Six Reliable Diet Tweaks for Frustrated Hardgainers

Hardgainer

Many people struggle to build strength and muscle. And for most, an important part of the solution is simple: eat more.

But simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, especially for the classic hardgainer.

You know the type. Hell, you might be one. Hardgainers are long-limbed, narrow jointed guys, wired to the gills like they’ve guzzled down three scoops of pre-workout protein. Despite their efforts, they have one hell of a time adding lean muscle.

And if you’re a hardgainer, you probably have the “I’ve tried it all feeling.”  You’ve shoveled your face with Taco Bell.  You‘ve tried gut-busting Mass Attack 3000 gainer shakes, along with drinking a gallon of milk a day to add weight. But even in this case, the weight you added was blubbery fat, not lean muscle.

I’m a former skinny guy who feels your pain. I’ve  been there, too. I won’t say I didn’t enjoy guzzling  mint-chocolate chip ice cream with protein powder to maintain weight, but I added more fat than lean, athletic muscle.  And on that note, I’m sure you want the same–to build lean, athletic muscle, not inches of blubber around your waistline. 

It’s time to end the madness.

Let me offer my experiences as a former overwhelmed skinny dude, plus my experience helping thousands of clients transform their bodies. You’ll pack on pounds of lean muscle.  

This post reveals seven (yes, I know the title said six…but I added one more because I love you) actionable steps you can take to get high quality calories into your diet and gain muscle, not fat. 

Attention: Join the Minimalist Muscle Movement today. It’s a state-of-the-art weight-lifting and nutritional blueprint for “skinny” guys who want to pack on muscle without living in the gym. On sale here, this week only.


No more crash diets that add pounds of fat rather than muscle. No more information overload.  Let’s get to it.

1) Track Your Calories for Self-Awareness

Read this, write it down, and tattoo it on the inside of your eyelids if necessary:


Getting in enough calories is the key to gaining muscle. If you’re not gaining weight, you’re not eating enough. Period.

It doesn’t matter if you’re eating every three hours. If the scale isn’t moving, you need more food.

Got it? Good.

The best way to see whether you’re eating enough is to track calories. While tracking your food isn’t an exact science, it’s a great tool for building awareness about what you’re putting into your body. Tracking calories, even for just a few days, opens your eyes to the holes in your diet that hold back progress.

You could be way off on your intended macros. You might be consuming only 100 grams of protein when your goal is 150 grams. Or you might be eating only one serving of vegetables when your goal is much higher. (This answers the question of why you haven’t had a decent poop in three weeks :).

 

Awareness is key, especially for the classic hardgainer. Know what you’re putting in your body and in what proportions. Know whether your calories align with your goals. This is a foundational step to getting lean and muscular.

 

Basics of Calorie Tracking


There are any number of equations to calculate the number of calories you need for building muscle.

I keep it simple and use bodyweight in pounds x 18. This provides a slight caloric overload.


Therefore, if you weigh 160 pounds… 160 x 18 = 2,880 calories


Using this as a starting point, work with a basic macronutrient split.

I prefer 40:30:30, meaning 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat.

Let’s break down the numbers.

 

Carbs: 2880 x 0.4 = 1152 calories from carbs.

Since carbs have 4 calories/gram, we’ll divide 1152/4.

1152/4 = 288 grams of carbs.

Protein: 2880 x 0.3 = 864 calories

Since protein has 4 calories/gram, we’ll divide 864/4.

864/4 = 216 grams of protein

Fat:  2880 x 0.3 = 864 calories.

Since fat has 9 calories/gram, we’ll divide 864/9.

864/9= 96 grams of fat

Therefore, the 160 lb. hardgainer will aim for 2,880 calories, with”

 

288 grams of carbs

216 grams of protein

96 grams of fat

Making Adjustments

All muscle building equations are estimates at best.  


If you’re not increasing weight:

Add 200 calories in the form of carbs (50 grams) after two weeks.
If another two weeks goes by without progress,  add another 50 grams of carbs. Continue the process until you start adding lean muscle. No, the carbs won’t make you “fat” unless you’re sucking down Mountain Dew and Skittles.

Getting’ Tubby?
Drop your calories by 150 per day, starting with fat. That’s roughly 16 grams. Or try adding a sprint workout once or twice per week and keep your calories the same.

Why not the See-food Diet?

The Seafood diet, popularized by anxious bulkers who eat everything is sight, is a great way to add tons of fat, rather than lean muscle. And while it’s fun to say, “I’m bulking bro,” before crushing VooDoo doughnuts and pizza, it’s a terrible way to create a clean and sustainable bulk.

Eat carbs sources like potatoes, rice, squash, and whole wheat if you tolerate it. Most of the time, eat lean animal protein like fish, ground beef, and poultry. Crush veggies and fruits.

10% of the time relax, have a beer and a pizza.


Stay disciplined, enjoy yourself a little, and hit your calories as best you can.

Get your Calories:  Altogether, you need to eat 300-500 more calories than you’re burning to gain muscle.

Once again, If you’re not gaining muscle: eat more!

But if you add much more than 300 to 500 calories,  you’ll add fat faster than a paleo convention can add MCT oil and butter to their morning coffee.

A little common sense goes a long way. Track calories, establish sound eating habits, and get it done.

2) Consuming Liquid Meals Before, During and After Training

Strange but true: when I’m working with people who want to lose weight, the first task is eliminating liquid calories.

The opposite is true for the skinny hardgainers. We add liquid calories ASAP.

Now, this doesn’t come in the form on Chile Mocha or Pumpkin Spice lattes. Instead, we use whole food shakes, or super shakes as popularized by Precision Nutrition

These shakes have a number of benefits.

Easy to prepare and consume: Skinny hardgainers and busy dudes struggling to build muscle often think they eat a lot but still aren’t doing enough to gain muscle. Shakes take five minutes to create and can add 500-800+ calories to your diet…plenty to jumpstart muscle growth. They’re convenient and easy to consume when compared to preparing and eating yet another batch of rubbery chicken and potatoes.

Mindless Caloric Surplus: Most dudes are overwhelmed with the amount of dietary information at their fingertips. They get so overwhelmed, they just say  “fuck it” and give up. This usually happens after a couple of hard weeks chasing any fitness goal.

If you’re approaching the “fuck it” stage, focus ONLY on consuming one additional shake per day and keep your diet the same. This in itself can be enough to get the calories needed to optimize exercise recovery, jump start protein synthesis, and get your gains going in the right direction.

 P.S. Join the Minimalist Muscle Course today and find the 5 Reasons Skinny Guys are DEAD WRONG in their approach to building muscle. Enroll today.

What you need:

 

-Blender: because , well, you need to blend the damn thing

Fruit: for flavor, high quality nutrients, and carbohydrates for energy

-Spinach or Greens, you won’t even taste it and the added veggies are vital to balance a high-protein diet

Protein to support muscle growth and tissue repair

Topper/Texture adder for additional nutrients and to bring the whole recipe together

Optional: Creatine monohydrate to support high-performance training or a greens supplement to fill nutritional gaps.

Raspberry Chocolate Goodness

This shake is an awesome post-workout shake, quick breakfast, or a healthy sweet treat option. If you are looking for fat loss keep this decadent treat for a post-workout treat due to the carbohydrate count.

Ingredients

-1 Cup Raspberries (frozen)

-2 Scoops Chocolate Whey Protein

-1.5 Cups Raw Spinach

-1 Cup Coconut Milk

– ½ cup water, ½ cup ice

Bottom Line: Supplements make things much easier. If you’re busy,  $2 for two scoops of protein per day is a no-brainer compared to cooking up an extra ½ pound of chicken and shoving it down your throat between meetings.  Make two shakes before you go to bed each night. Crush one at breakfast and one between meals and you’ll mindlessly add muscle.

Attention: Join the Minimalist Muscle Movement today. It’s a state-of-the-art weight-lifting and nutritional blueprint for “skinny” guys who want to pack on muscle without living in the gym. On sale here, this week only.

3) Eat More Often.

Don’t Fast If You Want to Gain Muscle. Listen, I understand the benefits of intermittent fasting.
It can be a godsend during fat loss diets as it allows bigger portion sizes. Hell, the health benefits as outlined by my bro John Romaniello are incredible.

But the last thing the skinny hardgainer needs is a limited eating window. Remember, eating more calories than you burn is the number one rule for building lean muscle.

Until you’re in a caloric surplus, nothing else matters.

 

It doesn’t matter how many bricklayers you have; if there aren’t enough bricks you won’t build a foundation. The same logic applies to building muscle.

All your training is for naught unless you eat enough calories to support muscle growth.

Eat breakfast. Have a super shake during the middle of the morning.

Eat lunch. Have a super shake in the afternoon. Crush dinner.

There. It’s that simple. Three squares and two calorie and nutrient dense snacks.
Now please: go eat.

4) Boost Your Digestion

Like most guys in college and their 20’s, I had an iron gut. I could guzzle bottles of hot sauce, dairy, and gainer shakes without issue.

Then, after years of guzzling milk in my home state of Wisconsin, it all came down to a…..

…well, change. I’ll spare you the explosive details.

The point is when you’re consuming more calories than your body is used to, your digestive system pays the price. We’re talking protein farts, stomach aches, or feeling like a toxic dump after overeating. Let’s just say If you’re having digestive issues, your health is compromised.

Health is the first wealth even when bulking.


If your body isn’t healthy, your performance will suffer along with your physique. If your GI tract is a huge indicator of internal health, affecting everything from your skin and immune system to cognitive function. Personally, I’d rather avoid revisiting my acne-infested teenage years. I also like to avoid annoying head colds and mental fog. Wouldn’t you?

Adopt these basic behaviors:

  1. Have veggies with every meal. If you want to be healthy, you need vegetables. Beyond keeping you regular, they’ll fill your body with phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals to keep you humming’ at full speed.
  2. Eat fermented foods. Being a good German boy, I’ve had my fair share of sauerkraut (and brats.) Now, I recommend keeping a jar of raw sauerkraut in your fridge and eating a forkful before big meals. The magic at work is that fermented foods like sauerkraut are natural sources of probiotics, the “friendly” gut bacteria that helps optimize health and digestion by aiding intestinal bacteria in performing their tasks more efficiently.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is touted as a “ miracle food.” Supposedly, it improves everything from digestion to allergies and blood pressure. I’m not sure about all that, but I since I started ripping’ a shot of it before big meals my digestion has improved dramatically. 
  4. Cut out “trouble” foods. Dairy, wheat, and “junk food” seem to be the biggest culprits. Don’t battle me on junk food, you know what’s good for you and what’s not. Eat. Less. Shit. 

5) Don’t Fear Fat. 

One of the easiest ways to increase your calorie intake is to increase your intake of higher fat foods because fat contains 9 calories per gram of fat. Increase your intake of fatty foods like grass-fed meats, raw nuts, and cooking with virgin unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil is a simple way to make sure you’re getting sufficient calories. As a side note, research has shown there may be some validity to higher fat intake increasing anabolic hormone levels like testosterone. Keep it within reason, but try not to drop fat intake below 20% of your calories.

Tips to add more fat (and calories) to your diet:

  • Use 2 tbsp. of olive oil to prepare your meals twice per day to “sneak in” over 60 g of fat and 540 calories into your diet.
  • Eating three handfuls (1/4 cup) of mixed nuts a day can add an extra 300-400 calories, depending on the size of your hands.
  • Eating four whole eggs for breakfast instead of three egg whites and one whole egg adds an extra 18g of fat and 162 calories.
  • IF fat intake is higher on a given day, make a corresponding decrease in carbohydrate intake. Remember, you want to build lean muscle, not gorge on sticks of butter between cans of Pepsi.

Bottom Line: Fatty foods are the most calorically dense and will boost your caloric intake for muscle growth.  Furthermore, fats in your diet will support anabolic hormone levels, libido, and energy for better workouts, more muscle, and 2000% more awesome manliness.

P.S. Most “Muscle Building Diets” Are Completely Wrong for You – And Here’s Why… There’s no practical strategy behind them. Enroll in the Minimalist Muscle program today and I’ll show you how to build a practical diet for long-term gains. Enroll Today.


6) Don’t Fear Carbs


Similar to the fat bashing of the 90’s, carbs have been vilified through the 2000’s.

If you’re extremely overweight drinking Pepsi and eating potato chips for breakfast excess carbs can be detrimental. And higher fat, low carb approaches work extremely well for fat-loss diets.

But what if you’re an athletic, relatively healthy hard-training person? You need plenty of carbs for optimal health and performance. I recommend carbs compose 40% or a muscle building diet.

bodyweight training, Hardgainer


In the most basic sense, your body prefers carbs as a main source of energy. Sure, you can use fats and proteins for energy. But it’s not optimal for performance. For the hardgainer, carbohydrates are protein sparing. This means your body will break down stored carbs for energy first rather than your hard earned muscle.


For building muscle, eating a moderate to high carbohydrate diet provides the energy and support needed for performance and recovery. You’ll have better training sessions. You’ll spare the muscle you’ve already built. And you’ll get an awesome pump when lifting.



Question:
“But Eric…can’t carbs make me fat?”

Answer:
Carbs, proteins, and fats can all make you fat…IF you’re consuming too many calories. Remember, our goal is a surplus of 300-500 per day. No more, no less.  This is where tracking comes in. It’s easy to overeat when the food source is fat. If you’re eating lots of carbs, dial back on fats to compensate.

Watch your consumption of oils  nuts, and other high-fat foods to keep your calories inline. The opposite applies as well. When fats are higher, dial back your carb intake.

(Bonus)

7) Hyper Hydrate


While there are no calories in water, proper hydration is essential and often neglected by those looking to build muscle. Think about it…while hydration needs vary with age and sex, your body is composed of 40-60% water. Than means for a 160 lb. dude 80+ pounds of your body is composed of water.

Needless to say, proper hydration is key for tons of bodily functions:

  • Water acts as a solvent to dissolve chemicals
  • Water transports nutrients to and from cells
  • Waste management
  • Water plays a role in the synthesis of proteins, glycogen, and other molecules
  • Water acts as a catalyst for metabolic reactions in the body
  • Lubricates joints and tissues
  • Water helps regulate temperature

Our demands for water obviously increase with hard training. The enhanced metabolic rate of muscle contraction requires a larger delivery of nutrients and oxygen along with faster waste and heat removal from the body to continue training.

Even the most experienced athletes struggle with water intake despite the fact that 1-2 % reduction in bodyweight from water loss leads drops in performance through muscle cramping, decreased endurance, loss of motor skill, and a loss of muscular strength.

You don’t need to be a gallon-jug tooting meathead, but keep a water bottle with you at all times. Fill it up 4-5 times throughout the day and stay hydrated for maximum growth, performance, and health.

Implementing the Goodies

All the information is the world is great, but it takes a thorough plan to implement change and leave hardgainer hell. Here’s the plan. 

  1. Start for the first two weeks by adding a super shake like the recipe listed above after every workout and on off days for breakfast.
  2. Drink more water.
  3.  Next, start tracking your calories for the following two weeks.
  4. Within a month from now you’ll be consuming an extra 500 calories/day in shakes with a huge bump in awareness of what’s going into your body.
  5. At the end of one month, that’s a bump of at least 15,000 calories or an extra 7.5 days worth of food for the average Homo sapien to boost muscle growth. Slowly add calories and additional water. Keep your health a priority while you bulk.
  6. Join the Minimalist Muscle Movement today. It’s a state-of-the-art weight-lifting and nutritional blueprint for “skinny” guys who want to pack on muscle without living in the gym. Enroll 

Commit and Persevere

Ending your hardgainer hardships isn’t about the perfect plan.

It’s about consistent behaviors that lead to long-term change.

I’m a compassionate guy, but all this fitness stuff is hard work. If you can’t take the necessary steps, grind, sacrifice, and take an extra five minutes per day to track your calories, then maybe building your best body isn’t for you. Just sayin’.

Keep your goal, persevere, and crush your nutrition. If your goal truly matters I’m challenging you to step to the plate and see things through.

The lessons with changing your body expand far beyond the mirror: the discipline and focus you’ll gain will improve your career, relationships, and discipline.

You’ve got this. Now go win the day.

P.S. Are YOU Tired of Muscle-Building Programs that Just Don’t Work?Enroll in the Minimalist Muscle program today and I’ll show you how to build a practical diet and training program to build 8-12 pounds of muscle over the next few months.  Enroll Today.

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Build Big Biceps Without Curls

Ever since I was a kid, I’d wanted big biceps. From Arnold bustin’ out of his camo in Predator and Scott Steiner kissing his biceps on WCW, big arms said it all. They were a staple of having a strong, bad ass body.

Guns. Pythons. Pipes. Whatever you wanted to call them, I wanted them.

Fifteen years later, the fact remains: Dudes want big biceps.

Problem is, most guys head straight for the dumbbell rack or preacher curl to get them, yet fail to fill out a smedium shirt.

Trust me, I did make this mistake for years. I felt tricked by most bodybuilding magazines that had me doing five variations of curls three days per week.

As if curling 15 pound dumbbells for three sets was the Magic Unicorn that would take me to the land of swole biceps.

Tsk, tsk.

Boy, was I wrong.

Instead of a thick set of biceps hangin’ on my shoulders, I was stuck with pipe cleaners that were invisible when I turned sideways.

Finally, with the help of coaches and experience under the bar, I neared the truth.

Unless you’re a genetic freak, you’ll never build swole bi’s without first getting bigger and stronger.

P.S. Join the Minimalist Muscle Movement today. It’s a state-of-the-art weight-lifting and nutritional blueprint for “skinny” guys who want to pack on muscle without living in the gym. On sale here, this week only.

Endless sets of curls are the last way you’ll ever get big biceps unless you have the foundation to support them.

With that in mind, I’m hooking you up with the best bang-for-your-buck biceps builders. Once you’re strong in these lifts, your body will be ready to add the finishing touches with curls. And you’ll be stretching shirt sleeves and handing out Predator handshakes in no-time.

Why you Need to Be Strong to Build Muscle

A baseline of strength is imperative to building muscle. In gym newbies, adding more weight to the bar builds muscle because you’re increasing total body stress, increasing muscle fiber recruitment and boosting anabolic hormone levels.

As you get more advanced, training purely for strength builds less and less muscle. But, lifting heavy is still important for two reasons.

First, lifting progressively heavier weights activates a greater number of muscle fibers during training. Since you can’t build muscles that aren’t firing, better muscle fiber recruitment leads to more growth.
Second, with a greater level of strength you’ll be able to create more training stress. That means more muscular damage, increase metabolic stress (that wicked pump, bro), and mechanical tension—the three primary methods of muscle growth.

Like Ronnie Coleman said, “ Everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift heavy ass weight!”

That means getting strong first to earn the right to benefit from higher rep curl work later on.

Make sense?

Good.

Biceps Builders

1. Supinated Grip Bent Over Row

Using an underhand grip on your rows puts a ton of tension and direct loading on the biceps.

Since most bro’s ONLY blitz their biceps with lighter, higher rep sets, they’re not placing their biceps under enough tension to stimulate new growth. That’s where supinated grip bent over rows fill the gap, stimulating untapped muscle fibers to grow bigger biceps.

Metabolic stress and long-duration sets are important for hypertrophy. But, strength comes first and you need to stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers with heavy loads, like underhand grip rows. Keep reps moderate-heavy, aiming for a high volume in the 6-8 rep range.

Rep schemes like 4-5×6-8 will do the trick.

As the saying goes, “ Wanna grow? Gotta Row!”

 

2. Neutral Grip Chin-Up:

The neutral grip chin-up isn’t actually a biceps builder, but it may as well be. The neutral or hammer grip builds your brachialis, a muscle underneath the biceps.

For a lot of guys, the brachialis in underdeveloped, which limits both the growth and appearance of your arms. By hammering the neutral grip position you’ll get bigger arms for two reasons.

1. Your body likes to grow in proportion. By hitting under-stimulated muscle groups, you’re pushing your body to adapt to new stressors, promoting muscle growth. This is why reason specialization workouts work so well.

2. The brachialis is under your biceps. Building a bigger brachialis pushes the biceps up, giving your biceps a bigger peak and increasing the circumference of your arm.

3. Squats

Wait..what?

No, this isn’t a typo.

80% of lifters chasing bigger arms need to get bigger and stronger.

You’ll never have a thick back, big chest, or big arms without being a strong MoFo.

And while this isn’t new to you, most people ignore this blatantly simple rule.

Get strong is basic lifts like the squat to build muscle instead of diving head first into a biceps specialization program before you’re ready.

I’m not saying that squats alone build a big biceps, but the tension created in big exercises develops your entire body, setting the table for specific isolation work going forward. Once you master the power movements and are able to handle impressive poundages on those lifts, the strength and muscle you gain will translate into greater weights used in arm, shoulder and chest exercises.

P.S. Join the Minimalist Muscle Movement today. It’s a state-of-the-art weight-lifting and nutritional blueprint for “skinny” guys who want to pack on muscle without living in the gym. On sale here, this week only.

The greater your strength development in the biggest muscles of your body, the greater the strength and size potential in the smaller muscles.

Since the squat is the unofficial king of all exercises, increasing your strength here will stimulate total body muscle growth. And that means bigger biceps.

4. Rope Climb

When I hear the rope climb, I flash-back to Elementary school gym class. Hand over hand like a Spider monkey, I’d fly up the rope. All for bragging rights with my fellow eight year old cronies.. Little did I know, that rope climb could get me jacked.

Unfortunately, climbing rope is a lost art. It’s too “dangerous” for gym class, and often dismissed as a strength building exercise. It’s a crying shame.

Still, if you can find a climbing rope, you have the most underrated tool to build incredible grip strength and forearms as well as powerful lats, big biceps, and strong abs.

If you have ropes at your gym, begin with your butt on the ground, and use a hand-over-hand climb to pull yourself to standing without using your legs. Then, lower yourself to the ground.

Too tough?

Try it with your legs bent.

Rope climbs are tough and demanding both on the tissues of arms and your neuromuscular system. Keep them to once or twice per week for 2-3 sets of 3-5 climbs.

If you want to build a set of arms that are as strong as they look, then rope climbing could be the missing link.

5. 2 for 1 Inverted Rows

The inverted row is an excellent horizontal pulling exercise that blasts your biceps, forearms, and lats. Further, it’s the perfect regression if you can’t bang out chin-ups.

Taken a step further, the typical inverted row becomes an incredible muscle builder when using accentuated eccentrics and the two for one method.

As a brief overview, the eccentric of your lift is the negative, or lengthening part of an exercise. You’re stronger in the eccentric action, meaning a higher external load can be used with eccentrics (Colliander et al. 1990). This means greater strength gains.

Further, more microtrauma and muscular damage occur with a focus on eccentric muscular actions (Gibala et al. 2000). Greater muscular damage is one of the key components in muscle growth (Schoenfeld, 2010).

As you can see, focusing on eccentrics in you training helps you build strength and size.

When applied to the row, my favorite accentuated eccentric technique is the 2 for 1 inverted row.

It’s pretty simple: on the way up (concentric phase), you’ll use two arms.

Inverted Row: Pull yourself to the bar with two arms.

On the way down (eccentric), you’ll remove one arm, lowering yourself with only one arm.

This significantly overloads the eccentric portion, causing a ton of muscular damage and pushing your strength and size gains to the max. Perform the concentric (up) as fast as possible, then take 3-5 seconds on the way down.
Three to four sets of five to six reps per limb will stimulate massive growth.

Building Big Biceps

Growing bigger arms is a process that must be preceded by a focus on total body strength and development. Without first building this foundation, you’ll never have the base to specialize and get great results.

P.S. Join the Minimalist Muscle Movement today. It’s a state-of-the-art weight-lifting and nutritional blueprint for “skinny” guys who want to pack on muscle without living in the gym. On sale here, this week only.

Adding in Isolation Work

I’m not one of those coaches that thinks you’ll maximize arm development by getting strong and doing tons of chin-ups.

Far from it.

Isolation work is important, but it’s something you need to work towards. Get strong in your big lifts and start using supinated and neutral grips. Then, once you’re moving big weight for six to eight reps, add in curls at the end of your training twice per week. Focus on the pump and feel the muscle doing the work, getting stronger in the ten to fifteen rep range.

Follow my lead, and you’ll finally build big biceps.

P.S. Are you ready to join Bach Performance and find the best program for your specific fitness goals? Take our Fitbody Blueprint Quiz to get your best program. 

 

References
1) Baechle, Thomas, and Roger Earle. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning. 3rd. Champaign, Il: Human Kinetics , 2008. 406-407. Print.
2) Colliander EB., Tesch PA., Effects of eccentric and concentric muscle actions in resistance training. Acta Physiol. Scand. 140:31-39, 1990
3) Gibala MJ., Interisano SA., Tarnopolsky MA., Roy BD., MacDonald JR., Yarasheski KE., MacDougall JD. Myofibrillar disruption following acute concentric and eccentric resistance exercise in strength-trained men. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 78(8):656-661. 2000

Should You Workout Every Day?

Overwork1

Should you workout every day? Training every day must be the best way of getting the lean, athletic body you’re after.

You’ll lose fat and build muscle. Guaranteed!

After all, a 22-year-old personal trainer said so on Facebook. And he’s got the selfies to back it up.

It worked for him, so it will work for you. Whether it’s squatting every day or doing a body-part split, all you need to do is set up a seven-day workout routine. And your fitness dreams will become reality.

Sound too good to be true? Like most overly simple-minded fitness ideas, it probably is.

P.S.Get your free  eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here.

Workout Every Day
THE SAD TRUTH

It would be great to train every day.

To have the perfect program. And the perfect exercise selection.

After all, training more often leads to a more calories burned, more strength, and more lean muscle.

Every program is perfect. Until it isn’t. Let me explain.

For every sexy method or new workout that promises big results, there is another 10,000 people who start a program and stop.

And then hop to the next sexy program, for years on end.

While the promotional headlines might scream:

Shredded Abs In Six Days!!!

The truth is far different. There is no perfect program.

The best program is one you’ll do consistently, with maximum intensity and laser-like focus.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • The Essentials of Training. Without these, your efforts will be futile.
  • The Fear of Missing Out. It’s a terrible mindset that leads to failure.
  • Minimalism. Why doing less stuff better is the key to building your best body.

Here’s how to read this article.

If you’re curious about how to get better results in less time: skim the article. Pick the headlines most interesting to you. Then, look at the community on the bottom of the page.  

If you want to build muscle and look better naked:
Pay attention to what every program needs. Note the advice for your training at the end.

If you’re a coach:
Pay special attention to the fear of missing out and take notes on how you can use this to help your clients.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

It all began with a phone call. I wasn’t taking notes, but it went down something like this.

“Hey, Eric. I’m struggling with my workouts. I have a great plan prescribed by the trainer at my gym. But I just can’t train six days a week. It doesn’t fit into my schedule. One week, I miss legs. The next week, I skip back.”

At that point, I was about to give up. What’s the point of a great “program” if it doesn’t happen?

Like a puzzle, an effective workout program has many component parts. Every workout is more than a collection of exercises– it’s a structured plan designed to progressively stress your body into growth. If one piece is missing, it’s incomplete and potentially, ineffective.

So after a few seconds,  I replied something like this: “What you need is a plan that fits your busy schedule and improves your life, rather than consumes it. I call it minimalist training.”

Minimalist Training

Minimalist training is based on finding the minimum effective dose. In other words:

  • What’s the least amount of training you can do to build strength and progress?
  • What number of calories will help you lose fat or build muscle?
  • How many days do you need to lift to make sweet, sweet biceps gains?

Realistic Goals

Goals come first. Start by deciding on your number one fitness goal.

Not a Goal: “I want to lose 10 pounds and add 50 pounds to my deadlift” doesn’t work.  That’s two goals. Focus on one and only one goal. Look for the minimum effective dose.

Goal: “I want to build ten pounds of muscle over the next 90 days.”

Next, decide what’s essential to gaining ten pounds of muscle in 90 days.

P.S.Get your free  eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here.

Execution

How do you need to train? Here’s an example. Focus primarily on heavy lifting to maximize muscle fiber recruitment and build strength. Then, sprinkle in volume and   a little pump work to get your biceps growin’ volume. And you love biceps. Oh, biceps. So, you choose:

  • Squats over leg curls
  • Bench presses over flyes
  • Supinated grip bent over rows instead of machine rows
  • Occasional biceps curls

How often will you train? We know six days wasn’t working. Instead, we’ll use a habit-based approach.

Use a technique I picked up from my friends and mentors at Precision Nutrition: the one to ten scale.

On a scale of one to ten….

…How sure are you that you’ll be able to lift five days per week? Four days per week? Three days per week?

If three days a week got ten out of ten, and other days got less than nine, three days a week is the way to go.

So we’ll train three days per week using total body workouts.

How do you know what you need to eat?  Calories to promote growth with at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is the answer. We’ll use body weight in pounds x 16 as a starting point for calories.

160 lbs x 16= 2560 calories and 160g of protein

Will a simple approach like this work?

Yes.

Chasing two goals keeps you from achieving either. And applying too much fitness information to any workout clouds what’s important: getting stronger and using enough volume for growth.

Remember: You can anything, but not everything. You must be selective.

Rather than half-assing sets, you’ll focus on building your body.

You’ll approach each set with the focus of a hawk, ready to make the most of your limited opportunity. You’ll crush each rep. Each set.

Sure, you’ll be doing less, but it will be better. And better is what drives progress.

UNDERSTAND THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT

Maybe you read every fitness magazine, book, and blog possible.

Figuratively speaking, you eat up every bit of information.

Maybe you’re pretty damn smart, but your body hasn’t changed as much as you’d like.

Maybe this has left you overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused.

This is the fear of missing out. You want your goal so badly that every bit of knowledge needs to fit into your routine.

On top of everything you added last week!  Until next week, when the next “Hercules Body” workout comes out.

————–

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”
– Lao Tzu
————

PUTTING IT ALTOGETHER

It wasn’t until I simplified my training that I started seeing great results. My clients have found the same thing. They’re stunned at how “simple” a workout appears, yet floored by the results. They often finish training in less time than previous workouts, get stronger faster, and look better naked. 

Kevin P progress pictures

A minimalist approach takes you from riding off madly in all directions to going all in on what matters most.   

Occlusion training, slide boards, tempo training and the hottest eastern European squat program are all great. But the exercises, methods, and progressions that worked best years ago still work best today.

Focus on training balance, progressive overload, training consistency, and training quality.

Training Balance: Train muscle groups and movements evenly for balanced development. Specialization programs notwithstanding, if you follow a body-part split and miss a day every week, your training is NOT balanced.

The body moves as an integrated unit in sport and life. Your training should reflect this even if your primary goal is to look good naked and feel comfortable with your shirt off at the beach.

Squat: goblet squat, back squat,

Hinge: deadlift/ any Olympic lift

Lunge: lunge, split squat

Carry:  farmers walk, one arm farmers walk, carrying friend home from the bar

Press: (vertical) push press, military press(horizontal) bench press, dumbbell bench press, push-up

Pull: (vertical) chin-up, pull-down(horizontal) dumbbell one-arm row, inverted row

 

Progressive Overload: You must overload your body’s current fitness level. Lift five pounds more this week than last week. Drop your rest periods by 15 seconds. Add one rep at the end of your set. Serious work must be done. If you’re not adding weight to the bar, reps to your set, or shortening your rest, then your body won’t grow. Don’t make it complicated. Get it, put down your phone, and get a little bit better every day.  

Training Consistency: Again, a workout program that doesn’t fit your schedule is a program that won’t be done consistently. Without consistency, you won’t get results. So consistency above all else, even if you can train only twice per week. Stopping training completely is the worst mistake you can make. Slammed at work this month? Reduce your workouts from five days a week to three. Or even two or one. But don’t stop.

P.S.Get your free  eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here.

 

Workout Quality: You’ll be amazed what happens when you stop thinking about doing more workouts and focus instead on the quality of each rep, set, and workout. Your achy knee or twingy shoulder will fade into oblivion. Your strength will skyrocket as your nervous system (finally) recovers. Your shirt will fits tighter around your shoulders and chest, but somehow looser around your waist. Own each exercise, don’t let the faux idea of winning a 20 minute WOD disrupt your progress.

——–

“It is quality rather than quantity that matters.”
– Seneca

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THE TAKEAWAY

Do less, but do it better.

This isn’t a quick tip or random tactic. It’s something far more important: a mindset to apply to all facets of life. In the gym, you don’t need to “isolate” every muscle group and choose one body part for every day of the week.

Simplify.

You need progressive overload on a few exercises.

You need to train consistently.

You need to train with focus and intensity.

The rest is fine and wonderful. But when all else fails:

Simplify.

A final note. Are you part of our private Facebook group yet?

No?

Click here to join us. It’s free. And will help you look better naked 🙂

Our community is focused on simplifying fitness so you build your strongest, leanest, and most athletic body…without all the information overload.

Build Muscle Fast with High Frequency Training

41422139 - closeup portrait of a muscular man workout with barbell at gym. brutal bodybuilder athletic man with six pack perfect abs shoulders biceps triceps and chest. deadlift barbells workout.

Key Points:

– High Frequency Training produces a greater increase in anabolic hormones and increases protein synthesis to help you build muscle.

– High Frequency Training increases the speed of motor learning, helping you learn new skills, lifts, and exercises faster.

– High Frequency Training can rapidly improve strength and accelerate muscle building in beginners and advanced trainees.  

Get your 12-Week HFT Mass Program Here!


 

Pirates are mean.

We agree on that, right?

Now, imagine this—you’re jacked out of your mind and sailing off a beautiful coastline with tons of sexy woman, kind of like Bruce Wayne when he takes the entire Russian Ballet on his Yacht in The Dark Knight.

 

Soon, you’re boat is tracked down, sought out, and attacked by the unkempt pirates. Upon boarding, you’re immediately targeted as the alpha male and the ultimate threat to disrupting their piracy– shit.

You’re not a master ass-kicker like Bruce Wayne and are promptly at sword-point with an ultimatum– teach the scurvy-laden pirates how to get as jacked as possible in twelve weeks to attract beautiful women or they’ll kill you.

Now What?

It’s a grim situation, but you have a short time to turn these pirates into jacked pieces of man-candy for the Russian Ballet.

Their training history isn’t too different from lots of other dudes—they’ve been training on bodybuilding style splits for years. They even dedicate an entire day to their arms.

Deep in your cell, you contemplate, “what is the best way to gain muscle fast?”

Do I train each muscle once per week, or would it be better to train each muscle every 1-3 days for a high-frequency training stimulus?”

Upon further analysis, it’s become clear that there are major limitations with typical, bodybuilder training splits given your short time frame. High-frequency training is the answer.

Problems with Body-Part Splits and Low-Frequency Training

Sure, high-level bodybuilders get away with tons of isolation and body part splits, but they have a huge base of training experience, strength, and volume that has accumulated for decades.

Furthermore, nearly every decision they make is based on improving their physique, a luxury most pirates people don’t have. You must work within the confines of your lifestyle and time commitments to maximize the results of your training

  • Low-frequency training limits motor learning, as you’ll gain skill by practicing more often. Constant practice is a must to acquire any new skill—training your body is no different.
  •  Most guys that eat for mass don’t stimulate big muscles enough, nor train hard enough to support their insane caloric intake. As a result, get soft and pudgy, not big and jacked. High frequency training accounts for dietary slip-ups by providing frequent spikes in protein synthesis due to more frequent muscular contractions.

High-frequency training routines are the premier choice to build size, skill, and strength.

High Frequency Training Builds More Muscle

 

The more often you stimulate a physiological response through muscular contractions, the more you create an anabolic response and boost protein synthesis, allowing you build more muscle.

Here are the Key Reasons high frequency training Is Better for Helping You Build More Muscle:

  • High frequency training stimulates frequent increases in protein synthesis, testosterone, and human growth hormone

Each time you train and eclipse your bodies’ minimum essential strain (MES), you trigger an anabolic response in the body.

This means protein synthesis increases, helping you repair damaged muscle tissue. In addition, strength training creates an acute increase in testosterone and growth hormone (Craig, 1989 et al). Obviously, the more often you can stimulate an increase in anabolic hormone levels without overstressing the body, the better off you are for building muscle. 

high frequency training

In a 2010 study titled Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: Restoring the identities of growth hormone and testosterone, it was found that repeated phases of net protein balance, which are a response to repeated bouts of resistance exercise and protein ingestion, underpins muscle hypertrophy.

This shows that frequent exposure to training increases protein synthesis at the cellular level, leading to greater amounts of muscle growth. 

Okay, enough research. What does this actually mean?

Well, training frequently stimulates increases in anabolic hormones like human growth hormone and testosterone while increasing protein synthesis.

By frequently increasing protein synthesis and anabolic hormone levels you’ll create an environment ripe to get you jacked, saving you ass from those dirty pirates.

Get your 12-Week HFT Mass Program Here!

High Frequency Improves Strength Gains

 

Placing an emphasis on strength training  will directly build muscle if done by beginners while advanced trainees will progressively build muscle as a byproduct of greater work capacity.

With that in mind, getting strong must be an emphasis if you’re looking to build muscle as it helps you lift more weight for more reps, increasing training volume for greater stress to your muscles.

Build Muscle Fast with High Frequency Training, high frequency training

 

 

Furthermore, a 1997 study titled Isometric Torso Rotation Strength: effect of training frequency on its development 33 men and 25 women were tested for rotational strength before and after 12 weeks of training.

Groups split into training groups that exercises one, two, or three times per week. Although there were not major differences between groups training 2-3x per week, strength was significantly increased compared to the one time per week training group (DeMichele, 1997).

Once again, a higher training frequency improved strength gains.

Then, in 2000 a study titled “Comparison of 1 Day and 3 Days Per Week of Equal-Volume Resistance Training in Experienced Subjects” took 25 experienced participants and randomly separated them into training groups.

Group one performed one day per week of strength training with three sets to failure, with rep ranges moving from three to ten reps per set.

Group two performed workouts three days per week with one set to failure per day, while working in the same rep ranges.

Volume was the exact same, yet group two (high frequency training group) had greater increases in both lean body mass and improved one-rep max strength.

With total volume held constant, spreading the training to three doses per week produced superior results in both strength and muscular hypertrophy.

 High Frequency Increases Motor Learning

Once again, remember your predicament: Angry pirates will kill you if you don’t help them build muscle in the fastest way possible.

If you have a novice pirate with poor technique on the squat, are you only going to do it once per week?

No, of course not.

For learning a new movement, lift, or athletic skill the more frequently you practice it, the quicker it’s learned. As it pertains to lifting, learning new movements increases competency in the gym, allowing you to make faster gains in strength while building your work capacity for hypertrophy.

For novice lifters who are stronger than their technique allows, high frequency training gives them frequent practice to hone their skills and improve faster.

Important Considerations for High Frequency Training

Of course, there are many things we must consider with training frequency and setting up a program.

Haphazardly exercising daily or multiple times per day is a first class ticket to overtraining, wrecking your body, staying puny, and getting your head cut off by pirates.

That in mind, the following considerations are essential to productive high-frequency training.

Defining High Frequency Training

High frequency training is a relative term, so for all intensive purposes, high-frequency training is more often than you currently train. In most cases, this comes out to 2-3 times per week for each muscle group with a variety of stimuli and rep ranges.

Keep intra-workout volume low to promote recovery

If you’re training major muscle groups frequently then destroying them early in the week hinders your ability to train later in the week.

Keep a moderate intra-workout volume to promote recovery and maximize growth. You’ll end up with a higher weekly volume without crippling soreness for better recovery and better muscle growth.

Use Mini-Circuits to Stimulate Muscle Building

I routinely recommend mini-bodyweight circuits to busy clients and those looking to improve body composition for the same reason—you always have 5-10 minutes to get better.

do more pull-ups, high frequency training for mass, high frequency training

No excuses, you will find time if your goal is important.

In the case of high frequency training, mini-workouts to stimulate muscles will induce bouts of protein synthesis and increases in anabolic hormones to get you jacked.

Use this brief circuit, all you need is a doorframe chin-up bar or a mini-band. Hit this workout 2-3x/ week on non-training days or 8-12 hours apart from a typical training session.

1a. Chin Up 3-4×5 or band pull-aparts 4×15

1b. Push-Up 3-4x-15-20

1c. Bodyweight Squats 3-4×15

Vary Neural Demands to Preserve the Nervous System

You can’t train hard, heavy, and explosive every single day. That means if you go all out with heavy, neurally demanding training it should be followed by lighter weight and less explosive work.

On example here is the extensive, intensive type training split to balance the nervous system and prevent overtraining.

In other words, one day is spent working with more explosive exercises and higher overall training loads and another day with submaximal weights and higher training volumes.

 Build Muscle Fast with High Frequency Training

A typical week of training would be outlined by optimizing recovery while still pushing volume and frequency to stimulate huge gains in lean muscle mass.

High frequency training is the answer

Without a doubt, you’ll see faster and better results with high frequency training. With recovery and nutrition the same as a body-part split, high-frequency training yields better results in less time, especially in drug-free natural lifters. 

Strength and performance are highly neural in nature; being able to practice these movements frequently improves neuromuscular coordination faster.

Since you’re training more frequently, you’ll increase work capacity throughout your entire body, allowing you to train harder and longer in the future.

Plus, you’ll stimulate anabolic hormones and protein synthesis more often to build more muscle than training with less frequent, body part splits.

It’s time to drop the body-part split act and get serious about building muscle. High frequency training is the answer.

Get your 12-Week HFT Mass Program Here!

DeMichele, P. L., Pollock, M. L., Graves, J. E., Foster, D. N., Carpenter, D., Garzarella, L., Brechue, W., & Fulton, M. (1997). Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 78(1), 64-69. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9014960

MacDougall JD, Gibala MJ, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDonald JR, Interisano SA, Yarasheski KE. The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Can J Appl Physiol. 1995 Dec;20(4):480-6

McLester, J., Bishop, E., & Guilliams, M. (2000). Comparison of 1 day and 3 days per week of equal-volume resistance training in experienced subjects. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14(3). Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2000/08000/Comparison_of_1_Day_and_3_Days_Per_Week_of.6.aspx

Phillips SM, Tipton KD, Aarsland A, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR.  Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. Am J Physiol. 1997 Jul;273(1 Pt 1):E99-107

Phillips, S., & West, D. (2010). Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: restoring the identities of growth hormone and testosterone. Physican and Sportsmedicine, 38(3), 97-104. doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.10.1814

 

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