Building Muscle With Dr. Muscle's AI: The Science Behind The App (And The Secret To Building Muscle)
How I found the "secret" to building muscle—plus, the science behind the app's autopilot
When I first started lifting weights in 2002, I was looking for “the” secret to building muscle. I was small and skinny, so I thought I’d be smarter than everyone else, find the shortcut, and get big in no time.
Turns out, there was no real shortcut, and the secret isn’t as sexy as I would’ve hoped. Years later and a PhD under my belt, I can tell you with confidence: the secret (if there’s one) is progression. To build muscle, you gotta make progress. Here’s how:
- You can lift heavier weights (tension). According to Schoenfeld (2010), tension (how heavy you lift) is the main driver of muscle hypertrophy.
- You can do more total work (volume). Schoenfeld et al. (2017) have shown that volume it is another key driver of muscle growth.
In short, the heavier you lift, and the more you lift, the more muscle you build.
With Dr. Muscle, you’ll apply the secret to building muscle automatically
- You’ll get stronger automatically. In fact, you’ll improve your max strength (1RM) every time you train an exercise. As you start to accumulate fatigue, you gains will slow down. At some point, your 1RM will go down. At that point, the app automatically has you deload. It cuts your 1RM by 10%, so you can recover. As you recover and increase your 1RM again, you’ll break your old plateau and set new records.
- You’ll do more volume automatically. On the volume side, the app has you do more and more sets over time (it's the best measure of volume). When that becomes too much and you accumulate fatigue, your 1RM will go down. At that point, the app automatically has you deload. It cuts sets by 50%, so you can recover. Even so, over time, you’ll do more and more volume by training with Dr. Muscle.
More details about reps and sets for building muscle faster with Dr. Muscle
- Sets are the easiest and most reliable way to increase volume. You’ll do more and more sets over time, up to 10-15 sets a week. That’s in line with Schoenfeld et al. (2017) (they’ve found 10+ sets leads to more muscle gain). Sets drop 50% when your 1RM goes down and you deload. To save time, you may want to use the rest-pause technique.
- Almost any rep range can work (Schoenfeld et al. 2017). You’ll train in the 5-12 rep range. This range lets you accumulate volume faster while still building strength at a good pace.
- Varying reps every workout helps you gain strength faster. You’ll vary reps every workout, based on the science of daily undulating periodization.
- You’ll rest at least 2 minutes between sets. You should rest at least 2 minutes between sets (for hypertrophy) and at least 3 minutes (for strength). Use timer option “automatch reps” (on by default) and the app will handle that automatically for you. To learn more, read Between Sets: How Long Should You Rest To Build Muscle Faster?
A note on your 1RM
Your 1RM (one-rep max) is the max weight you can lift once for an exercise. It’s your maximal strength.
Wrapping up: 2 mains drivers of muscle hypertrophy
In conclusion, getting stronger (more tension) and doing more total work (volume) are the two main drivers of muscle hypertrophy. Dr. Muscle pushes you to do both. As you continually improve, you will gain more and more muscle mass (up to 25 lbs in your first year of training, and 50 lbs over the course of your lifting career—more if you’re taller than the average man).
The secret to building muscle is progression. You can progress by getting stronger (tension) and/or by doing more total work (volume). Getting stronger (more tension) and doing more total work (more volume) are the two main drivers of muscle hypertrophy.
With its powerful algorithm, Dr. Muscle makes sure you increase both over time. It automatically finds a pace that’s challenging yet safe for you, making sure you build muscle and strength as fast as possible without getting injured or overtrained.
Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72.
Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low- versus high-load resistance training: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Aug 22. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002200.
Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci. 2017 Jun;35(11):1073-1082.