How to build muscle and gain strength…….. - Clarke Fitness

How to build muscle and gain strength……..

How to build muscle and gain strength

Building muscle is not that hard but it does take time to do, naturally of course! This blog is aimed at male and females who want to improve their quality of life, become stronger and look great naked!

So ladies, you will not get bulky from lifting weights but can look fantastic if you follow this advice.

Strength training increases lean muscle mass, which helps your body burn calories more efficiently and improves your quality of life.

Maintaining muscle requires more energy than almost any other tissue in the body.

Building muscle can help with injury prevention, this is essential for anyone playing sport or runners.

It will improve bone strength also, It’s preventative for osteoporosis and other problems.


First an understanding of muscle fiber types. These can be broken down into slow twitch and fast twitch

Type I slow twitch

Type IIa fast twitch

Type IIb fast twitch

Type I is aerobic. These fibers are slow to contract and can sustain muscular contractions for an extended period of time. This factor makes them ideal for endurance

Type IIa fibers are in the middle of the muscle fiber spectrum, as they are less fatigue resistance, produce more muscular force, and contract at a faster speed than slow twitch fibers.

Type IIb also known as type IIx are the most fatigable out of all the fibers but also generate the most power and force, and therefore are the fastest twitch muscle fibers. These types of fibers are recruited in activities that require an all out burst of power and only act for an extremely short period of time.


In terms of general recruitment, slow twitch fibers are recruited first, followed by type IIa when the type I can no longer suffice, and then finally the type IIb, which are recruited to produce maximal strength.


Rep ranges and intensities

1-3 reps 90% and above

Neural Efficiency. Neural Efficiency increases the percentage of motor units that can be activated at any given time.


3-6 reps 80-90%

Training in this range, Myofibril and Sarcomere hypertrophy will occur. Strength gains will occur.


6-12 reps 65-80%

Myofibril, Sarcomere, and Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy will occur

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy increases size but not strength directly.


15+ reps below 65%

Capillary density increase, muscle endurance.


Now we have a better understanding of what Rep range and intensity to work with we can look at a basic strength training program. Let’s assume this is for a beginner who has no injury history, can pass a movement screening and has completed an Anatomical Adaptation phase of at least 4 weeks. Anatomical Adaptation  focuses mainly on ensuring stability, mobility and general strength throughout the body. A preparation phase basically.


I recommend a minimum of 12 weeks using multi joint exercises like squat, front and back, bench press, rows, strict press, deadlifts and power exercises like push press, snatch and clean and jerk but for the purpose of this article we’ll focus on the former exercises.

3 sets of 10 reps is enough to stimulate hypertrophy at a minimum of 65% of 1 rep max but if you want to pack on the muscle and melt fat I’d go with 5 sets of 10 reps at 65% with 90sec rest between sets.. Aim to increase the intensity by 2.5% each week and lower the volume slightly.

Increasing stimulus (load)  ⇒  adaptation  ⇒  performance improvement.

If  the load is always at the same level, adaptation occurs in the early part of training, followed by a plateau (stagnation) without any further improvement.

Lack of stimulus  ⇒  plateau  ⇒  lack of improvement.

If  the  stimulus  is  excessive  or  overly  varied,  the  athlete  will  be  unable  to  adapt  and maladaptation will occur:

Excessive stimulus  ⇒  maladaptation  ⇒  decrease in performance.

Therefore,  the  objective  of  training  is  to  progressively  and  systematically  increase the  training  stimulus  (the  intensity,  volume  of  training  loads,  and  frequency  of training)  to  induce  superior  adaptation  and,  as  a  result,  improve  performance.


The first four weeks are laying the groundwork for the higher intensity training to follow. This will stimulate hypertrophy

Week 1 Back squat 5×10 @65%
Week 2 Back squat 5×10 @67.5%
Week 3 Back squat 5×10 @70%
Week 4 Back squat 3×8 @72.5% Unloading


Week 4,8,12 are unloading weeks. These are important to help dissipate fatigue, to prevent burn out. On an unloading week the volume is reduced and the intensity has to stay in the required  percentage to stimulate the training intervention, If  the  stimulus  does  not  induce  a  sufficient  physiological  challenge, no  increase  in  adaptation  can  be  expected.  On  the  other  hand,  if  the  training  load  is very  high,  intolerable,  and  undertaken  for  an  excessively  long  period  of  time,  injury or overtraining may occur, shit craic! (If the white board says 85% stay at 85%!)


So from week 5 on wards you can continue to increase the intensity and reduce the volume slightly to improve your strength, while also gaining hypertrophy.  Anything from 6-9 reps at a minimum of 70-85% is required here but ideally you will work up towards that intensity of 85% while reducing the volume and into a max strength phase, 85-100% intensity and 1-5reps.


Week 5 Back squat 4×8 @75%
Week 6 Back squat 4×7 @77%
Week 7 Back squat 4×6 @80%
Week 8 Back squat 3×4 @82% Unloading


The final 4 weeks brings us into our max strength..You need to work at a minimum of 85% intensity here. Remember if you play a sport like GAA or rugby or any sport, then you should be at the 85% range minimum for strength maintenance!

Week 9 Back squat 4×5 @85%
Week 10 Back squat 4×4 @87%
Week 11 Back squat 4×3 @90%
Week 12 Back squat 3×2 @93% Unloading


After 12 weeks, re-test your 1rm or 5rm and then start a new program, depending on your goals..

If you put in the effort inside and outside the gym, you will see results.

And remember, record your training in a book so you can see the progress.

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About the Author Conor Clarke

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