Muscle Matrix Solution Review (Ryan Hughes)

I’ve had a chance to look over the Muscle Matrix Solution by Ryan Hughes. I’ll start of this review with a little information about the author.

Ryan Hughes

Ryan Hughes
Ryan Hughes

Hughes first started training when he was a teenager. He was 6’1″ tall and weighed only 135 lb. But he had a passion for training and was able to compete in his first bodybuilding competition at age 19. He would eventually become one of the first IFBB Men’s Physique Pros, an International Fitness Cover Model, and a well-known trainer and fitness professional. He is considered one of America’s top personal trainers and has appeared on nationally syndicated television shows.

Muscle Matrix Solution Program Components (Summary)

Now let’s talk about what you get if you decide to order the Muscle Matrix Solution:

Once you make your purchase you will get an email with login information. As you can see (by looking at the screenshot) you begin with a welcome page. The navigation tabs on the top of the page will take you through the rest of the program:

musclematrixsolutionreviewwebsite

Introduction:

This section includes an overview of the program in video form. Hughes walks you through what the program includes and how to set it up specifically for your needs. Some of the topics he discusses are optimizing hormones (like testosterone), training, diet, and supplementation. He also gets into some motivational issues that will hopefully help inspire you to get started and stick with it.

There are also two downloadable pdf files in this section: 1. Welcome file/e-book, and 2. Cover Model Secrets, which explains some of the final steps bodybuilders/models take to get ready for a photo shoot or contest.

Training:

Ryan Hughes explains the workouts in this section (which he calls Matrix Training). His program combines three different styles of training, all of which are proven to be effective individually. The idea is that these training techniques will work together synergistically when combined. The workouts are set up in three different tracks: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Progression is built into the workouts so will improve in the amount of weight you use, the amount of reps you can do, and the amount of time you rest in between sets (you will be able to get by with less rest time as you progress through the program). He goes on to explain the specific set and rep range you’ll be doing.

There’s a downloadable file where you can see the actual workout plan (the specific exercises, set/reps, etc.).

Keep this in mind: the program is set up for you to do brief, intense workouts (about 45 minutes). You won’t be spending all day in the gym, but you will have to train hard–these workouts will not be easy.

Nutrition:

Hughes’ nutrition plan is based on three key principles:

1. Flexibility: This doesn’t mean you can eat pizza and ice cream every day. It does mean that you can eat foods like this every once in a while in moderation. In other words, you can follow this lifestyle without having to plan your entire life around a 24/7 strict diet.

2. Meal Timing and Nutrient Combination: You will be guided in eating certain types of foods according to the time of day and/or your training. You will try to eat most of your carbohydrates, for example, in the evening after you train. This advise may sound different that what you’ve heard before, but it does work (based on my personal experience–I eat most of my carbs either after I train or at dinner).

3. Macronutrients: Ryan explains the role of protein, carbohydrates and fats and how you can manipulate your intake of these to build muscle and burn fat.

There is downloadable file you can use to read about these principles.

This section also includes a nutrition calculator. You can use this to customize your eating plan for your specific needs.

Supplementation:

The video and the pdf file breaks down Hughes’ recommended supplement protocol. This is one area where I have some disagreements with the author. I personally do not believe any supplement can significantly increase testosterone and nothing he wrote has changed my mind. Instead of getting into details I’d rather just give my standard advice: stick with basic supplements like whey protein powder, (micronized) creatine monohydrate, a multivitamin, and fish oil. Use these basic supplements with reputable brands and you’ll do fine (and you’ll keep more of your hard-earned money).

The Exercise Library:

Drag Curl Demonstration Video
Drag Curl Demonstration Video

This is another nice feature of the Muscle Matrix Solution. I always appreciate video demonstrations of exercises and these are well done.

Conclusion:

This final video/pdf wraps up the program. Hughes talks about defining your goal(s) that were on your mind when you ordered and implemented this program. He recaps all the program components (training, nutrition, etc.) and encourages you to embrace what you have learned as a lifestyle. He also mentions an insider’s coaching club you can join if you choose to.

Bonus Material:

This section has the Abdominal Accelerator program available for download. This is a plan for those who want to spend 30 days focusing on maximizing their fat loss. I think this would work really well with or without the supplements mentioned.

REVIEW:

I think the Muscle Matrix Solution program is put together very well and will get results if you follow both the training and the nutrition plans. The set and reps Hughes recommends makes sense to me because it is a good mix of strength and hypertrophy (growth) rep ranges. I found the material to be well organized and easy to navigate.

Who would this program benefit? A few types of people come to mind:

*New trainees who want a step-by-step system to guide them on their journey of building muscle and/or losing fat.

*Intermediate or advanced trainees who have reached plateaus in their training and are ready to try some new workout techniques.

*Guys who want to look better–those who want to build a lean, muscular physique and be more self-confident.

If what I have described sounds like you then I think the Muscle Matrix Solution would be a good investment for your training library. Just CLICK HERE if you would like to order this program or learn more.

Prohormones: Hype and History

Every once in a while I get asked about the form of supplements known as prohormones.  I’ll share what I believe to be an informed opinion (along with some personal stories for your amusement), but keep in mind I’m not a doctor or pharmacist.

The History of Prohormones

Some of you may know that I spent wasted a lot of money on supplements in the 90’s.  That era was in many ways the the “wild west” of supplement industry.

Prohormones came on the scene the mid-90’s, not long after anabolic steroids had been reclassified as schedule 3 controlled substances (since big biceps are apparently as dangerous as heroine).1  They were still legal because they were supposed to be precursors to anabolic hormones–converting to testosterone only after passing through the liver.

This was also around the time of the internet boom, so all kinds of stuff was being sold online.  I remember GHB, the “date rape drug,” being marketed since it induced a deep sleep which would theoretically help with growth hormone production.

Androstenedione was the first prohormone to be heavily marketed (and given the nickname “andro”).  This one was made famous when a sports reporter “accidentally” spotted a bottle in Mark MgGwire’s locker–some believe he put it there to draw attention away from allegations of steroid use (which he denied for years).AST_Androstene

I was a naive 20-something who had been training for over a decade.  I was eager to find an edge to make me bigger and stronger (ironic, since I considered myself a “natural” trainee).  I tried several prohormone formulas: androstendione, 4-AD, 1-AD, etc.  I even tried some unusual administration routes, like spraying them on my skin (which was supposedly superior to taking them orally), and even spraying them up my nose (which supposedly helped with focus and aggression, since that’s a more direct route to the brain).  Did I mention what a naive consumer I was?  I can’t help but laugh thinking back to some of the moronic things I tried.

I used prohormones on and off from the mid to late 90’s, but I can’t say they made any difference whatsoever.  If I had it all to do over I would have simply enjoyed the gains that come from being in the peak years of my natural testosterone production (and saved some of my hard-earned cash).  My best lifts of that decade came from simply adjusting my training methods—not from supplements of any kind.

Estrogen Boosters?

At some point I discovered just how unpredictable prohormones were.  Androstenedione, for example, was shown to raise the level of certain female hormones–not what I had in mind!2  I had never experienced any feminizing side effects, but the illusion of inducing a legal, side effect free testosterone boost was completely shattered.  I never bothered with prohormones again–part of the hard lesson I had learned about trusting the supplement industry.  I’m extremely grateful for reaching this conclusion because the worst was yet to come.

The hype regarding prohormones lived on in the 2000’s even after some were banned by the Steroid Control Act of 2004.  “New” products came up that were not covered under the current law.  I would see brands/names mentioned on bodybuilding forums, complete with testimonies of muscle/strength gains.   But I was done–I wasn’t about to potentially tamper with my natural testosterone production based on endorsements in forums.

Prohormones and Toxicity

I have since learned that most of the prohormones were not really new at all–they were originally developed in the 60’s by chemists that were trying to create new steroid formulas.  These compounds were abandoned because they were found to be ineffective and/or extremely toxic to the liver.   Unscrupulous companies had essentially repackaged toxic waste of the 60’s as muscle builders.   Apparently some the formulas that were resurrected in the 2000’s were more toxic than what was sold/used in the 90’s–a few unfortunate users required medical intervention due to liver toxicity.The FDA eventually banned these new/old drugs as well.

Conclusion

So here we are, about 20 years after prohormones were first introduced.  I don’t know if any “new” versions are out there and I could care less.  I’m content to lift, live and just optimize my testosterone levels naturally.

References:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabolic_steroid#United_States

2. JAMA. 2000 Feb 9;283(6):779-82. Oral androstenedione administration and serum testosterone concentrations in young men.

3. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007 Jul;5(7):809-12. Epub 2007 May 16. Hepatotoxicity associated with dietary supplements containing anabolic steroids.

DUP Method Review: Daily Undulating Periodization Program (Jason Maxwell; Mike Samuels)

TheDUPMethodReviewI’ve had an opportunity to check out a new program called The DUP Method (from Jason Maxwell and Mike Samuels). I’ll start this review by explaining what you get if you decide to invest in this program:

DUP Method Program Components:

#1 The DUP Main Manual

This document serves as a starting point, explaining the overall training philosophy and science behind the strategies you’ll be using.  It will give you an overview of the program as well as some different options for training frequency (anything from 2-5 days).  Once you’ve read this you’ll have a basic understanding of why this method should make you stronger.

#2 The DUP Method Nutrition Guide

Needless to say, you can’t get big and strong without a good eating plan.  This document will show you how to set up your diet/nutrition in order to maximize the benefits of your training.  You’ll be guided in calculating your daily caloric intake as well as macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates).  Be sure to look over this carefully–many trainees fail to reach their goals because they don’t put much thought or planning into their diet.

#3 The Optimal DUP Workout Log

According to the author, the ideal setup for this program is to train five days per week.  That may sound like overtraining, but you have to remember that the volume (number of sets and reps) is adjusted so you’ll be able to adequately recover.  Anyway, this workout log is convenient because you can print it out or put it on your smartphone.  Either way you could bring it to the gym with you.

#4-Day Per Week Workout Log

As the name implies, this workout is designed for those who can only train four times per week.

#5 The “Busy Man’s” Workout Log

This one is for those who can only train three times a week.

#6 DUP For Beat Up Lifters Workout Log

This is a program variation for lifters who are a little older and/or training around old injuries. Some trainees, for example, may have back issues or joint problems that require them to make some adjustments in their exercise selection, etc. This would be helpful for men (or women) in that situation who want to keep getting stronger while avoiding re-injuring themselves.

#7 DUP For Hypertrophy Workout Log

As the title implies, this program is set up for those who are primarily concerned with building muscle (vs. those who are only interested in strength/powerlifting).

#8 DUP For Fat Loss

Last but not least, these workouts are set up for those who are interested in maximizing fat loss while also benefiting from the strength aspects of the training.

Bonuses:

You’ll also get some nice bonus material if you decide to order.
BONUS #1: Bench Press Tutorial Video
BONUS #2: Squat Tutorial Video
BONUS #3: Deadlift Tutorial Video
BONUS #4: Bigger Bench Checklist
Bonus #5: Customization Guide
Bonus #6: DUP Arms Specialization

Deadlift Tutorial
Bonus Material (Deadlift Tutorial)

I think you’ll find the video tutorials especially helpful. You can watch them online or download them onto your hard drive (I’d recommend downloading them).

Additional Products (Upsells):

Here are additional program packages you can add on to the basic package. You do not have to purchase these, but you can if you are interested:

The Accelerator Package:
This includes a manual for diet, training, supplementation and complete workouts for those who want to do an all-out, 6-day per week training schedule.

The Done-for-You Package: This includes spreadsheets for all five of the workouts in the basic package.  You just put your one rep max in and it calculates it for you.  A nutrition spreadsheet is also included.

The Specialization Package: This includes specialization guides for bench press, deadlift and squat. These programs would be useful for those who really want to focus on improving one of these lifts.

REVIEW:

Have you ever noticed how many guys go to the gym and lift the exact same weight for the same number of reps week in and week out?  The reason is pretty simple: they are training like newbies.

Beginner trainees will usually get a little bit stronger every week, regardless of training methodology.  But linear progression (adding a little weight to the bar each workout) will only get you so far.  You will eventually reach a “sticking point”–a lesson I learned the hard way back in the 90’s.

This is where periodization comes in–training in a way that works with your muscular and neurological system.   Daily Undulating Periodization is a unique variation of this strategy that can be very effective.

Keep this in mind: this way of training is not like the typical bodybuilding type split you see in the magazines (and gyms).  But I think you’ll find it to be a refreshing change of pace–one that is backed by science.  One study, for example, found that the DUP method was superior to linear methods (like 5×5) for building strength in those with significant training experience.1

I believe the DUP Method can teach you how to start making progress again if you find yourself stuck in a rut of no noticeable gains.

*Intermediate to advance trainees who want to break through plateaus in their overall strength.  This includes increasing your max in the bench press, squat, and deadlift.

*Athletes who want to increase their strength in order to be more competitive in sports.

*Guys (or girls) who want be strong in addition to looking strong.

*Trainees who are willing to commit to a different style of programming than what they may be used to (especially those who have done a traditional bodybuilding split).

If any of these descriptions fit you then I think the DUP Method would be a worthwhile investment as part of your training library.  Just CLICK HERE if you’d like to order this program or learn more.  Don’t delay because the price will be going up soon. 

Reference:

1. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 May;16(2):250-5. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength.

Omega Body Blueprint Review John Romaniello

omegabodybluepringreviewtransformationI’ve had an opportunity to review the Omega Body Blueprint, the latest body transformation program from John Romaniello.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about the author/creator of this program:John-Romaniello-Omega-Body-Blueprint

John Romaniello (aka “Roman”) has been in the fitness industry for over 13 years.  His work has been featured in several well-known publications and he has been interviewed on fitness-related television shows.  He is also a New York Times best-selling author.  Roman specializes in fat loss and body transformation.

Now let’s talk about what you get if you decide to order the Omega Body Blueprint program (I have listed these components in the order I downloaded them–not necessarily in order of importance or in the sequence from the program website).

Component 1: Training Manual

This book begins with an explanation of hormones and their role in fat loss.  Romaniello focuses much of this information on why it gets more difficult to lose fat and how we can overcome the body’s natural resistance to getting lean.  One important strategy, he argues, is to alternate training modalities.   This allows the trainee to get the optimal benefits of several types of training (in addition to keeping things interesting).  The illustrated manual takes you through six complete weeks of training–workouts designed to maximize fat loss and overcome plateaus.

Component 2: Workout Log Sheets

These printable workout logs will allow you to follow the previous manual and keep a record of the weights you use.

NOTE: I should say something here about Roman’s workouts.  I’ve done some of them before and they are not easy–even if you are in decent shape.  This program is for those who are willing to work hard–not for those content to sit around and talk for twenty minutes in between sets.

Component 3: Nutrition Manual

Roman begins this manual with an important observation: most trainees will meticulously plan their training but fail to put even a fraction of that time and effort into planning their diet.  This is why so many people in the gym never really see visible improvements in their physiques.  He goes on to explain some of the most nutritional strategies for this program: intermittent fasting, eating certain macro nutrient combinations, etc.  I think you’ll find his advice simple and straightforward.

Component 4:  Calorie and Macro Calculator

This file includes a link to an online calculator that will show you exactly how many calories and macro nutrients (protein/fat/carbohydrates) you should be eating every day.  This feature is nice because it will take all the guesswork out of your diet.

Component 5:  Supplement Guide

As the name implies, this is a list of recommended supplements.  I greatly appreciate the fact that Romaniello does not over-emphasize supplements (he states that you can do the program without them).  Having said that, the supplements he mentions are relatively expensive in my opinion.  I’d just recommend you stick to the basics (protein, fish oil, etc.) and use brands that you trust.

Additional Products (these items below are not included in the basic Omega Body Blueprint program–you will be given the option to purchase these as an addition if you chose):

The Hormonal Response Diet (by Chad Howse)

This document is primarily about our favorite hormone–testosterone.  Optimizing this hormone, Howse argues, will help keep you lean and healthy.  It will even influence your mental health, helping you be more focused and happy.  Howse explains some dietary and supplement strategies that will help you optimize your testosterone levels naturally (he mentions intermittent fasting, for example).  He also explains why this is an important issue for women as well as men.

Overdrive Training Manual/Log Sheets:

This is a more advanced version of the training you can follow if you finish the basic program and want to take things to another level in terms of conditioning and fat loss.   This is six additional weeks of programming, which would give you twelve weeks total (including the basic program).

VIP Coaching

This option is for those who want to join the exclusive Facebook group.  This will allow you access to additional training information that is not open to the general public.

REVIEW:

I believe Roman’s strong point is fat loss–he has developed nutritional and exercise strategies that help trainees achieve levels of leanness and aesthetic beauty that they never thought possible.  The Omega Body Blueprint combines the “best of the best”–the best of everything he has learned in over a decade of studying fat loss.

I think this program would be helpful for the following:

*People that are healthy enough to train with intensity.  As I mentioned, the workouts are difficult.

*Trainees that want to overcome plateaus in fat loss and leanness.  Roman does a good job of explaining why we reaching “sticking points” when losing fat.  The diet and training will help you get past these.  This is a good program for men and women who want to lose those last few stubborn pounds that are keeping you from having your ideal physique.

*Guys/girls who are willing to follow a nutrition plan.  The diet is laid out very well, but you have to follow it for it to be effective.  Remember that diet/nutrition is responsible for most of your fat loss results.

*Trainees that want to focus 6-12 weeks on losing fat.

If any of these descriptions match you or your goals then I think the Omega Body Blueprint would be a good investment.  It is a cost effective way to get solid diet and training information (especially when compared to hiring a personal trainer).

Just CLICK HERE if you are interested in ordering this program or learning more.

omegabodyblueprintreview

Carb Cycling Diet for Weight Loss

carbcycling

Cycling Carbohydrates: An Introduction

One of the dietary strategies you may have heard about about from bodybuilders, fitness competitors, or those just wanting to lose weight is called carb cycling.   This is a term for scheduling days of high carbohydrate consumption followed by days of successively lower carbohydrate consumption.  This approach seems to be a very effective way to maximize fat loss while maintaining training intensity.  I’ll explain the basics of why this works.

Why Lowering Carbs Works

Restricting carbohydrates (aka low carb or ketogenic diets) can be very effective for helping people lose weight.  Going several days with low carbohydrate intake (lets say 50 grams or less) eventually causes glycogen levels (glucose in the liver and muscles) to get so low that the body has to switch to another fuel source.  This metabolic shift is called ketosis, meaning the body is primarily using fat as its source of calories/fuel.   I discovered ketogenic/low carb dieting years ago and have used it with good success.

Some have adopted adopted a low carbohydrate lifestyle and credit it with saving their health (if not their very lives).  These individuals follow this diet year-around in order to stay at a healthy weight.  More power to you if you are able to do this.

The Drawbacks of Restricting Carbohydrates

But eating this way all the time is not very practical for athletes or those who engage in intense exercise like weight training.  Those of us who have trained while in ketosis can testify how sluggish the workouts are.  Eating carbohydrates refills the before-mentioned glycogen so muscles can perform optimally.

Thus the dilemma: low carb eating is great for fat loss, but not so great for exercise performance.

Carb Cycling: Lose Fat, Maintain Training Intensely

One solution to this is carb cycling, which may be able to give you the best of both worlds.  It really isn’t that complicated: you simply lower your carbohydrate over the course of a few days.  The first day, for example, you can eat 200 grams of carbs, followed by 125 on the second and only 50 on the third.  You could then repeat the cycle or just reverse it over the next two days (125 grams of carbs on day 4 and 200 again on day 5).

You may want to do your most intensive training on high carbohydrate days and try to consume most of your carbs after you work out.  This will encourage the glucose to go to your muscles and liver instead of being stored as body fat.

Most of the plans I’ve seen also incorporate a “cheat day” where you just eat what you want.  This shouldn’t hurt your fat loss in the long-term as long as you are consistent the rest of the time.

Just keep this in mind: all successful diets are based on a negative calorie balance–using more calories than you are consuming.  Carb cycling is not a “secret formula” to get around this–it is simply one dietary strategy that you may find useful.

I would encourage you to check out the 4 Cycle Solution if you’d like a step-by-step guide to this approach to fat loss.  It goes into a lot more detail than what I have written here and it is not very expensive.

High Rep Training

I’ll start this post off with a video I first saw years ago.  Here is the legendary Tom Platz doing high repetition squats with heavy weight (well over 500 lb).  This video was filmed back in 1993.  Tom Platz and Dr. Fred Hatfield (aka “Dr Squat) were doing a “squat off” in Germany.  Hatfield won the one-rep max competition by squatting 855 lb.  Platz won the rep competition with the weight you see here:

A while back I wrote an article on the best rep range for building muscle and burning fat.  I basically argued that a 5-10 rep range is going to be ideal for both of these goals.  I still believe that–most of your gains will probably come from this range.

But more advanced and older trainees may want to consider experimenting with higher repetitions (let’s say 15 and up).  There are some good reason to do so:

Leg Traininghighreptrainingplatz2

I’ve heard several bodybuilders say they had better leg growth from training with higher repetitions.  This makes sense because the quadriceps in particular tend to have a high number of both fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers.  You’ve just seen what Platz was capable of in his prime–his legendary thighs were built with both heavy lifting and high reps.

Joint Health

High rep training has the advantage of being able to stimulate the muscles with less strain on the joints.  Older trainees in particular may find this to be very helpful.  But even younger guys can benefit from simply giving the joints a break.

Lactic Acid

Training with higher reps will produce more lactic acid, which in turn tends to produce growth hormone (a helpful hormone for burning fat).

Mental Toughness

I’ve found that training beyond my usual rep range also helps me learn to push beyond the pain barrier and force my body to keep going when my muscles are screaming to stop.

Variety in Training

Going to the gym can get kind of boring if you do the same thing week after week.  Dropping the weight and going for higher repetitions is a simple way to challenge yourself and keep things interesting.

Research

Some recent studies indicate that training with high repetitions is an effective way to build muscle.  One study, for example, took fifteen healthy young men and randomly assigned them to different workouts, measuring their bodies’ responses to different training stimuli: 1.  One set to failure with 80% of one-rep max (1RM)  2.  Three sets to failure with 80% of 1RM, and 3.  Three sets to failure with 30% of 1RM.  Needless to say the third workout tended to be much higher in repetitions (20-23).   They found that lower weights/high reps produced a similar anabolic response to lifting with heavier weight and low reps.1 This is just one of many studies you can find verifying the efficacy of this kind of training.   Bottom line: training heavy is not the only way to build muscle.

These are just reasons to consider incorporating higher reps into your workout.  Now let me give you some practical tips (in no particular order of importance):

Exercise Selection:  I think you’ll find some exercises simply aren’t good choices for high reps.  I love deadlifting, but I rarely go over 5 repetitions for that particular exercise.  My form simply starts to break down if I try to go beyond that.  The same goes for front squats.

I tend to be old-school and prefer free weight exercises, but it may be advantageous to consider machines with this kind of training–especially if you are working out without a spotter.

Time Under Tension:  Using less weight will mean you can lift more slowly and deliberately.  Take advantage of this and maximize the time your muscles are under the tension of the weight.

“Burnout” Set:  One of my favorite techniques is to finish my training with one or two sets of high reps after I’ve done some heavier sets.

I hope you find these tips helpful.  Try them and see if they don’t produce new gains.

1. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Jul;113(1):71-7. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00307.2012. Epub 2012 Apr 19. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men.

Incredible Bulk Review (Ben Pakulski)

IncredibleBulkReview
Ben Pakulski has a new program out called Incredible Bulk.  I’ll start this review by summarizing what you get when you buy this program:

Program Components

1.  The Incredible Bulk Main Guide:

This is the main book which explains the overall training/nutrition philosophy of the program.  Traditional bulking, Ben argues,  is not effective because trainees often just overeat for several weeks hoping to gain muscle mass.  This eventually works against the body’s hormones (and I believe causes damaging inflammation).  Many who do this end up creating fat instead of hypertrophy (muscle growth).  A smarter approach is cyclical in nature–alternating between “shred” phases and “growth” phases (diet and training are adjusted for each phase).  That’s it in a nutshell, but the book explains this in much more detail.

2.  Ben’s Personal Grocery Shopping List for Massive Size:

This guide will show you the kind of foods you should be buying the next time you go grocery shopping.  I think you will find this helpful, but I don’t worry too much if you can’t buy a bunch of organic foods (as he recommends).  Just use it as a general guide for the types of foods you should be eating.  One more thing I’ll add here: Ben recommends “gluten-free” items.  I am personally skeptical of all the hysteria regarding gluten.  A small percentage of the population is sensitive to gluten, but I don’t think it makes much difference for the rest of us.  My advice (at the risk of being repetitive): use Ben’s list as a guide for the general types of foods that will help you follow the diet, but don’t be overly concerned about organic, gluten-free, etc.

3.  Incredible Bulk Workout Guide: 

This training manual will show you how to set up your workout for both the cutting/shredding and bulking phases of this program.  Ben explains the variables you should consider when setting up your workouts: volume, frequency, rep ranges, rest intervals, etc.  He also addresses cardio and other things you should consider when training.

4.  Example Weekly Workouts Guide:

This document is a sample workout showing the exact exercises you could use on a five day split (training 5x/week) during the growth phase.  It gives you a good idea of how to set up your training.

5.  Supplement Stacks Guide: 

This is Ben’s recommended supplements.  My advice:  just stick with whey protein, creatine monohydrate, fish oil, and a multivitamin.  Do that and you should be just fine.  I also would not recommend supplementing over 30-50 milligrams of zinc per day (going overboard on zinc can cause a copper deficiency).

REVIEW:

I agree with the premise of the Incredible Bulk program and I think this is an effective method for putting on quality mass while minimizing fat gain.  I think this program would be good for the following:

*Intermediate/advanced trainees who are looking to break through plateaus in building muscle mass.

*Bodybuilders who are looking to add some size in the off season.

*Athletes who want to go up in weight class without getting too fat.

If you fit these descriptions then I think the Incredible Bulk program would help you reach your goals.  Just CLICK HERE if you’d like to order the program or learn more.

 

NOTE:  I’d recommend MI40X if you’d like more details about Ben’s training strategies.  This has been one of my top sellers with many satisfied customers.

Starvation Mode: fact or fiction?

Christian Bale in The Machinist
Christian Bale in The Machinist

You may have heard about the danger of going into “starvation mode” if you don’t eat enough calories while trying to lose fat.  The idea is that you’ll start losing muscle and wake up one morning looking like Christian Bale’s sickly movie character.  This fear lead many of us bodybuilding types to believe that you had to eat six times a day to keep the precious lean mass gained during training.

The starvation mode terminology still gets thrown around a good bit today.  I remember hearing it from a trainer a few years ago while watching The Biggest Loser.  The before-mentioned trainer was warning a contestant (his trainee) not to go any lower on calories.

Do we really lose all our muscle when calories are set very low?  Not necessarily.  One study looked at the impact of very-low-calorie diets (VLCD) on body composition in twenty subjects (17 women and 3 men).  All twenty subjects ate only 800 calories for 12 weeks (a liquid diet). The subjects were divided into two groups: one group did cardiovascular training four times a week while the other did resistance training (lifting weights) three times a week (the weight lifting group did circuit training–their routine consisted of 10 different exercises).

There were some striking differences in how the exercise type affected the subjects’ bodies. Those who trained with weights experienced an increase in their resting metabolic rate (RMR) despite the low calories (the cardiovascular training group’s resting metabolic rate decreased).  The cardiovascular training group lost more weight, but some of this weight was muscle.   The resistance training group kept all their muscle despite the ultra-low calories.  Repeat: those who trained with weights did not lose muscle. 1

Let me make something clear: I would not recommend anyone attempt this kind of diet without medical supervision.  800 calories a day is extremely low:  the typical trainee will lose weight on around 11-12 calories per lb of body weight a day (much higher than what these subjects were taking in).  And I can’t tell what the subjects’ starting body fat levels were, which would also make a big difference (the leaner we get, the more resistant our body becomes to losing fat).

But this experiment does leave us with an important takeaway: weight training is a powerfully effective strategy for preserving your muscle mass.  Those who desire to try intermittent fasting , for example, need not worry about losing muscle as long as they continue with resistance training.

Note:  I’d recommend Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss Handbook if you are looking for a scientific guide to “crash” dieting (losing fat as quickly as possible).

Reference:

1. J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21. Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate.

Deadlifting without Calluses

francodeadlifting

I’m a big fan of the deadlift.  It’s one of those foundational strength and mass builders that packs on muscle like few exercises can.  This exercise has a tendency to give me calluses on my  hands, and that used to be fine with me: I considered them a badge of honor in my younger days.

But my wife hates them, and this has changed my attitude considerably.  I started wearing training gloves (something I never did in my single days), but that didn’t seem to help very much.

That’s when I ran across this helpful tip: try gripping the bar in a slightly different way.  Grabbing it in the middle of your palm (like you are going to bench press) really doesn’t make much sense because it will pinch the skin as it pulls towards your knuckles.  Grab the bar lower in your hand (where it’s going to end up as you pull) and you’ll avoid calluses.  I tried this today and it works–I didn’t notice any reduction in grip strength and it drastically reduced the pinching/callusing.

The point of the deadlift is to build strength and muscle–not nasty, bleeding hands.  Check out the video below for a visual.