Have you ever started a new strength program because you looked at it ahead of time and it was mostly just a max effort everyday that promised to get your lifts up 400% in a month? Yea well this was pretty much my experience with drop sets. I wasn’t thinking ahead at all on this one, kind of like not preparing your food before the week starts and you fly off the rails with your diet, but that’s much easier to remedy with resources like Quick Paleo Meal Prep. That short book will outline every necesary aspect of your diet whether your a strength training athlete or a desk jockey 90% of the day, and I trust it completely. But that story is for a later time, let’s talk about why not to be stupid when programming for yourself.
LEARN FROM MY EXAMPLE PLEASE
This is how I got started on this journey to the level of wrecked that I am right now. I was listening to a Barbell Shrugged Podcast; however, before I go any further you need to know I support these guys completely and it was my own ignorance that did me in, so I was listening to the podcast on how to get stronger and the lessons they’ve learned from an average of 15 years lifting. This was mistake number one when I look back, I was one fifth of their training age and I was not even close to being on par with their numbers in olympic or power lifts so the arrogance with which I listened like I was on their level is astounding. They talked about how they all loved the concept of drop sets, drop sets are when you build up to a 2-10 rep max in a given lift and then drop to 90% of that max and you work with that weight. This is incredibly smart because instead of following numbers you plugged into a spread sheet at the beginning of the month when you were at your peak, you’re working on what your max is THAT DAY and not pushing yourself at the same intensity month after month, which would be unsustainable. But I soon found it’s just as unsustainable to train for PURE STRENGTH EVERY SINGLE DAY. By the second week of my training the wheels were coming off FAST, I was out of energy at the end of the weeks and would not want to live life on the weekends outside of bed. Clearly I was pushing the boundaries of what should be done and should have realized myself for what I was at that point, which is a NOVICE at best when it comes to lifting. I’ve been lifting for around 7 years but that’s nothing compared to the guys I was aspiring to be, so no wonder I was running myself into the ground like a mad man!
Training split went something like this:
Monday- Squat, build to 1-5 RM (rep max) then worked at 90% of that broken into a few sets to total 20 reps (this was the same for the rest of the days)
Tuesday- Overhead Press
Wednesday- Rest (ish)
Saturday- Long and slow cardio, running, biking or hiking with a weighted pack
I’ll post the revised training tomorrow and what I have adapted to ensure longevity with progress that won’t wreck me.
Analyze what you’re doing now in your training for your specific goals, if you feel great and are making progress then continue on! If you usually get 2-3 weeks into a program and need to take a week to a month off then it’s time to come up with something that won’t kill you slowly!
I’ll open this post with the same comment I hear from most people who have tried to add muscle to their frame using the Paleo Diet, “the Paleo Diet works so well that it’s virtually impossible to gain muscle mass while following the paleo diet.” There will be people on both sides of this fence, there will be those who claim a strict paleo lifestyle as the only option, and there will be those who choose to not follow a paleo diet at all and think it’s a fad. In the end we know that extremes are never a good thing, keep that in mind. If you’re going to use the paleo diet for mass building it will take prior preparation to maintain a proper diet, and I have found no greater resource than Quick Paleo Meal Prep. This book takes you through the common questions and concerns with starting the Paleo Diet, and gives examples of how to easily custimize your Paleo Diet for yourself. But let’s get into the meat of this question “Is it Possible To Gain Muscle Following The Paleo Diet?”
THERE’S NO SIMPLE ANSWER
I can only speak from my personal experience, which if you’ve read the blog for any period of time you know is that extremes are bad, so I personally follow the 80/20 principle. It simply means that you can devote yourself to this “thing” for 80% of the time before you start coming off of the rails after too long. So to counteract that I make time for the 20% and plan for it, this gives me the freedom to enduldge when I feel like it and not have a feeling of guilt afterwards or think that all my gains are now gone. This philosophy goes well with the Paleo Diet and Muscle building, because in order to build muscle there needs to be a calorie surplus of some kind to facilitate growth. So if your goal is really to gain muscle and size while following a mostly paleo diet then you need to take full advantage of the 20% of your diet. Now it needs to be said that if you are following a STRICT Paleo Diet (no tubers or potatoes, rice, beans or dairy) you will have one heck of a time putting on mass, it’s not impossible but it’s not easy either. There are plenty of examples of vegitarian bodybuilders who’ve added loads of mass with a veggie lifestyle, that’s not what I would want at all, but it’s not about me it’s about you and what you want from this. So yes it’s possible to gain mass with a strict paleo lifestyle, but it’s much easier and will keep you sane longer if you adapt your diet to your goals.
WHAT I FOLLOW (suggestion not doctrine)
I’ve followed the 80/20 approach for about 6 months now, and have seen results in both directions of weight depending on how I adjusted the ingredients and quantities. When I started 6 months ago I was a fluffy 178 lbs. I was stronger than I’d ever been, but I was not in any shape to do anything athletically well. I applied the 80/20 principle on a weekly basis to start out, meaning I ate nothing but clean for 5 days out of the week and I mean CLEAN, as in grilled chicken breast and a few beans with green veggies for every meal…every day. BUT on the weekends I let go for one whole day and half-ish, nothing was off limits for one day and then I pulled back for the next day. I lost weight and I looked as shredded as I wanted to be at the time. Then I started the gain train back up with a little more efficient steam, now I follow a 80/20 diet for the day, 80% clean (Breakfast, Snacks and Lunch) and for post workout its 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes and 2 cups ground beef. I’ve addressed this in a recent post that I’ll link here. And for dinner it’s a not so clean meal with a focus on what the next training day looks like (if it’s a heavy lifting day I’ll carb up and if it’s a speed day I’ll add a moderate amount of carbs). I’ve worked my way up from a 165 lb. bodyweight to a just as lean 169 lb. bodyweight in a few weeks. Again this isn’t doctrine, it’s just what I choose to follow, you’re going to need to find what works best for you and your goals.
If your goal is weight gain then take time to consider the paleo diet as a guide for your meals surrounding your workout, and then having your binge meal directly after the workout session. This will promote LEAN GAINS, and keep your energy up while not having to yo-yo your diet.
if you’re looking to get that total up as fast as possible you need to consider the aspect of your programming that doesn’t involve training, your REST days! Not to say that just focusing on rest days will solve all the problems, not at all, you need to address your diet and training always. And when it comes to your diet there’s no better solution that I’ve found for keeping the quality up and the time involved down, than with Quick Paleo Meal Prep, this book goes over all the need to knows and things you need to know but don’t want to hear about eating for performance and ease. But for now let’s address the rest.
DO YOU EVEN SLEEP BRO?
I lose count every time I think about the number of times people say ” I function better on 4-6 hours of sleep”, what they meant to say was “I’ve adjusted to how crappy I feel when I only get 4-6 hours of sleep”. If your attempting to be competitive in any sport then sleep needs the main priority! 8-10 hours per night EVERY NIGHT, and if you can manage, put black out shades in your room as well as invest in a noise canceler. This will improve your quality of sleep dramatically, check out this episode of barbell shrugged when they interviewed a sleep doctor who studies athletes and sleep patterns and I’m sure you’ll agree.
ACTIVE REST IS THE BEST REST
The main reason people who train for strength don’t take time off is because they don’t want to lose all that they’ve worked for right? So don’t do it! Active rest is simply staying active while giving your mind and body a chance to re build and catch up. So instead of sitting on the couch meditating about cucumber water and zen world peace, go to the gym with some lightly playing headphones (keep all stimulus low), warm up and mobilize for a little longer and then go through some reps with 50-60% of your max. This will not only keep your body active and awake but you’ll possibly make some gains on your rest period! Who’d of thunk it.
CLEAN OUT YOUR SYSTEM
I used to be in the camp of those who looked at a rest period as a time to do as much carb loading and artery clogging as possible! But like I’m sure most of you know, that this will end in disaster when you’re back in the gym. You’ll lose any fitness that was there and you’ll look like hammered poo. So instead do a juice cleanse for 2-3 days and keep a strict Paleo diet for 80% of the day, let’s not get carried away here cause we all need that fix at least once per day ;). So focus on rest on the inside as well, your body works hard to keep you moving forward so show it some love once in a while.
On your next rest period apply these principals to your rest and note which helped and which you could toss out. Let’s face it, what works for some won’t work for all, so tweak the system as needed to fit your situation.
If you haven’t already, please check out the YouTube channel
Are you ever so tired after a long day at work that the thought of working out just sounds exhausting? Or you wake up in the morning after snoozing through 45 mins of alarms to avoid the workout? This could be related to your diet, which is easily remedied in the book Quick Paleo Meal Prep, this book outlines how to structure your meal plan and get ahead of the potential hindrances to your workouts. But above all else you need to find a way to get through the 5pm or morning blues, because you could be leaving hundreds if not thousands of dollars in revenue on the table!
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT WORKING OUT?
Well for starters there’s no better way to get yourself firing on all cylinders than to apply a jolt to your system! Let’s look at your morning workout, you’ve been asleep and mostly motionless for a good 5-8 hrs, and I’m assuming your not vibrating with energy once you get your 45 minutes of 5-10 minute broken sleep cycles from hitting the snooze over and over. This isn’t going to fade away as the day goes on either, you might get a pick me up if someone cuts you off in traffic or spills their coffee on you, but the tired feeling will stay with you.
Now I’m sure you know the inverse of this story, you wake up and force yourself out of bed and into your workout clothes, get a decent breakfast and head to the gym. After 45 minutes you would have spent half asleep and procrastinating, you’re now amount the top 20% of performers! You leave the gym with momentum and success on your mind. You get to work and hit the ground running, while leaving the other morning zombies in the dust! You out perform everyone consistently all day, and all because you made one decision to get the day started with activity! The same goes for the afternoon workouts.
WHICH WORKOUTS FOR THE MORNING
You want to do something that’s going to involve as much physiology as possible to get the full benefit. I recommend a compound movement that focuses on STRENGTH! Not only does heavy training get motor skills working, but if your training at or above 80% of your max then you’re involving the nervous system, and you’ll be vibrating by the time you’re done! Follow this up with some high intensity something or other and you have a recipe for a great start to the day! Stay strong!
Don’t skip your next workout, and implement some sort of moderately heavy training followed by high intensity cardio for 4-8 minutes. I promise you that you’ll be able to note a lasting surge in energy for the rest of the day!
the only people who should lift heavy are those with a pulse, period. And the key to lifting heavy is proper nutrition, which is covered in Quick Paleo Meal Prep. Nutrition is the foundation to fitness, and preparing food ahead of time to succeed eliminates options of cheating so check it out. As for the lifting, I’m not saying you need to go find your grandma and tell her to suck it up cause she’s about to board the pain train in route to a 315 bench record. But I think we can all agree that there’s a requisite amount of strength we all need for daily life.
SHOULD GRANDMA LIFT ?
If you care about grandma then she is the first person you should explain this to. The reason elderly people become so frail later on in life is they’ve trained themselves not to move. I don’t mean they’re zen masters and have found enlightenment through days of stationary meditation, but they’ve sat down for close to 6 hours of the 12 hour days for years and have let their legs deteriorate to brittle sticks. The reason it’s so hard for older people to get up is because it’s basically a one rep max squat from a pause every time! Again I’m not saying older people should be thrown under a bar and made to do 5×5 every day, but at least get the functionality back with mobility work and body weight movements that translate to life.
ATHLETES WHO SHOULD LIFT MOST
I’m about to say something that just might get me banned from the internet folks, so strap in! MARATHONERS ARE THE FIRST PEOPLE WHO SHOULD HAVE RELATIVE MAXIMAL STRENGTH AS A PRIORITY. Yup I just said it, and before you virtually crucify me, hear me out. As a runner your main objective is to move your body long distances right? So if your legs have a constant relative strength threshold then it doesn’t matter how efficient you move, you don’t have the POWER to move your body any faster. You may be able to run longer with that training, but not faster because speed is a product of power or force (force=(mass x distance ) / time ). If you take a runner whose max back squat is 115 for 2, and another whose max back squat is 315 for 2, and they train the same outside of strength. Then the one who squats more will move faster AND more efficiently because he’s used to carrying a heavier load, so when he has to move his body around it’ much easier.
If you’ve never lifted over moderately heavy, get your form nailed down PERFECT for the squat, bench and deadlift. Then take 90 days to follow whichever beginner strength program you want. Mark your mile times at the beginning and end of the program, don’t stop running all together but ease up enough to recover.
I can’t express how excited I am to be getting back to “normal” Paleo Prep Meals! If you’re interested in how to make your own PERSONAL Paleo Prep Meals for the week of gym madness, I collaberated with this book appropriately named Quick Paleo Meal Prep. It is the last day of the free trial (May 4), and the book will be sold for $2.99 for a while, then it might jump to $7.99 so either way it’s best to get your copy tonight! And to celebrate the return of prepping my meals for the week I decided to put a slight prep session on the Slow Carb Diet :). So as I sit here at night with the glow of the computer screen on my face, food next to me (paleo prepped food), yerba mate tea and Star Wars V playing in the back ground, I’m ready to get into this!
WHERE I AM NOW
Currently I am hovering around 170 lbs. with a significantly lower body fat than I had 4 weeks ago. I started this journey on the slow carb diet, among other things, as inspiration from Tim Ferriss. As I’ve said before, the diet is mostly meats and leafy greens with the added beans for energy. Now usually my strength goes down the tube anytime I start one of these semi-ketogenic diets; however, this diet has left me with my usual amount of strength incredibly. I’m used to dropping about 20-30 lbs on major lifts when I do a little recomp. but I’ve maintained all my lifts, I haven’t added much weight unfortunately, but not moving backwards is amazing to me in this area! My spirits are moderate, I started this change in eating with a positive outlook, mostly because I got to look forward to a full day of gluttony at the end of the week, but now it seems that even with the drastic results I’m ready to end the experiment. I started with a body weight of 180 lbs and a body fat level around 18%, now I’m comfortably at 171 lbs as of this morning with a body fat of approximately 9%.
PALEO PREP FOR THE WEEK
I was tired of buying Tyson’s Chicken for the week and eating a room temperature can of black beans with most meals. So this week I went back to my roots of prepping ahead, while staying in the lines of the diet as much as possible, and this is what I came up with. 4.17 lbs of chicken, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper cooked on a Emeril grill (I love this thing more than any other cooking tool I’ve EVER had).
Combine that with 5 cans of black beans and two cans of rotel tomatoes and green chilis, cause TexMex is only the best food in the world! Before you put these into the pot together make sure you strain the black beans of the goo inside and rinse them at least 3 times thoroughly to get rid of the lingering juices. combine these into a stew pot, bring to a simmer and leave the delicious mix for about 12 mins.
This should yield six servings, and will get you through the week mostly. I don’t prepare a meal for every occasion because I know that without fail we will eat out at least three times per week, so why bother. This recipe is fast and cheap, if you’re looking to loose weight fast in four weeks just eat this meal for lunch and dinner 6 days per week, and if you eat out get chipotle with no corn, tortilla or dairy. It’s very simple and VERY bland, but yields amazing results! I hope you enjoyed this 🙂
Attempt this recipe in a one or two day period to set yourself up for massive success! I look forward to reading comments about amazing results later 🙂
ok first thing’s first before I forget, I collaborated with a book that has been recently published to kindle, Quick Paleo Meal Prep. And want some HONEST input. If I gift you the book will you post an HONEST review, it’s a bit more professional/technical writing. But if you could help me out then just leave a comment with your email (I’ll delete it as soon as I get it to avoid creepers).
BACK TO BUSINESS
I decided to get a friend to video my squat to see if there were any technique issues I needed to workout. In short, I pretty much hung up lifting for about two weeks. Between the rounding of upper back and butt winking (when your lower back curves), and the knees diving in, I basically looked like hammered dog poo in the bottom of my squat. This is especially rough for me since I’ve worked my way from a 285 one rep max, to 305 for somewhat easy working sets. All at a body weight of 173 lbs., but here we go.
SO WHAT TO DO?
Well after crying in a dark room for a few hours and eating my feelings, I came back to the gym with a goal to fix me. I started by subscribing to the Crossfit journal (only $30/year I think), and watched every video by jelly starrett that I could on fixing these issues. I started with ankle mobility and worked my way up. It’s challenging to not go all out on stretches. After all, you see him glide in and out of these positions that I’m shaking and panting in like an uncontrollable furbie doll (aging myself with that reference).
I’ve mobilized the nasty tissue and now I’m strengthening the muscles that are probably on par with a 5th graders at this point. However the form though is looking much better, and I feel more solid in the bottom of the squat. So that’s a plus! It’s going to be a long journey back to the top, but I’m confident that it’ll be a higher peak once I get there!
Video an exercise you enjoy and compare it to a professional with their technique. Analyze what they’re doing that you’re not, and how you can get better.