Why do some people possess the innate ability to tap into muscle growth and cut body fat on a whim, while others struggle their entire lives to create the body of their dreams? When it comes down to it, it’s all about nutrition and training.
We all know we must prioritize strength training, get our daily protein and even eat a few veggies from time to time. However, what most people struggle with is the synergy between these two all-important variables.
Follow along as coach Luke Briggs literally walks you through the step by step process to customize your nutrition, improve your training, and coach you through some of the best muscle building exercises in the industry.
Here’s What You Need To Know…
1. Tired of being a skinny weakling and watching everyone but you in the gym grow and get cut? You aren’t alone. We’re here to dispel the myths of building size and strength to push you from a newbie weakling into a seasoned pro.
2. How are we going to guarantee muscle growth? By going back to the basics and covering the two most pivotal aspects of muscle growth in detail; nutrition, training and how to synergize the two.
3. Knowing what you are putting in your body is important for any body recomposition goal, but it’s not good enough. Use these equations to determine your Resting Basal Metabolic Rate (RBMR) and base your intakes specifically on your activity and goals. Stop squandering the science and quit guessing when it comes to nutrition.
4. Maximizing the three key mechanisms of muscle growth is a must when putting on muscle is your primary goal. Tapping into mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage with specific strategies will get you there.
5. Put this plan into action with a customized meal plan and three day a week training program, complete with coaching notes and video tutorials. You now have the tools to grow your ass off! No excuses, get it done!
The Science of Muscle Gainz
So you finally want to get serious about getting jacked and strong, huh?
Those chest and biceps workouts you’ve been doing the last year aren’t getting you anywhere. In fact, you look exactly the same as you did 12-months ago and haven’t gotten a lick stronger.
You’re tired of being the typical gym bro, watching others get swole while you stay skinny and weak.
Don’t worry. You may have been misled. At DrJohnRusin.com, we’re here to dispel the myths of building size and strength to push you from a newbie weakling into a seasoned pro.
Even if you’ve been training for years, the big question is…have you seen any notable results for your blood, sweat and tears? If not, you’re still a beginner in our book and have to get back to the basics, that is if you want to generate extraordinary results and not just waste away hours pretending to train.
Where to start? Ultimately, it comes down to two simple factors that must synergize to create epic results; training and nutrition. Lucky for you, we’re here to break down the science behind getting bigger and stronger. And since everyone knows you can’t out train a shitty diet, lets start in the kitchen.
The Nutritional Science Behind Gaining Weight
So what actually causes weight gain?
To gain weight, you’ve got to be in a positive energy balance. Plain and simple.
What exactly does that mean for the lay bro out there majoring in bar hopping instead of Exercise Science? You’ve got to take in more energy via calories than you expend through exercise and daily activity.
If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to stay in a negative energy balance, burning off more calories than you consume. Not rocket science here, guys.
To the same point, if you’re looking to put on some size, you’ve got to start eating. A lot. If you’re not taking in enough calories, you won’t grow. Period.
Where to start? First, you’ve got to figure out the number of calories you need to consume based on your body and energy output, also known as your Resting Basal Metabolic Rate (RBMR).
Grab your cell phones and hit the calculator app, you’re going to need to check into Calculus 101 to educate yourself on exactly how much energy your body needs to maintain itself, and no, it’s not good enough to just ball park it.
Step #1 Figure Out Your Resting Basal Metabolic Rate
You can use a number of different equations to determine caloric intake. We’re going to use the Mifflin equation because I’ve seen great results over the years with my clients. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Here’s what this equation looks like:
Resting Metabolic Rate (in calories/day) = 10 (weight in kilograms) + 6.25 (height in centimeters) – 5 (age in years) + 5
RMR (in calories/day) = 10 (weight in kilograms) + 6.25 (height in centimeters) – 5 (age in years) – 161
Alright, let’s do some math. Or if you’re tapping your mental energy just reading this article, we’ll make it easy on you and have you use this Online Calculator to determine your RMBR.
Up for a little math today? Great, here’s an example of how it works in action.
Let’s say you’re a 25-year-old guy who’s 6 feet tall and weighs 150 pounds. To figure out your weight in kilograms, divide 150 by 2.2, which is approximately 68.18.
Six feet in centimeters is 182.88.
Let’s plug in the numbers:
RMR = 10 (68.18) + 6.25 (182.88) – 5 (25) + 5
RMR = 681.8 + 1,143 – 125 + 5
RMR = 1,704.8
So you need 1,704.8 calories to maintain your body weight at rest. That’s assuming you’re not moving during the day. And thus why I added a link to the Calculator, go easy on yourself and use it! We have more article to go!
But obviously, we’re active individuals who want to put on some muscle or lose fat.
We’ve got to account for our energy expenditure during the day. Here’s how we’re going to do that, as accurately as possible using an activity multiplier.
Step #2 Determining Activity Level
Sedentary (little or no activity) = RMR x 1.2
Mild activity level (intense exercise 1-3 times per week) = RMR x 1.3
Moderate activity level (intense exercise 3-4 times per week) = RMR x 1.5
Heavy activity level (intense exercise 5-7 times per week) = RMR x 1.7
Extreme activity level (intense exercise multiple times per day) = RMR x 1.9
Let’s say you exercise six days per week. Multiply 1,704.8 by 1.7, and you get 2898.16.
But once again, that’s just to maintain your body weight. If you want to add about one pound per week, add 500 calories to that total.
So that’s 3,398.16, or approximately 3,400 calories per day.
Back to our example bro, if you’re a 25-year-old male who’s six feet tall and 150 pounds, you’ve got to take in 3,400 calories per day to gain one pound per week if you’re exercising six times per week.
Now, as long as you’re in a positive energy balance, you’re going to gain weight.
For this reason, you’ve got to focus on consuming enough calories and participating in a properly programmed strength training program with little or no cardio. Playing basketball and running for an additional six or seven hours per week is going to get you nowhere.
Now, you can shovel in pizza and ice cream to put on weight, but you’ll also put on a good deal of fat. We want lean muscle growth.
How do you gain lean muscle? Read on, and there may even be a little surprise waiting for you at the end!
The Science Behind Lean Muscle Growth
What makes our muscles grow?
Your body prefers to remain in a homeostatic state. In other words, your body functions most optimally when you’re in rest-and-digest mode. To create a change, you’ve got to place a stress on your system.
To build muscle, you’ve got to place an adequate amount of stress on your musculoskeletal system to cause an adaptation. Enter resistance training.
Well, duh. You already know you have to lift weights to build muscle.
But if it were that easy, everyone would be jacked.
Here’s the hard truth. Packing on size is a science. You’ve got to learn the proper execution of exercises and know the principles behind muscle growth.
According to researcher Brad Schoenfeld, three primary factors influence muscle growth the most (Schoenfeld, 2010). This is important stuff so pay attention and even take notes; your biceps will thank you!
Muscle Growth Mechanism #1 – Mechanical Tension
It’s probably the most important variable for hypertrophy. Focus on keeping the stress entirely on the working muscle through an entire set, taking the muscle through a full range of motion. Don’t allow movement anywhere else in your body.
Creating maximal tension is important for muscle growth, but lifting maximal weight is not. Bodybuilders will always appear more muscular than powerlifters even though they don’t lift as heavy.
Muscle Growth Mechanism #2 – Muscle Damage
Have you ever woken up the morning after a grueling workout and barely been able to climb out of bed?
If you have, you’ve no doubt experienced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), a phenomenon caused by micro-tears to your muscle tissue. While your body repairs the damaged tissues, molecules called cytokines trigger the release of growth factors important for hypertrophy.
Being sore every once in a while is great for muscle growth. If you’re sore all the time, you may wind up sidelined because of injury. The morale of the story – don’t kill yourself every time you’re in the gym.
Muscle Growth Mechanism #3 – Metabolic Stress
If you’ve ever blasted your biceps into oblivion, you’ve certainly experienced a “pump.”
Filling your muscles with metabolites can lead indirectly to cell signaling and the release of anabolic hormones. That’s why implementing high-rep sets and adding intensifiers like drop sets are actually beneficial for building muscle.
To grow, you need to focus on maximizing the amount of tension you place on your muscles. You don’t need to be a powerlifter because these athletes focus strictly on pushing as much weight as possible, ignoring form and tension.
You need to lift as heavy as possible with good form, while maintaining a stress through the working muscle.
Your muscles won’t grow, though, if you don’t support your training with proper nutrition and recovery.
Ensure you’re in an energy surplus, and you’ll get bigger.
The Science Behind Muscular Strength Development
What fun is being all show with no go? You want to get bigger and stronger.
Just like with muscle growth, you’ve got to place a strong enough stress on the body to create an adaptation.
You must first understand lifting heavy fatigues the central nervous system quite a bit, so you’ve got to allow for recovery so supercompensation occurs. Following a workout, your body works to return to homeostasis. During this phase, physiological adaptations are made to prepare your body in the event it undergoes a similar stimulus in the future (Coutts and Cormack, 2014).
In other words, you’ve got to let your body recover before you go hard again.
Also, you’ve got to realize your body can handle only so much stress, so you’ve got to minimize the demands you place on your body if you want to get stronger not only at the gym, but in your everyday life. Long hours at work, traveling, studying for exams and excessive drinking all impact your body’s ability to recover.
If you have an awesome lift in the morning, but you travel out of town later that day and eat and drink like crap, you’re going to have a hard time making gains in the weight room.
Progressive overload is arguably the most important variable in adaptation to a strength program. Each time you train, you must place a physiological stress or reach a level of exercise beyond what you typically encounter (Ivy and Portman, 2004).
As long as form is sound, you’ve got to lift heavier each time you’re in the gym. Keep a training journal so you know the amount of weight you use for every exercise each workout.
Performing four sets of 10 reps at 135 pounds on the bench press every time you’re in the weight room will get you nowhere. Try for 140 pounds next time. Even if it’s just five pounds, you’ve got to attempt to complete reps with more weight each time you’re in the gym.
In the words of legendary strength coach Dan John, the principle is simple, not easy.
Obviously, you’re not going to be able to add weight forever. You reach a point in which progress stalls. At that point, it’s time to switch it up.
Rotating exercises is key for breaking plateaus and continuing to make gains. If you’ve been using the flat bench press for a while, use an incline bench. If you’ve been doing a straight-bar deadlift for a long time, program trap-bar deadlifts instead.
Why is exercise rotation effective?
Our anatomical structure has a mechanism through which it compensates for a new strain experienced by the bone. The collagen fibers within the bone can change to adapt to the new stress experienced by the bone (Baechle and Earle, 2008).
So changing how force vectors and distributed presents a stimulus for new bone formation.
You can’t ignore the mental aspect of building strength either. It takes some serious mental fortitude to grind through heavy sets. Don’t let your mind hold you back.
Putting It All Together
Now that you know some of the basics behind getting bigger and stronger, what do you do now?
Relax. We’ve got you covered.
Prioritize Proper Nutrition
To build muscle and gain weight, you’ve got to first focus on nutrition. Make sure you’re getting enough calories. If you don’t, no amount of training you do matters.
Let’s use the example of the 25-year-old male who weighs 150 pounds. He needs to take in 3,400 calories per day to add one pound per week.
Assuming he’s an ectomorph (naturally thin), he should consume 25 percent of his calories from protein, 55 percent from carbohydrate and 20 percent from fat (Berardi et. al, 2015).
So he’ll need 468 grams of carbohydrates, 213 grams of protein and 76 grams of fat each day. Here’s a sample meal plan for 3,400 calories per day.
MEAL #3 (1.5-2 hours pre-workout)
1 serving protein powder
1.5 cups raw oats
1 serving protein powder
100 grams maltodextrin
MEAL #4 (within 2 hours post-workout)
4 ounces chicken breast
2 cups white rice
4 ounces tilapia
1 cup quinoa
½ cup green beans
3 ounces steak
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
½ cup cauliflower
Obviously, this is just an example of a meal plan. You can plug in different foods as long as you hit your macronutrient and calorie goals.
Yes, it’s a lot of meals. It’s certainly not easy to eat this much, but if you truly want to put on size, you’ve got to start shoveling in a whole lot of food.
Once you’ve got your nutrition on point, it’s time to do a workout conducive to building muscle and getting stronger.
Program Training According to Your Goals
To develop strength, you want to work between one and five reps in a set. For hypertrophy, you should aim for between six and 12 reps, and for muscular endurance, you should shoot for more than 12 reps.
In the following program, we hit all rep ranges to emphasize both strength and muscle growth.
You’re going to do a full-body workout. You don’t need upper-body and lower-body splits until you’ve become at least an intermediate lifter.
Perform this full-body routine three times a week on non-consecutive days for three weeks, and watch your results skyrocket. For each rep of each exercise, lower the weight under control and explode the weight up.
Note the lack of machines in this workout. There’s no doubt machines have their place in a strength or bodybuilding program, but you’ve got to learn to control your own body weight before you earn the right to use machines.
1. Front Squat – 5 sets x 5 reps (2-minute rest between sets)
Exercise description: Yes, you’re going to do a front squat – not a back squat. Use either a traditional front squat grip (as I’m using in the video) or a clean grip. Squeeze your upper-back muscles together, take a full breath in and lower your body as deep as you can go while maintaining a neutral spine. Push your knees out over your toes during the descent, and keep them out as you drive the weight back up. Don’t exhale until you reach the top.
2. Barbell RDL – 5 sets x 8 reps (1-minute rest between sets)
Exercise description: Use a double-overhand grip. Squeeze your upper-back muscles together, take a full breath in and push your hips back as far as they can go while your torso leans forward. Lower the bar as far as possible without letting your back round or knees come forward. Finish the movement by thrusting your hips into the bar and exhaling.
3. Bulgarian Split Squat 3 sets x 12 reps/side (45-second rest between sets)
Exercise description: Place one foot on top of a bench, and put the other on the ground. Add dumbbells in each hand to increase the challenge. Maintain an upright torso, take a full breath in and lower your body as far as it can go without rounding or arching your back. Drive through the front heel on the way up and finish with an exhale.
4. Weighted Push-Up 5 sets x 5 reps (2-minute rest between sets)
Exercise description: Let’s load these suckers up! If you’re capable of doing more than five bodyweight push-ups, add a weight vest or plates to your back for resistance. Start at the top of a push-up position with your arms fully extended. Take a breath in and lower yourself to the ground while maintaining a rigid torso. Don’t let that head poke forward at any point during the movement and touch your chest all the way to the ground. No half reps! Then, press back up until your arms are fully extended. Exhale at the top.
5. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row 5 sets x 8 reps/side (1-minute rest between sets)
Exercise description: Place one knee on a bench to remove the core stabilization requirement. Start with your chest puffed out and your shoulder blade completely forward with a dumbbell in hand. Take a breath in and bring your shoulder blade behind your ribcage until you feel a contraction in your back muscles. Visualize yourself putting your elbow in your opposite back pocket. Don’t round your back or let your head poke forward during the movement. Lower the weight until your shoulder blade is completely forward. Exhale at the bottom of the movement.
6. Band-Resisted Pull-Apart 3 sets x 20 reps (45-second rest between sets)
Exercise description: Grab a resistance band with which you can complete 20 reps. Start with your arms and shoulder blades fully in front of you. Stand tall, take a full breath in and pull the band apart with straight arms until you feel a contraction in your mid-back. Think about getting your hands as far apart from each other as possible. Keep your core braced during the set, don’t arch your back and don’t let your elbows bend. Once you feel a contraction in your back, bring the weight back to the starting position before exhaling.
About The Author
Luke Briggs is a strength coach, powerlifter and former full time print journalist. Luke is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association who also holds a bachelor’s degree from the prestigious University of Wisconsin’s school of journalism. Luke’s vision is to help people around the world build muscle, burn fat, get stronger and become the best versions of themselves. With his background in print journalism, he combines his writing skills, knowledge of fitness and personal training experience to be the best possible resource for you to reach all of your strength, muscle growth and physique goals.