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Why are calves so hard to grow? Are cool downs necessary? Can Bulgarian split squats replace barbell squats? When will I do a live, in-person meet-and-greet? Why do some people find the carnivore diet so helpful? How can you maintain progress while on an international vacation? All that and more in this Q&A podcast.

Over on Instagram, I’ve started doing weekly Q&As in the stories, and it occurred to me that many podcast listeners might enjoy hearing these questions and my short answers. So, instead of talking about one thing in an episode, I’m going to cover a variety of questions. And keep in mind some of these questions are just for fun. 🙂

So if you want to ask me questions in my Instagram stories, follow me on Instagram (@muscleforlifefitness), and if I answer your question there, it might just make it onto an episode of the podcast!

If you like this type of episode, let me know. Send me an email ([email protected]) or direct message me on Instagram. And if you don’t like it, let me know that too or how you think it could be better.


0:00 – My free quiz to answer all your diet questions:

1:54 – Boxers or briefs?

2:15 – Why are your workouts so boring?

5:12 – Is experimenting with testosterone worth it?

7:48 – Cable flyes or dips?

8:09 – Why are calves so hard to grow?

10:29 – How can I pay you back for changing my life?

11:20 – How important are cool downs? Can I skip them?

12:29 – Why did you jack up the price of your protein powder?

14:39 – Should a 145 pound man with 14% body fat lifting for the first time start with a bulk or a cut?

19:03 – Does the progressive overload principle apply to accessory exercises?

21:24 – What can I do to maintain my progress while on an international vacation?

22:16 – Would you ever do a U.S. meet and greet “tour” of some sort?

23:09 – Why do you think the carnivore diet has so many positive testimonials if it’s mostly bs?

24:33 – When is Bigger Leaner Stronger Vol. 4 coming out?

26:44 – Are Bulgarian split squats a permanent substitute for the barbell back squat?

27:23 – How should you incorporate a 1 rep max into your routine?

28:51 – Would you do 4-6 reps even for isolation exercises?

30:23 – Is it common that 10 reps of deadlift feels like hell in Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger?

Mentioned on the Show:

Take this free quiz to get science-based answers to all of your diet questions:

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Hello there, and welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. I am Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for the 33rd installment of my q and a series of episodes where I answer questions that people ask me over on Instagram at Muscle Fly Fitness. Come follow me. Every week or two, I put up a story asking for questions.

I get a bunch of questions, I answer them. On Instagram O and then I bring everything over here on the podcast and answer the questions in more detail. And so today’s questions are all over the place. Uh, one is, why is my training so boring? I answer a question about testosterone. Is it worth. Dabbling in cable flies versus cable dips.

Why are calves so hard to grow? And what can you do to grow these stubborn little bastards cool downs, post-workout, cool downs? Should we be doing them? Why I increased legions prices. The prices of, well, everything that legion sells and more before we sink our teeth. How many calories should you eat to reach your fitness goals faster?

What about your macros? What types of food should you eat, and how many meals should you eat every day? Well, I created a free 62nd diet quiz that’ll answer those questions for you and others, including how much alcohol you should drink, whether you should eat more fatty fish to get enough omega-3 fatty acids.

What supplements are worth taking and why and more To take the quiz and get your free personalized diet plan. Go to Muscle For Life Show slash diet. Quiz muscle f o r. Dot show slash diet quiz now answer the questions and learn what you need to do in the kitchen to lose fat, build muscle, and get healthy.

Okay, the first question comes from anonymous because unfortunately, this was a time when Instagram was glitching and I wasn’t able to easily record who was asking questions. But question is boxers or briefs, and this must be a trick question because boxer briefs is the only right answer. Next question, why are your workouts.

Boring. Well, you are asking the same guy who has been eating more or less the same foods, like exactly the same thing. Every meal, every day for about three years with maybe slight variations, every, I don’t know, six to. 10 months, like my lunch salad has changed a little bit over the years, but not very much.

My vegetable slop dinner has changed a little bit over the years. For example, there was a time when it was an Asian stir fry. I took the Asian stir fry recipe from my. Cookbook the shredded chef and just added a couple of other vegetables and played around with the spices and the sauces. But it basically was that recipe for a long time.

Now it’s kind of a Thanksgiving dinner slop because it is similar to a stuffing recipe without the stuffing, and I love stuffing. I love the flavor profile. So for example, I. Base of onion and celery and garlic and there is some parsley and oregano, rosemary, some chicken stock. You can use vegetable as well.

But I like the, the taste of chicken stock a little bit more. So very similar to a. A stuffing dish, but then I put some rice in there and I put some sort of meat. It’s usually chicken, usually ground chicken. And that’s my vegetable slop as of right now. And in a few months, I’ll probably want to change the flavor profile to something else.

Maybe that’ll be a, a cookbook. One day it’ll just be Mike’s vegetable slops. It’ll be 50 different vegetable slops. So anyway, coming back to the question and giving a serious answer. Yes. In some ways my training is kind of boring, right? Familiar exercises, simple progression models, repetitive workouts, but that is the type of training that produces long-term results.

So in that way, the more boring your workouts are, the more effective they generally are going to. And ultimately, if we’re talking about sustaining motivation, it is a common misconception that fun is the most motivating factor in your training. Fun does matter. It can be motivating, but what I’ve found for me and for many, many people I’ve spoken with and worked with over the years is results are the most motivating factor.

Getting the results you want is extremely motivating, even if your training isn’t all. Interesting. Even if there isn’t much variation or much novelty, maybe it isn’t even that fun as an activity unto itself, but because it is producing results and it is getting you closer to your health and fitness goals that mean a lot to you, you are very motivated to do the training.

Next question, is experimenting with testosterone worth it? No, definitely not. If you have clinically. T levels, and you have tried to fix it naturally, and it is not working. Then I understand T R t testosterone replacement therapy. I think it is warranted. I would do it myself if I were in that position.

Again, low testosterone symptoms of low testosterone, low energy, bad mood, bad workouts, low sex drive, et cetera, et cetera. and if I then tried to do everything I could naturally with diet, I would even try some supplements that have shown to be effective in some people in some circumstances, like de aspartic acid, for example, in a couple of others that generally don’t seem to do much.

But again, you might get lucky and respond Well, I would try everything that I could naturally, but if none of that, Then yes, I would get on t r t because at that point it’s, it’s a matter of quality of life. It’s not just to try to gain some muscle or lose some fat, but if my testosterone levels are fine.

And so if you out there are thinking about dabbling, With steroids. If your testosterone levels are fine, I would not recommend injecting any of these drugs or swallowing any of these drugs because you’re probably going to find it very hard to stop. If you talk to just about anyone who has used a lot of steroids and who is honest with themselves and willing to tell you the truth, basically every single one of them will say, It’s very hard to stop.

These drugs are not physiologically addictive in the same way as, let’s say, cocaine or opioids, but there are strong psychological addictions that can develop because you are going to feel very good if your testosterone is out the roof. And if you are adding other drugs, your workouts are going to be great.

You’re gonna gain a lot of muscle and strength. You’re probably going to. Need less sleep, but you’re gonna have very high energy levels, et cetera, et cetera. If you want to hear more about that side of steroids, the dangers associated with their use that are not often talked about, check out the interview I did with Greg Duette, D O U C E T T E, and see what you.

All right, next question. Cable flies or dips? Uh, I would say flies if you want a joint friendly isolation exercise for the ps, but dips are great if you want a tougher compound movement for the pex tries and shoulders. Now dips are not bad for your joints, but cable flies are more joint friendly. Next question.

Why are calves so hard to grow? Well, for many of us, I’ve had a lot of. Difficulties growing my calves. It’s a combination of starting with basically nothing, which is me. I started with essentially no calves, even though I played a lot of ice hockey, which is odd. So it’s a combination of that and having a lot of type one muscle fibers in our calves, and these types of muscle fibers do not grow as easily as type two muscle fibers.

That said, if your calves are lagging, if you can figure out how to do, let’s say, 15 to 20 hard sets per week, and I also would recommend. Doing a variety of rep ranges, say four to six, do some sets in the four to six range, and then the eight to 10 range, and then the 12 to 15 or even 15 to 20 range, because research shows that some people’s calves respond better to certain.

Rep ranges over others and instead of trying to figure out which rep range is ideal for your calves, it’s best to just do a variety and know that you are going to be maximally stimulating your calves. So if you can do that, let’s say 15 to 20 hard sets per week, your calves will grow. And that’s actually what I’ve been doing for about two months now.

I’ve been training my calves basically every day, four or five days per week, doing three to four sets per day, and they are growing. Well, some of that might be a residual pump, but they have grown at least a little bit because I’ve bumped up my volume by 50 or 60%, and you usually can’t do that if you are training, let’s say your legs and you’re doing 10 to 12 hard sets per week for your legs.

If you were to try to increase that by 50 to 60, Percent one week to the next, you would be very sore. I would not recommend that. I would recommend going up maybe by 10 to 20% and then acclimating to that for a week or two, and then going up by another 10 to 20% repeating. But with a small muscle group like the calves that recovers quickly, you can do that.

And when you greatly increase your volume, so long as you maintain your intensity so long as you. Ending your hard sets close to muscular failure. You can’t help but grow. So we’ll see. We’ll see where my daily calf training gets me. Next question, how may I pay you back for changing my life? Good, sir. You know, I never know what to say when people say things like this to me because it’s just a little bit surreal, I guess, and I don’t know.

I’m just not great with compliments. However, my honest answer is, People who I’ve helped don’t owe me anything really. I’m flattered and I appreciate that you gave me a shot because there are so many people out there hustling for your attention these days. Now, if that is not enough and you really wanna do something to.

Pay me back, quote unquote, just spread the word. Just tell people who want to get into better shape about me and my work. That is one of the most valuable things anyone can do. Okay, next question is I tend to skip cool downs. How important are they? Very unimportant. Unless you want to do some stretching or some mobility work, I’d recommend doing.

After your strength training, and you don’t have to do those things. Stretching slash mobility work isn’t all that important unless you have specific issues or specific restrictions that you are addressing. Many people don’t, though. Many people maintain great mobility and great flexibility with proper strength training alone because there’s a lot of stretching involved in proper strength training.

Think about the amount of lower body stretching involved in a proper squat, for example. Upper deadlift, especially a Romanian deadlift or a straight leg deadlift. Think about the upper body stretching involved in a bench press, in an overhead press, even in a pull-up and chin-up and all that is why a lot of people who do a fair amount of strength training and no formal stretching, Retain very high levels of flexibility above average levels of flexibility.

Very healthy levels of flexibility. Next question. Why did you jack the price of your protein powder? So they are referring to my sports nutrition company. Legion and we raised the price of our protein powders, whey casing, our vegan plant protein as well. And we actually have had to raise the price, I think, of every single product.

And the reason is, well, everything is more expensive now. A lot more expensive, raw ingredients, packaging, labels, bottles and bags, fulfillment. It is all a. More expensive than it was just a year or so ago, for example, since this period of transitory. Put that in. Scare quotes. Ha ha, ha. Inflation began the cost of producing and shipping a bottle of my whey protein isolate, which is called Whey plus, that has jumped by 60.

8% the cost of getting a bottle of my post-workout supplement recharge into your grabbers, that’s up 71%. My casing protein, 75%, I mean I could go on, but the economics have soured so much that I was actually losing money on hundreds of monthly subscription orders, for example, cuz people had locked in those subscription orders some time ago at lower prices.

And so anyway, I had to do what everyone is doing these days. I had to raise my prices, but the good news is legion’s costs have stabilized, so I don’t expect to have to make any further price increases anytime soon, and my customer’s willingness to pay slightly more for legion’s products have allowed me to maintain the quality of my formulations, which is very important to.

And to that point, if there is a supplement company out there that has not increased prices in the last year, they either have the financial acumen of Paul Krugman or they are probably reducing the quality of their products to maintain their profit margins. Maybe they’re using fewer ingredients. Maybe they are using smaller doses.

Maybe they are reducing servings and so on. Next question is, should a 145 pound man with 14% body. Lifting for the first time. Bulk or cut first. You know, this is a scenario where maintenance calories actually will probably work quite well because this guy is going to, and this would apply to a woman, let’s say a woman who has a, a normal body composition.

The weight would depend on her height, but let’s say, you know, 14% body. In men is is athletic looking. It’s not shredded, it’s not overweight in women, maybe the comparable level of body fat would be maybe 25%, 24%, and 145 pound man. So obviously he’s probably not very. Tall, I would guess, but normal build.

And so this advice would apply to a woman starting out with a very normal, maybe even a little bit of a, of an athletic build. So cutting is probably not the best place to start because ultimately what’s gonna happen is, yeah, you’re gonna get leaner. And in the case of this guy, he’s gonna get to, let’s say 10% body fat.

He’s gonna have a nice six pack, but he’s going to feel very small, and then he is going to just want to focus on. Muscle. And if a woman is starting out relatively small as well and relatively lean, sure she can also get to where she sees her stomach muscles, but she’s probably going to feel kind of frail.

On the other hand, starting with, uh, a lean bulk, it would not be a mistake here. But what’ll happen is after this guy who’s starting at 14% body fat, after he gains probably three, four, 5% body fat. So once he’s approaching 20%, he’s going to start feeling kind of fat. It’s going to be a little bit uncomfortable.

And the same thing would go for the woman starting at 24. By the time she approaches 30, she probably is. Going to want to get back to the mid twenties. That’s at least been my experience working with many people over the years. So maintenance calories could work quite well here because with maintenance calories, this guy or his female.

Counterpart. What they’ll be able to do is gain quite a bit of muscle with little or no fat. They might even end up losing a little bit of fat because when you are eating at maintenance calories, of course you are not hitting that exact number that you are burning every day. You’re just around it. Some days you’re a little bit over.

Some days you’re a little bit under, and I’ve seen when people are starting out with strength training and proper dieting, With maintenance calories, they tend to eat a little bit less more often than they eat a little bit more. Also, their body is so responsive to the training and has so many better uses now for those calories that they tend to lose a little bit of body fat rather than gain a little bit of body fat over the course of.

Let’s say four to six months of maintenance. And even if they don’t lose or gain body fat, even if they just maintain the exact same amount of total body fat as when they started, if they add muscle, now their body fat percentage has gone down, right? Because body fat percentage is percentage of body weight that is fat, and that can make you.

Leaner because you’ve added muscle that is going to distribute the body fat a little bit differently. Your body just looks better and looks leaner with the same amount of body fat. It fills out that muscle kind of fills out your body better than, it kind of shifts the fat distribution in ways that people generally like more.

So nothing wrong with starting out with maintenance calories. Hey there. If you are hearing this, you are still listening, which is awesome. Thank you. And if you are enjoying this podcast, or if you just like my podcast in general and you are getting at least something out of it, would you mind sharing it with a.

Friend or a loved one, or a not so loved one even who might want to learn something new. Word of mouth helps really bigly in growing the show. So if you think of someone who might like this episode or another one, please do tell them about it. Next question. Does the progressive overload principle apply to accessory exercises?

Some get heavy fast, yes, absolutely. Progressive overload applies to all resistance training. If you are trying to make progress, if you are trying to gain muscle and strength, you have to figure out how to progressively overload your muscles, and sometimes you have to work very hard to finally add more weight, especially on certain isolation slash accessory exercises in particular.

The smaller muscle groups. Think of a side raise for your side belts. Think of a rear raise for your rear belt. Think of calves, think of biceps in the beginning. It’s easy to add weight to these exercises for the first six months or so, but once you get fairly strong, you might have to grind for months before you can move up just five pounds in each dumbbell, for example.

What you need to do is work on increasing the amount of reps you can do, increasing the amount of sets that you can do, and eventually you can turn that into increasing the amount of weight. And my last comment here is the double progression model works really well for that, and that is the progression model that I use in my bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner.

Leaner strong. Programs. So if you wanna learn more about double progression and how to put it into use, check out bigger, leaner, stronger, uh, book if you’re a guy. Thinner, leaner, stronger book if you are a girl, even if you don’t want to get thinner, I wanted to call that book Fitter, leaner, stronger, but in surveying a lot of my.

Female readers and followers, they much preferred, thinner, leaner, stronger, over fitter, leaner, stronger. I used a Likert scale, a one to five Likert scale, one being I hate it, five being I love it, and thinner, leaner, stronger. Averaged, I wanna say like a four. It surveyed quite well with hundreds, if not thousands of women.

So a good sample size of women simply asking them, here’s the book, here’s what it’s about, right? Here’s a summary of the book. Here are a couple of potential titles. Rate them one to five and thinner, lean or stronger. Again, averaged like a four, which is very good and fitter, leaner, stronger, averaged. I think it was around a two.

Not very good. So I simply went with what the market told me was best. Okay, next question. International vacation for two weeks. No gym access. What can I do to maintain my progress? The easiest way to stay lean while also enjoying your vacation. There are two steps. One is eat freely to the point of satisfaction.

Not suffering, but satisfaction once or twice per day. And otherwise, alternate between protein shakes and extra filling fruit like apples and oranges and low calorie kind of high protein snacks like Greek yogurt or skier, low fat, cottage cheese, deli meat, Turkey jerky, stuff like that. And then two, include regular physical activity in your itinerary.

You can do formal workouts if you want to, but you don’t have to. It could be leisurely walks, it could be hikes, it could be bike rides. Just try to stay active. Okay. Next question. Would you ever do a US meet and greet tour of some sort? Yes, I would. I’m interested in this and in fact, I was thinking about doing a couple day live event sometime next year in the Tampa, Orlando area with Legion athletes and with some of my fitness friends, and although I have not formally started to work on that yet.

I would say there’s at least a 50 50 chance that we do it next year. It’s not a matter of desire. I do want to do it. It’s only a matter of bandwidth. I don’t have anybody currently working with me who I can give that to, so I’m gonna have to probably hire an outside service and then have somebody internally coordinate the details.

It’s just. The logistics have to be worked out, but I very much like the idea. I’d like to do that once a year. We’ll call it Legion Live. It’ll be fun. Okay, next question. Why do you think the Carnivore diet has so many positive testimonials if it is mostly bs? Well, many people can experience many benefits when they start.

Eating more nutritious protein. So meat is nutritious protein. And when they start eating fewer calories, when they get rid of highly processed foods, and when they also tend to make other lifestyle changes along with the diet, for example, they might start exercising again or exercising more or doing better types of exercise.

They might start drinking less alcohol. They might start getting better sleep. Many people. Start with diet, but then also start making these other changes. So what we have to remember though is that carnivore is not the only way to do all of those things and is in fact inferior to a plant centric approach that is the clear weight of the scientific.

Evidence. And if you wanna learn more about my take on the carnivore diet and on all of the relevant research that I could find, head over to legion, search for carnivore, and you’ll find an article that I wrote probably a year or two ago, but it also got updated recently. And so it is my current position on the carnivore diet.

Next question is bigger, leaner, stronger. Version four, when is the new book coming out? So the fourth edition of Bigger, leaner, stronger, something I’ve been working on for at least a year now, I think a little bit longer. However, the e-book is live everywhere. The audiobook is also up. I think it went up about a month ago.

So audiobook is live and I’m getting ready to order the hard copies, so the new paperbacks. And I’m also gonna do a hard cover. And they will be live probably early next year, Q1 next year. Cause it takes a couple of months to print a bunch of books and then you have to sell through the existing books that you have, et cetera, et cetera.

And I have also done a fourth edition of Thinner, leaner, stronger, and that is currently in. Production process. So the audiobook is getting recorded, should be done in the next couple of weeks, and the e-book is almost there. There just are a couple of illustrations that an illustrator is drawing. And then once those are done, we’ll be able to wrap up and launch the e-book.

And that’s on all platforms, not just Amazon, wherever you might buy any book. If Lina Stronger is there, it’s going to be the fourth edition, probably by the end of the year or January. And then comes the hard copies. I would say the hard copies probably are not going to be live like on Amazon and elsewhere until summer of next year, just because of the delay between ordering new ones, selling through existing and so forth.

And I am also updating the workout journals that go with those books. So the Year One Challenge for Men, that goes with bigger leaders, stronger and the year one challenge for women, which goes. Thinner, linear, stronger, a year’s worth of workouts programmed by me, takes you through the programs. Those are getting updated to be exactly in line with everything that is in the fourth additions of those books, and both of those workout journals should be 100% live in both digital and hard copy format.

By probably summer of next year. Slow. I know. Don’t get into writing and publishing books unless you are very patient, . Okay, next question. Bulgarian split squats as a permanent substitute for barbell back squat. Sure. If you do not do well with the barbell back squat, maybe you have an injury or something is preventing you from doing.

Properly without pain. The Bulgarian split squat is a great alternative. Remember, you don’t have to barbell squat, back squat or front squat unless you’re a power lifter or Olympic weightlifter. But if you’re just somebody who wants to get and stay fit, the squat is a great exercise if you can do it, but if you can’t or you don’t want to, there are plenty of alternatives.

Next question, how should you incorporate a one rep max into your routine? I prefer testing in the range of three to five reps, so three to five rep maxes because it’s safer and it’s less draining than a true one rm. But I will say that. True one RM testing can be fun. I have not done it myself in some time, but I used to do it every six months or so in my twenties, my mid to late twenties when I was basically invincible and I get the allure.

If you are strong, I would not recommend doing it more than once per six months. Because it is hard on your body. You are going to be doing it on probably the squat, the deadlift, and the bench press, maybe the overhead press. I doubt you are going to onem test your leg press, for example. And so some people, they don’t appreciate how much stress a true onem test puts on the body.

So again, once every six months or so is plenty often. And I would also recommend. Planning it so you can follow it up with a D load. So if you are going to onem your squat, deadlift bench, and overhead press, do those things in one week and then have the following week be a D load, maybe even a week off, just to help your body fully recover so you can get back to your normal training.

Without increasing the chances of experiencing symptoms related to overtraining. Next question, would you do four to six reps even for isolation exercises like lateral raises or flies? Those exercises in particular, not so much. I did a lot of that in the past. However, now not so much because it’s hard to maintain proper form, but there are many other isolation exercises that I think do lend themselves to heavy reps like.

Biceps curls, for example, and I’ll say that my biceps have responded really, really well to heavy training. I did not notice another spurt of growth in my biceps until I started doing a lot of four to six rep sets. I came from doing a lot of tens and twelves and fifteens. Not that those are not effective for building biceps, they are, but I noticed that once I started doing.

A lot of fours and fives and sixes, and maybe some sevens and eights. My biceps responded really well, and I’ve heard from many people, usually guys, but I’ve heard from many people over the years who have had the same experience who say that their biceps were stuck until they started to do heavier training on their biceps.

Same thing with triceps. You can do many different triceps exercises safely and comfortably in that four to six rep range. You can do. Pull exercises in that rep range, you can do some lower body isolation exercises in that rep range and it can be very effective. It’s not only that those heavy fours, fives, and sixes are not only for your big compound lifts.

Final question, 10 reps of deadlift feels like hell in beyond, bigger than or stronger, which is my program for intermediate and advanced weightlifters. Is that common? Yes. Yes, the program does call for sets of 10 on the deadlift, and yes, it is grotesque. Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.

And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share.

Shoot me an email, mike muscle for, muscle f o r and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.

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