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How to Build Muscle (julian.com)
295 points by julianshapiro 353 days ago | hide | past | web | 191 comments | favorite



This isn't a bad guide, but for those new and interested in the topic, the Reddit r/fitness subreddit ( https://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness ) has a wiki which is probably the best all around guide out there to getting fit, muscular, and strong: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/wiki/index

It is both entirely free and substantially better than this guide. It is based on the combined experience of people who are much further along in their fitness journey than Julian. There are good answers to all common questions and there are solid programs that match various personal preferences.


The main issue with /r/fitness is that it's not a focused guide so you run into decision paralysis almost immediately. It's great if you already know what you want, and it's very open ended. And, generally, I think people who are really far along in their business journey are not who beginners should be listening to.


The wiki does seem to be a focused guide, unless I'm missing something.


Am I missing something? The Getting Started area splits into 4 exercise sections immediately and you're left to your own devices. My first attempt at serious exercise was from this very page and I ended up doing stronglights for a while, which was OK...


That's a fair complaint I guess. It seems to narrow things down a bit but maybe not enough.


Also, lurk a few years on /fit/ ;)

But for real, their sticky is nice.

http://boards.4chan.org/fit/thread/17018018


And for anyone, yes it happens, new to 4chan, it is an acquired skill to navigate their sarcasm and apparent savagery. Don't feel left out if it takes some time to... acclimate...

But rest assured, there lies some humanity and good insight within, if you can find it.


The only thing worse than no knowledge is just a little knowledge.

Although I've always been a "geek" I am into sports since high school - so it is now more than 20 years. Maybe I was just lucky, but I always had good results, even in the era when internet was not there for the information. Never had to take any supplements, and the results were just right. I won't bother you giving advice, because:

1. Everyone's body is different 2. It's simple once you get it, but it might be difficult to explain.

I'll just say that skimming through this guide I've seen a lot of fluff, some good info and also lots of crap.

I think that, for the people here who would like to start working out, the most important things are:

1. You have to build the habit of working out from now on for the rest of your life if you want the results to stay. 2. Find a professional guidance at first. An enterpreneur whose experience sums to (citing from the OP): "I wrote the first draft of this guide months ago. I meant to publish this then. But I unexpectedly lost half the muscle I had gained." is not the best source of knowledge in this area.


I didn't pick up much crap at all. I thought it was well done, and the author clearly mentioned what he preferred vs the science.

I've been weightlifting for about 3 years, no hormones, I'm old (about 50), I'm a doctor and a statistician (ahem, I mean data scientist) and my view is that the vast majority of advice on the net is really bad, so I found this article a refreshing change.

Bloggers select small sized, underpowered studies to support their 'bro science' theories, and it's hard to differentiate what information applies to natural bodybuilding - which is not much since many bodybuilders are on hormone supplements.

My only comments are that creatine in high doses can cause renal stones, and the BMR calculator probably doesn't take into base level activity. E.g. my BMR is around 1600 cal, with general moving around it's around 1800 (before exercise). I measure my exercise calorie burn with a heart rate monitor, and balance my calories intake (using MyFitenssPal). I've been able to control my weight accurately over the last 4.5 years - originally 84kg, down to 64kg, now around 69kg with weightlifting. It's tough being old and trying to put on muscle... and I wasted time not eating enough to start with.


> Bloggers select small sized, underpowered studies to support their 'bro science' theories

There's simply no money for large, high-powered studies. We have to rely on what observations are actually possible.

However the quality of studies, especially in terms of study design, is steadily improving.

> it's hard to differentiate what information applies to natural bodybuilding

Actually, a lot of the worst studies are done with novice trainees. All we've learnt from those is that pretty much any stimulus works on someone who hasn't trained before.

Studies involving subjects using anabolic and androgenic steroids typically control for that.


There's simply no money for large, high-powered studies.

Yes there is, the deepest pockets of all are very, very interested in fitness: the military. You can download the Navy SEAL physical training guide for free!

http://www.sealswcc.com/navy-seal-naval-special-warfare-phys...

http://www.sealswcc.com/navy-seal-what-are-chances-hell-week...

"A three year Naval Special Warfare study comprised of thousands of SEAL candidates has identified the speeds, distances and reps that correspond to success at BUD/S. The graphs in the predictive model show the boundaries of smart training to maximize your odds of success without increasing your risk of injury."


The study appears to show that cardiovascular adaptation dominates the outcomes once you get over a fairly moderate strength level.

You don't need a 500lb deadlift to lift a machine gun -- or swim with a 50lb pack.

I'm talking about hypertrophy, which is the purpose of the post here.

There's not much money for "hi we'd like to research how to make healthy adults as big as possible, thanks".


and I wasted time not eating enough to start with

If you wouldn't mind, I'd be interested in more explanation of this comment, because it's possible that I'm in the same situation you were in when you were "wasting time" and don't realize it. What did you discover about an old guy putting on muscle without putting the lost (non-muscle) weight back on?


Some lessons, based on the fact that as you get older your testosterone levels decrease:

- Based on your testosterone levels and genetics there is a max amount of muscle you can put on per year (without drugs) so exercise and eating over that level doesn't make more muscle, just fat & injury. This varies per person, you have to try and find out.

- You need longer recovery time between heavy weight sessions

- Make sure you eat enough to grow muscle, but no more than necessary

- I've given up the bulk and cut methods i.e. I don't think it's healthy to put on lots of weight and then rapidly cut, it's better to go slow and make smaller adjustments, it will take longer to put on muscle but you will look better for more of the year

Good luck!


Small nitpick: BMR, by definition [0], is the amount of energy burned by a body at rest.

I'm not sure about the medical field, but, at least online, when one wants to calculate total energy use, one calculates Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), defined as the sum of one's BMR and the calories burned from activity. (Usually one simply estimates activity, and then uses measured caloric intake and rate of weight change to infer the true value of one's TDEE and activity level.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_metabolic_rate


Author here. Happy to provide some thoughts on whatever you find to be crap.


> "the myth that women have a harder time gaining beginner muscle"

Do you have a study to prove that women can grow "beginner" muscles at the same speed as men? I mean common, testosterone levels are drastically different, it will surely affect the muscle growth.


Studies:

1: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11890579?dopt=Abstract

2: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7558529

3: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991130/

Article: http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/natural-muscular-potential-w...

Yes, men have more testosterone, but testosterone is less important to the female muscle development process. In fact, women benefit from higher levels of IGF1 growth hormone, which is critical to muscle growth, as compared to men [1, 2].

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/49661582_Circulatin...

[2] http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jcem.81.7.8675561


Don't get me started on p values now, but just think about this:

"Eight young men (age 20-30 years), six young women (age 20-30 years), nine older men (age 65-75 years), and ten older women (age 65-75 years).

The results indicate that neither age nor gender affects muscle volume response to whole-body ST."

"Six women and 6 men trained the elbow flexors 3 days per week for 20 wks, one arm performing in each session 3-5 sets of 10 maximal concentric actions on an accommodating resistance device, the other arm 3-5 sets of 8-12 coupled eccentric/concentric actions on a weight training device."

"One hundred eighty-one previously inactive healthy Caucasian (N = 117) and African American (N = 54) men (N = 82) and women (N = 99), aged 50–85 yr,<...>

Training-induced increases in absolute MV were significantly greater (P < 0.001) in men than in women, though both sex groups increased MV significantly with ST (P < 0.001), and the relative (%) increases were similar. "

So, if we are to believe the first two, that were, BTW conducted on miniscule samples, and concentrated on only one exercise of a small muscle, we should expect the same muscle gain in 20 year old men as in 70 year old ladies!

I wonder why those old ladies do not feature that much at bodybuilding competitions or Olympic games...

The third, which has larger sample, actually says that there is the difference between males and females, which is in accordance with what we can see at every sports event.


Note also that the elbow flexion muscles (biceps, brachialis) have relatively low androgen sensitivity


Welcome to HN, where everybody is an armchair expert and good at only criticizing.

It's obvious you put a lot of work into this, and you know what, it may not be the world's best information on building muscle, but what I do know is that you researched this way more than I have, and actually inspired me to start a workout routine. So there's that.

thanks for putting this together.


I don't find your advice to be "crap", but I do think it could be a lot simpler. Run stronglifts, 5x5, or starting strength. All of these involve 3 trips to the gym per week, are very easy to follow, and have well defined progressions.


These are not easy to follow. When you are already strong and have access to a personal trainer, maybe the are. When your starting point is difficulty lifting the lowest possible weight and you don't know how to configure your deadlift form properly because you actually /can't/ lift the lowest recommended weight, so your bar has a really low starting point, it gets a lot more complicated, not to mention dangerous.


At least Starting Strength and possibly others cover this case in detail, mentioning something like "You might need to lift a PVC pipe from riser blocks at first."


I think you seriously over estimate the portion of the population who cannot squat or deadlift an empty barbell on day one.


You can squat an empty barbell, but the starting height of the barbell will be incorrect. So you don't squat an empty barbell, you squat a barbell + weights that are tall enough to make the barbell be some height off the ground. If the barbell is really low on the floor, it's not the normal deadlift anymore, and for someone who has never done deadlifts before and is having issues figuring out the right form as it is, that's terrifying.

Also, none of the weight programs actually have a starting weight low enough to support that, anyway. No program I've seen starts deadlifts at empty barbell. So good luck aligning your deadlift weight with your other weight, like you're supposed to do to not get unbalanced. SL certainly didn't, maybe SS does but I don't recall that. So what are you talking about, anyway?

There's a similar and more significant problem with barbell rows, to the point that I ended up not doing them at all. But deadlift is considered more core.


A few things:

1) Did you mean deadlift instead of squat in your first few sentences? Squat has the bar on your back, so distance off the ground is not an issue...

2) Speaking honestly, if this is the kind of thing that is going to keep somebody from getting stronger, then they're not gonna accomplish much in life. Working from first principles, there are two ways to get a less-than-135lb loaded bar at the right height for deadlifting:

a. Plates which are less dense than steel. You can buy or fabricate wooden starter plates which are the same diameter as a 45lb plate.

b. Rely on something other than the plates to get the bar in the correct starting position. Blocks, books, Tupperware bins, or (if you have one) the safety bars on a power rack all would work.

3) In Starting Strength, the starting weight for each lift is whatever you can lift on day one. If that is below the weight of an empty 45lb barbell, then you get a woman's (35lb), junior (25lb), or PVC (perhaps less than 2 lbs?) barbell. Your starting weight is not the important part, it's adding weight to the bar each workout.

The SS community believes pretty strongly that strength is for everyone. They train lots of people (women and older people) who don't fall into the traditional strength training target audience (men 16-40).


You seriously overestimate the portion of population who can do anything, really, with proper form


Form can be learned. The parent was talking about people being too weak to do the lifts at minimum weight.


You want to get the benefits of hard work without the hard work or time. You can't lift for 3 months, read a bunch of shit and try and sell a fitness product. You need to look the part. That means you have to put in the work and the time. Great start, but you don't even look like you lift weights at all. In 5 years you could have something. Your guide isn't bad, but until you look the part and have actually seen what it takes to develop a real physique, you can talk about the theoretical, but not the practical.


If you had bothered to actually read the guide, you would have learned that it was not written for the tiny fraction of the population that wants to get super-muscular, but the far larger number of people who would like to gain a moderate amount of muscle.


All in all I found your guide pretty straightforward and agreeable. I think that you overstate its applicability, since it's tailored for very thin people like yourself rather than for overweight people (the majority of people that start training). I do think it's good that you focus on motivational factors, as that is ultimately by far the most important thing to success in fitness.

One point is that muscle memory is probably a real effect. There is a very approachable article on it on Strengtheory although the site is currently down. There is a cached version at [0]. Basically, as your muscle grows it creates new myonuclei, which is energetically expensive, but those myonuclei are not lost when you detrain. You need a certain density of mynuclei to support a given volume of muscular tissue. There is also a brief description on Wikipedia with references [1].

Another thing to note is that the main benefit of compound exercises for bodybuilders is that compound exercises are much more time efficient than isolation exercises. With regard to the specific exercises you've selected, a few criticisms come to mind. 1. I don't think oblique work is necessary in a minimal program focused on aesthetics. Most people do not need a specific focus on larger obliques. 2. On your leg day you are progamming 4 sets of squats, 3 sets of hamstring curls, and 4 sets of deadlifts. The hamstring curls are at best unnecessary. The hamstring is the primary mover of the deadlift, and squats also work the hamstrings. It would be better to program barbell hip thrusts to develop the glutes. In general you should add specific glute exercises for an aesthetic-focused routine targeted at both men and women. 3. The seated pulley row and lat pulldown work substantially the same muscles.[2] They should be separated in the workout at least. In general I'm pretty skeptical of bodybuilding split type workouts for beginners. I think it makes more sense for beginners to do full-body workouts, as the hallmark of being a novice is that you can make strength gains every workout. Body part split routines are necessary in part because intermediate lifters require more time for their body parts to recover from a given exercise, so working a body part once a week makes more sense.[5]

It is probably not the case that 4 sets is "ideal" for hypertrophy. There are diminishing returns, but not negative returns, and 4 sets is certainly not enough to get "maximum hypertrophy" as you claim in your addendum.[3] Part of the reasoning failure here is that you claim that it's impossible to lift with middle amounts of reps for more than 4 sets, but that is probably not relevant, because what matters for hypertrophy is the number of sets you do to near failure. Being within the magic rep range is not very important.[4]

I think that's all the criticism I have time for now. Seems like a good start, and hopefully you can use some of this information to improve the guide.

0: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:pl8tNHF...

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_memory_(strength_traini...

2: https://www.t-nation.com/training/inside-the-muscles-best-ba...

3: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:X6nFkck...

4: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:L6EENZs...

5: I believe this is discussed in detail in Practical Programming for Strength Training by Rippetoe.


> You have to build the habit of working out from now on for the rest of your life if you want the results to stay.

This. It's a lifestyle. There are no shortcuts or miracle plans. Just do it for fun and for the overall health benefits. The muscle will come as a nice side benefit.

> Although I've always been a "geek" I am into sports since high school

I've been also working out for 18 years now. It's odd that society still has this stereotype that the geek types don't do sports.

Funny anecdote: one of my best friends and training partner is an ex-professional olympic weightlifter (national team of my country). He's also very geeky and now that his elite sports life has ended is trying to launch web and mobile projects. Recently I have convinced him to start learning programming...


First sentence: "Most bodybuilding advice is wrong", proceeds to list the most common bodybuilding advice.

The best thing you could do to learn how to build muscle is to go to a big bodybuilding forum and just do whatever bro-science they spout. I've been following bodybuilding forums and casually looking at research for many years, and invariably the bro-scientists are way ahead of scientific proof, in terms of methods and techniques, all the way down to finicky details. You'll also get the truth about what you can and can't do with/without anabolics.

Edit: I see that the author is here. It's not a bad guide, good design etc, but frankly it rubbed me the wrong way to basically read "I'm right and everyone else is wrong, because I researched", without having a highly impressive build to back it up. Even professional body builders don't prescribe certain techniques/methods as gospel.


I've been on bodybuilding.com for many years... yes, there are thousands of bro-science meatheads there, but also valid people, with valid advice. For instance Jim Stopanni is a research fellow at Yale University School of Medicine... (although lately he's been overusing his credentials for selling his line of supplements)

http://www.bodybuilding.com/author/jim-stoppani-phd


So far, after 20 years of competitive rowing and an office job, I've found the best advice for me is simply don't get injured, remain active (get out!), and cook more. All these fads might work (IF, keto, crossfit), but I think they mostly answer other questions than fitness or health. People want to feel like they are getting results fast... That is rarely sustainable in my experience and observation.


Not getting injured is the one I have always struggled with. As you have correctly pointed out it is probably the most important thing you can do to keep fit. After 17 years of stop start I had gone from potentially world class athlete to unable to even do a sit up without agonizing pain. On the road to recovery again now (2.5 years in), hopefully for the last time.

This time I have invested heavily into medical help to solve the problem from the core and not just from the pain perspective. It seems to be paying off so far and I would recommend the course of action I have taken to anyone else suffering from back problems (severe scoliosis in my case due to office cave man exacerbating underlying imbalances from a serious accident). My regime is chiro, sports massage, a physical therapist who doesn't hold back when doing active release and core strengthening exercises once capable.

Also know when is enough. It took years to start listening to my body and to realize I couldn't train like I used to.


keto is the best way to lose weight, period. You lose weight while not even trying ... it really is the miracle diet, for most people anyway. Gives great mental energy as well. (yeah, sounds like bullshit, but turns out to be true for lots of people)


I agree that, for a given caloric deficit, a ketogenic diet produces less perceived hunger, so you "lose weight while not even trying". However, keto also keeps your glycogen stores low, which reduces cardiovascular performance while the diet persists. This makes keeping muscle harder, especially if you have a lifestyle with requisite cardio (e.g. bicycle commuting). I don't think high-intensity cardio + keto is a good idea because, in the absence of glycogen, the body can tap muscle protein as a peak-power energy source.


I have much experience with keto. For loosing fat it can be a tool in the arsenal but it is not everytime goto tool that it better than anything in every situation that some people try to make it is. As for the mental clariness, my experience is that I constantly have some kind of mental fatigue on keto, sometimes so much (after training) that I am funny to speak with (bugging out to much). That persists even after 1-2months on ketosis, cyclic or not, does not matter.


Hard to be a great athlete without protein AND carbs.


You don't need to be a great athlete in order to be fit, which is what this is about.


Let me rephrase: hard to have optimal (or even suboptimal) athletic performance without carbs.


yes I've heard about other people in your case. I probably shouldn't have overstated that point. Do you eat enough fat? It's easy not to eat enough I find.


On my first attempt of ketosis I underate fat. But that was many years ago. Now I eat about 1:1 ratio of protein and fats in grams. About 150gr each. And 10-20gr max carbs all from veggies.


Are there any peer reviewed (or not) evidence that the keto diet provides additional weight losses beyond that which can be explained by calorie deficiencies?


Anecdotically you'll find lots of testimonies (including mine) arguing that it's much easier to control hunger on keto. I don't have food craving since I started and I get to eat as much as I want. So it's a lot easier to not overeat. Scientifically it's well known that eating carbs (especially fast acting carbs like sugar) triggers storage of fat.


Yeah, I don't disagree, but that isn't my point.


Anecdotally true or verifiably true?


Both. For the former you can start with success stories on the keto subreddit. For the latter there is decades of research on the subject. You can start with this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC_qBC1EEvw


Not necessarily talks by professors, but scientific papers published in respectable journals or on NCBI.


> Not necessarily talks by professors, but scientific papers published in respectable journals or on NCBI

well the professor in the talk has published dozens of papers so it's a good way to start. I'm not going to provide you with a literature review sorry :)


I used to be a gym nerd too. My current approach: Screw common advice. Find what works for __you__. Take hints from algorithm design. Start small. Limit yourself to use variables you can influence, observe and measure. Come up with a system that embraces failure, try to make it anti-fragile. Experiment and enjoy the ride.

I'm personally quite chaotic and hate planning. Some weeks I hit the gym five days, some seven, some none. As such my training routine involves an auto regulating method which adjusts volume as needed. Periodisation (or lack thereof) is done with a simple recursive algorithm.

3/4 goes for nutrition as well. Screw counting macros, calories and weighing myself. If I like what I see on the mirror, great. If I feel that I'm getting flabby, I drop a PSMF day here and there until I look better.


I made one crucial change to my schedule which goes against a lot of the training advice I see online: only train once per week per muscle group. This usually means a split over two days and the rest is recovery.

What I lose by doing this is some of the neurological component, so I don't have those zippy gains that you get from beginner training. But I'm always completely recovered or nearly so every time I go in, and that seems make the bigger difference long term as I'm never left feeling overtrained, I can go in every week and give it 100% pretty consistently and the progress is trickling in month by month.

This is all to second: Definitely do your own experiments and focus on an all-factors outcome of building a lifestyle you are OK with. It took me something like 15 years of training to get to a point where I felt in full control of how I was going about it.


Oh how I hate such advices. "Fin what works for you, start small, limit, come up, experiment".

How exactly would a beginner do all that?


The only risk being that you could get similar results quicker and with less effort.

Anyway I'm with you! Enjoy the ride, and don't let fitness suck the life out of you.


> Have a hard time scheduling workouts? Wake up an hour earlier than normal and work out in the mornings before your day kicks off.

Oh it's such a bad advise for beginners, lifting weights when you body wants to sleep is an easy way for beginners to lose interest in weightlifting and injure yourself. Also sleep is incredibly important for muscle growth.


Maaaaaybe for beginners it works

But I'd much rather go to the gym around 9pm than 9am. Much, much easier


Yes, but are referring to just beginners which would be 5bls of weights as arm curls, leg lifts, etc..or are we imagining bigger weights?


I doubt you can see a 20lbs of muscle growth in 3 months using just 5lbs weights in excersizes.


You're not seeing 20 lbs of muscle growth in 3 months regardless of exercise choice. Even with AAS.


Of course they can see that growth - in other people who do work out properly :)


No offense, but Julian after three months isn't even as big as most guys you'd find at a local gym. Why would you take this guy's advice, "science-based" or not?

Addendum: I understand if you're still making progress, but maybe give it more than a few months before you start publishing advice on how to gain 20 pounds of muscle?


This guide is about where you're starting from and how efficiently you can get bigger. Not about becoming massive (which is in large part a function of your genetics).


Can you please release "fat loss" program for free and inversely, charge for info on getting bigger? I mean, how would one notice an actual growth behind his varying fat levels?


isn't "fat loss" just: eat less, do more cardio?


For the most part no, as that would propel postal workers and warehouse employees to the fitness levels comparable only to Olympic athletes. Fat acquisition, absorption, retention and burn is a functional of the endocrine system (hormones) rather than cardiological system (heart and blood vessels). Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories" as well as his numerous articles is probably a good start.


didn't know that; always thought it's just calorie in < calorie out. will check out that book, thanks!


Like everything you can do it in good way, bad way or very bad way.


Why is it worth ten bucks then?


why are snake oil so expensive then?


I think his size is enough for many people. It's not about looking big, it's about looking healthy and doing a minimum of training. I think the results are great


It depends on (a) genetics, and (b) hormone supplements. Natural body building is therefore more dependent on genetic variation and slower.

There was a recent 'study' (most research in this area is pretty bad, small sample sizes, low powered studies) that showed muscle/size improvements: hormones + exercise > hormones > exercise > neither.


Unsurprisingly, there is what looks like a paywall / call-to-spam at the end of the 2nd page.

For those who want a non-engineer's guide, I cannot recommend strengtheory.com enough. Greg Nuckols is legitimately strong and legitimately up to date with the research.

I'm also struck the idiosyncratic exercise selection. For most beginners a boring group of barbell exercises and a flourish of bicep curls and pullups will get them started. Typically in less time, with less equipment.

Take the dumbbell RDL, for example. Most people can't get the barbell variant even vaguely right and it has an entire bar to cue you about what path to follow.

Hand grippers? Right out of the gate? The good ones aren't cheap. Or you could just wait until grip strength is a limiting factor.


+1 to strengtheory.com. For example this is probably the absolute best resource on squatting on the internet: http://strengtheory.com/how-to-squat/.

For noobs, do StrongLifts 5x5 or Starting Strength instead.

Minimal viable workout over premature optimizations! Hand grippers and citrulline malate you'll probably not need for a long long time.


I haven't found anything easier to get started with and stick with than the 5x5 program. Squats, deadlifts, bench, overhead press and rows to work the major muscle groups. Start light and build up slowly and steadily.

Although my strength-building workout of choice has always been sawing, splitting and stacking firewood. Talk about building functional strength...


That's the basis of the http://www.shovelglove.com/ workout - take a sledgehammer as a weight, and do labor-equivalent motions with it.

Shovelling, splitting wood, rowing, churning butter, harvesting food, etc.


It's a bit disingenuous that the guide states that it's free, but then the second half of it is paid only, and that while there are a lot of citations, especially in the second part of the guide, the author isn't really in a place to explain to someone how to gain muscle except for some personal experience (1 year of research, and some time weight lifting) and instead must make an appeal on the basis of accomplishments, which basically just makes this like "another blogger's personal journey to weightlifting and so can you", albeit with some scientific research to back it up.

The thing I would worry about the most is that the guide is made to seem better than others because it has some cited studies, but who's to say that those studies are statistically valid (which is somewhat hard to come by in the field of nutrition and fitness) or that the author didn't pick certain articles to back certain points and pick others to back others?


There is a lot of useful advice in that article. However, I am always made weary by people's use of term "muscle growth." What is typically perceived and dubbed as muscle growth is actually simply muscle cells retaining water and sugar as fuels to help accommodate the ongoing increase in physical activity. That is what anyone who begins training observes in the first few months. Think of this as a simple increase in the size of each muscle cell due to storage of extra fuel. This is completely analogous to our accumulation of fat. We barely ever grow the number of fat cells. Instead, we shrink or expand them like sacks.

However, when it comes to the actual increase in the number of muscle cells, this process is much more difficult to launch. From my experience, this cannot be done without proper hormonal background. By this, I do not mean exogenous (injected) hormones. I mean that one has to have proper levels of testosterone and growth hormone. The former is regulated by the psyche and can be described as the hormone of successfully overcoming difficulties and becoming a winner. An interesting thing is that your brain does no care whether you successfully beat someone in a computer game or just finished a marathon. It will still reward you with testosterone. On the contrary, if you beat yourself over small things, you will fill yourself with cortisol, which is inversely related to testosterone.

Needless to say, to me the muscle growth constitutes invoking the second scenario. That is a formidable but not at all impossible task. It requires knowing how to work with yourself and your mind.


> However, when it comes to the actual increase in the number of muscle cells, this process is much more difficult to launch.

It's still controversial whether creating new muscle cells (hyperplasia) is possible at all, as distinct from expanding the existing cells (hypertrophy).

> The former is regulated by the psyche and can be described as the hormone of successfully overcoming difficulties and becoming a winner

Actually, testosterone in males is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular-adrenal axis. Mood can affect it, but not by very much.

The concept that hormones are the sole predictor of hypertrophy doesn't fit the observed facts: people are high or low responders to training, to food, to rest, to hormones and so on. There's no single predictor of hypertrophy that you can minimax.

You start with the well-tested classics and adjust from there.


Here is a fact: If you do not have a proper hormonal background, you will not grow. I do not care what you eat, what you do to train, etc. Take a 6 year old girl, give her best workout routine, best nutrition, etc. And take a 16 year old man-youth. I guarantee you that he will grow muscle even if he eats mulch all day. Why? Hormonal background.

> Actually, testosterone in males is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Mood can affect it, but not by very much.

What is mood?


I can repurpose your argument to point out that it is unnecessarily reductive.

Two subjects, one eats grass, one eats meat. Who grows more?

Two subjects, one trains, one doesn't train. Who grows more?

Two subjects, one is hormonally-responsive, one isn't. Who grows more?

Two subjects, one is 8, one is 88. Who grows more?

Two subjects, one starts with very many myofibrils, one doesn't. Who grows more?

Two subjects, one is tall, the other is short. Who grows more?

etc etc


> Two subjects, one eats grass, one eats meat. Who grows more?

Once again it depends on the hormonal background. I only eat raw fruits and vegetables. I assure you that I have plenty of muscle, endurance and strength. All of these were built on this diet.

> Two subjects, one trains, one doesn't train. Who grows more?

All things held equal and constant, the one who trains. You are missing my point. If hormones are there, you will literally build muscles from raising a coffee cup a few times.

> Two subjects, one is hormonally-responsive, one isn't. Who grows more?

This misses the point. We are no discussing how to get hormones to change from one state to another. We are discussing two different stationary hormonal backgrounds.

> Two subjects, one is 8, one is 88. Who grows more?

Once again, hormonal background. 8 year old will not grow muscle. He will have more growth hormone, but not testosterone. The former is responsible for growth but in a different sense which is akin to restoration.

> Two subjects, one is tall, the other is short. Who grows more?

Completely irrelevant.


> You are missing my point.

My point is ceteris paribus. Yours seems to be "only hormones matter".

I would think that the observable differences in response to exogenous hormones would be a pretty big clue that it's not all about hormones.


I guess you're confusing some things

> simply muscle cells retaining water and sugar as fuels

Yes, muscles store glycogen (causing sarcoplasmatic hypertrophy)

There's also myofibrilar hypertrophy which is related to actual protein content increase

> when it comes to the actual increase in the number of muscle cells, this process is much more difficult to launch

This is "rare" and it is called hyperplasia


I was a bit suspicious when he claimed 20 lbs in 3 months; usually 1 lb/week is considered the upper limit for beginners. Then I saw he was suggesting a high creatine intake, which for many people will cause them to retain water. I imagine a significant fraction of that 20 lbs is water weight, meaning it's easily lost when you stop taking supplements and working out for a little while. That said, the water is stored in your muscles, so it does make them look bigger. It's just not a permanent kind of gain.


Right, this is the ol' sarcoplasma volume vs myofibril density debate. It's also that the modern perception of the appearance of fitness is not well correlated with functionality - hence the prizing of the former over the latter.


> Right, this is the ol' sarcoplasma volume vs myofibril density debate.

The evidence against there being any such difference is becoming more and more overwhelming. Studies based on either muscle biopsies or cross-sectional scans basically show no difference.

The emerging consensus is training to approximately around failure is the main predictor of hypertrophic outcomes. Which is why both "train heavy!" and "train volume!" seem to work. The difference is that "train heavy!" also has nervous system adaptations.


I want to point out that, not only is this comment absolutely correct based on what we know, but also, the more studies we see, the more this fact is confirmed. A great meta-analysis can be found here: http://strengtheory.com/hypertrophy-range-fact-fiction/


Absolutely. To continue this line of thought I would even say that most "muscles" of the so-called body builders are to a large extent swellings of lymphatic system and interstitial space. When one eats so much protein, the body does not know what to do with it and simply stores it as junk everywhere it deems safe (least dangerous). Where is the least dangerous? Well, it is not the brain, not the heart, not the organs. So, it deposits them in the muscles and other tissues.


This is not correct at all.

Some surplus protein is converted to sugars (glyconeogenesis), from there it has a good shot at being converted into triglycerides and stored as fat.

If it was as simple as raw physical storage, bodybuilding would be dominated by eating-contest winners.


But if their body only stores protein as a junk and muscles don't have a real use in "so-called bodybuilders" as you say, why are bodybuilders able to lift insanely heavy weights and most of them successfully compete in powerlifting events setting records?


Have you ever heard of Golgi apparatus? Well, it is the thing in your cells that is responsible for estimating how much stress it can take (roughly speaking).

Human strength is limited not by the muscles but by the tendons and nerve signals. Here is an explanation.

When you try to lift something your body knows instantly whether it is able to do it or not. If you do not believe me, go try and deadlift an impossible weight. As soon as you start lifting it after setting up, your body will relax and will not let you. It is a protective mechanism. Now, it the weight is close to what you can handle it will let you fight the weight and attempt the lift.

Similarly, there are many occurrences where a mother will lift (with ease) concrete blocks of several hundred kilograms to save herself and her child. Perhaps the more famous one was of a man who was stuck under a huge boulder after an accident in the mountains. As far as I recall, the boulder was about 600kg. He threw it off with ease. You know what happened with him? He tore every single muscle off his bones while doing that. I am giving these examples to illustrate why such protective mechanisms exist. If they did not, we would be tearing muscles off bones daily.

Now, when it comes to powerlifters, they use low repetition and high weight precisely to increase the limits of their tendons and the power of their nerve pulses. In addition they are working the creatine-phosphate (ATF) energy capacity of their body that is responsible for very short-term work. This has nothing to do with protein. I assure you that any person is physically capable (speaking of muscles) to lift huge weights. It is just that your body will not let you.

When it comes to bodybuilders, they train their strength (tendons and bones) as well, but as a side-effect to trying to bloat their muscles.


Have you ever heard of Golgi apparatus? Well, it is the thing in your cells that is responsible for estimating how much stress it can take

OK but there is also neuroactivation - at any time your nervous system can "drive" about 30% of the fibres in a muscle. If you could achieve 100% neuroactivation you would be 3x stronger instantaneously - at the risk of as you say destroying connective tissue. But it is not "with ease", it is at great cost, so the body will only unlock this feature as a last resort.


At competitive levels the physiques of bodybuilders and powerlifters are VERY different.


Not really, bodybuilders tend to have less fat thus their muscles look bigger. Also Powerlifters lift heavier weights in big part due to a much better technique than bodybuilders. Saying that bodybuilder's muscles are just a junk of stored protein is wrong, they are strong, very strong


Of course they are strong, but they are different sports. A powerlifter would never "cut" before a competition, for example. A bodybuilder doesn't just want to be big, he or she is after a very specific, balanced physique. A powerlifter wants to be strong in the 3 big lifts and doesn't care about any ratios, etc etc.


I agree with you but I was arguing with a different comment that said "so-called bodybuilder's muscles are just useless junk of protein deposits"


Any resources (articles, books, videos, etc.) you'd recommend for someone who wants to learn more about this?


I will see if I can find something. No one really talks about these things. I have a youtube channel in Russian. Perhaps I will start discussing some of this in English. What interests you? Anything in particular?


> I’m a startup founder and engineer. My work has been profiled in Forbes, I’ve written a book, I’ve built a popular open source library, and I’ve started and sold a company.

http://www.txstate.edu/philosophy/resources/fallacy-definiti...


Might be technically a fallacy, but:

- General problem-solving is a skill, guy seems to have it and it does apply to fitness research

- His success in various fields undoubtedly require perseverance, which also is a relevant trait.


I don't like going to gym and the solution to this problem was bodyweight fitness. Growth is a little slower, than with lifting, but you are learning cool tricks like handstand. The program from reddit's /r/bodyweightfitness is a good start: https://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/wiki/kb/recommend...


I never liked going to gym and doing the scripted set of weight lifting. For me, compound exercises are the best.

Lately I have been "greasing the groove" by doing low-rep pull-ups (and push-ups). You do it every day and there is no "training to failure." See https://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/greasing-th...

The cute thing about bodyweight fitness is that you can do it anywhere without any special equipment.


I've got a tendonitis in my right elbow, when I tried greasing the groove for pull ups, and spent several months recovering. Be careful :) Any sign of pain in an elbow means your tendons need a rest.


Thanks. Do you know what caused your tendonitis when greasing the groove for pull ups? Improper form? Over-training?


I think over training, though the main problem was my ignorance - I ignored a mild pain in the elbow during last sets. One day I've got the pain that wasn't subsiding and that day I learned about tendonitis.


The program you link to advises stretching before exercise. As others have pointed out elsewhere in this thread, that is dangerous and can lead to injury.


You are probably thinking about static stretches. Can you link to evidence against dynamic stretches like in this program?


My 2c on this is while the "looking good for da ladies" part is definitely valid motivation, working out just for the looks gets old fast for a variety of reasons.

Having an athletic performance goal (squat/bench/pull/clean more, sprint faster, close a harder gripper, do more pullups etc) is not only more "motivational", it also sets a measurable and objective goal to work towards.


This is good advice but I would caution engineers who sit at their desk all day. Don't just lift heavy weight without spending almost an equal amount of time on core strength and flexibility.


Agreed - core strength is critical especially for exercises like deadlifts & squats. A strong core will help with stabilization when lifting heavier weights and will reduce your odds of injury.


definitely focus on stretching before work out. I have seen so many of my friends screw up their shoulder because they didn't focus on stretching.


Stretching cold muscles will do nothing at best or injure you at worst - stretch after your workout. Warmup with light exercises first. E.g. if you are planning barbell squats, start with air squats.


"Another warmup type that provides no performance benefit is doing a light starting set before lifting your normal weights (study). "

This advice worries me. You do not warm up to increase performance in each session, you warm up so that you can keep doing sessions (hint: you can't work out when you're injured).


Absolutely. Air squats before real squats get blood flowing into the muscle, you "rehearse" the move a few times to remind yourself of the form, etc. That's what reduces the possibility of injury.

If you think about it from an evolutionary perspective, a warmup to increase performance makes no sense - you wouldn't have time to stretch first if you were about to be eaten by a hungry mammoth - the body would want to jump straight to peak power and if you get injured it's better than being dead...


i usually run for 15-20 mins before proceeding to stretching and then working out.


You should include your actual lifting experience rather than irrelevant stuff like startup founder and engineer.

By the end of the first page my impression is that you started lifting for 90 days and decided to nerd out and write a guide (which is probably not true, but I'm also not motivated to continue reading to find out).

Tell me your stats and the timeframe you achieved them in. Can't really approach this topic abstractly and theoretically like engineering.


If you read to the end, you need to spam 15 friends on FB to see the last page, or pay $8. I'm not in the market for such a guide right now, just curious to see what the deal was - and it's not reasonable IMHO for a guy who has been doing this for 3 months and is reproducing advice found for free elsewhere, to charge anything...

I mean check this out: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/cost-of-getting-lean-infog...

Or read t-nation.com


The only thing more consistent than the simplicity of basic weight training is the consistency that people are duped into thinking there are tricks.


Or that building muscle necessarily means "being fit" and that it's the go-to thing to do if you want to "exercise".

Looking fit ≠≠≠ being fit.


A key observation that applies to most things in life.


Start with BodyPump. You won't learn much if anything about proper form etc but you'll get a lot of low intensity reps in.

After about 6 months +- you'll plateau. This is good.

Switch over to a 5x5 program like StrongLifts. Read about proper form. Watch YouTube videos about proper form. Ask about proper form. Avoid personal trainers and do this yourself.

I like the SL app since I can mentally check out and just think about form.

Learn to love the squat. Never skip your warmups.

Go from there.


Why avoid personal trainers ? While I do agree but how to get proper form ?


IMHO, a lot of time spent studying proper form by watching YouTube videos (Scott Hermann, BuffDudes, Layne Norton, ...) will help you a lot more. A lot of this is mental; it's you figuring things out. I don't think PTs are good teachers. But I've learned a lot from watching these guys over and over again.

All that and learn to love the squat. Paused ATG. Squats make everything better.


Youtube is a great resource to find a general consensus of the common wisdom.

You can also record yourself with a tripod and camera and watch later.

Another way to learn is to watch other people (People who look like they know what they are doing) in the gym. If you are the outgoing type, you can spark a conversation with them and ask them to watch your form (or spot your lifts). You get lot of practical knowledge this way.

Form is everything. If you cannot do the reps with proper form (and breathing), reduce the load till you can, then slowly progress. It is worth it.


This was largely a decent intro, but I would hesitate to trust this one article's statements without doing other research and reading other guides.

One thing that stood out to me was the author's idea that creatine is not beneficial for women to the point where we may as well skip it. There is research showing the opposite of what the author has stated. Example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9390981

Creatine, as he says, is among the most widely researched supplements. Aside from providing potential cognitive benefits it has been shown to be effective for both men and women working toward strength gains. And as another user commented, creatine supplementation could very well explain part of the great weight gain the author claims to have experienced as it causes muscles to retain water and appear bigger (in both genders).


Sorry for a shameless plug, but since we are in an exercise-related thread it might be a good place to... yeah, you guessed it - present our app and ask for some advise. It contains serious training plans (think weightlifting, not 5-minute abs workouts) and helps you to follow them. It's called Fortitudo and its first scratch is available on Android here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=pl.com.fortitu...

We're also building iOS and web versions now and all of us developers working on the app are weightlifters with 3-10 years of experience :) Please take a look at it and tell me what you liked and what you didn't. Thanks

[Edit] Website (an oldish version): https://42.do/


Author here. More than happy to spend the next few hours answering any questions if the admins find that appropriate. I will do my best to cite evidence/research for my responses.


I've seen some studies that say the number of reps you do doesn't matter. Can you comment on this? Here's a link to a study: http://jap.physiology.org/content/early/2016/05/09/japplphys...

Also, I've never heard of muscles shrinking due to being overworked. Can you elaborate on how this happens?


> I've seen some studies that say the number of reps you do doesn't matter.

For hypertrophy, past a minimal amount of stress, it increasingly seems that it doesn't matter[0].

For strength it matters.

[0] http://strengtheory.com/hypertrophy-range-fact-fiction/


When you look at one of the figures in the linked paper, a 1RM test is performed every 3 weeks. So some heavy lifting with a reduced rep range is done. Also the study uses young men who have been strength training at least 2 years, averaging around 4 years. Exercises were mostly machine guided except the bench press:

"inclined leg press with seated row (superset 1), barbell bench press with cable hamstring curl (superset 2) and front planks (set 3) and Tuesday/Friday: machine- guided shoulder press with bicep curls (superset 1), triceps extension with wide grip pull downs (superset 2) and machine-guided knee extension (set 3). "

Both the low rep and high rep group did these supersets. It would seem like making the low rep group do supersets(extra exercises between the sets) would defeat the purpose of calling it low rep. It may have hampered the low rep groups gains.

From the link you supplied:

"Though there is no apparent advantage of lifting with different loads on changes in muscle mass, there is undoubtedly a neuromuscular advantage to lifting heavier loads if the primary outcome is performing a 1RM test (28). Conversely, it appears that periodic practice of the chosen strength outcome (e.g. 1RM) is effective at eliminating the majority of any post-training difference. "

and:

"In conjunction with previous data (28), it appears that if 1RM strength is the primary goal, performing the to-be-tested exercise with heavier loads, either consistently and/or periodically, may be required for optimal improvement."

So if you want to develop maximum strength(at the reduced rep range), you have to periodically practice in that rep range if only for the neuromuscular advantage. In this case, at least a 1RM every three weeks for the men in this study.


#1: Reps. When working out for muscle size (as opposed to strength), it's optimal to use a weight that’s light enough to do a set of at least 8 reps with but heavy enough that you can't easily do more than 10 reps [1, 2]. This range of 8 to 10 reps means it's fine if you stop at 8, 9, or 10 reps in any set. Go as high as you can while stopping one rep short of the maximum you feel you could do.

Stopping one rep short of exhaustion is an important technique: It doesn’t decrease your rate of gains and it increases your recovery time between sets so that you can complete all your reps (study, study, study) [3, 4].

#2: Shrinking from overworking is surprisingly a real thing. The science is unclear as to how exactly muscle mass responds to resistance exercise, so my answer would be made up if I gave you one. What I can tell you is that "being overworked" is the result of lifting too heavy for too many total reps. This might seem impossible since your body should be unable to continue lifting past a natural point of exhaustion, but if you use machine exercises (especially a pulley machine), it's easy to cause a disproportionate amount of stress to your muscle relative to the incrementing heaviness trajectory you were lifting for free weights.

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7873571_Muscular_ad...

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23252049_Changes_in...

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4731492/

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21986694


Recent research has shown that progressing with 8-12 reps is not any more optimal for hypertrophy than progressing with 20-30 reps (what people would normally think of as developing "muscular endurance"). The difference in practicing 8-12 reps is increasing strength as well, i.e., participants doing 20-30 reps didn't see significant increases in their 1RMs (despite muscle growth) while those doing 8-12 reps did.


I've heard of it lots of times. Practically every forced labor ever had this effect. Work destroys muscle. Nutrition and rest make them recover (and grow in the process). The fiber can be overworked beyond repair.


I expect dang will be along if it gets out if hand, but its quite normal here to do that :-)


I used to obsess over muscle mass back in college and that being "all natural." Creatine and citrulline malate? I black listed them in my quest, and my personal experience is that these are not needed for the goals stated in the article. I also did not use protein supplements, but then again I had access to an all you can eat cafeteria with sufficient variety to support a (mostly) healthy protein rich diet.

A disciplined training program and diet got me what the article promises (over 20 lbs of muscle mass and significant strength gains) without buying any supplements. I can't remember how long it took, but it wasn't that much longer than 3 months. As long as you're not going for the unusually bulked up look, a disciplined training program and diet will get you where you want to be.


Though I'm not taking it as ultimate truth, I'm glad this article exists. Most foobar-advice sites just copy-paste some material without bothering to note readers that it is not backed by anything except similar googled bs.

Btw, is anyone aware of "engineer's guide to xyz" aggregator?


After reading it, all came down to "if you want to lose some fat, pay some bucks or share the link with 15 people" formula.

Subtleties are always there at the end.


The impression I got is that men like the thin type more than the fit type. And, even then, they care about the face more than they care about the body. The motivation to exercise for that kind of reason is just not there for women, in my opinion.

Agreed with his thoughts on male physique attractiveness, though, as well as the section about steroids.

Overall, seems like a nice guide, and I appreciate someone, for one, remembering that women exist. Very detailed and comprehensive, even if it's not necessarily super accurate (doesn't have to be, does it?). I may add it to my schedule in addition to the kickboxing if I can justify a 2nd gym. I find it interesting that he stats with grip, grip and basic hand strength is my #1 problem for so many situations. I spent about 2 hours preparing a bike rack because I simply didn't have enough strength to move the metal rods in place.

I think his arguments for how little time it takes vs. how easy it is to get to a decent baseline (rather than chasing the popular ideal) are good enough. And having your own home equipment is probably a much better predictor of consistency than any amount of motivation. The other motivation stuff I would say is decidedly not useful. Exercise at this level is indeed available to almost everyone and doesn't require you to be a hyper-motivated super hard working person, you just need to decide that it's something you want to do and fit in your schedule.


> "The impression I got is that men like the thin type more than the fit type."

I know it's a cliché, but it's also true... men have different preferences, just like women have different preferences. However, if we're looking at average preferences across the world, I'd say men overall do prefer fitness over thinness (assuming it's toned fitness instead of a bodybuilder physique).

I suspect the idea that men value thinness above fitness may in part come from the fashion industry, where height and thinness are definitely prized highly, but in my opinion that's mostly because they make it easier on fashion designers (long flowing lines, less need to tailor the clothes to the body shape of the model).

> "And, even then, they care about the face more than they care about the body."

I would say this is true, but again I can only speak for myself. In my personal opinion a woman with an attractive face is attractive almost regardless of their body shape.

> "The motivation to exercise for that kind of reason is just not there for women, in my opinion."

Sure, the motives are different. From what you've said, it sounds like you're already committed to working out, so this isn't something that applies to you, but what I want to make it clear to anyone reading this is... do it for yourself. None of what I've just said about body preferences matters, feeling healthy is better than just looking good. If it gives you a confidence boost too, great. I guess what I'm saying is don't let a feeling of 'not being good enough' drive you, instead enjoy the results you get out of what you put in.


The impression I got is that men like the thin type more than the fit type.

There has been research to indicate that both genders regardless or orientation, check out the hindquarters of prospective partners. Regardless of who you are into, squats will benefit everyone looking to maximize their attractiveness. Men bench pressing and bicep curling with the goal of impressing women, are largely wasting their time...


My biggest source of frustration is fat loss vs. strength/muscle gain.

I started strength training a year ago. Didn't really get serious about it until march of this year. I'm 50+ and had to devote several months to work on flexibility and what I call "injury proofing" myself. This meant mostly working with machines to slowly get things ready for free weights. In March I quit machines and switched 100% to free weights under the Rippetoe program.

I've seen visible improvements in shape, for example, my t-shirs are now tighter around my biceps. And, yes, I am significantly stronger than a year ago. What's the problem, then?

Well, I probably have 30 lbs of fat, with a good chunk of it around my belly, that just makes me miserable. My lifting coach tells me I need to accept it and eat more. I hate it and want my "you look pregnant" fat belly gone. Not sure what to do other than to stop lifting and going on a low calore diet. I am afraid I would lose all the gains of the last year of work. I am approaching a 300 lbs deadlift at this point.

When I go to a regular gym I am often stronger than most guys there. I am grabbing hundred+ pound dumbells when everyone else is working with 75-pounders. Yet, I am the one who looks fat. It's frustrating.


Keep lifting, but your workouts will suffer. I just went from ~274 to ~258. I'm weak as hell.

You won't lose the strength permanently. I took off years while doing my degree + my first 2 years and in the past 12 months I regained 20 years of lifting strength.


Best article I've ever read on muscle building based on reviews of scientific literature: Matt Might's Hacking Strength http://matt.might.net/articles/hacking-strength/

From a high level, it looks like this article aligns and agrees with Might's.


It's true that gains can be had quickly. I've seen athletes go from Charles on the left, to bodybuilder on the right, in a 3-6 month timeframe. These are athletes who would get drug tested, so I'm pretty sure it's all natural.

Although I think it's yet to be proven Julian can make you look like Charles though. Achieving gains is a bit different than building a well rounded athletic body - the kind that is recognizable and aesthetically pleasing.

My physique was like Charles' but I got it from playing sports over years, not from doing isolated exercises in the gym. It's easy to spot who got big in the gym, as certain muscles are overemphasized.

So it's quite easy to be healthy and strong. Just pick an activity you like, and eat well. IMO, gym work should be on top of that, to get you competitive in the sport you choose. It's not a complete development unless you really know what you are doing and are extremely disciplined. That is, doing things the hard way.


lol the answer, like a lot of things in life... is simple, but not easy. how to build muscle:

- nutrition. eat enough protein and calories. i don't think people have to overthink this. if you're getting fat and don't like what you see eat less. if you're constantly weak and tired eat more. if you're good at tracking cals/weight then do that.

- get enough sleep.

- pick a good beginners lifting plan: something like stronglifts or starting strength. these are help you build solid habits and good form, but in the end it's just picking up heavy stuff and putting it down until your muscles fatigue within a certain amount of reps. repeat the next week.

- the most important factor: consistency. even 2 good spaced out workouts a week will do wonders, but you'd be surprised how many people can't manage that. a shitty program and diet/sleep will be overcome by just straight consistency. you will progress slower, have an off week or two or three, but by the end of each year you will have progressed. this is where i think people fail the hardest, and think of it as some like grueling journey to the "finish line" as fast as possible when it's really a long marathon for the rest of your life. nobody wins an award for getting leaned out in 3 months vs 6, you're building habits for life (sorry, just a rant)

i'm obviously simplifying, but for most of the population and even for the "goal" pics in that article, you could train indefinitely on a basic program and achieve that.

having jumped on this train at age 29 and going on year 5, i can tell you that it all these tricks and tips might help you in the short term, but in the end everyone is going to learn some things the hard way and make some of the same mistakes over and over. there are no shortcuts (edit: unless you use some "help").


There was a time in the distant past when my goal was to get "big". For the last 10+ years, my goal was to get "fit". After multiple orthopedic surgeries in 2014 (don't ask), I pretty much have no choice but to focus on "fit". Is just my personal opinion, but I think "fit" men and women look better than "big" men and women. Here's my two bullet point guide to fitness:

1. go to the gym for 2 hours every day

2. don't eat junk food, drink beer, or drink soda

#2 actually comes as a side benefit from #1, for me anyway, because my body now keeps my mind in check when it comes to food.

I do fitness classes. No heavy weights. Mostly women - some of whom could kick my butt. There might be one other guy besides myself in a class of 40. I don't care - they've let me in on their fitness secret - let me join the tribe.


But beer is proof that God loves us


on your first day at the gym, do the exersises without any weigt on, then on second day do them with half the weigt, or you will be so sore you dont want to go back. Your body will adapt quickly thoug, after ten sessions it will start to feel nice.


I think this is really important. Nothing can destroy the excitement of starting a new life regime than feeling broken and sore after your first day.


Alternatively, find a contact with access to enough recent biotech equipment to generate myostatin antibodies [1] or otherwise blockade myostatin or increase follistatin via gene therapy or other strategy.

I wager that this sort of thing is already taking place quietly on a small scale, given the large and growing number of people with access to the necessary tools and ability to do this.

[1]: http://news.iupui.edu/releases/2015/12/myostatin-warden-musc...


There's a lot of snake oil in this space. Nobody has conclusively developed any kind of myostatin inhibition in humans.

There's basically a Nobel prize for anyone who does because it's the holy grail for muscle-wasting diseases. So the research is fiercely intensive.


It's not obvious to me that you need to research this stuff. Just start going to a gym and do whatever the bug guys do, then ask advice when appropriate.


The 2.5lb increments/week seems unrealistic. If you can increase weight by 2.5lb/week over any sustained period, it most likely means that you started with too low a weight. A 2-3 week increment cycle seems intuitively more likely to match actual strength gains. I'd be curious to hear others' experience, or any references on the subject.


I will grant that I was severely underweight when I started lifting at 6'6", 205lbs (well, underweight by the standards of strong people; most people would probably say I was a better weight when I started), but I have gained weight at around that rate for sustained periods multiple times in my lifting career.

10/10/13 - 12/11/13, 205lbs - 235lbs, 3.75lbs per week

4/24/14 - 9/12/14, 235lbs - 275lbs, 2.2lbs per week

4/29/16 - 8/22/16, 385lbs - 315lbs, 2lbs per week

I don't know exactly what my body fat % is, but I do have the healthy layer of fat that you would expect of somebody who is "bulking". My gut feeling is that my body fat % is similar now at 320 to what it was at 245.

I followed Starting Strength's gallon of milk per day recommendation and generally ate as much food as possible. Lots of carbs, didn't really pay much attention to my protein intake, though I eat a "normal" amount of meat.

I should say, though, that my gut feeling is that I could have grown faster in the last two spurts. Gaining has, so far, never felt difficult and, as a father of two small children , my lifestyle is not really compatible with optimizing recovery. I've been super stressed through a lot of my training and I'm a notorious insomniac even on nights where kids don't keep me up.


That sounds reasonable for bulking. I was actually referring to the increments on the weights you're lifting. If curling 25 lbs is on the edge of your ability to finish 4 sets when you start, say, is it reasonable to expect you'll be curling 35 lbs one month later? And 45 lbs a month after that? In my experience, real strength gains come more slowly.


Probably not for curls, but definitely for lower body. I'm still adding 7.5lbs to my squat every week (currently at 355x5x3) and 15lbs to my deadlift (current at 395x5x1).


I'm very much looking forward to this guy's next posts: * 20 Things You Can Do To Drive Your Man Wild Tonight! * We Ask Ten Women What They Really Think of Dudes With A Six Pack * "It took all day" -- Jonathan Taylor Thomas with an exclusive on his recent visit to the DMV

The last one won't be a rambling blog post, either. It will be science.


How you can tell someone is lying to you / full of crap rule #10233:

They sell you something as a pre-requisite to the thing that needs to be done.

These priorities are seriously out of whack. If you simply ate healthy (in a caloric excess) and did a basic strength training program at a gym (5x5 or Starting Strength), you would get superior results to citrulline malate and hand gripper exercises. Check out these pyramids[1][2] to understand how to prioritize your nutrition and exercise.

[1] http://muscleandstrengthpyramids.com/wp-content/uploads/2015...

[2] http://www.kinetix.bz/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/TrainingPyr...

Notice for nutrition, supplements are the smallest part, whereas calories (energy balance) are the most important. Funny how this article focuses on the least important part.

Or for training, notice that the most important section is specificity - if you're training for strength and size, you need to train the exercises that maximize the strength and size of as many muscles as possible. So therefore would you choose big movements that work lots of muscles with lots of weight to build lots of muscle simultaneously (i.e. squat, deadlift) or small movements that work few muscles and therefore influence a small amount of mass (i.e. hand gripping and crushing strength).

You don't need to pay for anything to get in shape (other than a gym membership). I'm a competitive powerlifter who graduated high school at 6'1" 140 lbs and I routinely walk around over 200 lbs now at 30, without ever having to pay for hand grippers or someone's workout plans to make it work.


Make sure you don't destroy your immunity/adrenal glands by overtraining. Lifting is a major source of stress and can overload your stress-coping mechanism; if you go through a phase of increased stress from work/family, tone it down or do just maintenance cardio, or else you might break down and become seriously sick.


I'd like to hear some good advice on how to get rid of belly fat. Of course, I could eat less, but then I'd be in constant need of energy (as I do work out a lot, so I think I'd lose muscles if I ate less, which would be bad of course). So, how do I lose that belly fat while maintaining muscles?


"i just want to lose a little bit of belly fat" is an internet fitness cliche second only to "i don't want to get all big and bulky".

the startup equivalent is, "i don't want to be a billionaire, i just want to make a couple million bucks, that's all. where do i start?"

luckily, losing fat is easier than startups, because it's deterministic.

you can not spot-reduce fat. you need to lose fat all over your body. your genetics determine where it comes off first/last/etc. anyone telling you otherwise is selling you something.

for fat loss, look into a ketogenic diet and high intensity interval training combined with strength training.


The extreme version is doing what bodybuilders do while going on a cut. Train as normal while eating nothing but chicken and drinking nothing but water. Steroids help ;-).

I was in my best shape when I added some HIIT skipping and sprints to my routine. But basically if you are training naturally it is very hard to lose fat without dropping muscle too.


Belly vs. non-belly fat is something to do with hormones and cytokines that isn't really understood yet (probably also related to why some people develop metabolic syndrome at relatively normal weight/fat levels), so until that mystery is resolved "get rid of belly fat" is synonymous with "get rid of fat". Steroids notwithstanding, the only specific thing I've heard of to fight muscle catabolism under a calorie deficit is to maintain a strength training regimen while having a significant intake of branched chain amino acids [1], and I don't know how reliable that approach actually is.

[1] https://examine.com/supplements/Branched+Chain+Amino+Acids/


lol, if only it was that simple. Both ends of the spectrum are easy to achieve. Putting body in catabolic state (reduce calories, increase activity, go Keto etc.) will get rid of fat and it will also reduce the "bulkiness" of the muscles (water, glycogen etc.). Put body in anabolic state (strength training, more calories/macros) and it will grow (and subsequently more fat, glycogen and water). Of course, your body and genetics will try to fight hard to maintain equilibrium. But with enough persistence, it can be broken through (up to an extent). Lyle McDonald has some good writings on this.

There are some middle ways, that people have come up with. But all these require extreme dedication, planning and sacrifices.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ketogains https://www.reddit.com/r/leangains


If your goal is to lose fat and build or maintain muscle at the same time, you really need two things:

1. A workout regimen that includes strength training 2-3 times a week and ideally also some form of moderate aerobic exercise (lots of walking is fine).

2. A diet that is at or below your basal metabolic rate (if you're an adult male that usually means somewhere in the 2,000-2,500 calorie range) and is high in protein (for muscle growth/maintenance), medium in fat (for satiety and hormone production), and low in carbohydrates and alcohol (for limiting blood sugar spikes).


don't eat less, change what you eat. Skip the sugars and simple carbs (starches, etc.).


Look into intermittent fasting.


> Workouts: First 2 months [...] 2 months to infinity [...]

A recipe for unlimited plateauing. Don't tell this guy about mesocycles.

He's still in the "newbie gains" phase - where nearly anything you do results in gains - so take everything he says with a huge grain of salt.


> "In other words, the majority of women prefer the left side to the right side"

These sort of statements are misleading - women who are more physically attractive (unfortunately, what most males prefer) tend to prefer the model on the right (in my experience).


Most of females are into the types of Brad Pitt and David Beckham, who are definitely fit, but thin (Beckham is outright scrawny, Pitt used to be "cut" when he was young, not so much now)

So definitely the "left" type. A lot of women say they are intimidated by too much muscle.


This is not wrong, but it's also not any more right than stronglifts.


Quite timely :-) .. Any training videos / program that anyone would recommend? There are ton out there and would like to get a few recommendations (paid ones too)


Nice amazon affiliate link get rich quick scheme.


LOL. Just LOL. I hate to be negative. But look at author. Look at his pictures. He's got no clue what it really takes or what he is taking about. Not bad advice, but not great. I've spent 20 years building my physique (http://YouTube.com/simpleprogrammer) and I can tell you that no one has it "figured out." I have learned one thing for sure though. Never trust someone who doesn't look much better than you do.


Please comment civilly on Hacker News. It's not OK put others down in order to advertise oneself here.


The biggest problem is when people using anabolic steroids give advise without disclaiming that they're not natural. The two simply do not go together. Naturals do not train the same as steroid users. They cannot recover as fast. They cannot do such high volume work. They need to get stronger to get bigger. Most of the bro science revolves around some brosplit that hits 1 body part once a week and at some ridiculous volume.


"Let me try this same training routine as someone on steroids and wonder why I can't make progress because the only thing increasing is my cortisone levels"


Completely agree. My volume is high but I do upper body x 2 per week and lower x 1. And that works just fine. I run 40 miles a week though as well.


Make sure to work on your neck muscles, it looks very weak compared to the rest of your body.


Yep take a look at newer videos. Fixed that mostly. I prefer to not have huge traps or neck, but good observation.


You look like the guy in the Inbetweeners xD


What worked for me was removing barriers to exercise. It's been an odd, decade-long progression, but here's how it went:

-------------

I. Initial Annoyance with Gym

a) The biggest barrier is building the willpower to get to the gym. I live in a snowy city, so I knew that heading to the gym would be torture in the winter.

b) Working full-time meant that the only times to head to the gym were before work (6-8) or after work. I wanted to match my exercise time to when I had the motivation.

c) Heading to the gym is a huge cost. If you do 4 sets, it might only be 20 minutes of actual lifting, an hour round trip to/from the gym, 20 minutes showering. I think mentally, you know that heading to the gym is a a huge time-sink, cluster of obligations that goes far beyond the actual lifting.

--------------

II. the Home Gym - It was the obvious solution to the issues above. In addition, it's been a massive cost saving over the years. It's not a massive setup, here's what I have:

a) Bowflex Selecttech dumbbells - they adjust weights from 12.5 pounds to 52.5 pounds (there's a version that goes up to 90lbs too). You can do a lot of different exercises with them

b) Jump rope - a heavy leather rope, not a speed rope. It's incredible how fit you'll get from jumping for 15 straight minutes every other day. Plus it beats running because you can watch TV while you do it.

c) Two kettlebells

d) Resistance bands - these have been marginally useful, but they're also cheap and really portable. I bring them with me when I travel

e) interlocking floor mats - these protect the floor, but I've never dropped anything in nearly 8 years

f) a yoga mat - for situps

g) an Xbox - I'm not kidding. I would play Pro Evolution Soccer and Fallout 3 while doing situps.

h) Medicine ball - Don't get one. It's no fun unless you have someone to throw it to.

I researched different lifts using ExRx primarily using these two links:

* http://www.exrx.net/Lists/Directory.html

* http://www.exrx.net/Lists/WtMale.html

All of those items can be tucked away into a closet or under the bed. I stuck with that for the first four years of my home gym. Ultimately, I added two large pieces that increased the space taken up, but still don't dominate the room they're in:

* An adjustable bench that folds flat

* the Power Tower (that's really what it's called) - a station for chin-ups/pull-ups and Roman chair lifts

You won't be Instagram-huge, but you can get large muscles. It's a little underpowered for chest since it lacks a bench press, but you'll still have chest gains doing isometric dumbbell presses.

-----------

Finally, this summer, I've lately found a ridiculously effective way to motivate myself to consistent exercise -- I only play video games while exercising. It's essentially a Pomodoro-style alternation between 8 minutes of playing, then lifting 10-15 reps of each exerise. It's incredible to realize that it only takes about 4 minutes to run through your exercises. I think people often spend the interval between sets agonizing about how tired they are and dreading the next set. Now, once I'm done lifting, I go straight to another mental task (video games) which feels like a reward for lifting. Once cycled through my exercises 4-6 times, I drink a protein shake, maybe play videogames for another hour, then continue with the rest of my day.

It sounds bizarre, but it's been a ten year progression to fit exercise as painless as possible. I wouldn't recommend this for beginners though. Exercise equipment isn't the sort of thing you want to buy lightly. Also, I had lifted a bit in high school, and consistently in college before starting the home gym. It's likely best to learn the basics first.


Hackers Guide to gaining muscle: Trenbolone


not to confound with Toblerone


I do like toblerone, though.


https://daks2k3a4ib2z.cloudfront.net/54a5a40be53a05f34703dd1... on the left, it feels far enough muscles for a developer, why would you need more muscles? that consumes more calories :) and are pretty useless, except for our stupidly wrong society's standards


- You'll look like a developed man, rather than like a permateenager. This is nature, not artificial standards

- Greater bone strength AND flexibility, preventing posture issues

- You'll be perceived better in your development team when it comes to leadership, arguments, etc. It's hardwired in us

Seems like a deal to me!


>why would you need more muscles? that consumes more calories :)

That just means you get to eat more yummy food.

>and are pretty useless, except for our stupidly wrong society's standards

That depends on what you want/like to do.


Stronger people are harder to kill. And more useful.




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