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In this installment of the Best of Muscle For Life, you’ll hear hand-picked clips from three popular MFL episodes: an interview with Kyle Hunt on “powerbuilding” for getting bigger and stronger, a monologue on beating food cravings, and a book club episode with my top takeaways from Peak Performance.

Some people—my favorite people—listen to most or even all of my podcasts, but my wizbang analytics tell me that while many listeners tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every installment of Muscle for Life and thus miss out on insights that could help them do at least a little better inside and outside the gym.

That’s why I do “best of” episodes that contain a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from the more popular episodes I’ve published over the years. This way, you can learn interesting insights that you might have otherwise missed and find new episodes of the show to listen to.

So, in this installment of The Best of Muscle for Life, you’ll be hearing hand-picked morsels from three episodes:

Kyle Hunt on Using “Powerbuilding” to Get Bigger and Stronger

(Originally published 6/29/2020)

How to Beat Food Cravings and Stick to Your Diet

(Originally published 7/1/2020)

Book Club: Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

(Originally published 9/29/2017)

And we’ll be starting with number one, Kyle Hunt on Using “Powerbuilding” to Get Bigger and Stronger.


0:00 – Find the Perfect Strength Training Program for You:

1:36 – Kyle Hunt on Using “Powerbuilding” to Get Bigger and Stronger

10:55 – How to Beat Food Cravings and Stick to Your Diet

19:06 – Book Club: Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

Mentioned on the show: 

Find the Perfect Strength Training Program for You in Just 60 Seconds:

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 muscle for life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for another installment of the best of muscle for life, where you will hear handpicked morsels from three popular muscle for life episodes that I have recorded over the years. The first one is an interview I did with Kyle Hunt, fellow podcaster and author on power building for getting bigger and stronger at the same time.

And then there will be some clips from a monologue I recorded on beating food cravings, and finally, a few highlights from a book club episode, where I shared my top takeaways from the book peak performance, before we sink our teeth into it. Have you ever wondered what strength training split you should follow?

What rep ranges you should work in how many sets you should do per workout or per week? Well, I created a free 62nd training quiz that will answer those questions for you and others, including how frequently you should train each major muscle group, which exercises you should do, what supplements you should consider, which ones are at least worth taking and more to take this quiz and to get your.

Personalized training plan, go to muscle for muscle forr quiz. Answer the questions and learn exactly what to do in the gym to gain more muscle and strength. Let’s get to it. Shelly, let’s start with Kyle Hunt on using power building to get bigger and stronger. When we’re talking about power building.

One thing that really is important is we gotta see, like, where are you coming from? Because a lot of people either start with a bodybuilding focus or a powerlifting focus. Like for me, actually, it’s kind of ironic because I compete in powerlifting. But when I first started lifting, I think this probably had to do with me being just a smaller kid growing up, I was really only focused on body building.

Like my first probably. I don’t know, four or five years of training, I really only cared about bodybuilding. Now that might have also been because at the time, and I graduated high school, my 2000 nines, we’re talking my 2004, 2005 to 2009, there wasn’t much of a power lifting scene back then, at least not that I had access to.

And most of the information I was getting was bodybuilding magazines. So that was what I was interested in. So for someone like me, I mean, I spent four or five years. Focused on just body building training 100%. Yeah. So then when I transitioned to power lifting, I already had that big base of muscle building before I even started power lifting.

So that’s a little bit different than if you would’ve just, you know, focused 100% on power lifting and then switched to bodybuilding. Well, you have a couple different ways to actually program it. I kind of like to look at it in three different ways. So we have like the first option, which I. Jim WEELA really popularized with 5 31.

I mean, 5 31 was probably much the first introduction to percentage based training for a lot of people. And the first program that actually had built in progressions and stuff. But the way that’s set up is you do your main lift of the day. So like squat bench, deadlifter and overhead press for lower reps, kinda like the strength work and then throw.

Accessory work for accumulating volume. That’s one way. Then you have the second way, which is more like the D U P model. I think Lane back in the day Lane Norton had his fat program where it was like the first couple days of the week are power based strength based where it’s, you know, you’re focusing on squat bench, deadlift, overhead, press rose, things like that for low reps.

Higher weight. So those are like the strength days. And then later in the week, more accessories, more like quote, unquote, body building work, higher volume, and you kind of just run that. Then there’s a third model, which I actually tend to gravitate towards a little bit more. And it’s really just how you would organize normal training.

Really? When you look at a general periodization cycle. So like you said, a lot of times you start out with less specific, higher volume stuff, and then you slowly work towards higher intensity. Now. You can hear people they’re already like, okay. Then there’s a couple things why people got away from traditional linear puritization and then they started focusing on conjugate and D P they’d say, well, all right, well, if you’re in a hypertrophy block, and if you’re kind of moving in one direction for a long time stacking together, 2, 3, 4 training blocks of building muscle.

What’s that gonna do to your strength work? So I think that’s kind of answers your question. Here’s like, well, what can we do during those hypertrophy blocks to actually make it a power building program? And one of the things I like to do, one of the, probably the simplest ways is to pick a few exercises that you want to maintain or actually gain strength on.

So an easy, I mean, the ones that work really well are power movements. So squat bench dev deadlift, and just throw in some strength work. Not lower volume, so you’re not gonna affect your actual muscle building work. A good way to do it is just to work up to a heavier shingle, like between seven to eight RPE, which is probably roughly 90% of your one RM.

Do that work up to that. And then. Jump right into your normal work. Yeah, no, I’m a big fan of D P style training. That’s I mean, I’ve used it a lot on my program, my eBooks and stuff. I’ve used a lot at D P because it does kind of offer you the best of both worlds. And one of the things I like to do with it is I like to use the D P model from a weekly standpoint, but then also layer in the linear aspect of it too.

And I found that if you keep the rep ranges closer together. So like, for example, if we’re doing a DEP program, but if we’re in a. Hypertrophy block. The rep ranges might be like 10, 8, 6. Yeah. You know, versus something where, cause I think sometimes where people will mess up, they’ll say like, okay, well, why don’t we just throw it all into one training block?

We’ll do 10 to 12 reps one day. Five reps the next day and then singles the last day. And then it’s like, oh, we’re doing everything. Well, then that’s where we’re kind of watered down. We’re like, okay, we’re not really enough volume to build muscle, not really enough intensity to build strength. So what are we really doing?

And if you were to give people listening a simple template saying, Hey, you want to give this a go here, try this. What would that look like? Yeah. I mean, I love upper lower splits for this because. The way it works out is, I mean, you can set it up a lot of different ways. So if you can do upper lower beginning of the week where you’re doing higher rep stuff, and then the upper lower later in the week is a completely different rep range.

Let’s say we’re starting out in a hypertrophy block. So it’s like, okay, we’re gonna do power building, but we’re gonna start focused on building muscle. So we’ll do upper lower for the most part. We’ll have the rear ranges, let’s say eight to 10, but we’re working up to one or two sets of. One to three reps, like we talked about and we can run that for three weeks and then the next block could be another pretty much hypertrophy block where, but we changed the rep ranges a little bit.

So instead of, you know, eight to 10 and six to eight, it’s six to eight and four to six, and then kind of work to the point where now we’re getting into more of a strength focus. Yeah. But we’ve kept in. The strength the entire time, but then when we’re into the strength focused, we’ll still do the accessory movements.

So we’re still accumulating volume to get the best of both worlds. For the most part, we want to be in that 10 to 20 hard sets range for each muscle group for the most part volume is something you always want to kind of start on the low end. And then if you need to add more, but yeah, 10 to 20 sets for the most.

Per muscle group per week is a good spot to be in. And you know, when we’re in the strength phases, we’ll probably actually want to have a little bit lower volume, just so we can account for the extra intensity on the main lifts. Cause when we’re talking hard sets that works really well for things over like six reps.

But when we’re focusing on the strength stuff to equate volume, we almost have to get into the total tonnage. So sets times reps, times weight, and that can get a little squirly. So I’ve just found that when intensity’s higher volume almost has to go down. So if you’re someone who is caught up on, okay, I wanna do as much volume as possible.

That’ll probably work when we’re not doing as much strength work. So you can get closer to that 20. Sets per week, but when we’re doing more strength work stuff under six reps with the intensity higher, so intensity closer to one RMS, you’ll probably wanna back the volume down touch. And as we get into later on in our overall macro cycle, when we start to move from initially, we’re doing mostly hypertrophy work with just the strength maintenance, and then we actually get into strength blocks.

What we’ll find is, I mean, then we’ll start. I mean, we’re essentially just adding sets to our strength work. That’s where we’re just, you know, we could start our workout instead of, you know, we did worked up to one heavy triple, well, now we’re doing three or four sets of triples. I think it sounds a little bit more complicated than it probably is.

I think if people saw it. Like on a piece of paper, if actually we’re listening right now, taking notes and laid this out. You’d see it. And it would all come together a little bit easier, but there are some pros and cons to power building programs. I mean, the biggest thing is, you know, when we’re trying to blend two things together, you’re probably not going to get the absolute most out of either one.

You know what I’m trying to say? So it’s however I would say that you can, for most people, that’s not gonna be a concern. You know, you can build as much muscle and gain as much strength following this style of training is really, you want, however, if you wanna compete in powerlifting, then Hey, I mean the more we can actually spend prioritizing the power lifting movements.

The better now, like we said, I mean, building, muscle’s still important to strength because the more muscle you have, the more potential you have for strength, but once you get further down the power lifting rabbit hole, you start asking the question. Okay. Well, the really, the only thing we’re going for is what increases our squat bench and deadlift.

So for example, your upper body work would pretty much all revolve around the bench breast. It’s like how much volume can. Shuttle towards the bench press and what actually, and how much can we support it with accessory work? Yeah. Yeah. So it’s like our accessory work is pretty much going to be.

Cater towards the bench. Then you start asking the question like, okay, well, how much do we really get out of an overhead press? Is that, you know, adding to what we can bench? No. Well, let’s get it out. Let’s throw in a close grip bench press. Does that really, maybe take that out. Let’s put in dumbbell benching, you know, how much rows do we need to do for shoulder help and front upper back work.

Three sets. Okay. Well that’s all we’ll do. Do we need biceps? Probably not. No. Do we need triceps? Yeah, probably a little bit of triceps and there’s the upper body workout. And that’s it for the featured moments from Kyle Hunt on using power building to get bigger and stronger. And if you want to check out the whole interview, it was originally published in June of 2020.

So you can go back in the podcast feed and find it. And now let’s move on to a monologue that I recorded called how to beat food, cravings, and stick to your. So what is a food craving? Well, according to the good people over at Miriam Webster, a craving is a very strong desire for something, but that doesn’t quite capture the real flavor of the food craving.

Does it? I think this is a little bit more accurate. It’s an intense, urgent, and often abnormal desire or long. While hunger is a very great need for food, really, of any kind, a craving is the desire for a specific food. It’s a classic case of needs versus wants. Fortunately, you don’t beat food cravings by ignoring hunger and just starving yourself.

A high level overview of some of the more common causes can help us overcome our desire to UE. All of our gains research shows that people who tend to experience strong food cravings also have an increased risk of alcohol abuse. And as drinking is known to increase the likelihood of over. Eating and it also enhances fat storage.

A slippery slope starts to come into view here. So you have food cravings that lead to overeating and drinking, which then leads to more overeating and drinking, which then leads to rapid fat gain. We also know that people with a family history of alcohol dependence show a preference for sweet. Foods suggesting a genetic basis for the connection between alcohol abuse and food cravings emotions can make you want to eat and negative ones in particular, a lot more so than positive ones.

For example, studies have shown that anger, sadness and boredom are all reliable triggers for food cravings and scientists think that maybe it is a way to kind. Self medicate, right. To increase brain serotonin levels and make us feel better. That doesn’t mean we have to eat our feelings away though.

There are other good ways to deal with negative feelings. One go-to for me is exercise and research shows that is always a good. Solution, because you’re not gonna be thinking about cookies. If you’re trying to hit a PR and even something as simple as a stimulating game or a walk outside has been shown to unfix people’s attention from food and allow them to, you could say ride the wave of the craving without giving into it without crashing and allowing it to subside.

They can move on with their day without having to wrestle with this strong desire to eat bad things. It is satisfying to turn to sweet supplement foods, to take the edge off of a rough day and while. Acute stress can actually suppress the appetite because it puts the body into its fight or flight mode, the chronic type of stress, the lower volume, but regular ever present variety has been linked to food cravings.

And the reason for that is during times of stress, our body copes in various ways, one mechanism is the activation of the hypothalamic pituitary. Access the HPA access, which is a complex set of interactions between three glands in the body of the hypothalamus. You have the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands.

And when that system is activated, cortisol levels increase and then that can increase the desire to. Eat, generally speaking, the more rigid your diet is the more you’re gonna struggle with food cravings. For example, research shows that strict dieting strategies, so ones that revolve around limiting the foods that you can eat are associated with eating disorder symptoms and higher BMIs.

Higher body weights, essentially, relative to height, whereas flexible dieting strategies are not. And so what that means is if you’re the type of person who is prone to cravings, then one of the worst things you can do is to try to follow a diet that just. Makes certain foods completely off limits that forbids things that you would normally like to eat.

So let’s talk about how to level up your mental game to better keep cravings under control. So, first is mental imagery because many food cravings begin with some sort of sensory exposure to a particular food. So, you know, you might be driving along, just minding your business and then suddenly your car smells like a giant French.

And you see it, the golden arches and the poster of the gleaming deep fried goodies. And then the juices start to pool in your mouth. As you imagine, digging into an overflowing carton of little nibbles, and now you can’t get the image outta your mind. And research shows that the more vivid that imagery is the stronger the craving is likely to feel.

And what that means then is you can turn that same mental machinery against. Cravings, you can get it to work for you instead of against you. And at least you can turn the cravings down a bit. Maybe you can turn ’em off, maybe not, but minimally you can mitigate them. And the way to do that is actually very simple.

So when a craving strikes just finds something, Else to visualize vividly in your mind, instead of the food really experience, whatever it is with your mind’s eye, the colors, the smells, the sounds, the emotion, the tactile feedback. If you can hold that creation in your mind for up to maybe several minutes, you should find that the craving has become far less compelling and something that has worked for me.

Is to remember something that was pleasurable. So remember a vacation, for example, not the eating part of the vacation, but an activity during a vacation. That was very fun. And to recreate that in my mind, another simple option is just picking up your phone and playing some sort of visually stimulating game for a few minutes.

And research shows that even Teris can work for this. Yes Teris can block cravings. A lot of interesting studies out. Spent a lot of research has been done that shows how mindfulness based interventions can improve mental and physical health and comparably to other psychological interventions. And so, anyway, the definition given by CBET Zin is awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment.

Nonjudgmentally and research shows that if you can do that, you can improve your diet experience. In several ways, you can lower your levels of food cravings. You can reduce the focus on good versus bad foods. You can improve satisfaction with your body and you can experience less emotional. And external eating.

And there are several ways to do this, to incorporate this type of mindfulness into your diet regimen. Some people find that meditation is very helpful. There are some mindful eating techniques that can help too. Very simple. So for example, when you eat, if you slow down and just be more consciously aware of the sensations that you’re experiencing and of.

Thoughts and your feelings maybe about what you’re eating or just food in general. Really the idea here is just focus on the whole experience of eating. If you can do that, then you are more likely to find satisfaction in what you’re eating to finish a meal, less hungry and less desirous of more. All right.

That’s it for the snippets, from how to beat food cravings and stick to your diet. If you liked what you heard and want to hear more, you can find that in July of 2020, and now let’s move on to the final episode featured or highlight reel, I guess, featured in this episode. And that is a book club episode that I did on the book peak performance by Brad Stolberg and Steve Magnus.

If you want a detailed and practical overview of the science of optimizing both your mental and physical performance, then I think you’re gonna like this book. It explores three primary topics, how to use stress and recovery to stimulate progress and growth, how to prime and prepare yourself for optimal performance and how to tap into the power.

Purpose. Okay. So let’s get to my takeaways. Here’s the first one. If you are interested in really improving as a performer, I would suggest incorporating the rhythm of stress and recovery into all aspects of your life. And my note here is that many people’s lives are horribly imbalanced. When view through the lens of stress and recovery, the majority of people are striving to minimize stress of any kind and maximize.

Relaxation and recovery, which makes for easy living, but also personal stagnation and dissatisfaction, which of course is its own type of existential crisis. And then there’s the minority of us that refuse to take a break from stressful activities and make time for recovery, which makes for burnout syndrome and just general malaise.

And I myself have been on both sides of this equation at different times of my. When I was younger, I would say I was a bit lazy and listless and over the last five years or so, I’ve definitely experienced being frenetic and uneasy. And I can say that while both have their silver linings, the former has, you know, comfort and the latter has accomplishment.

They both suck just in different ways. So the challenge then, and this has been a personal challenge for me as. Kind of finding your own personal Goldilock zone, the sweet spot, where you’re exposing yourself to enough stress in enough areas of your life to continue growing and improving, but not so much that the costs outweigh the benefits.

Reframing stress as something that’s constructive rather than destructive is more powerful than you might think, because it not only positively influences how you view and feel about the situations that you’re dealing with. It also impacts your physiology studies show that people who react to stress with a challenge, response, release, more of a hormone called D H E a than those who don’t.

And this hormone counteracts the negative effects of cortisol, which of course goes up when you’re stressed and can even confer various. Health benefits. All right, take away. Number three, the best performers are not consistently great, but they are great at being consistent. They show up every day and they do the work.

And my note here is Steven King wrote about this in his memoir on writing. He said, quote, don’t wait for the muse. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re gonna be every day from nine till noon or seven till three. If he knows, I assure you he’ll start showing up. And this really is the unsexy reality of success.

A lot of it just comes down to doing the things that most people don’t want to do and doing them each and every day. Regardless of what you are doing, whether you’re using your body, mind, or soul repeating a purpose driven mantra during times of fear, pain or apprehension can yield big benefits doing so grounds us attenuates negative emotions and quiets our ego.

So my note here is that it is well established that self talk can boost performance. And especially when our bodies and minds are telling us to quit. For example, according to one of the co-authors. Who by the way is the cross country coach at the university of Houston when elite runners start feeling pain and discomfort in their workouts, which they all do by the way, just as much as the rest of us, they respond differently than most people do.

Instead of thinking about how painful it is and how much worse it’s gonna get, or trying to just force their way through or fight against what they’re feeling. They have a calm conversation with themselves that goes something like this. This is starting to hurt. Which it should, I’m running hard, but I’m separate from this pain.

It’s gonna be okay. I’ll just keep going. In other words, what they do is they decide how to respond to the stress of the workout and it makes all the difference in their mindset. It helps them relax and thus their performance. They put up better times. I think this is a great strategy for dealing with stressful situations of all kinds in any area of our lives.

The this two shall pass mentality can be very powerful. Okay. Final takeaway students who were forced to struggle on complex problems before receiving help from teachers, outperformed students who received immediate assistance. The authors of these studies summarize their findings in a simple yet elegant statement skills come from struggle.

I like that skills come from struggle. This is a very powerful idea and a very powerful statement, I think, to include in your own self-talk, whenever you’re struggling through some situation or painful activity, as us weightlifters know growth occurs at the point of resistance and often is preceded by failure, which then allows for.

Productive reconstruction, or if we take the metaphor outside of the gym, productive reflection and analysis toward some sort of solution to the situation. So remember that the next time that you are facing a challenge that feels barely manageable, or maybe even a little outta control, these are the situations.

These are the struggles that grow your skills. Alrighty, that’s it for what I thought were some of the more interesting moments in my book club episode on peak performance by Brad Stolberg and Steve Magnus. And if you want to hear the rest of the episode, it was published in September of 2017. Well, I hope you liked this episode.

I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show, because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.

And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email Mike muscle for, muscle For 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.

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