Guest Post: The Science of Building Muscle: Principles that Withstood the Test of Time

For more than a century, the art and science of muscle building has been evolving and gaining popularity around the world. From the very early days and the pioneers of bodybuilding like Eugene Sandow and his predecessor, Ludwig Durlacher, all the way to the golden era of bodybuilding and the modern giants – this is a sport that is constantly gaining popularity and exposure.

Millions of people around the world are working towards their personal goals of building more muscle and losing unwanted weight, but many struggle to implement the best tactics to maximize hypertrophy. The truth is that the science of hypertrophy is always evolving, but that we also must look towards the tried-and-tested methods that made the iconic names in the industry so great.

That’s why today we’ll be taking a look at the best muscle-building tactics that have been used throughout the 20th century, and that are still used today. Use the following tips yourself to maximize your time in the gym and achieve your goals.

Going to failure in a smart way

In modern scientific literature specializing in sports physiology and hypertrophy training, you will often come across the concept of failure training. Now, going to failure in hypertrophy training is much different than going to failure in strength training, as the former is used to maximize hypertrophy, and the latter during peak weeks before a strength competition.

In terms of hypertrophy, going to failure has been shown to increase muscle growth, but there are several caveats to this that you should keep in mind. Namely, training to failure is a special technique that you should not use for every exercise and every training session. This is a technique that is highly reliant on your ability to recover before the next training session, and it can be extremely taxing on the body.

That said, going to failure on each muscle group once per week is a good starting point for novice and intermediate trainees. Advanced lifters with years of training under their belts can and should go to failure more often.

Calories and macronutrients

You probably know by now that no amount of training can compensate for poor diet choices. This is something that bodybuilders way back in the day knew all too well before bodybuilding was even a thing. Without scientific knowledge but only anecdotal experience, bodybuilders of the early 1900s knew that the more quality food you ate, the stronger and bigger you became.

This is a concept and a rule that will always stand the test of time, because it’s just science. You need to consume more calories than you’re expending in order to elicit a hypertrophic response from training. If you wanted to lose unwanted weight, you could try something like intermittent fasting. That said, focusing heavily on protein intake will maximize lean muscle growth, which is why supplementation has become another key ingredient in a hypertrophy-focused diet plan.

Emphasis on the right supplements

Supplements have come a long way from their early days way back in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. Production processes became more refined and nuanced to generate supplements with greater bioavailability and potency, making modern supplements for muscle gain much more effective than their predecessors. Nowadays, it’s difficult to imagine a hypertrophy routine that doesn’t include a protein supplement, vitamin and mineral supplements, or creatine monohydrate.

This is for a good reason, as certain supplements have proven more effective than others in building muscle and developing physical strength. That said, supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet. You should use them, like others have before you, to supplement your diet and training, and maximize your recovery and hypertrophy potential.

Combining high-volume training and intensity

There are many opposing opinions in the bodybuilding world, and two main schools of thought: those who believe in high-volume training, and those who believe in low volume but high intensity. As with all things in life, the truth lies somewhere in-between the two, as you can only maximize hypertrophy by going reasonably heavy for a reasonably high number of reps.

This is an approach that has been heavily used throughout the golden era of bodybuilding by all the greats. Excluding Frank Zane who mostly avoided heavy training, everyone from Arnold to Bob Paris, Franco Colombo, Mike Mentzer and Joe Weider, trained in a combination of high reps and sets mixed with heavy weights. If you want to maximize your own results, then combining various rep ranges and going heavy from time to time is the way to do it.

Using RPE and autoregulation

Lastly, RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and autoregulation might be newer concepts, but that doesn’t mean that the bodybuilders of old did not know about them in some way. Efficient muscle building relies heavily on your ability to recover from training, which is why you need to be able to autoregulate your training sessions and adjust them according to your level of fatigue and muscle soreness.

If your legs are still hurting from the last session, then there is no way you can get a good workout in, and in fact you might start regressing. Bodybuilders in the seventies and bodybuilders of the 21st century all know that proper rest and recovery is essential. Use the RPE system to autoregulate your workouts and train in a way that delivers results without breaking your body.

Wrapping up

Building muscle is easier than ever before, simply because we have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on the topic over the decades. Use the knowledge from the greats and the information provided by modern science to maximize your time in the gym and take your muscle-building journey to the next level.

Author Bio

I’m a fitness and health blogger at, and a great fan of the gym and a healthy diet. I follow all the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life, and l love to share my knowledge in this field through useful and informative articles.

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