In the past, I’ve believed the opportunity to tell my muscles they need to be bigger and stronger lasted throughout my workout. Now I believe there is a very narrow window of opportunity where I can pull that muscle building trigger.
The muscle building window is a rather small amount of work where your muscles are capable of handling the most tension possible for the longest prolonged time. This window is rather small. It first requires a set or two to warm up, or as I now call it, opening the window. Once it’s open you can use it, but it can’t stay open for very long. Both mental and physical fatigue can cause the window to close and once it’s shut all you’re doing is further cutting into your recovery.
When I was using a lot of volume I always kind of paced myself for the first 3-4 sets believing that I could really hammer the tension into my muscles later on. The problem was, once I was fatigued my chance had passed. I was trying to work hard but the window had closed. Now, by keeping myself to 2-3 work sets I have a much more serious and focused workout. I know I only have a few chances to really hammer my muscles as much as possible. If I couldn’t get it done in 2-3 sets then chances are I wasn’t going to do it in 5-7.
Here’s a pic to kind of illustrate.
These numbers aren’t an exact science. Some folks might hit their window in sets 2-4 while someone else might need a little more warm up and then hit their window on sets 3-6. Other’s might pour so much into their first 2 sets that they are on the fatigue drop off after 3 sets. Further more, your condition for the day might also play a factor. Some days you might have 3 work sets and other’s it’s 2. Play around and don’t get too caught up in sticking to a formula. The key is recognizing that once you’re warmed up you have only a few sets where you can pull that muscle building trigger.