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Most of us lead busy, hectic lives and we have to face the fact that we’re going to die with a long to-do list. “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” after all.
So it’s no surprise that when life throws you a curveball and your time is suddenly strapped, your training might have to take a backseat.
Other times it’s not obligations that get in the way, but perhaps you just want to spend less time in the gym so that you have more time and energy to devote to other pursuits.
Or maybe you’re someone who’s just getting started in the gym and doesn’t want to devote hours every week to getting fit.
No matter the reason, the good news is you can easily maintain (or even gain) muscle and strength with surprisingly little training.
In this podcast, I interview Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, who recently released a narrative review of what the scientific literature says about time-efficient training.
That is, Brad and his colleagues evaluated the research to determine the most effective way to strength train with the least amount of time.
Brad practically needs no introduction, but in case you’re not familiar with him, he’s an internationally renowned fitness expert, author, educator, lecturer, and researcher, who’s published over 200 peer-reviewed research articles on exercise and sports nutrition. He’s truly an authority on all things related to body composition, hypertrophy, fat loss, and natural bodybuilding.
So, if you’re someone who wants to learn how to get the most out of your training with the least amount of time in the gym, or you’re an optimizer who wants to train as efficiently as possible, definitely listen to this podcast!
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
7:23 – How do you maximize muscle growth while minimizing time spent in the gym?
8:22 – How little training can you do while still making gains?
12:54 – What’s the minimum amount of training to maintain muscle you’ve already built?
17:48 – How do you program a minimalist routine? How do you get the best results with minimal time in the gym?
20:59 – How many sets should you do?
24:22 – How do you count the direct and indirect volume with multi-joint exercises?
28:48 – What movements should you include in your routine?
40:38 – How long should you rest between sets?
46:35 – How should you pick the number of reps to do on a particular exercise?
48:52 – How should you use drop sets?
49:46 – How do you count drop sets?
Mentioned on the Show:
Brad’s Textbook: Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hello. Hello and welcome to another episode of muscle for life. I am your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. And if you like my podcast, go ahead and take a moment to subscribe to it in whatever app you are using. For two reasons, one, it’ll make sure you don’t miss any new episodes because they will be queued up for easy listening and two, it will.
Others find me in my work
because it will boost the rankings of the show on the various charts. Okay. So this episode is an interview that I did with the one and only Brad shone felt about time efficient training. And this is something I get asked about fairly often, because most of us are leading a pretty busy, pretty hectic life.
And we have to face the fact that we’re gonna. With a long to do list. It’s just going to happen. And we wanna make sure that training regularly is not left on the list. We wanna make sure that we make time for that. Now, how do we get the most for that time though? How do we get the biggest bang for our training book while that is what this episode is all about?
So if you’re somebody who wants to spend. I wouldn’t say as little time in the gym as possible, but who wants to spend enough time to reap most of the benefits that regular training has to offer and know more than that, for whatever reason, maybe there are other things you want to do with that time. It could be hobbies, or it could be.
Work or it could be family time or whatever. Then you are going to learn how to make your workouts and your workout routine as time efficient as possible. That’s what Brad gets into in this episode. And this is also useful information for those of us who spend a bit more time in the gym, on the regular, someone like me.
For example, I spend about an hour. Per day, five days per week, strength training. So for those of you who are like me, who already are spending a fair amount of time in the gym, understanding how to make your training more time efficient is helpful. If you have to cut a workout short, so maybe you only have.
30 minutes today, as opposed to the normal 60 or 70 minutes, or maybe you are needing to modify your routine to just maintenance for a week or two. Maybe you have other obligations or maybe you are going on vacation and you don’t want to do no exercise at all. You don’t want to do no strength training for a couple of weeks.
But you also want to be more relaxed in your schedule and ideally be able to pick up after your vacation where you left off. That for example is what I like to do. If I’m gonna be out of town for, let’s say seven days or longer, if it’s only a few days, what I’ll usually do, like let’s say I’m gonna be going somewhere on a Thursday.
I’ll just do Monday. Tuesday Wednesday workouts. And if I’m gonna be coming back, let’s say the following Monday or Tuesday, then I’ll just take the next few days off. Maybe I’ll squeeze in one workout. And I find that so long as I get right back into the gym. When I get back, I haven’t lost any. Strength or performance.
But if I’m going to be gone for a longer period of time, then I do try to schedule in a couple of strength training workouts. And I try to make them as time efficient as possible again, with the goal of being able to just. Resume my normal training when I return not come back and have lost three weeks of progress, at least in terms of performance, because I took 10, 11, 12, 13 days off.
And so again, if I have peaked your interest, I think you are going to like this episode. And in case you are not familiar with Brad, he is an internationally renowned fitness expert, author, educator lecturer. Researcher. He is a credentialed scientist and he has published over 200 peer reviewed papers on exercise in sports nutrition.
And he is one of the preeminent authorities in the evidence based fitness space. This guy knows his stuff. Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports, nutrition company. Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world.
And we’re on top because every ingredient and dose in every product is backed by peer reviewed scientific research. Every formulation is 100% transparent. There are no proprietary blends, for example, and everything is naturally sweetened and flavor. So that means no artificial sweeteners, no artificial food dies, which may not be as dangerous as some people would have you believe.
But there is good evidence to suggest that having many servings of artificial sweeteners in particular every day for long periods of time may not be the best for your health. So while you don’t need pills, powders, and potions to get into great shape. And frankly, most of them are virtually useless.
There are natural ingredients that can help you lose fat build muscle and get healthy faster, and you will find the best of them in Legion’s products to check out everything we have to offer, including protein powders and bars pre-workout and post-workout supplements, fat burners, multivitamins, joint support, and more head.
To buy legion.com/mike that’s, B U Y L E G I N. Dot com slash Mike. And just to show you how much I appreciate my podcast, pees, use the coupon code MFL checkout, and you will save 20% on your entire first order. Dr. Feld. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I appreciate it’s a.
Brad: Yeah, my pleasure, Mike.
Mike: So I wanted to have you, I mean, there’s so many things that, that we could talk about and you are, you’re like the grand PBA of Gaines.
But I wanted to get you on to share with the listeners, your thoughts on time efficient training, something that. I’ve commented on tangentially here and there. Like how to properly use superset or how to reduce volume. If you just wanna maintain your muscle and strength and you don’t have enough time to get in the gym and you know, spend the hours per week necessarily that it takes to progress as an intermediate or advanced weightlifter.
But I haven’t written or spoken generally about. How to make your workouts shorter but also make them effective. And of course there are many reasons why people may want to do that. Again, it may be time constraints that are just general like, oh, well, for the next two months I only have 30 minutes a day that I can lift weight.
So what am I gonna do? Or if it’s. Just kind of added, you know, curve balls of life, where you wanted to get in and do your one hour lower body session today. But you just found out that you have a call, you have to be on or whatever. And so you only have 30 minutes. And yeah. So I wanted to get you on to talk about how to maximize results while also minimizing time in the gym.
Brad: Yeah, sure. And just in furthering what you said, the majority of people can optimize most of their genetic potential or much of it, at least through fairly limit brief workouts. And certainly maintaining gains. Requires much less training. So when you can have a much more efficient training strategy, if your goal is just maintenance now if you wanna be a bodybuilder and are looking to to maximize your genetic potential, that certainly will require more first of all, more time and also more manipulation.
But yeah, it’s I think something that really is. Somewhat underappreciated that you can really make huge strides with fairly limited with a fairly limited time commitment.
Mike: Can you be more specific with with that, cuz I’m sure people are wondering now, like, well, what do you mean?
Brad: limited. You know, again, there’s not an exact I don’t wanna give like hard cutoffs. I can give some generalities that. Sure. I mean, training several hours a week, you know, let’s say two, three hours a week three days a week, two, three days a week, even two days a week, you can see a majority against, but certainly like three days a week half hour to 45 minute session.
Mike: And would you say that would be effective for somebody who’s new and then at how far do you think that, that approach? And again, I know you’re just speaking generally, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on how far you think that approach can take that person. So again let’s assume that they have their honeymoon phase ahead of them.
So they’re gonna, their body’s gonna be hyper responsive. And then where does it go from there? If they’re training just a couple hours.
Brad: Yeah. So I’ll preface this by saying there’s a large inter individual variability in people. So some people who are poor responders might only see.
And again, I hate to throw out percentages, but just. As a general example might see, you know, 40 or 50% of their gains with something like that over time. Whereas someone else might be able to realize 75% or even more wow. Of their gains. So, and some people maybe even a little less. You know, volume certainly is a driver or appears to be based on the research for response.
So poor responders seem to, there, there seems to be a relationship between poor responders and volume where increasing volume has fewer poor responders. So, again, these are just generalities and it’s specific to the individual, but certainly I think one of the things that’s even more well established is that once you’ve ma once you’ve gotten gains that maintaining the gains can be achieved with substantially reduced volumes and time commitments.
So, and that seems to be pretty much across the. And,
Mike: Before we, we segue to that, I just want to comment that some people may be a little bit surprised that even 40 to 50% of genetic potential training a couple hours per week is pretty good considering, let’s say the average guy the physique that he’s after at least the average guys I’ve interacted with over the last years six, seven years, whatever maybe that.
25 to 30 pounds of muscle gain. Let’s say that they will be quite happy when they’ve gained anywhere between 20 and 30 pounds of muscle in the right places on their body and brought their body fat percentage down to maybe somewhere in between 10 and 15%, where they look athletic, they have some abs fairly easy to maintain.
And I think you would agree that. Probably about maybe it’s a little bit more than 50% of the average guy’s genetic potential for muscle gain. But at least my understanding of the research and the models that are out there is that your average guy can probably gain between 40 and 50 pounds of muscle over the course of his fitness journey over his lifetime.
And so to be able to get halfway there, and that’s a pretty cool transformation to go from a normal dude to plus 20, 25 pounds of muscle on a. On a pretty minimalistic training routine, like you said earlier, that’s encouraging
Brad: to totally agree. First of all, I think that is a fairly good ballpark and it certainly does depend on the individual as mentioned earlier, but yeah, I think.
One of the most important take homes here is that everyone has the ability to substantially improve their physique. And not, we’re not even talking about health, the markers and other factors that go along with it. There’s just so many benefits to resistance training, but purely from. A muscular standpoint, we’re talking muscle development.
So hypertrophy, if you will, muscle growth and strength really it’s with very, again, somewhat of a relative term, but I would say very little time commitment. You can make very nice gains.
Mike: Absolutely. So let’s talk about maintenance. So let’s take somebody who I’m thinking of listeners here. This is gonna be somebody who has they, they have at least a couple of years of proper strength, training, or resistance training under their belt.
They’ve gained a fair amount of muscle. They’ve gained a fair amount of strength. And now what would be your recommendations if they said, okay I want to do the bare minimum to maintain what I have. And for whatever reason, maybe they wanna take time and put it into another physical activity. Maybe they wanna take up a martial art or something, or they wanna take up a sport and they don’t wanna lose what they’ve gained in the gym.
Or again, life has just gotten in the way, work, family, social obligations or whatever. How does a maintenance routine look like for that person?
Brad: Yeah. I mean, it would BA if you’re talking just an overall time commitment, it’s basically the same. Perhaps even a little less, there’s there was one study, so we there’s somewhat limited evidence on this.
When I talk, when I say evidence we’re talking scientific evidence research but there was one study that had subjects train. And then put them on a routine that was one ninth of the volume that they did to gain the muscle. And they largely maintained what they had. Now. These were young subjects.
So interestingly, it does seem, there is somewhat of an age factor here that as people get older, they need somewhat of a larger dose to maintain. But the dose at that point would be like, I think a third. Cutting it down to one third of what they were doing was enough to maintain a majority in older people, but in younger people one night now, again, some limitations here.
So when we talk in generalities, these weren’t bodybuilders and I would. At least, and there hasn’t been a study done in body builders. I would,
Mike: you’ve worked with enough of them though. Exactly.
Brad: but most of them have not wanted to go down to one ninth of their volume. So, you know, bodybuilders tend to be a funny bunch, but if they had
Mike: to, and I would say even the lifestyle, I consider myself a lifestyle, body builder.
I’ve never competed, but I’m probably into this a bit more than just the average fitness goer and one night the volume that would, I would. That’s not even worth driving to the gym. if I’m gonna drive there, I gotta do. I gotta do a little bit more than that. One third would take restraint. You know what I mean?
Brad: Right. And I was gonna say, you know, it’s not clear. I would surmise that probably a little bit more volume. The more muscle you gain, at least it’s a good logical I think you can make a logical case for it. We don’t have gr great evidence, but certainly I know. Like you said, having worked with many bodybuilders that during a a maintenance phase where they’re cutting back substantially on their training, they’ve been able to do that on substantially less items.
I’d also say this this is another, I think, important factor. Not that you’d ever wanna completely take off. And this is somewhat of a side topic, but if you do, when you become well train. Your muscle has quote unquote, a muscle memory whereby getting back the muscle comes very quickly, even if you stop completely from doing it for, you know, fairly long period of time for months.
So, just maintaining once you even if you would lose a little bit, you can ramp that up very quickly and get back or, and even improve on what you had. And one last thing on that. This is theoretical, but it’s certainly something that I think has some credence from the limited research we do have that there can be a desensitization that if you’re training with higher volumes, Substantially cutting back on your volume.
Might resensitize your muscles to future periods of higher volume where you can actually ultimately make more gains over time. So that needs more study, but certainly we’re getting now into more of nuanced programming for advanced trainees, but I think it’s something to mention. That’s
Mike: one of the reasons why with my programming and this is the programming that is in my book for intermediate and advanced way, which it’s called beyond bigger, lean stronger.
One of the reasons why I like that in, in the beginning of a training cycle, it’s higher volume lower weights. And then as you get deeper into the cycle the volume comes down and the weights go up and there, I think there are multiple reasons for why that’s a good way of setting. But that was one of the things is if that does pan out, then it would probably make sense to that.
That’d just be another reason to periodize your training if you’re intermediate or advanced. Probably not as important if you’re brand new, but yeah,
Brad: I’d agree.
Mike: So let’s get a little bit more specific. So. Okay. We have a couple of hours per week and that’s certainly encouraging for maintaining.
Let’s call it one third of the volume. One ninth, maybe is people, even if they could do it, they may be like, well, again like me, if I’m gonna go to the gym, I’ll at least, you know, I can at least be there for 20 or 30 minutes. So, what would those workouts look like? What are some kind of rules of thumb or just general guidelines that you would give people for?
Putting together. A program that allows them to get the best results within these time constraints.
Brad: So, I mean, some generalities it’s more efficient to use multi joinin exercises compared to single joint, cuz you’re working more muscle. So if you’re gonna do a lot of single joint exercises, if you’re gonna do lateral raises and rear dealt raises and Peck flies and leg extensions, you’re just gonna have to do more.
A variety of more exercises to work all the major muscles completely. Whereas if you’re doing a squat for your legs, I mean, the squat works basically the entire lower body, and certainly it works the quads and the glutes highly effectively, but you also get ancillary work in the hamstrings. A row is gonna work multiple muscles or even it’ll work your sternal PEX.
Not only does it work the back musculature, the lats and the rhomboids trapezius, but also it’s gonna work your your sternal PEX. It’s gonna work your biceps. Break your radius. So anyway, if you’re looking to optimize time focusing on these multi-gen large muscle multi-joint exercises just makes sense.
I personally think also using a total body routine it would be more effective in these types of lower volume. Work workouts, just because it allows you to hit your muscle more frequently over the course of the week with lower volume. And this is somewhat debatable through research too. So I will say that it’s it’s an equivocal.
This is more personal opinion just based on anecdote that I’ve experienced. But I do think that total body routines here can be more of an effective measure. I mean, generally from some of the limited research we have, is that the benefit to split routines or that they allow you to utilize higher volumes with greater allowing for greater rest in between your workouts.
Whereas if that’s not the issue, then it. At least to me makes more sense to use more of a total body approach to training some
Mike: people find full body workouts, more enjoyable too, just cuz there’s more variety in them.
Brad: It’s completely up, you know, up to the person. Some people like the pump of working multiple muscles too.
So I, I do agree. There are people that do like, total body workouts better, but I’ve found that’s very subjective to the individual, but it, I would say generally, you know, one or two sets Per exercise would be sufficient using strategies like superset, especially like agonist, antagonist superset can be very effective in this regard as well.
And even drop sets can allow you to get in a little more volume within the context of a shorter workout. So using some of these more. I would call them advanced quote unquote advanced training strategies. So tho those are kind of some basics. Okay.
Mike: Makes sense to me and a couple follow up questions.
As far as volume goes, what would you recommend for let’s? Let’s we could look at it in terms of maybe working sets or hard sets per major muscle group, at least the big ones throughout the week. Should there be kind of a minimum number? People should be shooting for.
Brad: Yeah, probably three to four sets per week per muscle group there’s so, you know, some good evidence that’s sufficient.
I would say if you’re below, if you’re only getting like one, one set per muscle per week, it’s probably not gonna, you’ll still get some gains. You know, cert certainly it’s not doing something is better than nothing. And especially at the Earl I’m talking newbie stages. You can make some gains. That’s not certainly gonna be sufficient for a trained person to continue making gains,
Mike: which for anybody new listening, I mean, you heard that, like you could start with one set per major, most group per week.
If you’re struggling to get into a routine that would be, I think a good example of the tiny habit to use BJ fogs from the tiny. Approach would be like, okay, can I just do one set of these big exercises per week? Sure. I can make that happen. Especially if let’s say I, you know, they have, they may be starting with just body weight.
So that would be very easy. Or maybe they have some dumbbells at home, one set per week if you’re brand new. And once that is the norm, once that’s your habit, then maybe. Make that too and so forth. I mean, it might sound kind of silly, but I think there’s something to be said for that bare minimum approach depending on the person.
Brad: Yeah. And again, such an important point because the vast majority of the population doesn’t lift and many of them cite, I don’t have time as a reason why they won’t lift and by the way, these types of workouts can be. With fairly minimal equipment in the home. Even so, I mean, you can certainly I was home bound for COVID and it wasn’t a great body building routine, but I was able to get good workouts.
Right. I may certainly think I maintained the vast majority of my muscle. It’s fairly limited equipment.
Mike: Same. And all I had was modular dumbbells. I had right. Some bands. I had a bench and I had a pullup bar that I couldn’t use because the molding in my house didn’t accommodate it. So I ended up doing pullups on an I beam in the mechanical room, in the basement of my house.
Brad: Yes, same exact setup. I also added a weighted vest for doing things like walking lunches around my my basement and and squats with bands. But anyway, but yeah, I had the, really, the exact same setup and Was able to get effective workouts. And certainly I’m, we’re both the very advanced lifters for someone who’s a newbie or even a, you know, let’s say an intermediate with a few months experience of training.
You can make decent gains.
Mike: Totally. Totally. Okay, so, so let’s say around at least three to four hard sets per major muscle group per week, I’m curious how you would count that volume because you mentioned the importance of multi-joint exercises, probably bilateral as well, just cuz they save time.
I’m assuming would be the reason for that. And what would your thoughts be if you were programming? How would you look at direct versus indirect volume for people listening? Let’s say, okay, you’re gonna do some bench pressing, obviously that’s direct volume for your chest. That’s how you think of it in your anterior adulthoods, but it does train your triceps as well.
Maybe not as much as a triceps exercise, but it’s it. It’s not nothing for your triceps. It does count for something,
Brad: right. Absolutely. And I’ll start by saying that our group and collaborations that I’ve done have demonstrated on numerous occasions that even resistance strength subjects can make gains in their biceps and triceps without doing quote unquote direct biceps work.
I see it all the time. Really? Every one of my studies where I have not done direct biceps and triceps work. We’ve pushed the subjects hard and they have gotten gains and they’re, these are trained subjects. Now they’re not advanced bodybuilders. I would certainly guess if they were you’re talking like a competitive bodybuilder, probably they would not have seen these.
Gains or certainly to the extent that they did. But when you’re asking to quantify, we actually wrote a paper on this about calculating set volume that I collaborated on with some some of my colleagues. And it’s hard to pin that down. As a general type of rule, I would say, let’s say for the biceps and triceps, perhaps counting it as a half a set.
So let’s say if you would wanna for everyone set that you’re doing you’d need two sets to get gains, or you can let’s say if you’re doing Two sets of of a back exercise. If you added in one set of biceps exercise, you probably would be at least getting sufficient you know, Val volume for your biceps.
But these are again, are difficult things to quantify. I would also say that for other muscle groups, let’s say the hamstrings and the squats. While they’re working, they don’t seem to get as much of a stimuli as the biceps do, let’s say in the in back type exercises or the triceps in.
Exercise by the way, another interesting point. So we can get into the weeds with this nuances, but I think this is important to point out. So I collaborated on a paper with the colleagues of mine in Brazil, not too long ago. And we looked at single versus multi-joint. We looked at it was a Peck X, so it was a chess press an overhead tricep extension or a combination of chest press and tricep extension.
And it was really interesting that the chest press for the lateral head of the triceps, the tri the pec deck actually showed greater gains than the overhead triceps extension for the long head. The overhead triceps extension showed greater benefit than the pec deck and the. Medial head was similar for both regardless.
So it’s kind of interesting. And this goes into specific to the triceps. The fact that the long head is a BI particular muscle. So it crosses both the shoulder and the elbow joints. Whereas the medial and lateral heads just crossed the elbow joint and thus the overhead tricep extension.
Stretches the long head and that’s at least theoretically, we didn’t do mechanistic work, but theoretically why the long head is better worked with with an overhead extension. And conversely, when you bring your elbows down, it deactivates the long head to some extent and thus places, greater emphasis on the other head.
So. This is to me more if you’re a bodybuilder or someone that wants to maximize their gains, I think more relevant. If you’re the average guy or gal who just wants to quote unquote tone up, gain some muscle. I think it’s we’re overthinking things. And if you just do the multi joinin exercises, you’re gonna get, again, a majority, most of what you would through the single.
Mike: you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports, nutrition company, Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world. And what type of movements would you want people to think with?
Like for example, would you recommend all right, make sure that you have a squat in there, make sure that you have like some, you know, the old push pull legs type of approach, even if it is a full body setup and if we’re gonna, if we’re gonna do some pushing or pressing, should there be a horizontal and vertical same thing with the pulling.
Brad: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s a great question. So generally one lower body hip hinge exercise that it’s triple extension that involves the so like a squat, a triple extension, meaning that the ankle joint knee joint and the hip joint would all be involved in extension on the concentric action.
That would be exercises like a leg, press, a squat, a lunge would all fit into that category and they would. Pretty much the lower body, a chest exercise. So a push for the PS. So that would be horizontal press a overhead press, some type of overhead press for the shoulders that would really target.
Not only I can get into a little more context of this momentarily, but you’ll get at least some of the middle and poster Del towards to a greater extent and a a polling exercise that would be like a row. Or a chin where you’re getting they obviously are somewhat different. And if you’re a bodybuilder, that can be the difference between winning and losing a comp, but your back muscles will get worked overall.
So this is, again, you’d have to give more context as to who you’re talking about training now. With the shoulder. So then you have to start saying, well, what about the lateral doubts? The middle doubts , they don’t really get like in an overhead press. It’s mostly a frontal exercise. So would it benefit if you really wanna work your middle doubts?
Yeah. Again, for the vet for a lot of the population, I don’t think it’s an issue really like the what they’re gonna get out of. But if it is, I mean, aesthetically that’s where an individual has to make their own decisions about what else do they need to do the calves? So a squat will work the calves, quote, unquote, but.
Are you gonna get optimal calf development from it? Absolutely not. Or not even optimal. That’s a muscle again, like the hamstrings that just doesn’t get a high degree of stimulation. So you’ll get some calf development, but I would say both the hamstrings doing something like a stiff lugged deadlift would be beneficial there, which is a.
Technically a single joint exercise or hamstring curl if you want, and a Cal phrase. So perhaps just one set of each of those to really, if you wanna talk about rounding it out and that’s where the nuances come in. So if you just wanna get quick workouts, do four exercises, you getting out of the gym in 20 minutes or less one or two sets of each of.
But to get a more well-rounded workout adding, let’s say a set of hamstring exercises, set of calf phrases, and perhaps a set lateral raises would also be beneficial. So if I’m hearing you
Mike: correctly if they’re, if someone is not a bodybuilder, at least not a competitive body bodybuilder, maybe they would consider themselves like me and yeah.
Many people assume they would, they go, oh, I’m a lifestyle bodybuilder. I mean, I’m into it. But I’m not too concerned with, like you said, do I need to be doing the horizontal row or should I do the barbell row? Or should I do the chin for my back development? And I know this is what I’m gonna be judged on.
People like us, there’s a lot of flexibility here. There are some, again, general guidelines to follow, to make the workout effective. But as far as exercise choice goes so long as they use their time efficient. With compound exercises bilateral exercises again, they can choose, I guess if it were me, I would probably, I mean, I’d be thinking about some of these programming points, the more technical points.
And then I would be thinking about which exercises I enjoy the most and which ones I feel like. They engage my muscles the most and which give me the biggest pump and maybe which ones I notice. The most soreness, even though I don’t get very sore, but you know, that may be an indicator that, that exercise is a little bit better than another.
Is that accurate?
Brad: yeah. Abso and preference is always gonna be paramount if you a bodybuilder is just gonna do stuff because that’s his job, right? Her job. If you’re talking about the average Joe average or Jane average, who just wants to, when I say average, the average person, not average in terms of their abilities, but just the, a what the average goals are for a person.
It comes down to doing it. That’s and it’s the same for nutrition. I could give someone the best diet in the world if they hate the foods that they’re eating, it’s not gonna work. They’re not gonna do it. A bodybuilder will eat wheat grass all day, if you tell them to. But the most people won’t.
So yeah, preferences is gonna be really important. I also would say, now again, we can start complicating. I would say, ideally it would be beneficial to rotate exercises over the week where like, if you’re gonna do a chin on day one, do a row on day two during the week, and you don’t have to RO you don’t have to vary the exercises continuously over weeks, but just, you know, over the course of a week, get in some different exercises to stimulate the muscle slightly differently, that would help to get better gains.
If if that’s something that you’re interested in. That makes
Mike: sense. That makes sense. A good general programming tip. What are your thoughts on rep range? Yeah. So, in this context, of
Brad: course, correct. You can get a majority of strength gains using six plus reps. So yeah. Will you get better strength gains at least for the given exercise that you’re doing with a lower rep range?
Yeah. So doing singles or doubles or triples are gonna get you overall better strength gains. Then doing, let’s say eight or 10 reps for the given exercise. So what I mean by that is if you’re doing, let’s say squats and you’re squatting with one to three reps, you’re gonna get better strength gains than if you’re squatting with eight to 10 reps, eight to 12 reps.
But how that strength transfers to functional tasks is much less established certainly through, through research. And even if you might get some more strength. I’m not sure the practical relevance of it. So let’s even say, all right, and there will be some practical transfer to strength.
How does for the average person who’s lifting packages up? They’re not, they’re looking more at endurance based strength. They’re not looking at maximizing strength. So I would just say for the vast majority of people, again, 95 plus percent of the population using a rep range of let’s say six to 15 reps.
Is gonna be more than sufficient for the transfer of strength gains to their lifestyle. And it’s just more efficient from a volume load standpoint to To get in the volume that’s necessary because if you’re using, let’s say singles by doing this or doubles, not that most people would, but if you would you’d have to do more sets to be, to get effective muscle growth.
At least I’d also say this, which is another relevant point to that. If you’re training, let’s say with six or even eight I can even want that up to eight to 15 reps. You really don’t need to do warmup sets. I was
Mike: gonna ask, I was gonna ask about that. Can you cut down on your warmup? Not
Brad: only cut down, you really don’t.
You can. Whether you need to do a general warmup, depends upon if you’re coming in for my freezing temperatures, et cetera. But I don’t think for resistance training, that’s, there’s really not been established. And we actually did a study. I collaborated on a study again with colleagues in Brazil.
Where we looked at performance on moderate repetition exercise. So it was eight to 12 reps, as I recall. And adding in a general warmup or, and, or a specific warmup did not enhance the performance on those sets. And I don’t think, again, it’s tough to look at injuries to try to study that, but I’ve seen no evidence that when you’re training with moderate to higher reps, that injury.
Will be significantly moderated by by the use of warmth. Now, if you’re doing singles, if you’re squatting one, RM two, RM three RM I think it’s really important for for warmup sets to prime, that activity. But again, from a time efficient standpoint, you just don’t. You can ditch the warm up and by the way, you can ditch the warm up.
You also certainly don’t need to do stretching, assuming flexibility. Isn’t a a goal. So it’s long been taught that like flexibility that you have to do stretching either before at the end of a workout. And that’s only necessary if flexibility, if increased flexibility is a goal and there’s actually ample evidence that resistance straining itself serves as a.
Active form of flexibility training. So there’s been, you know, a number of studies that have shown that you get similar results from doing resistance training through a full range of motion, as you do through static stretching for that given joint. Which is
Mike: not entirely surprising when you think about just people listening, think about the flexibility that’s required to do a proper squat, for example to do some, to do proper pressing, to do all the exercises that we do, if you’re just used to doing it, you’re used to doing it.
But if you compare, I mean, I’ve. Just in getting, oh, was it maybe physicals just over the years in interacting with doctors and sports medicine doctors who, well, doctors in particular who aren’t familiar with all of this stuff, they were surprised they, they had the idea that I’m not Not muscle bound, but I’m certainly more muscular than the average person.
And they had the idea that I probably couldn’t even touch my toes. For example, I can put my palms flat on the ground. And I ironically I have had a little stretching routine more, just a couple yoga poses, just cuz I do tend to, I notice that my quads tend to get tight and doing, I forget the name of the Yoko pose, but there are a couple little stretch.
That help with just a couple quirks of my body, but for the longest time I didn’t do anything and I didn’t particularly have any issues, but yeah, I’ve maintained good range of motion despite no stretching just by doing a lot of proper weightlift for golf as well. I’ve worked with golf instructors who assume that because I have like big chest muscles or big-ish arm muscles that I’m gonna be really restricted in my golf swing.
And then they’re surprised that I can move just as well as anybody else really.
Brad: Yep. Yeah. I mean, there’s bodybuilders that do splits on stage, so yeah. Yeah. There is something obviously, if you really must have been particularly sure. Generally would take using anabolic enhancement for to, to couch it somewhat.
Nice. I mean, if your PS
Mike: are as big as your head, you’re gonna, you’re gonna struggle to swing a golf club. It’s just, , it’s just
Brad: it’s the muscle itself is restricting the movement, not the train. The important thing to understand, it’s not the weight tray, the lifting of weights itself, correct. It’s the the result of it hyper, hyper muscularity and that, and you have to get really muscular to to see those types of restrictions.
Mike: Totally. What are your thoughts about rest time in between sets with these types of workout?
Brad: Yeah. So, they can be relatively short now, shorter rest does to some extent compromise gains, but again, if you’re doing fewer sets per exercise and then going to a different movement, it’s not gonna be as big an issue.
Really the issues tend to be when you’re doing multiple sets for the same exercise. And then keeping a very short rest. Let’s say you’re doing. 30 seconds or one minute rest, and you’re doing five sets of chest presses. That’s gonna substantially reduce the amount of reps that you’re able to get at a given load.
However, if you’re moving, let’s say from a squat to a bench press to a back exercise is not gonna be there. There’s some systemic fatigue that does happen, but it’s not going to reduce that volume mode nearly as much. And I mentioned earlier that you also can use these techniques, particularly like a superset or, well, particularly here a superset, let’s say an agonist, antagonist superset.
Well, you’ll do a let’s say you do a chest press and then follow it with a back row, a row for your back. So you do a chest press and then you do a row which really is working the agonist antagonist muscle groups. And you just don’t seem much in the way of reductions in volume load. So that’s, and by that, do you mean
Mike: back to back?
Or like maybe okay. Just straight said straight in, because I’ve seen certain superset protocols where it’s the antagonist agonist pairing, where it’s like, well, maybe you should. 30 seconds in between them which still saves time.
Brad: You could, but you don’t need to, wouldn’t say you don’t need to, it’s not.
Yeah. Yeah. You don’t see much in the way of drop off. So the true, super set is resting basically as little as possible. You might end up resting 10 seconds by the time you get situated. Sure. Into the movement. But I don’t think that again makes much of a difference when you’re talking that the difference between 10 or 20 seconds.
In the overall time of a workout when you’re doing limited numbers of sets, you’re talking a minute or two. So I just don’t think that is much of a concern here. Would you
Mike: stop there at the second and then rest and do another one or would you go one, two and even three? If it was a muscle group that was not trained at least directly, or maybe even as a primary indirect target of the previous two exercises.
Brad: See, this mic is where no one can give hard answer cookie cutter answers. Sure. Because that’s where individual needs and goals always are gonna come into play. I mean, you could start telling me, you know, I have weak weak PS and I wanna improve them more. So then yeah. Do more that’s where the nuances and that’s where he quality personal trainer would help someone who really doesn’t know what they’re doing to more hone these.
I’m giving very general guidelines here. But virtually my answer to any applied question is gonna be, it depends cuz when it comes down to actual programming, the needs and abilities of the individual will dictate the actual what the actual routine is. So I can give a template here, but the template is gonna need to be customized to the individual.
I say this in the books that I write, I. I’m sure you do as well that it’s not just follow this, like this is the 10 commandments the golden hypertrophy routine or the golden yeah,
Mike: the one way, the one true right routine. Exactly. Yeah. No that, yeah. I of course agree with that.
There are some things though that I guess you would say would be inappropriate. You’d be like, yeah, it’s probably not a good idea. Like for example if someone were to ask you. So I wanna do a one rep max. Should I just skip the warm up? You’d be like, nah, probably not. And correct. And so I’m just curious if somebody was thinking, well, Hey, could I let’s say my workout is gonna be four exercises, a couple sets per per exercise.
I’m gonna do a whole body. So I’m gonna be moving from. You know, maybe I’ll start with my squat and then I’m gonna move into my push and then I’m gonna move into a pole. And then I have a little bit more time. So I’m gonna do some a little bit of arms or some CALS or some side raises or whatever.
And they’re thinking, okay, if I was gonna use this super set approach I understand I can go from set one exercise, one to set one exercise two. Can I just go onto. Three and even four and then circle back around. Cause then I can get through my workout even faster, you know?
Brad: Yeah. So could you, I would say if someone has more time, they should focus on.
Weaknesses vis Avi what their goals are. So if the goal is hypertrophy and you have a weak chest, I would just do more, focus more on doing chest exercises in your limited time there, or let’s say side deltas doing lateral raises. If your goal is max strength or when even max strength, let’s say strength for your lower body.
Then I would focus more on a lower body exercise that was specific and perhaps lower the lower the reps increase the load slightly there so that’s, to me where I think the programming needs to be then specified for the individual based on goals. If you have more time, a, another important thing that I would point out too, is that.
You could split up, let’s say you have a home gym. You could do like a short workout in the morning and it doesn’t nothing says you have to do it all in one session. You can come back and do let’s say a double split where you do a 10 or 15 minute workout in the morning and a 10 or 15 minute workout in the evening.
Mike: Yep. That’s a great tip. During the COVID times or a couple instances where that just given my schedule for the day, that just made the most sense to do half of ish of the workout in the morning, and then I’ll do the other half later. yep. When you mentioned the rep range six to, or maybe eight to 15, were, would you recommend the lower reps for the compound exercises?
And at least the most difficult ones and the higher reps or would you say, yeah, if you’re gonna do eight, just do eight across the board, or for people wondering like, well, how do they choose? Should they do six? Is eights tens, twelves Like if I were to hear. You could do sixes on the squat or fifteens.
I’m gonna do sixes. .
Brad: So there’s somewhat of a greater benefit to the somewhat lower to, to somewhat lower reps from a strength standpoint. So I would say that if you’re just doing one set then that would be appropriate. I also do. Again, there’s just so many ways we can go with this. Sure, sure.
But I would say if possible you can period, when I say periodize that let’s say weekly, daily undulating periodization, where day one, you might do eight, eight reps day two, you might do 10 reps and you might do 12 to 15 reps on your third day. Let’s see if you’re doing a three day workout.
Yeah. That makes sense. But do you have to, no. Is that how much of a difference is that gonna make for the average person? Not much would it make potentially a little? Yeah. So, that’s, these are things that I think would be more of importance for someone who is looking to optimize what they’re doing during that time, rather than just someone saying, you know what I just want to.
Maintain or I just want to gain some muscle.
Mike: Yeah. And my preference for the six is over fifteens in the squat is simply because fifteens on the squat. If you’re gonna take that close to failure sucks. it’s
Brad: yeah, it does. it does. But I will say too, there is at least some evidence that muscular Endur that if you’re, if muscular endurance is one of the goals that you will get some.
Enhancement muscular endurance from doing those 15 rep squats versus the eight rep squats. So there would be somewhat of a synergy from the strength endurance continuum standpoint, although again, how much I think it would be more appropriate to someone that has specific goals in that
Mike: fashion. Yeah.
Yeah. That makes sense. Last question for you, you had mentioned drop sets. What’s the appropriate way to use. .
Brad: Yeah. So, for those who don’t know drop sets or where you train at or near failure, and then you reduce the load, a given percentage, and usually that’s 20 to 25%, although there’s nothing written in stone that it has to be, and that can be somewhat specific to the exercise and the limitations that you might have.
I mean, if you have, let’s say you’re limited in terms of dumbbells, you’re dropping down, you’re doing. 25 pound dumbbells for set, and then you have fifteens. Well, that’s fine. Right? You could drop, you don’t have that 20% increment. That’s a 40% decrease. So you can drop down 40% at that point, you drop down to the fifteens.
So, and then you wrap it out and do what you can to fail and you can do double drops. So you can then drop at another 20, 25% or.
Mike: and how would you count? So let’s say you’re doing that. Would you look at that in terms of like for the volume, would that be, would you look at it through the, kind of the rest pause lens where you’re doing a couple drop sets as one macro set, so to speak or would it be okay?
I need to do three. I need to do three sets of this exercise and I can do that very quickly. If I just go bang. In a drop set fashion, or would the idea be to do three drop sets with their little mini sets in them?
Brad: No. Yeah. The literature seems to suggest that using drop sets appropriately can substitute for volume of additional sets.
Now there’s some limitations with that evidence and how much from a statistical standpoint, how much practical, meaningful, the not just significance, quote unquote statistical significance is there. For the purposes of the majority of the individuals, you can use that as more volume. So yeah, just count that as additional volume.
So yeah, by the way, one last point that I forgot to mention that this is all predicated on training, fairly close to failure. So it’s not like you’re gonna be doing, which is just this, I mean, generally that’s gonna be the case. Yeah. Anyway. Yeah. No, it’s a
Mike: good point. It’s a good point. It’s something that I guess I’ve taken for granted in the whole discussion, but it’s worth it’s worth
Brad: punching up.
I think it becomes a little more important too, as you are reducing volume that you should be within at least within one or two reps of failure, if not hitting failure, at least on some of the sets, especially as you get more advanced. So, that’s something to keep in mind that doesn’t mean that you still need to train hard and if not, you maybe even have to train a little bit harder.
Mike: And that’s a topic I would love to have you back on sometime to talk about because it’s something that I think is particularly important for intermediate in advance weightlifters, to understand. And there are different ways to approach training to failure, right? I mean, you could probably talk for 45 minutes just about sub maximal versus, you know, pushing close to failure.
And when you might want to use each of those strategies, how you may want to combine them. Failure in the context of different exercises. Like probably not a great idea to do that on the deadlift very often. Probably not a big problem. If you do it on the cable curl, you know? Yeah.
Brad: You hit the nail in the head and it’s a very nuanced topic that really would warrant an entire podcast to really delve into the complexities
Mike: of it.
Yeah. I would love to do that. Maybe as a follow up. Sure. Well that that is everything I had on my outline. This was a great discussion, a lot of practical information. I really enjoyed it and I’m sure people listening did as well. Why don’t we wrap up with where people can find you in your work and if there’s anything in particular you want them to know about anything new and exciting that you have that you maybe just released or that you have coming out or anything else at all that you think the listeners may like if they are still listening, because they liked this discussion.
Brad: Sure. Yeah, people can follow me on all over social media primary focus on Instagram and Twitter. You could just search for me and you’ll find me. I put my goal is to put out free content to educate the public on evidence based practice, which is basically taking science and putting it into practice, getting the practical value from science, not just looking at research.
And again, I put out a ton of content. I have a textbook called science and development of muscle hypertrophy, which if you’re interested in the geekiness of the science, that’s a good book to, to get. And I have a second edition of my book called the max muscle plan, ma X max muscle plan coming out.
Shortly that is more of a consumer oriented book that discusses a template for training to maximize muscle growth. So you could check that out if if you’re
Mike: interested. Awesome. Well, thanks again for taking the time to do this, Brad and I look forward to a follow up on training to failure.
That would be a great, that would be a great next one. My
Brad: pleasure, Mike.
Mike: 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.
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