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Building Muscle

Six Time-Tested Principles For Building Strength And Muscle

Build Strength and Muscle

Building strength and muscle isn’t easy, but it’s not overly complicated either.

Still, it’s common to find yourself working hard but not getting closer to your goals.

You catch yourself scanning social media and perusing different programs as a means to change things up, overcome your plateau and, hopefully, hop back on the gains train.

But you’ve been here before: jumping to the latest popular diet and training method, only to find yourself in the same battle six weeks later.

When you hit a plateau, the answer often lies in doing less, but better. Here are the six laws you need to simplify your training so you can look great naked without living in the gym.

#1 – Train Movements First, Muscles Second

I love curls as much as the next guy, but unless you’ve built up serious levels of strength, doing tons of isolation work is a poor use of your time. The three main triggers for muscle growth are:
1. Mechanical Tension
2. Metabolic Stress: the pump
3. Muscular Damage: soreness

Of these three factors, mechanical tension is the most important. The best way to create higher levels of tension is by training heavy, compound exercises. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to lift more weight for more reps, making every other training goal exponentially easier to accomplish.

Instead of focusing on isolation exercises, focus on these six movement patterns:

      1. Hinge: Deadlift, good morning, kettlebell swing, snatch and clean variations

      2. Lunge: Lunge, split squat, step-back lunge, Bulgarian split squat

      3. Push: Bench press, push-up, overhead press, jerk, one-arm press

      4. Pull: Pull-up, bent-over row, seated row, one-arm row

      5. Squat: Front squat, goblet squat, Zercher squat, back squat

      6. Carry: Farmer walk, single-arm carry, overhead carry

Analyze your program and ask yourself if these movement patterns are covered. If not, cut out the fluff and focus on the most time effective training possible.

To reiterate, isolation exercises aren’t bad. They can be the perfect icing on the cake in terms of building muscle and for activating stubborn muscle groups. But you need the cake; ergo, the foundation of strength to complete your journey for size and strength.

In other words, focus on bangin’ out decent weight in bent- over rows and chin-ups, before chasing a bigger biceps peak every Friday evening.

2. Optimize Exercise Order

To maximize your gains in performance, strength, and muscle, exercise order should be based on the demands of the nervous system. That means advanced methods like sprints, plyometrics, and heavy compound lifts should be done first, not after your cardio or conditioning work.

Exercises that require explosive action and synchronization of movement like jumps, cleans, heavy squats, and sprints are primarily driven by your central nervous system.

When fatigue sets in, your ability to generate force, control every inch of your reps is compromised, and your chance of pulling a hamstring or tweaking your back skyrocket.

This is why repping out power cleans and box jumps is an absolutely horrendous way to “get more athletic” and a first class ticket to injury.

A friend who wishes to remain anonymous has 17 stitches to prove it. He decided to do prowler pushes and box jumps at the end of a strength workout. The box jumps did not go well.  #WTFwashethinking.

Here’s the ideal way to order exercises, especially if you want to boost strength and performance. It’s based on nervous system demands.

1. Dynamic Movements: Jumps, throws, and sprints if training for speed

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Can jumping get you jacked❓ ⠀ Well, yes. But as a byproduct of sound training. Oh, and you want a body that’s able to perform too, right? 😉 Perfect, read this whole post. ⠀ Jumps, such as the broad jump here will hep you build explosive power and athleticism, especially as you get older. Try 3×3-5 reps before your main lift once per week with 60 seconds rest between sets. ⠀ Jumps will fire up your CNS, “turning on” more muscle fibers and waking your body up to improve each individual workout. Outside the gym… ⠀ You’ll be able to move faster whether you’re playing basketball at the gym, volleyball at the beach, or chasing your minions around the house. ⠀ ➡️➡️➡️Do you use any jumps in your training? Comment below and let me know! I’ll send the first 3️⃣3️⃣ commenters my ultimate jumping article. . . #athleticphysique #highperformancemuscle #tnation #performancetraining #trainingover40 #trainingover30 #onthego #menshealth

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2. Explosive/Power: Power clean, snatch

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[Build the Ultimate Power Look] – Do cleans beat up your wrists? Switch to high pull variations and you'll still build #athleticism, coordination, muscle, and strength. While both cleans and high pulls require roughly 200 muscles complete a rep, hanging high pulls take stress off of your wrists AND add more muscle building stress due to the catch and eccentric loading of catching the barbell. – Altogether this makes the high pull one of the best moves to build insane total body power and add size to your forearms, traps, shoulders, and rhomboids without aggravating your wrists. – For power and strength, try 5×3 with 90-120 seconds rest. – To add size to your traps, forearms, and rhomboids Go from the hang position and try 4-5×6-8 reps. – Do you include any weightlifting #olympiclifting movements into your training? . . #mensphysique #aestheticathlete #highpull #barbellbend #tnation

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3. Compound Strength: Squat, deadlift, press, pull

4. Compound, Higher Rep, Hypertrophy: Squat, deadlift, press, pull

5. Isolation Work: Curl, calf raise, leg extension

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If you’re frustrated by skinny arms and shirt sleeves flapping in the wind you could be making this common mistake: ⠀ Going too heavy on isolation exercises. ⠀ The result? Achy joints, stagnant gains, and shit-tastic form. ⠀ Eek. Remember, the goal of isolation work is to improve your mind-muscle connection and “feel” your muscles contracting, not setting records for the biceps curl olympics 🤭. ⠀ During your next workout, try an Alternating Dumbbell Biceps Curl with a lighter weight, focus on the contraction, and at the end of the set, do a 10-15 second hold to stretch your biceps. ⠀ What is your favorite biceps training tip? I’ll DM my BEST arms training article of all time. . . #flexfriday #armsday #bicepscurls #bachperformance #bigarmsworkout #mensworkouts @caffeineandkilos

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6. Conditioning

As far as building a high-performance physique is concerned, it’s important to train the exercises most sensitive to fatigue early on.

Sure, you can try pre-fatiguing sets and isolation exercises early in your training during some muscle building phases, but it’s not ideal for performance. Start with explosive movement, sprinkle in your heavy compound weight training, move to higher-rep isolation work, and finish with conditioning.

3. Stick to Mostly Classic Strength Training Exercises

Consider me an old soul (or just plain old) but the exercises that worked best generations ago for classic bodybuilders and athletes are still the best today.

“New” doesn’t necessarily mean effective.

A good rule of thumb the majority of the time: If the training implement wasn’t around thirty years ago, then it’s not worth your time.

There are a few exceptions, but when it comes down to it, exercises and tools that have withstood the test of time should make up the majority of training. There’s a reason barbell and dumbbell exercises have been around for 100+ years– they work.

As an example, take a peek at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Golden Six Program. This is what he recommends for most folks getting started in the gym. This was his focus BEFORE adding anabolic steroids into the mix and dominating the bodybuilding world:

  1. Barbell Back Squat: 4×10 Strength Training
  2. Wide Grip Barbell Bench Press: 3×10
  3. Chin-Up: 3 x Max Reps
  4. Behind the Neck Overhead Press: 4×10
  5. Barbell Curl: 3×10
  6. Bent Knee Sit-Up: 3-4 x Max Reps

Pretty basic and simple, right? Well, this is because basic and simple is often the best.

Remember, you don’t need to train like a pre-contest bodybuilder or high-level athlete to look great naked and improve your health. Chances are you don’t have the foundational skills, the drugs, nor the all-in lifestyle to maximize the demands of these workouts, anyway.

Squats, deadlifts, cleans, push-ups, and lunges, etc., should be the primary exercises used in your programs. Kick it old school. Keep it hard and simple.

4. Quality Lifting Will Triumph Over Quantity Lifting Every Time

Would you rather have a five-pound microwave pizza or an authentic pizza with the best ingredients, cooked by an Italian chef in a wood-burning stove imported from Italy?  

Quality is more important than quantity, in pizza and in lifting.

Tracking weight, setting personal records, and adding weight to the bar is essential to building strength and muscle.

But never forget the basics, like the quality of each rep.

Your goals dictate the number of reps, the speed, and the weight on the bar. But your focus should never change. Hone in on the best technical mastery of each rep, rather than each set.

Try to mentally break your sets of 5 reps into 5 sets of 1 rep. It’s much easier to focus on rep execution when you only need to worry about 1 rep. In other words, focus on each individual rep, independent of the set. By focusing on the rep execution you become more in tune with technique, recruit more muscle, reduce injuries, and get more plates on the bar.

5. Training Consistency Is The Most Important Factor For Success

A few months back, I asked the Minimalist Muscle Facebook Community how often they trained. The majority said 4-6x per week.

This is great, except for the elephant in the room: Are they really training that often and that consistently each and every week, without fail?

Choosing a five-day-per-week body part split might be perfect, but missing a day or two every week throws the entire program out of whack.

You might end up with nine or ten days between leg workouts,  for example. Not optimal. When this happens, the results are huge performance gaps that cause strength and muscular plateaus down the road, imbalances that lead to injury, and shoddy training overall.

Remember, your workout plan must match your ability to consistently complete full training cycles. Training is not a mish-mash of exercises thrown together in fuck-it-all fashion; it’s a process of triggering the right physiological change at the right time to trigger a correct response.

That’s why total body training splits are a good idea for many people. Even if you miss a day, you’re still hitting major muscle groups and movements two or three days per week.

6. Be Present. Stop Just Going Through the Motions

At work, I’ve noticed four to six hours of focused, distraction-free work is exponentially more productive than 12 hours of “grinding, which is inevitably broken up by scanning social media and getting lost in my inbox.

In the case of work, less but better is, well, better.

The same principle applies to the gym.

Those who train like caged animals (even when form sucks), aren’t scanning their phone between (or during) sets generally have impressive physiques and move serious weight.

This is focused intensity and determination at work, my friend.

You can’t approach the rack while swiping for babes on Bumble, or posting on Instagram if you want to maximize your training.

Remove distractions.


Close your eyes, imagine yourself crushing the weight, and then do it.  

Don’t worry about tempo, number of sets, and what Tabata hip-thrusting routine is best for you. Just focus on each rep, each set, and each workout with distraction-free intensity. Combine your knowledge and technique with intense focus and you’ll maximize your training.

Trust me on this: Your ability to focus on a superpower both in the gym and out in the world. By limiting distractions and focusing on the task at hand you’ll do more quality work in less time and ultimately, succeed.

And should you need help along the way?

I’ve developed two free guides to help you out. Click on the links below to download, simplify fitness, and ultimately, look better naked without living in the gym.

Lose Fat: The No BS Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Build Lean Muscle: Chiseled Muscle Cheat Sheet

Note: A variation of this article was originally published on T-Nation in 2015.

14 Expert Tips to Build Muscle


I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

Few of us are lucky enough to have hit the genetic lottery for building muscle.

Some guys get huge with “one click” protein powder purchases and staring at a loaded barbell.

Here’s the kicker:

These lifters few and far between.

For the rest of us, we need years of dedicated training, eating, and recovery to gain a few pounds of lean mass. 

You need to put in the time, stay consistent, and persevere through to reap the rewards of your iron labor. I’ve enlisted the help of some of today’s top Strength and Physique coaches to put together the top 14 Expert Tips to Build Muscle.

These methods are time tried muscle-building techniques with thousands of clients hours and dedication built to help you build mass.
Enough beating around the bush, implement these 14 expert tips to build athletic muscle mass.

1) Strength Improves Muscle Building Capacity

Building greater levels of strength creates an overload stimulus in the body, requiring adaptation to take place in response to stress to handle future stressors.

Muscle fibers break down and require repair. During repairs, the body forges a larger, stronger muscle fiber to be resilient to future stressors.

accelerate hypertrophy, Expert Tips to Build MuscleIt gets better:

Stronger muscles and a super-charged nervous system allow the use of greater training loads to achieve greater levels of metabolic stress, mechanical tension, and muscular damage, which are the three primary methods of muscular hypertrophy, as shown in The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training (3).

Placing an emphasis on building strength directly builds muscle in beginners while advanced trainees will progressively build muscle as a byproduct of greater work capacity. Getting strong must be an emphasis if you’re looking to build muscle.

2) Incorporate Frequent Bodyweight Training to Build Muscle

Must guys jump the gun with endless isolation exercises and insane training programs without reinforcing the basics.

Before you jump into two-hour workouts and hammer every isolation exercise practice bodyweight exercises until you’re an absolute bad-ass at moving your body.

That means add in push-ups daily, get a doorframe chin-up bar, and do bodyweight squats.

For the love of god, please don’t kip, per the video below at  0.08:


Adding 50-100 push-ups to your daily routine before work or school is a great way to increase training volume in a few short minutes.

Incorporate mini-workouts throughout the week with your bodyweight and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by more muscle and better movement quality.

3) Vary Your Training Tempos and Rep Ranges
I’m a huge fan of lifting explosively to supercharge the nervous system and build power, but it’s not the only answer for building muscle.
Your muscles need tension from heavy and explosive lifts, but they also need metabolic stress and muscular damage to maximize muscle growth.

biceps, Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Start your workouts with an explosive exercise like jumps or throws, move to a pure strength movement for greater tension, and then incorporate longer duration sets for more metabolic stress and muscular damage.

The variation will challenge a greater number of muscle fibers to stimulate a greater growth response to help you accelerate hypertrophy.

4) Don’t Sweat the Olympic Lifts for building muscle

Bret Contreras of BretContreras.com 

If you suck at Olympic lifts, don’t sweat it. As it pertains to muscle building, you’re better off sticking with exercises you already know that create a similar training effect.
In the case of Olympic lifts, we’re talking about explosive hip extension.
You will derive similar benefits from implementing the kettlebell swing and hex bar jump squats.

These two exercises have a rapid learning curve and yield similar joint torques and muscle activations compared to cleans, making them a more time efficient muscle builder.

5) De-Load to Reload and come back stronger

Until this week you’ve been adding slabs of muscle, and hitting personal records in the gym. Now, you’re fried.
Progress has stalled. Warm-up sets feel like a piano on your back, and motivation is fading. In fact, you’d rather try a Tracey Anderson workout than lift another barbell. What gives?

How Adaptation Works

To address the problem we look to the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) by Hans Seyle to analyze how changes in performance actually happen. GAS states that the body goes through a specific set of responses (short term) and adaptations (longer term) after being exposed by an external stressor.

The theory holds that the body goes through three stages, two that contribute to survival and a third that involves a failure to adapt to the stressor.

accelerate hypertrophy, accelerate muscle building, Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Deload frequency varies depending on the athlete, training age, goals, sport requirements, and number of workouts per week.

Here is a sample micro-cycle with a built-in deload. Volumes and intensities are for a compound exercise, such as a power clean and for the moderate-to-advanced athlete.

• Week 1: High Intensity/Low-Moderate Volume, 4×3, 85-92.5% 1RM
• Week 2: Moderate Intensity/Moderate-High Volume, 5×5, 75-85% 1RM
• Week 3: Very High Intensity/Low Volume, 4×3, then 2,2,1,
• 85-100% 1RM
• Week 4: Low Intensity/Low-Moderate Volume, 3×5, 50-60% 1RM

With more lifters, flip weeks one and two, and three and four, for better performance benefits during the highest intensity workouts.

• Week 1: Moderate Intensity/Moderate-High Volume, 5×5, 75-85% 1RM
• Week 2: High Intensity/Low-Moderate Volume, 4×3, 85-92.5% 1RM
• Week 3: Low Intensity/Low-Moderate Volume, 3×5, 50-60% 1RM
• Week 4: Very High Intensity/Low Volume, 4×3, then 2,2,1, 85-100% 1RM

Now, here’s the deal:

There is an inverse relationship between intensity (1RM) and the number of reps per set. Training in both manners, if you can even do it, is a recipe for overtraining. For this reason, varying intensity and volume through workouts is ideal to allow recovery and maximal effort.

On deload weeks training is still performed in an effort to preserve the neuromuscular pathways of training without actually breaking down the body. This works well for form and speed work to preserve form and muscle mass.

Cool, eh? That means yes, you can still do your glorious bench press or deadlifts on deload weeks, but not as heavy.

6) Modify your rest periods to fit your training goals

Few training variables get less respect in the gym than rest periods. Luckily, these exercise rest period guidelines will have you resting your way to gains in no time:
Don’t follow the same exercise rest periods for workouts ad-nauseum. As loading parameters and volume change so will the rest period and active recovery exercise.

Expert Tips to Build Muscle
If you’re torched after two minutes, take another minute. You know your body better than a timed rest-interval; however, keep exercise rest period in the ballpark to match your goals.

As it pertains to training for muscle gain it’s best to vary your rest periods. Strength plays a huge role in muscle building, but not all rest periods need to be 2-3 minutes when building muscle.
The pump and metabolic stress from short rest periods between sets is a vital stimulus for muscle growth as well.

According to Brad Schoenfeld, the accumulation of metabolites is the result of short rest and long tension exercises. These require the use of anaerobic glycolysis, resulting in the buildup of lactate, hydrogen ions, creatine, and other metabolites. So yes, if you’re looking to get jacked then a nauseating pump with short rest is perfect for training.

What’s the bottom line?

Training for muscle growth requires a well-rounded approach. Emphasize heavy weights/low reps (1-6), moderate weight with moderate reps (8-12), and the occasional higher rep sets (15+).

Hitting all rep ranges maximizes stimulation of the muscles to you build tons of muscle.  Rest periods of 2-5 minutes, 45-90 seconds, and 0-30 seconds fit the various rep ranges, respectively.

7) Error: You eat too much food

Jason Maxwell of JMAXFitness 

Most people think that most guys eat too little when trying to put on muscle. I feel like the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Now, guys eat too much food when trying to put on muscle.

The problem with this is obvious: they end up getting fat. Just because you’re training hard, it doesn’t mean that you can eat 4000 Calories per day. Think about this logically for a second.

Research shows that the rate of muscle gain is dictated by how much training experience that you have. A beginner is able to gain 1-1.5% total body weight per month, an intermediate can gain 0.5-1% total body weight per month, and an advanced trainee can gain between 0.25-0.5% total body weight per month.

If you’re trying to put on muscle (without the fat), you only need to eat enough to gain muscle at the speed that you are capable of. For example, if you’re 200 lbs and are an advanced trainee, you might only gain 0.5 – 1 lb. of muscle per month (on average), so your nutrition should dictate this.

Using an approximated model, this means that you only need to be eating an extra 1750 – 3500 Calories per month. This is approximately an extra 58 – 117 Calories per day (above maintenance level).

That’s like two or three stinkin’ bananas. Two! Eat enough to build muscle, but don’t get out of control unless you want to pile on tons of body fat.

8) Train muscles according to their functional anatomy and fiber type
Menno Henselmans of Bayesian Bodybuilding

One piece of advice that’s extremely well received is not to train every body part the same way. Instead, you want to train each body part according to its functional anatomy and its muscle fiber type profile.
Each muscle has a different fiber type composition. Some muscles are fast twitch dominant while others are slow twitch dominant.

Muscle fiber type composition is largely genetically determined and has important muscle-specific training implications. Fast twitch fibers respond best to low volume, long rest intervals, high intensity, and low frequency.

Expert Tips to Build Muscle, 4 Explosive Exercises to Make You a Beast

Slow twitch fibers, in opposition, respond best to high volume, short rest intervals, low intensity, and high frequency.

Perhaps most importantly, fast twitch muscle fibers have significantly greater growth potential, roughly 100% more than slow twitch fibers. Even in untrained individuals, they’re normally over 20% larger, and it’s not uncommon for them to be over twice as large.

The fiber type composition of each muscle varies per individual, but as with most physiological characteristics, people don’t differ that much. In the general population, differences in the percentage of slow twitch muscle fibers are normally above 5% but usually below 10%. So, you probably aren’t that special in this regard, even though your momma said you were.

Find out the specific breakdown of muscle fiber type-based hypertrophy training check out this great post by Menno on JMAXfitness, and head to his personal blog.

9) Basic progressive overload is still king
It’s sad how many guys train for years yet remain the same size, still benching 135 for three sets of ten, year after year.

To make progress you must stress the system above what you’re currently doing whether it’s via more weight, more dense training, or a higher total volume.

Pick your program, stick with the same lifts, and add weight to the bar. Whether it’s 5 x 5, Starting Strength or 5/3/1, the principle is the same – stress the organism beyond its current capacity to create a higher level of stress.

As a result, the body creates stronger muscles, stores more fuel, and grows.

10) Optimize Your Workouts based on neural demands

When setting up any training program or workout, you need to place more neurologically demanding exercises early in the week, and early in each session.
In other words, neural demands are the requirements placed on the nervous system for the ideal execution of an exercise.

With high-speed and high weight exercises like sprinting, cleans, or a heavy deadlift the nervous system is the driver of performance.
If you’re blasting cleans with excess fatigue the nervous system fails to send signals to the muscles fast enough to allow technique execution of the exercise. This leads to missed lifts, altered technique, and potentially wreckin’ yo gains.

Expert Tips to Build Muscle, build muscle

Keep the high-intensity exercises like sprinting, cleans, or near-maximal lifts with full recovery in the beginning of your workouts.
Exercises towards the velocity portion of the graph (i.e. speed) are obviously faster and more sensitive to changes in technique than slower speed exercises like heavy deadlifts or squats.

To get jacked to the max start your workout with explosive movement like sprints, jumps, or throws and then hit the weights to get stronger and create muscular damage to stimulate hypertrophy.

For more information on maximizing your workout for muscle gain check out this post for Roman Fitness Systems on exercise order for optimal muscle building.

11) Use Creative Monohydrate to improve work capacity

Creatine is arguably the best muscle-building supplement of all time as it directly improves your ability to perform short duration, high-intensity exercises like sprints and heavy weight lifting.

The body only stores a limited amount of creatine, so adding 5-10 grams daily will improve your work capacity on high-intensity exercises for a greater training response. As a result, you’ll be able to lift more weight for more reps to gain more muscle. 


On workout days dose it pre and post-workout with your beverage of choice. Taking creatine with a protein or carbohydrate beverage increases absorption, as the increased insulin response will pull more creatine into the muscle tissue.

Tweet: A recovery drink works better than vodka red-bull, trust me. :http://bit.ly/1Ow4zucTweet: A recovery drink works better than vodka red-bull, trust me. :http://bit.ly/1Ow4zuc

On non-workout days creatine works well in the morning with a drink such as green tea. Using a warm drink helps dissolve creatine better, so the bottom of your beverage doesn’t taste like a sandbox.

12) Micro progression is the Key to Macro-Results

Travis Pollen, the Fitness Pollenator

Eat more and get progressively stronger, it’s that simple. Consistently add weight to the bar and consume 300+ more calories than your baseline to promote an anabolic state and increase your work capacity.
While you’re at it, forget the bodybuilder split, and train your entire body every session: something for your legs, something for your core, a pushing movement, a pull, and occasionally, high-intensity intervals.

From week to week add a little weight and keep your eyes on the long term. A weekly increase of 5 lbs. on a lift would be 260lbs in a year, a massive improvement for anyone.

The progressive overload doesn’t need to be weekly, but it must be consistent. Building muscle doesn’t happen overnight, but string together several weeks and months of hard work, and gains will be aplenty.

13) High-Frequency Training Builds Mass Faster

 Would you be stronger performing squats in 52 workouts per year or 104 workouts per year?
Logic says to go with 104, but why?

Consistent exposure to stimuli is vital for learning new movement patterns, allowing you to become better at exercises faster.

While this doesn’t mean you should train every movement pattern daily, performing total body training routines a few times per week will accelerate hypertrophy is most lifters.

Back in 2000, a study compared 1 day and 3-days per week of equal-volume resistance training (McLester, et al 2000). Twenty-five experienced subjects were randomly separated into training groups.

bodyweight training, Expert Tips to Build Muscle, Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Group one performed one day per week of strength training with three sets to failure, using 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.

Training volume between the two groups was the same, yet group two had greater increases in both lean body mass and improved one-rep max strength. With total volume held constant, spreading the training frequency to three doses per week produced superior results in both strength and muscular hypertrophy.

A 2010 study on anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle found that repeated phases of net protein balance, which can be a generated response to repeated bouts of resistance exercise and protein ingestion, underpins muscle hypertrophy (Phillips, S., & West, D., 2010).

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

14) Hammer the Basics, Then Get Creative 

Bryan Krahn, the man behind BryanKrahn.com

There are two big stumbling blocks for guys looking to get big: lack of respect for the essentials, and a lack of creativity.

For the first one, you have to do the bodybuilding basics before all else. That means eating a significant calorie surplus, lots of protein, a good amount of “good” fat, and reasonably frequent meals.

Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Yet people seem to want to “hack that” — they want to fast most of the day and shovel food at night, or do some weird macronutrient cycling voodoo, or use overly hyped supplements.

What a waste of time. Even if what you’re doing works — and it might — why risk it when you can just do what others before you have done. And grow.

The lack of creativity stems from your body’s ability to adapt. Even the absolute best workout will eventually quit delivering results, cause your body has adapted it. So you have to change exercises up, use different rep ranges, exercises, rest intervals, even tempos.

And you have to stop just training your strengths. Maybe getting your chest to finally “grow again” requires strengthening your “unsexy” upper back? Or maybe it requires simply learning to “bench for a big chest instead of a strong bench press.”

It all boils back to humility. Accepting that you don’t know everything yet, and that some others before you are light years ahead of you.

Wrap Up Expert Tips to Build Muscle
Consistent, hard training in the presence of enough calories is a no-brainer to accelerate hypertrophy.
Coupled with these tips, you’re truly setting yourself up for success to finally build the strong, shredded, and athletic body you desire.

Tweet: Here's What the Experts Say about Building Muscle: bit.ly/1Ow4zucTweet: Here’s What the Experts Say about Building Muscle: 

• Strength Improves Muscle Building Capacity

• Hammer the Basics, Then Get Creative

• Error: They eat too much food.

• Train muscles according to their functional anatomy and fiber type

• Don’t Sweat the Olympic Lifts for building muscle

• Use Creatine: You should be anyways for the numerous health benefits that are beginning to appear.

• De-load

• Modify rest periods to fit your goals

• Multiple Tempos/ Set Durations

• Train with a High Relative Frequency

• Micro progression is the Key to Macro-Results

• Optimize Your Workouts based on Neural demands


Train Smarter, Train Harder, Perform Better

Building a high-performance body can be difficult. But, it doesn’t have to be.

Join our Private Facebook group, it’s free. 





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

Schoenfeld, Brad. “The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24.10 (2010): 2857. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

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Escape from Hardgainer Hell: Nutrition for Hardgainers

For some dudes building muscle is easy. Add protein and creatine to their diet mixed with any  training and voila: 10 pounds of muscle in a month.

I’m not that guy.

In fact, I could pull off skinny jeans and small t-shirts no matter how much I thought I ate or how hard I trained.

It sucked.

That all changed one hot, muggy afternoon.

I just got done peeling myself off the turf at Football practice after I was absolutely trucked by a teammate. My teammate wasn’t a prick; I just provided less resistance than a blade of grass.

It was embarrassing, humiliating, and a huge wake up call to change. I read everything on nutrition and training I could, trying to implement it all at once.

Still, I failed miserably. My desire desire to change was so great that I changed everything whenever I read a fancy supplement label with giant promises or a new training routine.

When it comes to building muscle, information overload is a surefire way to fail.

Much like a Hail Mary pass your efforts will probably end up with a turnover and failure. It’s much better to dink and dunk your way down the field, taking what you can and creating small wins on a daily basis until you spark a big play.

Much like training, you wouldn’t jump into heavy singles without first building up and practicing technique with heavy loads.
Nutrition for hardgainers is no different.

It’s time to stop being the object of ridicule despite busting your ass. By implementing these hardgainer nutrition laws one at a time you’ll see the light and earn your pass out of hard gainer hell.

 1)Drink Liquid Meals Before, During, and/or After your Training

Ironically, when I’m working with clients looking to lose weight one of the first things we look to clean up is the intake of liquid calories. As it stands, my number one strategy to gain the first few pounds of hard-gainer muscle is to incorporate liquid calories before, during, and/or after training. The benefits are huge. Since you’re already guzzling fluids to rehydrate during workouts it’s easy to sneak in 500+ calories for improved exercise recovery, protein synthesis, and tissue repair.

Nutrition for hardgainers

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 wont 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.


-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: In all seriousness supplements make things much easier. If you’re busy then $2 for two scoops of protein per day is a no-brainer compared to cooking up an extra ½ pound of chicken for a similar protein equivalent. Both from a financial and time perspective protein supplements like Biotrust or Onnit are a godsend. Make a batch of Supershakes like the shake listed above.

 2) Track Your Calories for Self-Awareness

Tracking calories is a pain in the ass.

Tracking Calories is an in-exact science at best.

Still, if you’re not gaining weight the reason is simple—you’re not getting enough calories. Simple and straightforward, multiply your bodyweight by 18 to find the minimum number of calories you need.

Therefore, if you weigh 160 pounds… 160×18= 2880 calories

Thermogenics are simple–if you’re in a caloric surplus you will begin adding weight to your hard gainer frame. When it comes to “energy out,” the body’s energy needs include the amount of energy required for maintenance at rest, physical activity and movement, plus food digestion, absorption, and transport. “Energy in” is simpler: how many calories you’re putting into your body. Altogether, you need to put in 300-500 more calories than you’re burning for a positive energy balance.

How to Create a Positive Energy Balance:

Seriously—EAT MORE

If you’re not gaining weight the hard truth is you need to eat more. All the training in the world won’t do anything for you if you’re not putting enough fuel into your body. You need tons of fuel to support your hard training and even more to build muscle. You can’t build a brick wall without bricks—get your calories in.

Bottom Line: The science is in-exact, but self-awareness is priceless. The biggest most jacked guys in the world count their calories because it instills self-awareness and discipline on exactly what it takes to accomplish your goal. Count calories using Myfitnesspal for the next two weeks and monitor your weight every other day. This way you’ll see the amount of food needed to reach your goals and develop eating habits that match your goals.

3) Don’t Fast if you want to Gain Muscle

I understand the draw of intermittent fasting for fat loss, overall health, and working around a hectic schedule, but a restricted eating schedule is the last thing under-eating hard gainers need to gain muscle. Hardgainers simply can’t eat 4 cups of rice and 16oz of steak at dinner- they think a chicken breast and one sweet potato is eating big.
While you don’t need to eat every two or three hours or drag a cooler to work you must make time to get your calories in. If you’re dead-set on intermittent fasting for muscle gain don’t go over twelve hours without eating, you wont get enough calories in to support muscle growth.

Bottom Line: It doesn’t matter how many bricklayers you have; if there aren’t enough bricks you won’t build a foundation. The same logical applies to building muscle—all the training is for naught unless you eat enough calories to support muscle growth.

4.) Balance Acids and Bases:

Look bones: You’re crushing your diet, training hard, and making headway in your escape from hard gainer hell. Problem is, you reek like a toxic dump, your stomach is in fits, and your digestion is garbage.

What gives?

Digestive health is huge indicator of what’s going on side your body while you’re preoccupied with pumping your pecs and squatting a house. When muscle building is the goal, hard gainers opt for high-protein foods like tasty dead animal flesh to support their hard training. The tradeoff is on imbalance between having too many highly acidic foods (meats) and not enough bases (leafy greens) that results in symptoms from increased inflammation, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. Any way you look at it health suffers unless the body is in balance between acidic foods and base foods.

Nutrition for Hardgainers
Get your greens while knowing at bambi’s femur

Without a balanced approach to eating training, recovery, and overall health suffer due to an acidic environment. Basically, you should be eating a handful of veggies while you’re gnawing away at your next sirloin.

Tips to Balance Your Diet:

– Have 2 “handfuls” or two cups with of veggies with each meat based meal. Eat one before diving into your protein source to jump-start the digestive process.

– Incorporate fermented foods like raw sauerkraut to improve digestion. Not only is it great on Brats (I’m from Wisconsin, dontcha know), raw sauerkraut and other fermented foods are rich in digestive enzymes and bacteria to aim in digestion.

  • Kudos on the Scrawny to Brawny program, blending spinach into protein shakes is an easy way to balance acids and bases in your diet. From here on out, blend spinach into your shakes. Trust me, you won’t even taste it.
  • Take a greens supplement like ONNIT Superfood. Not only can these replace a multi-vitamin, but they’ll also improve your digestion, immune function, and counteract a high protein diet. Plus, most of us struggle to get our veggies. Pick up ONNIT Superfood and have it you’re your creatine first thing in the morning.

Bottom line: Health is the first wealth and an unhealthy body is unlikely to be optimal for training. Without our health in line, we won’t ever build lean muscle and improve performance anyways so it is always best to focus on health first.

5.) Don’t Fear Fat

If you haven’t caught onto the theme yet calories are the supreme ruler for your hardgainer nutrition. Without enough calories your muscle building workouts are all for naught. 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.

Avoid fat phobia—an increase intake of fatty foods like grass-fed meats, raw nuts, and cooking with virgin unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil has been shown to increase anabolic hormone levels like testosterone to support healthy energy, libido, and muscle building.


hardgainer nutrition
Behold the power of grassfed beef
  • For example, by using 2 tbsp. of olive oil to prepare our meals 2x per day, we can “sneak in” over 60g of fat and 540 calories into our diets.
  • Further, if we eat 3 handfuls (1/4 cup) of mixed nuts per day, which may be an extra 300-400 calories, depending on the size of your hands.
  • If we go with 4 whole eggs for breakfast instead of 3 egg whites and 1 whole egg, that’s an extra 18g of fat and 162 calories.


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

6.) Hyper Hydrate

Body water in humans varies with age and sex, but the body is composed of 40-60% water. Than means for a 160lb dude 80+ pounds of your water are composed of water.

80 pounds.

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
  • Water 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.

Bottom Line: As much as 60% of your body and 75% of muscle tissue is water. If you’re dehydrated you’re not performing up to your maximum potential and limiting growth. After training, muscle repair requires fluid for nutrient absorption to maximize recovery. Get dat water bruh.


Implementing the Goodies

All the information is the world is great, but it takes a thorough plan to implement change.

All the information is the world is great, but it takes a thorough plan to implement change. (yes, it bears repeating)

Start for the first two weeks by adding a super shake like the recipe listed above after every workout and off day for breakfast.

Next, start tracking your calories for the following two weeks.

By one 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.

At the end of one month that’s at least a bump in 15,000 total calories, or an extra 7.5 days worth of food to help you build muscle. Slowly add fats, additional water, and keep your health a priority while you bulk.


Ending your hard gainer hardships isn’t about the perfect plan; rather, it’s about consistent behaviors that manifest into long-term change. If you’re a scrawny dude who sticks to a routine and diet for three days and then flips out when his abs lose a vein, only to switch to a fat loss diet this is for you.

The road is tough, but you must stay the course and persevere through the tough times. Muscle growth and getting jacked only take place in the presence of excess calories and amino acids for muscle fiber repair. If you’re gaining too much body fat look back at your food log and clean things up—health is still important.

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.
You’ve got this—now win the day.


[Stuck as a Hardgainer? I’ve been there and I’m here to help. This week I’m taking 20% off all Bach Performance Online Training until 11:59 pm Friday Only. That means four months of World-Class workout programs, Nutrition, Weekly and Monthly Skype Calls with a fifth month 100% Free. Apply NOW before spots are gone.]


Now, let’s hear it from YOU – what are your TOP SOURCES for muscle gaining information? Drop your comments below!

photo credit: cranrob via photopin cc

photo credit: ratterrell via photopin cc

Part 1: Training Essentialism: What Every Workout Needs

Doing less but better is what every workout needs for more efficient training and faster gains. As a trainer, I have the privilege to meet and get to know many successful clients.

Most of them hold high status jobs, make great money, and live the “American dream.” Unfortunately, most are consumed and overwhelmed by all pressures around them. They’re eager for success in all walks of life, willing to take on more and more opportunities. Every opportunity is a “yes” and performed with enthusiasm. Determination and passion are enviable traits, but always saying “yes” leaves you focusing on the trivial many, rather than the vital few.

Plain and simple, saying “yes” is akin to reading every fitness blog and magazine around and getting information overload. Having too much information clouds our vision of what important.  Applying every training style to your workouts over-complicates training and leaves you confused on how to train.Tweet: You can anything, but not everything. You must selective.

In this first of three posts I’m going to dive into what your exercise program needs. By eliminating the trivial bull-shit in your workout we’ll maximize your training. Every decision is either a hell yes, or an absolute no.

Defining Training Essentialism:

Before deciding what is essential to your training you must be clear on your goal. Focus on one thing at a time to accomplish your goal.  I want to “lose 10 lbs and add 50 pounds to my deadlift,” doesn’t work, you need just one. Look for the minimum effective dose, the 20% in your 80/20, or the few variables that lead to the most success.

Drop the bicep curls, get good at pull-ups.

Drop the hamstring curls and do deadlifts.

Train the body with total body workouts three times per week instead of missing 1-2 workouts per week with a 5-day body part split.

Understand the Fear of Missing Out

Flashback ten years ago I read every fitness magazine, book, and blog I could get my scrawny little fingers on. I ate every tip up—every tip, suggestion, and exercise was something I had to add immediately to my workouts. I gained a ton of knowledge, but not results. A common misconception is that if you can fit something in, you need to. Busyness is rewarded as more valuable over productivity or less. This concept is known as the fear of missing out and is relevant across all areas of life.

“To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”- Lao Tzu

It wasn’t until I simplified training that I started seeing great results. Pointing your focus in one direction at a time yields superior results to focusing on 10 factors.

training essentialism, what every workout needs
Photocredit: picture: http://glennstovall.com/blog/2014/06/02/learning-to-say-no/

Focus on One Goal:

What is your through and true number one goal? This should be clear. In the examples below I have included the most common goals and vital components to reaching them.

Building Muscle: Progressive overload in big, multi-joint movements. Train with enough volume to build muscle and eat enough calories to support muscle growth.

Unleashing the Inner Athlete: Incorporating movement skills like acceleration, top-end speed, and agility mechanics. Build strength and power to express strength on the field. Relative strength is key.

Building Strength: Progressive overload in the major movement patterns. Minimize weak points in training to prevent injury and improve strength.

Lose Fat and Look Great Naked: Be in a caloric deficit to lose fat while training to maintain strength to preserve muscle mass.

What all Training programs need:

Every good training program has essential qualities that improve training, regardless of goal. Occlusion training, slide boards, tempo training and the hottest eastern European squat program are all great, but the human body hasn’t changed significantly over the last hundred years. The exercises, methods, and progressions that worked best years ago still work best today. Your training doesn’t need complicated methods, your training needs to create a stress above baseline for physiological adaptation. Focus on the quality ver quality in your workouts. Save for specific injury considerations all training routines should have the following:

 Progressive overload:

You must overload the systems current level of fitness to receive a training effect. Serious work must done. You should sweat, strain, and let out the occasional uncontrolled grunt.  Tweet: “ no strain, no gain.” Volume, intensity, increased range of motion, and shorter rest periods are all potential variables.

Improve your health and wellbeing:

If you’re getting hurt physically or mentally hurt from your training you’re training wrong. You need a baseline of conditioning and exercises that are pain free. Discomfort and strain is necessary with pain and injury kept minimal.

Workout Movement Patterns:

Compound basic movement patterns always have and always will be the driver of success in your workout program. The body moves as an integrated unit in sport and life; you’re training should reflect that.Instead of curls, leg extensions, and biceps curls do deadlifts, presses, sprints, and pulls.

The basic movements are the squat, carry, hinge, lunge, sprint, push, and pull. These movements require the body to stabilize, transfer, and product force acrossed many joints like movements in life. I include core work and conditioning work is essential in every routine. You have no reason to be out of shape or set yourself up for injury due to pathetic cores strength.

These are my favorite exercises from each movement pattern:

Squat: Front squat

Hinge: deadlift/ any Olympic lift

Lunge: Bulgarian split squat

Carry: Single arm farmers walk

Press: (vertical) push press

(horizontal) Floor Press

Pull: (vertical) narrow grip chin-up

(horizontal) Dumbbell one-arm row

Core: paloff press

Conditioning: hill sprints

In all actuality you don’t need more than 2-5 exercises to get a great workout. Cover your bases with the basic movement patterns, improve with progressive overload, and reap huge rewards.

Workout Quality Over Quantity:

A stunning what happens when technique takes precedent over weights. Injuries fade, performance increases, and confidence sky-rockets.

Overload is still important and necessary for gains, but piling weights and volume on a faulty base of movement sets you up for injury.

Stay tight on your deadlift rather than losing lumbar position and snapping in half. Learn how to land on a jump without knee valgus (diving in) before performing dumbbell jump squats. Learn how to sprint efficiently before blowing a hamstring.

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

Workouts must fit your schedule:

A workout program that doesn’t fit your schedule is a program that won’t be done consistently. This, above all other factors is necessary to see results. Check out this post on a friend of mine who made a huge transformation. If you’re slammed with work this month and your schedule doesn’t allow for five workouts get one that has three workouts. Hitting workouts 75% of workouts while missing 25% is a huge problem. All well-designed workouts play off of one another– missing a piece throws off the balance of the program.

Be Enjoyable Most of the time:

You have enough obligations in life. Working out with a routine you hate isn’t one of them. Take time to enjoy yourself while you’re getting better. Save for the occasion set of high rep squats, training should be fun. If weights aren’t your thing that’s fine—incorporate bodyweight movements, get out and go hiking, and enjoy yourself. Being in shape isn’t about your one-rep max, it’s about being able to do what you enjoy and maintaining good health.

Wrap Up:

Do less, but do it better.

This isn’t a quick tip or strategy; rather, a mind-set 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. You don’t need a thousand different tempos, a complex eastern European squat program, and forty exercises to make progress.Worry about every minute detail approach leads to over-analyzing, and sub-par results.


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.


Recommended Reading:


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Photo credit:

McKeown, Greg. “The Essentialist.” Essentialism. New York: Crown Business, 2014. 6. Print.



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