The Hardgainers Ultimate Guide To Building Muscle
Are you tired of trying an endless amount of useless strategies to gain muscle and be more than just skin and bones?
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about how to put on muscle when you are a "hardgainer" such as:
- Why most fitness gurus are WRONG about how to put on muscle.
- Exactly what and how to eat for muscle gains.
- The 3 Scientific Laws of Muscle Growth
And so much more!
Let's get into it!
The Leap Forward
Simply having the knowledge in this guide is putting you very far ahead of the average gym goers. It wouldn't have been written if it couldn't benefit the world in some way.
I have a question for you...
Do you know why you always hear a bunch of nonsense, misleading ideas, and just downright horrible advice regarding fitness?
Why Most Fitness Advice Is Garbage
Most fitness advice is garbage because of a lack of knowledge.
For example, you may have heard some time in your life that:
You don't need to worry about counting calories...
You need to spend countless hours in the gym each day, grinding out tons of sets, drop sets, supersets, giant sets, or whatever...
You need to spend hundreds of dollars per month on the worthless supplements that dudes on steroids push in advertisements...
You need to constantly change up your exercise routine to “confuse” your muscles... (Last time I checked, muscles lack cognitive function)
Those are just a few of the harmful lies and myths that are keeping you skinny. This lack of knowledge is stopping you from reaching your fitness goals.
This is where we take the leap forward.
If you don't have the body you want, then something needs to change.
This is a new habit you're going to be learning and implementing in your life. The best way to make this plan stick is to start small.
The fact of the matter is, you only need to start doing a few things right to start unleashing the floodgates to muscle and strength. With that said, don't be overwhelmed when going through this guide. Take your time, and let this stuff sink in.
Now, while going through this program, here are the main things to keep in mind.
It all starts with:
- Getting the main drivers of muscle growth right
- Staying consistent for the long term to see lasting results
Even if it's making a small increase in your calories and hitting 3 intense lifting sessions each week. That's sticking with the plan and doing enough.
After, you'll have the confidence to add advanced dieting and training protocols into your regime.
Before you know it, this stuff will be second nature to you.
So remember, shoot for 'doing enough' first and don't overwhelm yourself. It's the easiest way to make a new habit stick.
It’s what I like to call, starting small for massive gains!
Why Even Try? How This Is Going To Change Your Life?
We only get one chance to play this thing we call life.
So why not strive to make it the very best?
Gaining even 10 to 15 pounds of muscle strategically placed on your body is going to make a night and day difference!
Here's what to expect with your new-found muscle and strength:
- You'll have more confidence…
- You’ll increase your overall attractiveness and sexiness...
- You'll be strong and athletic…
- You’ll fill out clothes perfectly...
- You'll set the stage for an awesome/healthy lifestyle
And so much more!
I believe the gym is a metaphor for life. Once you stick to the plan long enough, push yourself in the gym and build a great body...
It changes you.
It begins to open your mind and make you realize that you can go after anything you want in life. And if you apply the grit and determination that's developed in the gym...
Nothing will stop you.
That's why all of this is worth it, so let's get into it!
The first order of business is learning how to master your small stomach capacity, little appetite, and fast metabolism.
By doing so, you will be able to enjoy your life, pack on muscle, and you'll know exactly what your body needs to keep it performing at its best.
But see, nutrition can be the trickiest part for ‘skinny guys’...
Get it wrong, and your results and efforts in the gym could suffer tremendously.
Many "hardgainers" simply do not eat enough. On top of that, they are doing way too much in the gym and focusing on the wrong exercises.
This could be the reason you have yet to see any noticeable gains.
Almost any male who is consuming fewer than 2,000 calories a day is never going to build himself up.
We may think we are eating "a lot of food”...
But if you were to keep a food log for a few days, you would discover that you need to eat much more.
No amount of BCAA's, creatine, vitamins, or mainstream supplements will help you if you are depleting your body of the biggest factor - enough quality food.
If you are not seeing the desired results but your training is in good order, as measured by the guidelines of this guide, you are sleeping well, and you are not killing yourself in the gym, you are almost certainly not consuming enough calories. It’s that simple.
Always keep these 3 key components in mind:
- You must know the caloric intake that maintains your body weight (and eat a little more than this)
- You must consume a diet of nutrient-dense food
- You must train intensely (heavy weights)
Eating For Muscle Gains
Nothing is worse than ruining your physique with a bunch of body fat.
Most hardgainers are already fairly lean. With that said, we must put an emphasis on lean bulking. In other words, eating just enough food to support our training without spilling over and gaining a bunch of fat.
And here's the best part - we're going to use our natural leanness to our advantage when it comes to building muscle.
Enter Lean Bulking
You see, when one is fairly lean, they have higher insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that shuttles nutrients into cells. Which in terms of muscle growth, this is a good thing! We want the nutrients to be shuttled into our muscle cells for growth.
If you bulk up too fast, things start to go downhill. As body fat rises, the body becomes less insulin sensitive, making it harder to burn fat and easier to get fat. Even your testosterone will take a hit.
Not to mention, protein synthesis rates will be suppressed. Which is simply the process of your body creating new muscle proteins to repair your muscles.
So trying to "dirty bulk" your way to muscle gains is not smart.
And in the long run, gaining too much fat in the process will make it harder to lose the fat come time for a cut (if need be.)
But when it comes down to us eating MORE food, that’s when it can become a problem.
Did you know that’s why it’s so damn hard to eat more food? Since we are so super insulin sensitive, as soon as we eat food, insulin spikes and appetite goes down. We feel STUFFED!
As opposed to a normal person where they can typically eat a lot of food before getting that “full” feeling. That’s insulin doing its thing.
But don’t fret! We will soon go over how to control your appetite - allowing you to consume sufficient calories and use your high insulin sensitivity to your advantage to rapidly pack on muscle and strength.
The exact strategy on building muscle and maintaining a lean physique can be found here.
Weight Gain Expectations
As a natural lifter, we are limited to how much muscle we can build.
Typically, you can expect the scale to go up 0.5 lbs to 1 lbs lbs each week. That's pure muscle if you are beginner!
(Believe it or not, some may actually see faster growth than this! Just keep an eye on fat gain.)
Don't get discouraged. If you don't have years of proper training under your belt, in your first year of training you could add 20 lbs to 35 lbs of muscle!
The Calorie Equation
The first step is to determine how many calories you need to eat each day to put your body in a calorie surplus. Think of your daily calories like this:
Calorie Deficit - Lose weight
Calorie Maintenance - Stay the same
Calorie Surplus - Gain weight
Part of being able to stay consistent for the long term and stick to the plan comes down to keeping things simple. Here's my favorite formula for calculating your daily calorie surplus.
What we are doing here is taking an educated estimate on how many calories your body is burning per pound of bodyweight each day.
The great thing is that this method already takes into account our activity level so we don't need to do a bunch of annoying calculations.
Typically, our maintenance calories (number of daily calories to maintain our weight) is around the number 15 times our body weight in pounds.
For example, I'm around 180 lbs. Since I've tested this, I do know that my maintenance calories are indeed around 2,700.
To place yourself in a proper calorie surplus. Start by taking your body weight in pounds and multiply it by the number 17.
Here's how it will look -
Step 1: Find your body weight in pounds
(Weigh yourself in the morning after the bathroom.)
Step 2: Multiply your bodyweight by the number 17
Example for a 140 pound male: (140 lbs) X (17 calories per pound of body weight) = 2,380 calorie surplus
Just round up to 2,400
If you’re ever unsure how to round your calories if need be, I always like to round UP to the nearest whole number to be on the safe side.
Adjusting Your Diet Based On Your Results
Now, with this part, you will need to be very diligent with tracking your calories as well as your body weight over the next couple weeks.
You can weigh yourself once a week on the same day or even once everyday and take the weekly average. Either method is fine, as long as you stay consistent.
If you nailed your calories on the first try, awesome job!
Again we don't want to ruin our physiques with a bunch of fat gain. You should be gaining weight in the 0.5 to 1 lb per week sweet spot and feeling strong and powerful in your workouts.
Although, we still need to take into account that everyone is different. And we all live different lifestyles. Some of you may be very active throughout the day, labor job, athletes, etc.
If you aren't gaining weight...
Bump up your calories by 100-150 per day. Ideally, these calories should come in the form of carbs.
Simply do this by increasing a snack or adding more calories to your post workout meal.
And then re-test until you nail the sweet spot.
The majority of guys hit this sweet spot around 18 calories per pound of body weight. But again, everyone is different!
You'll soon learn what works best for you.
Hitting Your Macros
All calories are not created equal...
We’ve all heard that “a calorie is a calorie,” and while there’s truth in this statement, it can lead us away from our journey to build an incredible body.
You see, when we’re just talking about mere weight gain, sure, it doesn't matter where these "calories" come from.
When we’re talking about improving body composition, however (losing just body fat and not muscle, or maximizing muscle growth while minimizing fat storage), we must not only follow the principles of energy balance, but we must do so with a proper balance of macronutrients.
A macronutrient is any of the nutritional components of the diet that are required in relatively large amounts: protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
How you balance your intake of these macronutrients has profound effects on how your body responds to the foods you eat.
For a very brief example: It is quite obvious that we need protein in our diets to build muscle. But actually not as much as you would think.
We also need carbs! Nowadays, the media sure has people believing that carbs are the enemy. But in reality, carbs are going to support our training efforts immensely, as well as support our mood, hormonal production, and many other bodily functions.
Fats are very important in our diets as well. First, it’s important to mention that fats are more calorie dense. So this will make it easy for us to hit our surplus with more fat in our diets.
In addition, fats play a huge role in the production of testosterone! Yep, higher testosterone makes it a lot easier to pack on muscle.
The bottom line is, the right diet not only provides the proper amount of calories but breaks them down into the optimal amounts of macronutrients as well.
Hitting Your Macros In Your Calorie Surplus
Calories per gram of Macronutrients:
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Carbs: 4 calories per gram
- Fat: 9 calories per gram
Now we're going to dive into how to properly set up your "macros" for maximum muscle gain and minimal fat gain.
Protein: 1g per pound of body weight
Fats: 20% to 25% of daily calories
Carbs: Make up the rest of your daily calories (roughly 50% to 60%)
The percentages are a good guideline, but I prefer to look at the exact grams per day.
How To Count Marcos
We will use the same 140 pound male for example purposes.
Step 1.) Identify Your Calorie Surplus
- (140lbs) X (17 calories per pound) = 2,380 calories
- Round up to 2,400.
- This is your calorie surplus.
Step 2.) Find Protein Macros
- .8 - 1 gram per pound of bodyweight
- 140 pounds = 112 - 140 grams.
- (140 grams) X (4 calories per gram) = 560 calories from protein.
- End Result: 140 grams of protein
Step 3.) Find Fat Macros
- 20% of daily calories.
- (2400 total calories) X (.20) = 480 calories from fat.
- (480 fat calories) / (9 calories per gram) = 53.3 grams of fat.
- End Result: 53 grams of fat
Step 4.) Find Carb Macros
Now that we have protein and fat macros, we need to see how many calories left will make up our carb macros.
Start by adding up the total protein and fat calories:
(Protein calories: 560) + (Fat Calories: 480) = 1,040 total calories.
Next, subtract this from our total daily surplus:
(Total daily surplus: 2,400) - (Protein & Fat calories: 1,040) = 1,360 remaining calories
Finally, you can now find the amount of carbs in grams:
(1,360 remaining calories) / (4 calories per gram) = 340
End Result: 340 grams of carbs
Putting It All Together
Daily calorie surplus - 2,400
Which is made up of:
- Protein ~ 140g
- Fat ~ 53g
- Carbs ~ 340g
Those are the amounts of protein, fats, and carbs to shoot for each day. So, when tracking your calories with an app or what have you (I use My Fitness Pal), you'll be able to see what types of food to eat to hit your macros (which we are about to dive into the best foods to do so).
To double check your results, you can work backwards and add up the total calories for each of your macros:
- Protein: (140g) X (4 calories per gram) = 560 calories
- Fat: (53g) X (9 calories per gram) = 477 calories
- Carbs: (340g X 4 calories per gram) = 1,360 calories
- (560 + 477 + 1,360) = 2,397 total calories
Pretty spot on.
Always remember, this calorie algorithm is just a means of giving you some guidance. This is why you must be tracking your calories on a consistent basis to see if you're actually gaining muscle and strength or gaining too much fat - and adjusting as needed.
You don't need to be super perfect either. Getting within the ballpark is all you need to do. And most of the time, I shoot for 50 calories or so over just to be safe.
If It Fits Your Macros (I.I.F.Y.M)
The IIFYM diet is a popular way to make your diet flexible and enjoyable based on your standards.
You can eat whatever you'd like as long as you hit your macros for the day.
Now, some view this as a free for all to eat junk food…
That's not the case here.
We need to give our bodies the most wholesome foods possible.
The idea here is to fill your daily calories with food to hit your set macros (the ones you just calculated above).
The reason for this diet structure is simple: to ensure we’re getting the proper balance of protein, carbs, and fats.
Having a moderate amount of protein and fat with higher carbs creates the perfect storm for maximizing muscle growth while minimizing fat gain.
It's actually difficult for your body to convert carbs into fat. In fact, the process of turning carbs into body fat (de novo lipogenesis) is inefficient. About 25% of the energy is lost.
And fat is fat. It doesn’t need to go through any extravagant process to be stored.
By keeping fat low and carbs high (especially on training days) we can ensure that the majority of our daily calories are being used for muscle growth.
Appetite Control & Satiety
With Appetite control, we have a few things going on here and must understand:
1) Actual satiety levels of common foods.
2) What foods fill you up the most.
3) Then working with the best foods to fit into your meal plan to easily hit your daily calorie surplus.
What is Satiety?
This simply means how full a particular food is going to make you feel. Eating a lot of satiating foods can actually cause you to eat less food in your meals throughout the day.
Typically, what makes a food more filling than others is the fiber content, the water content, and the protein content.
So what does this mean for us?
We must choose wisely and choose certain foods at certain times.
If you're always finding yourself feeling extremely full, but still struggling to hit your calorie surplus...take some time to analyze the types of foods you are eating based on their satiety level.
Then, consider swapping out a food for a less satiating choice.
A great example is potatoes. They are the most satiating carbohydrate source.
So instead of eating a baked potato, you can cut the potato up, add some oil and make some delicious baked french fries. This will add more calories and also make them easier to eat.
I find it very interesting that the foods you eat can actually determine how much you eat later in the day.
For example, if you ate a more satiating food earlier in the day, this could blunt your appetite and cause you to eat less later in the day. Not good.
Choosing less filling foods earlier in the day will allow you to keep your appetite high for your later meals.
What To Eat
You know your calorie surplus. You know what macros to eat. Let's take a look at some of the best foods to fill your meals.
The Best Proteins For Muscle Growth
- Red Meat
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Collagen Protein Powder
The Best Carbohydrates For Muscle Growth
- White Rice Pasta
- White Rice
- Maple Syrup
- Potatoes (just be careful of the fullness factor here)
- Citrus Fruits
- Dried fruits
- Juices (Orange juice is my go to)
- Haagen Daaz Ice Cream
The Best Fats for Hormonal Health
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
Here's how the above foods can be used to eat more calories in your day to day meals, truly hacking your skinny genes.
Also keep in mind, these are just suggestions in which I have found success with. Use the below methods as guidance.
Ideally, I want you to keep eating your favorite foods as much as you can. But, if you need to make adjustments, model the strategies below.
All of the food we will be eating can be strategically paired in your daily meals. So don't be afraid to get a little creative.
Remember, we are adding in foods, not trying to restrict ourselves.
For a step by step blueprint on exactly why and how you should be eating check out The Thermo Diet Course Here.
- Orange juice, or fruit juice
- Eggs, sourdough toast, other meats like organic bacon, sausage or steak
- Masa Pancakes/waffles (with organic maple syrup)
- Bananas and grapes
- Greek yogurt
Chicken & cheese quesadillas (organic corn tortillas)
- Dried fruits
- Naked Juice
- Homemade weight gain shakes
- Siete Chips and Salsa
- Burgers (with sourdough buns)
- Rice for sides or mixing meat with
- Spaghetti with meat added to the sauce is one of my favorites (After I eat steak or chicken and with white rice noodles).
- Chipotle (Double rice, fajitas, double meat, cheese, lettuce - this is only when I’m in a pinch)
- Desserts (haagen vanilla or coffee is the best)
- Added sauces and oils
Meal Frequency And Workout Nutrition
Always keep in mind, meal frequency or the number of meals you eat each day, does not matter. Overall daily calories matter. With that said, I just grouped the above morning, afternoon, and evening meals together to give you an idea on how to start pairing different foods and making your meals as calorie dense as possible.
I eat around 4 big meals each day along with 1 to 2 snacks to hit my daily calories. Find out what works best with you and your schedule.
In this section, we’re going to discuss Pre and Post workout nutrition.
Is it important? Could it make a difference?
Yes and no...
Most importantly, you must not forget that what matters most is overall daily calories. If you're not eating enough, you'll struggle to build muscle and strength. Meal timing and frequency is not relevant.
But, if there are ways to milk out more muscle growth, I'm all for them!
By doing a bunch of little, meager things right, they add up over time and make night and day differences...
And I do believe there are ways to get the most out of your training efforts with Pre and Post Workout Nutrition.Pre Workout Nutrition
Research has shown that having protein before training increases protein synthesis rates.
But we need to take this a step further because there are also studies that claim that pre workout protein makes no difference on protein synthesis rates.
So how do you know if you would actually benefit from pre workout protein?
Well, we do know that it takes the body several hours to absorb the nutrients from the food we eat (about 2 to 6 hours).
In this case, if you have a sizable meal (with at least 20g of protein) an hour or two before training...
You most likely will not benefit from pre workout protein.
On the other hand, let's say you had a small meal before work, and ate lunch - gym time may not be for another 4 to 5 hours. In this case research shows that you would benefit from pre workout protein to raise plasma amino acid levels.
I recommend 25-30g of protein 30 to 45 minutes before training.
Ingesting carbs before a workout has been shown to increase performance.
Granted, eating carbs before a workout will not increase protein synthesis rates, but it is a fuel source your body can utilize quickly. Allowing you to push more heavy weight and reps. Which, in turn, will help build more muscle.
What kind of carbohydrates should you eat?
Low glycemic carbs are better suited for long endurance events and high glycemic carbs are best for short intense workouts (what we are doing).
I recommend 40-50 grams of carbs 30 to 45 minutes before training.
My favorite pre workout carbs sources are rice milk or dried cherries/cranberries or bananas. Other great alternatives are white rice, figs, oatmeal, and potatoes.
Lastly, dietary fats have shown no effect on training performance.
Post Workout Nutrition
Similar to pre workout nutrition, the goal is to further stimulate protein synthesis rates. Our muscles were broken down in the gym and now we need to make sure to give them what they need to grow bigger and stronger.
But the idea that there is an "anabolic window" and that you need to eat at a certain time or you'll miss out on gains is a bunch of B.S.
Although, a good rule of thumb for guidance, is to get in your meal around 1 to 2 hours after training. Right after is fine too.
In my post workout meals, I like to make sure I'm getting at least 30 to 40 grams of protein and 50 to 80 grams of carbs.
So is Pre & Post Nutrition even worth it?
I believe it is! And again, don't over complicate things. Before we dive into the next level, we’ll end on this note:
There was a well conducted study that proved that pre and post nutrition did lead to more muscle gain.
The study involved two separate groups of bodybuilders. The first group ate pre and post workout nutrition as described above. And the second group ate their normal meals but at least 5 hours outside of their workouts.
And as you could already guess, the latter example saw better results.
Just something to think about! Make sure you master the first 3 levels first. Keep things simple.
Micronutrients And Lifestyle
All the sections of hacking your skinny genes are important, especially when considering long term health.
Now with that said, and as I've mentioned throughout this guide, it's so important (for your success) to master each section one at a time and move forward when you feel most comfortable.
The main idea for this section is to structure your diet to best support muscle and strength gains, long term health, and body composition.
Hitting your protein, carbs, and fats is one thing, but we need to strive for the majority of our daily calories to come from wholesome and nutritious choices.
As a general rule of thumb, strive to get around 80% of your daily calories from wholesome foods and the other 20% can come from a dessert or treat (this will also make hitting your surplus easier).
Vitamins and minerals are essential for performance in the gym, energy levels, and overall well being.
I know, it does suck that the more filling foods are rich in micronutrients.
If you eat protein and fat from natural sources such as meats, eggs and dairy, as well as plenty of fruit, you'll do a good job of giving your body what it needs each day to function properly.
If you eat good sources of carbs (discussed earlier), and do not abuse your body with junk food, you should get plenty of fiber in your diet.
Think of fruits and roots, on top of your other daily foods and you'll have fiber covered.
How much fiber?
Men should get about 25g of fiber everyday.
With that said, you could also aim to get 10g of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat.
Adequate water intake is critical to your health and well-being.
Did you know that too much water can also be a bad thing? I actually struggled with this for a long time.
I always thought "the more the better" and it ended up giving me digestive issues. Not good with the thousands of calories I need to consume.
Keep this simple. Ensuring adequate water intake is easy:
Consume enough water evenly distributed over the course of each day to produce at least four clear urinations.
You also need to keep in mind your activity level and climate and adjust your intake as needed.
Make Time In Your Lifestyle For Eating
With our meager appetites, it's very easy to "forget" to eat your food or skip meals. And like we already covered, meal timing or the number of meals you eat each day does not matter as long as you hit your daily surplus.
Although, I do believe you need to establish how many times each day you can fit into your schedule for meals and stick to them.
You can have a small meal before work, your lunch, pre and post workout nutrition (if needed), dinner, and a small meal or snack each day.
And honor those meal times each day!
This will also help with planning ahead. Nothing is worse than having your bedtime quickly approaching, you feel stuffed, but still have 1,100 calories to eat.
Dealing With Social Events & The Weekends
Don't think you need to give up any great pleasures of life to build a great body!
As long as you hit your training sessions each week, get within the ballpark of your daily calories, and rest well...
You can still do all the fun activities you enjoy, such as having a social life, drinking alcohol, etc. (Unless something seriously hinders your gains... Then maybe you need to adjust something.)
What About Popular Diet Fads, Athletes, or Top Bodybuilder Eating Habits?
The first things that came to mind were top bodybuilders and elite athletes. I assumed they ate incredibly "healthy." But after reviewing some studies (Study 1) (Study 2) (Study 3), their diets only consisted of a few different types of foods.
A bodybuilding diet typically only had chicken breasts, protein powder, egg whites, brown rice, broccoli, oats, and fish oil.
I still eat those foods in my current diet. But where are the fatty meats or potatoes? And even the fruits, dairy, egg yolks, or coconut oil? You cannot just pick a list of “clean” foods and ONLY eat those.
You'll probably end up creating holes in your diet leading to deficiencies in micronutrients.
Strike that balance and don't be afraid to indulge a little. It will keep your diet enjoyable. Giving you mastery and complete control. That is the secret to sticking with it for the long term.
And what about Fad Diets like Paleo, Low Carb, South Beach, Atkins, etc?
Keep in mind, the majority of people need to lose weight. So most mainstream diet advice will just keep us skinny.
This is why I gave you the tools to build your own diet with all the proper foods to support a great physique.
(Well, if you have some sort of allergy, of course you can leave certain foods out of your diet. And if you hate them.)
I need to share something with you to always keep in mind. Don't limit yourself.
Even under any circumstances. Not just in fitness.
If you complain that you're a weak ectomorph or hardgainer cursed with horrible genetics - you're going to struggle to put on muscle and strength.
A minimalist approach actually works BEST for us ectomorphs.
We naturally already burn so much energy. This will allow for the fastest rate of progression without burning ourselves out, or having to eat way more food than we already need to.
And not to mention, if you throw too much at the body (this goes for everyone) it's going to have a hard time adapting and getting stronger.
Focusing in on what matters most will give the best returns.
The 3 Scientific Laws of Muscle Growth
In this section you will learn about the 3 scientific laws of muscle growth which consists of:
- Progressive Overload
- Fuel For Muscles
After reading this chapter you will know everything you need to about training for building muscle as a hardgainer.
Let's dive in!
The 3 Laws
1.) Progressive Overload
If you want to build bigger muscles, you must get stronger and lift heavier weights over time.
Muscles need a reason to grow - and the best reason is more and more mechanical stress and tension.
2.) Recovery Is Just As Important
As much as we would all love to lift non-stop, it sadly does not work that way.
Proper rest is going to allow us to lift heavier weights over time.
Having the right setup in your routine will allow you to hit each workout feeling fresh and powerful! This leads to more and more strength and muscle gains.
3.) Muscles Need the Right Amount of Food to Grow
Without eating enough calories each day, you will build little to no muscle and strength.
We also need to strive to fill the majority of our diets with wholesome foods rich in vitamins and minerals.
You will have to count your calories to make sure you are hitting the calorie surplus each day.
(That line above would be the one “secret” if you were searching for one ;)
But what makes the difference between average and incredible physiques are those who follow these concepts long enough to see results.
Mastering Strength Progressions
Mastering your strength progressions first comes down to having a protocol in place so that each workout builds upon the last.
The following protocols will be assigned to each exercise in the workout routine chapter. Not all will be used at the same time, but here they are for learning purposes.
Protocol #1 - Dual Progression Model
This method will be used most commonly. Especially when first starting out with Reverse Pyramid Training (more on reverse pyramid training in a moment).
When you see these rep schemes: (4-6)(6-8)(8-10)
That is a dual progression model.
Those are the number of reps for each set you should be aiming for. That also dictates the amount of weight you will be using along the lines of Reverse Pyramid Training.
The "dual" comes from a combination of increasing both reps and weight used on a given set.
- Set 1: (4-6) reps
- Set 2: (6-8) reps
- Set 3: (8-10) reps
The goal is to take your weight on a given set and hit the top end of the rep range. So if you hit 6, 8, or 10, on your next workout, you can add 5 pounds to that set and start again from the bottom.
This could look like:
- Set 1: 135lbs x 5 reps
- Set 2: 125lbs x 6 reps
- Set 3: 115lbs x 10 reps
So your next workout would be:
- Set 1: 135lbs x 6 reps
- Set 2: 125lbs x 7 reps
- Set 3: 120lbs x 8 reps
Something along those lines. See how each workout builds upon the last? Even just adding one more rep, that is progress. And those little improvements add up over time, trust me.
Protocol #2 - Micro-Loading
Micro-loading is using lighter, fractional plates to make consistent strength gains.
Ideally, you would have to acquire fractional plates of 1.25 pounds to add to each side of the bar, for a total of 2.5 pounds.
Now of course, you can make great progress with micro loading, but if you’re just getting started and fairly new to training - think of micro-loading as the silver bullet you need to save for the right time.
The reason for this is simple:
When you get started on a new training routine, you can make some really nice gains really quickly. Meaning you won't have a problem adding 5 pounds to the bar or adding another rep or two, especially if you’re new to training.
But in reality, adding another rep or 5 pounds is a HUGE strength increase.
As you become more advanced in your training, it becomes more and more difficult to make these huge strength gains.
This is when micro-loading comes into play. Couple points here:
First, the reps when micro-loading stay the same.
Second, each workout you are adding 2.5 pounds total.
And don’t underestimate micro-loading.
That is adding about 15lbs a month to your key lifts… Which, yes, is insane!
Here’s how micro loading would look, to use the following lifts as an example...
- Set 1 - 200lbs x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 180lbs x 6 reps
- Set 3 - 160lbs x 8 reps
- Set 1 - 202.5lbs x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 182.5lbs x 6 reps
- Set 3 - 162.5lbs x 8 reps
- Set 1 - 205lbs x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 185lbs x 6 reps
- Set 3 - 165lbs x 8 reps
- Set 1 - 207.5lbs x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 187.5lbs x 6 reps
- Set 3 - 167.5lbs x 8 reps
- Set 1 - 210lbs x 5 reps
- Set 2 - 190lbs x 6 reps
- Set 3 - 170lbs x 8 reps
Training Frequency, Volume, and Intensity
As cool as it would be - we can't just hit the gym every single day with those progression models and get freakishly strong overnight.
We must have the proper setup of Frequency, Volume, and Intensity.
Let's start with simple definitions:
- Frequency - How many times a week you are training a particular muscle group.
- Volume - How many sets and reps you are performing on a particular muscle group.
- Intensity - The amount of weight/load you are using for each work set and rep of an exercise per muscle group.
Effective training programs talk about these three things and apply them correctly.
For example, have you ever heard of the typical bodybuilding split? You know, the ones where you train one muscle group per day, like:
Well, most training programs with this type of split mess up volume and intensity. They may have a lot of volume, but not enough intensity (or vice versa).
Don't get me wrong, if you set up that type of routine correctly, you can make nice gains... But it’s a matter of setting up the frequency, volume, and intensity correctly to make the best muscle and strength gains.
If you’re training with less frequency per week (above routine example), you must increase the volume and intensity accordingly.
If you’re training each muscle group with more frequency per week, you must decrease the volume and intensity accordingly.
SIDE NOTE: Beginners and intermediate lifters should lift with more frequency, which can lead to quicker strength gains.
When you reach the training routines, you'll notice that each muscle group is hit with more frequency. That means the volume and intensity must be lowered a bit.
This prevents over-training, along with proper muscle recovery and strength gains.
Along with muscle recovery, you must also consider central nervous system recovery for maximum strength gains.
Your Central Nervous System is the powerhouse behind everything. It takes about 48 hours for your CNS to fully recover after an intense lifting session.
Even if you train a different muscle group the next day, you still aren't performing at your highest potential. And that obviously becomes very important when trying to always push for strength and muscle gains.
Closing Thoughts on Mastering Strength Progressions
Utilizing the two above progression models is how you create lasting strength gains. It’s taking that smaller weekly progress and keep adding and adding over time, and before you know it, you’ll be push some massive lifts.
Again, in the training section, I will be clear on what progression models to follow and how to do them. This here is just to conceptually lay the groundwork.
That said, are you starting to see the big picture? With these progression models, you can easily add 60 lbs to your main lifts in a matter of your first 4 months.
Let that sink in...
60 lbs to exercises that also contribute to your ideal body ratios… Exercises such as:
- Incline Bench
- Weighted Chins
- Standing Overhead Press
- Barbells Curls
- Pistol Squats
And that’s just to name a few...
Adding even 45 lbs over the course of three months is going to give your physique a whole level of strength - and the whole new look that comes with it. That is our underlying goal.
Enter Reverse Pyramid Training
Reverse Pyramid Training - “RPT” for short - is the most effective training method for adding strength and muscle.
After the proper warm up (covered shortly), you are starting with your heaviest work set first. You’ll then drop the weight for the second set and knock out a couple more reps, then drop the weight again for the third set and do 1-2 more reps than set two.
By starting with your heaviest set first, you’re recruiting maximal muscle fibers while fresh. Then when you drop the weight, you’ll have more muscle fiber recruitment than working up to heavier weights, which allows you to still exert maximum force and effort while adding a rep or two, even though you are becoming fatigued.
This differs greatly from “traditional” standard pyramid training where your heaviest set is the LAST set you do - meaning you’re hitting your heaviest set while most fatigued, which is less conducive to building muscle and gaining strength like we’re after.
An example of three work sets using RPT could look like this (using incline bench as the example):
- Work Set 1 - 165 lbs x 5 reps
- Work Set 2 - 145 lbs x 6 reps
- Work Set 3 - 125 lbs x 8 reps
As you can see, the weight decreases by about 10% each set.
Next, rest a FULL 3-4 minutes in between RPT sets!
You can call your first work set the "money" set. You should always be striving to hit new personal records. And since you are hitting the first set fresh and energized, you will hit new PR's a lot more often, leading to tons of strength and muscle gains.
Enter Standard Pyramid Training
Being the complete opposite of Reverse Pyramid Training, we are going to incorporate Standard Pyramid Training at the end of our routines to increase muscle fatigue and growth.
Note: the emphasis is on Reverse Pyramid training, but we’re bringing in Standard Pyramid sets to supplement the workouts.
The rep scheme of SPT is set up like this:
- Set 1 - 12 reps
- Set 2 - 10 reps
- Set 3 - 8 reps
- Set 4 - 6 reps
Rest no more than 1 minute between these sets.
Most lifters make the mistake of lifting with SPT on their core lifts, like incline bench. They pick a light weight and then keep increasing the weight as the reps go down.
The problem - they are creating too much unnecessary fatigue before their heaviest set. Meaning they are lifting under their highest potential, leaving strength gains on the table.
That is why we will be using RPT on our main lifts and SPT and Rest Pause Training (which we’ll get to in just a sec) on isolation movements to stimulate more muscle growth.
You will be using the SAME weight for all Standard Pyramid sets.
Rest time: 30-60 seconds between sets.
Progression model: Start with a rest time of 60 seconds. Each workout, knock off 5-10 seconds.
When you reach 30 second rest times between all sets (12, 10, 8, 6), increase the weight by 5 lbs and start again with a rest time of 60 seconds between all sets.
Enter Rest Pause Training
Rest Pause Training is the most effective way to trigger muscle growth with a light weight.
The goal of this training method will be to trigger more sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (increase in fluid around the muscle cells).
Think of heavy lifting (RPT) as being responsible for 80% of your muscle gains and the other 20% from adding in some extra volume to “fill out the muscles” - like the cherry on top.
Rest pause is made up of two parts:
The Activation Set and the Mini Sets.
The Activation set is the first set to cause the initial muscle fatigue. You then wait 15-20 seconds and perform your Mini sets (resting 15-20 seconds between each Mini set). These Mini sets are done in a fatigued state because of the short rest time between them.
You can typically perform 3-4 Mini sets after your Activation set, and these can consist of 3-5 reps, or even 6-8 reps depending on the exercise.
Here’s what this would look like in action, using dumbbell lateral raise as the example:
Grab your dumbbells...
Perform Rest Pause Activation Set of 12-15 reps
REST: 15-20 SECONDS
Perform Mini Set 1: 3-5 reps
REST: 15-20 SECONDS
Perform Mini Set 2: 3-5 reps
REST: 15-20 SECONDS
Perform Mini Set 3: 3-5 reps
REST: 15-20 SECONDS
Perform Mini Set 4: 3-5 reps
You are keeping the SAME weight for all sets, including the Activation set.
When you can do 15 reps on your Activation set and the top end of the rep range (5 reps, from the example above) on each of your Mini sets - that is when you can increase the weight by 5 lbs and start over from the bottom of the rep range.
The goal of a warm up routine is not to create any unnecessary fatigue before your first work set, but rather, wake up/energize your central nervous system and muscles to prepare them for the heavy weight.
After a warm-up routine, you should not feel tired. You should feel strong and powerful!
If a lifter performs too many repetitions or uses too heavy of a weight (or a combination of both), they are KILLING their power output for their actual working sets, making it more difficult to hit new strength gains.
The Ultimate Training Warm Up Routine
- Shoulder Dislocations: 10 reps
- Kettle Bell Weighted Halo: 6 reps per side
- Scapular Wall Slides: 10 reps
- Kneeling Twist: 4 reps per side
- Band Pull Apart: 10 reps
Transition into Reverse Pyramid Training Warm Up Routine...
1.) Perform 8 bodyweight reps for corresponding exercise in workout
For example, if your workout started with incline bench press, perform 8 bodyweight push ups.
If your workout started with weighted chin ups, perform 8 reps on a lat pulldown machine.
If your workout started with a leg exercise, perform 8 bodyweight squats.
If your workout started with standing overhead barbell press, use an empty bar or light dumbbells to perform your reps.
This is simply to get the blood flowing and warm up your muscles and connective tissues to prevent injury.
2.) Perform 5 reps with 60% of your first work set. Rest 60 to 90 seconds.
3.) Perform 3 reps with 80% of your first work set. Rest 60 to 90 seconds.
4.) Perform 1 reps with 90% of your first work set. Rest a full 3 minutes.
Then… Begin your first work set!
The Ultimate Warm Up in Action
Let’s dig into what this looks like when put into action!
Starting Exercise: Incline Bench Press
Work set goal: 135 lbs for 5 reps
1.) 8 Bodyweight Push Ups (Set up weight on incline bench)
2.) Perform 5 reps with 80 pounds on the bar (Rest 60 to 90 seconds)
3.) Perform 3 reps with 105 pounds on the bar (Rest 60 to 90 seconds)
4.) Perform 1 rep with 120 pounds on the bar (Rest a full 3 minutes)
Perform first work set of 135 pounds for 5 reps.
How to Choose Your Starting Weight
The ultimate warm up routine is at its most effective when you know what your work set is going to be, or the goal weight you're shooting for in that particular workout.
If you're new to training or to an exercise in this program, this section will help you select the proper weight to use.
Now here's the thing: finding your starting weights is pretty much trial and error (taking the first week to guess and check). I call this the “Calibration Week”.
If you need to take the first couple workouts to get used to the weights and exercises, go ahead and do so. Keep in mind, for every 10 pounds you add to the bar (or 5 lb increase on dumbbells), you'll lose about two reps.
Learning proper form in the beginning is most important. When doing an exercise, ensure you are feeling the target muscles working. This may not hold true for all heavy compound lifts, but you should have an idea.
So if, on any given exercise, you cannot feel the target muscles working, consider adjusting your technique. One way to fix this is to engage the targeted muscle first, by flexing the muscle before the rep. If you’re doing a dumbbell curl, initiate the movement by flexing your bicep, which will help you feel the targeted muscle and create the necessary tension in the movement to hit that muscle correctly.
Always remember, you cannot compromise form. It's okay if your form is a little shaky if you're new to weight training, but the amount of weight shouldn't be the main problem causing this. If it IS, then that’s a sign that you’re using too heavy weights, and you should drop the weight.
(Yes, ego is typically a factor here, but nail the form down and you’ll progress faster than struggling with weight that’s too heavy.)
If your form is good and the exercise feels easy, move up in weight.
Lastly, when you train, keep one rep in the tank, meaning if you could incline bench press 135 lbs for 6 reps, stop at 5 reps.
You will still get stronger. This helps recovery and also lessens the chance of running into a plateau because you're not grinding out reps. It will also help keep your form clean.
Creating Your Own Success
You must create your own success. You must take your thoughts and imagination, turn them into goals, write them down, and work towards them day after day.
You are essentially becoming a new person and creating a new self-image. It is a very powerful thing to think about. But chances are, the person who you are now needs to be broken down and built up into something new.
This is your chance to develop a stronger you.
You need to start imagining your success with everything you do.
Now, I do not have all the answers as to how the mind works. But I do know that imagining your success and then taking action on it works.
Applying this to the gym...
When you are getting ready for a set, preferably your very first work set, the one you are striving to hit personal records on (let's say you are going for a PR of 200lbs on bench for 5 reps)...
Take a second to close your eyes before the lift...
Calm your mind and forget everything that’s going on…
Imagine yourself with the strength of the Man of Steel (Superman). Strong enough to throw a car across the street or over a building.
Truly believe you possess this insane amount of strength.
Imagine yourself successfully completing the 5 reps, feeling strong and powerful.
Open your eyes, and hit your set with all you’ve got.
Just by doing this is going to increase your chances dramatically, simply because you believe you will succeed with all your heart.
Don't call the weights heavy.
Don't tell yourself you are weak after a set.
Don't complain you didn't hit a level of strength yet; you'll get there, I know it.
Complaining will just make your journey all the more difficult.
Drop all the negativity and you will instantly become much stronger.
You will soon learn in the training section that I prescribe rigid routines that are not meant to be changed up every workout. The reason for this is to actually make progress on certain exercises, but we will cover that shortly.
That said, we will all hit a plateau, sooner or later.
Say you’re going on your sixth week of hitting incline bench press. You made tremendous gains, but now the weight is feeling heavier and heavier - almost to the point where you’re feeling anxious before hitting incline again.
That is the key right there.
If you get to the point where you are worried about not hitting your lift for the desired weight or reps - switch the exercise.
Now, don't abuse this. I go at least 4 weeks before switching an exercise and recommend you go at least that long as well.
YOU NEED TO MAKE PROGRESS, after all.
Beginners can go as long as 2 months without hitting a plateau, sometimes longer. The idea is to listen to your body and mind. If you are worried that you won't hit that lift. Chances are, you won't.
Usually, for the 4 weeks on an exercise, I feel confident, powerful, and ready for each workout. But before I let the weight move me around, I switch the exercise.
Again, don't abuse this. You should not be switching the exercise before at least 4 weeks.
The point is, if you feel deep down and that you are going to have a tough time hitting the lift, switch it. This will come in handy when you become more advanced in your training.
Your mind is a very powerful tool...
Don't confuse “Exercise Rotation” with "hitting the muscles from different angles" or "muscle confusion."
That's all marketing bullshit. After all - last time I checked, muscles do not have cognitive function.
The exercises I lay out in the routine all have a purpose.
The problem is - similar to what I mentioned above - we will soon get used to (and burnt out) from an exercise, and our bodies will then need a new stimulus to keep the progress coming along.
Exercise Rotation is switching the exercise to another similar exercise that works the same muscle group but is still a new stimulus to the body.
For an example of this, let’s say you’re doing incline bench. When a plateau sets in, you’d rotate the exercise to incline dumbbell bench press.
Or another example:
If you’re doing Standing Barbell Shoulder Press and a plateau soon sets in, you’d rotate the exercise to Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press.
Same muscles worked, but it’s a fresh stimulus to the body, which allows for continual progress.
The beauty of exercise rotation is that when you switch back to the initial exercise, you’ll feel stronger than ever - and even hit new PR's!
Then simply work on progressing again, then rotate exercises when another plateau sets in. Rinse and repeat.
This is how you create forever lasting strength gains.
Exercise Rotation Guide:
- Incline Barbell Bench Press
- Incline Dumbbell Press
- Bench Press
- Close Grip Bench Press
- Weighted Dips
- Standing Barbell Press
- Seated Dumbbell Press
- Seated Military Press
- 1 Arm Standing Dumbbell Press
- Weighted Chin Ups
- Weighted Pull Ups
- Neutral Grip Chin Ups
- 1 Arm Chin/Pull Up Practice
- Barbell Curls
- Incline Dumbbell Curls
- Standing Dumbbell Curls
- Hammer Curls
- Skull Crushers
- Weighted Close Grip Dips
- Cable Rope Extensions
- Overhead Tricep Dumbbell Extensions
- Pistol Squats
- Hang Cleans
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Hanging Leg Raises
- Dip Bar Raises
- Ab Wheel Rollouts
- Renegade Rows
When To Use Exercise Rotation
Remember the goal is to milk as much strength and muscle gains out of an exercise before reaching a plateau, so don't go crazy switching your exercises every workout. You won't get anywhere.
Exercise rotation becomes VERY useful when you hit intermediate to advanced strength levels.
Beginners can make great gains quick and for a while before needing to switch the routine up, so don’t worry about this yet if this is you!
NOTE: I actually believe this is a huge mistake beginners make that hinder their progress. Stay consistent. Results will follow.
If you are new to weight training, you probably don’t have to worry about exercise rotation as much. A beginner can go 8 to 12 weeks on the same routine before hitting a plateau.
Also, you may need to assess other factors such as nutrition, sleep, lifestyle (or others) before changing your training routine. Everyone is different; assess your needs accordingly.
Beginner’s Exercise Rotation Schedule:
When to rotate: Base this on your needs or when you plateau on a lift for 2-3 weeks straight.
Number of exercises in rotation: 2
Example: Incline Barbell Bench Press and Incline Dumbbell Press
Intermediate lifters can get burnt out from an exercise a bit sooner than beginners. Unlike the latter example, at this stage of lifting, you have the option of adding a third exercise into your rotation schedule.
Exercise Rotation Schedule:
When to rotate: Every 4-6 weeks or when you plateau on a lift for 2-3 weeks.
Number of exercises in rotation: 2 or 3
Example: Barbell Curl, Incline Dumbbell Curl, and/or Standing Dumbbell Curl
At this level, I still prefer to only rotate among 2 exercises. Keep 3 exercises for advanced strength levels. Where it’s much more difficult to make strength progressions quickly.
When you reach elite levels of strength, exercise rotation is going to become very beneficial. Strength gains at this level are going to be much more difficult to obtain.
Advanced Exercise Rotation Schedule:
When to rotate: Every 4 weeks
Number of exercises in rotation: 3
Example: Standing Barbell Press, Seated Dumbbell Press, and 1-arm Standing Dumbbell Press.
Rep Range Rotation
Another effective protocol to use (if you do run into a plateau) is rep range rotation.
You will reach the point where your body can become burnt out from lifting heavy weights all the time. Rep range rotation is simply a matter of dropping your work set weights by 10 to 15 pounds and working in the higher rep range.
For example, if you were following a dual progression model, rep range rotation would look like this:
Normal rep range: 4-6, 6-8, 8-10
Rep Range Rotation: 6-8, 8-10, 10-12
This will give your body a nice break from the heavy weights. When you switch back to the normal rep range, you should feel fresh and recharged again.
NOTE: Keep the same exercises with rep range rotation. This is how this method differs from exercise rotation.
This is something to keep in mind throughout your training career. The following routines will have alternatives which have exercise rotation and rep range rotation built in.
Hold up a second - is this the first chapter you went to?
If so, I highly recommend you start back from the beginning and learn how to properly set up your nutrition. That's MOST important for us hardgainers.
If you did that, let's get to it :)
The Core Workouts
Below are 3 workouts. If you use these workouts with the strategies laid out previously in this guide you will be able to make consistent gains for a very long time.
Follow the workouts for 6 to 8 weeks before implementing rep range or exercise rotation.
With an endless amount of combinations to implement the rotational strategies these workouts could last you the rest of your life.
Workout A: Monday - Upper Body:
- Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 4-6 reps
- Weighted Chin Ups: 3 sets of 4-6 reps
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 4-6 reps
- Standing Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Cable Rope Triceps Pushdowns: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Workout B: Wednesday - Lower Body:
- Barbell Squats: 4 sets of 4-6 reps
- Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 4-6 reps
- Weighted Box Step Ups: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Seated Calf Raises: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Farmer Carries: 2 sets of 50 steps
Workout C: Friday - Upper Body:
- Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 4-6 reps
- Weighted Chin ups: 3 sets of 4-6 reps
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 4-6 reps
- One Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Flat Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets 6-8 reps
- Face Pulls: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Notes For Workouts
Note #1 - Rest 2 minutes between all sets. Rest 1 minutes on lateral raises and face pulls.
Note #2 - When you are strong enough to hit the top end of the rep range for all your sets, add 5 lbs and start from the bottom.
For example, if you can incline bench 135 lbs for 3 sets of 6 reps, on your next workout, bump up to 140 lbs. Your next workout may then look like:
- Set 1: 140 lbs x 5 reps
- Set 2: 140 lbs x 4 reps
- Set 3: 140 lbs x 4 reps
In this example, you’d build up to doing 140 for 3 sets of 6 again, then add 5 pounds.
Note #3 - Workouts are done on 3 nonconsecutive days per week. (Monday Wednesday Friday) or (Tuesday Thursday Saturday).
Note #4 - Don't hesitate to refresh your memory with the training protocols in the earlier chapters. They’re very important.
Note #5 - Make sure to follow the exercises in the order that they are placed. There is reason for this and it is based on exercise importance and your energy levels.
Do we even need cardio?
Performing tons of cardio will just increase the amount of calories we need for our surplus. But after neglecting even the slightest amounts of cardio for the longest time, I felt like something was missing in my routine. Even in how my body felt.
So with cardio still being optional, here are the best types of cardio while muscle building.
Cardio Option #1: Walking
Walking, in general, is great for your health. That’s the main reason I’m talking about it now.
I like to go for walks to clear my mind or even listen to audiobooks, just to take a break from the day, you know? I encourage you to do the same. It's nice for a change.
Sure, if you walk a lot you may have to make up 100, 200, or even 300 calories - but that can easily be done.
Cardio Option #2: Sprints
I have been including one day each week where I will run about 3 sprints. Sprints also have been shown to raise testosterone.
And after looking at Olympic sprinter’s physiques, I figured I'd throw a few in my regime.
Make sure to warm up properly before trying to go all out. My routine is just taking a rest day and running three 40-yard sprints of about 70% to 90% intensity.
Cardio Option #3: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Now here is where you may be crossing some boundaries. HIIT is comprised of moderate and high intensity level intervals, which can be performed on a track, elliptical, treadmill, bike, etc.
You can also think of it as sprinting for 15 seconds and walking for 45 seconds, then repeating that cycle for 10-20 minutes.
The reason I said beware of boundaries is because we don't want to perform too much and lose our surplus in calories or hinder our strength gains.
My only recommendation to use HIIT is for those who gain fat easily, or if you’re on the “skinny fat” side of the spectrum.
Here are some guidelines for incorporating HIIT strategically (that is, without hindering your progress):
Make sure you are tracking your calories accordingly.
Stick to only 1-2 HIIT workouts per week.
Keep them between 10-15 minutes in length.
You can do these after your workouts or on rest days - your choice.
Overall, it is important to keep cardio to a minimum when trying to add strength and muscle. After all, we must keep our calorie surplus in check. But at the same time, it is equally important to get in some physical activity such as walking or a few sprints for good measure.
If you're having a super difficult time gaining weight, you may need to consider dropping any excess physical activity for the time being and focus on building strength while dialing in your nutrition.
Do These 3 Things
Take a moment to step back. You have been doing a lot of reading so far and taking in a lot of new information.
I know you will get extraordinary results.
Only if you do 3 things, do these:
- Track your progress
- Give maximum effort
- Stay consistent
This is why so many people fail to see incredible results and build the body of their dreams.
You need to hold yourself accountable and trust yourself. Stop making excuses, and do what this program says. This is how you will rise above and build a muscular physique.
Bringing you new outlooks on life, self-respect, discipline, confidence, and so much more!
It is what you wanted in the first place or you would not be reading this course right now… Don't allow yourself to fall off the wagon. It is okay to be strict, a little obsessive even, until you get the hang of things. But as of now, there are changes that need to happen.
Buckle down. Do what needs to be done.
Setting goals that motivate and inspire you is what’s going to keep your engine running until you hit the finish line.
You must set truly inspiring goals for yourself. No one wants to work their ass off for mediocre results.
You know who the people are with weak fitness goals... They are the ones who show up to the gym on occasion, complain about being there, go through half-assed sets, wander aimlessly from machine to machine - and then have the nerve to ask why they haven't gotten any results and give up.
Now I must ask: WHAT FIRES YOU UP!?!
Why did you read this in the first place?
(Not because you just wanted bigger muscles. Well… that can still be a great reason, but I’m looking for something deeper…)
When I was super skinny, I was teased, made fun of, and questioned if I had an eating disorder. Things like that sparked my fire to drive my fitness journey.
Take a minute and start to think about those things...
I also do what I do because I want to live a long, healthy, and disease-free life. I want to be fully functional and active in my 60's, 70's, 80's and beyond.
And yes, I will admit, I just want to look and feel sexy. I want to be able to look in a mirror and smile, patting myself on the back for my hard work.
There is nothing wrong with having goals like that, either. The point is to find what truly drives and inspires you. Then taking that reason why and riding it to the finish line without giving up.
- Write down where you are now
- Write down current body part measurements
- Write down your current weight measurement
- Write down where you want to be
- Write down how you are going to get there
- Write down your diet and what foods you will be eating
- Write down what fitness chapter(s) will you be following
Remember - NO HOLDING BACK!
To give you some ideas... Here's one of my favorite goal setting methods for training:
I use the 10x Rule.
I set goals to add 10 pounds to my key exercises. It's small enough that it can be done in a short amount of time, but also big enough that you will need to push yourself.
When you hit that 10 lb increment, reward yourself in your favorite way. Then add 10 more pounds and get right back at it!
Remember The Long Term Goal In The Face Of Adversity
The most important thing we can do to see results is stay.
We can fall into the trap of sacrificing our long term goals for instant gratification and short-lived pleasures.
When you are faced with the decision of skipping your workout, or skimping on your diet, etc. - try this exercise:
Ask yourself, would you like to take a week or two off of lifting?
Most of the time, the thought of skipping that long and realizing the damage that could do on your progress makes you get to the gym.
The same goes with your diet for muscle building. If you aren't going to track your calories for a surplus one day...
Ask yourself, would you like to eat in a calorie deficit all week?
Of course not! We are trying to build muscle! That little trick of thinking of the long term goal will help tremendously with keeping you on track.
If you learn to get each day right… Each workout right...
You'll soon start getting the weeks right, and then the months right.
Then the years.
You'll continue to hit your goals, and your muscular physique will be staring right back at you in the mirror before you know it.
Start small. Keep going.
Thank you again, for taking the time to read this guide. And now the important thing...
Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. The beginning of your new body and life… Starts NOW!
Find out more about Trent and his work here.
If you want to get the exact blueprint on how to build muscle effectively, taught by experts and supported by science you can find the UMZUfit Muscle Building Course HERE.