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Life Strength Fitness Educational Library

Learn how to apply current physiology and nutrition research to improve your health and performance.

Program Design Guidelines to Increase Muscle Mass for Young and Middle Age Women

Most of these guidelines comes from a huge meta study that was recently published by Brad Shoenfeld and colleagues. They assessed 21 studies that were testing what worked best to put on muscle mass using various training methods that incorporated heavy weights or light weights. 

I've critically evaluated their methods, their findings, and will show you the best criteria that WORKS.

I will then give you my professional recommendation for where to start and how to progress your program design over many years to come.

I will also present you with a very useful training tool to assist you on your journey so you get the most from every training session. 

Program Design Guidelines That Work Using Heavy Weights

Training Frequency: 3 times per week

Program Duration: 6 weeks

How many sets of each exercise: 3

How heavy: As heavy as possible to complete 6-10 reps achieving muscular failure

Rest between sets: Feel Recovered

Tempo Down: 2 seconds

Tempo Pause: 0 seconds

Tempo Up: 1 second

Program Design Guidelines That Work Using Light Weights

Training Frequency: 3 times per week

Program Duration: 6 weeks

How many sets of each exercise: 3

How Heavy: As heavy as possible to complete 20-30 reps achieving muscular failure

Rest between sets: Completely Recovered

Tempo Down: 2

Tempo Pause: 0

Tempo Up: 1

My Professional Recommendation

-I would Start with a Muscle Mass program that uses the light weights first and fail out on rep 20. This will develop muscular endurance, strength, and mass in one comprehensive program.

-Pick 2-3 exercises per body part. I'd organize the exercises that you select into 3 days that work together (i.e. [Chest, Shoulders, Triceps], [Back, Biceps, Forearms], [Legs, Abs]).

-Make sure you rest completely before starting the next set or exercise. Don't worry about tempos for now. You can experiment with doing one of those at a time in later programs or combining all 3 different tempos into one program. In later programs you can select a gradually higher rep count so that you take your muscular endurance to a higher level while still achieving strength and mass at the end of that rep range. 

-After you finish a 6 week program of the lighter weights your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones are ready for a heavier program. Then you'd want to move up to a mass program using heavier weights. 

-Keep training 3 times per week because your body is use to that and that is an effective frequency. 

-Stick to 3 sets per exercise and start off with 10 reps for the failure point. This can work its way down to 6 reps in future programs. No need to race to the 6 reps thinking that delivers better results than 10. 

-Rest until you feel recovered before you do the next set. 2-3 minutes is typically enough, and you don't want to live in the gym all day. 

-Leave the tempos out for now. You can get into those later down the road. 

-I'd keep the exercises that you did before for this program because you know the technique well, you body can recover well from them, and the odds of you hurting yourself using more weight is significantly low. I'd progress to different moves per body part when you go back to a lighter weight mass program after this heavy program. 

Training Tool to Assist You in Increasing Muscle Mass

I understand all of this information is overwhelming. If you don't have the time to build your own program, don't want to put together a program that doesn't work even if you try and use my guidelines, and you don't want to pay 40-120/hr for a personal trainer to design this for you and train you multiple times per week at that price to get the results you want, there are 2 logical options that I have for you.

1. Online Training through Defensive Fitness for $65/month. I design each program for you which comes with demonstration videos, setup tips, equipment modifications, safety tips, and performance tips for every exercise. Additional Online Coaching Packages available for additional cost if needed. 

2. Get Online Video Access to our video library of 269 videos for $10/month. These videos as well include exercise demonstration, setup tips, equipment modifications, safety tips, and performance tips for every exercise. More videos are constantly added to this library so your program design variation is endless. 

Don't hesitate to Contact me if you have questions or need help signing up so you can start getting results today!