Answered: Which Muscle Building Theory Works Best?

Hey Davey,

I’ve started working out this year at college, but before I do I did what a good college kid does and researched what the best way to gain or define muscle is, and I found two different theories.

The first theory is that you need to go all or nothing, meaning you have to lift as much weight as you can for as long as you can, and each time you work out you add extra weight to it.

The second one is working out with any weights, at least an amount that has resistance, to the point of muscle exhaustion.

I wanted to know your take on these two theories and which you follow by or would advise others to follow.


Hey Kevin,

The short answer is that it depends on your goals.

The first theory that you mentioned is more in line with gaining muscle mass. If you want to add bulk, perform exercises with large amounts of resistance (i.e., heavy weights) until you reach muscle failure. To make increases in size and strength, you’ll want to aim for 7 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. You’ll want to be fully fatigued on your last repetition – and, if you’re not, increase the resistance. In order to continue adding bulk, you’ll need to work with greater amounts of resistance (i.e., move to heavier weights) over time. This process is called progressive overload.

The second theory that you mentioned is more in line with endurance training. Endurance training is useful for athletes and individuals looking for sustained strength over longer periods of time rather than adding bulk. You’d user lighter weights and aim for 12 – 15 repetitions of each exercise set.

I hope this helps!


Ask Davey Wavey your fitness or nutrition questions!

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. My Friday just got hotter…

  2. There is a great benefit to training both methods. Muscles can be generally broken down into two types of muscle fiber. The type 1 (aka slow twitch) and the type 2 (aka fast twitch) you can look them up if you want to go into further detail, but basically it’s very beneficial to work out both of these types of fibers.

  3. Where there words on that page?

  4. christopher says:

    the second theory-because muscle-im a hard gainer.its difficult.

    • I’m with you on that Christopher. I’m a slow gainer too, and even though there is a small part of me that would like to try out steroids, I’ve never used them, and I’d really rather not because of all the side effects. But stick with it, the muscle will come, just as with me your gains will be in years rather than months like some others. But on the plus side, for us slow gainers, we don’t gain fat quickly either.