What Causes Muscles To Grow?

I recently sent out this picture in a email and briefly mentioned how I train 3-4 days per week.

I received a few emails asking me how I get into shape or maintain my shape by “only” training 3-4 days per week.

What Causes Muscles To Grow

It’s a valid question so I'm going to list my current workout below.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about WHY this works so well.

Like compounding interest, frequency is a KEY factor in muscle growth.

You see most magazines and blogs argue, debate and recommend volume or intensity.

To recap, you can either use volume (a lot of sets and reps) or intensity (low sets and low reps but heavier weight).

Truth be told, you’ll have a lot of progress if you just alternate workouts or periods of training with volume and intensity.

But if you want FASTER growth, frequency is the KEY.

What Causes Muscle To Grow?

There are three critical factors involved in muscle growth

1) Mechanical tension
This is the one that everyone knows. The tension that you place on a muscle increases the muscle growth. Tension can be caused by lifting heavy or by causing enough stress with prolonged tension. It’s why bodybuilders do a lot of reps.

2) Muscle Damage
When you lift weight you cause micro tears in the muscle and your body responds with muscle growth. Muscle damage needs to be managed, you can’t train a full body workout two days in a row and expect NOT to be sore.

The workout you’ll find below maximizes recovery because we do a small amount of work OFTEN.

3) Metabolic Stress

Your muscle cells swell with the metabolic damage caused by training. That’s why you see individuals doing crazy things in the gym to cause more metabolic waste.


Yes, frequency works by stimulating all of the above factors and the science geeky stuff like mechano growth factor and other mechanical and hormone signaling that are ONLY turned on with activity.

BIG note: I currently do NOT train legs. Typical guy, typical guy. I don’t train legs because I’m recovering and rehabbing a minor knew injury but I do deadlift.

So here’s the bare bones structure of my current training.

Emphasis on improving my dip and chin up strength

Monday-Back Focus
Deadlifts:3-4 sets of 6-8 reps
Barbell row variation (t-bar, bent over row or single arm BB row) 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Muscle Snatch-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Chin up variation (prone, supine, neutral grip or gironda pull up) 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Dips-3 sets of 6 reps with a 1 second pause on the bottom and top

Dumbbell fly variation 3 sets of 15 reps
Shrug variation:4 sets of 8 reps

Wednesday-Chest/Shoulder Focus
Dumbbell Press variation:4 sets of 6-10 reps
1/2 barbell chest press:3 sets of 10-12 reps (perform a full rep then a half rep)
Seated dumbbell press variation:3 sets of 12-15 reps
Dips-50 reps max. Take as many sets as possible

Chin up variation-3 sets of max reps
Rope pushdowns-3 sets of 12 reps

Cable side raise variation:3 sets of 12-15 reps

Friday-Shoulder Focus
Standing Push Press-5 sets of 10,10, 6,4,4 reps
Behind the neck press-3 sets of 15 reps (extremely light weight)

Chin ups variation-3 sets of max reps

Cable fly-3 sets of 15 reps
Dumbbell side raise variation-3 sets of 12 reps

Saturday Arm Day-This is a day dedicated to me training my arms. You can have one complete dedicated day if you want or you can follow my above workout for your upper body and just train legs on Saturday. Your call.

A note on recovery.
Obviously this is ideal for me and after a few weeks I will switch my training. No workout can last forever and recovery needs to be discussed. I own a company and I work a lot of hours but I can get to the gym 4 days a week and I optimize my supplements and my sleep. Only you can know what’s too much or not enough for you.