Fundamentals: Focus on your big rocks

If your goal is hypertrophy–building muscle–there are a great many variables to consider. And on some level, they all matter.

Consider the Muscle and Strength Training Pyramid below. Putting aside nutrition–which has its own pyramid–this pyramid covers six (well, eight) variables that affect our training.

While the topics of sets, reps and how many days a week to train do get a lot of air time, a great many of you are still spending too much time worrying about the stuff at the top of the pyramid.

Stuff that frankly, unless you have your fundamentals in order, just don’t matter.

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Lessons learned from a year of bulking

In 46 weeks, I managed to add 39 lbs of body weight, with over 21 lbs of that coming as muscle. And topping the scale at 209 lbs was a huge achievement for me. But what did I learn from almost a year of bulking?

First, a little context.

There’s nothing exceptional about my genetics. I’m an average 5’9” and my natural set-point is a soft welterweight. I’ve played sports casually over the years and spent my entire working-life sitting behind a desk. But I’m certainly no bodybuilding noob, and I definitely know my way around the gym with many years of training under my belt. I’m also in pretty good shape considering my forty-six years. In the realm of physique transformation, I’ve been as low as 148 lbs and single digit body fat, and previously topped the scale at 187 lbs.

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Before you hit “publish”, are you adding value?

Frankly, this post was tough to title. I toyed with a variety of options, but most just came off as condescending. I’m still not sure I like the title as written, but it’s at least one of the points I was trying to make.

The idea behind this post was to talk about what goes into writing useful and enjoyable content in the fitness, nutrition and bodybuilding space. Hence my struggle with the title. I could have titled it “A guide to writing content for the fitness industry”, or some such; but that’s where I draw a line, of sorts.

Tackling a post of this nature, you’d be forgiven for assuming I’m a successful personal trainer, fitness icon or otherwise accomplished writer. Fair, but wrong. It would also be reasonable for you to assume I perhaps have a science background, or qualifications in physiology, kinesiology and maybe nutrition. Again, no.

Well this dude better at least be jacked, right?

Alas, merely bumps in the right places, with a vein or two, and even some abs, when viewed under scientifically controlled lighting.

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What I learned in the last three months

It’s been 75 days since the last time I posted, and frankly, a lots happened.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that what I put up here is somewhat of a mixed bag; part journal, part training log and probably two-parts waffle … and no, not the good kind. Still, I’m not making you read, that’s on you.

So, given I could cover a lot here, we’ll keep it focused on training, diet and what I’ve learned in the last three months. And for those of you that want to bail early, here’s the summary:

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Just about anything will work

just do workI’ve been working informally with a couple of people of late, helping them build a program to reach their training goals. And it’s been fun.

However, regardless of what route we take, the “split”, the programming, periodization, intensity, loading, volume etc., I always end-up distilling the advice down to the following. So much so, that it’s worth stating here:

At the end of the day, it’s good to remember that just about anything and everything can work in the gym. It’s largely about showing up, working hard, consistently, for months, and eating large amounts of good healthy food.

Sure, there’s a lot of detail I could have added. I could have talked about rest intervals, recovery patterns, dietary intake, macros, supplementation, sleep; the list is pretty much endless. But in the end, 90% of the progress you’ll make in the gym comes down to forming good habits, showing-up regularly and simply doing the work.