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What’s the best workout split? Is high cholesterol a problem even if you’re in shape? Should you incorporate cardio while you’re bulking?

In this episode, I take on these questions and more, sourced from my Instagram followers who participate in my regular Q&A posts.

As always, these questions come directly from my Instagram followers, who take advantage of my weekly Q&As in my stories. If you have a question you’re dying to have answered, make sure you follow me on Instagram (@muscleforlifefitness) and look out for the Q&A posts. Your question might just make it into a podcast episode!

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 – Please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts and make sure to subscribe!

1:26 – Thoughts on Andrew Tate?

2:08 – As long as you do same sets per week does it matter if you hit body parts once or twice?

3:57 – You recommended Die with Zero. Do you have any other recommendations?

4:12 – I have high blood pressure and want to get back into strength training. Is it safe to do?

4:49 – Is a cycle desk a good choice to get in daily steps?

6:12 – Effective lower chest suggestions?

6:47 – Any remedies for uneven strength on the left and right side?

8:00 – How often should I take sets to failure?

15:17 – My free meal planning tool

16:03 – Opinion on barbell pads being used for back squats?

16:42 – Should I be progressively overloading while cutting or keep my RPE high?

18:18 – Cutting while on TRT in deficit is different than cutting normally?

20:32 – Is there any evidence to the legs up on the wall for relaxation being raved about?

20:53 – Hydration – do you have a rule? Does seltzer count? How many millimeters per kilogram?

21:26 – Do you stop walking/cardio when you are clean bulking?

22:11 – Do you consider high cholesterol an issue when you are in shape?

22:58 – Favorite workout split (for both general all-around training and specialization routines)?

Mentioned on the Show:

Want a free meal planning tool that figures out your calories, macros, and micros, and allows you to create custom meal plans for cutting, lean gaining, and maintaining in under 5 minutes? Go to and download the tool for free!

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


Hello. Hello. I am Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for another episode of Muscle for Life, another q and a episode where I answer all kinds of questions that people have asked me over on Instagram. Come follow me at Muscle for Life Fitness if you want to ask me questions. Every Wednesday, usually I post a story with the little.

Questions sticker. I get a bunch of questions. I go through them and I answer ones that are topical or that I haven’t answered a million times before or that are just interesting to me, and I answer them briefly there on Instagram. And then I bring everything over here to the podcast where I can answer the questions in more detail and share the information.

With all of my lovely listeners like you, and so in today’s episode, I am answering questions about my favorite workout split. If I consider high cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol in particular a problem, or if it is completely overblown, if you should be doing cardio. While you are lean bulking, I answer a question about water drinking.

What’s the best way to go about it? What’s water drinking 1 0 1? What does that look like? Uh, I have a question here about cutting on t r t. Is it significantly different than cutting naturally? I answer a question about training to failure. How often should you be training to failure on what exercises and why?

I talk about how to remedy uneven strength between the right and the left sides of the body and more. Ahmed l Curdy asks thoughts on Andrew Tate, the top G. Well, I haven’t paid too much attention to his messages. I’ve seen some of his stuff pop up on social media, but from what I have seen, Andrew has just been good at saying some obviously true things in very inflammatory ways that then generate controversy.

And conflict, and that in turn generates a lot of attention and a lot of followers. And aside from that, Andrew Tate seems to be just another flamboyant, degenerate, preying on insecure young men who wish they too could be fla flamboyant, degenerates. Callum Moore 93 asks, as long as you do same sets per week, does it matter on hitting body part once or twice?

If you are new to strength training, then no one workout per week per muscle group is going to work equally well as two or more workouts per week. Per muscle group, so long as the weekly volume is equated and if you’re new, you really don’t need to be doing more than 10 to at most 12 hard sets per major muscle group per week to maximize muscle and strength gain, at least for the first six months, minimally, possibly eight, even 12 months, depending on how responsive your body is to training.

And you can do all of those sets in one workout, like with a bro split or a body part split, a chest workout, for example, that involves 10 hard sets for your chest, or even 12 hard sets for your chest. That’s not optimal. It’s probably best if you stick to eight to 10, at least no more than eight to 10 hard sets for an individual muscle group in a workout.

But I wouldn’t say that 12, doing 12 is a mistake now, doing 15, doing 20, doing 25 hard sets for an individual muscle group in one workout is a mistake. So that’s the, the newbie scenario. Now, if you are a more experienced weightlifter, if you have been training for at least let’s say, a couple of years now, and you’ve gained quite a bit of muscle and strength, your muscles are going to respond better to two workouts per week rather than one.

If the volume is above, say, 10 to 12 hard sets, Per week for whatever muscle groups we’re talking about. And eventually you have to do that much weekly volume to keep making progress. And so if you want to optimize your progress, then you have to start training at least the muscle groups that you care the most about, at least.

Twice a week. Chris Max 1664 asks, you recommend Die with Zero and it was eye-opening. Any other recommendations? Sure. Right off the top of my head, essentialism. The one thing, the magic of thinking Big and the war of art. Deb Jay Yaar asks, I have high blood pressure and was severe three months back. I want to get back into training.

Safe to do well. Training acutely raises blood pressure, but research shows that it chronically lowers blood pressure, so usually people with high blood pressure are advised. Exercise. However, check with your doctor before starting back up because your circumstances may contradict my recommendation.

Exercise may be contraindicated in your circumstances. Those are usually fringe cases, but again, check with your doctor first. Dilly dally dance. Asks, I got a cycle desk and as I am in active due to work, good choice instead of steps to get in daily movement. Yes, absolutely. That’s a great way to make cutting easier or maintaining easier because you can easily burn an extra three to 500 calories per day with a cycle desk a little.

Cycle device that you sit on while you work, and that just means that you are going to be able to eat more food when you’re cutting, which means less hunger means fewer cravings. It means more sustainability, more consistency. Similarly, more food when maintaining is generally better. It makes it easier to maintain your physique, and you probably are going to notice more energy than with less food, better workouts than with less food, possibly better maintain.

Gains main gains, as they say, meaning slow and steady, muscle growth, slow and steady strength gain. And if you wanna learn more about this point in particular, why more food usually means better results. If you can eat more food when cutting, if you can eat more food when maintaining, which means you have to move more.

Is ultimately what you have to do is you have to counterbalance the extra food with extra activity. But if you can do that, it generally means better results. And to learn why, head over to legion Search for energy flux and read the article I wrote on energy flux. Okay, Elias Ali Yusef asks Effective lower chest exercise suggestions, flat bench.

Works the lower chest plenty, but then also the decline bench is great for targeting that portion of the chest. However, it does come with a reduced range of motion, so it is probably a little bit less effective for overall chest training compared to the flat barbell bench press. Even when you consider the fact that you can lift more weight on the decline bench press dips are also great for targeting the lower chest as well as low flies.

Fintan Meher asks, remedy for uneven strength on right and left sides, especially rose biceps curls. So my first tip here is to start sets of unilateral exercises with your weaker side. So then those sets end when the weaker side. Is tired or fails and it prevents you from doing more reps on the stronger side.

If you start with the stronger side, that’s what’s going to happen inevitably, is over time you’re gonna rack up more reps, more volume for that stronger side, and that’s going to perpetuate the imbalance. But if you start with the weaker side, you’re now going to be limiting the volume of your stronger side to what your weaker side can handle.

Okay. My next tip is to do an extra set of unilateral exercises for the weaker side. Per workout or per week, depending on how many workouts you’re doing, I would not do more than probably three extra sets per week for the weaker side. And anything from say one to three extra sets for the weaker side per week is enough to help correct that imbalance.

It’s gonna take a little bit, but. It will correct if you do extra volume for the weaker side, and that’s it. You just continue that way until the imbalance is corrected. Pretty simple. Gina das asks, how often should I take sets to failure? Now, first we have to define failure because sometimes people distinguish between muscular failure and technical failure.

Muscular failure is where you simply cannot complete another. Rep, even with bad form, you can’t move the weight anymore. You can’t move the machine, the barbell, the dumbbell, whatever. And technical failure is the point where you can’t complete a rep with good technique where your technique breaks down because the set has gotten that difficult and you could finish.

That rep that you now are breaking down your form on. Maybe you could get one rep, maybe, maybe two more, but they would be sloppy. That would be technical failure. Now, in actual practice, technical failure and muscular failure usually happen at the same time. At the point where your form is breaking down, you usually can’t complete the rep fully.

There are exceptions, maybe on certain exercises, but on many exercises. Once you can’t carry on with proper form, it’s usually because you simply can’t move the weight anymore. So in my answer, I’m going to be referring to the point of muscular failure where you cannot move the weight anymore. And again, for most people, that’s also when you can’t complete a rep with good form, you simply have to stop.

Now, some people listening might find that. Muscular failure and technical failure do not coincide for them. With a lot of exercises, with a lot of exercises, their form starts to break down. It’s getting ugly, but they can grind through that rep, maybe even grind through another rep that’s even uglier, and that’s fine.

If you’re one of those people, you can still understand my answer in the context of true muscular failure. So, You have grinded through one rep, it’s gotten a little bit sloppy and you’re grinding through the next rep and it’s even sloppier and you simply can’t move the weight anymore. So how often should you train to that point?

Well, you don’t have to do it at to get into great shape, but occasionally going to muscular failure on some exercises can ensure that you’re training hard enough, and it can also keep your perception of proximity to failure. Accurate. And that’s important because as you become a more experienced weightlifter for working sets to be maximally effective, they do need to be close to failure.

You don’t have to go to failure, but you need to be within a rep or two or max three of failure to produce a a strong training stimulus. If you do too much training well away from failure, let’s say four plus reps away from failure. You can get a pump, you can sweat, you can move your body. You can feel like you’ve worked out, but you are almost certainly not going to make any progress if you are an experienced weightlifter.

If you are brand new to training, sure that can work for a bit, but then there’s a point probably within your first six months where you are going to have to start training closer to failure with the same exercises. The same amount of volume, the same programming, but now you have to start training a bit more intensely.

You have to push closer to failure, or you will no longer notice any progress, even as a newbie. So as a general rule to keep your training effective, you want to end most of your sets on most of your exercises with at least one good rep left, meaning at the end of the set you could have done. At least one more good rep before you would’ve failed.

So let’s say you’re squatting and it’s really difficult and you grind out a rep and you ask yourself, how many more good reps could I do? And you think, I think I can get one more. If I really pushed and you end the set there, if you were to test it, you should be able to get that one additional rep. But then if you tried to get one more rep, you would fail.

That’s. One rep in reserve, one r a r, and that is the maximum intensity that I would recommend and that I go on an exercise like a squat, and I don’t do that every week necessarily. A lot of my squatting is. Probably more with like two good reps left where I could get two more reps if I really pushed for it.

And if I’m doing three or four sets of squatting in one workout, maybe that first or last set, depending on how I’m programming, it might be one rep shy of failure. So I’m pushing really close to failure, but not all sets. And not every week, same thing would go for the deadlift. And to be clear, I never pushed to muscular failure on those exercises anymore.

I did 10 years ago when I was. Physically invincible. Now, I don’t think it’s worth the risk. It’s just not a smart way to train. Given my circumstances and my goals, I’m not trying to become a competitive strength athlete, for example, and so I don’t push to technical failure on those exercises either because it’s not worth the risk.

I completely disagree with people who argue that cheat reps are an effective tool for breaking through plateaus or generating additional hypertrophy. With exercises like the squat, the deadlift, the overhead press, even the bench press with the biceps curl. Okay, fine. If your form is not breaking down a little bit toward the end of a set of biceps curls, you’re probably not working hard enough.

That doesn’t mean you should be using bad form, but the final repper to of a biceps curls set should not look like the first repper two. It should not be as fast, it should not be as precise as smooth the final. Reper two of many isolation exercises and just many exercises in general should look a little bit uglier.

Not bad form per se, not out of control, but just not as elegant as the first couple of reps. So anyhow, coming back on topic here, squat and deadlift do not go to muscular failure basically ever. That’s my recommendation. Do not go to technical failure basically ever. Bench press, overhead press, you can push to muscular failure or technical failure every so often.

If you have a reason to, like maybe you’re doing a rep max test to determine your new one RMS for programming, like maybe you’re following my Beyond bigger than your stronger program. If you’re on a bench press, I do recommend having a spotter for that. If you don’t want to do that, there’s nothing wrong with that.

You can. And all sets of bench pressing and overhead pressing with at least one good rep left, even when you are rep max testing, and then you can just credit yourself with the rep. That’s personally what I do. And then with most isolation exercises, again, you don’t have to push two muscular failure or technical failure, but if you do it, let’s say one set per workout per major muscle group, it’s on an isolation exercise.

It’s safe. That is not going to be harmful, and it may actually help a little bit if nothing else. Again, it may just help you remember how hard you have to push to get to failure, what that feels like. It’s not just when the exercise starts feeling hard, when your muscles start burning, when the bar or the dumbbell or the machine starts to slow down.

Now all of those things have already happened, and then you still can get another rep or two or three. They just get slow and difficult and ugly, and that’s okay. 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 quiz Muscle foor life 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. Holly Conn asks Opinions on barbell pads being used for back squats. Well, it’s fine, but it’s unnecessary. If you just give your body a chance to get used to the feeling of the barbell on your back, it is going to be uncomfortable, at least for the first few squat sessions, maybe even the first few weeks, and then it just won’t be anymore.

You’ll notice that one day. What was uncomfortable is just comfortable all of a sudden. And the same thing with front squats. By the way, it’s very uncomfortable at first, the bar on your collarbone, on your shoulders, up against your throat, and then a month later it’s totally comfortable. No pain, no problems.

I gone eye asks, should I progressively overload while cutting, or should I keep R P E? Hi. And just so you know what R p E is, that stands for rated Perceived exertion, which is just a way of measuring the intensity of your training with strength training, it’s how close to failure are you coming in your sets?

I prefer reps in reserve, r a r, just because I think it’s a little bit more intuitive and it’s easier. For me to think with how many good reps left do I have? Rather than on a scale of one to let’s say 10, how difficult was that set? And so my answer here is, when you’re cutting, always keep pushing for progression because what you’ll probably find is that you can keep making progress for at least.

The first few weeks, two weeks, three, maybe even four weeks of a cut, or you might be able to make progress throughout the entirety of your cut if you are new, but if you’re not new, and you can make even small amounts of progress in your first few weeks. That’s great because you are certainly not losing muscle if you are getting stronger or being able to do more reps with a given weight or following whatever progression model.

If you’re making progress, you are not losing muscle. And of course that is one of the goals when we’re cutting, is to preserve the muscle that we have. Not that it’s easy to lose large amounts of muscle when you’re cutting because it’s not, you really have to do a lot of things wrong, almost try to lose a lot of muscle.

But it still makes sense to take simple actions that will preserve the muscle that we have. And training hard is one of them. So push for progress when you’re cutting. JK Schneider 44 asks, cutting will on t R T in deficit. Any different than just cutting normally? Well, if it’s true, t r t, which means a smaller dose that keeps your testosterone in the normal range, even if it’s the high end of normal, then no, it’s.

Not really gonna be much different than cutting with normal T levels that are natural because they are probably going to be similar, even if, let’s say naturally somebody is in the middle of normal, maybe they are skewed a little bit toward the low side of normal, and then you bring them from low side of normal or middle to high, maybe the low to high is gonna notice a little bit more energy.

In their workouts, maybe they’re gonna notice slightly better pumps, but it’s not going to be very significant. And the person who goes from middle to high is going to experience even less significant benefits. They may not notice anything at all. That said, if it’s more like steroids, which is what a lot of people on social media are doing when they say t r t, so they are using large doses that push their total testosterone well beyond the top end of.

What is naturally attainable? Something around a thousand nanograms per deciliter, a thousand nanograms of testosterone per deciliter of blood. If you’re at 2000 for example, then yes, that is going to make a difference. Fat loss is going to be faster and it’s basically impossible to lose Muscle and workouts are going to be significantly better, better performance, better energy levels.

And calories can be even lower while maintaining higher energy levels and maintaining muscle, maintaining workout performance with even faster fat loss. And so that isn’t me saying that you should do that, by the way, that is not a good idea. If you wanna learn more. About my positions on T R T, who I think it makes sense for who it does not make sense for.

What types of protocols make sense, what types of protocols do not make sense? Head over to legion and search for t r t and you’ll find an article I wrote on it. Kayla Della Hunt asks any evidence to the legs up on the wall, relaxation being raved about listing many benefits. Well, I, I’m sure many people are overselling this because hype gets attention and that gets shares and so forth, but it is a good way to improve circulation, and many people do say that it helps them relax.

So if you like it, keep doing it. Melanie SLO asks, hydration, do you have a rule or set of rules, such as does seltzer count how many milliliters per kilogram? So drinking water is pretty simple. Here’s the crash course. You drink a little bit of water when you’re thirsty. You drink a little bit of water when you are hungry because it might just be thirst.

You drink a little bit more water when you sweat a lot and you drink a little bit more water when your pee is a darker shade of yellow. And that’s it. No need to overcomplicate it. Mopar asks, do you stop walking slash cardio when clean bulking? No. In fact, I would recommend that you make yourself do at least an hour or two of cardio per week when you are lean, bulking for a few reasons.

One is it’s good for your health, it’s good for your wellbeing. Two is it may improve strength training by improving your interset recovery. So what you’ll see is if you improve your cardiovascular fitness, you recover faster in between your sets, in your strength training, and that can mean better performance in those sets, especially with bigger.

Compound exercises. And then the third reason is it’s gonna make the subsequent cut easier. When you’re done lean bulking because you’re already in the habit of doing cardio. Stella asks, do you consider higher cholesterol an issue if you are otherwise physically in shape? Yes, because a large amount of scientific evidence shows that high L D L raises the risk of heart disease.

You should care about this. I mean, this is the overwhelming weight of the evidence and a large body of evidence. Therefore, I do recommend that you care about keeping your L LDL levels between 100 and 130. And if your LDL is higher than that, I recommend you take actions to bring it down. And usually that just means eating less saturated fat.

And if you wanna learn more about that, head over to legion Search for saturated fat and check out an article I wrote called Is Saturated Fat Bad for Your Health? All right. The Faithful Jacked asks your favorite workout split. Well, for all around balanced training, I like push pull legs base with extra work for shoulders and arms.

That’s been basically bigger lean or stronger and thinner, lean or stronger from the beginning, and I still really enjoy that setup for specialization routines. When you want to blast an individual muscle group, maybe two muscle groups, and then provide everything else with at least enough volume to just maintain your muscle and strength.

Usually the most effective way to do it is to take a body part split, which is usually necessary to start with because you have to get a lot of weekly volume into your target muscle group or groups, and then kind of mash that up with some upper lower days that provide your maintenance volume for the non-target.

Muscle groups. So for example, if you wanted to really focus on your arms for a training block, your biceps and your triceps in particular, then if you are an experienced weightlifter, which you probably are, or at least you should be, if you are doing a specialization routine for your arms, you are probably going to have to do upward of 20 hard sets per week for your biceps and your triceps.

And if you’re specializing. In your arms in that training block? If it were me setting it up, I would, especially for myself, knowing my body, and for most people, you’d want those to be direct sets, not, okay. I did a set of barbell rows. I’m gonna count that as a set of biceps as well, of course. It does stimulate the biceps, but not in the same way and as effectively as a set of biceps curls.

Now, you might count your barbell row as a half of a set toward your biceps, but again, if it were me and I was putting together a specialization routine for biceps and triceps, I would minimally be doing 15 hard sets, direct sets for biceps and triceps. Then maybe five more sets. For each, which are kind of the spillover volume from my pushing and pulling that I’d be doing to maintain my push and pull muscles, my chest, my shoulders, my back muscles.

And so if we look, then what that would require programming wise, we need to do 15 hard sets for biceps and triceps every week. We are going to split that up into two or three workout sessions if we’re doing two sessions at seven or eight sets for each per session. That takes quite a bit of time. Even if you are super setting, even if you are doing a set of biceps, resting about 60 seconds and then doing a set of triceps, which you can do effectively, that is an effective way to superset that is a, a useful way to superset rather than super setting sets of the same muscle group.

Biceps and triceps perform opposite actions and. Pairing those together can work well if you are trying to save time. And if you wanna learn more about that method of super setting and how to do it correctly and how not to super set. Head over to legion Search for superset. Read the article I wrote on it.

And so even with the super setting of the biceps and the triceps, the 15 or so hard sets that you have to do in that one workout is 30 to probably 45 minutes of work, at least 30 minutes of work. And. You’ve only trained your biceps and triceps, and you have to do that again too. So two days outta your week with that setup are primarily arms days.

Now, you could take the 15 hard sets for biceps and triceps that you have to do every week, and you could turn those into three workouts. You could do five sets for biceps, five sets for triceps, and you can do that three times per week, and that would take less time, especially if you super setted. Them, but it still takes a bit of time.

That’s still 10 sets that you have to do just to get your arm training done. And so my point with saying all that is without having those primarily just arms, days, body parts split, it is very difficult to program in enough volume if you are forcing yourself to try to do full body workouts or an upper lower split or any other split than at least starting with a body part.

Base where you are training your target body part or body parts two or three times per week. And then looking at how many additional days per week can you train, and how much volume do you need to provide to your other major muscle groups to at least maintain your muscle and strength there while you focus a lot of your time and energy on your target muscle groups.

Now, there are exceptions, of course, like if you wanna focus on your lower body, and that means your quads, your hamstrings, your glutes, maybe your calves, as opposed to just one of those things, you just want all of your lower body to grow faster. That’s your priority. Then you could take an upper lower split and start with three lower body workouts, at least two.

But you probably are gonna wanna do th. Three lower body workouts per week just to minimize soreness and to make the workouts a little bit more enjoyable. So you have your base of minimally two, I would recommend probably three lower body workouts per week, and then you have at least one upper body workout if you’re willing to.

Do a fourth workout and ideally, if you were an advanced weightlifter and you were really serious about this stuff, you would probably do two upper body workouts in addition to those lower body workouts to make sure that you are hitting all of your major muscle groups in your upper body enough to maintain muscle and strength.

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 have, uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, [email protected], 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 soon.

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