April 12, 2018

with Victor Martinez - 

Recently I had the pleasure of spending time, training with and picking the brain of one of the world’s greatest ever body builders. Victor’s knowledge was as deep as the muscle bellies on his incredible physique. I was particularly interested in how Victor approaches muscle gain, also known as muscle Hypertrophy. Certainly, a phase every young man goes through at some stage of his life- the want to grow muscle. 

What’s interesting is how the young, eager and naive make so many mistakes when approaching a muscle build phase. I am 100% guilty as a youngster, of being one of these overly hungry and ignorant trainers that ignored the rule book trying to fast track results with the more is better, bigger is better, and heavier is better attitude. The reality however, is far from this. Building an ego instead of building the muscle is a mistake many make. 

What is muscle Hypertrophy?

“Muscle Hypertrophy is a term for the growth of muscle cells. The most common type of muscle hypertrophy occurs as a result of physical exercise such as weightlifting, and the term is often associated with weight training”

When a new lifter starts to lift, there is an increase in the nerve impulses that cause the muscles to contract. This will result in strength gains with very little muscle gain. This is why we need to be patient with muscle growth. The body has a process it follows. The good news is, before long the nervous system will respond and will result in an increase in protein synthesis and muscles will begin to grow larger and stronger.

The two necessary components to muscle growth are Stimulationand Repair. The stimulation of a muscle occurs during the workout. The breakdown of muscle tissue occurs through contraction of a muscle, both concentric and eccentric. The greater you can break down a muscle during a session, the greater the stimulation of those fibres will be. These muscles are now ready to be repaired and this is where the growth occurs.

When we are at rest the muscles are working just as hard repairing and growing. New muscle fibres are produced to help replace and repair the damaged ones. Along with adequate rest it is essential that your food and supplementation is fully on point because without this, you are fighting a losing battle. 

Let’s not get lost on the importance of genetics in this process either. Some people can recover faster and more efficiently than others, with greater amounts of muscle mass added. Even though this is a game of luck, the process is exactly the same for all of us. The important thing is to measure your success during each muscle building phase and to find out exactly what your optimum rest is for growth. 

The shape of a muscle is purely genetic, and you must be realistic with what you can achieve. The shape of a muscle is determined by the length of the tendons: those with longer tendons will never achieve that full, rounded popping look that a guy with short muscle tendons would. This isn’t to say you cannot grow muscle, just that you need to be understanding on what is achievable. 

What is the Ideal REP range for muscle Hypertrophy?

When speaking to Victor, he said he liked to stay on the high end of the reps he used for muscle growth. He explained how it was more important to stimulate and feel the movement fully rather than moving large weights for the sake of hitting PBs and impressive lifts in the gym. If anything he said this form of training with crazy weights was frowned upon by the experienced pros in the game, using their experience and knowledge to give longevity to a sport they love. 

When we worked out, after an intensive warmup, we hit a range of 10-15 reps, making sure to have a good few sets using 10 reps with a good weight that we could control under speed and being sure to feel each and every rep. Rest between sets was really important, he was adamant that we kept that short and in the 60 second range. 

It was clear that the reduction in weights used was not a reason to have an easy session; the intensity of the pump was unreal. We did a good 4-5 sets for each exercise, focusing on 3 working sets of 10 and 2 warm up sets of 15. These warm up sets were still to failure, we just used a lighter weight, gradually increasing in increments each set until we hit the desired number of reps. 

We focused on single and double drop sets. We did a drop on pretty much all of the exercises that we did, but only on the last set of the exercise. The increment in drops were 100% / 75% / 50%. 

Using isolation exercises at the beginning of a workout was something that seemed to make a lot of sense when he explained it to me. If you can stimulate and fully fatigue a muscle using the lightest weight possible, you eliminate stress on the body and damage to the ligaments and tendons when we don’t need to be strong, but big. 

He also explained the importance of adequate rest days and duration of sessions. His program was very simple and basic but it works: you need rest to grow. Why do so many of us try to over complicate the process? Mainly because we have all become so impatient when it comes to anything in life.

Victor suggested that when growing muscle, 4 sessions per week is optimal.  Hitting each session with maximum energy and more importantly, following with adequate rest to grow, is vital.   

The duration of the session is another key aspect. Stick to 45-60 minutes for each session. Anything above and beyond this is taxing your system so greatly that it actually starts to become counterproductive.

The problem with bodybuilding is that it can become a very sociable sport, and we end up getting lost in conversation and sets performed, exercises down and so on. The best way to avoid this is to follow a strict plan that is written down and tracked:

  • Exercises
  • Sets / reps
  • Interval rests
  • Advanced sets

This even as a trick sheet will help keep you on track. 

Shoulder Blast By Victor Martinez and Martyn Ford

Exercise Sets Reps Notes
Standing Lateral Raise 2 Sets
3 Sets
15 Reps
10 Reps
Keeping a very strict form, working up the weight rack.  On the last set we hit a triple drop.  Going from25 kg working our way down. 
Rear Delts Dumbbells 2 Sets
3 Sets
15 Reps
10 Reps
We did a super set of rear delts and the behind the neck shrugs on the Smith machine performing one set of each exercise with a rest in between.
Behind The Neck Smith Machine Shrug 2 Sets
3 Sets
15 Reps
10 Reps
We didn’t do any drop sets here, instead we focused on the squeeze of each exercise.
Seated Plate Loaded Shoulder Press 2 Sets
3 Sets
15 Reps
10 Reps
A top tip here was that we didn’t lock out on the movement, keeping the pressure and strain off the joints while also keeping the tension fully on the muscle and making the most of the weight used.
Standing Barbell Front Raise 2 Sets
3 Sets
15 Reps
10 Reps
Keeping the weight at just above eye level, being careful not to swing the bar.  All focus needs to be purely on front delt. Keeping full contraction on the muscle.  We did a drop set for the last set of the exercise.


All movements were performed with a strict explosive movement going up (around 1 second) and a negative of 3 seconds. Resting exactly 60 seconds between sets.