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Muscle for life

5 Huge Fitness Mistakes That Nearly Made Me Quit

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5 Huge Fitness Mistakes That Nearly Made Me Quit

You’re about to learn 5 of the most common, detrimental fitness mistakes out there…mistakes that keep you small, fat, and weak…mistakes that once made me want to quit.

 

Just a few years ago, I was small (for how long I had been lifting), weak, fat, and completely stuck in a rut.

For nearly 7 years, I bounced from one magazine workout to another… spent close to 2 hours in the gym every day… wasted hundreds of dollars per month on supplements … and this is what it got me:

year2-8

As you can imagine, I wasn’t very thrilled.

I was so used to my routine that I just went through the actions every day, but I was certain I just didn’t have the genetics to look good or get really strong, and that even if I did, I thought it would require steroids.

It turns out I was wrong.

I was just making a some of the worst (and most common) fitness mistakes out there, and once I started doing things correctly, everything changed, quickly and dramatically. 

Here’s what I mean:

year10

Believe it or not, I made that transformation by spending less time in the gym every day, by doing less cardio, and by following an all-around more enjoyable diet.

It sounds too good to be true–I know.

But in this article, I’m going to share with you the 5 huge fitness mistakes I was making that were preventing me from achieving my true genetic potential in terms of strength, muscle growth, and overall development and conditioning.

Huge Fitness Mistake #1:
Focusing on high-rep “burnout” workouts.

fitness mistakes

Back when I didn’t know what I was doing, here was a normal Chest Day workout:

Flat Smith Machine Press: 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps

Flat Dumbbell Press: 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps

Decline Bench Press: 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps and supersetted with push-ups to failure

Dumbbell Flyes: 2-3 drop sets to failure

After years and years of that type of training, my chest did grow, but it was very slow, and I was pretty pathetically weak (I couldn’t even rep 225 on the freeweight flat bench…after 7 years of lifting…yikes).

What I didn’t know is that high-rep training with an emphasis on “feeling the burn” should never be the focus of a natural weightlifter.

[tweet “High-rep training to “feeling the burn” should never be the focus of a natural weightlifter.”]

Why?

Because that style of training does not build the strong, dense type of muscle we’re after. Instead, it gives big pumps but little muscle growth.

What should we be doing then? Us natural weightlifters should focus on lifting heavy weights with a moderate workout volume (40 – 60 reps per muscle group every 5 – 7 days) 

The single rep range I’ve found most effective is the 4 – 6 rep range, which has you lifting about 80 – 85% of your one-rep max. This rep range is an incredibly effective way to stimulate both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, resulting in big, dense, strong muscles that don’t disappear when your pump subsides or when you get lean.

Trust me on this one–the big, shredded guys that do 15-25 sets per workout, 10-12+ reps per set, with supersets, drop sets, and other fancy rep schemes, can only look like they do because of drugs.

You, as a natural weightlifter, will get nowhere with their routines. It took me years of spinning my wheels to learn this.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Huge Fitness Mistake #2:
Doing too many isolation exercises, and too few compound exercises.

workout mistakes

This mistake is a natural outgrowth of the last, as the high-rep burnout workouts almost always have you doing a bunch of isolation work.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, an isolation exercise is an exercise that mainly involves one muscle group (it isolates it). For instance, a dumbbell front raise is an isolation exercise that targets your anterior (front) deltoid muscle.

The opposite of an isolation exercises is a compound exercise, which is one that involves multiple muscle groups. For example, my favorite compound exercise for shoulders is the Military Press (the Standing Overhead Press is good too).

So, in my old workouts, probably 70-75% of my reps were isolation exercise reps. and I almost never did compound exercises vital to building a big, strong physique such as the Deadlift, Squat, and Military or Overhead Press.

Isolation work has a place in a natural weightlifter’s workout routine–I don’t completely shun it like some gurus–but it should never constitute the majority of reps performed in workouts.

[tweet “Isolation work has a place in a natural weightlifter’s workout routine but is never the focus.”]

The bottom line is compound exercises should be the bulk of your workouts, even if you’re an advanced weightlifter.

Huge Fitness Mistake #3:
Following silly dietary protocols instead of regulating caloric intake.

exercise mistakes

I more or less had everything wrong when it came to diet.

Here’s a quick rundown of how clueless I was:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could go on but, well, you get the idea. I basically had my PhD in brosience.

Thanks to my many misconceptions, my food intake in terms of numbers was all over the place, and my dietary schedule was very inflexible, and very annoying.

While my protein intake was always high (too high, really), I didn’t have any idea how many calories I was eating every day, nor where they were coming from in terms of protein, carbs, and fat. I would just eat a bunch of “bodybuilder foods” like chicken, brown rice, and sweet potato, and hope I grew.

When it came to meal frequency and timing, I was equally bad. I could only eat certain foods at certain times, I had to eat food every 2-3 hours or I would actually get angry (“LOOOSING MY GAINNNZZZ!”), I couldn’t eat dinner past 7 PM, and on and on.

Well, here’s what I’ve learned since:

The nutrition side of the game is horribly simple: you hit exact numbers of grams of protein, carbohydrate, and fat every day, and your body responds by building muscle or losing fat accordingly.

[tweet “Nutrition is very simple: hit exact numbers of grams of protein, carbs, and fat every day.”]

In the end, it all boils down to “energy balance,” which refers to how much energy you’re giving your body with food versus how much you’re expending through basic physiological functions and moving.

Building muscle efficiently requires you give your body a bit more energy (calories) than it requires, and losing fat requires that you give it a bit less. 

That’s the bottom-line truth.

With the minor exception of pre- and post-workout nutrition, when you eat food doesn’t help or hinder you. 

Meal frequency and timing are irrelevant when it comes to building muscle and losing fat.

[tweet “Meal frequency and timing are irrelevant when it comes to building muscle and losing fat.”]

Where they DO matter is in helping you stick to your plan.

If you prefer 3 meals per day instead of 7, do it that way. If you’re like me and prefer the opposite, that’s okay too. If you like eating an early dinner at 5 PM, great. If you get home last and can’t get dinner ready before 8 PM, that’s totally fine.

So long as you hit your daily numbers, how you get there isn’t important.

While I DO recommend eating a lot of healthy, nutritious foods, WHAT you eat every day doesn’t matter in terms of body composition–it’s all about HOW MUCH you eat.

Would you believe that you could eat Twinkies, Nutty bars, and powdered donuts every day and lose weight?

Well, Professor Mark Haub did just that and lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks.

How the hell is that possible?

Simple: he regulated HOW much of these foods he was eating every day in terms of calories, and just ensured he was feeding his body less energy than it was burning.

What happens when you do this? Weight loss. Even when the calories (energy) are completely devoid of nutrition.

Huge Fitness Mistake #4:
Failing to progressively overload my muscles.

bodybuilding mistakes

I once believed that the key to stimulating muscle growth was regularly changing up my workout routine. I thought I had to do different exercises every week or two or my body would adapt and no longer grow bigger or stronger.

I was horribly wrong.

What I didn’t know is the key to building bigger, stronger muscles is not doing a bajillion different exercises, but is simply progressively overloading the muscles.

[tweet “Building bigger muscles requires progressive overload, not a constantly changing routine.”]

In case you don’t know, “progressive overload” refers to progressively increasing tension levels in the muscle fibers over time. That is, adding weight to the bar, progressively lifting heavier and heavier weights over time.

This mistake only made the first mistake (high-rep training) even worse. I wasn’t really getting stronger. Instead of moving up in weight, I was more inclined to move up in reps (to get an even bigger pump).

Well, here’s a simple rule of thumb for us natural weightlifters: if you want to get bigger, you have to get stronger.

[tweet “The rule of thumb for natural weightlifters: to get bigger, you have to get stronger.”]

Yes, muscles can get stronger without getting bigger (thanks to neuromuscular adaptations), but there comes a point where additional strength requires bigger muscle fibers, and progressive overload is the key to making that happen.

What this means in practice is that you should move up in weight once you reach the top of the rep range you’re working in. 

For example, if you’re training in the 4-6 rep range and get 6 reps on your first set of an exercise, you move up in weight (5 pounds if using dumbbells, 10 pounds if it’s a barbell exercise).

You then work with this new weight, with which you’ll likely get 4 reps on the next set, until you can lift it for 6 reps (this may take one week or three depending on the exercise and how advanced of a lifter you are), after which point you move up, and on it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this way, you will lift heavier and heavier weights over time, and will be using progressive overload to your advantage.

Huge Fitness Mistake #5:
Not tracking my progress.

exercise fitness mistakes

I never used to bother logging what I did in my workouts. I just hit the gym every day, decided which exercises I felt like doing, and went at it. The major problem this caused is I never really knew if I was making progress on my lifts.

Now that you know the importance of progressive overload, I’m sure you get the point here. If you don’t have a record of your lifts every week, you have no idea if you’re getting weaker or stronger, and you aren’t able to set goals for your workouts.

The latter point is worth elaborating on.

Your goal, every time you hit the gym, is to do a little better on your exercises than the last time you did them.

[tweet “Your goal every workout is to do a little better on your exercises than the last time.”]

That is, maybe you can’t go up on your Bench Press weight this week, but if you can beat last week’s press by just one rep, that’s a successful workout. If you can then beat that number by another rep the following week, then you’re ready to move up in weight.

The only way to systematically do this is to log what you do in the gym each week, and use these records to guide your future workouts.

This is Only the Beginning of My Many Fitness Mistakes…

fitness mistakes that prevent weight loss

This is really only the beginning–I was making many more mistakes that needed fixing.

Looking back, I’m a little surprised I didn’t throw in the towel somewhere around year 4-5, when I was fully plateaued, failing to make any progress in terms of strength, size, or body fat percentage.

Well, the good news is I finally sorted it all out, which not only led to me rapidly building the body I had always wanted, but led to my career as an author, and the chance to help others overcome these same, all-too-common issues.

While I talk about many different things in my articles here on the site, I lay all the key information out for you in my books Bigger Leaner Stronger (for men) and Thinner Leaner Stronger (for women).

If you want to know exactly how to avoid the 5 major pitfalls discussed in this article, and the many others not, then I highly recommend you read either Bigger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger

In these books, I teach you EXACTLY what you need to know to rapidly and easily build muscle and lose fat, and nothing else. In just a few hours, these books will teach you things most people will never know about building a strong, muscular, lean, healthy body, and maintaining it for the rest of your life.

 

What do you think about these fitness mistakes? Have anything else you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
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  • Mauricio

    What if you hit a wall with, say, dead lifts and can’t make it past that mark/weight?

    • rockhead006

      Eat more and sleep more.

    • Michael Matthews

      My first guess would be diet–if you’re not gaining strength across the board despite proper training, you’re not eating enough.

      Another point could be form. If your mechanics are off, your progress will stall.

      And if those aren’t issues, then it could just be a sticking point. It happens. I’ve had my weights stick for a couple of weeks for no reason and then start moving again.

      I really only consider it a problem when I’m stuck at the same weight and reps for 3-4 weeks.

  • Pedro

    Great article Mike. Before I “met you” five months ago, I was in the same situation and totally tired of my no progress. A few days ago I was looking me in the mirror and I told my wife: “Mike Matthews, Kinobody and IF protocol changed my life”.

    I think all of us want to know exactly your progress from the point you started to know what you were doing. I mean, what were your body fat levels and what did you started to do in terms of bulking and cutting and in terms of time of each “season”.

    Please, let us know that.

    • Joel

      Hey Pedro can you elaborate how you used IF Protocol to your routine. Can you be specific ? I am interested in using the same. Thanks.

      • Pedro

        I dont do it everyday, but Fasting is a great way to diet, be patient, lose fat easy and make your like simpler. When I know I will eat a big meal and Im dieting I fast for 16-18 hours and save calories. I also do while travelling or when I lift in the evening just because my body doesn want food at morning when I dont train.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Pedro! That’s awesome man–I’m really glad to hear it.

      I looked exactly like you see in the year 8 picture when I started training correctly.

      I started with a cut, which got me to the 12-13% range. From there I bulked to 15-16%. I then cut to 6% and felt too small, so bulked back to 15-16%. I then cut to 9-10% and maintained for 4-6 months, and then recently cut to 6% and was pretty happy all around.

      I’m now maintaining 7-8% and don’t really feel the need to bulk again.

  • Artid

    Great and simple! The essence of what your books teach!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Artid!

  • Toni

    This article rings true for me. I was guilty of eating far too little and utilizing the high rep scheme with isolation exercises. And I wondered why after a few years, I still looked exactly the same! I have to say that focusing on my nutrition and mainly compound exercises made all the difference. A few months later, and I looked a lot better.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Toni.

      Yeah, many women fall into that trap. It’s understandable.

      Really glad to hear you’re doing better now tho!

  • Neal Morton

    Thanks for the article Mike. Though what you write has been expounded over and over again, you’ve gone to the next level by writing books and practicing what you preach. You’re an inspiration! After reading the books and following my diet plan that you made for me for several months, I am leaner and stronger than before. At 48 that really means something!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Neal! I really appreciate it. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Gabe

    Definitely agree about the necessity of progressive overload. However I feel very strongly that there’s no universal prescription for optimal programming. It’s all about starting sensibly and over time finding if you respond best to different variables whether they be volume, certain rep ranges, density, frequency etc. by making specific, measurable changes.
    I personally plateau very quickly if I remain in a certain rep range for very long. Perhaps a certain loading pattern based on percentages can help here but I personally prefer periodization.
    One of the biggest mistakes that has plagued me over the years is having unrealistic expectations regarding supplements. I’ve fallen for a lot of marketing and figured if they had compelling ad copy and listed a few citations it had to be legit. Even what’s generally considered the ‘best’ hypertrophy-focused supplement, creatine, isn’t even that impressive compared to placebo and it doesn’t even work for ~30% of the population. There are no magic shortcuts, just smarter, purpose-driven choices that prove valuable over time.

    • Michael Matthews

      Good to hear from you again. 🙂

      Periodization is great for advanced weightlifters IF it’s done correctly. Many natty lifters I’ve seen/known wound up overtraining because various popular periodized routines out there are a bit much if you’re not on drugs.

      Haha yeah I used to buy into supps big time as well. Oh well, live and learn.

      Given the abundance of positive results in clinical research with creatine, I think it’s definitely worth using. Especially as a natural lifter, where every little boost counts. But it’s not NECESSARY of course.

      • Gabe

        Absolutely. Creatine can certainly help people but I’ve gradually learned the value of managing my expectations (with supps in general) and trying to be conscious of what’s working and what I’m just doing because a magazine of bro told me.

        I’ve been at the point where I was spending upwards of $300 a month and had more white powder than Tony Montana but nothing to show for it.
        http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/HJUt_x0gwug/maxresdefault.jpg

        • Michael Matthews

          Hahahah that was me too!

  • Logan Dulmus

    This is a great article Mike. But fortunately, according to your guidelines, I am doing everything correctly already. I am 16 years old and have been training for about 2 and a half years. I 1RM 270 flat bench, 400 straight bar deadlift, and I have never maxed out with the squat. I didn’t know what I was really doing until about 8 months ago. I had never even squatted or deadlifted before this last summer. Nonetheless, I would say my progress has been decent. Given my numbers, would you agree? Or should I be progressing faster than that?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Logan, and that’s awesome dude. You’re a freaking beast. Keep it up and you’re going to be superhuman by the time you’re my age.

      Make sure you’re eating a lot BTW. Your metab is going to be REALLY high due to your age and training…

  • Joel

    Hey Mike great article as usual. But can you clarify in detail how you can continuously consume over 200 grams of protein per day ( most guys are over 200) . It seems that it is easy to over-consume carbs and fats but i have a difficult time with the protein. Can you give some examples how you divide that into your 4-5 meals per day? And what type of protein ? Much appreciated. Joel

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Joel!

      I like to eat 6-7 small meals per day with 25-40 grams of protein per meal, with it coming from meat, dairy, nuts, and whole grains mainly. Simplest way to do it without having to stuff myself. I only drink 2-3 scoops of protein powder per day.

  • Rimas

    Hey Mike, great article! I’ve got a bad back and can’t safely squat or deadlift (even the leg press bothers me). Obviously that will impede my gains but am I doomed to be weak forever? Do you think your BLS workout would still benefit me even if I can’t do those compound exercises?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Rimas!

      That’s totally fine. You can still do great on the program as there are plenty of other ways to train both your legs and back.

  • Andy Culvers

    Hi Mike, just to confirm rep/set range, i have been increasing weight once i have done 3 sets of 6, not when i hit 6 on the first set, ie chest, 70kg/6 70kg/6 70kg/4. i will then stay at that weight until i reach 70/6 70/6 70/6 then go up the following session to (for exampe) 75/6 75/5 75/4, then increase weight once all 3 sets hit 6. it sounds like as you write above i should do 70/6 (rest 2mins) then increase for the next set to 75 in that day even though i may only get 4 or 5 reps on the last set of the 70??? can you firm this up for me please.

    • Michael Matthews

      I like to increase on the first set of 6. I will clarify this in the next update to the book.

      Give it a try. You’ll move up in weight faster…

      • Andy Culvers

        Righto

        • Michael Matthews

          Lemme know how it goes. 🙂

    • Jeremy Satterfield

      I have a similar question. Are we supposed to stay in the 4-6 range for all 3 sets? Say I hit 6 reps the first set and move up. I might hit 4 on the next set then maybe just 2 or 3 on the third. If I’m not getting at least 4 reps on the third set, should I be sticking with the original weight?

      • Michael Matthews

        Good question. As your muscle endurance improves, you should be able to hit 6 on set 1, go up in weight, and then get 4 reps for the next two sets.

        Make sure you’re resting 2-3 min in between sets as well or you won’t be able to.

        That said, if you get 6 reps, go up, then get 4, and finally 2-3, that’s okay. Just keep working with that weight until you hit 6, and move up.

  • Daniyal

    Hey Mike a great article….
    what i wanted to ask was i am lifting your way as u guided me in a tweet

    what i face problem is in keeping track of the nutrients that i eat
    like i dont measure them
    i just go in the kitchen and eat what is i think good for my body but not knowing how much to eat.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      You definitely want to track your intake. Use an app like My Fitness Pal. It makes it easy.

  • Mark W

    Thanks for the article – and the honesty! I’ve made some fairly stupid mistakes along the way, especially with supplements. Live and learn. 🙂

    Your hard work is definitely paying off. I’m glad you didn’t quit!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Mark! Yeah, I’ve made ALL the stupid mistakes over the years, haha.

  • António Alves

    Hi Mike,

    For someone who works out 5 days a week Mon-Fri and is on a cut, should that person still maintain the caloric deficit over the weekend even though they are not lifting on those days?

    Also, is there any substitute for BCAAs for 30 min fasted cardio, as in a food source, or can you go for it without having taking anything? If you did take something, can it be immediately before cardio, or do you have to follow the 30 min rule?

    What should you eat after the fasted cardio? If you are doing it in the morning, should you eat a big breakfast afterwards( a planned one that contributes to your macros), do you need whey protein or can it be something like chicken? High GI carbs afterwards or Low GI carbs?

    Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, maintain the deficit 6 days per week and on your refeed/cheat meal, you’ll probably end up around maintenance for the day.

      Yes, leucine is a substitute. Take 5 grams. You can eat whatever type of protein you want. I prefer high-GI after.

      • António Alves

        What do you exactly mean by the refeed meal? As far as I know it is recommended once a week to boost your metabolism.
        So if I follow a strict diet Mon-Sat, on Sunday I can have a cheat meal (a piece of chocolate or some different food, not a huge feast)?
        Also, is there any danger other than perhaps some muscle catabolism of training without any food (including BCAAs or leucine)?

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah a refeed is a high-carb meal to pump up leptin levels, which helps tell the body it’s okay to keep losing fat (simple but accurate way to explain it).

          Yes, you can definitely do that. Shoot for going 500-600 cal over your normal on your cheat and you’re fine.

          Yes, if you train in a completely fasted state, muscle breakdown is greatly accelerated. This is bad.

  • António Alves

    Hi Mike,

    Should you fully extend body parts when working out i.e. locking out elbows in the bench press? I know some guys say you shouldn’t do it, in order to keep tension on the muscle. What do you think?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes you want to fully extend your arms BUT you want to keep your shoulder blades pinched, your back slightly arched, and your shoulders tucked back.

      You don’t want to flatten your blades and roll your shoulders forward at the top–this can cause injury.

  • Pepinos

    People like me with elbow tenonditits cant use the 4-6 rep range.
    I prefer to use 8-20 (depending on the exercise) and use the rest pause scheme. Am I doing it wrong?

    • Michael Matthews

      You can still make gains if you’re focusing on the right exercises (compounds). That said, if you’re able to work in some 4-6 rep work on certain exercises, like the deadlift and squat, then I would recommend it.

  • Mike

    I’ve spun my wheels and sounded like a broscience magazine reader as well. 400 grams protein..eat every three hours..genetic deficiency talk..spread my misinformation gospel too..at least we made it out of the trap. The only people who made progress in those days were the supplement companies who I supported. It wasn’t until I started training max ot..4-6 rep range did I grow consistently..my eating was the same..and I changed to eating just food..I didn’t need any of it.
    Keep up the great work in sharing the truth..I will continue to pass your articles along. Thanks for being here. I have seen very significant changes employing your dietary strategies.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks a lot for the feedback Mike. I really appreciate it, and I’m really glad you escaped the trap, haha. Our Matrix moment. 😉

  • Poppy

    Love those pictures over the 11 years, fascinating! You seem to be a walking example of how the 4-6 rep range works brilliantly for men. How did you come by the 8-10 reps for women though? I would love to know the basis for that. Some pictures of a woman working in that range over a couple of years would be amazing!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      The reason why I recommend 8-10 reps for women is simply because the majority I’ve worked with were already quite intimidated by the weight necessary to work in the 8-10 rep range. The 4-6 rep range was REALLY uncomfortable for them (generally speaking).

      The reality is 4-6 reps does work fine for women, but they can do great with the 8-10 rep range as well. There’s also the issue of overtraining to consider–women’s bodies can’t repair nearly as much muscular damage as guys’.

      So, if you’d like to work in some 4-6 training, I recommend doing no more than 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:

      Squats

      Military Press

      Bench Press

      Deadlift

      • Poppy

        Thanks very much for the prompt reply! I understand now, that makes perfect sense, the weights do seem very heavy and hard to increase other than very slowly. I think i will try 4-6 though on a day when I am feeling energised!

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! I’m glad it makes sense. Sounds like a plan! Let me know how it goes!

  • Alan Cherney

    Big problem, Mike. I’ve been following your program religiously for 13 months. I have become bigger, leaner, and stronger than I expected. My wife is too happy with my looks, strength, and stamina. I recommend your book to too many people. Please help.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah uh oh, it sounds like we had better get you on a Men’s Health muscle confusion program and the Atkin’s diet ASAP. A month of that and you will be singing a different tune…

  • Michele

    Great article and I’ve read Thinner Leaner Stronger and loved it. I’m working on progressive overload now. I get comfortable at a certain weight/rep range and stay there. I’ve got to do better. Thanks for the article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Michele! Awesome, keep up the good work! Let me know how everything goes!

  • Luke Z.

    Mike,

    Great summary of your book. Articles like this really help in staying motivated, especially when you feel you’ve hit a sticking point!

    Also, thanks for replying to everyone on here, I’m sure that takes a lot of time on your part, but it makes a world of difference.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Luke! I really appreciate it. And it’s my pleasure–I really like staying in touch with everyone.

  • Josh

    Great article, Mike.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • Alok Desai

    Hi Michael, thanks a lot for the article. In fact, I am commiting all of these mistakes you mentioned above, thanks to weird sources of information I had. Finally I think I am at the right place.
    One question though. In my gym I saw a person lifting super heavy weights but he is pretty slim. Why doesn’t he have those bulging muscles when he can lift so heavy?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Alok! I’m glad you liked the article and let’s get you off the mistakes! 🙂

      Muscles can get stronger without getting bigger, actually. This article explains more:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

  • Nick Murphy

    I understand what you say about doing compound weights. But for a newbie, several of them eg pull-ups and dips are just too hard!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I understand! You can work up to them though–assisted pull-ups and dips are great!

  • willie

    what about abs ? i work abs three days a week MWF and focus on each muscle, is that right ?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes that’s plenty. It does depend, of course, on what you’re doing in each ab workout though.

  • Greg

    Great article Mike,thanks for the good info!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • Frank

    Can you tell me if there is a spanish version of this article? its really useful

    • Michael Matthews

      No but I think Google Translate does a good job?

  • Michael C

    I must have passed out and written this article, because I have done the exact same mistakes since high school (34 years old now). Thank god I enjoy working out because although I’ve remained “fit” while friends have gotten fat I’m far from cut/big.

    Looking to change that now.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah I understand. Let me know how everything goes.

  • John Addams

    Hey Mike! Nice article. I was wondering are you the skinny-fat type of ectomorph, i.e. one who, while in a caloric surplus, tends to put on more fat and less muscle than most people do with all else being equal? And in a deficit, tends to lose more muscle and less fat? I’m asking you this because I am in my 3rd year of working out and somewhat resemble your “year 8” picture, except having scrawnier arms and somewhat bigger love handles. I’ve been clean bulking since a year (before that I did a cut to get down to 10-11% bf from an awful dirty bulk and during the cut I more or less lost all the newly gained mass also, ending up the same as before), so I started from a pretty lean foundation again. Although I’ve been working out like crazy since then, I’ve noticed that my calorie partioning is quite like the skinny-fat type I described. Therefore, I want to know whether you had the same problem and if so, how managed to circumvent this. Please help.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks John! I believe you emailed me on this? I replied. I’ll also write an article specifically on the skinny fat problem and how to defeat it.

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  • MidwestGal

    After listening to your audiobook (TLS) I’ve decided to give this a shot and follow your recommendations. And I’m shocked at how much protein and how many fewer carbs I need to eat. This isn’t easy. I ordered your cookbook, and hope this makes it easier to transition from high carb to a high protein plan, but let’s just say I have over 70g of protein I need to eat this evening and no carbs left in the daily budget! It is a big transition from the eating style of my endurance sports background.

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  • Chris

    Hey Mike,

    My take on the progressive overload after reading your books was to try and do 3 sets of 6 reps on a weight before moving up, I feel this gives me the best base to then try a higher weight. I guess this would just be slowing down my gains though right?

    • Michael Matthews

      I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

      • Ryan

        Wondering the same thing..how does it make sense to add weight on the following set? you have the most strength/energy on your first set that’s why pyramid training makes no sense at all and reverse pyramid training(or straight sets)make MUCH more sense because you are starting with your heaviest weight in reverse pyramid training or just doing less reps the following sets in straight sets..so why do you raise the weight after the 1st set?

        • Michael Matthews

          Huh? You move up once you hit 6 reps, that’s all. So if you hit 6 on your first set, it means it’s time to move up, which will get you 4. You’ll then work with that new weight until you can do 6, move up, etc. This way you add strength over time.

          You don’t purposely use weight you can do 6 with set 1. You just want to try to hit 6 with the weight that you maybe could only get 4 or 5 with the week before.

          • Ryan

            Okay I see what you are saying..thanks man! so you keep the same weight for all 3 sets until you hit 6 on the first set?

          • Michael Matthews

            Not necessarily the first–any. It’s usually the first though, when you’re freshest. You usually come into your workout stronger, hit 6 – 7 on set one for exercise one, go up, and move on.

          • Ryan

            Thanks for the help! After reading your articles, I’m trying the 4-6 rep range in all my exercises,I’m following your workouts so hopefully I make some gains..thanks again

          • Michael Matthews

            Great, let me know how it goes!

          • Samuel Sander

            Hey Michael! 🙂 Have you tried the reverse-pyramid-training approach as well? (eg. 1st set – 4 reps, 2nd set 6 reps with a slightly ligher weight, 3rd set 8 reps with a slightly lighter weight) I’ve read some people advocating it saying it saves you from overtraining and neural fatigue while still progressing.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yup, my book for advanced lifters is almost ready to launch and it uses an RPT-style program. It’s what I do personally.

          • Samuel Sander

            Awesome, looking forward to that:))

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks 🙂

  • Tim

    Mike, you said your old bad routine was 4-5 sets of 10-12 per exercise, which is 40 – 60 reps. You then said a better routine was 40-60 reps per muscle group per week. Can you explain the difference? Is it that the 40 – 60 reps are with heavier weights, and spread among a number of different exercises?

    • Michael Matthews

      No no, 4 – 5 exercises per workout, 4 – 5 sets per exercise, 10 – 12 rep range, with a lot of supersets, drop sets, giant sets, etc. It was garbage.

      • Tim

        So now you do the same number of exercises per workout, but fewer sets and fewer reps, heavier? I’ve read your book but it’s not completely obvious.

        • Michael Matthews

          BLS is 3-4 exercises, 3 sets per exercise, no supersetting or dropsetting.

          I’m currently following a periodized version of BLS, which will be in my next book, and which is similar. 10 total sets per workout.

          • Stumpasm

            when can we expect the new book to be released?

          • Michael Matthews

            About a week!

  • Paul Fisher

    Great article thanks for the motivation

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Paul. 🙂

  • sBaro

    Hello Mike,

    I’ve read 3 of your books since i discovered your website last week, I started lifting 6 months ago (5 months effective actually because I didn’t knew what was proper nutrition). I’m making all kinds of gainz since I started. Now there is something I want to ask, my training split is barely the same that you describe in BLS but again my rep range and especially the volume of the workout is very different. For exemple, on back, leg or chest days I’m doing 4/5 different exercises for 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

    I never go over 1 hour of training since I started (sometime the abs days) and always go as heavy as I can, increasing the weights each week. My rest time are short (less than a minute) because I like intense workout.

    So the question is, I tried your programs this week (actually I was already doing the same exercises that you provides because I’m training at home with a barbell and dumbbells) but since the volume is very different, the workout is not as intense as I was used to. I’m not sweating because the rest time are too long so he intensity of the training is not the same, will that matters? How you’re feeling during your workout? I’ve to focus more one every single reps?

    It’s true that with my current routine I can barely move the muscles I worked or have difficulties to climb the stairs because of soreness every week so will it be more effective to do it your way? (I know I just can try but it will take weeks to see the difference)

    I learned I lot here thx!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my books and writing! I really appreciate it. Really glad to hear you’re doing well.

      Emphasizing high-rep training isn’t optimal when you’re natural. I talk about why here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      The workouts definitely feel different. But so long as you’re getting your 9-12 heavy sets per workout you’re doing it right.

      You lift to get bigger and stronger not do cardio. 😛

      You don’t have to train to complete exhaustion either. I used to do the same. Doesn’t work every well in the long run.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Emrick

    i really like your webside, i learned a few things here but i dont agree with tracking your energy intake with an app, i think it can lead to a nutrition disorder or somthing.. i like keeping things simple. Mike ive been doing low reps for two month or three and i benched 325 lbs today for 1 rep max but i still look kinda skinny.. do you think it should be time to switch to higher rep training to work slowtwich fiber?

  • Stumpasm

    Great article, i don’t know why this isn’t common knowledge in the world of bodybuilding when it really should be. My question is should I do the usual 4-6 reps for every exercise? would you do the same rep range for isolation exercises as for compound movements?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      For all compounds definitely and I also like it for the smaller groups too like arms, side and even rear delts.

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  • Jonathanl

    how much protein per day do you really need to build muscle?

  • Donkey Kong

    Hi Mike, I see you mentioned in your article that doing a lot of cardio will set you back in gaining muscle. I play a lot of tennis and squash so was wondering whether this will limit the gains I’m able to see?

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

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  • Med

    Hi Mike loved the article, for a beginner like me who does (4 sets / 10 reps each exercise ), isn’t it such a small workout (time/strength wise) to do 3 sets / 6 reps instead ? it’s my understanding that as a beginner i should be doing a lot of reps to exercise my muscles ?, imo you were already an advanced weightlifter when changed the way you lift. want to start doing it this way just need a bit of clarification Thank You very much.

  • This article is a great refresher of your book content Mike! Love it! Cheers 🙂

  • Will Jenkins

    Mike, say I wanted to build muscle but shred the overlaying fat. How do I balance the calorific intake? Is it something to do with the ratio of protein : carbs : fats?

    Will J

  • James

    Hey Michael, loved reading your books. Kind of hard to believe how much easier yet harder it is then I thought if you know what I mean. Im having trouble building meal plans and was wondering what your advice was. I have read your write ups on it but its hard for me to make a weekly plan based off it. Any tips?

    Thanks,

    James

  • Stephen Broda

    Hi Michael, I’ve been in and out of gyms for the last 25 years and the few trainers I had convinced me that the way to go was the common 10-12, 10-12, go up and 6-8 reps on the last set. The reason for the “out” in reference to the “in and out” of gyms was frustration in not increasing strength for the immense amount of work I was putting in. Was doing 5-7 mile runs averaging 20 to 30 miles a week. Just started up again at the age of 57 and am intrigued with the lower rep higher weight strength training described in your program. And I still love to run but at my age, am doing 2-3 mile runs averaging 10 to 12 miles a week. Could I continue averaging that amount of roadwork without burning off muscle tissue using your method of 4-6 reps doing compound exercises?

    • Stephen Broda

      Saw a similar question below and read your article on cardio. Plan to cut it down to 2 mile runs, 2 to 3 times a week. Thanks

      • Ok cool! LMK how it goes and if you have any other questions. 🙂

  • Annie

    Hello, I’m a female who needs to GAIN muscle. Which of your books do I read?

      • Annie

        Great, thank you! I just ordered a copy. I have one more question. I calculated my macros based on your advice for gaining muscle and the breakdown came out to be carb 65%, protein 20%, and fat 15%. Does this sound like a proper breakdown to you?

        • Welcome!

          Nah, that seems off. Set up your numbers using this:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

          LMK how it goes.

          • Annie

            I re-calculated based on the above article and it was still pretty close but I think more reasonable. I’m 110 and about 20% body fat, which gives me a BMR of 1232, and TDEE of 1848. Multiplied by 1.1, I get 2,033 calories/day for muscle gain (I think I need more though, since the scale is not moving at that amount). I’m using the MyFitnessPal app. I know you said do 1 gram protein per lb body weight, but even at 25% protein, this puts me at 127g, which is a bit higher than my body weight. 20% fat would be 45g, which leaves me with 280g carbs. The closest ratio to this would be carb 55%, protein 25%, and fat 20%. What do you think? And thank you for taking the time to respond to your readers!!!

          • Okay cool.

            I’d stick to the cals and macros you got from the calculator and see how it goes.

            Your goal is to gain .5-1 pound a week. If you’re not gaining that, you can add 25g carbs do your daily carbs.

            Let’s see how it goes from there.

  • Joe

    Hey, I’m 18 and wanting to become more athletic and build some muscle. Don’t want to be massive. Just look good and be able to have strength for sports etc. I only have enough time for a 3-day split so would I be able to reach my goal by perhaps doing…

    Monday – Chest & Biceps
    Wednesday – Back & Triceps
    Friday – Legs & Shoulders

    I’d also do cardio on rest days and after Monday/Wed workouts.

    (I’ve put back/triceps and chest/biceps so that I am hitting them twice a week and I would struggle to train arms sufficiently after the other exercises)

    So how does this sound for my goal?

    Thank you!

  • Antonio Smith

    Michael, I purchased your book last year and it was very informative. I did the math on my daily macronutrient intake and I’m having problems taking in enough carbs? Any suggestions on good hi carb choices?

    • Thanks for picking up my book!

      For carbs there’s rice, pasta, whole grain bread, etc. If you’re having a hard time even with those, you can add in some carbs from fluids (juice, milk, etc.).

      Sound good?

  • Mega Bloghub

    Damn, looks like I’m making a lot of this wrong. Already purchased your book but I’m still in the motivational/nutrition area…but I guess I understand why I’m training since 3 years without seeing any significant gains. Lots of isolation work and 10-12 reps? Damn, for some I do 20-30! I’ve done this since 3 years now, have I fucked myself up or is there still hope to “re-wire” my muscles to grow the right kind of fibers?

    Also, how do I figure out my 80% of 1 rep? Just put weight on the bar and then try to lift for 4-6 times and go up/down in weight accordingly? Obviously I did the high-rep/low-weight thing for a long time so I have no idea how much weight I’m “supposed” to lift for my age (27) – any rough figures for squat, deadlift, biceps curls and bench press? I’ve been doing around 65lbs for all of these (for 15-30 reps, depending on the exercise)…what should I be looking to do instead? 100lbs?

    Thanks a lot man!

    • Thanks for picking up the book! LMK what you think.

      You’ll do great man. Don’t worry.

      I explain how to workout the weights in the book.

      Let me know once you’ve read it!

  • Andrea P Osby

    Bought the women training book listed above and having gone through half the book, I am feeling overwhelmed. Got the journal that came with it and I am overwhelmed. I really want to do right by your training program but now I feel like i am setting myself up to fail all over again.

    • Thanks Andrea!

      Can you tell me more about what you’re running into?

      • Andrea P Osby

        My perception – just seems like this program is tailored to the already in shape. I am beyond beginner exerciser stage – probably more in the early intermediate stage. The workouts seem to focus on gym workouts – I work out at home. I don’t have an incline bench but I do have a decent workout bench for rows and chest presses, etc. I bought another workout book in addition to this one and those workouts seems a bit more tailored to the home gymbody. I just bought your cookbook and I do like your journal and the push for accountability – just seems overwhelming on the recommended exercises when you aren’t a gym rat. Ideally, I want to continue with your regimen but I don’t want to set myself up to fail. I had an opportunity to pay $1800 for a year personalized coaching program from national popular doctor who is also a personal trainer. However, I didn’t want to spend that if your program, which reads and sounds similar, can get me in shape, in a year, for a fraction of the price. So, I said all of this in response to your question by saying that your journal seems tailored to the more advanced and not the average jane like me who is trying to get into a disciplined home workout routine (I did buy Bowflex adjustable dumbbells!). I am looking for that workout structure that tells me what to do and how to do it and for how long to do it. I want to get this right. I am still scratching my head on whether your program is the best fit for me at this stage. (FYI – I am still trying to figure out the diet % balance of 40-30-30 in your book also as
        my weight is more than the book example – I am not 100% sure if I may
        calorie base is proper to calculate the % breakdown).

        • Oh okay.

          Well the program is actually meant for beginners and intermediates.

          You could always give the first phase a go and see how you do and like it?

          Did you download the bonus report? It has a year’s worth of workouts…

          And this will help you too:

          https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

        • Pam

          “I am looking for that workout structure that tells me what to do and
          how to do it and for how long to do it. I want to get this right.” That is what you are given with Mike’s programs. So I’m scratching my head with what you mean by this, or if you are making excuses to stay in the same place and not make progress. Getting fit is a progression, it isn’t about perfection (or “getting it right”).

          Insofar as the numbers for diet – figure out how many times more weight you have than the example 140lb (or was it 150lb) woman who is cutting/dropping fat, and increase the numbers by that percentage in the book. It is simple math. I do find though, with the macro goals for cutting fat, that I crave fats and oils – something that I was not expecting.

          45-60 minutes per day is not being a gym rat.

          Hire a personal trainer to teach you the core lifts, and do check-in sessions whenever you need a boost. Track your progress, and go from there.

          Establishing clear goals, being committed, and creating doable bench-mark goals will push you to succeed.

          Remember: “it’s about progression, not perfection!” (Charles Poliquin quote)

  • joe Broz

    Your system works! My Dad was average build but worked on strength, and could embarrass with what he cold do. Personally, I want the belly fat OFF, and more muscle. I believe in your program.

    • Happy to hear your dad is doing well on the program and kicking ass.

      I like your goal. Let’s get ‘er done!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Badr Abualhamail

    Thank you Michael for your article.

    I read your work-out routine in your book “BLS” and honestly I started the 5-day program with the chest and calves day to build muscle and improve my strength. My body fat percentage is 18 percent. How can I lose fat while gaining muscle? Is it ok to delve into a 12 minute HIIT routine after the resistance workout.

    • YW! Cool you started the BLS routine.

      To build muscle and lose fat at the same time, check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

      Totally fine if you want to do 12 minutes of HIIT after the weightlifting.

      Talk soon!

      • Badr Abualhamail

        Hi Mike,

        Do you recommend working on 10,8,8,6 reps for now and then on the same routine until I get used to it to start the very heavy weight?

        Does this approach lead to building muscle?

        Thanks,

        Badr

        • Yeah you can do that to get the hang of everything but you want to work toward the heavier lifting…

    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it. Anything you could do to spread the word would rock too! 🙂

      Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

  • Rick garcia

    Hello Mike,
    I am 39 yrs old. I have been on a long road of losing weight. I started out about 10 yrs ago at 430 lbs. 7 months later I lost just about 100. On only cardio. So safe to say I didn’t know what I was doing. And all I wanted to do was and still is not be fat slob anymore. I now weigh in at 220 lbs plus or minus 5 lbs. I’m at a serious plateu and I really don’t know what to do. All I do know is that I really would love to be cut up like you before I leave this life. I do know that I will need some type of surgery for skin and some really stubborn fat. But I don’t think I’m to that point yet? I honestly don’t know. I have a lot of fat around my stomach area. Loose skin everywhere else you could imagine. I have started doing a lot of research on IF and macro counting. Purchased a cookbook and ” AFL”

  • Well, at least I could buy your book here even though I would have preferred a hard copy 🙂 I got the Gold Standard Whey too. Ready to hit the gym now and make some serious progress. Thanks for another great article.

    • Yep, sorry about that. Hopefully one day soon!

      Thanks for picking up my book and cool you got the whey!

      I look forward to seeing your results!

      My pleasure man! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  • Mark

    Hello Mike.

    I want to ask you a question,its something i have been looking to answer myself,i just cant figure it out!
    You are Someone who i trust and i also want to say that You have helped me to drastically improve my own body! Without you,i would still be pumping away my muscles with that “high rep” chasing the pump workout 😀
    Thatnk You Very Much For That!

    So my sadness :

    I Have not been able to get to the gym lately so for now about a month or two i will have to workout at home,its okay i got my own weights and everything…
    Dumbbells. They are not my 85% of my 1RM,they are 55% or even less of what i actually can lift (Bench Press). I have no acces to 85% of my 1rm weight.

    It simply means i will have to bench press with dumbbells which are only 55%(or even less) of my 1RM.

    So the Ultimate question:

    IS it possible to build muscle lifting weights which are 55% of my 1RM? (can do 10-12 reps with slight effort)

    If its possible then i understand there must be +more sets to do,to overload the muscle more with that 55% weight.

    Im looking forward to see what your thoughts are on this one.

    Thank You Mike.

    • Thanks Mark!

      I’m really glad to hear you’re doing well.

      That’s okay. Doing some higher rep work for a month or two isn’t going to be a big problem.

      To be honest 55% of 1RM is quite light but if you push your reps every set you’ll be fine.

  • Marc Desrosiers

    Hi Mike,
    Are you talking about just one set to failure ? IE Mike Mentzer type training ?
    And, What about when you have a few consecutive weeks with no gains in rep or weight ?
    Is it time then to take an extra couple days off ?
    Thanks,
    Marc

    • Sorry but I’m not sure what you’re referring to exactly. Can you elaborate?

  • Mikcle

    Your description of everything you did wrong mirrors me so hard it’s not funny. Even though I managed to make decent gainz (when I was in Thailand in 2011 the girl serving drinks said she wanted to cut off my arm and keep it she liked it that much haha) I think I’ve always been massively underdosing my carbs and going for the 8-12 rep range thining that was the best way to grow.

    Time to get my macros in order and lift heavy and stop wasting time in the gym!

    • Haha that’s great. At least you managed to make some gains!

      I look forward to seeing your results with proper training and dieting. 🙂

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • chrissyann02

    I’m stuck at where you were after 8 years. I have been doing macros for almost a year with no luck, which obviously means I don’t have my numbers right. I lift heavy, do super sets, do complex moves, strong workouts for an hour a day, etc. (did Crossfit for 2 years, but took what I learned to do my own routine at the gym now). I have tried a variation of macros and stick to it for 6 weeks before switching it up if I have no luck. Is it trial and error? What can I do to get it right? I’m a female, 34, 5’6″, 136lbs (started at 125 before Crossfit so have gained a lot of muscle and strength), I only carry weight on my stomach, not much, but as much as I live a healthy lifestyle, I shouldn’t have a stomach like this with such a small frame. It’s always been my problem area. A week ago, I started 1600 calories (~20% below TDEE) at 160c/160p/35f. I have tried several other variations that were either lower calories, higher carbs, BW in protein, etc. with no luck. Getting frustrated with the failures, but determined to get it right!

  • Gregory Breheim

    Hey Mike what is the best rep range for sprinting (specifically in swimming). I’d assume it’s a little higher than 4-6 reps but what would be the higher end of that spectrum? Great article and keep up the good work

  • Darren Law

    Hi Mike – I’ve purchased beyond BLS should I read BLS first? I’ve been lifting over a year now

    • Hey Darren! Yeah, you should read BLS first. I don’t recommend people follow BBLS until they’ve hit the following benchmarks:

      Squat: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM

      Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM

      Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for a 1RM

      Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for a 1RM

  • cadabeso

    Hi Mike,

    I have been lifting non-seriously for 25 years. I turn 50 this year and recently decided I wanted to look and feel like a 25YO when I hit that milestone, and instead of hiring a trainer, I stumbled across BLS. I knew immediately it was the right approach for me. I’m at the end of my 3rd week and can already see and feel a difference.

    I have a few questions. First, do I have to do two full 4-set warm ups (before incline press and again before barbell curls)? It makes the routine super long. Second, I’m having trouble getting to my protein goal without going over on fat and/or calories. Advice? Third, I’m concerned about my low back, which has given me trouble off and on since college. For this reason, I avoided squats in the past because my back would feel tweaky after doing them for a few weeks or months. I’m doing them now as per your program, and they’re ok so far; I’m really focused on form over weight. So far so good, but my back does feel “tired.” Some other exercises which aren’t leg-focused require picking up a heavy weight, like tricep overhead curls, and I have to pay close attention not to involve my back when picking up the weight. So the question is, what advice do you have for a 49YO guy to protect his back while following your program?

    Thanks in advance! I start my first Strength Week on Monday…

    Will

    • That’s great, Will! I like the goal. Let’s make it happen.

      1. Warm-up sets add time to the routine, but are important for preparing your muscles for heavy lifting and injury prevention. If you want to do a shorter warm-up before the barbell curls, that’s fine.

      2. I hear you! It fan be tough to reach your protein intake goal without exploding your other macros. There are many sources of low-calorie protein you can use. For example: lean meats, egg whites, low-fat Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, etc. Whatever you can’t get with whole foods, you can supplement with protein powder as necessary. I just recommend that you get the majority of your protein from whole foods.

      3. You’re on a the right path by focusing on your squat form. Lower back can feel fatigued after high intensity squats. You can try foam rolling for recovery.

      Heavy standing lifts like the tricep overhead and military press can be done sitting down with your back supported by the bench if that works better for you.

      YW! Let me know how the strength week goes!

  • dave

    Once again thanks for posting this great article! Im enjoying my heavy weight low rep training. Just out of interest what is your view on interspersing crossfit with my regular strength workouts. The box i attend focusses on lots of deadlifts squats cleans etc. Thanks for the advice ! (Btw just bought BLS – waiting for it to arrive in South Africa from amazon)

    • YW, Dave!

      Glad you’re enjoying the heavy weightlifting. 🙂

      If you enjoy Crossfit, go ahead. Personally, I’m not a fan. You’ll get better results with proper weightlifting and cardio and you won’t be at the risk of injury that you are in Crossfit.

      If you are going to add some Crossfit to your training though, I recommend following a 3-day BLS split and then doing Crossfit 2-3 days a week to prevent overtraining.

      My pleasure! Thanks for ordering my book. Hope this helps and LMK what you think of the book. 🙂

  • Brandan Lopez

    what does neuromuscular adaptation mean? and why does this happen that muscles can get stronger without getting bigger? does this happen only for beginners or can it happen to advance lifters?

    • The muscles can “learn” to recruit more muscle fibers during contraction and the muscle fibers can “learn” to contract more forcefully.

      • Brandan Lopez

        basically what it means is that the muscle just has to learn how to adapt when u add a new weight load to the bar?

          • Brandan Lopez

            read this a while back very good article but it does not go into detail or gives a better explanation on what neuromuscular adaptation means

          • Hey Brandan, that’s great! Hope you picked up some good info from the article. Neuromuscular adaptation means that in response to increased weights, your neurons (nerves) start to signal your muscles in more efficient and effective ways so that your muscles generate more force and power.

            Hope that clears it up.

      • Brandan Lopez

        ??

  • Brandan Lopez

    so basically what it means is that the muscle just has to learn how to adapt when u add a new weight load to the bar?

  • Amber♡

    Thanks for this article. I have been so worried about my calorie and protein intake that I have been substituting my lunch for a smoothie every day that did not have protein in it and have felt like crap for the last week and have had very little energy. I have been so worried about eating fewer calories then eating the right amount of calories that I have gained instead of losing. I really needed this Thanks a million!♡

  • Rakesh Kumar

    Thanks for the article
    I have been moreover following your regime not to the exact point. I try and restrict my calorie intake and focus mainly on compound exercises with isolation exercises to complememt it
    Latelly I feel i have plateud in body strength. I mean to say i am stuck doing with the same weights over a couple of weeks now
    Am simply not able to progress in weight or able to do so with exrtreme difficulty say for ezercises such as military press or bar bell curls.
    Any thoughts?

    • Hey Rakesh, if you’re cutting, your strength will plateau eventually. Check this out though:
      http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      • Rakesh Kumar

        @RogerT
        Hey thanks. Makes sense. Will give a shot at the calorie thing and probably do more reps than general and then switch to heavier weight

  • Paul Dalton

    Hey Mike, Greetings from the other side of the pond. I’ve been following your advice for 6 months and really am starting to show some progress. 13 pounds lighter, bigger chest shoulders and arms and lifting almost 100% heavier. I was only following your posts and articles but felt guilty and have now bought the BLS book.
    MY wife wants her pre-children body back so I’ve convinced her to give TLS a go but she has recently had a knee replacement so HIIT is difficult for her as is endless treadmill or pavement (sidewalk?) pounding and cycling.
    Do you have any recommendations?
    Keep up the good work 🙂

    • Hey hey! That’s great you’ve made solid progress in just 6 months. Glad to hear you have your wife on board now too. Thanks for the support, you two!

      If the doc clears her for it: swimming, rowing, recumbent bike. Hope that helps!

      • Paul Dalton

        Thanks Mike, 6 months more to get the six pack back. Been a long time since I’ve seen it. If I’m brave enough I’ll send you the before and afters.

        Rowings going to be tough as she can’t bend more than 90 degrees. Any ideas or articles on swimming exercises?

        Great work outs and nutritional advice. Simple and easy to include in everyday life. I stumbled across your page by accident. Thank god I did. I’ve tried the Wolverine plan, captain America plan and just about everything men’s health has in its arsenal but what works best? Plain and simple getting the basics right and hard work. Thanks for cutting through the BS.

        • Sounds good, Paul! I look forward to it.

          Sorry, no articles on swimming.

          Thanks! Glad you’re getting a lot out of my stuff. Simple is all that it takes. Keep up the great work.

  • Brandan Lopez

    hi is it true progressive overload comes to a stall ? and if it does how do u still progress and continue to make gains?

  • Gina Curtis Rosebrugh

    I’m a woman currently using trainer Lindsey 2 week challenge 15 minutes a day and swim for 40 minutes 2x per week. Going to follow the shredded chef book for eating. What lifting regimen would be good to start?

  • Nathan Hanak

    What is your suggestion if you’re aiming to go for the 4-6 range, and on one set you fail after 3? Should you pause and wait a minute and crank out that extra 1 to bring you to 4? Or should you immediately deload a little and then crank out that 1 (or two)?

    • Reduce the weight for your next set. I personally like to finish, so if I hit 3, I’ll take off 5-10lbs and crank out the last 1-2 reps immediately to hit 4-5.

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