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Whether you have lagging or weak muscle groups, or just want to focus your efforts and grow certain body parts faster than others, specialization routines can help you. These specialization training blocks involve prioritizing specific muscle groups to get them to grow faster while maintaining your size and strength in other muscle groups. In this episode, Steve Hall offers tips and guidance everyone can use if they’re interested in trying a specialization routine.

In our discussion, Steve and I discuss . . .

  • What specialization routines are and when it’s appropriate to try a specialization routine
  • Examples of how specialization routine might look
  • Whether you can prioritize more than one muscle group at once
  • How exercise selection and rep ranges play a role in specialization routines
  • Duration of specialization training blocks
  • And more . . .

In case you’re not familiar with Steve, he’s a competitive natural bodybuilder and the founder of Revive Stronger, where he uses his decade-plus of experience in the gym to coach his clients. He’s also a fellow podcaster, hosting the Revive Stronger Podcast, on which he shares evidence-based bodybuilding content. 

So, if you’ve ever wondered about whether you should try a specialization routine or how you’d program your own to grow certain muscle groups faster, you’re going to enjoy this podcast!


0:00 – Try Pulse today! Go to and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!

7:20 – What are specialization routines?

10:15 – Why can’t you just grow all your muscles together?

15:30 – Can a decade of specialization training get you to your best physique ever?

20:41 – When do you suggest starting specialization training?

24:20 – Why can’t I maximize the growth of every muscle?

29:33 – How much upper body training can I do without the wheels falling off? 

32:06 – What are examples of a specialization routine?

38:00 – Can I specialize a pair of muscle groups when training?

55:14 – What should my rep ranges look like with specialization training?

1:05:42 – What are your thoughts on duration?

1:11:40 – Where can we find you and your work?

Mentioned on the show: 

Try Pulse today! Go to and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!

Steve’s Instagram

Steve’s Website

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


Mike: Hey, Steve, welcome to my podcast.

I guess it’s about time that I reciprocated you had me on your podcast some time ago, and I don’t think I intentionally didn’t invite you. I probably just didn’t occur to me, but here we are.

Steve: Thank you so much for having me on when you sent me the email, I was like, you’re one of the podcasts that for me, at least when I got into the podcast game, I think you maybe, or were already in it, or was certainly very soon after, if not before me, I don’t actually know, but you’re certainly one of like foundational kind of fitness podcasts out there.

So it’s was exciting to be invited on and it’s great to see that you’ve. Keeping going as long as what I’ve been going with, my one you’ve still been going with yours because there’s so many out there now. So yeah. Thank you so much for inviting me on Mike. It’s a big honor. Yeah. Yeah,

Mike: my pleasure.

And it good timing for, I think probably both of us. I don’t remember when I released the first episode and I do remember it might have been like 2016 ish or something like that. But I do remember, I would just turn on my webcam and just Ram. Until I ran out of rambling and then I would turn off the webcam and that was the beginning of the YouTube channel.

And I would just throw ’em on YouTube. And then I was like, oh, I guess I could take the audio and put it up as a podcast as well. And it was good timing that it wasn’t nearly as glued as it is now. And not nearly as professional as there are some well produced shows now.

Steve: So if I look back to my first episodes that I put up I was this like embarrassed little kid that didn’t really like, know he was doing, I had terrible internet had like just my laptop and headphones in.

And yeah, like people have almost like Joe Rogan style setups now. , there’s a lot of competition. Maybe

Mike: not so much in our space, but I see, I always like to see the production values that some of these bigger media companies, some of them that just specialize in podcasts and they’re doing, I don’t even know what the really popular stuff is like serial.

Fiction or serial nonfiction crime and all that kind of stuff. And yeah, it’s impressive to see the amount of work that is going into some of these shows. It, I wouldn’t say it rivals. What we see in the streaming world, but it’s maybe comparable with audio

Steve: only. Yeah. I see some things that are like Netflix specials, like documentaries going on.

I’m like, oh, damn. So I was like, oh, I can actually use my like D C LR camera as a webcam. And I was like, learning about all these things. So I was like, I need to keep up with these kids who are like, I call them kids as if I’m old or if they’re particularly young, but like these people who have these big gigs and yeah, I’m one day.

Maybe I’ll be able to fly people in for a podcast and have a round table type of setup. That would be a little fun. Yeah. That

Mike: would be fun. But I wanted to bring you on the show to talk about specialization routines, which is something that I’ve commented on here and there, but I have not produced I don’t think, yeah, I haven’t written or recorded anything long form on it and.

It’s something that I do get asked about fairly often. And so I wanted to get you to come on and help us understand what specialization routines are. I think just as like I was saying offline if we treat this as a specialization 1 0 1 talk, I think that would be very useful to a lot of people listening who have heard about this, or maybe they haven’t.

And they’re gonna learn about it now so they can understand what a specialization routine is and how it works. And when to know if it’s right for them, maybe we could talk a little bit about programming, how some of those routines could look like and see where that direction takes.

Steve: For sure.

Yeah. I think it’s one of those topics that I guess like you like me for the vast majority of like trainees and listeners, for me, at least I try as long as possible to grow everything. So like specialization I’m like, I don’t wanna do it. I wanna grow


Mike: It’s like, deloading where you just, you ha you have to begrudgingly get to the point where you’re like, all right, I actually will, deload on schedule.

I’m not gonna wait until I get sick or something,

Steve: and then so many, I guess let’s say guys, whatever, I guess girls are specializing very early, too. Like you see these girls now probably specializing on glutes and guys like we all specialize like chest and arms initially. Like not on purpose necessarily, but there’s definitely, there definitely can be a time and place.

So I. If I was to define the way I see a specialization routine, I almost see them as there’s kind of levels. There’s the most strict specialization routine where maybe you’re focusing on one muscle group and then everything else is on the back burner. So you’re just trying to build up, say the quads and then everything else is maybe at maintenance in and around there.

But then I see there as An entry level just when you’re on the cusp of needing to specialize, where maybe you’re like, oh I can still grow a lot of things, but maybe I can pick like a couple of muscle groups to prioritize and leave everything like it’s growing, but not it’s best rate.

And so I’m just gonna focus on these areas, for example. So that might be like, I dunno, you get this intermediate body builder, who’s got judging feedback. He’s you need to bring up your doubts and like arms big time, but everything needs to improve. So you might end up putting those more on the front burner, leave some behind.

So I think there is some kind of levels to it, but yeah, the most strict form, or I guess the most common definition is like a specialization routine is when you pick a muscle or so. And they’re the ones that you’re really trying to focus on to grow it, at least in the high trophy space, which I’m sure there’s like power lifting, specialization, routines and things, which I’ve, I probably can’t really speak too much because I’ve gone so down into the hypertrophy route, that’s like my baby now yeah.


Mike: And I guess a question that is probably in some people’s minds is why can’t. You just grow everything maximally forever. What’s the point of cuz this sounds like we’re talking about body part routines. Aren’t isn’t that? Not a good way to train. Yeah, I

Steve: think it’s a great question because I even find myself with so many of the people I end up working with and even myself, it’s like, you can do so many things to allow yourself to keep growing everything before you need to specialize in that.

So many people have so many holes within their like lifestyle they’re training nutrition already. It’s oh, their arms can’t grow, but they’re not really training their arms properly or they’re leaving them towards the end of their session. They don’t necessarily need to specialize, but they could do them earlier or four legs or something.

So I think it’s so important that people come to the point where they’re like, okay, I. Every single duck in a row. So in terms of my lifestyle, my sleep, I’m getting eight hours almost consistently every night. It’s not like I’m sleeping four hours every night and thinking, oh, I’m gonna have amazing training.

I’m gonna grow really well. And then stress levels. So if you are like, I dunno, you have exams and you’re just a very stressful person. You never take any time to chill out. Like you can’t expect to be growing particularly well, you might find that you can’t grow everything. Whereas if you had that in check, maybe that would open that avenue.

And then with nutrition, I think a big one for me is like, Surplus I dunno about you, Mike, but I’ve been there and done that in terms of trying to eat like maintenance and reamp, and it’s just it’s you’re trying to cycle up calorie cycling. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It’s you’re trying to cycle up hill with the break on at the same time.

It’s just put that surplus there, release that kind of break and you’ll likely see way better growth. So I think a lot of people hold themselves back cause they don’t have those basics in place. Then macros obviously prioritizing protein, carbohydrates, fat, nutrient timing, even that’s like a more advanced concept, which I think people think, oh, it’s not important.

Like I’ll just do calories and macros. If it’s your macros, it’s actually if you prioritize carbohydrates around your training, that can actually be leading to better training sessions, that sort of thing. So that’s important. Yeah. And then, a big one that I think I think in the industry now it’s getting better, but in terms of training, like technique, I think at least when I started it was just.

More load to the bar. And if that meant less range of motion, like shitier form, whatever, it didn’t matter. It’s just all about load on the bar or some people would even

Mike: formalize it, a cheat rep cheat sets I’m doing, like I program in my

Steve: cheat sets and it is a great way to get injured and not see great progress.

I’ve definitely done that myself. Like I have long term shoulder injuries. Cause I just was just had the ego and just thought pushing harder was better. And when you’re a kind of kid teenager, you think the body is just unbreakable, but it’s really not. So having stellar technique, it just improves the stimulus that you’re gonna generate through the muscle and reduces fatigue, which ultimately opens up the amount of volume you can do, which is probably like a key driver of hyper.

So if you can get that all in place, that’s gonna be so much better for you. So having that technique in place, and again, a lot of people think they have good technique until you. Review their form, or even like people are now filming their sets in the gym. They’re like, oh, damn. Like I thought , I’m swinging that way more than I thought I was.

Where if you have great technique, that helps training

Mike: intensity too. Yeah. I don’t know if this is really a common term, but I talk about intensity discipline. Yeah. So how many reps in reserve was that really? Was that really a one to two? Or was it more like a four if you really had to try,

Steve: Again, I work with people online, so I get like form videos in and they’re like, yes, Steve, this was like, definitely I’d no more reps left in the tank.

And I look and a first rep looks, it’s great technique. It looks the, and that’s the thing. You can have great technique, but if you don’t have the intent there, like you said, that’s you need to meet a minimum threshold of relative intensity to provide a stress, to be able to then grow. So you’re completely right.

Especially as like more newbies are the ones who maybe. Dunno. They listen to your podcast. My podcast, they’re like, oh, I should be doing leaving reps in reserve because that’s probably a safer way. And maybe I can get good, just as good as stimulus. And then they’re not actually very good at rating it.

And they get scared of failure. It’s oh no. Sometimes you need to make sure you’re working really hard because if it’s not hard, it’s not overloading. You’re not gonna stimulate growth. So I think lots of people don’t have that in check. And the big one I didn’t have in check as well was like, deloading like, I would never take even rest days, I’d just be like seven days a week.

Just go at it and I’d end up just regressing. Cuz my fatigue would just build up and then again, try to risk injury, that sort of thing. So I think a lot of people, unfortunately don’t have those like basic things in place and I think you just get better over, over time. Like I view body building is very much like a lifestyle.

And at the start, when I tried to make it a lifestyle, it was very like extreme. It was very difficult for me, whereas I’m sure you are the same now Mike, where like you get a lot of these ducks in a row just cuz it’s just routine. It’s just habit. You sleep well, you eat at the times you eat, you hit your protein.

What have you just second nature. If you were to try and do a technique, like that was bad, you’d be like, this just feels so wrong. I can’t do it. It feels like I’m doing something completely wrong. So once you’ve got all those ducks in a row, it’s just incredible how much better your training is and how much you can actually therefore grow over.

I think. And I think for a lot of people, it doesn’t take, it takes them up to a decade to get to that point where now they’re like, oh man, I’m doing everything right. But now I’m hitting that wall of nothing’s really progressing. Like it should be that’s at least how I, why I see a lot of people not needing necessarily to go down that route at least for a long time.

Mike: Yeah. Interesting. A decade. Cuz there’s no, I would say conclusive as definitive quote unquote settled answer to just how big and strong can you get given your genetics and your anatomy. I’ve written about this, I’ve spoken about this and based on my understanding of a lot of the material that is available, let’s just say your average guy is probably gonna be able to gain.

45 ish, maybe 40 to 45 pounds of muscle over the course of his lifetime, like kind of period, regardless of what he does inside the gym and outside of the gym. And you will have some outliers who can gain a bit more than that. You have some people who are gonna gain a bit less than that. If a guy’s five, five and has a small skeleton, obviously he’s gonna gain less so than the due to six five, and was like benching 2 25 at 14.

But again, if we just take an average, and let’s say you took that guy and for women listening, you could probably cut that in about half is the rule of thumb is that most women are probably 25 to 30 pounds of muscle gain is gonna be about everything that they’re. Be able to tack onto their skeleton.

And so if you started year one, either the man or the woman started year one and did everything mostly, we don’t have to be perfect of course, but started off with good nutrition, good training, good sleep, good recovery, blah, blah, blah. That it’ll take maybe five to seven years was my just backing into, based on rates of muscle gain per year, five to seven years before that potential progress become.

So small, it’s hard to measure. Maybe a pound of muscle gain a year, something like that. In some people they might be able to get a bit more out of that based on where they’re at. But I, yeah, I would say that certainly if somebody knows what they’re doing within a decade or so, they’re gonna have more or less their best possible physique if they’ve been doing a lot of the correct things.

Do you agree

Steve: with that? Yeah, I think that’s where theory and practice can sometimes differ, like in theory. Absolutely. And I think there’s definitely some people that are fortunate enough to land into that position where they have, so they get there, I dunno, they land onto your podcast and they’ve got, and they’re in year one of training and it’s just wow.

Or they pick up your books and it’s just wow, like they’re just doing everything. So right from the get go, like they on in almost like unfortunately, or fortunately they hit their peak or near their peak sooner than the person who yeah, cuz

Mike: if you think of a guy who let’s say he gains 20 pounds of muscle in his first year, which would be a great first year, but certainly doable and.

Then we could probably expect about half of that in year two and then have halves as from each year throughout from there on. And then, so again, probably around five to seven years is now we’re pushing that 40 ish pounds of muscle

Steve: gained. Yeah, I think it’s I just, I see it so often in practice where people will just I dunno, maybe they’re on the path and then they step off it because they dunno they see something that they like, oh, maybe I can recomp and do it this way.

And it’s and then they just end up gain more and more things. Exactly. So I can even use myself an example, like in my, I was gained like 10 pounds stage weight from my 2017 to 20, 21 season. It was just like night and day body, different body builder. But I just did so many things of what I listed out at the start.

I was doing a lot of them right before. It was just like a surplus one that I was like, ah oh, just like you get comfortable in your kind of off season. And you’re like, I’m eating a lot of food. It’s a bit uncomfortable to push it more. But Without discomfort doesn’t come change.

So I think that’s where maybe my like, experience with trainees and people I see out there and myself, it’s taken a bit more time than what would ideally happen in practice. Like a, you say on paper and I dunno how you feel about it, Mike, but I like to have this limitless mindset almost to muscle gain in terms of like genetic ceilings, like theoretically, absolutely.

There’s a genetic ceiling, but in practice, I dunno how many people actually get there. So I like to have this just growth mindset of just I’m just gonna keep growing. It doesn’t matter. You can tell me that I’m not, but I’m gonna keep trying to grow at my best rate. So yeah, like you said, anywhere between five to 10 years, I think absolutely is you’ve definitely done your due diligence of growing virtually all your muscle mass.

Now’s the time where maybe focusing a bit more on specialization is gonna take you down the right route. Yep. Yep.

Mike: That makes a lot of sense. So that could be one scenario just to summarize for people listening where you’ve put in the work you’ve you’ve gained, let’s just say it’s gonna be at least most of the muscle and strength that is genetically available to you.

And there is a muscle group or muscle groups. And we’ll talk about, obviously there’s a difference between saying the, I want, I really wanna focus on my legs, my quads and my hamstrings that’s different than, oh, I, I would like. Side. Dealts like, okay. You can do a couple more. But we’ll get to that.

So that’s a scenario or maybe it’s a muscle group that you just really like to train and it sounds like it would be fun to do, or maybe it’s an exercise. Like I’d really like to bench three times per week and really train my chest really hard. Cause I like it. Do you think that though, for people who have not gotten to that point yet, so they still could just follow a more balanced routine and continue gaining muscle and strength more or less all over on their body at a good rate.

Are there any scenarios where. You would suggest they consider doing a specialization routine again, like for example, I would say maybe if they, if it just seems like it might be fun that’s always a good reason, I think, to try things that so long as they’re not fundamentally flawed, because of course the more fun we’re having in the gym, generally speaking, the better, the results.

Steve: Yeah, I completely agree. I think it’s not you can’t specialize on something else in future. If you want something else to grow, it’s not like you’re like, I dunno, dedicated to adults for life. Now you just have to specialize on those nothing else, so you can layer them in and periodize them.

So that, that can be really fun. Cuz again Mike body building training, hypertrophy training there’s only so much you can do. It is the boring basics over and over again, rinse and repeat to some extent. So if it can, if it’s someone’s preference, they’re. Mike, Steve, I just wanna have huge like doubts.

It’s okay, we can make that happen. Let’s go for it. Let’s see what happens. And another one, I think, yeah, you said preference. And I think the only one that’s a bit more specific to my sort of area is if they’re body building category is dictating that. So if they’re men’s physique and they don’t really need their legs so much, which is a great position to be in, cuz like you said, some muscle groups really free up a lot of, extra volume and recovery for areas.

So you could bring those back or like a bikini athlete again, they could focus on the glutes a bit more. Yeah, absolutely. I think it doesn’t have to be that you’re at that point where you need to do it, it could be a preference thing or maybe dictated by your body building

Mike: goals.

I’ve heard from some people over the years who liked to rotate from one. Kind of prioritization to another. So for a few months they liked to do extra chest volume and they understood that meant they had to do maybe a little bit less for their shoulders or they had to dial back a little bit to be able to do that in other muscle groups.

And then though after a couple of months of that, they would do some lower body prioritization. And then after that they would do some back, some pull prioritization. And that seems like a reasonable approach as well. If they enjoy that more than just following again, a more kind of standard balanced. I completely agree.

Like the result in the end is probably about the same, it’s

Steve: probably very similar, cause it’s probably gonna grow more than it would have if you like, focused on everything. But actually one that I just thought of was sometimes like, if you get someone who ideally they’d be spreading their volume over four to six sessions, or what have you.

And they’re like, they’re an advanced trainee, but they’re, or intermediate to advance on that cusp of needing to do it anywhere. And then they’re like, I can only train three days a week. It’s you’ll be like, you’re not very lucky to grow everything at this point because you’re just gonna be quite fatigued.

And the total volume you’re gonna have to do, and every session is just gonna be unrealistic. So maybe we should focus on dunno half your physique and put half on the back burner, such as that that sort of scenario, or I dunno if they’re like a, like I said, get your ducks in a row, but maybe some of them, you just can’t like, you have a very stressful job or you have kids and your sleep is just out of your control for a little bit.

Maybe you decide, all right. Like I, I can’t push everything. So let’s pick and choose my battles here and just pick a few things maybe. Yeah. Yeah.

Mike: And for those intermediate and advanced trainees again you might have already answered this, but I just wanna make sure that we give people this answer.

And that is, so if they’re wondering, why can’t I just, again, maximize growth. Of everything. And that’s not to say that. They have to follow a specialization. Like I don’t follow a specialization routine because I actually, I like a more balanced routine personally, and I’m not in body building. I don’t have to nitpick my physique and say, oh I need to work on my lats more than anything else over the next six months or whatever.

But again, this is just a question that people ask me. And just

Steve: gonna give that to you. The easiest way I have to look at it is, I dunno if you’ve had my Tel on your podcast, but he came through with the volume I marked. So he may have already spoke about those. And that’s my favorite way of explaining it, cuz it.

It makes it quite simple in that generally we’re trying to take muscle groups from their minimum effective volume up to their max recovery volume. And that’s like their max adaptive volume is where they’re growing their best. So anywhere within there is great training. And so essentially the need for a specialization routine comes in when you can’t take your every muscle group within your body to those MRV before your systemic MRV just caps you off.

It’s just, as you get more advanced, there’s only so much you can take on. So an analogy I I think works is as you’re studying to learn as a. Basic like kid at school, you can take on so many different subjects, but as you get more advanced and you learn more and more advanced concepts, you have to specialize more and more because you just don’t have the capacity to take on everything at that advanced level, to the point of which you’re like in a masters in this really like specific area, it’s similar with when you’re a trainee, like you just don’t have the capacity systemically to grow everything in its maximum.

So you have to pick and choose again, like maybe reduce somewhere so you can open up that room for something else to grow. So it might be that in. Kind of me cycle, if you’re going through a training block and you get to this point where you’re like, man, I feel just completely zonked my sleep. Isn’t great.

My appetite sucks. Mo motivation to train is really terrible. All signs needing to deload systemically. You’re like. These various muscle groups feel like fresh . But if I go in and do my bicep feels fresh, but if I go and do a curl, I’m just like, I just don’t have it in me to give it to it. So if you’re getting to that stage with some of your training, like in that final week before, you’re thinking I need to pull back a little bit.

That might be where you’re like, okay, maybe you’re not growing everything at its best. Maybe you need to pull some things back and prioritize, or you might decide, like very similar to myself, Mike, I don’t like specializing cuz I want everything to grow. I I do pull back some areas, but not maybe as much as I should you just accept slower rates of growth and have a more balanced routine if that’s again, your preference.

Yeah. Yeah.

Mike: And just to put some hard numbers to it for people to think with if you open up your Excel spreadsheet and you start fiddling with your programming, you find. It’s hard, even if you are generous with indirect volume which for people listening. So an exercise provides direct volume for muscle groups.

Like the bench press direct volume for the PS indirect for say the triceps, the front deltas. Some people might say that’s, it’s direct. I personally am. My training would count that as indirect volume. But so even if you are taking that into account, it’s hard to get past probably about 15 ish hard sets per major muscle group per week without spending.

An hour and a half, two hours plus in the gym five days per week, or getting in there six days per week for maybe 60 to 70 minutes. And you’re gonna need just about, yeah, anybody, everybody gets to that point where that is, that’s really the minimum amount of volume that’s required just to continue growing at any rate.

And if you really wanted to get to that maximum recoverable, you probably are gonna push closer to 20. You go beyond that, it gets real hard. Maybe you could do that for your biceps, but go try to do 25 to 30 hard sets for your lower body a week using. 70 plus percent of one rep max. And you only can do that for maybe 4, 5, 6 weeks until you tap out yeah.

You just tap out. But so the point is that just to give some hard numbers to what you were saying is okay. You’re if you get into that 15 to 20 hard sets per week range, that’s appropriate for an intermediate slash advanced weightlifter, who wants to continue growing really any major muscle group at this point, if they have trained in a, at least a balanced fashion up until this point and to then look at that practically.

Okay, you can’t do that for every major muscle group. Like you said, eventually it just runs you into the ground. And so then you have to pick and choose. So you might be able to say, all right, I am gonna take my lower body up to 20 hard sets per week. That’s not gonna be 20 sets of squats, but we’re gonna be doing a lot of lower body training.

And the question is then how much upper body training can I do? Without the wheels falling off, right?

Steve: Yeah. That’s when you have to choose I, I guess the initial move into specialization would be like, maybe it would be like half your body. You look to grow in the other half. You take back and maybe you select actually, I’m just gonna leave it, not a maintenance, cuz actually if if you really want to open up a lot of recoverability, the amount of volume you need to maintain is so pitifully low versus how much you need to grow.

You could like maybe you need 10 sets to grow your quads a week, just minimum volume, but maybe it’s four to maintain. And then you’re doing four sets across the week where you were previously taking them like 10 to 15 sets. Like the amount of recoverability you open up is huge. But for that person just getting into it, they might just side, right?

I’m gonna leave muscle groups around a, an amount of volume, like 10 sets. For example I know it’s gonna, it’s gonna grow very slowly and I’m gonna prioritize these other ones and put them closer to. 10 to 15 and see how I go with that. And if I start seeing good response via that, then you can run that for a while.

And then you might slowly take more muscles to like that minimum growth point. And then you might find, ah, I’m not that probably a lot of people get here. Cause I think you need to probably be very advanced, but then you start being like, okay, iactually need to take some of these to maintenance completely to free up space for other areas.

Or if you are like, anyone could be like this, but for me as like a bodybuilder. I don’t really need bigger biceps. It’s probably bad for me for a lot of people, but my biceps are just like the ridiculous genetic point of this point was so I’m just like, alright, just leave them way on the back burner. You don’t want to grow that anymore.

Let’s leave that maintenance. And then I can push things like side belts, no one can have big enough side belts. Let’s bring it more there. And this is where I find autoregulation really helps for me. So I’m looking at like within sessions and then across sessions, how’s their recovery in terms of when are they seeing that fatigue and soreness?

If they do get sore drop off, are they ready for their next session? And then also within a session, are they finding that they’re getting good local, muscular fatigue, the muscles getting tired. It’s maybe getting tight, potentially pumps and things like this. So they’re getting good cell swelling within the muscle and.

Just dictating. Okay. If you’re recovering on time and you’re getting like medium, okay. Pumps, disruption, fatigue. Maybe we can push a little bit more, see how you respond. And then just every week tinker with it a little bit, but it does need to be small changes because otherwise, like people will just end up like ramping up, adding an extra five sets a week and they’re fine, depending on the muscle group, but they’re probably be sore for two weeks and just go and get back into the gym.

Yeah. Yeah,

Mike: exactly. Let’s now talk about how a specialization routine might look. Maybe we can give some specific examples of how it might be programmed

Steve: and I’ll leave

Mike: it up to you. And you’ve worked a lot of people. You can pick whatever muscle groups, give some examples that Would be relevant to, I think we have very similar crowds.


Steve: yeah, if it was something like, let’s say you are intermediate to advanced bodybuilder who he wants bigger side dealts might decide that. Okay. Typically, I, like you said, I can take these from 10 to 20 sets and that means that I can get that done over the course of maybe two sessions. Normally, like I can spread that volume, but if I’m looking, if I can ramp these up a little bit higher to maybe up to that, like 20 plus mark, to see if I can recover from that much, cuz I’m holding other things back.

Maybe you decide, I’m gonna start off with a higher frequency. It doesn’t mean you have to start with that high end level of volume with we’re tying, hopefully everything at minimum effective volume, at least that’s the way I tend to program. So that’s the kind of early intermediate who’s just getting into it.

That’s actually a

Mike: good point. If I can jump in quickly just to get you to clarify. So for people where the, from. They’re doing whatever they’re doing right now. What is your general recommendation on increasing volume? Like you just said, okay. Doubling the amount of volume that you’re doing just one week to the next, not a great

Steve: idea.

So I would say generally from my guys, I’m looking in that first week of training, like a good feedback or biofeedback in. To know you’re achieving around minimum effective volume is first of all, looking at the science, which tends to say in around 10 sets for a muscle group, tends to be like the average for a muscle group.

And again, that includes indirect sets. So for something like arms, you don’t need 10 sets of direct work for your biceps. For example, you might be getting virtual, all of it from your rowing and pulling and things. So I would start in around there and I would ask for their feedback in terms of, like I said, those kind of in session.

Feedback tools. So in terms of pump do you feel like you got anything there or do you feel like you didn’t train or was it high, like the best pumps you’ve ever had? And in that first week I’m looking for you’ve done something you’ve overloaded that muscle group, same for disruption.

I call it where you’re getting that local muscle fatigue. So it feels tired. It feels a bit tight. Some muscle groups feel more disruption versus pump dunno about you, Mike, but a hamstring pump. I don’t really get my pumped hamstrings, but they. Like tight and like I’m gonna ramble something.

Yeah. They hurt exactly.

Mike: That’s what hamstrings do. They just hurt.

Steve: Whereas quads, like they can feel like full and like that. So I try and get that semblance of stimulus within that session. Have you got a good stimulus within that session for that muscle group after you’ve done all the sets for it.

And I’m looking for that like low to medium stimulus in week one, and then I get them to rate their recovery. So I get a readiness score when they come to train that muscle group again. How ready are there? They fresh. They have no soreness, no fatigue. They’re feeling good to go. Or are they like, just, okay.

Like it’s I dunno, a bit tender touch or they’re a bit tired going in there. They don’t feel amazing or is it fatigued? So they’re actually. Definition of fatigue is basically underperforming to where they’d expect or they’re going in there. And they’re just like, I’m trashed. So I’m hoping in that first week, they’re pretty fresh for everything because you’re just doing the minimum effective and you’re just getting like a good stimulus, but, you’ve got more to give in future.

So I use that as a baseline for assessing minimum effective volume. And then from there I’m like, okay, so you’re recovering now. If we’re looking at specialization, I’m being, I’m picking that muscle group and being like, maybe we add to a set to this session here, see how you’re recovered from that.

Maybe we add one to this one as well. I don’t tend to add more than about two sets to a muscle group. Per week, even two is quite a lot. But one to two tends to be where I go or leave it or not. So if even in week one, if they’re like, man, I got high pumps, disruption, my in session stimulus is just out of this world.

Sometimes I get this with people who, for hamstrings, for example, they do two sets of RDS. They’re just like. They were like blown off the bone completely. I’m like, okay, I wish I had your hamstrings. So then you maybe just leave it there, knowing that they’re getting a really good stimulus and then I’ll keep assessing their in session stimulus and then their recovery rate in terms of readiness and then water regulate their set volume to decide, should I add a little bit more here or should I not?

And again, that’s a great way for people just to solve their program minimum effective volume, and then they can pick and choose where they want the muscle wise to grow the best. Cuz it tends to be that the more volume you can do and recover from tends to lead to more hypertrophy. So that’s the root I’m going down with that.

And then eventually you’ll hit your systemic MV as you keep progressing in terms of adding a bit of load or an extra rep and things like that.

Mike: Yeah. That makes me think of in endurance training. I know a general rule of thumb is to not increase your volume by more than TW 10%. I think, I believe it’s per week endurance training is I was just reading some stuff on this.

Anyway, it was every week or every two weeks, something like that. Okay. And just to that point for people who, let’s say somebody they go for a run every day and now they wanna train for a marathon to, to make sure that they don’t just go from relatively low volume to a lot of volume.

Same principle applies in lifting. Hey there, if you are hearing this, you are still listening, which is awesome. Thank you. And if you are enjoying this podcast, or if you just like my podcast in general and you are getting at least something out of it, would you mind sharing it with a friend or a loved one or a not so loved one, even who might want to learn something new word of mouth helps really bigly in growing the show.

So if you think of someone who might like this episode or another one, please do tell them about it. And what about pairing. Muscle groups up. So let’s say somebody says, yeah, I would to I would like to work on my side dealts but can I do more than that? Can I quote unquote specialize or can I prioritize?

Let’s see, I’d love to do my side dealts and my biceps and my triceps.

Steve: Especially for people just getting into it. I think you’d be silly not to pick a few muscle groups, especially if, like you said if you are wanting to do like hamstrings and quads, like they’re two big muscle groups that are very fatiguing, especially like systemically fatiguing, so full body, whereas like side belts, I dunno.

Like they’re just, for me there’s such a small muscle group and I know from personal experience’s like training

Mike: abs it’s just

Steve: annoying. abs for me are like, they’re way worse, but side doubts. At least they get a bit of a pump. I don’t even, I don’t even

Mike: bother anymore because I’m like, yeah. I, my, my squatting, my dead lifting, my overhead pressing keeps my.

Yeah, my core looks fine. Good enough.

Steve: So for sure, if it there’s some smaller muscle groups, like you could do Delta and arms. Absolutely. That would be no problem. But if you’re picking large ones, like your back as a whole, like that’s quite a big muscle group, so you probably wouldn’t be able to do, or it depends on the person.

If they’re just getting into it, they might just pick one thing to leave on the back burner and then everything else, they try and grow, but they’re probably not gonna open up much recoverability if they pick like biceps or doubts. Cuz realistically they’re just not gonna be fatiguing the rest of your physique to a large degree.

So you might wanna, if you are to do that, you might pick like biceps, triceps and doubts and then try and grow everything else. I don’t think there’s like a perfect formula. It’s probably one of those things that you need to go in there and try for yourself and see how much it opens up. But I’d say like legs, if you like, if you’re in that lucky position, I have some clients like this where they have just like huge legs.

Awesome. We can leave those on maintenance. Do F all sets on those and we can just plow on with upper body. They don’t love it. Cause they like always, the people love like hard leg training. Yeah. It’s their strength. Yeah, exactly. It just opens up so much recoverability for them though. Yeah, that, that’s always nice

Mike: in my experience with my own training and just having heard from, and worked with many people over the years, lower body, like you said, that seems to be its own.

That’s it. If you’re gonna prioritize your lower body that’s what you’re gonna be pushing toward. Let’s say that 15 to 20 hard sets. For your lower body per week. And, I would argue that if you could still grow on 10 sets per week or 12 sets per week, you probably could just stick with a balanced routine then, because you can get 10 to 12 sets for everything every week and probably four or five hours per week.

Really, if you are on the clock and not wasting time, and then you could do some prioritization again, if you just want to, if it just sounds like fun, something different, something interesting, understandable. But if we’re just talking about results, it’s probably worth considering just sticking to balanced training.

If that’s all you need to grow. But I don’t know about you. I’ve found that in my training 10 to 12 sets, it’s really maintenance. I know it’s more than what is needed for maintenance, but I don’t see much or any progression in muscle groups that are only getting 10 to 12 hard sets per week. And.

I would say I, I probably do a pretty good job with the basics that you mentioned earlier in the interview. It’s just not enough volume for anything at this point. And I’ve found that the muscle groups that do progress and it’s slow, like I’m not in a regular surplus, for example. So I understand that a wind for me is if I’m adding five to 10 pounds to my squat in four to six months on, cause I do some am wraps every four months or so just to test my strength.

And I’m happy with that. And it’s slow progress, but I also understand. I’m paying a price for having abs it just is what it’s right. And I understand that. But for me, I need to get into that 15 to 20 hard sets per week range to, to really notice progress.

Even in my numbers to, to notice over the course of several months that my reps and reserve are going up on that exercise, I’m getting stronger. Oh, look at that. I finally, I’m able to add a little bit of weight to that exercise. And so in my experience, and again, this is I’ve seen this with many other people, lower body is I, if I’m gonna prioritize that, I really, I just don’t have it in me to prioritize anything else.

I have to keep everything else probably around that maybe eight to 10 hard sets range. So I can do three lower body sessions or two really difficult, lower body sessions per week. And then if we look at the upper body. Back and maybe pecks, depending on the exercise. I, if I wanted to do it that way I probably wouldn’t be doing a whole bunch of bench pressing and dumbbell pressing.

I would do some of that, but I would include some isolation work for pecks, maybe some Peck deck and some other things that allow me to add volume to the PS without beating up my shoulders and without heavily recruiting my triceps and my shoulders. And then, like you said, arms ands all together.

Has also worked well for me, if I just look at what it took to program that, and I don’t know about you, but I didn’t, I’ve never really noticed too much systemic fatigue that comes with that additional there’s maybe a little bit arms and doubts. I’d say that’s probably the easiest in my experience that I just of the three that I laid out.

And it’s more just additional localized fatigue, which then makes some of that other training. A bit more difficult or it just reduces your performance. Like your bench press is not where it normally is because your triceps are just a lot more sore than they normally are because you’re doing, 30 to 50% more volume, direct volume for your triceps than you normally do.

Steve: Yeah. It makes just to touch on kind of the amount you need to even see, like progress. I imagine you’ve been training now for way over a decade. Am I

Mike: right? 20, no, 20 years, 20 years. I’m 30.

Steve: Yeah. Okay. You’re looking great for 38 white doing very well. I’m not far behind you. I’ve been going for 15, 16 years now and I’m 32.

So I’ll be getting there at the same time. And I, but it makes sense in theory, your kind of minimum effective volume, just to meet a threshold, to just grow creeps up over time, because the body is just, you end up getting that kind of anabolic resistance, which just like completely sucks.

Mike: And genetically, I was really not made to be big and strong.

I have small wrists. I was, I was I was like an endurance guy. I played hockey and I was good at cardio. But. I have a small skeleton I’m a little bit taller than average. So that works to my favor to some degree. And I took a genetic test some time ago, and I think there were two things.

One was a gene of polymorphism that was associated with higher than average testosterone levels, which I’ve never even done blood work. So I couldn’t tell you what my testosterone is, but I just remember this from a genetic test. And then there was another one that was associated with recovery, and apparently they had seen that one in a lot of high level athletes and it.

My body apparent. Yeah, apparently is good at recovering. So maybe those genetic advantages have compensated some for what I lack anatomically, because I do not have big bones. I was never a big, strong guy. I was like, again, as a skinny, fast kid who got

Steve: into weightlifting, I find the topic of genetics, like completely fascinating, especially in relation to body building.

Cause you just brought up a great point. I call it like genetics top trumps because some you’re gonna score well somewhere. There’s so many things that influence genetics and that, and genetics is so huge part of body building and how big you’re gonna be. But they impact everything from like mindset to like the things you mentioned in terms of frame size and muscle fiber type and recovery rates and injury proclivity, that sort of thing.

So yeah, it’s people don’t realize how much that can impact, but yeah, one thing you mentioned was I thought very interesting about excise selection, which needs to be. Definitely brought in, I think for specialization in that you don’t wanna, if you specialize legs, you don’t wanna just plow everything through like back squats.

It’s probably gonna ruin you remember

Mike: the old 10 now. Remember the old 10 by 10 by tens. Did you ever do that?

Steve: oh I don’t think I actually did that. I go into five through one and things like this. So I, luckily I didn’t get into the German volume training

Mike: yeah. I distinctly remember the 10 by 10 squats, although it might have been, yeah, it might’ve been on a Smith machine.

This was a long time ago. But I remember. For days after cuz the gym I was going to was upstairs and I had to hobble down the stairs. I had to brace myself and hobble sideways down the stairs for days after that. I

Steve: thought that was cool at the time then. Yeah, I think to probably a lot of the audience that sounds quite cool.

It sounds a bit cool to me Easter I’m like, I’d be like, yes, Mike. Nice for . That’s awesome. So at least if you were deloading the next week, maybe not, if you had like legs in a couple days or like no chance, but yeah, it’s a case of when you are specializing on a muscle group, you probably want to really be careful with your exercise selection to at least have some movements in there that are less systemically fatiguing.

They don’t be up the joints and ligaments and tissues like that so much. So like for quads you would definitely wanna be having a leg extension in there and you might just wanna have more variation in general. The more volume you are putting through a muscle group, you probably wanna spread. Probably over higher frequencies, but also then probably more variation, whether that at least be exercise rep range, but also probably exercise selection as well.

So like quads, you certainly want to have more than like a backs, one, a leg press. You probably wanna have a leg extension in there as well. And maybe even like a lung pattern, even for the side belts, at least two variants in there, you don’t wanna just be done by a ladder raising like four, five times a week doing 30 sets or something.

You’re just like the wear and tear on those joints and things. Won’t be great. And that’s one of the benefits of like daily undulating periodization, when that was huge. Like one of the biggest things is just you get to provide a stimulus and wear and tear on one area and then it gets to recover and you can use a similar area, but slightly different area of that kind of muscle tissue, cuz you’re using different muscle fiber types and things by using a different rep range, for example. So yeah, I just wanted to touch on that cuz I think that’s important.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good point. And I’d be curious as to your thoughts on it, but ive always said that I don’t think there is like a simple kind of one size fits all approach to that exercise selection.

I think it really depends on the person and how much abuse their body can take. But I think that. It’s definitely clear yes. That if you’re gonna be doing 20 hard sets per week for your lower body, that is not going to be 20 sets of squats. It’s just not, unless those final five sets are gonna be with like 1 35 on the bar, if you’re a guy or if you’re a gal the bar or something, or 50, 50 pounds on either side or 25 on either side or something like

Steve: That’s something again from Mike Tel brilliantly termed, I think a lot of us inherently experience with exercises is that stimulus to fatigue ratio.

How much of the stimulus factors are we getting in terms of pump disruption, my muscle connection versus joint and connective tissue Fatigue and like systemic fatigue where we just feel wiped. And there are some exercises like Barb back squats. You probably get a lot of both. They normally go hand in hand a little bit, but like a dead lift.

That’s always the joker in the pack, like huge, like stimulus within there. But the fatigue cost, you probably don’t want that in a specialization routine full stop. So you have to be careful with these things. And like you said, It’s gonna differ person to person. Cause we’re all built slightly differently.

Like a back squat could be perfect for someone, whereas like someone else might want to be doing the hack squat, likewise, different exercises. So I like that stimulus fatigue ratio to individualize exercises. And even like down to how they perform them. In some ways you might perform it, like within the realms of principled good technique, but it looks slightly different to someone else because everyone’s any equals one.

Like you have to individualize on that level. Once you are that advance. Yeah, it’s a good point with

Mike: the deadlift too, that I think it’s a great exercise. I do. I deadlift every week generally speaking and I, I like it because it is a time efficient way to train basically everything on the backside of your body.

So I do like it for that reason. And I don’t agree with people who say that it has no place in a hypertrophy routine. I understand why some people don’t do it. I get that. But I think some sort of hip hinge, some sort of variation has many uses. Maybe it’s not always just a conventional deadlift.

Maybe sometimes it’s a rack pull. Maybe it’s an RDL. Maybe it’s a trap bar. However, to your point, In a specialization routine, the amount of fatigue that comes with the deadlift has to be taken into account, and I would say I have pretty good cardio. I have pretty good recovery, but the hardest shit I do period, is the beginning of of my macro cycle.

It’s sets of 10 on all the big exercises. And so I’m doing four sets of 10 on the deadlift and, pretty heavy for me. It might be my last round. It might have been three 50 or so, something like that. And so by that fourth set, I’m probably at a true. R of maybe two, one or two.

I could get one or two more, but they’re gonna be grinders. And by the end of that fourth set, I could just leave, go home and take a nap. I could, I don’t, but that’s howing it is just worth mentioning. Cuz a lot of people listening probably also are dead lifting often. And if they are going to try some specialization, you can either drop it.

Or maybe if you really like it, maybe drop down to one set per week.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah. It’s surprising. Even one. Like you’ll stop the set. And you’ll be like, if you’re reasonably strong, you’ve done a good amount stimulus just from one set. It’ll feel wrong to do one set, but sometimes that’s enough for some exercises.

And I think it’s very well said. Like I don’t even, I don’t like to think any exercises songs. They’re not stupid, like a Bo ball squat for quad hyper. It’s that’s not that’s too in unstable. We’re not doing that. But there are like, under the knowledge of just like decent exercises, none that are bad, like deadlift isn’t bad necessarily.

It’s just needs to be in the right context and thought about because you do have that high fatigue cost. So I think that’s well, like you said, you can step it back or you might move to a Romanian deadlift straight led deadlift. That’s probably, you are using less loads, ex less axial fatigue, so you can maybe get away.

Like still specializing on something else within that routine, but it’s very time efficient. I can say that. That’s for sure. Like it’s not very time efficient when you’re trying to do these machines and isolate muscle groups. And that’s the, one of the problems becoming advanced. It’s also

Mike: fun, right?

You, there aren’t that many exercises where you get to that primal kind of rage and you get to move a lot of weight,

Steve: yeah. I’m not sure if when I retire from like competitive body building, I think I’ll just like, I’m can I have so much, not that my trainee isn’t fun, but there’s an element of just I need to do this.

I want to do this but I should do this. . Yeah. Yeah. It’s,

Mike: There’s the discipline it takes to do what you need to do versus what you want to do. That’s like deloading, for me, it takes discipline. I’m deloading this week, it’s just boring. I’d much rather train. And I have to force myself to not do those extra few reps, not do come on, do your four instead of your six or seven reps and do your three sets instead of four.

But I’m pretty good with it. I deal it every four weeks now, and maybe that’s a little bit conservative, so to speak. I might be able to push a bit further than that, but I have noticed some significant benefits on the recovery side of things just by being really quote unquote good with my deloading.

As opposed to previously, I would just go and go until. Either everything was hurting or sleep was no longer good. Or I would just get sick. Not that it was because of that, but, I would eventually after months and months get a cold or something and be like, all right, fine. I guess I’m outta the gym for a few days.

I’m better

Steve: with it now. It’s so funny that on paper, the easier thing to do is quite often the harder thing to do for a lot of us. It’s if you’re dieting, oh, I should take, I dunno, a diet break or what have you, or refeed or what have you, if you’re in contest prep, I don’t wanna do it. That’s the hard thing to it’s more food.

It should be easier. It’s no. , this is the hard thing for me to have to do. So I completely relate to that, but yeah, I deload normally every six weeks, so I normally have five weeks and then I come off and go into a deload and then go through a cycle again. But every deload I’m I don’t want to do it that you, I call it earning a deload like I have to do it.

I couldn’t go for another week of hard training. So it’s like you mentioned. Either your deload or your Delo, your body will deload for you. Like you’ll be forced into a corner at some point, if you’re training hard enough.

Mike: Exactly. Yeah. Let’s talk about rep Rangers. So in, in the context of specialization, and so let’s say somebody is going to be doing 15 to 20 hard sets per week, this is an intermediate or an advanced weightlifter.

What are your thoughts on rep ranges for that volume?

Steve: So I tend to use like a five to 30 repetition rep range in practice. I tend with the literature is basically, it seems to be as long as you’re close enough to failure, you could use. Any kind of rep range, I think probably much past 30. And not as, quite as good returns in terms of hypertrophy and also who would ever want to do that?

in practice. Do I really use much above 20? No. So I normally use 10 to twentys like my core of my work as done in the 10 to 20 rep range that tends to provide again the best stimulus fatigue ratio, less than five reps. I think. Find yourself getting so fatigued from that style of training and it’s more strength focused.

I would say. It’s not that it can’t cause hypertrophy. I think you could include something to a program that was smartly made, but I think generally you’ll get more bang from your buck from five plus. So I tend to use that spectrum. And then I think some exercises are just inherently better in certain rep ranges.

So like a leg extension, I don’t really program that less than 10 reps tend to find that just to be pretty unproductive and you just feel it all through the knees, whereas that can work really well in that 10, 20 rep range. Whereas someone like a Barb back squat, I’m not doing that for more than 15 reps.

Maybe 15 is the highest. I probably normally go. You set to 15 that’s may. I haven’t Barb back squat for a while. I’ve been doing the hack squat, but maybe I go to 15 at most, but normally it’s gonna be in that five to 10 rep range. Just more suited to that, or like deadlifts, as you say, like dead lifts off the floor, actually, any hip hinge, I’m not going above.

12 reps maybe up to 12, but normally they’re in the lower rep range. Those are like big compound lifts. They tend to favor those lower rep ranges. Then the isolation lifts where you need to use a lighter load just for like stability purposes and to be able to properly isolate a muscle. So then that kind of already selects itself in a way, when you have your exercises there.

And then I tend to find some people just feel certain rep ranges better than others. Some people go into a rep range. They’re just like, I just feel like I’m going through the motions with this. I feel tired and, but I don’t really feel anything in the muscle particularly. So you might be able to pick it via that, but I would undulate through the week.

So I might have. Probably normally I start a bit heavier at the start of the week when you’re a bit more fresh normally after a weekend where maybe there’s been one rest day or maybe two, and it’s the start of your week. So I normally start a bit heavier there. And then as you fatigue through the week, I tend to find, I use a bit more of the higher rep ranges through the latter half of the week where you don’t need to necessarily be as fresh to do like a set of dunno 15 reps on a leg press versus you need to be quite fresh for your set of five on a back squat, for example.

So I tend to undulate it through the week like that. So I might have if it was a three day per week frequency for quad, say it might be something like a five to 10 rep range for the Barb back squat. Normally I’d probably have more than one exercise, but if I’m just using one exercise in a session, it might then be like a 10 to 15 on the leg press.

And then like a 15 to 20 on a leg extension. I tend to find that kind of undulation pattern and that kind of heavy through to light tends to work really nicely in terms of allowing someone to still get good chunk of volume done, but not just like squats five to 10 squats, five to 10 squats, five to 10 is probably a bit unmanageable.

Mike: That’s interesting because I find in my training that it’s the other way around. I find that the higher rep and, you could say higher volume, but volume can mean different things depending on, okay. Are we talking about sets? Are we talking about reps? You’re talking about poundage, but I find in general with the more difficult exercises, if it’s a biceps curl, but that might even be the case still.

Now I’m thinking about doing heavier biceps, curls versus lighter. So when I’m pushing close to failure, which is all of my working sets, I’m always trying to, stay in that one to two good reps left range. Maybe my first set is like a three, but by the time I’m into set four, I want it to be pretty hard.

And I find that the higher rep training is a lot more fatiguing both systemically and peripherally. And it just drains me more. So for example, if I’m starting with a set of. If I’m doing four sets of 10 on the back squat, and then I’m gonna move on to do a leg press or some other lower body exercise, maybe a lunge or whatever.

And then maybe there’s gonna be some hamstring work in there as well. And I’ve seen this now, a number of times, even in my sheets, tracking all of my training, that my performance falls off more ex in those subsequent exercises. When I start without with those sets of 10 versus sets of even two I do twos even in my trainings toward the end of a macro cycle.

And cause I, I like to do it and I, it’s I think that there’s an argument to be made maybe not so much for body building specifically, but for general physique, I think there’s an argument to be made, to combine some strength training with some body building. But regardless, what I find is that heavier training.

Is harder on my joints. I’ll feel that more in my knees I’ll feel it more in my back in my hips, but it is significantly less fatiguing. So I’ll see, for example, I’ll do those sets of two, maybe four sets of two with, 95% on the bar, pretty heavy. And then I’ll move on to those other exercises. My performance will be significantly better on those subsequent exercises.

Anyway, I’ve just yeah, that’s how it plays

Steve: out for me. Just thinking, wonder if it’s because I tend to bias the higher rep ranges to quote unquote easier exercises. So they don’t fatigue you quite as much. Whereas if I was doing them with, like you said, like those harder lifts or the bigger compound lifts than they probably would just like.

Completely .

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. I can say for example I, I haven’t discussed this with anybody. I’d be curious. I’m gonna keep this in mind when I have random discussions, but those four sets of 10 like I said on the deadlift is the absolute hardest 15 minutes of any of my workouts that I do.

And again, I’ll see that in my numbers, in the following exercises versus doing, four sets of two or four sets of four with significantly more weight, which might seem like that must be harder because the weight is higher. But again for me, what I’ve found is and I do believe there’s some research on this as well.

That it’s the number of reps. If we look at volume that way, that’s what really drives fatigue for me with those more difficult exercises. I might not notice it. Yeah. With a set of. 10 reps of a biceps curl or something. But if I would suspect if I really paid attention to it, it probably would be the same again.

That’s just how, at least my body responds to

Steve: training. Four sets of, I would pick four sets of two reps versus four sets of 10. If I was going for the easier workout for like for sure, like four sets, especially on a deadlift man but even a squat. Like I definitely pick that.

Mike: It’s cardio by set three or set four it’s

Steve: cardio you do well to do that in 15 minutes, I’d be like, man, that take me like an hour session?

I just put it done account.

Mike: Yeah. Maybe. I, I’m resting probably about three and a half minutes in between those sets and I don’t certainly by, by set three or four. I don’t want to do it. And but I know that like by three and a half max, four minutes, I’m recovered and I don’t wanna do it.

But it’s not because I need more time. You just gotta gut it out. So coming back to rep ranges with specialization. There would be a, there’d be a number of rep ranges, and it sounds and this makes sense that you would stick with as a baseline stick with the rep ranges that are best suited to the exercises that you’re doing and that, that produce the best training stimulus for you.

Steve: No, yeah, totally. And then you might decide, I wanna have spectrum of rep ranges. Cause I believe that has benefits, but then you might decide, especially if

Mike: you’re intermediate

Steve: or advanced. For sure. And then you might decide, this exercise in rep range just seems. Like producing way less fatigue and way more seamless.

And that’s the one that you prioritize adding and maybe set volume to. And you’re like the other ones you maybe keep a bit more behind and that’s how you can pick and choose your battles a little bit there. Yeah. I

Mike: think also you just needed to keep in mind how your joints are faring, right?

Because again those heavy sets particularly with the compound exercises are tough on the joints. It’s not that it’s quote unquote bad for your joints, but there’s, you would not be able to, if you let’s say you just wanted to do a lot of squatting, for whatever reason you wanted to do 15 to 20 sets of squatting per week, there’s no way you’re gonna be able to do sets of fives for like your knees and your hips.

And your back is just. Give out. So I think there’s the muscular fatigue. There’s the systemic fatigue, but probably something to be said also for just keep, yeah, just keeping your joints jointing and not getting to a point where it’s now painful and you can’t even do the additional volume you need to do because it hurts.

Steve: Yeah. And that’s where I think even especially for a squat, you could modify it to try and improve. If you’re like I’m using squats to build my quads, then use a weightlifting shoe. Maybe even pause at the bottom in the hole a little bit to make it like less risky on the joints and things.

So you can do little things like. Because then you can

Mike: take weight off the bar, for people. I don’t know if people have never done pause squats. Those are also used in strength training, like pure strength training as well. Those are nice in that you can get a really good training stimulus with a bit less weight, which is now a bit easier

Steve: on your joints, right?

Yeah. A hundred percent. And then I think actually a good point with the joint and connective tissue is the fact that you might not be able to just prioritize on that muscle group for because like when you do run high volume routines, that’s one of the things that ends up. You can only do it for a certain period of time before that all catches up.

Mike: Is the duration, what are your thoughts on

Steve: duration? So I tend to find I, I actually haven’t, like I said, actually in practice. Haven’t ran that many with people when I do, it’s not normally to like a large extreme in terms of we’re absolutely specializing on this, but if I was to do it I like to think that there’s some kind of, I would call it like directed adaptation in that there’s you get the ball rolling and you see a bit of a snowball effect.

So I like to at least run two me cycles worth. Cause I think one, it’s kinda like just getting that momentum going. So I’d like at least two, maybe up to four. And I think after that period of time, that’s quite a lot already. So I would probably rotate it after.

Mike: How long would that be? Because, meso cycles the length can be different.

It sounds like you have a six week from what you were saying.

Steve: Yeah. I tend to have five weeks of accumulation one week deload and that’s how I tend to go about things. But for my kind of that intermediate to advanced trainee, they might find their four to six to maybe actually four to eight weeks, even depending like a female who’s less advanced, they might be able to extend that a little bit more.

But in general, like that would be then if you’re doing it for at least two, so 10 weeks up to doing it for 20 weeks, that would probably be where I’d look to do it for. Yeah.

Mike: Yeah. That makes sense to me. I three to four months seem to be a sweet spot for me personally. And that’s what my, I have four month macro cycles right now, and other things can work of course.

But I find that to be. Workable for me where it’s four week it’s four months of these four week meso cycles, three weeks of hard training. One week of deload do that for four months progressing from lighter weights and more reps. So more volume in that sense to. Heavier weights and fewer reps, and then ending with some am wrap unless I’ve been cutting, which I was cutting for probably about six to eight weeks.

So there’s no point to am wrap. I’m like yeah, I’m weak. I know. I don’t need to am wrap to for, it’s telling me I’m weak, but if I’m at least around maintenance calories, then it’s fun to end. Put some heavy weight on the bar and see what I can do at least for the big exercises.

Steve: Yeah. And I think that the am wraps is great because especially as you’re an advanced trainee, which anyone who’s, most people who are listening to this and going to specialization are gonna be performance is our key indicator for whether or not we’re actually growing and gaining muscle tissue.

Because like you said, at this stage, like a pound or so a year will be pretty decent. So can you see that visually in the mirror? It’s pretty hard. So especially when you are in the thick of a surplus, probably you’re gaining more fat tissue than you are muscle. Yeah. You just

Mike: Look a little bit fatter.

Exactly. You don’t know why you don’t then I get fatter or is that

Steve: muscle? I don’t know exactly. Performance is great then you can see. Okay. So I think I’ve been doing a good job with the specialization routine. Let’s pick a whatever, if we’re doing quads, let’s look at my AMRAP for my back squat.

That should probably should be improving in that deload. And as I’m doing that AMRAP, so I can compare performance over time. So I think that’s yeah, a great example. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Mike: And that’s what I use it for. I use it to gauge progress and then to recalibrate my training weights up or down.

Again, depending on mostly for me, it’s depending on nutrition and sleep and the nutrition is just calories, just energy balance. Am I in a deficit or am I maintaining but maintenance as to stay lean? Unfortunately, really what that means is you’re just in a deficit, even if it’s a slight deficit more often than you’re in a slight surplus, if you want to stay pretty lean, you can never eat exactly the amount of calories, of course, that you’re burning.

And so you have to air on the side of undereating, not overeating and then compensate for that by occasional bouts of overeating. If you just notice. You’ve lost a little bit of weight. You do it the other way. I guess you can do it the other way, but I it’s just not what most of us tend to do. Most of us tend to just, if we wanna stay lean.

We’re gonna air on the side of eating too little, not too much, right?

Steve: Yeah. I think it’s just human nature to tend to eat a little bit too much. And especially in like our modern society with all the palatable food, it’s just way too easy. So you keep a lot of those like diet habits. So you eat lean proteins, lots of fruit and veg, and then yeah, you just oh, like I seem to have lost of chunk of weight here.

I almost have that, like refeed to get you back up. And yeah, that’s a different, I guess that’s a point of which you make these sacrifices when you want that six pack year round. And I can see why you might wanna have that yeah.

Mike: Again for me, I guess I just like it, and you could say maybe it’s good for my work to some degree and I don’t compete.

And on the whole, I’m pretty happy with my physique. And so I don’t know. It just that 10 ish percent body fat range for me is a nice spot to maintain. And I can enjoy my lifestyle too. I don’t have to make any major sacrifices. I don’t have to be neurotic about my food.

I don’t have to weigh and measure everything I can just eat the stuff I like. I know the portions and make little adjustments here and there, depending on what I see in the mirror. And so that’s why I do it.

Steve: I can see the absolute appeal, especially the position I’m in right now, where it’s like you said, the kind of the diminishing returns are absolutely real at this stage of like your body building career.

Once you’re like 15 years in the amount of effort you have to put forth to gain the smallest amount is like ludicrous, but. I’m a competitor and I wanna do my best and I surf some more years in me. So we’ll see how we go. But I’m very tempted by the like maintenance more comfortable eating and being a bit leaner.

So it’ll be like your

Mike: retirement basically. That’s retirement. yeah, I

Steve: can enjoy that for a little bit.

Mike: This was this was a great discussion, Steve. I really appreciate you taking the time to do it. And why don’t we wrap up with where people can find you and find your work? If there’s anything in particular you want them to know about, let’s let them

Steve: know for sure.

Yeah. Thank you so much again, Mike, it’s been a great chat and yeah, I appreciate being invited on. I’m mostly present on Instagram, so I’m revived stronger over on Instagram and our website is revived There, you can find everything from online coaching to our, the podcast and things like this.

Yeah, if people wanna look over there, that’d be amazing. And again, thank you so much for having me on yeah,

Mike: my. 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, muscle F or 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.

I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode. And I hope to hear from you soon.

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