The 10 Commandments of Muscle Building

The 10 Commandments of Muscle Building

Back in the late 1990’s, Muscle Media 2000 was one of the top muscle magazines. And for hardcore bodybuilders like me, it was our Bible! Bill Phillips led the pack with his brother Shawn and editor TC Luoma. Contributors included Charles Poliquin, Lee Labrada, Dan Duchaine, Will Brink, Dr. Jose Antonio and many more.

Occasionally they’d include a special report pull-out as a “bonus” for readers. These reports would feature hot tips or specialized muscle or strength building programs. One such feature was called, “The 10 Commandments of Muscle Building”, a compilation of “must dos” by the MM2K editors.

Since this was published back in the late 1990s or early 2000s, I’ve decided to review it and see what’s stayed the same and what’s changed…

Muscle Media 2000

Thou Shalt Lift Weights - 1

This one seems quite obvious, which they acknowledge, but then go on to recommend sets between 4-12 reps.  4-6 reps being the best for maximum motor-unit recruitment and 8-12 the best for higher endurance fibres. The conclusion – train in rep schemes of 4-12 reps and focus on fundamental exercises like bench press, shoulder press, squat and deadlift.

You really can’t go wrong with these recommendations. However, experts like Neil Hill and Doug Brignole suggest training in a rep ranges of 6-25 reps may be even more effective.  The higher reps engage sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, an increase in muscle cytoplasm. 

I recommend sticking in a rep range between 6 and 20 reps. Use the the lighter rep range for warm ups and gradually work your way up,  increasing weight and lowering reps over 4-6 sets. I also recommend lifters choose their exercises wisely. The bench press, for example, is not a great movement for chest development.  The dumbbell or cable press works the pecs in a much better range of motion.

Thou Shalt Not Work Out Too Often - 2

The article doesn’t really offer a good suggestion, but instead says “it’s mostly genetic” and to never train muscle group again while it’s sore. Also, different muscle groups tend to recover at different rates (calves daily, chest 48 hours and legs several days).

I would add that stress levels play a major role in one’s ability to recover from work outs. The workout itself is a major physiological stress, but things like your job, relationship, health status, sleep patterns can also be considered sources of stress.  

My recommendation for weekly training:

High stress lifestyle – 3 days per week

Moderate stress lifestyle – 4 days per week

Low stress life-style – 5 days per week

I also think it makes sense to base how often you train a body part on your individual ability to recover as well.  This can be anywhere from once every 3 days to once every 5 days. The volume at which you train will also determine if you need more or less rest between workouts.

Thou Shalt Eat Frequently - 3

All the intermittent fasters can groan now…

The article says that most bodybuilders who are unable to gain muscle simply aren’t eating enough or as often as they should.  Small, frequent meals help with nitrogen balance, glycogen synthesis and fat loss. This type of eating takes discipline, but dramatic improvements can be made when going from four to six meals per day.

Personally, I like eating frequently and my body has become accustomed to it. I don’t think intermittent fasting is optimal for gaining muscle (although it has it’s uses). I think protein should be consumed at least every four hours to encourage the body to stay in an anabolic state. 

I think 5 meals is optimal for most everyone. But more important is quantity and quality of the foods eaten. I highly recommend using MyFitnessPal (an app that wasn’t around when this article was originally written – heck, the internet was only in it’s infancy and there was no such thing as a “smart phone”).

eat frequent meals

Thou Shalt Eat a High-Protein Diet - 4

The MM2k editors make the point that bodybuilders need more protein than the sedentary person…a lot more! Right after a workout, 30 hours after a workout when muscle resynthesis is highest, and at bedtime. Basically, throughout the entire day (they recommend over six meals).

They recommend 1 gram per pound of lean bodyweight. A bodybuilder weighing 200lbs at 10% body fat would require 180 grams.  You can see my recommendations for calculating protein requirements HERE.

Thou Shalt Seek Pain - 5


I’m a huge proponent of training intensity (see my GHP Training System) and so are the editors.  Doing a set of 10 reps means little if you aren’t struggling at the tenth rep. In fact, the more years you put into training, the more intense your workouts need to be to elicit new muscle growth.

My recommendations:

Raw beginners (1-6 months) don’t need to use any high intensity techniques because everything is high intensity – it’s all new!

Beginners (6 – 12 months) can use the occasional forced rep, with the help of a spotter.

Intermediate (1-5 years) can cycle different techniques based on their training phase.

Advanced (5 years plus) will get extra benefits from drop sets, pre-exhaustion, supersets and more.

Thou Shalt Use Creatine Monohydrate - 6

Of all the supplements they recommend (disclosure: the magazine owned the once proud EAS supplement brand), creatine monohydrate is king. I can’t disagree, although I’d add that creatine HCL has also been proven to work just as well, at a lower dose, without loading and, in many people, with less bloating.  Creatine is available in GP3 EVO.

Thou Shalt Gorge Your Body With Protein and Carbohydrates After a Workout - 7

Post workout, the article says, is when your body need nutrients to help it recover and grow. They recommend 50-100 grams of a high and low glycemic carbohydrate blend, 40 grams of protein and 5 grams of creatine monohydrate. This post workout meal was often referred to as the “anabolic window”.

As supplements have advanced and the tactics of guys like Milos Sarcev and John Meadows have become more known, the anabolic window has moved from post workout to intra-workout (while training). In 2006 a scientist named Stephen Bird showed some exciting effects when EAAs and carbohydrates were ingested during training over a 12 week period.

We’re talking over twice as much muscle gained than a placebo! 

In addition, the EAA plus carb group lost more body fat and decreased post workout cortisol more effectively. This is why I’m such a huge proponent of Battle Juice. Back in 2006 Stephen was using gold standard EAAs and whatever powdered carb source was available at the time.  Battle Juice uses AMMO-8 (which is 33% more anabolic than gold standard EAAs) and cluster dextrin, the most advanced form of carb currently available. Battle Juice also has electrolytes, betaine, Hydro-Max and taurine. Talk about a powerhouse!

Battle Juice

Thou Shalt Be Consistent and Take a Methodical Approach to Training - 8

The editors point out that you need to be consistent with your training and gradually increase your workload to force your muscles to adapt. They site Charles Poliquin’s contribution to their July ’96 issue:

Increased volume: more sets, more reps, more workouts.

Increased intensity: more resistance, more eccentric work.

Increased density: shorter rest intervals between sets, exercises or workouts.

They then stress the importance of keeping a training journal, which I cannot emphasize more! It’s the only way to track your progress. Ands it makes your workouts more fun. Your goal should always be to beat your previous workout’s numbers…even by a single rep is a WIN.

Thou Shalt Change Your Routine Often - 9

“Change, is good, especially in bodybuilding.” The more advanced you become, the more change you’ll need to trick your muscles into growth. They recommend three week changes in rep ranges, speed of contraction, range of motion and exercises. 

I’m also a big fan of change.  My recommendation is to change your workout, completely, every six weeks.  This gives you enough time to make progress (remember your training log!) before adaptation occurs.  Once you hit the six-eight week mark, change it up, shock the system and continue your progress.

Though Shalt Concentrate on Eccentric Movements - 10

The eccentric part of a movement is when the muscle lengthens.  It’s the lowering of the bar on a bench press and the lowering of the dumbbells during a curl. This is when the most muscular damage occurs in a rep. The beginner moves the weight up and down at the same speed – this is wrong! (Or at the very least, not nearly as productive.)

The editors recommend a lifting speed of two seconds and a lowering speed of four seconds. This can be toyed with as you “take a methodical approach to training” and “change your routine often”.

Once can even take this eccentric movement to the extreme by having a spotter assist with forced reps. The spotter helps lift the weight and then gives supervision in the lowering of the weight, where the lifter is stronger.

So there you have it…what held true in the late 90’s also holds true in 2022, albeit with some minor additions.  As they said, “if you follow the items laid out in this special report, you will grow, no doubt about it!”

Chris Johnson

Muscle Building Commandments