Success leaves clues. If you’ve been in this game you long enough eventually you will pick up on which habits consistently produce superior results and which ones don’t.
Over the years there are 3 habits that I have found to be most reliable and effective in terms of achieving a successful body transformation.
In no particular order they are as follows:
One of the absolute best tips, which I learned from Coach Poliquin, was to focus on strengthening the lower back especially early on in the training cycle. This really sets the foundation to make greater gains in strength and hypertrophy later on because the lower back has the greatest radiation effect from all muscle groups.
In other words strength gains in the lower back transfers directly across to all other muscle groups. When you think about it this makes perfect sense because the lower back is such a central link in the chain.
A lot of the greatest bodybuilders of their time like Arnold and Ronnie Coleman started out as Powerlifters and they built a great foundation of strength and mass by hoisting heavy iron on deadlifts. Arnold and Ronnie were known to deadlift 700lbs and 800lbs respectively.
When I worked with coach Poliqun I gained nearly 8kg of lean mass in the first 8 weeks by specializing on posterior chain. After that I was instantly sold.
Now every male client I see I put the on a lower back specialization program for the first 4 weeks which is their general prep or foundation phase. Since implementing that strategy the average amount of muscle gained by my male clients over an 8-12 week period is 5-7kg.
Kris gained almost 8kg of lean mass in 8 weeks specializing on his posterior chain.
Make no mistake about it. Once past the beginner stage if you want to grow or change your body composition drastically you are going to need a lot of volume.
A sufficient amount of volume is required to recruit and exhaust all available motor units, which is the name of the game when it comes to hypertrophy adaptations.
Almost all the top bodybuilders at the amateur and elite level employ a high volume approach.
One set to failure will never exhaust all available motor units because neural failure will short change you before that’s made possible. If you want to grow you need to create sufficient muscular and metabolic fatigue and that’s done with a lot of sets.
Now you have to be smart about getting in the volume by managing fatigue effectively. If you try to bust your nut on every set you will crash and burn very quickly and greatly reduce the amount of volume you are able to get in.
Tolerance to volume is a very much dependent on the individual however I have found if you increase in a systematic and progressive manner anyone can increase his or her work capacity drastically.
3. Calorie Cycling
Many people still don’t believe you can gain muscle and lose fat the same. It is seen as the holy grail of body transformations. Something unattainable once past the beginner stage or accept for when coming off a lay off.
If I bought into that I wouldn’t be here writing this today. On average my male clients lose about 5-6% body fat while gaining an equal amount of muscle mass over a 12-week period.
While its is true that they are two opposite processes and the body is rarely anabolic and catabolic at the same time this can be accomplished by effectively cycling your nutrition plan.
By alternating periods of caloric restriction with periods of higher calorie refeeding, you can effectively mobilize stored fat, while also increasing muscle growth over a period of several months.
Now the amount of time you spend in a deficit versus a surplus will largely depend on the goal, body fat, and metabolic type for a given person.
Everyone is different and will require a slightly different strategy both on a microscale (day to day) and macroscale (week to week). Perhaps in a future blog post I will outline some of the different options.
Mark reduced his body fat from 14.3% to 7% while gaining 7.9kg of lean mass in 13 weeks by following a micro and macro calorie cycling protocol.