Ep. #961: Q&A: “Boring” Training, Cutting and Newbie Gains, Adrenal Fatigue, and More


Mike: Hey there, this is muscle for life and I’m Mike Matthews. And I want to thank you for joining me today for another Q and a episode where I answer a number of questions that people have asked me. Followers have asked me over on Instagram. So what I do is every week or so. I post up a story, asking people to ask me questions, and then I pick questions to answer there on Instagram, in my stories.

And then I bring the questions over here where I can answer them in more detail, because I can only write so much in a little. Instagram story. And so if you want to ask me questions, follow me on Instagram at muscle life fitness, and then every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or so you will see the story go up and you can ask questions.

So what are we getting into today? I’m gonna be talking about newbie gains in the context of cutting, just cutting. Get in the way of, does it lessen your newbie gains? I’m gonna be talking about my training, why I periodize my training, why I train in different rep ranges and I don’t do what is in my bigger lean or stronger book I do.

What is in my beyond bigger leaner, stronger book. I’m going to explain that I’m gonna talk about boredom. Somebody asked me if I get bored with my workout routine and yes, I do get bored with it sometimes, but that’s. Bad thing. I also have a question here regarding knee sleeves. Should you be using them how to properly brace your body when you are lifting weights?

If energy flux matters when you are cutting or trying to maintain your body composition. And more before we sink our teeth into it, how would you like a free meal planning tool that figures out your calories, your macros, even your micros, and then allows you to create 100% custom meal plans for cutting lean gaining or maintaining.

In under five minutes. All you gotta do is go to buy legion.com/meal. Plan B Y legion.com/meal plan and download the tool. And if I may say this tool really is fantastic. My team, and I spent over six months on this thing, working with an Excel wizard and inferior versions of this are often sold for 50, 60, even a hundred dollars.

Or you have to download an app and pay every month or sign up for a weight loss service and pay every month, 10, 20, 40, 50, even $60 a month for what is essentially in this free. Tool. So if you are struggling to improve your body composition, if you are struggling to lose fat or gain muscle, the right meal plan can change everything.

Dieting can go from feeling like running in the sand in a sandstorm to riding a bike on a breezy day down a hill. So again, if you want my free meal planning tool, go to BI legion.com/meal plan Bui legion.com/meal plan. Enter your email address and you will get instant access. Okay. So a F L D N asks if a newbie cuts first, do muscle gains wait for when you decide to bulk or to put this question differently.

This is something that I often get asked, and I’ve always often been asked if you are new to strength training and you have a lot of fat to lose. So you start with a cut. Does that. Impair or does that mitigate, does that reduce your quote unquote newbie gains? So thanks to newbie gains, your average guy can gain probably about 15 pounds of muscle in his first year.

Whereas his second year is gonna be about half of that. It can be upward of 20 pounds. That would be a high responder. And in women it’s about half of those numbers. So your average woman can gain. Let’s just. Eight to 10, maybe 12 pounds of muscle in her first year of lifting. And then her second year a potential muscle gain is about half of what she could gain in the first year.

And the primary reason we can do so well in our first year is newbie gains is our body is hyper responsive to training. And so the question again is, does cutting make our body less responsive to training and. Although you might think that would be the case because a calorie deficit does generally impair muscle building, but research shows that newbie gains are so strong that our body is so hyper responsive to strength, training that a calorie.

Deficit doesn’t seem to much affect our results, at least for the first six to eight, maybe 10 months after that, maybe to some degree. So the bottom line is if you are new to this stuff and you have a lot of fat to lose and you want to gain a fair amount of muscle, you can start. With cutting start with restricting your calories to lose fat and you will gain muscle significant amounts of muscle, and you will lose fat, significant amounts of fat.

At the same time. J beat asks according, you’re doing four by 10 these days. Is there any issues with. Three by four to six reps cuz it works really well. Okay. So they are referring to training clips that I post in my Instagram stories. I show my workouts and with some exercises at some points in my macro cycle, I am doing for sets of 10 reps, even on big compound lifts and.

The reason I’m doing that is not because the training that I espouse in bigger, lean stronger, which is my book for men who are relatively new to strength training, who let’s say, have yet to gain their first 25 to maybe 30 pounds of muscle bigger, lean stronger is for them unless they’re 40 to 50 plus and have a lot of weight to lose and are not in great shape, then I actually would recommend my book muscle for life.

I digress. So the reason I am not following my bigger leaner stronger program is while I explain it in the sequel to bigger leaner, stronger, which is beyond bigger, leaner stronger. And that is the program I am following. But basically what it boils down to is the amount of volume in bigger leaner, stronger is not.

Sufficient to help me gain more muscle and strength. I have to do more volume, which in big lean or stronger, it’s about nine to 12 hard sets per major muscle group per week. And that works great for a while until it doesn’t work so great. And again, for most guys, That style of training, it will get them to probably 20 ish, pounds of muscle.

Some guys will be able to go maybe as far as 30 pounds, if they’re a very high responder to weight lifting, but for most guys, it will get them to 20, to probably 25 pounds of muscle before they. Reach a plateau. And then the primary change that they have to make is more volume. They just have to work a bit harder.

And in bigger leaner, stronger, you are working in the four to six rep range for a lot of exercises. For some exercises, you are doing six to eight reps per set, because four to six is just awkward. Think about a dumbbell side raise, for example, you can do four to six. Once you get a bit stronger and the weights get a little bit heavy, it’s hard to maintain proper form.

You start swinging all over the place. And so I recommend lightening the load a little bit on those exercises, but mostly sticking to four to six reps per set, because that is highly effective for gaining both. Muscle and strength, and it is also a great way to set yourself up for success in your intermediate and advanced phases of your training, where gaining strength is really the only reliable way to continue gaining muscle.

So by doing a couple of years of a lot of four to six rep work, which is right in the middle of the spectrum of strength and hypertrophy, so to speak. Pure strength work would have you do a lot of ones, twos, threes, fours, and fives, pure hypertrophy work might be something like 8, 9, 10 reps per set, or beyond, and four to six is in the middle.

So it gives you a nice blend of strength and hypertrophy works very well, but a problem. With the four to six rep range, as you move into your intermediate phase and you need more volume than bigger leaner stronger provides is you can only do so much four to six rep work before your joints start hurting before your body starts hurting.

You can’t do for example, 15 to 20 hard sets per week for let’s say your lower body. In the four to six rep range, without a lot of things, just starting to hurt, you might be able to get away with it for a couple of months. But after that, your knees are probably gonna start hurting your hips, your lower back and so forth.

And so a solution there is to start working in different. Rep ranges. You don’t abandon four to six, but you start doing some higher rep sets, which allow you to get in more volume with less stress on your joints. Now, ironically, though, those higher rep sets are not easier than. The lower rep sets. Many people think that lower rep strength training is more systemically fatiguing.

For example, it’s not anybody who has done a lot of sets of 10 in the squat rack. For example, taken closer to failure can tell you that 10 reps of a squat taken closer to failure is far more difficult and fatiguing. Than say three reps taken close to failure. The three reps set is hard. Don’t get me wrong, but your quads are not on fire at the end of a three rep set in the way that they are at the end of a 10 rep set.

And so anyway, this practice of working in different rep ranges is known as puritization. And again, once you become an intermediate. Weightlifter after let’s say a couple of years of good training, you’ve gained a lot of muscle and strength research shows that periodized training is better for gaining strength and therefore likely better for gaining muscle than non periodized.

Training. So training in different rep ranges becomes particularly productive. When you are more experienced. If you are new, you don’t need a complicated periodized program. You need something simple based on good fundamentals, like bigger lean or stronger for men or thinly or stronger for women or muscle for life for men or women who are 40 or 50 plus.

And very new to all of this. But again, eventually you will stall out with the programming in those books. It’ll take you far, but if you want to gain or try to gain basically all of the muscle and strength that is genetically available to you, you are going to have to make some changes. And that’s what I’ve done in my training.

And I talk about all of this and you can check out basically exactly what I’m doing in my book beyond bigger lean or strong. For any women listening who are wondering if I have beyond thinner, leaner, stronger, I don’t have it yet, but it is on my list. I do intend on writing that book, but for now you could read beyond bigger leaner, stronger.

You will learn a lot, and chances are, you will want to make some changes to the programming. It will probably have more upper body volume than you want to do and not enough lower body volume. But you will know enough based on what you have learned in thin leaner, stronger and beyond bigger leaner, stronger to make those changes.

So you could read it or you could wait until I have beyond thin leaner stronger. Okay. Ben cook, PT asks. Do you get bored of your workout routine? Yeah, definitely. Sometimes my workouts are boring and I do feel like I am just going through the motion. But remember that the more boring and I put that in scare quotes, a training program is so the more familiar the exercises are, the more simple, the progression model is the more repetitive the workouts are and so forth.

The more likely it is to produce long term results. Also remember that sometimes you don’t wanna work out and then you force yourself to do it. And then you feel happy. Daniel Muffy asks any advice for sleep apnea? A C P a P machine can be very helpful, but check out mouth taping. I know it sounds silly, but there is evidence that it can help with sleep apnea and it can help anyone who tends to.

Breathe when they sleep. And if that peaks your curiosity, and if you want to learn more about the science and art of proper breathing, check out the interview I did with James nester. By the time this goes live, it will probably be, I don’t know, sometime in the last four to eight weeks that the interview with James was posted, but go back in the feed and find it nester, N E S T O R.

And give it a. Dr. Polk asks, what were your calories on your last cut? So I averaged about 2,400 per day during the week when I was more active. I lift weights Monday through Friday for about 60 to maybe 80 minutes. I also do 30 minutes of cardio six or seven days per week. I hop on a bike and just do moderate intensity.

Steady state cardio for 30 minutes. And then I was probably closer to 2,900 calories per day on the weekends because my kids like pancakes in the morning and we do that for them, my wife and I on Saturday. Sometimes Sunday and I’m gonna eat them as well. And then I also, at the time was making a pasta. I was trying different pastas on Sundays.

Again, my family liked that and I wanted to eat enough of that to enjoy myself. And so when you consider that I was burning probably around 3000 to 3,300 calories per day during the week, and probably something closer to 2,700 to. 800 calories per day on the weekend. That doing it that way meant slower results because my weekends chipped away a little bit at my weekly calorie deficit, but I was okay with that.

I didn’t have that much fat to lose and it didn’t matter to me that the cut was just going to take maybe an extra three or four weeks because I didn’t have any deadline. Lindon SEP asks. Would you consider knee sleeves necessary for weight lifting? No, they are not necessary, but I do like them a lot for squatting because they keep my knees warm and they do seem to help a little bit with joint stability.

And if you wanna learn more about that head over to Legion athletics.com and search for sleeves, and you will find an article called should you wear elbow and knee sleeves or wraps? Weightlifting and check it out. Lindon SEP also asks, is it possible to plateau in a weight loss journey if you don’t eat enough protein?

No. That is only gonna make it harder to gain or maintain muscle ultimately. And unfortunately, true weight loss plateaus only occur because calories in are too close to or are beyond calories out and yes, all calories. All right. Mateo draws asks. Should I be bracing my muscles when I’m lifting or should I be loose and tension?

Generally speaking, you want whole body tightness during sets of just about every exercise. There are some obvious exceptions, like a seated rear. Dealt Ray or a Cal race or whatever, but for most exercises, whole body tightness, and especially with the heavy compound exercises and particularly with your core muscles.

So you want to tense them before you squat, for example, or before you pull or overhead press or bench press or whatever you want to tense those core muscles, like you’re about to get punched in the stomach and you. Your glutes, for example, to squeeze hard at the top of every squat and every deadlift and every overhead press.

So generally speaking, the more whole body muscle tightness, the better. All right. Nicola Caldwell asks thoughts on Wendler 5, 3, 1 program or the best progression scheme for. Squat bench and deadlift. Wendler 5 31 is a great program, particularly for people who are newer to power lifting and want to give it a try.

I’ve actually written about it. If you head over to Legion athletics.com and search for Wendler, you will find an article where I talk about it and explain how it works. All right. Robert Malmstrom ask. If always training with no reps left good or too much. So is taking every set to zero good reps left.

Meaning if you go for another rep, you are going to fail. Is that good? Or is that too much? That is definitely too much, especially with heavy compound exercise is it’s okay to go to that point where you have zero, maybe one good rep left every once in a while. On your compound lifts. If you know what you’re doing, if you know how to maintain good form, when an exercise gets that hard.

And if you have a reason to do it, maybe you are testing your strength for example, but generally you want to end all sets of the big lifts with at least one good rep left and on isolation exercises, you can go to that zero to one good rep left or even absolute muscular failure. More often, depending on the exercise, usually without issue.

So if it’s a biceps curl, for example, and that final rep is a real grinder. And you think that you probably couldn’t get another one that of course is not the same as doing that on the deadlift. It’s okay to do that on the biceps. Fairly often, you don’t need to do it. Every set. Always. I wouldn’t recommend that, but if you want to do it here and there, even, you do it a couple of times per week because you are curling a couple of times per week, and you wanna take that final set of your, let’s say you’re doing four sets of curls in each of these workouts, and you want to take the final set really close to failure.

I don’t see. Problem with that, but I would not be doing that every week again on a squat or a deadlift or an overhead press, or even a bench press slop Porter 98 asks, why can’t everyone stop hating each other and just get along? I could make a joke about clown world here, but my honest answer.

Cultural RO we have declining mental health. We have declining attention spans. We have declining literacy, declining IQ levels. We have highest ever levels of media and government gas, lighting, moral idiocy, and so forth. And, we all have a hand in this, even if it is through inaction, by not trying to do anything to improve.

Circumstances. Ultimately we will get the world that we deserve. Stacey O 71 asks is adrenal fatigue, a real thing. According to the endocrine society, which represents 14,000 endocrinologists know that is not a real medical condition. Adrenal insufficiency is, but that’s different and burnout and exhaustion.

Those are real things. And those are real symptoms of adrenal insufficiency as well as depression and obstructive sleep apnea. But adrenal fatigue again is not adrenal insufficiency. This is the difference between thinking maybe you are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant, and knowing that you have celiac disease.

If you suspect that there might be something up with your adrenal health, I recommend staying away from anyone who talks about adrenal fatigue and instead going and seeing a good endocrinologist who can help you properly assess your situation. Thomas Kelvin 96 asks thoughts on occasionally training for a pump, mainly because I enjoy it.

There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with just including some pump work in your training, but I would recommend that you keep it to no more than 20% of your. Total volume. And there are different ways to look at volume, of course, but in this context, an easy way to understand it is number of hard sets.

So sets taken close to muscular failure for a given major muscle group per week. So if you’re doing, let’s say 15 hard sets per week for whatever muscle group and you want to include some pump work in those. I would limit it to no more than three sets per week. Vibe, cold Metha. Sorry. If I am mispronouncing your name, but that’s the best I’ve got asks cold showers straight after a workout.

Can blunt inflammation response? No. A cold shower is not going to give you nearly enough cold exposure. To matter. Now, if you were to go take a five or six minute ice bath immersed to your neck, that probably would, if you were to do that after every workout that would likely result in less muscle growth than if you were to.

Not do that. If we were just to maybe go take some cold showers, because that post workout inflammation is part of the muscle building process. And so if you do something to interfere with that, take an ice bath or maybe take some NSA IDs after you train it is going to result in less muscle. ERO Levine asks thoughts on energy flux and in case you are not familiar with that term, it just refers to the amount of calories that are going through you.

The amount of calories you are eating and burning. So a high flux individual eats a lot of calories, but burns a lot of calories and a low flux individual would be somebody who doesn’t eat very many calories and doesn’t burn very many calories now. Both of those people can gain weight, lose weight, maintain weight, of course, depending on the relationship between the calories in and calories out.

But the energy flux discussions that people have are usually centered around the question of which is best, which condition is best for losing weight. Maintaining weight. And the short answer is most people seem to do best. They get the best results with a high flux approach. Meaning they move a lot.

They burn a lot of energy and that allows them to eat. More food. So in the case of a guy who’s cutting, let’s say he’s burning about 3000 calories per day, and he’s eating 2,500 calories per day to cut. He is probably going to do better with that approach than let’s say burning 2,500 calories per day in eating about 2000 calories per day.

The fat loss will be. The same, but he probably will feel better. He probably will have better workouts. He probably will retain more muscle. And all of that matters. Of course, it’s not just about losing fat. And in the case of women, it works the same. It’s just, the numbers are usually smaller. When cutting most women are going to do better.

If they can eat 2000 calories per day versus 1500 calories per day or 1500 calories per day versus a thousand calories per day, a thousand calories per day is almost always inappropriate. But if you have a small woman who is fairly lean and just wanting to get a little bit leaner, she might need to eat somewhere close to a thousand to 1200 calories per day, based on her activity level, but burn more calories.

So she could eat more calories and that’s really, it. That’s all there is to energy flux, practically speaking. It is not a metabolic hack that allows you to speed up your metabolism, to lose fat faster, to re comp, to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. I wish it were that easy because I would do it myself and I would recommend that all of you do it, but there is no good scientific evidence for any of those kinds of claims and a final comment here that might be useful for anyone who is now thinking about how they can get their calories out up so they can get their calories in up as well.

And. Increasing the amount of formal exercise that you do is one way, of course, you can try to push toward maybe six hours of strength training per week, which is probably the most I’d recommend unless you are like 20 years old and invincible, and maybe pushing up to a few hours of cardio per week, which is also about the most I’d recommend because beyond that, it is going to.

To interfere with your strength training. And most of us should be prioritizing our strength training, not just for body composition reasons, but for health reasons as well. And so that’s one way of doing it, but you can also just walk. You can just go for walks. You can do about as much walking as you want, without interfering with anything in your strength training.

Placing any extra demands on your recovery walking, I think is one of the most underrated forms of exercise. There is. So just look at what you do every day and see if you can walk more. Can you go out for walks? Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Can you go walk up and down the stairs several times per day for no other reason than just walking up and down the stairs.

Whatever you need to do walking is great for your health. It can improve your fitness and it burns a couple of hundred calories per hour. It burns more energy than most people. Okay, final question. Yara as SOPA asks, does foam rolling after a workout help with muscle growth? No, it does not. It might help slightly with muscle soreness and it might slightly improve your range of motion in subsequent exercise, but it is not going to help with your recovery or your muscle.

I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show, because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.

And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email Mike muscle for life.com, muscle F or life.com. And let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.

I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode. And I hope to hear from you soon.





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