If you’ve ever wondered if you’re making the most of your workouts, this podcast is for you. That’s because I’m chatting with Chris Barakat all about training quality versus quantity.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the fitness space over the past few years about the relationship between volume and muscle growth. The more volume you do, the better your results, many people claim.
Is that completely true, though? Are all sets and reps created equal? Or are there ways to maximize your results without adding more sets to your workout?
Those are questions Chris Barakat is answering in this podcast. We discuss . . .
- The concept of volume quality and why more isn’t always better
- Rep effectiveness versus “junk” volume
- Specific signs your reps are high-quality
- How to “feel” your chest during the bench press
- And more . . .
If you’re not familiar with Chris, he’s a published scientist, educator, coach, and natural bodybuilder, and he’s a repeat guest on the podcast for good reason. His years of developing his book smarts along with his practical knowledge of gym know-how means he knows how to get results while also having something interesting to say, and I always learn something new in our chats.
So, if you want to learn what the latest research says about training volume and how you can evaluate and tweak your own training quality to get better results, listen to this podcast!
0:00 – Try Recharge risk-free today! Go to buylegion.com/recharge and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points
5:34 – What research are you currently involved in?
10:42 – What did your peak week protocol look like?
13:18 – Volume quantity. Is more volume always better? What’s the state of the research?
20:34 – Rep quality versus junk volume
22:18 – What are the signs you’re recruiting your muscles well?
26:27 – Reducing junk volume
33:06 – Intentionality, psychology, and training intensity
38:44 – Paying attention to bar speed
44:12 – Other signs of good rep quality
45:54 – How do you “feel” bench press in your chest
48:55 – What’s worked for you for quad growth?
53:45 – Have you experienced poor back squat performance when you don’t train it despite increased quad growth?
58:14 – Dumbbell bench press vs barbell bench press
1:00:44 – How do you evaluate whether you should increase volume or pay more attention to your volume quality?
1:03:59 – What sort of novel stimulus can you add?
1:04:56 – What exercises load your muscles in a stretched position?
1:06:02 – Dumbbell pullover
1:13:57 – How will your growth volume be different from your muscle retention strategy during show prep?
1:15:18 – Where can people find your work?
Mentioned on the Show:
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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hey there, and welcome to a new episode of Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. And if you’ve ever wondered if you are making the most of your workouts, making the most of the time that you spend banging weights, this podcast is for you because in it I chat with Chris Barat about training quality versus quantity because there’s been a lot of discussion about quantity in particular over the last couple of years.
And I’m talking about volume here. And there have been people who have believed that the more volume you do, the better your results are, period. And so the name of the game was mostly just figuring out how to do more and more volume without burning out or getting hurt. Is that true? Does that work? Are all sets and reps actually created equal?
Is it just a matter of quantity or. Are there ways to maximize your results without adding more volume to your training? Can you focus on quality to get more out of a lower amount of quantity maybe than you are even doing now? Those are questions that Chris answers in this podcast where we discuss the concept of volume, quality, and why more isn’t always better.
We talk about rep effectiveness versus junk volume. We talk about some signs that you are doing high quality reps and high quality sets, how to feel your chest during the bench press. A lot of guys in particular will tell me they don’t feel their pecks working when they’re benching. And so I get Chris’s thoughts on that.
And if you are not familiar with Chris, he is a published scientist, educator, coach, and natural bodybuilder, and he is a repeat guest on the show for good reason. He has spent many years developing both his book Smarts and Practical Knowhow. Chris knows how to get results. So if you wanna learn about what the latest research has to say about training volume and how you can evaluate and tweak your own training quality to get better results maybe with less work, listen to this.
Before we sink our teeth into it, your ability to gain muscle and gain strength is greatly impacted by how well your body can recover from your training and how strong you get in your training. And that’s why it’s not enough to just hammer away at the weights every week. You have to watch your calories and watch your macros.
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Use the coupon code muscle and save 20% or get 10% cash back in reward points. Try recharge, risk free and see what you. Hey, Chris, Happy New Year and thanks for coming back on my
Chris: show. Thank you, my man. Thanks for having me, and happy New Year to you and everyone tuning in.
Mike: Yeah, I’m I’m excited to, to talk with you.
I’ve enjoyed our last couple of discussions. I’ve learned things and I like how you break information down, make it easy to understand and practical, and you really live this stuff. It’s not just theoretical. Obviously you take your training very may, maybe seriously isn’t the best word, but you are deep in this, you’re in the research.
You also are coaching people. So I enjoy these
Chris: discussions. Thanks my man. Same here. Absolutely. Yeah.
Mike: I wanted to bring you on to hear your thoughts about a couple of things, and I guess the broad heading would be, Volume and effective volume. And to start out, I want to go in, in some different directions here.
, actually first, what research are you involved in right now? Is there anything that you’re particularly excited about? Anything that people listening who like to keep up with the science should
Chris: be looking forward to? Yeah, absolutely. So right now I’m very fortunate to be a part of a lot of different projects.
Some of the ones I’m mostly excited about actually primarily involve peak week for body building. But it could also be applied to peak week for like fitness models or photo shoots. So some of the data that we’ve recently collected, Pretty novel and like the first of its kind. So I’m very excited about some of those findings to put some of that objective data out there and see a conversation that comes about from it.
Any sneak peek
Mike: there? I’m interested because I haven’t competed in body building. , I’ve gotten pretty lean for some photo shoots and I’ve tried some of the the. Traditional manipulation of water and sodium and carbs. And I’ve also then not bothered with any of it and I didn’t really see that much of a difference.
Now that’s probably because I didn’t do it right and that’s fine. But that was my, my conclusion after going with without it a couple of times was for me and my needs, it looks like I don’t have to worry about it. Sure. I just have to get lean enough and get a pump and stand in front of the camera and that’s about
a hundred percent. It’s quite interesting. If you are super lean at a low body fat percent, you should look great basically no matter what you do. And something that is interesting with the sport of body building is there are. A few like properties or characteristics of the muscle or a certain look that you can achieve when you truly like peak really well.
That seems to only be present more so in photo sorry, more so in person or super high quality video that like, doesn’t really get captured with photos. It’s very odd. For competitive bodybuilders, I think peeking really can improve their look for show day. But again if you get lean, you’re gonna look good, basically, regardless of what you do.
If you look great in the gym, you should look great on photo shoot day or whatever it may be. Some of the most interesting stuff that I found throughout the most recent research we’re doing on peak week, we did a case study on my body building competition, and during peak week we took measurements every single day.
The most fascinating thing to me was we measured my subcutaneous thickness s ultrasound at seven different sites, and some of those sites were reduced by 50% or more. In terms of my subcutaneous layer. And to me that’s fascinating. So like specifically my triceps and my quadriceps, the subcutaneous adipose layer decreased in size.
Now there is absolutely no way I was actually losing significant amount of fat mass actually was, and I was eating in a massive surplus and car bloating. But that change in skin thickness is super cool because I did see more tricep feathering, more quad feathering. And that’s part of the peaking process, and that’s what some of the goals are.
However, there Is that
Mike: pulling fluids into the muscle you think?
Chris: Or, I don’t think it’s pulling fluids into the muscle. I think it’s the losing water from the atip. Okay. So flushing any excess water. Okay. Or being even slightly dehydrated where you’re losing water from that tissue, but potentially preserving water from your muscle tissue if your glycogen levels are full.
So it’s like this risk to reward ratio. If you do it properly, it probably would serve you in a positive way. So it was just really cool because there’s never been data measur. Subcutaneous thickness on a daily basis while someone’s manipulating all these variables. We, we saw that we saw significant changes in my muscle thickness as I restored muscle glycogen.
And it’s hard to say if that super compensation effect was there or not, you utilizing different tools like the dexa, the muscle thickness we gained lean body mask, we gained size and then we lost size underneath that subcutaneous layer. And it was only the subcutaneous layer. The significant changes were only at in, in certain sites, but, I just got really excited to see that objective data, cuz it’s something that has been reported anecdotally all the time, but we never had numbers on it.
So I’m really excited to continue working on that manuscript and putting those numbers out there. Yeah. That’s very cool.
Mike: Yeah. For people listening who are wondering it, I don’t want to get off on too much of a tangent Sure. But I’m curious myself. Yeah. What did your peak week protocol look like?
Maybe just on the whole if the details take too long to get into
Chris: I’ll give a general overview. Yeah. Super general overview. The first three days of peak week essentially. We’re primarily focused on depleting my muscle glycogen. So it was very low carbohydrate, pretty high in fat. Part of the high fat reasoning is to just make sure that your calories aren’t super, super low and to potentially restore intramuscular triglycerides, which could maybe help the fullest.
And then I. Two days of really high carbohydrates to try to maximize muscle glycogen. And when I say high carbohydrates, I’m talking 600 grams plus on both of those days. And on those car bloating days, my water was also increased as well. Quite high, like 2.53 gallons, and then I tapere down on water.
I never cut water. Water stayed high. It was at one gallon, but when you go from drinking three gallons of water to drinking one gallon of water, you do have an excess of urine output and then you can essentially force your body to going into dehydrated state even though you’re still drinking a gallon of water.
So interesting. It was an approach like that to say the least. That’s very basic overview, but the data’s pretty cool. I was very happy with my look on stage and everything worked out pretty well. Nice. Yeah.
Mike: I’m looking forward to seeing that paper myself when it comes out. For sure I’m not planning on competing, but it is interesting just because I have done something similar in the past and like I said, I’ve done it.
Not that I didn’t notice much of a difference, but I wasn’t stage lean and I probably wasn’t even paying as much attention to what was going on as you do. I was just making sure that I was lean enough to look good on camera and just playing around with it and seeing if I could notice anything looking in the mirror, yeah. That’s cool. But yeah, that’s very cool. Alright. Let’s now segue to the main topic of what I wanted to talk with you about again, which is volume. And particularly I want to hear your thoughts on effective reps versus junk reps, as people say are effective volume versus junk volume.
And maybe we could start though with your. Your position on quantity and just to give you a quick overview of something I’ve been saying for a long time and I don’t take credit for it. I originally came across it in Lyle, McDonald’s work many years ago. And it made sense to me and it has continued to make sense to me and I think it has continued to hold true as more research has come out.
And that is for most people we’re looking at 10 to 20 hard sets per major muscle group per week. That’s a pretty good range. Newbies can get away with less, more experience, need to get away with more or sorry, need to do more if they want to keep growing. And so I’ve kept it, I’ve kept it, let’s just say, within those boundaries for my general recommendations.
And so what are your thoughts on where the state of the research is on volume especially? Is there, do you think there’s a linear relationship? There is more volume always better if you can get away with it somehow? If you can somehow do 30 hard sets for sure, a muscle group in a week, do you think that would be more effective than, call it 15 to 20?
Chris: Sure. So I would love to talk about this. Fortunately I’m investigating total volume in what we do in our labs. So in 2020 it was published, we came out with a paper where we investigated the effects of 12 sets, 18 sets, and 24 sets. And that kind of falls in between that 10 to 20 set per week recommendation.
I do think for most people that is a really good sweet spot for most muscle groups. One major problem with the research that we have to date that has demonstrated that there is a linear relationship. With volume and hypertrophy or volume and train performance is. There’s no consideration in regards to how much volume those participants were doing before they started the study.
For example, Brad has a really popular study that investigated nine sets, 27 sets, and 54 sets. Yep. 50 sort, 54 sets or 45 sets. Either way, it’s an insane amount of volume and pretty large gaps between the three groups. One of the, critiques there is. Okay, and
Mike: That was per week, right?
Per week. Okay. Just to make it clear for people
Chris: Yeah. Per week. So
Mike: people are thinking like, what was that in a
Chris: workout? ? Yeah. , yeah. Per week. And I, they were training three days per week, I think. Full body split. So the thing that’s interesting there is if, let’s just say I’m training at 25 sets per week before I start this study, and I get thrown into the nine set group.
If I don’t grow or if I even lose performance. Was it because I was doing nine sets or was it because I’m used to doing 25 sets? And then on the other side of the spectrum, if I normally do 15 sets and I get thrown into this group doing 45 sets, that amount of volume might crush me and I might not respond because of it, or I respond really well because the study is only eight weeks long, but it’s something I can’t sustain for 16 weeks or 24 weeks.
So the duration of the study is a, are a really big problem. Most of them are eight to 12 weeks because of semester durations. For the most part. A lot of this is being done at a university, so we work with our semesters. So there’s a lot of flaws and confounding variables when it comes to the volume literature.
When we looked at our study that had 12 sets, 18 sets and 24 sets, the 12 set group and the 18 set group actually responded better than the 24 set group. And we were the first research group to. Ask the subjects, how many steps per week are you doing before the study? And we randomize subjects based on that.
So this past semester, we just finished this study that fortunately Legion supported. So thank you Mike for that. Where, again, where it’s a follow up investigation where the study the subjects that are coming in, there’s three different groups. There’s a control group. A group doing 30% more volume than their previous set volume and then a group doing 60% more volume than their previous set volume.
So this is the first study that’s really gonna get a good eight week look at what happens when you change your training volume or keep your volume the same. So I’m really excited to see what those results are. We still gotta analyze that. But generally speaking, I don’t think there is a true linear relationship when it comes to volume.
I don’t think more is always better. I do think that there is a ceiling and potentially if you’re doing too much, especially as a natural, it can be hindering your rate of progress. I think something that a lot of people, a lot of gym goers do that are not even natural bodybuilders are competitive in the space.
They pick up a muscle in fitness magazine or whatever it may be, and they see a. Enhanced bodybuilders workout routine where they’re doing three to four working sets of eight to 15 reps for four to six different exercises. And they try to do that and it’s if you’ve been sitting on
Mike: the couch when you see these workout, I see ’em on even online, 30 sets for a muscle group.
In one training session. Yeah, in one session, .
Chris: It’s like maybe if you’ve been training for 12 years and you’re an enhanced I F P B pro taking antibiotics, you probably could recover from that. But if you were sitting on the couch all year in 2021, the truth of the matter is, one working.
Of an exercise is more stimulative than the zero sets you’ve done all year. So you could literally start at one set per exercise and you will get a positive response. So yeah, I think it’s really important for people to understand where they’re currently at and then slowly but surely increase volume over time.
And as you become more skilled, your volume requirements in terms of sets per week, I personally think they actually decrease because you’re so skilled at recruiting your muscle to a maximum degree. You’re, you are skill acquisition of motor unit recruitment and keeping tension on the target muscle. All of those things are really good the longer you lift and you’re stronger.
So if you’re doing, 600 pounds on the leg press compared to 300 pounds on the leg, press the magnitude of mechanical tension’s higher. So do you need to do so many sets of it? Perhaps not. And then I also think. Novices and intermediates need to do a few more working sets cuz they just need to practice weightlifting more.
Not because they need a greater cellular signal or a cellular stimulus. I think it’s more about just practicing how to lift properly. So those are some of my thoughts. Interesting. And
Mike: it’s a good segue into the rep quality and set quality versus junk reps or or junk volume. Sure. And so you had just alluded to that with getting better at recruiting the muscle and more fully recruiting the muscle.
And so how I, Is that something that you think just happens naturally as we do more of this stuff? Or are there skill components that, that we can learn and get better at? For example, I often get asked about the mind muscle connection. How important is that? Or I’ll get asked about making exercise.
Selections, like for example and I’ll stop rambling and shut up, but these are the types of things I get asked about. No for example, okay, if I do this exercise, I’m on the bench press, I really, I don’t feel my chest I don’t feel that muscle group nearly as engaged as if I do a machine press or some other chest exercise.
Should I keep doing the bench press? Those are some questions that I get
Chris: asked. Yeah, absolutely. I’ll start, I guess with the junk volume stuff. Yeah. And then try to dive into specific exercise stuff. I think your ability to maximally recruit muscle is going to improve over time just through practice, but I think it, it will improve at a faster rate if you’re very intentional.
About that kind of being one of the goals of why you’re lifting or that’s part of what you’re trying to achieve while you’re training. How
Mike: do you know, like when you’re training, what are some of the, what are some of the green flags where, I’m doing a good job recruiting, my biceps for this exercise.
Sure. Versus not
Chris: sure. So for example, when I was a bit younger, my volume actually used to be way higher in terms of working sets per muscle group. And after a working set I would be, with high exertion I would be pretty fatigued, like my entire body, like systemically I would feel pretty tired.
But surprisingly I would be able to maintain performance decently well for, three to four working sets. Now if I do a really good set where I reach like true muscle failure, not like systemic failure My next set, there’s almost no chance that I can match performance cuz I’ve accumulated so much fatigue on that actual target tissue.
I think when I’m younger, when I was younger. And what happens to a lot of intermediates that are training hard is they almost find any way to get the weight up so they’re using more of their accessory muscles. Maybe they’re using a little bit more momentum, a little bit of bounce out of the hole, whatever it may be.
But they’re failing from like a whole body perspective more so than that target muscle they were training just could no longer contract. And there’s a different feeling there. So sometimes, like now when I finish a really hard working set I just feel like my muscle literally had nothing left but my body.
as a whole actually had more. , I don’t know if that makes sense. . But I see some people training super hard in the gym and it’s like their total body exertion is high, but are they actually getting most out of that muscle? Does that make sense? And
Mike: do you yeah. Yeah. I experience that particularly in, in, in a slightly higher rep ranges.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m doing eights, tens, or twelves, then I have the same issue. I, I can get I’m doing tens even on, on the big exercises this week and my, it’s not that my one ORM calculations are off. I’ll go set one 10 and maybe one or two good reps left. This might be on a bigger exercise where I don’t want to push too close, like usually set one.
I like to have two good reps left if I’m squatting, for example, because I know that if I’m pushing right up close to failure, I’m not gonna, there’s no way I’m taking weight off the bar for set too, then, or, and so I’ll go set. I’ll go 10, I’ll go 10. And then maybe eight if I keep the same weight and if I don’t drop weight there, I might, it might be a six.
And I have to take weight off of the bar and I’ve experienced that enough. And I’ve also I’ve experienced enough of working with. One AREM estimations and doing AM wraps. And it just seems to be what we, I’ve experienced exactly what you’re saying, but for me it’s more in the higher rep ranges.
I don’t run into that issue when I’m doing twos, fours, probably at about sixes is where now I can sustain that performance through all sets. Have you found anything
Chris: similar? A hundred percent. And that’s a huge reason why I basically don’t lift below sixes. I usually do a lot of work in the six to 12 range and I go up to twenties, but I do most of my work is six plus because say is as well.
Yeah. I just feel like you’re able to create enough of a signal internally to the muscle where the muscle is what’s failing and it’s not a neurological strength, systemic reason why you can no longer move the load. Yeah. So yeah, I totally hear you there and then, Something that’s changed with me over time in regards to reducing my junk volume is the way I approach my warmup sets.
I used to expend way too much energy on warmup sets where let’s just say we’re doing a flat dumbbell bench press and I’m working with 70 fives or eighties for my working set, I might do 40 for 10, 50 for 10, 60 for 10, and then get into my working set at 75 or something. Whereas now I might do 40 for 10, 50 for 5 65 for three, and then go into my working set.
And I feel like without realizing it, I was wasting energy on my warmup sets, even though the exertion level was low. Perhaps you’re just burning through some substrate. It’s more fatiguing than you realized. Even if the exertion was low and you’re just, you’re accumulating volume, that’s ineffective anyway.
So why are you doing that much?
Mike: I’ve made the same change. I went from three or four warmup sets that were similar to that progression to now. If I’m doing eights or tens, I’m okay with if it’s a, I’m okay with two. Actually like even if it’s a squat on a deadlift or a squat, I might do a third, which might be a one or a two with 70% of my working weight.
Okay. But if it’s a, if it’s an exercise, if it were a dumbbell press of any kind, I probably would feel comfortable with Yeah. One or two max warmup, upsets. Yeah. And then just get especially if I’m doing eights or tens, because I didn’t notice, I haven’t noticed any. Any, for me, any benefit of doing more than that?
Like I get some blood flowing and just get into the groove of what I’m doing and then just
Chris: get to it. Yeah. Yeah, I think it, it’s gonna vary based on what exercise number you’re on within your session. So if you’re on your fourth exercise, you’re not really gonna need to warm up compared to your first.
If you’re deadlifting like 4 0 5, I just, I can’t do like, all right, 2 25, 3 15, and then 4 0 5, like I need. Mentally prepare myself and physically feel the load. So I I spend a lot of time warming up, but I keep the reps super low. So like I’ll still do 1 35, 2 25, 3 15, 365 and then I just can’t jump into it.
Yeah. I feel like the potential risk of injury is too high and I’m just not like mentally prepared and I feel like my confidence would be low to handle a heavy load on a big compound. But yeah, if it’s a machine preacher curl and it’s the last exercise of the day I might not even do a warmup set.
I might just jump right into my working. Cause especially the log booking and you know what weight is your normal weight, like exactly. You don’t have to waste time. So many gym goers, they don’t even track their loads. So they’re doing sets because they know they’re supposed to do three sets, but it’s did they ever even find the load that was appropriately challenging?
Yeah. Yeah. Maybe
Mike: the first two were just calibrating and then three was like, Okay, and then they’re off to the next
Chris: exercise. Yep. Exactly. So are those people actually doing three sets or are they doing one set? You’re doing three, right? It’s eh you’re doing one set that was probably stimulative, even though your program or the sheet of paper you have in front of you said that you did three.
Mike: Yeah, it’s a common mistake, a mistake that I certainly made in the past when I was doing more traditional pyramid training. And so I’m going from eight to twelves to 15 to 20, and the eight and 8, 10, 12, but 8, 10, 12, those, yeah. Might have been okay. That was eight, but I actually could have done 12, so that’s not a great set.
Sure. And then the same mistake, and then finally as I get to the higher reps, maybe then I’m getting to some effective yeah, training. But then that’s not even ideal if like your only effective sets really are. Twelves fourteens, twenties. It’s okay. Yeah. But to waste those sixes, eights, tens is obviously not
Yeah, for sure. For sure. And then another thing I’ll quickly point out is just came to my mind. Some of our highest responders when looking at individuals from our previous volume research some of them were actually doing slightly less volume per week than they stated they were doing before the commencement of the study.
But they all admit that when they train in the lab for the study, the intensity was higher than it’s ever been. So even though we’re getting some data as to what they were previously doing per week, if the intensity was different, is it truly equal? Absolutely not. So even though these people are responding with less total work, if they’re admittingly saying, I never trained that hard on my own, and when I have you guys spotting me and forcing me to go really close to failure, I’m getting a much better stimulus out of it.
Then it’s that makes total sense. No wonder why you’re making gains. Even if you’re doing less sets per week it’s. There, there’s their quality right there, their quality is improved cuz their intensity has gone
Mike: up. Yep. And that’s something that I’ve tried to keep in mind in my training because it’s interesting to me.
Now, I’ve done for a couple of years now, I’ve followed more or less the programming that I layout in my book Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. And so on the primary exercises, it’s based on percentages of one rep max and there are rep targets and RPE targets basically. And you have to adjust if, if you’re supposed to put 85% and do four and you get four, but set one is a grinder okay, it’s a little bit too heavy.
We need to, back off a little bit. And then it’s just double progression on isolation exercises. And it’s been interesting to me that I’ve been lifting weights for a while and I’m always. Cognizant of reps in reserve. And I really do try to go do a good job estimating that.
And I try not to be too generous with myself. And I do try to push close to failure on the big compounds. And I’m okay going right up to failure occasionally on exercises for smaller muscle groups where there’s no real risk of injury. . And what’s been interesting to me though is, so every four months my training, it culminates with some AM wraps where I’m putting some pretty heavy weight on the bar.
And this is weight that if I look in my training logs weight that I was doing, four reps with five reps, maybe six let’s say. And I look at my reps in reserve and that’s like a one or two, and that’s what I’ve put in my spreadsheet that I use to track everything. And then I’m. I’m doing my AM wrap load it and I get eight.
With still one left. And I still am not even going to absolute failure cause I don’t have a spotter on the squat. And it makes me question like, is this just me? What’s going on here? Exactly. Is this just me? Is this an intentionality point or something? Because again, I’m not like a wimpy guy in the gym.
I, I really am trying to push myself. So how does that wait? Just in a couple of weeks. That was a four, five, maybe a six and it was hard. And then I go in there and get eight and I could have gotten nine, maybe even a 10 if I, if somebody put a gun to my head. You know what I mean? So how intense am I
Chris: actually training?
I, Yeah. There’s a huge psychological component. There’s been, and it depends on the lift too, right? But there’s been days where. I should probably use percentages to keep things relative, but like on a deadlift, for example, I’ve done this, and this is during prep, right? So there’s been days where I’m really amped up to train and like I was daydreaming about deadlifting the day before.
And I go in there and I absolutely smash it. And then there’ll be a day, the very next week I’m doing 40 pounds less and it feels harder. Did I accumulate fatigue? Yeah, potentially, Of course. But if I’m just like not really in the mood to train. Yep. There’s a massive strength performance decrease just from intention and motivation and psychological arousal and everything like that.
I shared a story last week on a different podcast where just recently I was in the gym and there was this 17 year old that asked to work in with me on hack squats. I’m like, Sure man. So I’m going through my acclimation sets. I get to my top working set and like he was, he gave me a compliment on the intensity of that set.
He’s I thought you would’ve stopped that rep four or something. You kept going and going, and then I put him through a set and he I forced him to keep going. I’m like, Oh, you got another one, You got another one, you got another one. And he finished that set and he was like, That was the hardest set I’ve ever done in my life.
And this kid was really well built for a 17 year old. I was blown away. And The funny thing is I still feel like he had a few more left and he was like, Yeah, that was by far the hardest that I’ve ever done on any exercise. And I’m like, Okay, next week when you come in here, be since you’ve taken yourself to a new like psychological level of intensity and effort, you’ll be able to do another rep.
Just because you’re like, mental confidence is higher with handling that load or because you’ve pushed to that new level of exertion. So the, the psychological component is massive. I’ve even seen it in the research run where we’ve had subjects come in and they do the same exact workout on different weeks.
There was this one girl, she did 70% of her body weight on the back squat. There was one week where she got like 25 reps with it and it was super impressive. And then the next week she only did 14 and. She said she failed on both days, but you can tell that other time she came in, she just wasn’t even excited to be there like she was in a bad mood.
She just, you could just tell like she wasn’t excited to train and that made a nine rep difference on an AM rap. It’s wild. Yeah, that speaks
Mike: to me because those am wrap weeks that, that’s the most fun to me. But I enjoy my training. It’s not that I am just walking through my workouts up to that, but that is the most fun because it’s okay, let’s see what the last four months Yeah.
Has rot. What have I gotten out of the last four months? And so that alone could explain the what seems in some ways inexplicable Sure. Jump in performance. Yeah. Yeah. And something that just to comment on this intensity point and when you were helping this kid, something that has.
Has helped me a little bit is to pay attention to, I’m sure that you do the same thing. Cause it can be hard on a, on an, unlike a squat, for example. Even when you’re trying to think, all right, it’s starting to get hard. How many good reps do I think I have left? Okay. I at least have a couple. Let’s keep going.
All right. Now it’s getting real hard. We’re probably getting close to, to, ending the set here and. It can be hard because of how difficult something like that or a deadlift is. I just, I’m doing tens this week, so I did sets of 10 with 3 25 for the deadlift and that’s the hardest shit.
Yeah. That I do. Period. That is the hardest shit that I do. That’s close to failure for me, it feels But it can be hard because it is so fatiguing, it involves so many muscle groups. And so something that has helped me a little bit is to pay attention to bar speed. So if I’m getting deeper into a set and a rep felt really hard, but I know that bar barely slowed down.
Sure. I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna keep going. And I’ve come to trust that and as and of course you know this, but some people listening might not know there’s good research on the relationship between bar speed and true failure. Yeah. And so putting some faith in that has helped me a little bit.
Yeah. And because I might have ended a set early, otherwise if I would’ve just went off of my. Observate my feelings versus, Yeah, it felt really hard, but again, that bar moved pretty smoothly.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. This is this is interesting. There’s some like observational data. Some people have put this out in the past.
Christian Thito from Yeah, I know. I don’t know him personally, but yeah he actually put out something years ago that I find very true in the practical world. We don’t have plenty of data like actual scientific data, randomized control trials. There’s this thought process that some people are more type one dominant or type two dominant.
Some people are more fast twitch muscle fibers versus slow, and depending on like how many reps you can do with 70% of your one rm, you can. Distinguish if you’re a little bit more slow twitch dominant or fast twitch dominant. And the reason I’m bringing this up is because I’m somebody who has a good abil, I have terrible power.
So my bar speed, even on rep one is never impressive. Even when I’m trying to be as explosive as possible with my concentric, but my ability to grind out multiple slow reps is there. So like when people think I’m failing I’ll eek out another four. And they’re like, How did you do that? And I think it’s has to do with this muscle fiber typing, whereas some people that are very explosive, Once they’re no longer explosive, their ability to grind a rep is just gone.
It just seems like they can’t even do slow grinders. So that’s very interesting to see. But I’m totally with you. If my rep speed hasn’t slowed down on my last few, I know I have more in me cuz I’m really good at grinding out slow reps. So it’s a good way to distinguish are you truly close to failure even or is it more of a psychological thing where your brain is tapping out a bit sooner than your actual body is?
Yeah. Yeah. Said.
Mike: If 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. One of the guys who works with me is that explosive?
And then nothing guy. He’s always been strong. He’s always been big. He played football. He’s the guy who training just a couple of times per week, just for fun within a couple of months is putting up three 15 on the bench. Yep. And that’s him his first. If he’s doing a set of four, his first rep, it’s gonna, the bar flies up, the second rep flies up, third rep Uhoh slows down a little bit.
Fourth rep, oh, slowing down a little bit more. And then he’s got nothing. And that’s it. But still that fourth rep is, it might be as fast as your first, but for it just slowed down enough where he’s not. And he, you can, I’ve spotted him and his name’s Artie. Just try go for another one. You can’t do it.
So it’s interesting to see. I don’t, I guess I, I’m probably somewhere in the middle. Sure. It sounds, I’m probably just normal in that sense where my first reps are certainly faster than my final reps. But I guess for people listening, it’s a matter of just understanding. Your body, right?
And how your bar speed relates to true failure. And in with all of us, there is a point where if it slows down enough, we are going to fail . Yeah.
Chris: So for sure. Yeah. And it’s interesting. There’s theoretical discussions on, Okay, should your buddy aie. Train in lower rep ranges or do more power work and strength work, even if his goal is to maximize hypertrophy.
, whereas maybe somebody like you and I would be better in a moderate rep range or a slightly higher rep range. And again, it’s more in theory, but I do think that there. Probably is some truth there. It, it would make sense logically. So it’s pretty cool. And
Mike: then there’s the enjoyment factor, which you were just commenting on the psychological component of it.
That’s how he likes to train, of course, because he’s good at it and you ask him to do sets of 10 and he hates it, he’s not having a good time. Yeah. And so that alone would be a reason for certainly, again for his purposes, which are to have a good aesthetic, healthy body composition and to reap the health benefits of regular training.
And, he’s not trying to compete. So Yeah, I’ve told him, yeah, do what you’re good at, dude. Do what’s fun,
Chris: being really strong. So just do that. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome.
Mike: So you had mentioned regarding rep quality. One, one aspect which is a decline in performance that you see that from set to set is you know that, okay, you’re engaging this muscle group.
Are there any other effects that, that indicate to you. For example, some people, they would say, Oh if you’re getting a pump in the muscle group then that’s a good sign. And if you’re getting more of a pump with one exercise versus another, some people might say if you’re experiencing some muscle soreness after the
Chris: target muscle group. A hundred percent. Yeah. So again, I think it’s gonna depend on the types of exercise you’re doing or the rep ranges you’re working in. But generally speaking, if you’re doing more moderate rep work that is typically labeled quote unquote hypertrophies training you should get a decent pump in that target muscle you mentioned before.
Okay. Some people are doing a bench press and they say, Hey, I really don’t feel it in my pecs that much. Compared to a machine chest press or APEC deck fly. Maybe they’re getting a great front del and tricep pump, but their pecs aren’t getting pumped. That would be a pretty good sign that the way you’re executing it and the way your body is structured you’re probably favorite, your anterior dell and your tricep.
I think sometimes we get too caught up in, in trying to look for data to support that, where it just, it seems to be common sense there. So yeah, you can try manipulating your execution on certain exercises. might
Mike: that look on the bench press in particular? Cuz that is the most common exercise that guys reach out to me and complain
Yeah. With the bench press in particular, I think there’s a few things that can be going on or a lot of common mistakes. I would say a lot of people lack eccentric control in general. So if you have slower eccentrics, you want to feel your peck stretching and lengthening while you’re doing that.
Ecentric. And I’m not a fan of prescribing specific tempos for multiple reasons, but I, generally speaking, your eccentric should be controlled. It’s good to potentially have a really slight pause at the very bottom. It doesn’t have to be a one second count. It just, there should, there can be a a moment in time where that bar is motionless.
, you’re taking the momentum out of it and then you’re intentionally using the target muscle to move the load Conically. If you don’t, if you don’t consciously feel okay, as I’m doing this eccentric on the bench press, I don’t even feel my peck lengthening. You probably have your upper arm and your shoulder joint in a position that’s not ideally aligned with those peck fibers.
Maybe you have something going on at your scapular. Maybe you are arching too much, whatever it may be. You’re probably putting yourself in a position that’s just not really favorable for the peck, and you should adjust your setup until you feel okay at the very bottom of a bench. At least I have a good stretch there.
And then you say, Okay, how can I intentionally initiate this concentric by flexing my pack? It would almost look like being at the bottom of the bench and without trying to move the bar. Just flex your peck as if you’re trying to do like a little chest dance. And then okay, it’s like, All right, I’m squeezing, I’m almost.
Crushing the bar and now I’m gonna push, right? Yeah. I like that cue. Personally. There’s certain things you can do where, give yourself a few warmups or take a little bit of weight off the bar and really go through your execution and your setup and see what you can do to potentially feel it more.
Now if you’re doing a bench press all the time and you’re not getting sore in the peck whatsoever, and you’re not getting a good chest pump and your chest isn’t growing, If you can’t figure it out yourself, and maybe you’re not seeking an external person to help you with form, but you get great stimulus when you’re doing a machine.
Just do the machine. Like for me, for example I wasted a lot of time barbell back squatting where my ROI really wasn’t there for my sub growth. And then for the past three years, I haven’t barbell backs squatted and I’ve made massive quad growth. What has worked
Mike: particularly well for you there?
Chris: I switched over to doing a lot of reverse banded hack squats Bulgarian split swats and more leg press. I just went to those movements. I went to movements that have more. Artificial stabilization, external stabilization, so I can increase force output on the target tissue. Some people are built to squat.
I’m personally not. I’m built to deadlift and it’s the only movement out of the big three I currently do. And part of it is cuz I’m good at it and I enjoy it. And I suck at the bench and I suck at the barbell squat, so I don’t do it. And again, I don’t have goals. You sound like me.
Mike: I don’t have, my arms are too long for good benching. Yep. My legs, my femurs are too long for good squatting. But my long arms at least balance out my long legs so I can be okay at the deadlift. And I do the other stuff because I actually enjoy doing it. I’ve just accepted that I’m never gonna be a good bench presser.
Even if I were to gain 15 pounds and really try to optimize my training for, I’m never gonna be a good bench pressor. This is not gonna happen. Sure. And I’m never gonna be a good squatter. It’s not gonna happen. Could I get my one RM up to the low 400 s? Yes, I could. , but that’s about it.
Sure. Could I get my bench one RM up to the low 300 s? Yes, I could. I’m close-ish. I could do that. I could be the 3 45 three plates on the bench, four on the squat, five on the deadlift. Yeah. But that’s about it. I would not ever progress much beyond
Chris: that. Sure. That’s okay.
I’m very similar boat and. If I did spend a lot of time on a barbell bench press and a barb back squat, my hips would get destroyed. My back would hurt a bit more. Putting on my socks in the morning or getting into the car feel a bit painful. I’ve dealt with it for years and I just told myself to shut up and deal with it and, be cool and get it done, but it really wasn’t serving me well for my particular goal.
So I got away from it and it’s fine. That’s
Mike: another point I’ve talked about when people, they’ll ra me a little bit about my numbers. Shouldn’t I be stronger for a fitness guy? Yeah. And and my numbers aren’t bad to be fair, but certainly they’re not Instagram worthy in any respect.
And there is that point though of not only do I understand my limits, and again, that would require me carrying around a lot more body fat, which, I don’t, I wouldn’t enjoy, I like where I’m at right now. Yeah. It’s sustainable. I think I look good. Close fit. I like that. Yeah. okay, I’m gonna put on this body fat and then I’m gonna have to train a bit differently.
I’m gonna have to squat more. My deadlift volume probably would have to go down a little bit. Cause I’m doing four sets a week right now. So a little bit less dead lifting, more squatting, more benching. And I know the act. I’m 37 now and I’m also more cognizant. Not wanting to get hurt. I want longevity.
I wanted to be doing this stuff, 60 years from now I wanna be doing this stuff. So For sure. Yeah, it sounds like we’ve considered similar factors and the calculus has come out similar. I still do the exercises again. Yeah, but you have a different, you have different goals than I do.
And so I understand the decision where you’re like, I need my quads to grow. All this squatting is not getting it done. It’s time to
Chris: change something. Yeah, absolutely. And I can see myself potentially getting back to a bar bill back squat just because I want to move to that very natural pattern, maybe one day.
or if I just had limited equipment, if I had a garage gym Sure. And I just had a barbell, like of course I would be barbell back squatting. But if I have this array of equipment at a gym that I go to, I’m not gonna spend 30 minutes on one exercise that isn’t as effective as me spending 30 minutes on another exercise.
It’s just, I’m not gonna do it at this point. But yeah, then I’ve seen people, they’ve unfortunately gotten hurt, doing the power lifting thing or kind of committing too much time and volume on that side of the sport. And I don’t want that either. I still wanna, even though I don’t Running for some or something like that.
I do shooting in basketball. I wanna be able to move around and not have a low back issue. And longevity’s definitely important. So that
Mike: what, Yeah, you want to be able to play with your grandkids. You want to, Yeah. You don’t want to be hobbling around because you were too stubborn to.
Work with your body basically. Of course. Sort
Chris: against it. Of, of course, for sure. You know something interesting,
Mike: I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this, Dunno if you’ve experienced this. So for four months I was front squatting and I got in that four month period, I believe my one RM was about 2 75 to, or 2 85.
So a decent one on the front squat. Then I safety bar squatted for four months. And my one arm on the safety bar was like three 20 to three 30 in that range. Which is not bad considering the safety bar for people listening, it functions. Similarly to a front squat. It’s more like a front squat than a back squat, at least in terms of like performance.
And then I go back to back squatting. So it’s been eight months and I’ve made pretty, pretty good progress on the front squat and safety bar. And it is extremely hard. My numbers sucked, Dude. It took two, two months for me just to get to my performance on the safety bar. And then on my am wrap, after four months of back squatting, I got 2 75 for, I want say eight.
And I didn’t have my belt with me. So I, that, that probably cost me a rep, maybe two. And I actually should have just gone for another rep. I think I, right when I end of. The bar speed thing. I was like that bar didn’t had another one. Yeah, I should have went for the next.
So let’s just be generous and say I could have been 2 75 for 10, which I don’t have a one ORM calculator in my head but that’s probably 3 30, 3 40. Certainly no higher than three 50. And I was surprised at how. The back squat was after not doing it for some time, and I’ve not experienced that with any variation of the bench press.
Like even going from just dumbbell bench pressing back to bench pressing, it seems to have translated a barbell bench pressing translated fairly well. Trap bar deadlift, go four months of trap bar deadlift, go back to the barbell deadlift stronger on it, gain a little bit of strength on the trap bar.
Carries right over to the barbell, but not the back squat. And I’ve experienced that now a couple of times that if I don’t consistently back squat, my performance on that exercise goes to shit regardless of whatever I’m doing. Have you experienced
Chris: anything like that? I would say I have in the sense that.
When I do barbell back squat, my ability to perform from a strength perspective is pretty poor regardless of my actual quad glu strength, right? Where you
Mike: would think based on what you’re doing on the leg press on these other things, you should be able to load a fair amount of weight on this bar. And then you try it and you’re like,
What is going on? I think there’s a huge component of upper back tightness and core strength that comes more so into play. Like you need to, there’s this skill there of keeping your back musculature really tight, almost pulling the bar down and into you where you feel super stable and your core super tight.
You’ve probably experienced this where sometimes I would, when I was frequently barbell, back squatting, I would unwrap the barbell. and I knew immediately this is gonna be a great set. Yep. Because, or this is gonna suck or this is gonna suck. Yeah. Those sets that I knew it was gonna be great is because it feels like the barbell was inside my trap and I was like one with the barbell and I just felt super sturdy.
Whereas there’s sometimes you un rack it and you feel like you did everything the same, but that it’s just not sitting on your trap shelf the way you want, or just you’re like, All right this isn’t gonna go as well as I want it to go. And you just know it the second you unrack it. Yeah. So I, I think that’s the
Mike: quads too, just get destroyed like the, that, that in particular I found was just odd.
I’m doing a quadriceps focused. Squat, I’m doing the front squat. , for four months. And then I’m doing a also more quadricep, obviously every squat is more quadriceps than hamstrings but particularly with the front. And then the safety bar. And then I come back to the back squat and my quads are getting fried.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. I know, I,
Mike: And so anyway, I was just curious if you experience anything like that because I don’t have a good explanation for it. Yeah,
Chris: It’s very odd. It’s very odd. Based on, and this is strange too. So based on my strength on other leg exercises, my predicted strength on barbell squad is just, Not what it should be, if that makes sense.
Like the correlation isn’t strong or it’s not what you would expect. And then same thing with me. I am a much better dumbbell bench presser than I am a barbell bench presser same. And over the years, I probably have practiced the dumbbell more, but even when I did blocks and blocks of barbell benching and pressing, I just never got good at it.
Yep. And it’s funny because you would think that with a dumbbell you’re less stable because you have this unilateral component going on. But I always feel less stable with a barbell. I always feel like I actually need to control it better or there’s greater demand from a stability perspective for me.
And that’s why I feel like my force output is worse with the barbell compared to the dumbbell. Interesting. I’ve
Mike: had the exact same experience. My, my, my best numbers on the flat barbell, this was some time ago. I wanna say it was 2 95 for two or three maybe I could have done three 15 for one.
I weighed about 10 pounds more than I weigh now. But and then though I’ve gotten wanna say, I think I saw the little video of it. I think I did one fifteens for four on the incline dumbbell press, which is, that’s more than that’s quite a bit more than I can do now. That’s pretty strong.
And those things. Don’t, they don’t quite go together, sure. You would think I could do a bit more maybe three 15 for a couple reps on the flat, if I could do one fifteens for four, and that, that’s not even pushing to absolute
Chris: failure, yeah. On incline. Dumbo, I’ve never touched more than 2 65 on a barbell bench press.
People like find that mind blown. They’re like, you’ve been training for, 11 years now, and you look Yeah, you look like that. I’m just like I don’t bench. I suck at it. . Yeah. Yeah. No, I hear
Mike: you. Yeah. One other, one other question for you and this is something that you’ve already commented on and it might already be answered, but I thought it would make for a good question to, to wrap up with, and that is, are there any other.
Or maybe it’s more just summarizing a lot of things you’ve already commented on. So for people wondering now they’re trying to evaluate, should I be looking let’s see. Take somebody who is their, they want to see if they can make more progress or maybe they’re not making much progress with their training right now, and they suspect that volume is the issue, quantity or quality.
What are some things that they should keep in mind? If they wanna evaluate, all right, should I be doing more volume or should I look to the quality of the volume that I’m doing? And that could be the intensity of it. We talked about what does it really mean to push close to failure or the quality of the
Yeah. I would always go with quality first before adding work. So if you’re not growing a particular muscle group, Or even progressing from a strength perspective on specific lifts or within particular muscles. I would literally never tell a client of mine to do more of what they’re doing the same exact way they’re doing it.
I would reevaluate how they’re doing it and what their true intensity is. So a few ways to do that. Record your set, and actually look at your rep speed, as you mentioned. You might think you’re trying. That’s
Mike: how I, that’s how I started paying attention to that. Cause I would look on camera cause I record for social media, right?
Yeah. And then I would see, oh wait, that bar never even slowed down and I ended
Chris: the set. You know what I mean? Yep. I made a video on this a long time ago on an Instagram post. But what I try to do is I try to have my ecentric speed stay the same, the entire set. So rep one. Rep 10.
If I’m doing a 10 rep set, I really want those ecentric to look almost identical because that is just showing that I’m in control. Yep. And then the concentric should get a little bit slower. Say I do a set of 10 around rep six, those concentric should get a little bit slower, a little bit slow, a little bit slower until you’re really grinding them out towards the end.
If that’s not occurring, then you, as you mentioned, that you’re actually not getting close to true muscular failure and you’re cutting your sets short. So your first thing would be like, All right, I need to train more intense. If your target muscle is never getting sore, Again, I wouldn’t just do more of the current work you’re doing.
I would reevaluate form and I would reevaluate intensity first. I do think that there should be some level of muscle soreness, at least within your meso cycle, depending on what your periodization looks like this. Then the third if you have weeks where you are supposed to be training at higher intensities and closer to failure, like a lot of people are doing right now.
those weeks you should palpate the muscle the next day and say, Oh that’s pretty tender. I actually have some muscle damage going on. Even if you’re an experienced weightlifter, right? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So I feel like if you’re not getting, so then you know, you’re probably not training intense enough.
You don’t have to do more total work. You just need to do harder work, more effective work, and you should get sore. And then you could always throw in like a novel training stimulus that will lead to muscle soreness if you’re just not experiencing that. The things and what might that look like?
Yeah. If you currently don’t do any exercises that overload the muscle in their length in position, that would be the first thing I would do. Induce a little bit more soreness in the target muscle. , and there’s a lot of data showing that leads to more growth. Like super quick, like the seeded hamstring curl has been shown to lead to more growth than the lying hamstring curl when you’re doing it for a short period of time, let’s say an eight weeks study.
And that is most likely due cuz that length and position is leading to more muscle damage and therefore you need you might have greater muscle protein synthetic responses there, or you need more protein to recover from that. So yeah, if you’re never getting sore, do something that overloads it in the lengthened position and you should feel sore.
Would you mind just
Mike: sharing a couple other example exercises because Sure. Some people might have trouble picturing that in their mind,
Chris: A hundred percent. So like for chest, it would be like a dumbbell fly that’s gonna overload that length in position. For biceps it’s gonna be an incline dumbbell curl or a cable curl with your arm behind you, your shoulders extended.
For the triceps it’s gonna be something like a skull crusher, an overhead tricep extension. Yep. For the lats it could be something like a lap pullover or even just like a low cable row where your arm, like you’re allowing that shoulder blade to really ProTrack and wrap around the ribcage and get a good stretch.
Things like that.
Mike: My, my gym has a lot pullover machine. I don’t, I that’s, I, that’s the first time seeing that where, you’ve probably seen it, but I was like, Hey, this cool, know where you’re Not yet. Actually. I just realized cause cuz I’m new to the, even the gym. And yeah, there’s a lot of stuff in the gym and so yeah. You’re in this position
Chris: and Yeah. That was Dorian Yates’s favorite lap movement. The cool thing about the machine, it is way better than a dumbbell pullover. Cause the pullover is only overloading this lengthened position. And then I’ve never liked the exercise personally.
I hate the dumbbell. Pullover. Yeah. And you feel like your shoulder’s gonna come outta your socket all
Mike: the way back because you’re trying to load it and then it starts to get really
Chris: awkward and uncomfortable. It’s a mess. Yeah. One variation of that’s decent. Use a light dumbbell, attach a resistance band to it, and then do it.
That’s a decent option. But if the machine is great. Because you get to train through full Yes. Shoulder extension and you’re not gonna lose load in the middle position or the end range. So you’re actually equally training if that cam is set up right, you’re gonna have equal tension throughout the entire thing.
That’s why I love like pec deck flies. It’s because you, if it says 70 pounds, you have 70 pounds here, 70 pounds here, 70 pounds here, 70 pounds here. Whereas with the dumbbell, you only have 70 pounds here and you have zero pounds here. So yeah. That give that machine a shot at the end of your workout you’ll create a decent amount of damage cuz you’re getting a crazy stretch here.
Yep. So that should
Mike: lead and a loaded Right. So for people listening, that’s why I’ve mentioned that. Yeah.
Chris: Yeah. You’ll, And it’s a novel stimulus. It’s a new movement. Overloading the length and position, you’ll get sore from that, especially the first few times you do it.
Mike: Awesome. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a that’s a great bit of advice.
And is there anything else you wanted to say on this point of going for the quality first, making sure that form is there, making sure you getting a pump, getting soreness, make sure intensity is there before adding volume. And I’m assuming then, hey, okay. If you’re doing those things and this goes all the way back to what we were talking about in the beginning, is there, there’s a spectrum of reasonable amounts of volume for natural weightlifters to attempt
And as a, as you get up to 20 plus, I remember Lyle’s position on it was, Even if more is better for natural weightlifters, you’re just gonna get hurt. So good luck . And I was training with somebody who works with me who’s now he’s chasing after some girl in the Czech Republic.
That’s where he is at right now. And good training partner though. And so he, for fun he did this bulking program for, it was supposed to be eight weeks. And so when he started, he’s in his twenties now mid, or maybe he’s like 26. He was like 23 or 24. Okay. So basically physiologically invincible on natural steroids, essentially, right?
Uhhuh . And and so it was upward of about 30 hard sets per major muscle group per week. It required two a days. So he was training for three hours a day two and a half, three hours a day. He was eating, I wanna say, 5,000 calories a day. He was eating a thousand grams of carbs per day and keeping his fats below 80.
Like 60 to 80. He was eating loaves of bread every day. Yeah. So he went all in, in a lot of protein and he made it. And he had a few years already. He was young, but he already had a few years of good training under his belt. Like he had already squatted 4 0 5 and he’s been into this stuff.
This was a big jump in volume for him, but he wasn’t going from eight or nine hard sets to He was already in the teens. Sure. And he made it six weeks until he just was telling me, he was like, Dude, everything hurts. Yeah. Everything , like every inch of my body is in pain. I think I have to stop.
Yeah. And he gained a few pounds in that. Now how much of that was actual muscle tissue? Unknown. Of course. Sure. There’s no question though. He made some gains. Yeah. But that was an interesting thing for me to observe because it was just, Firsthand evidence. Okay, if somebody like this who maybe he wasn’t made for weightlifting, but he had already he was not a low responder, just skinny, weak guy.
You know what I mean? Yeah. If that’s, if that was too much for him, then I think Lyle is is vindicated.
Chris: I agree. No, I agree. I think, there, there comes a point where when you’re doing too much, I think you’re just creating more muscle protein breakdown that you naturally can’t create a net positive.
. So you’re probably doing more harm than good. I think I’ve been there in the past. I think a lot of. Novice isn’t intermediates that are picking up a magazine and doing a very high volume workout where their baseline is zero or their baseline fitness and work capacity is so low. It’d be like you and I trying to run a marathon this weekend with zero training.
Yep. Just, it’s really absurd. So yeah, more isn’t always better. Better is better. And yeah, I don’t, right now I’m doing the lowest amount of volume I’ve ever done in terms of working sets per week, but each rep in each set is probably better than it’s ever been.
And what do those numbers look like right now
Chris: for you for I would say, I wanna give you a per session. It’s four working sets. For my quads, it’s about six working sets for my chest. It’s about four working sets for my lats and four for my upper back. So that’s eight for back.
. But I, I’m only doing I would say four to eight working sets per muscle group per session. And my frequency is pretty low too, where I’m hitting each muscle group like once every five days. Oh, interesting. So I’m still not even hitting everything twice per week. Yeah. It’s, wow, it’s low man.
And I did that basically throughout my entire conscious prep and I retained the, I re I retained the most lean mass out of any case study I’ve seen published from a natural body building thing. So it was interesting. That is interesting. Yeah.
Mike: And if. If you were eating more food then you obviously would do more than that, but it sounds like maybe not as much as in the past.
Chris: the goal, the, some of the reasoning behind that is my entire goal was muscle retention. At that point, it was no longer muscle growth. So I gave a lot of my, sets my all while doing my best to keep the loading the same as my off season numbers. . And I didn’t want to. Tap into resources and substrates that I wasn’t having enough fuel via food to recover from.
So the goal changed okay, I’m not trying to maximize growth anymore. I’m trying to maximize retention. And I think the best way for me to maximize retention is to retain performance. Yeah. And the best way for me to retain performance is to not do too much. And the stuff I do given my all.
So that was the approach this year. And it paid off and the data’s cool. And hopefully I can I pub I can publish that, but I shared it on social, I’ve seen natural body building case studies where people lost 15 pounds of lean mass and 19 pounds of lean mass during the cut.
And I only lost three pounds of lean mass via dexa. And I don’t even think that was muscle, right? Because I took ultrasound measurements and my ultrasound measurements didn’t go down at all. Yeah, it was a different way, different approach than previous years for me. But I was happy with the overall result and I wasn’t in the gym for two hours.
I was in the gym for 75 minutes which is nice as maybe 90 minutes max, including my warmup and my cool down, so that was nice too. Yeah, it’s been different. It’s been fun. What are you
Mike: thinking for growth and growth volume? Really focusing on
Chris: the quality. So I’m gonna keep the concept similar where I always wanna keep quality high and then I’m gonna use an autoregulated approach based on how I’m recovering, how my performances, And then I’m sure I’m gonna feel like within the session, oh, instead of doing one top set and one back off set like I was doing, I could probably do one top set and two back off sets.
Like I might just feel. Okay. I still have more on me. I have a lot of food coming in. I’m recovering better. So if I feel that, which you just know, if you’ve been lifting for 10, 11 years, then you can auto regulate and adjust your volume just based on biofeedback and performance. Whereas, as a novice, you’re an immediate, you want set structure on a plan.
Yeah. Cause you it’s too hard. You can’t trust yourself yet. Yeah. You can’t trust yourself yet. But
Mike: when you know, it’s hard in the beginning just to even trust your perception of. One set of Yeah, how close to failure, how many reps could so a hundred percent.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Cool, man. Hey, this was a great discussion as always. A lot of great information. I always learn stuff, which is fun. And so thanks again for doing this. Thank you. And let’s wrap up with where people can find you if they want to check out your work and if there’s anything in particular you want them to know about.
Cool. Something that, maybe an upcoming product or service or whatever.
Chris: Let’s let it work. Yeah, absolutely. I do have a new upcoming service essentially being released right now where it’s the a four week online course. Oh, cool. Class one starts like January 22nd. I’m not sure when this is coming out, but if you missed it, If you want,
Mike: I’ll I’ll let one of the guys who works with me know, Hey, let’s push this.
We can shuffle
Chris: things around. Okay. That would be cool. Yeah. So I have a four week online course that’s all about teaching you the primary principles of hypertrophy. So super quick. Week one is on muscle physiology. Week two is on kinesiology. Week three is on dosage, which is what we spoke a lot about today.
Volume, intensity and frequency. And then week four is practical programming. The courses mainly for coaches, competitors, or just avid meat headss that are like really trying to learn the science behind muscle growth. And then how. Practically apply that. So that’s coming out. Just check me [email protected]
Gaines is with a z and you guys can find me on Instagram as well, just my full name at Christopher dot Barca. And I greatly appreciate you having me on, Mike, and I greatly appreciate everything you do with Legion Athletics and just everything you’ve done over the years. So thank you.
Thank you for that. Thank
Mike: you. I’m flattered and I look forward to
Chris: our next discussion. Likewise. Thank you.
Mike: 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 ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com, and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
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