, Mentus adds. It also helps their body become stronger and more capable of accomplishing daily tasks that may require different types of lifting or moving.

Then when you switch focus to strength building instead of muscle growth, you will likely see more significant results. Likewise, muscle-building techniques also can help reduce muscle lost while eating in a calorie deficit (for weight loss) or with age-related muscle decline (sarcopenia).

How to Implement a Training Program

A wide variety of training methods can lead to increases in muscle mass. Implementing repetition ranges from five to 20 will work to grow muscle—as long as you ensure you are sufficiently challenged by the weight and that you cannot perform any more than five additional reps when you stop your set.

The number of reps you have left before complete failure is called reps in reserve. You can reduce the number of reps in reserve as you progress through your hypertrophy phase. Training close to failure has been shown in studies to elicit the most muscle growth.

Aim to increase the total volume of your workout each week. Some body parts may require more volume than others—which you will need to determine individually or with the help of a personal trainer. Common body parts that need more volume than others include the biceps, shoulders, and calves.

Sample Training Program for Muscle Growth

How much volume you need per body part is very individual and will take trial and error to determine. You can divide your volume per body part over the week for muscle growth. Doing so, is called training splits.

One popular method is a full body split. With this method, you work your entire body each training session—sometimes with extra focus on a particular body part.

Below is a sample full-body workout provided by Mentus that can help get you started. For each exercise, rest for 1 to 2 minutes between sets. Use weights that become challenging by the last two to three reps of each set.

Strength Training Program for Muscle Growth
Exercise  Duration 
Dumbbell goblet squats  3 sets of 12-15  
Seated cable rows  3 sets of 12-15 
Dumbbell lunges  3 sets of 8-10 (each leg) 
Dumbbell bench press  3 sets of 8-12 
Box step-ups  3 sets of 8-10 (each leg)  
Dumbbell push press  3 sets of 8-10  
Bicycle crunches  3 sets of 1 min. max reps 
For each exercise, rest for 1 to 2 minutes between sets. Use weights that become challenging by the last 2 to 3 reps of each set.

Other Things to Consider

To grow muscle, you will also need to change your diet. New tissue growth requires additional calories, so increasing your calories above the amount it takes to keep your weight stable is necessary.

How much you increase your calories by depends on your physiology and your goals. Keep in mind that you will gain body fat along with muscle. But, this is an expected part of the process and not something to fret about.

Yet, some people avoid eating enough calories to gain weight, due to diet culture and the pressure to constantly strive to be lean. However, building muscle is a very healthy goal and can support weight management by increasing metabolism while helping you become more functional, strong, and confident.

Gaining body fat while gaining muscle is expected, and if desired, you can lose the gained fat after your hypertrophy (or muscle growth) phase.

Another crucial factor in any muscle-building phase is fatigue management. This is because as you increase the volume of your workouts, fatigue and overtraining are risks. Choosing exercises that provide the most stimulus for the least fatigue is ideal.

For instance, instead of heavy barbell deadlifts, you may stick to back extensions, leg curls, or other movements that do not cause as much nervous system fatigue but still target the same muscles. To additionally help manage fatigue, incorporate de-loads (weeks of lighter training) into your routine and incorporate at least one rest day each week.

A Word From Verywell

Building muscle is a gradual process that progresses slowly and requires careful planning, increasing volume, eating enough to support new tissue growth, and managing fatigue. Increasing your muscle can improve body composition to help you reach physical appearance goals and increase your health, including combatting the effects of diet or age-related muscle loss. If you are unsure how to plan a muscle-building phase, talk to a personal trainer about your muscle growth goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you benefit from muscle growth?

    Muscle growth can help improve body composition, increase metabolism, reduce the risk of diet or age-related muscle decline, help you become stronger, and repair from injury. Growing muscle also may increase your confidence and help you gain a sense of personal accomplishment.

  • What are your nutritional needs if you want to build muscle?

    If you want to build muscle, your nutritional needs will change to include more calories, especially more protein and carbohydrates. Both protein and carbohydrates support muscle growth and performance during training sessions.

    Carbs, in particular, are very anabolic, meaning they support the hormone levels necessary to stimulate muscles to grow. Meanwhile, protein is essential for building new tissues.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.