Muscle Growth & Strength | How To Build A Training Programme


By UK Personal Trainer

Jamie Bantleman

When it comes to writing a training programme, there are an abundance of different factors in which you must take into consideration.

First and foremost, it’s important to conduct a kinetic chain assessment. Simply put, basic assessments such as where the shoulders sit, how the hips move or whether there are any injuries or any tightness in the body.

Common Mistakes

One of the major mistakes with peoples programming is that they are always looking for the ‘perfect form’.

However what is this ‘perfect form’ and what does it look like?

how to build a training programme

For example: when you watch a trainee squat full depth, with their hamstrings touching their calves and driving up through the movement with no lower back issues. We deem this to be ‘perfect’ however, if you are someone that may have had hip issues in the past and can only get to 90 degrees depth does this mean you cannot squat again? Absolutely not. You should always train to how your body is conditioned, even more so if you have trained for a long time.

A great example for this is professional boxing legend Mike Tyson; if you look at his shoulders they rotate forwards from the amount of time he has spent in a punching motion.

Will his trainers have wasted time attempting to his correct his shoulder placement to achieve the ‘perfect posture’? The answer is no; they worked with what they had and ensured they were effectively training him to be at the highest level in his sport!

What Exercises To Perform?

Once we have addressed any physical issues we move into exercise selection.

I will nearly always advise starting with a big compound movement. For example, a squat, deadlift, bench press or pull up (when I say, ‘nearly always’ you may choose to select an isolation as ‘pre-fatigue’ technique for an advanced trainee).

I will then go further into isolation movements to compliment the compound exercise. Starting with a Bench Press, following on could be a dumbbell press, followed by cable flies.

compound move squat

You could also look to use the agonist/antagonist style training. Something I usually opt for when training clients. This would mean training Chest and Back at the same time, so going from a dumbbell chest press you could follow into a lat pull down or chin up. This is often the best port of call for those who don’t have the chance to train on a daily basis.

It can ensure you are utilising big muscle groups in the same workout.

For example: a weekly routine for someone who could only train 4 times per week would look like the following:

Day Exercise
Monday Chest and Back
Tuesday Rest
Wednesday Legs (Quad and Hamstrings inc. calves)
Thursday Rest
Friday Arms and Shoulders
Saturday Rest
Sunday HIIT or Conditioning Workout

Invariably, most people actually are doing this with everything other than their upper body; the average gym goer will train both their quadriceps and hamstrings when they train ‘legs’ and both their biceps and triceps when they are training ‘arms’. All in which are agonist/antagonists.

If you are someone who trains on a daily basis, you may still want to opt for this type of programming as it offers the opportunity to target specific muscle groups more than just once per week.

Day Exercise
Monday Chest and Back
Tuesday Legs (Quad and Hamstrings inc. calves)
Wednesday Arms and Shoulders
Thursday Rest
Friday Chest and Back
Saturday Legs (Quad and Hamstrings inc. calves)
Sunday Arms and Shoulders

Which ever exercise you select, you should always look how you are moving the weight.

Moving a weight from A to B with nothing in-between is simple work. When training you should be looking to think about the muscle you are targeting, in order to do this, when putting the muscle under tension by lifting the weight you should consciously be contracting said muscle thereby increasing tension. This is called Time Under Tension. Doing this will improve your ability to grow the muscle tissue.

Furthermore, in doing this you will have to slow down the movement, which is called the eccentric part of the exercise. For example, once you’ve reached the top of a chin up, coming down in a slow movement is called the eccentric phase.

With respect strength and conditioning, and power output, eccentric exercise training serves an important and critical role during the stretch-shortening cycle and has been shown to be an effective modality in increasing (explosive) muscle strength, muscle cross-sectional area, leading to increased sarcomere length, (although controversial). – Jonathon Mike:

Sets & Rep Range

When setting your programme, take a look into the set and rep range and what you are looking to achieve.

Build Muscle

When training for hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass) coaches have looked at a very high rep and set range. For example, in Vince Gironda’s 8×8 programme you are repeating 6-8 exercises, for 8 sets and 8 reps. There is also Charles Poliquin’s German Volume Training programme in which you do a superset of 10 sets and 10 reps followed by 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Therefore you are looking at well over 100 reps if you are following these principles and methods.

Building Strength

When training for strength training rep ranges may differ depending on the trainee.

Some may look at rep ranges from 1-5 as a strength period, others for example, a triathlete, who would be training with very high reps on a regular basis would see a strength programme of 8-10 reps as a strength phase.

Rest Periods?

The final point of discussion in this article is based upon rest periods.

How long you are to rest for in between sets is relative to what you are training towards whether it be strength training or hypertrophy. Although the two training types are different, I would personally maintain a relatively lengthy rest period if the goal was to maintain the weight of the lifts.


Training Goal Rest times
Hypertrophy 1 – 1.5 minutes
Strength 2 – 5 minutes

However, you can decrease rest time if the goal is fat loss as it is a way of increased intensity.

“While only a few studies have been performed assessing the effects of fixed-interval of rest periods, it seems that strength gains are maximised by longer (>3 minutes) rest periods. This may be a function of the greater volume of work performed when using longer rest periods.

Reducing-rest-period studies have found that despite lower training volume being performed by the shortening rest periods group, the decreasing-rest period groups and constant-rest period groups and the constant-rest period groups both achieved similar strength gains.”

Take Home Message

If you’re looking to start building muscle or advance to the next level and build strength, take a few of the pointers above and experiment creating your own training programme.

Additionally, check out the support in the form of workouts, nutrition help and recipes here on The Zone!

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