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This is a fabulous question. Let’s break down a few things before I get to the answer…
First, the term ‘bulk’ or ‘bulky’ is highly subjective. What may be ‘bulky’ to one person, another would dream of looking like! I’ve had some woman send me picture and tell me they are ‘bulky’ and I was rather surprised that they viewed themselves as such because I would have never imaged them labeling themselves that way. Possibly to those trainers who saw you and talked with you they didn’t feel like you would be bulky.
With that being said, a trainer should never force a ‘look’ that they like on a client. And a client needs to accept their own genetics and learn to work within the bounds of their body. I don’t believe you aren’t, but I always feel the need to throw that out there.
So now that we have covered some basics, we can get into the root of the question. How can I lift in a way to stay healthy, but not get bigger in areas where I don’t want to?
It’s traditionally accepted that working in a set range of 10-20 (some may even push to 28) a week is where we maximize hypertrophy. I personally dont believe in just not working a muscle at all. I think even if someone doesn’t want to build an area, there should be a minimum effort for overall health and balance.
One recent client didn’t want to build his legs.
He felt they were large enough. I’ll use him as an example of ONE way I would go about this with a client. We would go through a whole hypertrophy phase, 4-6 weeks at a time without any direct work on his legs. BUT he was also a soccer player, so he was staying healthy, strong, and fit in his legs with his soccer. When I would move him from hypertrophy to 1-3 weeks of metabolic systemic work, we would use that time to work legs. We weren’t doing hypertrophy work though, so maybe some increases in blood and water and nutrients would pool during the lift and make his legs feel bigger, but the pump would always goes away. So this is a way we prevented his legs from growing, and spent majority of the time working on his upper body to give him a more balanced look.
The second example is a woman who didn’t want to build her legs, but was using the app and I wasn’t writing specific programming for her. She would do the leg work, but only the compound exercises, and lowered the sets in half, sometimes only 1 working set just to keep function and strength in her lower body. I also encouraged her NOT to do my personal program (Train with Me) because that one is a leg/delt emphasis. So stick to the fat loss group or the muscle and strength.
With the fat loss group, there are times I do an upper body lower body superset. that isn’t hypertrophy work. thats systemic conditioning work. You may get a pump in your lower body for the time in the gym, but It will go down. So don’t worry about in those supersets thinking you’ll be building your legs. Those are used for metabolic work, not direct hypertrophy work.
One other key aspect I feel I have to mention. Some woman think they have more muscle on them than they do. One client in particular didn’t want to do any leg work. She was very adamant about that. She kept saying she had tons of muscle on her legs and didn’t want to do anything leg related. We went through a fat loss phase where she was able to really push herself and drop 20 lbs. When we were toward the end of the cut she finally said something along the lines, “I thought my butt was huge and that I had a ton of muscle there and in my quads, but now that the fat’s off I realize that wasn’t muscle.” We don’t know what we don’t know.
But some people don’t want to lean down a lot. it’s hard work, and they don’t want to live leaner. in that case, I understand not wanting to build too much.
With that being said, the reality is that past the initial easy gains, it can be very difficult and time consumer to build. So, as an intermediate to advanced lifter, if you are staying under 10 working sets for a muscle, you really aren’t going to grow. There have been some studies showing newbie lifters putting on muscle around 8 working sets a week on a muscle. But for an intermediate or advanced that’s going to be maintenance volume, not building volume.
With you being a former athlete, you will see a quicker increase in muscle. that may scare you, but keep in mind ‘muscle memory’ is real, although that’s not the scientific term ;) so you’ll see a quick increase that may scare you but it will plateau under 10 sets per week pretty fast.
Hope this helps!
Stairclimber won’t build glutes on anyone except for someone who has been in a coma or someone who hasn’t done any physical activity for years. There are 3 mechanisms of hypertrophy. None of which are stimulated by the stair climber. to build the glutes or any muscle it takes a few things;
1- Quality training program and exercise selection that trains the glutes with enough volume and intensity to promote hypertrophy.
2- Eat enough food, protein, to make sure that your body can recover well and have adequate enough supplies to build more muscle
3 - Time doing 1&2
The stair climber is a great aerobic exercise. That means it’s a great cardiovascular conditioning exercise. It can help you create a negative energy balance which will lead to fat loss. If someone already genetically has a lot of muscle tissue on their glutes, they can use the stair climber and drop body fat and have a great shape. For those who have a pancake butt who want to make it bigger and more round and lift it, the stair climber wont do that.
Don’t ever ask that trainer for hypertrophy advice again. ;) lol I tease, sort of ;) ! Some people have muscle despite what they do NOT because of it. Most of us aren’t genetic outliers and we have to be smarter with our training.
When tracking my macros, do I include collagen?
Short answer - If you’re just having 1 serving of collagen and counting that toward protein, then sure, but consider this…
it is inferior to whey protein or any other complete protein source. It has very little leucine, which is the amino acid most responsible for turning on protein synthesis.
A recent study showed 20 individuals split into two groups, A collagen protein group, and a whey protein group.
Everyone did a 10 week weight training program. At the end of the trial they measured the muscle thickness of the VL (muscle in the quad) and the whey protein group had a pretty significant increase, 8.4%, compared to the collagen group that had a 5.6%.
So if the goal is lifestyle with fat loss and a little muscle, counting collagen is just fine. If you are trying to inch out any extra bit of muscle possible, stick to complete protein sources for your protein.
Link to study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35042187
I'm not strong enough to go up in weight with another plate or another pin in the pulley machine, or the next set of dumbells are too heavy. How can in follow the progressive overload without going up in weight?
Progressing without increasing weights!
We need to progress our training to see strength & muscle gains. This is PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD.
The core of progressive overload is doing a little more today than last time doing the same particular training day.
A common mistake is only progressing with increasing weight.
If you only focus on increasing weight, you tend to push weight up too quickly and end up lifting sloppy.
Your body makes adjustments and ‘cheats’ to compensate for the increased load. Then you aren’t even applying the higher weight on the muscle the way you intended! You’re not gaining from it!
Try this instead
Don’t always jump to increasing weight. Especially if you’ll get sloppy and quality goes down.
Adding tempo, reps, sets, half-reps, quarter-reps can all be simple ways to progress from week to week over a 6-12 week program.
Try to do just a LITTLE extra work, don’t go crazy and add all the things at once. Small steady progressions is enough.
if the goal is to maintain, research has shown that 1/9 of the training volume is needed. So this frees up what people can do tremendously.
There are a few considerations though. I still believe even for these individuals, exercise selection matters. It can be the difference between training pain free for your lifetime, vs wondering why you have aches and pains here and there while you train.
So all though bouncy bouncy would be considered fine, if you go to a class where they are choosing to load crappy movement patterns, it can end up working against you in the long run 🙂
In the onboarding videos it goes over the differences between the groups vs the plans. I would strongly encourage you to watch all those.
Plans are older previous plans before alternatives were incorporated into the app. So if you choose from plans you wont see any alternatives. They are only found under groups.
No, this is often times completely misunderstood.
Like any other macro, your body can absorb, use and store, any amount of protein at one single time.
What people often times misunderstand about this is that only so much protein will contribute to turning on a high protein synthesis signal. So if you are a small woman, 120 lbs, and eat 60g protein, your body will use all of that protein one way or another, BUT only 30-35g of it will contribute to activating protein synthesis. the other 25-30g won’t contribute to that at all. So some argue, if the purpose for high protein is to keep us in a net positive protein state, because we are constantly turning over protein, then eating past the 30-35g in one sitting, for a small female, would be unnecessary. Which I agree with.
A larger male who has more muscle mass may need a higher 40-45g to get a good high signal for protein synthesis.
I don’t think you need to alter calories on non-lifting days. If it’s something you enjoy and is easy for you, you can, but I don’t believe it is necessary. I think the most important thing is nailing down what your overall maintenance is over the week rather than looking at it from a narrow perspective of over a day.
TDEE calculators do vary greatly when you choose sedentary vs lightly active, but I think that we need to remember it’s all a best guess based off of averages. The best thing for you is to find YOUR maintenance and that only comes from trial and error. Try choosing sedentary and see how tracking that daily changes things or keeps them the same. Then make alterations based off of what you see over a 2-3 week period.
I am wondering how important it is to meet protein goals on days we don't work out.
Every day we are in a constant state of turning over protein. By the end of the day we want to hit a balanced or a positive protein state.
So even on days you don’t lift we want to stay in a net positive protein state by hitting adequate enough protein. Even on days you don’t lift your body is recovering and needs the supplies necessary to do so.
That means you need at least .8g per Lb of body weight. That should be adequate amounts anything more can be a preference or maybe you are using high protein consumption for a body recomp type approach.
I think you can get a lot out of it by using the equipment you have in the gym when you are in there. you dont need to feel the need to keep with all the alternatives. In fact, as long as you following the intensity levels written out in the app you should be fine.
Basic Coaching sounds like it would be perfect match! I could help you get a plan of action, help you choose the program in the app, and then with check ins every other week we can work you through maintenance or even a surplus nutritional program.
Yes, most plans are usually 1 hour 4x/week. There are a few ways you can alter things.
I have been building muscle successfully for 1.5 years and have progressed very well. I recently had to undergo surgery where I have to refrain from exercise for 6 weeks and can’t lift weights for 3-6 months. Wondering what I can do to limit muscle loss? Should I eat at maintenance? Keep taking creatine? Also don’t want to gain weight so just not sure what to do! Thanks!
Answer: I’m so sorry to hear about the surgery and not being able to lift for 3-6 months.
You will lose some muscle mass during this time, as you know, BUT there are still things we can do to help prevent further than necessary muscles loss. It’s also encouraging to know that It will come back quickly when you get back into the gym lifting again.
One studied showing people who stopped lifting and kept walking lost less muscle mass than those who stopped liftings, and didn’t walk or perform any sort of body weight exercise or movements.
If we can focus on doing what we can, even if it’s continuing to keep daily walks, that’s going to help us tremendously.
As far as nutrition and supplementation goes. I don’t believe you need to continue to take creatine.
But if you want to minimize any fat gains then continue walking, and eating .8-1.2g protein per lb body weight. And keep tracking around maintenance. You may notice that your maintenance falls a bit because you don’t have the higher amounts of activity levels throughout the day. But that’s okay and to be expected during this time.
Your enchilada recipe says 250g is a serving. Is that weighing it after it's all cooked?
Yes, everything is weighed after it’s all prepared and ready to eat 🙂
This makes tracking a lot easier. Just weigh your serving and enter it in your tracker.
My personal program Train With Me has a bit more volume and emphasis on glutes. If you want to see improvements in glutes I would do that training program. I also include an optional 5th day that does add some accessory work for glutes.
It can also come down to HOW you are performing your exercises too! I Would encourage you to post in the VIP Facebook group reviews on your glute exercises. Some people are quad or hamstring dominant and it can take away from the glutes firing and working well.
Remember that intensity and nutrition matter too. Some people don’t track their weights and push to be increasing them and their intensity with time. I suspect you do because you said “lifting with progressive overload”, and that means you track your weights every time and try to increase weights as time goes on.
It can also come down to nutrition too. Are you under eating? if you’re always in a calorie deficit or trying to stay too lean all the time, your body wont have the energy availability it requires to build muscle.
Tell him to stop being so selfish. ha ha! I kid…
It can be hard to stay the course and build new lifestyle and habits when our spouse isn’t on board.
if you really want to improve your life and your health, you cannot allow the choices of others to disempower you. I know it’s hard to hear but there will always be a million reasons why it’s easier NOT to set up a new lifestyle and habits of health. We can either spend all our time finding reasons why its hard, or we can use that brain power and energy to focus on looking for the positives and how this is healthy hard, and fun hard. It’s a fun new challenge that you CAN DO!
The best is when you lead by example and when your spouse see’s all the positive changes maybe they’ll want to get on board.
Set yourself up to be an inspiration to others, and to yourself. Don’t give your power to others and say you can’t do something because of someone else. That’s self deception. The truth is you can!
I'm so afraid i'm going to lose all my progress and I'll have to start all over if I go on vacation. I want to have a good time, but I also want to keep my progress and momentum with fitness. I feel completely torn.
We’re so consumed by fear about sabotaging or losing our progress, that our vacations and family gatherings lose their magic. Here are some generalized categories of the way many people handle their vacationing with food choices and the negative and positive impacts of those choices.
See if you can find what fits for the way you normally respond, and how you’d like to respond so you can make an informed choice on how you want to show up for vacation in relation to your food choices.
Pack all their protein and scales and everything.
Choose only whole foods and the healthiest foods available.
❌ Negative points:
✅ Positive points:
They stick to the plan and actually follow through the whole time, but they resent themselves the entire time. And they also expected the scale to go down, and when they get back and the scale didn’t go down, they’re bitter, frustrated, and want to quit.
❌ Negative points:
✅ Positive points:
There are those that “completely let free” and overindulge because they’re so afraid of the restriction of their diet that they’re goingto have to go back to.
Some people can do this and avoid some of the negative emotions if they fully take accountability for the decision and the consequences of this decision
❌ Negative points:
✅ Positive points:
Order the food they want and desserts, but eat a conservative portion of it
Focus more on people they are with and connection than the foods in front of them
They choose foods that taste good, but they love because it also helps them feel nourished.
They say yes to some things but are balanced in not over-doing things. They’re not overly ashamed of their desire and willingness to eat some goodies. They don’t go into the all-or-nothing mindset.
❌ Negative points:
✅ Positive points:
I feel like i just look at carbs and I gain weight. I'm so afraid to eat carbs, and you're telling me i can eat 150g per day!!
Research shows time and time again that when calories are at maintenance, it doesn’t matter if its at low carb or high carb, it will not put body fat on!
I don't even know where to start, or what to try.
I would review a few things…
1 - Depth of sleep, not just hours in your bed matter. So using a supplement like 3-5g glycine before bed, limiting screen time, lowering lights and having the room properly cooled, can all help to provide deeper sleep.
2- Nutrition - are you eating too low of carbs or overall calories for how much you move and exercise. This is a huge one. Raise your calories and carbs pre-workout and see how you feel.
3- Post workout nutrition. Get 30g protein with carbs post-workout to get your body into a rest and recovery state faster.
4- Quality of nutrition and timing. If you eat mostly junk food, and your eating patterns are all over the place this can detract from feeling quality levels of energy throughout the day
5 - maybe you’re doing too much cardio/weight lifting for your current bodies environment and stress levels. Try pulling back or keeping all your training 2-3 reps from failure, get rid of HIIT, just walk. Maybe you are simply doing too much!
I have been in a diet (or diet mind) for a long time and afraid to put on body fat, but I still feel like i have like 10 lbs to lose before i'm athletic or lean looking. How lean do i need to be in order to optimally build and be able to build muscle? I really want to build out my legs and glutes.
How lean should you be?
This is completely based off of the individual. Most woman will build best with 19-25% body fat. Woman trying to build and stay under will have a harder time.
How long should you build?
Usually we want to see an increase of .5-2% body weight per month. If you decide to increase just .5% BW/MO then you can stay in a build for much longer at lower body fat percentage which might be far more comfortable for a person. Going to the higher extreme of putting on 2% body weight every month may lead to higher fat and not necessarily increase the chances of more muscle.
Increases in 1%/BW/MO seems to be the sweet spot for most people. You can get good muscle gains while minimizing fat gains, and you aren’t in such a high calorie surplus so that it hurts your gut over time.
It is for most people at first. All new skills are hard at first. This is why I encourage people to first focus on establishing the habit of getting into the gym and working hard. Then, as you progress as a lifter and are feeling more comfortable and confident, THEN you can add tempo 🙂
You'll still get results without it, but you'll get much BETTER results with it. The programs are written with the tempos there purposefully to create the right type of training to match the goal. No need to stress it, just improve your training ability at your own pace.