How I Finally Got Muscle to Grow - Phase 1

I started my weightlifting journey as a pencil-thin 16 year-old from the shallow end of the bodybuilding gene pool. During my first few years I bounced around from program to program looking for "the secret." Not surprisingly, I made very little progress.

Although I was frustrated, even angered at my lack of progress, never once did I think about quitting. I knew that given the right formula, I'd reach my goals. I just needed someone (or something) to help me connect the dots. Then I discovered T Nation and Biotest, and that changed everything.

I devoured the forums. I learned all I could about proper training, diet, and supplementation, and I pestered the coaches for all I could learn. I even worked with Christian Thibaudeau for my first show. I'm sure he still has nightmares about all the questions I had for him.

It's now 17 years later and I've competed with the Israeli Olympic weightlifting team, been a national powerlifting champion, and stepped on the Olympia stage as an IFBB pro bodybuilder. And I'm not done yet. There's so much more I want out of my body development, and I really believe my best achievements are yet to come.

But that's my story. My purpose here is to help you with your story. I really believe many of you can relate to the frustrating way I started out. I'm here to tell you that's only how your story starts. How it finishes is totally up to you. That's where I come in. I'm here to help you break the training logjam, and I'm going to do that by showing you exactly what worked for me.

Amit Sapir
Amit Sapir

I love to lift heavy in the 1-5 rep range, and I'm never going to give it up. Left to my natural tendencies, this is probably the only range I would use, which is great for Olympic lifting and powerlifting. But I've found you need a lot more than that if you want to develop the muscular hypertrophy of a bodybuilder.

Even though I love lifting heavy, I love gaining muscle mass as well, which has translated into the same affection toward hypertrophy methods. So, the way I look at it, training is now twice as exciting and motivating as it used to be.

Reason being, I've learned that the secret for developing a full, muscular physique is combining both types of training methods. Heavy strength training builds muscle density and hardness, and hypertrophy methods that focus on rep volume and intensity techniques deliver the mass.

Rep volume is the workhorse for building muscle. Even so, at some point, adding extra volume will lose its effect, and you'll have to turn to something else to stimulate additional growth. That's where intensity comes in, and includes techniques like super sets and drop sets. Think of intensity as the intensifier that's used to work a muscle into a deeper level of fatigue beyond what straight volume sets can do.

Amit Sapir

I've combined strength training with hypertrophy methods into a powerful three-phase program that leaves nothing on the table. The program is progressive, starting with a strength phase, followed by a volume phase, and ending with an intensity phase. Each phase is 10 days long, beginning with the training block below.

The strength phase consists of big compound movements, using as much weight as good technique (with plenty of rest between sets) will allow. The goal is to simply get as strong as possible. You will start with a heavy barbell compound movement and then move to "easier" movements. A good option is to start this workout with an explosive movement to wake up your nervous system (i.e., jump squats, power snatch/clean) for 5 sets of 3-5 reps.

Day 1 – Legs/Posterior Chain

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Deadlift from Floor 8 * 8,6,6,4,4,3,3,1-2
B Kneeling Hamstring Curl 5 6-8
C Barbell Lunge (wide stance to hit hamstrings and glutes) 4 6-8
D Lying Leg Curl 5 8-10
E Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 10
F Body Weight Hyperextension, slow tempo 3 10

* The last set is optional, only if you feel good and strong that day.

Day 2 – Chest

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Incline Barbell Press 7 4-8
B Low Incline Dumbbell Flye 5 8-10
C Wide Chest Hammer Press 4 6-10
D Weighted Dip 3 8-10

Day 3 – OFF

Day 4 – Back

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Weighted Chin-up 8 4-8
B High Row Hammer Strength 4 8-10
C Bent Over Barbell Row 4 6-8
D T-Bar Row 3 6-8
E One-Arm Dumbbell Row 3 8-10

Day 5 – Shoulders

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Seated Behind the Neck Press 6 4-8
B Smith Machine Front Press 3 6-8
C Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise 4 8-10
D Upright Barbell Row 3 6-10
E Bent Over Dumbbell Raise 4 8-10

Day 6 – OFF

Day 7 – Quads

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Front Squat 6-8 4-8
B Back Squat 4 4-8
C Hack Squat/Leg Press 3 8-10
D Barbell Lunge (narrow stance) 4 8-10
E Leg Extension 2-3 10-12

Day – 8 Arms

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Close-Grip Bench Press 6 4-8
B Dumbbell Skull Crusher 4 8-10
C Weighted Dip (narrow grip) 4 6-10
D Rope Pushdown 4 8-10
E Standing Barbell Curl 6 8-10
F Standing Hammer Curl 3-4 6-10
G Seated Dumbbell Curl 2-3 8-10
H Seated Concentration Dumbbell Curl 2-3 8-10

* per leg
* * per side

Day 9 & 10 – OFF

Enjoy this phase. It's basic, heavy work, the type that builds strength and muscle density, so be sure to really push your poundages up. You'll have plenty of opportunity to indulge your craving for volume in the next phase.

Amit Sapir was born in Israel but he was raised on T Nation. He's been a member since T Nation launched in 1998. Amit has gone from knowledge hungry teenager, to soldier, to qualifier for the 2004 Olympic Games in weightlifting, to IFBB pro bodybuilder. That's why we're glad to have him on the Biotest training team. He's the real deal. Follow Amit Sapir on Facebook