I’ve written and recorded a lot of evidence-based content over the years on just about everything you can imagine related to building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthy.
I’ve also worked with thousands of men and women of all ages and circumstances and helped them get into the best shape of their lives.
That doesn’t mean you should blindly swallow everything I say, though, because let’s face it—nobody is always right about everything. And especially in fields like diet and exercise, which are constantly evolving thanks to the efforts of honest and hardworking researchers and thought leaders.
This is why I’m always happy to hear from people who disagree with me, especially when they have good arguments and evidence to back up their assertions.
Sometimes I can’t get on board with their positions, but sometimes I end up learning something, and either way, I always appreciate the discussion.
That gave me the idea for this series of podcast episodes: publicly addressing things people disagree with me on and sharing my perspective.
Think of it like a spicier version of a Q&A.
So, here’s what I’m doing:
Every couple of weeks, I’m asking my Instagram followers what they disagree with me on, and then picking a few of the more common or interesting contentions to address here on the podcast.
And in this episode, I’ll be tackling the following . . .
4:12 – Is heavy compound lifting really best for newbies who are going it alone in the gym?
14:14 – Should you really be training your arms in the range of 4-8 reps?
22:45 – Is HIIT better for fat lost?
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
So I have written and recorded a lot of evidence-based content over the years. You know, books, articles, podcasts, videos on all kinds of topics. Just about everything you can imagine at this point related to building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthy. And I’ve also worked with thousands of men and women of all ages and circumstances, and.
I’ve helped them get into the best shape of their lives. That doesn’t mean though, that you should just blindly swallow everything I say, because let’s face it, nobody is always right about everything, and especially in fields like diet and exercise, which are constantly evolving thanks to the efforts of honest and hardworking researchers and.
Thought leaders, and this is why I’m always looking to not just acquire brand new pieces of information or knowledge, but also to revise existing knowledge to make it more right. I’m always looking to find out where I, I. Can be more accurate. And one way to do that of course, is to just continue to read and research and be willing to accept new ideas that run contrary to existing ideas I might have about how things work.
I. And another fruitful source of help has been other people, people who disagree with me, especially those who have good arguments and good evidence to back up their assertions. Now, sometimes I don’t end up getting on board with their positions, but sometimes I do end up learning something new, and either way, I always appreciate.
The discussion and that gave me the idea for this series of podcast episodes. It’s pretty simple. I’m going to publicly address things that people disagree with me on, and I’m gonna share my perspective. It’s gonna be like a, a spicier version of the q and a episodes that I do. So specifically, here’s what I’m doing every couple of weeks over on.
Instagram at Muscle Life Fitness. If you wanna follow me. I’m asking my followers what they disagree with me on, and then I’m picking a few of the more common or interesting contentions to address here on the podcast. And in this episode, I will be tackling the following. Is heavy compound lifting really best for newbies who are going it alone in the gym?
Should you really be training your arms in the range of. Four to eight reps and is hit actually better for fat loss. Now, before we get to the show, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you wanna help me help more people get into the best shape of their lives, please consider picking up one of my best selling health and fitness books I have.
Bigger, leaner, stronger For Men, thinner, leaner, stronger for Women. I have a flexible dieting cookbook called the Shredded Chef, as well as a 100% practical hands-on blueprint for personal transformation called The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation. These books have sold well over a million copies.
I. And have helped thousands of people build their best body ever. And you can find them on all major online retailers like Amazon, audible, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores. So again, that’s bigger, leaner, stronger for men. Thinner, leaner, stronger for Women, the Shredded Chef and the Little Black Book of Workout Motivation.
Oh, and I should also mention that you can get any of my audio books for free when you sign up for an Audible account, which is the perfect way to make those little pockets of downtime like commuting, meal prepping, dog walking and cleaning. A bit more interesting, entertaining, and. Productive. And if you want to take audible up on that offer and get one of my audio books for free, just go to legion athletics.com/audible and it’ll forward you over and then you can sign up for your account.
I. All right, let’s start at the top. Is heavy compound lifting, really best for newbies who are going it alone in the gym? This comes from Shauna Gus on Instagram, and yes, I do think it is, which is no surprise for anyone who has been following me in my work for some time, but not necessarily for the reasons.
That many people think not, for example, because it is just inherently better for gaining muscle, for example, because research shows that we can effectively gain muscle working with, let’s say, anywhere from probably 60% up to 95% of our one rep max. And if we were to turn that into rep ranges, 60% of your one rep max is probably gonna be 15 to 18 reps, something like that.
And 95% is gonna be something like two or three reps. So we can gain muscle more or less equally, effectively working with a wide range of loads. So then why do I push the heavier weightlifting? Why do I recommend, for example, in bigger, leaner, stronger that. You work mostly in the range of 80 to 85% of your one rep max, mostly in the rep range of four to six reps, and specifically, I recommend that for the bigger primary exercises, right?
The, the compound lifts, the squat, the deadlifts, the bench, the overhead press. And then for some of the accessory exercises where it’s hard to maintain proper form, like a side raise, for example, I recommend working with a bit less weight and a little bit higher of a rep range. So why? Well, low reps are generally better for learning proper technique, which is very important when you are first starting out.
Really, that’s your, your first primary goal in the beginning is just to learn how to do the exercises correctly and heavier weights make it easier to do that. And that might seem a little bit counterintuitive, but high rep sets cause a lot more fatigue, and that means that you then have a higher likelihood of.
Using poor form or having your form break down, especially as you get deeper into a set. Okay, fine. When you’re warming up, yeah, you’re practicing. But there’s a difference between practicing the movement with warmup weight and practicing the movement with heavier weight. Right. You could get real good at doing warmup sets and not see too much skill transfer to heavy sets.
Now, when you do, let’s say sets of 10 or 12 with squats, which is still pretty heavy, that’s probably about 70%, maybe 65% of one rep max, and you get deeper into that set, it is a lot more difficult. It’s a lot more. Fatiguing than if you do a set of four or five. And when you start to reach the end of, of that set.
So that’s one reason why I like people working, particularly men. I, I don’t recommend most women start with sets of four or five because in my experience, many women who are starting out with resistance training are intimidated by heavy weights because. Let’s remember that while women can gain muscle more or less as effectively as men, they start out with a lot less muscle and they have a lot less potential for whole body muscularity.
So for many women, if you tell them to, uh, First day get under the bar and squat with 80% of their one rep max. They’re gonna struggle with that more than the average guy, and that’s particularly true on an exercise. Also like the bench press, for example. I’ve heard from many women over the years who struggled to bench the bar for sets of five with good form.
And so with women, that’s why I recommend starting with a bit lighter weights. That still feel very heavy to the average woman, especially the average woman who maybe has done a little bit of resistance training. You know, Barbie dumbbell stuff, where it’s very lightweights for sets of 30 plus reps, where you just kind of end when it gets too obnoxious.
You’re not even necessarily taking it to absolute failure or close to technical failure. But with men who start out with more muscle and more strength and who seem to be able to deal with the heavier weightlifting right out of the gate, that’s what I recommend that they do. Doing fewer reps per set and heavier weight also helps you really focus on each rep and make sure that you’re doing it perfectly, which again, is essential when you’re new and learning proper technique for your first few months or so, you are gonna make.
Market improvements in your technique, and that is mostly going to account for the increase in strength that you’re gonna see over the first couple of months. This has been shown in research that people who are new to resistance training gain quite a bit of strength right away, but not very much muscle.
Now of course, they can gain quite a bit of muscle over the course of their first six to eight months newbie gains, but, Over the first month or two. Again, the average person is gonna gain quite a bit of strength, but not very much muscle, and that’s mostly due to increasing technical skill. Another thing to consider about heavy weightlifting is ’cause there’s this point of safety that I get asked about and heavier weightlifting working with 80 to 85%, anyone run max versus maybe 60 to 70 is not inherently dangerous.
What is. Dangerous is taking heavy weights, and that applies equally to 80, 85 and 60 to 70. If you take heavy weights to failure on a compound exercise, technical failure, meaning the point where your form starts to break down, that’s a bad idea and absolute failure where you can no longer continue the exercise where you have to.
Bail on the set. That’s an even worse idea. That’s even more dangerous. The risk for injury goes up in both of those cases, and it goes up even more so in absolute failure. Another reason I like to see people get into heavier weightlifting early on in their. Journeys is we know that while lighter weights can help you gain muscle just as effectively as heavier weights to a point, if you get to, let’s say, where you’re doing sets of 20 reps or more, now you really are starting to move into the muscle endurance end of the spectrum.
So if you think about muscle strength on one end of the spectrum and endurance on the other, if you are. Doing sets of 20 plus reps, you are now emphasizing muscle endurance over muscle strength. But so long as you are doing what most people are doing in the gym, most people who are into bodybuilding or weightlifting, which is doing sets anywhere from a.
Five reps to maybe 15 reps. You can gain muscle more or less, just as effectively, regardless of whether it’s five or 15 reps. However, research shows that the lower rep training is better for gaining strength. Now why is that important? Because in the beginning, strength and muscle growth aren’t. Strongly correlated.
You can gain quite a bit of muscle over the course of your first year, maybe even two years of weightlifting without gaining a ton of strength. There’s a disproportionate relationship there, but as you become an intermediate and certainly an advanced weightlifter, that relationship becomes stronger to the point where the only reliable way to keep getting bigger is to keep getting stronger.
That is certainly true of anyone who is, let’s say, in their third year of proper weightlifting or beyond. Yes, volume matters. Yes, frequency matters as a tool to make sure that you’re getting in enough volume, but progressive overload is the primary mechanical driver of. Muscle growth. And the most effective way to achieve that is to add weight to the bar is to get stronger.
So therefore, the most effective way to continue gaining muscle as an intermediate or advanced weightlifter is to keep getting stronger. And that means that you’re gonna have to do heavy weightlifting. You can periodize your training. You can include some lighter weightlifting and higher up weightlifting, but, You are missing out on potential gains if you’re not also doing heavy weightlifting.
And now bringing that all the way back to why I like to see people who are new to resistance training get into heavy weightlifting is they can gain more strength, let’s say in their first year if they work on. Lower reps than higher reps. They’re gonna gain just as much muscle either way and, but they’re gonna be a little bit ahead of the curve when they transition into their intermediate phase because they’re gonna have gained more strength in the person who has only worked in, let’s say, the 12 to 15 rep, or maybe even the 10 to 12 rep range.
And what’s more lifting heavy weights is. A different experience than lifting lighter weights. Again, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve been around the gym for a while, a set of 10 reps of squats is certainly difficult, especially if you’re ending a rep or two shy of technical failure. But a set of five reps is difficult in a different way.
And what you’ll find is if you only work in a higher rep range, for example, and then you calculate your estimated one rep maxes and then you try to. Switch to a lower rep range. So let’s say you’ve been doing sets of 10 on your compounds for a long time. You calculate your estimated one RMMs and you go for a set of three or four or five based on the numbers that should work for you.
You’ll find that they probably don’t, you’ll probably miss the set because there is an additional skill component that comes with. Moving heavy loads. So I like to see then people who are new to weightlifting work on that and build that skill and become acquainted with heavier weights and gain strength faster over the long term because ultimately that’s what they’re gonna need to reach their genetic potential for whole body muscularity.
Okay, that’s it for that one. Let’s move on to this point of training. Arms with heavier weights, four to eight reps not being. Worth it that you should just train with lighter weights. And this is from one MA 22 PSS Instagram. And I guess I’ve kind of touched on some of the points that would apply here, but I thought this one would be worth covering because it is something that I get asked about fairly often.
Many people are not used to curling in the four to six rep range, for example, or doing any accessory exercises in that rep range or even the four to eight rep range. Pretty standard for accessory work. In the bodybuilding world, at least the the bro bodybuilding world is probably 10 to 12 reps, right?
That’s the hypertrophy range as they say. And again, there’s nothing magical about four to six or six to eight, or four to eight or 10 to 12. If we’re talking about muscle gain, you are going to gain muscle. Regardless of the load, so long as it’s in the range of let’s say 60 to 85, maybe 90%, you start getting higher than that.
It becomes kind of impractical, especially with with accessory exercises, and so long as you’re doing enough volume and so long as you’re resting enough in between your sets, your hard sets, and so long as your hard sets are hard, you’re ending them within, let’s say one to two reps shy of technical failure.
That’s probably three. Or maybe. Four reps still left in the tank, right reps in reserve. Three or four reps shy of absolute failure where you’d have to just ditch the weight. You’d have to sit the barbell down or get your buddy to help you rack it or whatever. But the lower rep ranges are going to help you gain strength a little bit faster.
And that applies to smaller muscle groups, the same as larger muscle groups. And the point of progressive overload applies equally as well. It’s not like smaller muscle groups just need volume. And they’ll just continue to grow and grow and grow. No, they need progressive overload as well. So then it makes sense of course to include some lower rep work in your accessory programming.
And it can work particularly well with people who have been training only in higher rep ranges on accessory exercises for some time. I’ve heard from a lot of people, mostly guys over the years who had been curling, for example, in the range of 10 to 12 or 12 to 15 reps, and really just trying to focus on volume.
And I know there are different ways to define volume and to measure volume, but let’s just say total reps, right? They were just thinking they just need to get in. A lot of reps and their biceps were stagnant. They had been stuck for some time now, and what helped them break through the plateau was.
Heavier curling. Curling with 80 to 85% of their one rep max, doing at least half of their weekly volume, if not more, with that heavier weight, which then allowed them to start gaining strength and they started curling more weight. And that was what drove additional muscle growth. And so if you’re new.
This doesn’t matter that much. Whether you curl or do your accessory exercises in the range of, let’s say, four to six reps, or six to eight, or even eight to 10 doesn’t really matter because in the beginning you are going to respond very well regardless. And the most important point is that you progress on the big compound exercises.
’cause remember that volume does carry over to your smaller accessory muscle groups as well. When you do a set a heavy. Set of bench pressing. It’s not just your chest that got some work there that got some volume. You also got some volume in on your triceps and your shoulders and even your lats to some degree, right?
So in the beginning, so long as you are really focusing on getting strong on your big lifts, What you do with your accessories in terms of rep range, doesn’t matter that much. I would say go with what is most comfortable. For most people, that’s probably six to eight reps per set, or maybe eight to 10 reps per set.
In some cases you can get to four to six comfortably. For example, any sort of curl, you can do four to six reps pretty comfortably, but a side raise, not so much or a rear raise, not so much. You can do it, and I actually do do it sometimes, but it is a bit awkward. Anything heavier than probably six to eight reps is tough on some exercises.
Then though, when you graduate your novice phase and you become an intermediate lifter, it makes sense to start periodizing your training, which is something that I’m gonna be talking quite a bit about in my. New book that’s gonna be coming out this summer Beyond Bigger Lean or Stronger 2.0. So currently 1.0.
The first edition is is out and it’s been out for some time, but I have rewritten it from scratch really. It’s a completely different book. It touches on a lot of the same topics, but I’ve learned a lot since I’ve written the first edition. I’ve worked with a lot of people. I’ve worked with a lot of intermediates and advanced weightlifters.
I’ve progressed a lot in my own training and I’m really excited about. This new book, I really do think it’s my best work yet, and it is going to be the bigger, leaner, stronger for the intermediate or advanced weightlifter, meaning that just as bigger, leaner, stronger gives the newbie everything they need to graduate from being a newbie to being a seasoned veteran weightlifter.
And to put real numbers on that, I would say it gives. The average guy, everything he needs to gain, probably his first 25, 30 pounds of muscle beyond bigger lean, or stronger 2.0. The second edition is gonna give that guy who’s now no longer a newbie, he’s gained that first 30 ish pounds of muscle, and he wants to try to gain the last maybe 10 to 15, maximum 20 pounds.
It’s available to him genetically. It’s gonna give that guy. Everything he needs to do that. And Puritization is going to be talked about in detail, but the long story short is if you work your muscles in different rep ranges, it’s probably better for muscle growth over time. And it’s mostly applicable though to the intermediates and advanced way lifter.
It doesn’t really matter. With the newbie, they don’t have to worry about it because again, when you’re new to lifting, your body is so responsive, you can just keep it simple and. Get great results for the first. I mean, in some people it’s up to the first year and most people it’s probably six to eight months.
Things change after that, though, your body becomes a lot less responsive to the stimulus provided by training. And the long story short is you just have to start working a lot harder for a lot less. And so with accessory exercises, then as an intermediate or advanced weightlifter, periodization makes sense there where you’re doing some heavier.
Work might even be as heavy as four to six in BBLs 2.0. We don’t go heavier than six to eight. ’cause again, I think that’s just gonna be best for most people. Where going heavier on certain exercises is just too awkward. And so you do go down to the 68 rep range though on your accessory exercises, and you go as high as the 10 to 12 rep range as well.
Hey, before we continue, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you wanna help me help more people get into the best shape of their lives, please do consider picking up one of my best selling health and fitness books. My most popular ones are Bigger, leaner, stronger for Men, thinner, leaner, stronger for Women.
My Flexible Dieting Cookbook, the Shredded Chef. And my 100% practical hands-on blueprint for personal transformation, the little Black Book of Workout motivation. Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them anywhere online where you can buy books like Amazon, audible, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select.
Barnes and Noble Stores. So again, that is bigger, leaner, stronger for men, thinner, leaner, stronger for Women, the Shredded Chef and the Little Black Book of Workout Motivation. Oh, and one other thing is you can get any one of those audio books 100% free when you sign up for an Audible account, and that’s a great way to make those pockets of downtime like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning.
More interesting, entertaining, and productive. Now, if you want to take Audible up on that offer and get one of my audio books for free, just go to legion athletics.com/audible and sign up for your account. I. Let’s move on to the final, says you okay, here it is. So is hit High intensity interval training.
Really better for fat loss. And this comes from Craig b Richard. And the answer is yes and no. And this is a position of mine that has. Changed over time as more research has been done on hiit and as I have availed myself of more of the research that has been done because at one point I thought it was pretty clear that HI was just superior for fat burning in.
Several ways, not just O calorie burning, but also some mechanistic, some physiological stuff related to fat burning and some of the afterburn effect and so forth. But the current weight of the evidence is that yes, hit is better for burning fat than less than low intensity steady state cardio, but only because you burn more calories per minute.
So it’s really just a more. Time efficient way to burn fat. So if you do, let’s say several 30 minute HIIT workouts per week, you are going to lose more fat than several 30 minute lists workouts per week. But simply because you’re gonna burn more calories, there aren’t any other major advantages. In terms of fat burning or fat loss hit does not have magical fat melting abilities.
As many experts once thought, I’d say five or six years ago, it really is just a, an energy balance point. When you do hit, you’re gonna burn more calories during the workout. Per minute done, like per minute of cardio, you’re gonna burn more during hiit and then the afterburn effect is gonna be larger as well.
So for example, scientists at Colorado State University did a study on HIIT and they found that 20 minutes of hi, it was four 32nd intervals with. Four minutes of rest led to an average of 226 extra calories being burned over the course of the day. And yeah, that’s calories on top of the calories burned during the workout.
Now that said, some people will say that hit elevates your metabolism for one, two, or even three days afterward. If you do like a. 30 or 40 minute intense HIIT workout that appears to be false in this study, the additional calories were burned more or less immediately after the workout, and then resting metabolism was normal 23 hours after the workout, so there wasn’t some long-term effect there.
Another study worth mentioning is a meta-analysis that was conducted by a team of scientists. At the University of Sydney and they looked at 28 different trials that involved almost a thousand people. And after crunching the numbers, the researchers found no evidence to support the superiority of either high intensity interval training or steady state cardio four body fat reduction.
So both of the methods were equally effective over the long term, but hit’s major advantage is. Calorie burning. If you were to do the same amount of hit versus lists, you’re gonna lose fat quite a bit faster with the hit. But it comes at a price of course, and that is, there’s only so much you can do each week because it is much harder on the body and especially with something that involves impact like running.
So sprinting, I’ve done this in the past. Years ago, I used to go out and do sprints, and I eventually stopped because it was getting in the way of my squatting and pulling. My legs were always sore. My hip muscles were always sore, my glutes were always sore, and I just couldn’t recover. And that was years ago.
I was probably 26 years old. So you know, I was invincible and I still couldn’t recover from just a few sprint sessions per week. And then one squat session. I think about probably 10 to 12 heavy sets in that session and one deadlifting session. Three to four sets per day in, in each deadlifting session each week.
And so I don’t remember my exact schedule, but I think I was pulling on Tuesday, squatting on Thursday or Friday. I remember I would try to sprint on, I. One day on the weekends, maybe it was Saturday or Sunday, and then when my deadlift would roll around, like my hamstrings were crying, my quads were crying, and I would try to sprint also one day in the week.
And anyway, I gave up sprinting because it just beat me up too much. Biking is a better option, or rowing is a better option because there’s no impact, but it’s still hit rowing, hit biking, or harder on your body. Then lower intensity cardio, and so then it’s really just up to you. If you want to maximize fat loss and you’re not running into recovery related issues, then doing hit makes sense.
I still would say don’t do more than probably an hour or an hour and a half per week. And as far as total cardio goes, I wouldn’t recommend doing any more than 50% of the time that you spend. Lifting weights. So if you’re lifting four to six hours per week, no more than two to three hours per week of cardio of any kind, and no more than an hour or maybe an hour and a half of hit workouts per week.
And the reason for that is if you do more than that, if you start getting into the range of let’s. Say 70 or 80% of the time that you spend lifting, you’re also doing cardio. You are gonna run into some issues related to the interference effect where you’re sending mixed messages to your muscles and you are going to hinder your muscle and strength gain to some degree.
Even if you’re lean bulking and making sure that you are eating plenty of food, it is gonna get in the way. And if you’re cutting. You’re gonna lose fat faster, but you also are going to lose muscle faster unless maybe you’re very overweight and you’re new to resistance training. So your body is very resistant to losing muscle.
I mean, you’re gonna have the newbie gains, hyper responsive elements, the muscle element on your side, plus you’re gonna have the extra body fat element on your side, which also helps protect against. Muscle loss when you’re in a calorie deficit. All righty. Well that’s it for this episode of Says You. And if you want to be featured on one of the episodes, if you want to challenge some idea or position of mine, find me on Instagram at Muscle for Life Fitness and I post, I’m actually gonna post one right after this.
About once a month, one of the little sticker q and A guys on my stories, asking people to tell me what they disagree with me about, and it can be something related to health or fitness, or business or politics, culture, whatever. I don’t care. Surprise me and I will. Take the ones that I guess intrigued me the most, or I think will be the most instructive, or the ones that are in line with things I get asked about the most often, and I will address them.
In this series, this says you series. All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from? Because those reviews not only convince people that they should check out the show, they also increase the search visibility.
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And last. If you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at [email protected] and share your thoughts. Let me know how you think I could do this better. I read every email myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. All right, thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.