Efferding outlined his muscle-building program, from number of sets, range of motion, rest periods, to frequency, load, and volume.
Written by  Doug Murray

Expert coach Stan Efferding is one of the brightest minds in the world of fitness, who continues to offer fans invaluable advice. Taking to a recent YouTube video, Efferding opened up on his hypertrophy program, where he discussed the importance of exercise selection, number of sets, rep ranges, rest periods, frequency, and range of motion. 

During his prime, Efferding, known as the ‘White Rhino,’ was revered for his strength, endurance, and ripped physique. He boasts an impressive reputation as both a bodybuilder and powerlifter. In the realm of muscle-building, Efferding managed to become the World’s Strongest Pro Bodybuilder Mr. Olympia in 2010. As for powerlifting, at one point, Efferding held the all-time raw world record in the 275-pound-class in the Total without knee wraps.


Efferding has given back to the fitness community since his retirement, having offered individuals with higher caloric needs a more suitable dietary approach for everyday life. Now, he’s back to shed some light on his signature hypertrophy program. 

Stan Efferding Discusses His Hypertrophy Program 

Quick Breakdown

  • Rep ranges
  • Load (quantity of weight) 
  • Set ranges 
  • Frequency, volume, tempo, & range of motion 
  • Rest periods 

Rep Ranges 

First, Efferding elaborated on the significance of going to failure, regardless of the amount of weight being lifted. 

“You can build just as much muscle lifting heavy weights for five reps just as much as you can lifting medium weight for 12 reps as you can lifting a light weight for 20-30 reps.

So long as they’re to within a rep to failure. That’s what we call intensity. The heavier weights obviously, you’re going to get stronger because strength is specific. It has a nervous system component but strength doesn’t drive hypertrophy.” 

Above all else, Efferding stressed that lifters should aim to be within a ‘rep or two ‘ of failure during every set of the workout. 

“You have to be between a rep or two to failure, that’s what’s really important. We used to believe and this research is still evolving,” said Efferding. 


One drawback to heavier weight is the risk of injury. 

“You could lift a lighter weight for 12-15 reps and the heavier weight, you might incur more fatigue and potentially increase your susceptibility or exposure to injury. So those are all considerations to have if you want strength as opposed to size.”


Efferding and others once believed in a three-component approach to muscle building. However, Efferding now emphasizes that these assumptions have evolved over time.

“We used to believe there were three components to building muscle. It was mechanical tension, that’s just putting a weight and moving it through range of motion.

Metabolic stress. That’s – if you do a bunch of reps and you get the pump, we believed that those metabolite all the testosterone and growth hormone and all those other things that would accumulate as a result of doing. Arnold talked about the pump right? We believed that metabolic stress was a muscle builder particularly because 20% of muscle is water or 70% of muscle is water, but 20% of the muscle is sarcoplasm which is fluid,” said Efferding. “

Set Ranges 

Efferding gave his thoughts on how many sets are ideal per workout. 

“I settle at about the six range. I would rather do, I don’t like doing four sets of ten. I would rather do two sets to damn-near failure and then go pick a different exercise and work the muscle from a variety of different angles. Because I believe people save themselves, if you know you’re going to have to do four sets of hack squats, what’s the likelihood you’re going to invest everything into the first set?

I’ll use incline dumbbells as an example. Lots of people go to the gym get on the incline, they grab the 60s and do ten reps, then they’ll grab the 70s and do ten reps, then they’ll grab the 80s and do ten reps. Then, they’ll grab the 100s and they’ll knock out their top set. They might be able to get seven and their spotter helps them with a couple of reps. You didn’t do four sets. You did one set. The 60s you could have done 20 reps that’s not a sufficient stimulus.” 

For Efferding, he found this strategy more effective, which amounted to six sets divided into three exercises. 

“I do about six sets. I’ll do maybe two sets of three different exercises that way I might squat first and then do a hack squat, then do a leg extension even with squats, I only do them because I love them. Not because I think they benefit the muscles that I need the most work on.” 

Frequency, Volume, Tempo, & Range of Motion

In addition to exercise selection, Efferding touched on why frequency, volume, load, tempo, and range of motion make up his program. 

“So you have to be cautious of what you select. Frequency, volume, load, we talked about, tempo, range of motion, the exercises that you pick are generally the multi-joint movements you do first in the workout. You do the smaller joints later.” 


Rest Periods

Efferding also opened up on ideal rest periods. 

“Rest periods, how important is this? This goes to what you said a lot of people go to the gym and try to burn calories so they’re running through their workout with short rest periods. These little 30-second rest periods it’s like a CrossFit workout. Not the best stimulus for growth.” 

This wasn’t Stan Efferding’s first offering to the fitness community. He also broke down how he changed his training routine to optimize longevity at 56 years old. Efferding’s practices have positively impacted his life as he revealed he can still deadlift 600 pounds for five reps. 

When Stan Efferding dives into conversations about health and fitness, whether he’s guiding fans through the essential 10 exercises for a lifetime or sharing his perspective on intermittent fasting, his unique and insightful approach always shines through.


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