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Graham Betchart is an elite mental skills coach based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has over 13 years of performance coaching experience with global clients at the highest levels of professional basketball and business executives. Tune in for 1x1 mental coaching with Graham.
When the temperatures start to drop at summer’s end, most people begrudgingly store their bathing suits and sun-tan lotion. For those with muscle on the mind, they know it’s the time of the year when they can focus on size and getting as big as possible. Let’s take a look at the training methodology to follow to maximize your muscle mass.
Studies show that if you want to increase the size of your muscle mass, you should focus on the volume of your workouts. Volume refers to the number of exercises, sets, and repetitions that you perform each workout. The mistake that many lifters make is asking, “What is the ideal set-to-repetition range per workout?” It’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture first.
If you want to increase muscle size, the real question is, “How many total repetitions should be completed each week?” Once we have this number, then we can break everything down by workout.
For higher volume workouts, studies suggest that larger muscle groups such as the quadriceps and the back require between 90 and 120 weekly repetitions, depending on the amount of weight used. The heavier the weight you use, the fewer repetitions are required. The smaller muscle groups such as the biceps and triceps need between 50 and 70 repetitions.
Now how can we effectively reach our target repetitions for each muscle group?
If you want to reach your weekly repetition goal and increase muscle size, I recommend training each muscle group two or three times per week. Sure, you can dedicate one day per week to hammering out 10 or more sets, but there are a few reasons I would suggest against this:
Proven Science: Studies show that targeting each muscle group two or three times per week with fewer sets results in greater muscle mass than once-per-week workouts that contain many sets.
Avoid Burnout: Aside from volume, the amount of intensity you bring to your workouts is important for tearing down muscle tissue and triggering hypertrophic growth. Training each muscle group two or three times per week with fewer sets allows you to maximize your intensity in each workout.
Lower Risk of Injury: Fewer sets spread out over a few workouts can help you avoid overuse injuries. What’s more, if you can avoid burnout and stay in the zone during the entire workout, this will decrease your risk for absent-minded injuries.
There are two ways that I would recommend splitting up your workouts to increase muscle and achieve the repetitions goal mentioned above:
If you have less than a year’s experience with weight training, I would recommend using full body workouts (one exercise per muscle group) three times per week. Your workout schedule would look something like this:
Monday: Full-Body Workout #1
Tuesday: Rest Day / Cardio
Wednesday: Full-Body Workout #2
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: Full-Body Workout #3
Saturday: Rest Day / Cardio
Sunday: Rest Day
If this isn’t your first rodeo, I would recommend using an upper body, lower body split. Each week, you’ll perform two upper body workouts and two lower body workouts. There should be two exercises per large muscle group and one exercise per smaller muscle groups in your workout.
Monday: Lower Body
Tuesday: Upper Body
Wednesday: Rest Day / Cardio
Thursday: Lower Body
Friday: Upper Body
Saturday: Rest Day / Cardio
Sunday: Rest Day
If you choose the full-body workout routine, you’ll be exercising each muscle group three times per week. Here’s how you can break that down per workout:
Large Muscle Groups:
Smaller Muscle Groups:
If you choose the upper, lower split workout routine, you’ll be exercising each muscle group two times per week. Here’s how you can break that down per workout:
Large Muscle Groups:
Smaller Muscle Groups:
Will you go with the full-body workout routine, training your muscles three times per week? Or are you ready for more volume per workout with the upper-lower split? If you’ve already been using a similar program, what results have you noticed? Let us know!
When your career is helping others with their fitness and you spend your work week in the gym, you tend to come across some...let’s say, questionable, advice that clients have received or we ourselves have received.
The “best,” worst advice, that I have ever received is the ever constant, “Full body workouts are only work for beginners.”
Sure, full body workouts work great for beginners and are arguably the best option for someone just starting out in the weight room. But you don’t have to leave the full body split behind as you progress past those “newbie gains.”
I am a very big proponent of full body workouts at all levels, for almost any goal. Whether you are trying to slim down, gain mass, get stronger, or improve sports performance, they can be very useful. As a plus, you won’t have to spend as much time in the gym but you can still get great results.
Let’s compare a few styles of splits and just examine one movement. For this example, we will use the squat.
In a 6 day split, you would only find one or two days that include some form of a squat. In a upper/lower split you will most likely find yourself squatting two days a week. Now, lets compare that to a three day full body split. Don't you think that is going to be better for gains?
That said, there is a caveat. Just like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It is important to control intensity of the various lifts in a full body split. Because we are squatting, hinging, pressing, pulling, and carrying three times per week we must control the intensity and total volume for the day and adjust based on how our body feels. Consider cycling through a low, medium, and high intensity day for each main movement pattern to control.
Give it a shot. I think you may be surprised!
In order to share some of the best stories and worst advice, I recruited a handful of fellow coaches and friends from across the country to find out the worst fitness advice they've heard.
Strength Coach, Manual Therapist
"I would have to say the worst fitness advice I've heard someone receive is the need to pick only one diet to lose weight.
There are so many different types of diets (ex: flexible dieting, ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, carb cycling, etc.) and the key thing to remember is they ALL work because each diet has strategies and rules in place to help you eat fewer calories (usually by eliminating processed foods which are high-calorie foods).
What it really comes down to is which diet is sustainable for you, allows you to continue making progress in the gym, and doesn't deprive you of the foods you enjoy."
Where to find Johnny:
“When John told me about this topic, my brain was flooded with a flurry of really funny (but, kind of not) memories of really bad fitness advice I’ve heard over the years. Before I detail the absolute worst advice I’ve ever received, I want to take some time to highlight some fantastic runners up.
'Muscle weighs more than fat.' Umm, what? One pound is one pound. One pound of muscle weighs the same as one pound of fat. I don’t understand how this could ever be advice, but here we are in 2018 still hearing it.
'Lifting weights will bulk you up.' Sorry, but getting ‘bulky’ is extremely difficult. Trust me, I’ve been trying to get bulky for 10+ years and it’s not going great. People think adding any type of resistance training is going to add size. In all reality, your body composition is very dependent on caloric intake. Lifting weights won’t add bulk, but it can help you add size with the right nutritional plan.
Okay, now that I’ve got those off my mind, I want to share the absolute worst piece of fitness advice I’ve ever heard.
'No pain, no gain.' Lifting weights doesn’t tickle. You have to push yourself to great levels to add strength and/or size. With that being said, you should NEVER train in pain.
Pain is different than momentary discomfort, acute soreness, or just general difficulty. Pain is unhealthy and SHOULD NOT be ignored. This is your body, which is extremely complex and smart, trying to tell you that something isn’t right.
Ignoring those signs by “toughing it out,” is only going to lead you to darker levels of pain.
No pain, no gain is a terrible approach to fitness. Being “hardcore” seems cool, but even the most badass lifters in every gym will tell you that nothing about pain is fun. Pain-free lifting is the key to longevity and ultimately lifelong results. Chase progress, not pain."
Where to find Justin:
Instagram : @justin_m_ochoa
Strength Coach, Athletic Trainer
“The worst advice that I have heard when it comes to general fitness is that 'you should be going all out in every workout.'
Sure training hard is important to see results but sometimes going all out when things just don’t feel right can have the opposite effect you may be looking for. It could lead to a drop in results and even lead to injury. The thing is the injury may not happen in that workout but could present itself down the line.
Pick your spots on when to train hard.
It could be as simple as 1 to 2 hard training sessions a week over the long haul with the occasional a 4-6 week phase where you really hammer it hard.
Remember, your body is just like a car, if you are driving it hard every day, eventually it will break down.”
Where to find Mitch:
“When my wife was pregnant with our son, I went with her to the OBGYN for one of her routine check-ups. The results of her blood test showed that her blood sugar levels were slightly elevated. Nothing to be too concerned about, but the doctor took us into her office to discuss some precautionary measures.
'Do your best to avoid processed sugars.'
'Stay away from soda.'
'Don’t eat any food after 6 PM...'
That’s right, a doctor literally told my 8 month pregnant wife not to eat at night.
My hand clenched my wife’s, and she already knew what I was thinking. I could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t want me to make a big deal about it, but I had to question it.
I asked, 'Why shouldn’t she eat anything after 6 PM?' The doctor nonchalantly replied, 'Because anything you eat after 6 PM just turns into fat.'
YEP, A DOCTOR SAID THAT.
Needless to say, we didn’t take her advice and neither should you. Nutrients don’t just magically turn to fat if you consume them after 6PM.”
Where to find Kevin:
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Fat loss on paper is simple: burn more calories than you eat every day. What sounds easy can quickly become overwhelming as you realize there are dozens of exercises per body part to choose from. One of the three pillars of weight loss, exercise, can help to burn excess calories, placing you into that necessary caloric deficit to trigger fat burning.
Let’s take a look at the best exercises for weight loss and the training methodology to follow to maximize caloric expenditure.
When you want to maximize the number of calories you burn each day, you need exercises that utilize the greatest number of muscle groups. Compound exercises require several muscle groups to work together to execute the movement. As a response, you’ll be burning more calories than you would during an isolation movement.
Compare the squat with the leg extension. Sure, both work the legs, but the squat demands a lot from your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and core. Leg extensions only focus on the quadriceps. Which one do you think burns more calories?
Ten of the best compound exercises you can start with include the following:
Now that you have your exercises, you’ll need to learn the best way to use them to maximize fat loss.
Both weight training and high-intensity cardiovascular training have been shown to be effective at supporting weight loss.
Weight training with compound movements can help to improve muscle connectivity and the working relationship between the upper and lower body. Cardiovascular workouts can improve your endurance, strengthen your heart and lungs, and lower your risk for disease.
Most workout programs separate weight training from cardiovascular workouts, leaving cardio for resting days or the weekend. In order to maximize your fat loss, I would recommend performing a workout that combines both weight-based compound exercises with high-intensity, bodyweight-based cardio exercises.
You’ll be strengthening your muscles and developing lean mass while safely elevating your heart rate into a fat-burning zone. This type of workout will also boost your excess post oxygen consumptions (EPOC) levels, allowing your body to burn even more calories long after you leave the gym.
For beginners, I would recommend performing the following workout three days per week (e.g., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). If you have previous experience with similar workouts, you can add a fourth day (e.g., Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday).
The workout will be based on the training methodology of supersets. This is where you will complete one exercise (A) and immediately perform another exercise (B). Only after you’ve completed the second exercise (B) should you take a break of no more than two minutes. Once your break is finished, return to the first exercise. When you’re finished with all three sets, move on to the next pairing of exercises.
We’ll be combining opposing muscle groups so that you can safely perform the secondary exercise without worrying about burnout.
If you’re starting this workout, be sure to let us know how it’s going or if you have any questions. Don’t be afraid to show off your results by submitting before and after pictures.
It’s important to remember that nutrition is the second pillar to fat loss. Check out my next article on the best meals to trigger fat burning.
By: Penny Bergstrom
In June of 2014, my doctor told me my weight was negatively affecting my health and my job as a middle school science teacher was becoming increasingly difficult.
From June to October, I tried to lose weight on my own but at 245 lbs, it was too overwhelming and I made little progress. I needed help, so on October 14, 2014, I hired a personal trainer at my local gym, Pound 4 Pound Fitness, and began the process of shedding 100 pounds and restoring my health.
It was humiliating and extremely difficult in the beginning but soon I became a woman on a mission. My initial goal was to lose 50 pounds by my 50th birthday.
I met with my personal trainer three times a week, attended boot camp classes, started meal prepping healthy foods, gave up drinking soda, and two weeks prior to my 50th birthday I met my goal.
By October of 2015, I had lost a total of 100lbs. Since then, I have completed a Tough Mudder, ran two half-marathons, and I currently hold four national powerlifting records. I now love working out and can be found at my gym on most days each and every week.
My journey back to health has inspired me so much that two years ago, I became a certified personal trainer and began teaching group fitness classes, educating people on how to meal prep, and most recently conducting fitness nutrition counseling.
Cellucor products that helped with my success throughout my journey
Mantra that kept me going
One piece of advice for others with the same goal
Also known as the Caveman Diet, the Paleo approach models its meals on those who inhabited the planet 10,000 years ago. Is there merit in this plan, or should you leave it in history?
The Paleo Diet seeks to replicate the nutritional behavior of Paleolithic-era humans, who inhabited the Earth some 10,000 years ago.
It is believed that their diet revolved around ‘whole’ foods that were easily-attainable from the landscape, such as meat, nuts, fruits, and little much else.
Paleo proponents hold that the age of agriculture and mankind’s move to dairy and grain products brought about numerous health issues that persist to this day.
Real Food is Right
Regardless of whether you’re looking to pack on muscle mass, blast away body fat or train for a specific sport, basing your diet on whole, high-quality foods such as fresh protein, vegetables, and mono/unsaturated fat can only be a good thing for your health.
There is some research, namely a 2016 study conducted by The Endocrine Society, that suggests the Paleo Diet aids the body’s insulin sensitivity.
This refers to the efficiency with which you digest carbohydrate, and in those seriously overweight, a period of low-carb life can help you get lean.
Nailing the Nutrients
Paleo has been dubbed a fad diet, but its founding principles have much greater nutritional substance than others on the list.
Fresh cuts of meat, heaps of vegetables and healthy sources of fat are a worthy inclusion in any diet. These foods are rich in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which can fend off disease, fight inflammation and aid recovery from exercise.
Generally, people are much less active nowadays than in centuries past, so for many, perhaps focusing nutrition away from high-carbohydrate foods is a positive pursuit.
The Pickle of Processing
There are processed foods which are ‘healthy’ and rich in both macro and micronutrients – such as whey protein, peanut butter, and coconut oil.
However, proponents of Paleo assert that you need to consider what is meant by 'processed'. All forms of cooking and preparing food involve processing. Roasting prey over fire is man’s earliest example of ‘processing’ cooked food, but this still preserved much of the nutrient content.
This approach would differ to the extent of processing involved in eating reformed meat out of a packet, for example. You lose the freshness and reduce some of the vitamins and minerals when preserving meat through such a method.
Adherence is Key
The success of any diet depends on how easily you can adhere to it. A diet can promise the world, but if it’s too tricky to stick to then the likelihood of maintaining your results is going to be a challenge.
Despite appearing to be a very straight-forward diet plan, Paleo is extremely restrictive due to the sheer variety of foods in existence. Placing such vast limits on what can and can’t be consumed makes Paleo a difficult diet to maintain.
Adhering to a strictly organic diet can also prove to be quite costly, which may prove a further stumbling block to maintaining the plan.
Processing Holds Merit
It would be over-simplistic and downright wrong to suggest a food is unhealthy, simply because it is processed or not ‘raw’.
Whey protein, for instance, is highly-processed but is one of the most potent forms of protein available. Its high leucine content and rapid digestion make it the ideal pre or post-workout food.
Despite the demonization that Paleo places on carbohydrates, whole wheat grains provide high fiber and slow-release energy, both essential for general digestion and performance. Even coconut oil, a staple of the Paleo diet, is prepared via cold processing – which would not have been available thousands of years ago.
Causes of Weight Gain
You could argue Paleo’s proponents have misinterpreted the real causes of obesity. While mass-processed meals low in nutrients may contribute to some health problems, the real reason so many gain weight is a lack of activity. Desk jobs, TVs, and vehicles all contribute to the reduced physical activity.
Paleo-era humans had to remain active in order to catch prey and fend off territorial attacks – which may have contributed to low levels of obesity rather than the diet itself. Life expectancy in the Paleolithic era was also very low, generally falling between 30 and 40.
Who is to say that these people wouldn’t have encountered much greater health problems had they advanced beyond these years?
The principle of Paleo is sound, but in practice carries its own challenges.
Consuming a diet rich in high-quality sources of protein can generally help you lose weight and get lean. However, it is a big jump to assume that the rest of the strict guidelines put forth provide any real benefit. Unnecessarily negating processed foods that do provide health benefits may lead you to fall off the wagon.
The low level of carbohydrates also has the potential to compromise your sport and training performance, if maintained in the long term. Even then, it is worth remembering that the people of the Paleolithic era simply had to eat that way due to their lack of travel or ability to store food.
As a baseline template, Paleo lays the ground rules – but as a complete dietary system, you should look beyond its limits.
Starting a new fitness program? There are some things you need to hear before you set out for the gym.
Team Cellucor Athlete Jen Jewell breaks it down.
Getting started is the hardest part. Here's how to find your groove.
What happens after the initial rush fades?
Jen encourages her clients to reset and experiment!
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