No big shocker, but lifting weights is THE key training element for building muscle. Where most people go astray though is with their lifting program. You may have heard a bro or two in the gym mention that you have to use sets of 8-12 reps to build muscle. It turns out that isn’t true, and blindly following that advice may lead you to a dead end.
The truth is, sets of 8-12 can work, but so can more reps and perhaps surprisingly, so can fewer reps. There is no magic number of reps to optimize your muscle building efforts. The magic is in something called training volume. Volume is the number of sets times the number of reps you lift in a session. So, if you do 5 sets of 3 reps of back squats, your squat volume is 5 x 3 = 15. 6 sets of 5 reps of pull ups is 6 x 5 = 30. Make sense?
Now, researchers have conducted studies on experienced lifters with wide-ranging volumes and found a total daily volume of 42-66 per muscle group is the sweet spot. Lifters that did less achieved 43% less muscle gains. AND, lifters that lifted more did just as poorly as those that lifted the least!
Now, depending on how much you’re lifting today, jumping straight to that sweet spot might not be the right move, but keep it in mind as a target to build toward. In the peak of Erwin’s bulking protocol, most of his training days featured volume in that sweet spot range. Below you can see a single training session where he was going 10 reps of 6 sets of incline bench press for a daily volume of 60 reps.
There’s a lot more you can optimize, like your lifting split, the specific movements you’re doing, etc. but start with volume. Don’t worry about those other training variables until you get volume dialed in.