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photo The 3 Rules to Effective Mass Building: Part I
Rule #1 is to work each muscle group once-per-week. A bodybuilding program such as this can allow you to make some initial, significant gains in muscle mass.

avatarBodybuilding and endurance sports. I love to swim! I listen to trance and house music and am trained in Polymer Chemistry.

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Back in the day when I was a Freshman in college, I decided to get serious about bodybuilding. There was a decent University gym - lots of equipment but more like a dungeon. There were 2 benches, 2 squat racks and the best pec-deck I have ever used (the ones where you can load the plates onto). There was other equipment too like an old-school T-bar row and such. All the freeweight equipment at the newer gyms are a little too fancy anymore.

Anyways with the dream to put some weight on my scrawny 160lb frame and armed with Arnold’s Encyclopedia, I started lifting. I really didn't know what I was doing and didn't really have a plan except to get bigger. I remember hitting chest and other major bodyparts 2-3x per week. DIDN'T WORK AT ALL. If anything it just exhausted me. I made no gains on this program. I think I first picked up a program like this from the magazines or some books…it seemed common knowledge.

Why? Well I had violated all 3 of these ‘rules’ that I have since come up with. Before going further, I’m will be describing what worked for ‘me’ based on some advice of my former boss who was an amateur bodybuilding competitor. Depending on your goals and progression, there are many good plans out there that differ significantly and this one may not be the one you need for your goals. Do some research before following mine. The following is just what worked for me.

RULE #1 Work Each Muscle Group Once-Per-Week
Once-a-week? Yes. Once-per-week. Sure, there are so many programs out there with several thousand variations from 1 to 3 times per week to hit a muscle group, but as a good rule-of-thumb for a beginner general mass-building plan, only hit each muscle group once-a-week, but hit them hard.

Let me fire off what my goals were to begin with. I just wanted to put on some mass. Definition wasn’t an issue-I was and still am ‘skinny’. I didn’t want to be super-huge. I didn’t want to compete. Although I supplement, it’s just extra protein-nothing else. More of a naturalist I guess-or just plain cheap. I really just love to lift (part of my genetic code) and wanted to put on a little mass…seems simple right?

Many will argue (validly perhaps) that only hitting a muscle group once-per-week will ‘over-rest’ a muscle by the time you hit it another 7 days later. That after a hard session, it will be sore for 2-3 days as it heals, recovers and grows, but for the next 4 days it’s not doing anything, starting to get smaller-atrophy. I don’t think it’s true-especially for the upper body. Say for instance you focus on your Chest and Triceps on Monday. You will be using these same muscles as ‘support’ muscles for other workouts-be it Militaries, Pull-ups, etc. They won’t be totally wasting away!

Another advantage to working out each muscle group once-per-week is that you get plenty of rest, and you also get plenty of time to focus on only two muscle groups at a time by doing 2-3 exercises per each muscle group. Makes for a nice session while not trying to cram a lot in. You then shouldn’t be in the gym for more than an hour lifting. If you are, you are talking and resting too much.


I have to admit, since eating a lot better, I have not tried to go back to the 2x per week program.  It may be worth a try as lack of nutrition was one of the reasons why a 2x program initially failed for me.  But one thing for sure, the 1x program DID take me from 160 to 175 lbs - lean mass over the course of a year with a good eating regimen and limited supplementation.  Although the 1x program was only A PART of the equation.

A schedule that has worked well for me is something like:

Chest, Triceps

Back, Legs

Shoulders, Biceps

A future article will be an actual, detailed program, but the next in the series will be Rule #2, The importance of Diet.


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Published: 2006-10-07