This episode is one of the chapters of the new second edition of my bestselling book for experienced weightlifters, Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, which is live now at www.bblsbook.com.
In this book, you’ll learn science-based and time-proven formulas for eating and training that’ll help you shatter muscle and strength plateaus, set new personal records, and build your best body ever.
And better yet, you’ll do it without following restrictive or exotic diets, putting in long hours at the gym, or doing crushing workouts that leave you aching from tip to tail.
Also, to celebrate this momentous occasion, I’m giving away over $6,000 of glorious goodies, including . . .
- 30-minute Zoom call with yours unruly
- Vitamix blender
- WHOOP fitness tracker
- $200 Lululemon gift card
- One month of Legion VIP coaching
- Inzer weightlifting belt
- And much more . . .
All you have to do for a chance to win is…
- Head over to bblsbook.com, and buy a copy of BBLS 2.0 (any format)
- Forward the receipt email to [email protected]
. . . and voila, you’re entered in the giveaway.
You have to act fast, though, because the launch bonanza ends and the winners will be chosen on October 16th.
You can also increase your chances of winning by buying extra copies of the book (any formats). Specifically . . .
- If you buy 3 copies, you’ll get 5 giveaway entries (+400% chance to win).
- If you buy 5 copies, you’ll get 8 giveaway entries (+700% chance to win).
- If you buy 10 copies, you’ll get 15 giveaway entries (+1400% chance to win) plus an autographed copy of the book.
So, for instance, if you buy the paperback, ebook, and audiobook, you’ll get 5 entries to win, and if you buy 3 paperbacks as well as the ebook and audiobook, you’ll get 8 entries, and so forth.
And what are you going to do with extra books, you’re wondering?
You could give them to your workout buddies, donate them to your local library, hurl them at unpleasant children, I don’t know—there are so many options when you think about it.
Anyway, to learn more about the giveaway and get your copy of Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger 2.0, head over to www.bblsbook.com.
Alright, let’s get to the episode.
6:37 – What is a training plateau?
8:07 – What causes plateaus?
15:51 – Poor nutrition and how it contributes to plateaus
18:42 – How much carbohydrate should I be eating to maximize muscle growth?
20:27 – Poor recovery and how it contributes to plateaus
26:08 – How do you break through a plateau?
44:51 – Is your training properly periodized?
48:38 – Lack of proper sleep and how it contributes to plateaus
52:08 – Are you eating enough?
55:24 – Are you deloading enough?
58:52 – Are you using good form?
1:02:00 – Are you doing too much cardio?
Mentioned on the show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
It sucks to feel stuck. It is frustrating, demotivating, and often confusing, especially when you’re showing up every day and putting in the work. Now, that’s true of most activities, certainly of weightlifting, and if unresolved, a lack of progress leads to extremism, complacency, or quitting. And usually in that order first, there are the brutal, excessive training regimens that may get the needle moving again, but end in burnout or injury.
And then comes the resignation, the acceptance that meaningful improvement is no longer in the cards, and then workouts just become a chore, like brushing your teeth or doing your laundry. And finally, the will to go on expires and the towel is tossed. It doesn’t have to be that way though. While you cannot.
Avoid training plateaus. They are normal. They will happen. Unless you’ve reached your genetic potential for muscle and strength, you never have to remain in a rut indefinitely. With the right know-how and the right actions, you can always reach the next level of body composition and performance, even if it’s only a slight improvement, and that’s what this podcast is going to be.
About. Also, to celebrate this momentous occasion, I’m giving away over $6,000 of glorious goodies, including a 30 minute zoom call with yours, Unruly. That’s priceless. Of course. A vitamin X blender, a whoop fitness tracker, a $200 gift card, one month of legion v i p coaching, and more. Now, all you have to do for a chance to win all those cool things is head over to www.blsbook.com and buy a copy of BLS 2.0.
Any format, ebook, paperback, audiobook, whichever one you want. And then for the receipt, email to [email protected], e i n supplements.com. And. You are entered in the giveaway. You have to act fast though because the book launch Bonanza ends and the winners will be chosen on October 16th. Now, you can also increase your chances of winning by buying extra copies of the book.
Again, any formats, and specifically, if you buy three copies of the book instead of one, you will get five giveaway entries. So that is a plus 400% chance to win. If you buy five copies, you’ll get eight giveaway entries. That is a plus 700% chance to win. And if you buy 10 copies, you are going to get 15 giveaway entries, which is a plus 1400% chance to win.
And if you. 10 copies, you are going to get an autographed copy of the book as well, that you don’t have to win, you’re just gonna get it. So for instance, if you buy the paperback ebook and audiobook, that’s three copies. You’ll get five entries to win. And then if you buy three paperbacks as well as the ebook and audiobook, that is five copies and you’ll get eight entries and so forth.
And what are you gonna do with extra books? You’re wondering you could give them to your workout buddies, you could donate them to your local library. You could hurl them at Unpleasant children. I don’t know. There are many options when you think about it. Anyway, to learn more about the giveaway and to get your copy or copies of Beyond Bigger Than or Stronger 2.0, head over to www dot bls book.
So let’s start with what a plateau is, because whenever people tell me that they’re stuck in the gym, my first question is, what do you mean? What do you mean by stuck? Because sometimes it turns out they are making progress, but just not as much as they would like, or maybe not as quickly as they would like.
For instance, this is common among those whose newbie gains have recently expired, and now they’re just baff. And concerned by their inability to continue adding 10 pounds to the bar every week or two. Remember those good old days? And in this case, all that really needs to change is their expectations and their benchmarks.
Because once you are no longer a novice, once you begin your intermediate phase of your weightlifting journey, your goal should be to increase the weight of at least your key lifts, the big compound movements once every maybe two to four weeks, and to be able to do the same number of reps at that higher weight.
So in other words, just to get a little bit stronger every month or so. So for example, let’s say you are deadlifting 400 pounds for five reps in January, and then 405 pounds for five reps in February. Great. You are progressing. Now how you accomplish that will depend on the weightlifting program that you’re following.
One type of program might prescribe specific loads based on your one rep max that go up over time, which of course forces you to get stronger. It forces you to add weight to the bar on a set schedule, while another might instruct you to only increase weight once you have reached a rep target with your current working weight, like three sets of five reps in the case of starting strength, or one or two sets of six or 10 reps, like with my bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner, leaner, stronger programs.
Either way, my point is, unless you are new to the iron game, headway will be measured. Inches not feet. We’re talking about slight incremental improvements that add up over time. That is not a plateau. That is just life. Now, as an experienced weightlifter, thus after your first year or so of proper training, your attitude should be more like progress is progress not enough progress.
That is so long as your weights are going up, you are doing just fine and you don’t need to change anything. But some of you out there are wondering, What if I can do better? You probably. Can’t, and especially if you are in your third year of proper training or beyond, because the margin for improvement shrinks to the point where any progress is precious, and then eventually in time there’s really nothing left to gain in terms of muscle and strength, no matter what you do.
So getting back to the original question of what is a true training plateau, here’s how I define it. A training plateau is where the key exercises for a major muscle group are stuck at a certain. For a certain number of reps for at least three weeks. And in case you’re wondering, the key exercises are usually the compound exercises.
Of course you have the big ones, the squat, bench deadlift, and overhead press, but there are a couple of others that probably should make the list like the barbell row as well as the barbell curl. So to put this definition differently, if you have not been able to add weight or reps to any of the compound exercises, the key exercises that you’re doing for your chest or your back, legs, shoulders, and so forth, for at least three weeks in a row, you are stuck.
And that’s true even if you have progressed in your accessory or isolation exercises, because if the prime movers, the compound exercises where you can use the most weight are not moving in the right direction. If they’re just stuck, then your whole body muscle and strength is not gonna budge. Either.
Additionally, it’s easier to compromise your form and force out an extra retu now and then on an isolation exercise like the leg extension or the leg curl, for example, than it is to do that on a compound exercise like the barbell squat, and that makes the barbell squat a better benchmark of your true capabilities.
Now, let’s talk. Causes plateaus. Cause I mentioned earlier that they are normal and they are expected, and there are several reasons why people plateau. But to understand the most common one, you first have to understand how your body adapts to exercise. And we don’t need to get into the nitty gritty details here.
We can just go with the long story short, which is after about of intense resistance training, hormones and other chemicals are released in the body that trigger your muscle cells to grow bigger and stronger. Naturally, this process makes weights that were once hard to move, easier to handle, and thus less conducive to further muscle and strength gain.
Now this is why the key to continued muscle growth is forcing your muscles to. Ever harder over time, and this is mostly accomplished or best accomplished by using heavier weights and doing more volume, more hard sets per major malls group per week. When you do this, when you increase the intensity, so the amount of weight that you’re lifting, as well as the amount of work that you’re making your muscles do in each workout and do each week, you are progressively overloading them.
And if you do that enough, you will gain more muscle and strength. And if you do not achieve enough progressive overload in your training, You will not gain more muscle and strength. It’s really that simple. Now, many people don’t know this, and so they show up week after week and they do the same exercises and use the same weights and do the same amount of reps and look the same month after month and even year after year.
And what you are seeing there is no progressive overload. If there is no progressive overload, there is going to be no appreciable improvement in strength or muscularity full stop. So that’s the mechanical explanation of why most people hit a training plateau. Little or no progressive overload. And in most cases, the reason they’re falling short comes down to one or more of the following mistakes we have.
Poor workout programming, poor nutrition, and poor recovery. Let’s take a closer look at each, starting with poor workout programming. As with most things, there are many more wrong than right ways to lift weights, and sometimes it can seem rather confusing because everywhere you turn, you find yet another opinion on optimal volume, optimal training frequency, optimal exercise selection, rep ranges, and the rest of it, and without a real grounding in the fundamentals.
All but guaranteed to wind up at sea. And so we shouldn’t be surprised that most people in most gyms really don’t know what to do. They’re just constantly changing stuff. New exercises, different amounts of sets per workout and per major muscle group per week, and different amounts of reps per set and different amounts.
Weight and so on. Really just training without any rhyme or reason, which really is just exercise at that point. You can’t really call it training if there isn’t a systematic methodology that is being used to accomplish a specific goal, and that’s not to knock exercise in people who go to the gym just to exercise, and who are most interested in the health benefits of exercise and burning calories and are not so concerned with the bottom line results in terms of body composition and performance.
I think training is more fun because you have explicit goals and you work toward them, but. It’s not for everyone. Some people do just like the more laid back approach of exercise, and that’s totally fine. If you are a regular of this podcast though, I’m assuming that you are more into training than exercising, and if I’m right, then you need to make sure you are not changing too many things in your programming and in what you’re doing in the gym.
Because if you shuffle around too many of the variables too often, you will make it almost impossible to progressively overload your muscles as the margins for improvement shrink With trainee experience, it is no longer enough to just strive for good workouts. You have to. Productive workouts, and that requires paying more attention to the details to ensure that you are indeed moving ahead.
Many people don’t do this and they just stop progressing simply because of that. Another common programming mistake that causes stagnation is avoiding heavy, intense. Workouts, and of course I’m talking about weightlifting or resistance training here, and instead opting for milder training. Higher rep stuff, lower weight, not pushing as close to technical failure.
And usually this is because training hard is intimidating and it’s uncomfortable, especially as you get stronger and the weights get heavier, and as you have to keep getting stronger, those weights have to keep getting heavier over time. Middling, cozy workouts, just don’t cut it. You really have to throw your shoulder to the wheel.
Every time you step in the gym. Similarly, you can’t neglect compound exercises and expect to get anywhere. Now, if you are not familiar with the term, you’ve probably heard of a compound exercise, but if you don’t know exactly what it is simply an exercise that involves multiple major joints and muscle groups, as opposed to an isolation exercise, which involves only one or two joints or muscle groups.
So the back. Compound because it trains the upper and lower back. It trains the core, hips, butt, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Whereas a leg extension, it primarily trains your quads, making it an isolation exercise. Therefore, compound exercises deliver a lot more muscle and strength, bang for the buck than isolation exercises, which are more suited to targeting small, stubborn muscles.
Increasing the volume on these muscle groups to force them to grow. And isolation exercises are also great for correcting and even preventing muscle imbalances, and this is why any serious. Workout routine worth. Its salty sweat revolves around squatting, deadlifting, and pressing. And then it can also include some additional muscle specific work, and especially for muscle groups that tend to lag like the biceps and triceps and shoulders.
Yet, another programming blunder that puts on the brakes is not tracking your workout. Now, this is very important because to progressively overload your muscles, you need to push. And harder over time. And the only way you’re gonna be able to do that is by keeping careful records of what you’re doing.
Otherwise, you won’t know when to increase and decrease volume or weight on the bar, and you won’t know whether your strength is going up or not. Instead, you’re gonna have to just. Rely on intuition and feel, and that can work as a newbie, but it really does not work. As time goes on, it will not pan out as an intermediate and an advanced weightlifter.
Similar to how intuitively eating doesn’t pan out, if you are wanting to get very lean and preserve as much muscle as possible, you can. Start a cut that way, but eventually you are going to have to make a meal plan and weigh and measure your food and really ensure your calories and macros are where they need to be, which is a segue into the second major mistake that people make that leads them to become stuck in a rut.
And that is, Poor nutrition. Now, as you probably know, this mostly comes down to just eating enough calories and protein, and those are the two most crucial elements of dieting if we’re talking about gaining muscle and strength, your body’s muscle. Building machinery just works best when energy and protein are abundant.
High carb dieting is also generally conducive to muscle and strength gain, but carbs are not as important as calories and protein. Now, many people who are stuck in a rut don’t understand this, and they really just don’t eat enough calories or enough protein, or both consistently enough. Or maybe they do understand it, but they think that they’re eating more than they actually are.
And the good news here is you don’t have to eat that much food to maximize muscle growth. As I explain in my book, Bigger, leaner, Stronger for Calories, something around 16 to 18 calories per pound of body weight per day should get the job done for most people. Some people do need to eat a bit more, some people a bit less because that would result in too much fat gain.
But for most people, 16 to 18 calories per pound of body weight per day is a sweet spot. And as for the protein intake, something around one gram per pound of body weight per day is plenty. You can go a bit lower too, let’s say 0.8 to one gram. Now, I mentioned that carb intake is not as important as calories and protein, but it does.
Matter and many people who are into weightlifting don’t eat enough carbs and therefore don’t avail themselves of the many benefits of a higher carb diet, which include higher levels of whole body glycogen stores, which enhances performance during intense exercise. Like lifting, as well as improves muscle recovery after training and protects against symptoms related to over-training.
Research also shows that a higher carb diet improves post workout genetic signaling related to muscle growth and repair, and that it positively influences mood during intense exercise, which matters because that can t. Into better workouts, just better performance and workouts you enjoy more. And lastly, studies show that low carb diets increase cortisol and reduced testosterone levels in athletes, which can slow down muscle growth.
That is the opposite of what you want to happen with your hormone profile. If you are looking to get more jacked, you want generally low levels of cortisol. Of course, cortisol levels are going to spike when you train, and that’s fine, that’s normal. But you want generally low levels of cortisol and high levels of testosterone.
So if carbs are good for lifters, of course, the question is How much carbohydrates should you be eating to maximize muscle growth? Assuming that you’re getting, let’s say, somewhere around one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Around maybe 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day, which is just my general recommendation for fat intake for health purposes, really.
Then the rest of your calories should come from carbs. So if you’re cutting, that’s probably gonna be anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day, depending on your gender and your weight and how much you’re exercising and how lean you want to get and how deep you are into a cut, et cetera, et cetera.
And if you are maintaining, it’s probably gonna be upward of two grams per pound of body weight per day, something around there. And if you’re lean, bulking as high as maybe even three or slightly more than that, grams per pound of body. Per day. So in my case, I’m about 188 or 189 pounds right now. If I were to start Lean Bulking, I would immediately jump my carbs up to somewhere around 400 grams per day.
And as time went on, I would have to increase my calories to continue gaining muscle and. And to do that, I would just increase my carbs until I no longer wanted to increase carbs. There is a point where you get pretty sick of eating carbs. For me it’s probably around 600 grams per day. I’ve just had enough.
I don’t want to eat any more carbs, in which case I would switch to increasing protein intake if I needed to continue increasing my calories. Okay. Let’s move on to the third common mistake that people make that puts them into a rut and that. Poor recovery. Now, your progress in the gym is not just limited by how hard you can train.
It’s also limited by how well your body can recover from that training. So yeah, you can take hashtag no days off and you can brutalize yourself with tons of volume and do every advanced training technique out there, and you can still get nowhere because if you can’t recover from it, it is not going to produce more muscle and strength.
Remember, you do not get. Bigger and stronger during your workouts. That’s what happens afterward when your body repairs the damage and prepares itself for the next round of training. And for that to occur, you have to give your body the right amount of stimulus. You have the training as well as the recovery, and that means sleep and downtime and deloading, and enough food and relaxation and so forth.
Now, when you’re a beginner, this is easy. Your body responds superbly to your training, and it doesn’t take that much to gain a considerable amount of muscle and strength. And even if you do overdo it a bit, when you start out, the weights are not heavy enough to take that much of a toll on you. Now, all that changes though when you become an intermediate weightlifter because now you have to work.
Much harder to keep on gaining muscle and strength, and you have to handle much heavier weights, and that makes balancing stress and recovery trickier. You also have to avoid several common recovery mistakes that intermediate and advanced weightlifters make. Beginners make them as well, but they don’t pay for them in the same way as those of us who are more experienced.
And these mistakes include not sleeping enough. Studies show that getting sufficient sleep improves performance, recovery and alertness, whereas neglecting sleep does the exact opposite among many other negative things. And so if you are not sleeping enough and many people are not, many people are getting less than seven hours of sleep per night on average, and that is not enough sleep, You are basically guaranted.
To plateau at some point in your weightlifting journey. Also, keep in mind that just spending enough time in bed, let’s say eight hours per night, give or take, that doesn’t mean that you’re sleeping enough. Because if your sleep is restless, if it is intermittent, if it is low quality, you still may not be getting enough of the type of sleep your body needs to fully recover from your training.
So the key takeaway here is sleep hygiene is a major aspect of your fitness. Do not neglect it. Another common mistake that cuts into recovery is just not eating enough and to recover effectively, you do need to eat more calories than you. Consistently, or at least I would say to optimize your post workout recovery, you want to be in a consistent calorie surplus.
Now, many people, they don’t want to do that because yes, it does entail some fat gain, and instead, these same people will try various dietary strategies to get around the need for a calorie surplus like intermittent fasting or calorie cycling or carb cycling. And unfortunately, no dietary technique can get around the need for a calorie surplus when you’re trying to maximize muscle and strength gain.
Without that, let’s say 10% or so consistent calorie surplus muscle growth, Lag install. The final recovery mistake I want to share with you is just doing too much. Now you do have to work very hard in the gym to continue gaining muscle and strength, but you can only subject your body to so much punishment.
And this is why research shows that extremely high volume training programs actually produce worse results than lower intensity routines. So a plus for effort, but there is a point where you can do too much, where it just become. Counterproductive. And so if you’re stuck and you’re doing, let’s say six or seven heavy, hard, high volume resistance training workouts per week, or maybe not as many, maybe four or five, very difficult resistance training workouts per week, plus other very physically demanding activities on your off days, it might be time to rein yourself in and to allow for more recovery.
If you are liking this episode, you should know that it is one of the chapters of the new second edition of my best selling book for Experienced Weightlifters Beyond Bigger, Lean, Stronger, which is live right now at BBLs book. Dot com. Also, you should know that to celebrate this momentous occasion, I am giving away over $6,000 of glorious goodies, including a 30 minute zoom call with yours unruly, A Vitamix blender, a whoop fitness tracker, a $200 Lululemon gift card, one month of Legion v i p coaching and insur weightlifting belt, and much more.
And all you have to do for a chance to win is head over to BBLs book.com. Buy a copy of the book, any format, and forward the receipt email to [email protected] And voila, you are entered in the giveaway. You have to act fast though because the book launch Bonanza ends and the winners will be chosen on October six.
All right. Now that we have covered what a plateau is and the common reasons why people get stuck, let’s talk solutions. How do you break through a plateau? As there are several reasons you can get stuck. And so getting back on track is gonna require first pinpointing what’s wrong, what’s in the way, and then addressing it.
And to do that, you should reflect on six questions. One, are you training hard enough? Two, are you sleeping enough? Three, are you eating? Four. Deloading enough. Five. Are you using good form? And six, are you doing too much cardio? Let’s get into each of these. Let’s start with, are you training hard enough?
Now, I’ve said this multiple times already, but I’m gonna say it again. Many people are stuck in the gym only because they’re just not working hard enough. That’s really it. They either aren’t pushing themselves hard enough in their workouts or their workout routine is just not challenging enough, or maybe it’s a bit of both, and I totally understand that.
Early on in my weightlifting career, I spent several years, more or less just treading water because I was following poorly designed workout programs pulled from. Body building magazines mostly. And I’ve encountered many workouts where my body was just going through the motions and my mind and heart were elsewhere.
Maybe it was because of a chatty or a lazy workout partner. Maybe it was work a day worries, or maybe it was poor sleep the night before, or some nagging aches and pains or something else. No matter the reason, the fix here is the same, more effort, but how you get there depends on what’s holding you.
In particular, so is it time to let chat Cathy know that all the socializing is actually detracting from your workouts? Or maybe you could use a music playlist that gets you more fired up for your training, so you give it more effort. Or maybe you need to focus more on your training folks, your attention on what you’re doing, the mind muscle connection.
Or maybe you need to allow yourself, give yourself permission to set aside your problems and your concerns for an hour or so while you train. Maybe you should try working at a different time when you feel strongest and most energetic. For me, for example, that’s the afternoon and that’s the case for many guys.
If you are currently training early in the morning and you switch to the afternoon slot, you might be surprised at how different it is. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe you need to be more patient while you let an injury or a strain or something like that heal. So maybe you need to stop re aggravating and re reactivating what is hurting.
I know that firsthand when I was dealing with some biceps tendonitis a couple of years ago, it would not go away until I finally just stopped flat benching for several months, no matter what else I did. If I kept flat benching, it was. Going to resolve, or maybe you just need to get better at grinding through the suck, at doing the things the thorny part of you just doesn’t like to do.
On the other hand, if you are going great guns in your workouts, but you’re not getting the results you want, then chances are either your programming or you’re execution is to blame. Now, there are several questions that I’m gonna ask that can help you better understand this. So the first one is, are you achieving progressive overload?
As this is the primary stimulus for muscle growth. You do need to increase tension levels in your muscles over time. And the two most effective ways of doing that are lifting more weight. So just getting stronger and doing more volume, more reps sets. What that means then is to keep gaining muscle, you need to keep increasing the amount of weight you are lifting.
Or the volume that you’re doing or a bit of both. And it’s worth noting that getting stronger, adding weight to the bar is more conducive to muscle gain than doing more volume. Whether you want to look at it as hard sets or reps, and so you want to use volume as a tool to achieve more strength. That’s a good way of looking at it.
Now, if we look at our training through this lens of progressive overload, what that means is our one rep maxes on our key lifts are crucial if those numbers are not trending upward over the course of. Training cycles, I’m talking about months here, not weeks. Then we will stop gaining muscle. And similarly, if our volume remains flat for too long, then our one rep maxes will eventually flatten out as well.
And this is why we can’t gain any more muscle to speak of by just oscillating around a certain level of whole body strength. And also why adding volume that doesn’t result in lasting strength gains doesn’t much affect muscle growth either. Now many people who have plateaued think that they’re achieving progressive overload, but all they are actually doing is just gaining and losing strength cyclically with no change in long term averages.
So for example, maybe you add 10 pounds to your bench, press over three weeks of intense training. Great things are moving, but then over the course of the next few weeks, you lose 10 or 15 pounds on the bench thanks to poor diet or poor training or recovery or whatever. You get back on track though, and you grind your way back to where you were before and you feel like you’re progressing again, but you’re not because you could repeat that process for years and see no real change in your body composition because it misses the forest for the trees.
If you are not stronger or able to do more volume now than you were or could do a few months ago, not to mention much longer ago, you are not achieving progressive overload to get bigger, there needs to be a clear and steady rise in your whole body’s strength and you need to do enough volume to get there.
When that’s the case, you will forge ahead and when it’s not. You won’t. So if a lack of progressive overload is what is holding you back, there are different ways of going about fixing the problem. A simple one is just trying to add more weight to your key lifts. With something like double progression, which is what I use in my bigger leaner, stronger and thinner, leaner, stronger programs, it involves working with a given weight until you hit the top of the prescribed rep range.
For a number of sets, it’s usually one to three sets, and then you bump that weight up, you increase the load, and you just repeat the process. So let’s say you’re squatting with 275 pounds and you do that until you can get one or two sets of six reps. This would be bigger, leaner, stronger, at which point you would then increase the weight by 10 pounds.
Now you’re squatting 285 pounds and you’re working with that until you can get one or two sets of six reps and so on. Now, if that increases too much, so let’s say you do that. You go up to 285 pounds and you can only get two reps. Okay? Then increase the load by just five pounds. Go up to 280 pounds instead.
That’s fine. The weight goes. That’s the key. Another workable way to advance the amount of weight you’re lifting systematically is with a linear style of puritization that has you increasing your weights on a set schedule. And this is what you’ll find in the beyond bigger, leaner, stronger program. So let’s say you are bench pressing 185 pounds for five reps one week, and then 190 pounds for five reps the following week, a hundred.
Five pounds for five reps the week after and so forth until you can’t add weight any longer. That would be linear periodization, and that is how beyond bigger, leaner, stronger works. As you move through training cycles, the weights get progressively heavier and you deload every fourth week. That’s also very key.
I’m gonna talk more about that in a little bit. Now. If you’ve tried various progression models and you are still stuck, you might have to do more volume. Now, beginners, they don’t have to think very much about this because it just doesn’t require that much volume for them to add weight to the bar every week or two, and that of course drives their muscle gain.
About 10 sets per major muscle group per week is all in Newbie needs, definitely no more than 12, maybe even as little as seven or. As time goes on, though that level of volume doesn’t work for getting stronger. You have to train harder to continue adding weight to the bar. And if you don’t change that, if you keep doing the same amount of volume that got you to, let’s say your intermediate phase of weightlifting, you will stop advancing all together no matter what else you do, no matter how well you program your training.
Otherwise, in terms of exercise selection and priority and puritization, and no matter how well you eat, no matter how well you sleep, if you’re not doing enough volume in the gym to drive strength gain, you are going to stop gaining muscle. This is encouraging to know though, because if you are following a well designed workout program and you are eating and sleeping enough, you can often claw your way out of a rut by just doing more volume by just working.
Harder. So for example, the once newbie who has done well doing let’s say nine or 10 hard sets per major mouse group per week now finds themselves running in place they may be able to bump that up to, let’s say 12 or 13 hard sets per major mouse group per week, and get moving again. That might be the only change they need to make.
That said, don’t go overboard here. Don’t subject yourself to the crushing amounts of volume that you’ll find in some workout routines like German volume training, SMO Lab, or shao. For most people, those programs are a high road to overtraining and burnout. I’m talking about a couple of additional hard sets per major MU group per week, at least for the muscle groups that are stuck more than what you are currently doing.
In most cases, that will get the job done. So if someone is currently doing 10 hard sets for, let’s say their legs per week and they’re stuck, 13 to maybe 15 or so is probably all that is needed. Now, how do you go about doing this properly? Adding volume? An easy way is just to add sets to your compound exercises.
So for example, let’s say you’re not progressing in your. Pressing and let’s say your primary upper body work comprises of nine sets of barbell and dumbbell bench pressing, and three sets of military pressing per week. And then you supplement that with a few sets of dumbbell pressing as well as side and rear lateral raises, and let’s say some biceps curls and triceps press downs.
That’s a pretty good upper body regimen to bump up your pressing volume here, you could bench press more. You could do, let’s say 11 or 12 sets of bench pressing per week. Or you could military press more. You could do five or six sets of that per week in, really just depends on what you wanna focus on more.
Do you wanna focus on your chest or do you wanna focus on your shoulders? You could do just that and change nothing else in your routine, and that might be enough to get the needle moving again. You can also increase volume using special. Put that in scare quotes. Training methods, you could do stuff like rest, pause sets.
You could use blood flow restriction training and you could do those things with the added benefit of achieving more volume and doing it with less stress on your tendons, ligaments, and joints compared to traditional sets. And if you wanna learn more about those things, just head over to legion athletics.com and search for rest.
Pause, search for blood flow restriction, and you will find articles on both and podcasts, I believe. Now what if you are already doing a lot of volume, at what point should you look elsewhere for a solution to your slump? Here’s a good rule of thumb. You can profitably increase volume up to about 20 hard sets per major Maro per week.
At which point adding more is probably not going to produce additional benefits and will not be sustainable because it beats the shit out of you. If you’ve never tried to do that much volume before, you’ve never tried 20, 25, 30 hard sets for one muscle. Per week, let alone multiple, then I don’t recommend that you try it.
I recommend that you fire up Excel and build it out and see what it would look like, and you will immediately understand how difficult those workouts would be, how much time you’d have to spend in the gym, and how hard it would be to recover from that much training. So I do not recommend more than 20 hard sets for any major muscle group per week, and I don’t generally recommend reaching that level.
If you are going to do that much, I would say shoot for three to no more than six months of it before reducing your volume to aid in your body’s recovery. It’s also worth noting that most people don’t need to ever do that much volume to gain most or all of the muscle and strength that is available to them genetically, for most people, something around 15 to 16 hard sets per major muscle group per week is plenty.
So long as they are doing all the other most important things right, that we have been talking about in this podcast. Another common workout execution mistake that gets in the way of progress is not ending most of your sets close to technical failure. So that would be my second question for you. If you are training hard but not gaining strength, are you ending most of your sets close to technical failure.
Now, when people talk about training to failure, they’re usually referring to Absolut. Failure, and that’s the point where you can no longer move the weight. You have to stop the set at that point. Technical failure is different. That is the point where you can’t do another rep with proper form, so you can do more reps, but they are gonna be sloppy.
And this is usually two or three reps shy of absolute failure for most people. Now, many lifters make the mistake of training to absolute failure. Too often, and especially on big compound exercises. And this court’s over training. Burnout injury, it is not a good idea. However, many of these people do it because they think they have to continue gaining muscle and strength, or they think it’s better for gaining muscle and strength than ending sets shy of absolute failure.
But research shows that ending sets a couple reps short of absolute failure is just as effective for getting bigger and stronger than going to absolute failure. And I would go as far as saying that you never have to go to absolute failure on any exercises to gain the vast majority of muscle and strength that’s available to you.
You can end every set you do every working set or hard set is a term I like. You do two to three reps shy of absolute failure, which would be one, maybe two reps shy of technical failure and do great. Now what about training regularly? Two technical failure training to the point where your form. Breaks down in the middle of the rep that you are completing that is not as problematic as training to absolute failure often, but I still don’t recommend it because it can increase the risk of injury and it can ingrain poor technique, and especially when you are deeper in a set and it starts to get really hard.
Now. On the other hand, if you end your sets too early and many people do this, if you end your sets five or six or maybe more reps shy of absolute failure, that’s counterproductive because unless you are brand new to weightlifting, it is not difficult enough to produce the training stimulus that is needed to continue getting bigger and stronger.
It does not produce enough muscle tension to trigger much in the way of muscle growth. And research shows that even in beginners pushing a bit harder is more effective. So there is a sweet spot here and it is ending most of your sets one to two reps shy. Technical failure and you could refer to those sets as hard sets.
Again, that is the term that I like. I got it from Greg Knuckles. Give credit where credit is due. And what that means is if you end a set one rep shy of technical failure, it means that you’re pretty sure if you do another rep, it’s gonna be sloppy. You just completed a rep and your form was good, but it was very hard.
And to get another rep, you are going to have to compromise on your technique. That would be ending one rep shy of technical failure and two reps. Shy of technical failure is the point where you have one more good rep in you, where you’re pretty sure that you could get one more good rep and then you could get one or two more after that.
But they are not going to be with perfect. And so again, the takeaway here is that should be your standard level of intensity in your training. One to two reps shy of technical failure. You should be going to absolute failure. Rarely, if ever, you can go to technical failure now and then, but it should be the exception, not the rule.
And I would also recommend not doing it on your big compound lifts, but saving that for your isolation stuff. So for example, if you want to take a set of biceps curls to technical failure, okay, you can do that now and then I will allow that, but I would definitely not recommend doing it on the squat or the deadlift because when the weights get heavy, that’s how you can get hurt.
And for the same reason, I also would not recommend it on the bench or the overhead press. Yeah, that’s not as risky as the squat or deadlift. There is a risk that you could hurt your shoulders, for example, and you do not want to hurt your shoulders because they can remain hurt for a long time. It can become a real pain in the ass, so why take the risk?
Okay. Let’s move on to the next training related question I would have for you. If you are working hard in the gym and eating well, but not progressing, and that is, is your training properly. Periodized. Now, this is a topic I go into in great detail in beyond bigger lean or stronger. But for the purposes of this discussion just to keep it simple, periodization involves splitting your training into different periods.
Hence the word that focus on different aspects of your fitness. And when it’s done correctly, periodization helps you better balance training and. By allowing you to push your body to its limits and then back off before it backfires. Puritization is supported by research too. Studies show that Puritization improves performance more than non periodized training in a wide variety of sports.
And studies also show that people who periodize their weightlifting programs gain more strength than those who don’t. As getting stronger is the most reliable way to build muscle, at least as an intermediate or advanced weightlifter, less so as a newbie. But for all of us who are experienced, that is the key.
We must keep getting stronger if periodization is shown to help us get stronger faster than I think that it’s fair to say. Periodized weightlifting programs are going to be better for building muscle over the long term than non periodized ones, and there aren’t any studies I can point to that I’ve looked specifically at muscle gain and over a long enough period to back up what I just said.
But based on what we currently know about Puritization and what it can do for strength in particular, I would be willing to bet quite a few shiny shackles that when that research is done, that is going to be the finding that periodized training will result in faster, more muscle growth than non periodized training in intermediate.
And advanced weightlifters. Now, there are many methods of puritization out there, and fortunately, you don’t need a complicated one. That’s especially true if you’re new to lifting. If you have less than, let’s say, a year of proper training under your belt, then something very simple like linear puritization will do the trick.
So two good examples of that type of training are my bigger, leaner, stronger program for men and my thinner, leaner, stronger program for women, which use a system of training called double progression, where you strive to gain reps with working weights, and then you add weight to the bar when you can do a certain number of sets for a certain number of reps, and you just rinse and repeat that and you throw in some D loads.
Very simple, and it works. Clockwork in time though that system doesn’t work so well after your first year or two of proper lifting, if you’re a guy and you’ve gained, let’s say, your first 20, maybe 25 pounds of muscle, or if you are a gal and you’ve gained about half of that, it does make sense to upgrade your method of puritization to something better suited to your needs.
Because at that point, what got you there, at least as far as workout programming goes, and particularly periodization, probably will not get you to where you wanna be. And that’s why, for example, beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger uses a different system of Puritization that has a couple of different moving parts.
It’s not as simple as big a leaner, stronger. So it’s not complicated, but there is a bit more to it, and we use that specifically on. Primary exercises. That’s how I refer to them. These are mostly the key compound lifts, and we just stick with double progression for the accessory, the secondary, the isolation exercises.
Okay, so that’s it for the discussion around the question. Are you training hard enough? Are you stuck because you are not training hard enough? Let’s go to the next one from the list of six I shared earlier, and that is, are you sleeping enough? Because if you don’t sleep enough, your body can. Fire on all cylinders, period.
That is true regardless of whether you exercise and if you do exercise, ideally train good. Sleep hygiene is even more important because the more intense your training is, the more you need adequate rest to recover and to perform well. And insightful example of this is a study conducted by scientists at Liverpool, John Moores University, that explored how sleep affects resistance training in particular.
And what the researchers did is they recruited eight men aged 18 to 24. So basically eight men who are invincible and on four consecutive days had them complete a one rep max test for the biceps. Bench press, leg, press and deadlift after a full night’s rest On each test, the scientists recorded how much weight the men could lift, as well as their mood and their subjective level of sleepiness.
Then the men had to do the same. Tests on only three hours of sleep per night. And what the researchers found is after the first night of restricted sleep, sleepiness, rose and mood worsened, but strength was unaffected. On the second evening though, strength, mood, and alertness were significantly worse, and by day four, all parameters just fell off of a cliff.
And while that’s a rather extreme example of the effects of sleep deprivation, three hours per night is very little. Other research shows that even mild sleep insufficiency can compromise performance and post workout recovery. What’s more, While sleeping too little reduces performance, getting extra sleep can enhance it.
For example, a study conducted by scientists at Stanford University found that extending the sleep of basketball players from a range of six to nine hours per night to a minimum. Of 10 hours in bed each night, help them feel fresher, more prepared, and more focused when they’re playing. It helped them run faster, shoot more accurately, and train longer without fatigue.
It made a huge difference. Keep in mind though, that these were young, high level athletes in the thick of their season, so it is unlikely I would think that all of us need to rest this much for our purposes that. We do need to make sure that we are giving our body as much slumber as it needs. And according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, that number is seven to nine hours per night for most people.
Small percentage of us can do fine with less, and some of us need more, but most of us fall right in the middle. Now, since genetics and age do affect how much sleep your body needs, a simple way to determine what’s optimal for you is to pick a two week period such as a vacation and go to bed at the same time each night without an alarm set.
Chances are you will sleep a little bit longer than usual at first if you have some sleep debt to repay, but toward the end of the second week, you should find that you have established a regular pattern for sleeping about the same amount every night. And. Is how much sleep your body needs. And then if you make that the norm in your day to day life, you will never have to battle with the effects of inadequate sleep inside or outside of the gym.
All right, let’s move on to the next big question, which is, are you eating enough? So I mentioned earlier in the podcast that 16 to 18 calories per pound of body weight per day is enough for most people who want to gain muscle and strength to keep the wheels turning, but sometimes more food is needed.
For example, over the years I have emailed with many guys weighing, let’s say anywhere from 160 to maybe 180 pounds who need to eat upward of three to 4,000 calories per day or more just to gain about one. Per week. And these are not experienced weightlifters as you could guess, by their body weight. And often the reason for this is these guys move around a lot throughout the day and they just don’t realize how many calories they’re actually burning.
So they have to eat a lot to maintain a calorie surplus. Even more common, however, are guys who. That they are eating several thousand calories per day, but are not in reality, they just don’t track their calories well and they don’t have much of an appetite. Regardless though of how high or low your metabolism or appetite is, as you get bigger and stronger, the amount of food you must eat to continue getting bigger and stronger, we’ll go up just as your calorie expenditure slows when you cut.
It rises when you are in a surplus, when you’re lean, bulking. Therefore, to maintain a large enough calorie surplus to keep gaining weight, something around 10% over what you’re burning every day, you do need to gradually eat more as you get deeper and deeper into a lean bulking phase. And this is why it’s not uncommon for people to finish a lean bulking phase eating several hundred calories.
Per day than when they started the last time. Eileen Bulked, I started around 34, maybe 3,500 calories per day, and I ended around 4,000 calories per day. So if you’re stuck in the gym and your body weight has not budged in several weeks, chances are you are just not eating enough, especially if you are training hard and not making any of the mistakes we’ve already discussed regarding programming and execution.
So to find out if it’s just food, increase your daily intake by about a hundred, maybe 150 calories. And when I do this, I prefer to just increase my pre-workout or post-workout carbs by about 25 to maybe 40 grams, and then reassess after a couple of weeks. Now if that works, Unstick you. Then just keep your calories there for the next few weeks and see how your body responds.
If you are consistently progressing again, good, just continue until you’re not, and then increase your calories again and so forth. And again, don’t be surprised if you need to increase your calories like this every few weeks or so as you get deeper into a lean bulking phase. However, if your lifts are.
But your body weight has been moving upward, then eating more food will not solve the problem because that means that you are minimally gaining fat. And you are not going to gain fat without a calorie surplus. And if you were gaining muscle and not fat, then your lifts wouldn’t be stalled. So unfortunately in this case, we are not gonna be able to fix it with just more food. All right. Moving down the list to the next big point, which is, are you deloading enough now symptoms related to over-training? I understand it is very difficult to actually get to a point where you are truly overtrained, but there are symptoms that lead up to it.
And these can be very insidious because during. Onset when they first start to appear, they’re mild and they are hard to recognize. For instance, one of the first signs that you’re pushing your body too far is that your strength and your muscle endurance start to sag. Now, how most people experience this is simple.
Their workouts just suddenly start feeling really hard. The weights that they are used to using feel heavier than usual, and they have to work even harder to get the same number of sets and reps that they did the week before or even a couple weeks back. And this is normal and it is nothing more than a buildup of physical fatigue.
And fixing it is very easy, but it requires doing something that many people who are into working out don’t like to do. And that is more rest and less training de. That’s what Deloading is for. You can also just take up to a week or so off of training altogether, but I prefer Deloading unless I’m really feeling beat up, which is rare.
But either way, whether you’re gonna deload or just stay out of the gym for a week, it really is one of the simplest ways to stave off stagnation. I have made the mistake of not deloading often enough of pushing myself too far in my training cycles before deloading, and it gets in the way of progress by Deloading on a regular schedule and by deloading, maybe even a little bit sooner than is really necessary.
You’ll find that your training just progresses a lot smoother, and particularly if you are following a well designed workout program. You’ll find that you never get too sore from your workouts and your joints never get too achy, and you never lose too much motivation or enthusiasm for your workouts, and you never have to dig all that deep to finish a training session.
So if you are not currently deloading on a schedule that makes sense, you need to start. It’s time to make this a consistent aspect of your workout routine. And this is particularly true if you are an experienced weightlift. If you’re an intermediate or an advanced weightlifter. Deloading is more important.
Contrary to what many people say and believe, it matters more for you than the newbie because the more experience you have in the weight room, the heavier the weights are and the more volume you have to do, you’re training harder, which means you are going to have to rest more. It’s really that simple, and this is why beginners rarely need to deload more than every eight to 12 weeks, and sometimes even less routinely than that.
I’ve come across people over the years who went as long as six to eight months. So they start lifting not a single deload for six to eight months, and they just make consistent progress and there are no problems. Intermediate weightlifters cannot get away with that. So once your novice days are behind you, you should plan on deloading, let’s say every six to eight weeks, and advanced weightlifters.
So people who are, let’s say at three plus years of proper training should be deloading probably every month or so, every four to six weeks. Okay. Moving down our list for debugging, plateaus. Are you using good form? Poor form not only increase the risk of injury, we all know that, but it also can kill progress and especially on the big important lifts like the squat, deadlift, and bench press.
Why? There are. Are two levers you can pull to get stronger on an exercise. You can build more muscle or you can get better at the exercise. That’s it. Those are the only two ways. Building muscle gives you the physiological horsepower to push, pull and squat heavy weights, but achieving its full expression requires technique.
You have to be good at the movement at bottom. Good form is all about moving the weight with as little wasted effort as possible. You want to get the barbell or the dumbbell from point A to B smooth. And efficiently. Sloppy form then wastes energy. And this of course impairs performance. It might mean one, two, or even three fewer reps in any given set than you could have gotten if your form would’ve been better.
So for example, when many people squat, they let their upper back muscles relax during the dissent as they go down. This is undesirable because it causes the bar to tip forward, which then throws you off balance and prevents you from just being able to drive straight upward. What’s more, by relaxing one muscle group, the back, you will also relax other muscle groups like your core and your glutes and your quads, which also makes finishing the rep, especially getting out of the hole, getting through that sticking point, the toughest part of the lift, it makes it that much more difficult.
People also often allow their butt to rise faster than the barbell or than their shoulders. During the ascent as they stand up. And that then forces the lower back to work a lot harder than it should turns. It turns the exercise into a good morning of sorts, and then those muscles are going to fatigue quicker than usual.
And that, of course, then gets in the way of optimal performance. This hips first approach where you do not raise your hips and your shoulders at the same rate, that’s what you wanna do. Again, if you just shoot your hips up and then raise your shoulders. It lets the barbell drift forward during the squat, which then requires work.
It requires energy to bring it back to where it needs to be, which is centered over the feet before you can complete the rep. Now, these nuances of form are not gonna slow down a newbie very much, but as the weights get heavier and the energy cost of these imperfections and on the fly corrections becomes greater, it will.
Progress. So when I get stuck on an exercise, I first audit my technique, I have someone take a video of me, do it, usually a couple of videos so I can see different angles, and I just look at the footage and look for faults, and I can often find something that pays off, particularly when I get deeper into a set.
And I’m trying to get, my last couple of reps. Okay. The last question I have for someone who’s stuck is, are you doing too much cardio? Now? Cardio is great, but it is a double edged sword because it can help. And hurt muscle growth. It can help by improving insulin sensitivity, which refers to how responsive your cells are to insulin’s signal, and it impacts your body’s ability to use nutrients and to recover from workouts and build muscle.
Cardio can also enhance blood flow, which may help with recovery by improving the delivery of nutrients to muscles and the removal of waste products that are responsible for fatigue and for muscle soreness. Cardio can increase aerobic endurance, which may help you recover faster in between your sets.
Now on the other hand, cardio can get in the way of muscle growth by causing muscular fatigue and soreness that can then interfere with your resistance training workouts, and it can also produce whole body fatigue that can minimally blunt your motivation to train. Cardio can also change the expression of certain genes in a way that may inhibit muscle and strength gain and cardio burns calories that you have to replace to maintain a sufficient energy surplus for.
Building muscle and getting stronger. And for people who tend to have normal or below normal appetites, that can pose a real problem. Depending on what you’re doing for your cardio, you can burn a lot of calories that you have to eat back if you are going to optimize muscle and strength gain. And it’s also worth noting that research shows in some people cardio can reduce appetite.
So maybe they have a normal appetite, but by adding cardio, it makes their appetite below normal, which again, just makes it hard and annoying to eat enough food. So the question is how do you get the benefits of cardio, which mostly are related to your heart? Hence, The term cardiovascular exercise, but there are a couple of other unique benefits that you get from cardio that you either don’t get at all from weightlifting or you don’t get as much from weightlifting.
And if you wanna learn about that, check out the podcast I recorded on it. I believe we posted it probably oh, two months ago. I’m not sure exactly when this episode is going live, but I believe it will be about two months earlier than this one. And the title is along the lines of should you do cardio if you are lifting weights.
Anyway, as for how much cardio you should do, it’s pretty simple. Just don’t do too much because research shows that cardio’s downsides only become significant when you do a lot, whereas low and even moderate amounts are probably net positives for those of us who are most interested in getting bigger and stronger.
Now, what does that mean though, in terms of an actual amount? How much cardio are we talking about? Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all answer, but here is a workable rule of thumb. Limit your cardio to about 50% of the time that you spend training your muscles. So let’s say you lift weights for four to six hours per week.
Do no more than two to three hours of cardio per week. And remember that cardio doesn’t only refer to trotting on the treadmill. It also includes physically intensive hobbies like basketball or running or cycling. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with combining those activities with your weightlift.
Especially if you look at it from the standpoint of overall health and vitality and longevity, overdoing, it can get in the way of your ability to gain muscle and strength. So if you are currently plateaued and you are doing quite a bit of cardio, more than a couple of hours per week, reign it in and see how your body responds.
You may find that’s. To allow you to start gaining muscle and strength again. A buddy of mine experienced just that he was doing a lot of cycling every week, and he knows what he’s doing with his workout programming. He knows what he’s doing with meal planning, and he just wasn’t able to make much progress at all in the gym and especially with his upper body, and he stopped the cycling and immediate.
He started to get stronger in the gym. That’s the only change he made. He just got rid of the cardio altogether, and within two weeks he was adding weight to the bar for the first time in a while. Now, since then, he has been able to add cardio back in without getting in the way of his progress and his lifting, but he is not able to do as much as he was doing previously.
He’s following the guideline that I shared with you here, no more than about 50% of the time spent training your muscles. You could look at it in terms of your weekly regimen, and that has served him well. However, I should mention that there are people who couldn’t do that much cardio. If they did that much cardio, it would impair their progress in their weightlift, and so that’s where the individual variability comes into play.
You have to see how your body responds. And as we’re talking about minimizing the downsides of cardio, I have a few other tips to share and that is to keep each cardio workout under 30 to 45 minutes. Don’t go over 45 minutes and I would say definitely don’t do more than an hour in an individual session.
And this applies to cardio at a moderate high intensity. If you’re walking or doing other easygoing activities. I wouldn’t be concerned about the duration of the session. I would also recommend that you do your cardio and you’re lifting on separate days if possible. And if you have to do them on the same day, try to separate each workout by at least six hours because research shows that doing that will minimize cardio’s interference.
On your weightlifting workouts. Ideally, you’d probably do your lifting first in the day, but I’ll leave that up to you. In terms of scheduling, it’s not that big of a deal. I also would recommend prioritizing low impact types of cardio, like cycling, which is my personal favorite, rowing, swimming. Those are all good options over high impact stuff like running, especially sprinting or trics.
And the reason for this is it will reduce muscle damage and soreness from your cardio workouts that your body will have to work to recover from in addition to the muscle damage caused. By your weightlifting. And lastly, I’d recommend that you keep your high intensity interval training your hit to a minimum.
Do not overdo it and use instead mostly steady state Cardio hit is great. It burns a lot more calories per minute than low intensity cardio, but it also does cause more fatigue and muscle damage in just wear and tear on the body specifically. Again, if you are trying to maximize your progress under and over the bar, then I would say no more than one, two hit sessions per week in those sessions, Probably shouldn’t be more than 20 or 30 minutes.
All right. We made it through all the key points I wanted to discuss with you regarding breaking through weightlifting, plateaus, and as we have covered a lot, let’s wrap this up with a simple flowchart esque summary of what to do when stuck. So the first thing is, make sure you’re training hard enough.
Are you really bringing your A game to your workouts? And if you are you achieving progressive overload? Are you using enough volume? And are you adding weight to the bar and to the dumbbells over time? Or are you ending most of your sets, your working sets, your hard sets, muscle building sets, whatever term you like to use?
Are you ending most of them close to technical failure? Is your training properly? Period. Next, Make sure you are using good form in your workouts. Have someone take video of you when you’re doing your compound exercises with your heavy weights, the ones that you are stuck on, or the ones that are training the muscle groups that are stuck.
And compare your technique to experienced power lifters and bodybuilders. Look for differences. Is there anything you can improve? If perfor is not the problem, make sure you’re eating enough food, and particularly eating enough calories and protein because if you are not gaining. Chances are you’re just undereating and the only thing that’s gonna fix it is more food.
So I would recommend raising your calories to at least 16 to 18 calories per pound of body weight per day, and doing that every day, even on off days, on rest days. If you wanna eat a little bit less on rest days, that’s fine, but do not go into a calorie deficit on your rest days. And if calories are not the issue and you’re eating enough calories, you have to also make sure you’re eating enough protein consistently.
0.8 to one gram of protein per pound of body. Per day, every day. Don’t be good. Three or four days throughout the week and then eat very little protein. Come Friday, for example, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I’ve seen that many times. Guys who thought they were hard gainers, for example, consistently not eating enough calories and not eating enough.
Protein. And again a repeating pattern has been that calories are very high on the weekends. Protein very low, and then calories plummet during the week to make up for the overeating on the weekend, and then protein comes back in during the week. That does not work when you’re new. It works. When you are experienced, it does not work.
So if that doesn’t fix things, addressing calories and protein, make sure you are deloading enough. As a beginner, you should be deloading every eight to 12 weeks. As an intermediate to advanced weightlifter, you should be deloading every four to eight weeks, and doing this will ensure that you do not fall behind in recovery and that you do not get hurt because of that, or burned out because of that, or stuck because of that.
Now, if Deloading does not turn the situation, then you need to make sure you’re sleeping enough. You should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and you may need to adjust that up. Bore down based on how you feel inside and outside the gym. Most people though, are gonna do well with eight hours in bed, and that’s assuming.
They are actually getting quality sleep. It’s not restless sleep, for example. Lastly, if you’ve done everything I’ve just discussed and you’re still stalled, make sure you’re not doing too much cardio. Limit your cardio to no more than two to three hours per week and keep each cardio workout under 30 to 45 minutes.
Try to do your cardio and your weight lifting on separate days or at least six hours apart if on the same day, and stick mostly to low or moderate intensity. Steady state cardio. Don’t do too much hit. All right? That’s a pretty extensive flow chart, right? Most people in my experience don’t need to go beyond step three or so, which is the calories in protein to resolve the issue, and if it’s not tackled by step six, it’s probably time to come to grips with the fact that there just isn’t much muscle and strength left to gain despite what some fake Natty Gus on Instagram would have you believe.
We all have a genetic limit to how big and strong we can get, and once we hit it, there’s no way to advance further short of steroids. Yes, it can take a while to reach that point, eh, five or six years of proper training for most people to gain, eh, most, if not all of the muscle they can gain and maybe a bit more for strength because you can continue to get a little bit better at exercises and therefore get a little bit more weight on the bar over time.
But it is important to understand that with every ounce of muscle and strength that we gain, we get a little bit closer to the finish line. There is. A finish line. All right you now have nothing to fear from plateaus because you know why they occur and you know why they’re inevitable and you know what to do to break through them to the next level of strength and muscularity.
You also know what not to do, and that’s really anything not discussed in this podcast. And that’s important because it means you get to avoid dozens of distractions, dead ends, and deadfall that prevent most people from ever reaching the summit of their genetic potential for size and strength. That’s it for this episode.
I hope you found it helpful, and in case you didn’t listen to the intro, I understand. It’s okay, . This was one of the bonus chapters of the new second edition of my best selling book for Experienced Weightlifters Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, which is now live [email protected]
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