In 2019, my team and I published 189 articles here on the Legion blog and another 147 episodes of The Muscle for Life podcast.

As expected, most of the winners are about building muscle and losing fat, but there were quite a few surprises this year as well on topics like steroids, fad diets, and motivation. My team and I are already planning to not only expand the number of articles and podcasts we publish, but we’re also going to continue to branch out into new topics.

So, if you like what you see on this list, you’re going to love what’s coming in 2020.

Here are the top 10 articles published on Legion in 2019:

  1. Everything You Should Know About Newbie Gains, According to Science 
  2. This Is the Definitive Guide on How to Front Squat (Safely and with Proper Form)
  3. Dr. Gundry’s Plant Paradox Debunked: 7 Science-Based Reasons It’s a Scam
  4. What 33 Studies Say About the CICO Diet for Weight Loss
  5. The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Powerlifting (With a Free Training Plan!)
  6. This Is Everything You Need to Know About Trenbolone
  7. Here’s How Strong You Can Get Naturally (with Calculators), According to Science
  8. What 35 Studies Say About Winstrol and Muscle Growth
  9. The Military Diet: What 25 Studies Say About Losing 10 Pounds in 7 Days
  10. 5 Inconvenient Fitness Truths Everyone Needs to Hear

Everything You Should Know About Newbie Gains, According to Science

In just your first year of proper training, you should have no trouble increasing your whole-body strength by several hundred pounds and gaining 15 to 25 pounds of muscle (and about half that if you’re a woman).

Such is the power of “newbie gains.”

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about this phenomenon, though.

Some people say newbie gains aren’t really a thing because there’s nothing special occurring at the physiological level.

Others say newbie gains are hit-and-miss and mostly come down to genetics. Either you have it or you don’t.

Others still say most people can benefit from newbie gains but only as complete beginners and to any sort of training.

Who’s right?

The truth is if you’re new to proper weightlifting and dieting, you’ll gain more muscle and strength in your first year than ever again.

In other words, you’ll be able to make newbie gains.

What’s also true, though, is that it’s easy to cheat yourself out of this honeymoon phase if you make a few common mistakes.

And in this article, you’ll learn . . . 

  • Why newbie gains are possible
  • How much muscle you can expect to gain in your newbie phase
  • How long newbie gains last and why they eventually end
  • How to maximize your newbie gains
  • What to do when your newbie gains end
  • And more

Here’s the article:

Everything You Should Know About Newbie Gains, According to Science

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This Is the Definitive Guide on How to Front Squat (Safely and with Proper Form)

If you find the barbell back squat uncomfortable, if you can’t do it correctly due to an injury or lack of mobility, or you simply want to change it up and try something different, the front squat is probably the next best thing.

In fact, I’d argue that a combination of front squatting and other exercises (such as deadlifts) can produce leg development on par with back squatting.

That surprises many casual gym goers, though, because to them, the front squat looks like a painfully awkward way to strangle yourself with a barbell.

And when you’re first learning to front squat, you might find the setup a little painful, you’re definitely going to feel awkward, and you’re likely to question the wisdom of holding a heavy barbell against your throat.

Fortunately, the exercise isn’t nearly as difficult or dangerous as it looks. If you know what you’re doing and put in enough reps, the bar, arm, and wrist positions become comfortable and the movement becomes simple and smooth.

This article is going to help get you there.

In it, you’ll learn: 

  • The muscles the front squat trains
  • How to front squat with picture-perfect form
  • Three worthwhile front squat variations
  • How to do safe and effective front squat workouts that work
  • And more

Here’s the article: 

This Is the Definitive Guide on How to Front Squat (Safely and with Proper Form)

Dr. Gundry’s Plant Paradox Debunked: 7 Science-Based Reasons It’s a Scam

For several years now Dr. Steven Gundry’s The Plant Paradox has been the diet book to read, which claims the conventional advice of eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is flawed and in many cases even harmful.

In other words, according to Dr. Gundry, many of the foods you’ve been told were good for you contain substances that spark “chemical warfare” in your body and insidiously undermine your health over time.

Gluten, dairy, and sugar—the usual suspects—are fingered, but so is another component of many fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains that many people haven’t heard of: lectins.

These little “splinters of protein,” as Dr. Gundry calls them, purportedly wreak havoc in the body, causing weight gain, “leaky gut,” cancer, and heart, brain, and autoimmune disease, as well as a slew of nuisances like acne, gas, morning stiffness, joint pain, migraines, and chronic pain and fatigue.

In fact, lectins are so destructive that Dr. Gundry denounces them as the common cause for most health problems, full stop. Thus, he says, it’s time to slaughter the sacred nutrition cow of generally eating more plant food, because it’s making people sick, fat, and ultimately dead.

Is that true? 

Well, no, and this article will show you why.

In it, you’ll learn . . .

  • What lectins are and how they actually affect your body
  • Why Dr. Gundry’s supplement company is a scientifically bankrupt scam
  • The problems with following a lectin-free diet
  • A better way to eat than the diet outlined in The Plant Paradox
  • And more

Here’s the article:

Dr. Gundry’s Plant Paradox Debunked: 7 Science-Based Reasons It’s a Scam

What 33 Studies Say About the CICO Diet for Weight Loss

It’s not surprising that after several decades of fake doctors, fitness gurus, and marketers shilling complex diets like The Plant Paradox diet, the ketogenic diet, the carnivore diet, the military diet, and the like, many people are yearning for a simpler approach.

Something like the “calories in, calories out” diet, aka the CICO diet.

Proponents promise that it’s the simplest, most reliable, and effective way to lose weight, and that once you try it you’ll never try another weight loss diet again.

Critics say that while it can help you lose weight, it does so at the cost of your long-term health.

Who’s right?

The short answer is that the CICO diet isn’t really a diet at all. It simply describes the mechanism by which all diets work and have always worked—eating fewer calories than you burn.

As the old saying goes, though, everything old is new again, and in this article, you’re going to learn why the CICO diet is being exhumed once more.

By the end, you’ll know . . .

  • What the CICO diet is
  • Why people follow the CICO diet
  • What the benefits and downsides of the CICO diet are
  • A better way to eat than the CICO diet
  • And more

Here’s the article: 

What 33 Studies Say About the CICO Diet for Weight Loss

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Powerlifting (With a Free Training Plan!)

Powerlifting has become more and more popular in the past few decades, and you’ve probably heard many different things about this sport.

Many people associate powerlifting with being big and strong, but not very lean or “aesthetic.”

There’s even an old joke in the fitness world that goes, “If you can’t get lean enough for bodybuilding, you can always try powerlifting.”

Many people also have reservations about powerlifting because they’re worried they’ll get injured, which is understandable if you watch any of the gruesome powerlifting “fail” videos swirling around on the Internet.

There’s also the less common but still prevalent idea that most powerlifters are just fit guys and gals with freakishly good genetics for pushing and pulling heavy things. In other words, it’s a sport for strong people, but not a sport that will make you strong.

So, if you have a lot of conflicting emotions about whether or not you should try powerlifting, I understand.

Once you peek under the hood of powerlifting and learn what’s actually involved, you’ll quickly realize the truth:

  • It’s not all about getting as big and strong as possible regardless of how much fat you gain.
  • It’s not dangerous compared to most sports when done properly.
  • It’s not reserved for the freakishly strong genetic elite.

In fact, the reality of powerlifting is that . . .

  • It’s one of the single best ways to gain muscle and strength
  • It’s an outstanding sport for both beginner and advanced lifters, and everyone in between.
  • It’s one of the healthiest and safest ways to stay in shape, assuming you follow a well-designed program and use proper technique.

The bottom line is that if you’re new to lifting weights or an old hand who’s interested in getting as strong as possible, you want to learn about powerlifting.

And this article breaks it all down, and includes a simple beginner powerlifting program at the end.

Here’s the article: 

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Powerlifting (With a Free Training Plan!)

This Is Everything You Need to Know About Trenbolone

Read anything about steroids, and sooner or later you’ll learn about trenbolone, aka “tren.”

It’s regarded as a high risk, high reward steroid—a drug used by top-level bodybuilders, powerlifters, and athletes to put the finishing touches on an already impressive physique.

If regular ‘ol testosterone is jet fuel for muscle gains, tren is the afterburner.

Fans of trenbolone claim it will help you . . .

  • Build muscle and gain strength faster than any other steroid
  • Avoid many of the normal side effects associated with taking large amounts of testosterone (man boobs, bloating, etc.)
  • Lose fat and “harden up” better than any other drug

. . . with the end result being a jacked, lean, dry, and strong version of your former self.

This prize comes at a cost, though.

Although it’s true that trenbolone’s side effects are different than testosterone, in many respects it’s more dangerous and damaging.

So, if you’re curious about the effects of trenbolone, you want to read this article. In this, you’ll learn . . . 

  • What trenbolone is
  • How trenbolone works
  • Why people take trenbolone in addition to testosterone and other steroids
  • How to tell if someone is on trenbolone
  • The side effects of trenbolone
  • And more

Here’s the article: 

This Is Everything You Need to Know About Trenbolone

Here’s How Strong You Can Get Naturally (with Calculators), According to Science

Some people say that with enough hard work, patience, and food, you can get as strong as you want.

It’s just a matter of your work ethic, grit, and trenbolone dedication.

On the other hand, others say that while you can gain plenty of strength relative to where you started, you’ll have achieved most of the strength available to you after just a few years of lifting.

You’ll find convincing arguments on both sides replete with research, anecdotes, and examples, and to even further muddy the waters, the runaway rise of steroid use has made the discussion even more convoluted.

Some people say steroids don’t impact strength much while others scoff at such claims and explain how steroids can skyrocket your strength to unnaturally high levels.

What to make of all this?

Well, the short story is that if you’re new to weightlifting, you can get much stronger than you currently are, and if you’re an experienced lifter, you may still be able to get considerably stronger.

That said, it isn’t going to come easy—it’s going to take years of diligent, difficult, deliberate training and eating to get there.

What’s also true is that as a natural lifter, you’ll never be as strong as you would be with steroids. Just as with muscle gain, steroids give you a tremendous advantage with gaining strength.

In this article, you’re going to learn more or less everything you need to know about how to get as strong as possible naturally. You’ll learn:

  • What is strength?
  • What determines how strong you can get?
  • How much do steroids help with strength gain?
  • How strong can you get naturally?
  • What rep range is best for gaining strength?
  • And more.

Here’s the article: 

Here’s How Strong You Can Get Naturally (with Calculators), According to Science

What 35 Studies Say About Winstrol and Muscle Growth

When the Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson was popped for pinning steroids, his drug of choice turned out to be a chemical known as stanozolol, aka Winstrol.

Johnson denied taking steroids at first, but was promptly stripped of his recent world record and the one he’d set a year before. Later, he admitted to taking steroids such as Winstrol and testosterone since 1981, and was banned for life from professional sprinting after he failed another drug test in 1993.

Although Johnson made stanozolol famous, it’s been used by sprinters, bodybuilders, and athletes of all stripes long before Johnson got busted and is still used today.

It’s known as one of the best steroids for cutting, helping people gain moderate amounts of muscle without any increase in water weight or body fat.

What does the science say, though? 

Why are athletes still risking their careers to reap its benefits?

Why do bodybuilders, powerlifters, and amateur weightlifters take it?

And what are the side effects?

Well, you’re going to learn the answers to all of these questions in this article. You’ll learn:

  • What Winstrol is
  • Why people take Winstrol
  • What the Winstrol side effects are
  • How to tell if someone is taking Winstrol
  • And more.

Here’s the article: 

What 35 Studies Say About Winstrol and Muscle Growth

The Military Diet: What 25 Studies Say About Losing 10 Pounds in 7 Days

The military diet has developed something of a cult following online.

Unlike more mainstream weight loss diets like the ketogenic diet, carnivore diet, and detox diets, there’s remarkably little information on the military diet.

It seems to have arisen from the bowels of the Internet around mid-2012, but exactly where it came from and who created it is a total mystery, even to the proponents.

Go clicking for answers and you’ll quickly glean a few facts about this diet:

  • It revolves around eating a very strict meal plan of specific foods for three days per week, and then eating a low-calorie but relatively normal diet the other four days of the week.
  • It’s billed as the “secret” diet used by the military to get new recruits in fighting shape, as well as by actors, models, and other celebrities to drop weight as quickly as possible.
  • If you follow the diet to a T, you can expect to lose up to 10 pounds in 7 days, according to the proponents.
  • Aside from the basic military diet meal plan and eating schedule (which we’ll go over in a moment), there’s no official military diet and the recommendations and rules vary based on who you ask.

Despite it’s mysterious origins, it’s still wildly popular, as evidenced by the 150,000 people who search for it every month online.

Like many weight loss diets it has an attractive schtick:

  • You only have to follow the military diet meal plan 3 days per week.
  • You can still enjoy some normal foods while following the diet.
  • You don’t have to follow the diet forever to lose weight.
  • You can lose “up to 10 pounds per week.”
  • You don’t have to exercise.

That’s the sales pitch, but how does it work in reality?

Well, you’re going to learn the answer to that question and several more in this article. You’ll learn: 

  • Why is it called the military diet?
  • What are you supposed to eat on the military diet?
  • Will the military diet actually help me lose 10 pounds of fat in a week?
  • Is the military diet safe? 
  • And more

Here’s the article: 

The Military Diet: What 25 Studies Say About Losing 10 Pounds in 7 Days

5 Inconvenient Fitness Truths Everyone Needs to Hear

You can find countless articles, posts, and tweets about how getting in shape will benefit your life. 

What you’ll often find, though, is that the “influencers” writing this pap tend to steer clear of the topics that people new to fitness need to hear most.

The truth is that getting in shape requires a lot of discomfort, struggle, and perseverance. 

It pays to know this, because you’ll be in a better position to endure the many challenges of getting in shape if you know what they are ahead of time.

The single most common failure people make when they decide to get fit is having unrealistic expectations.

They expect it to be easy.

To be fast.

To be consistent. 

And the icy splash of reality has deterred many from achieving their goals of getting a leaner, stronger, healthier body. So, in this article, you’ll learn some of the home truths about getting in shape that will help you make it through the rocky road ahead.

You’ll learn things like: 

  • The importance of accepting imperfection
  • How to admire others without demotivating yourself
  • The right way to motivate yourself to work out
  • How to stay the course when getting in shape gets difficult
  • How to deal with resistance from friends, family, and others
  • And more

Here’s the article:

5 Inconvenient Fitness Truths Everyone Needs to Hear

Honorable Mention

A Simple and Accurate Weight Loss Calculator (and How to Use It)

Although I originally published this article several years ago, I updated it this year with a brand new and much better calculator. Now, not only will it help you plan your calories and macros for losing weight, it also shows you how fast you can expect to lose fat without losing muscle and how long you’ll need to cut to reach your desired body fat percentage. 

Here’s the article:

A Simple and Accurate Weight Loss Calculator (and How to Use It)

That’s All for 2019, Folks

If you read these 10 articles, you’re going to know more about strength training, muscle building, and fat loss than most everyone in the gym.

Whether you’re totally new to fitness and are looking to make a fresh start this year, or are a veteran gym rat chasing that next notch in your (weightlifting) belt, you can get a lot out of these articles.

I hope you enjoy reading everything as much as I enjoyed creating it, and there’s a lot more to come this year!

Oh, and if you enjoy content like this and want to be notified when new articles go live, make sure you sign up for email updates from the blog!

What would you like me to write about in 2020? What can I do better? Let me know in the comments below!