The Max Muscle Blueprint Part 1
[Hardgainers Guide To Getting Jacked]
Putting on serious muscle, without the fat, can be a difficult journey to embark down and most guys reading this will know that it is not a smooth sailing ship. Many people underestimate how difficult it really can be – “Eat more and lift?! What the hell are you complaining about?!” – but it really just isn’t that simple, unfortunately.
Every person out there who wants to lose body fat says they’d die to be in the skinny guys shoes and many times the skinny guy begs to differ. Well lucky for you, the reader, I’ve been in both shoes.
I grew up the chubby kid in the group, and then sports helped me lean out. But when my soccer injuries came along and after having surgery, it’s safe to say I got lazy and went a little further than just ‘chubby’. So I did what any 19 year old filled with testosterone would do, I turned to muscle mag’s so I could get ripped and impress some chicks.
The result? I got skinny, which was not what the muscle monsters in the magazines looked like at all. Why? Because they had slabs of muscle and I… I definitely did not have that going on for me. So I set myself on a mission to pack on muscle.
That mission turned into a change in my college degree, a mentorship, being coached, a career, and most importantly my passion. It helped me get on stage, it helped me put others on stage, and it helped me transform client after client – no matter what their goal was.
But today I’m going to show you what the process is (or what it should be) inside the mission for maximum muscle mass, step-by-step, so you can learn exactly how to get big – without sacrificing performance, compromising joint integrity, taking illegal supplements, and of course without getting fat in the process.
Step #1 – Train Like Jacked People Train!
There are specific components we need to consider when we want to get jacked and unfortunately many of them have been forgotten, overlooked, or are just underrated/valued by most.
Things like the big 3, for an easy example.
Many times we see guys in the big box gyms doing cable flyes, reverse curls, leg extensions, smith machine shrugs, and every other exercise out of the bro manual 2.0 – but they’re completely forgetting to progressively overload their numbers on the bench, squat and deadlift.
Not one guy who has serious muscle on his body skips those 3 lifts, nor do they skip the boring exercises like pull-ups, overhead presses, and bent rows. So many people are flooding instagram with crazy variations of isolation exercises that people truly believe THOSE are the keys to getting jacked – well that’s just wrong, guys.
So now that I’ve hopefully gotten my point across, let me explain a bit more on how to design a training program when your goal is getting big. First things first, you got to lift often enough – I suggest 4 days per week and for the elite guys who have been training 3+ years, adding a 5th specialization day for your weak body parts can be smart (if you’re truly a hardgainer and have the time in your lifestyle).
Here’s how it’ll look:
Day 1 → Upper (Nobody likes starting Monday with squats, so we’ll stick to it being international bench day.)
Day 2→ Lower (Ok we got in our favorite, time to hit your legs – because jacked dudes NEVER skip leg day and you’re not going to either)
Day 3→ 2nd Upper (Since we already hit the bench on Monday, today we’ll be starting with an overhead press for the compound lift)
Day 4→2nd Lower (We gotta hit the legs again if we want them to actually grow)
As you can see, we’re doing an upper lower split. This is going to be ideal for a 4 main reasons.
First being that it gives you enough frequency throughout the week to optimize your full growth potential. Multiple studies have shown us that frequency is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to stimulating muscle growth and strength gains. The optimal range for this, seems to be 2x per week. Not that 3 doesn’t build muscle too, but they’ve found that more isn’t always better and 2 allows us to still prioritize recovery.
Second being that if we’re performing full body training it may not allow us to actually hit enough volume each day and if we did, we’d be at the gym for a long ass time! With an upper/lower split, we can keep training sessions to around an hour and still get enough volume in.
Thirdly, because when training full body that many times per week – the central nervous system can get overly fatigued if you’re not careful. This allows us to, once again, prioritize recovery – which is a major key to seeing results.
Fourth, lastly, it allows us to focus better. When doing an upper body day, you have more time to spend on finding that mind muscle connection. When doing a full body day, by the time you finally feel your quads working on the squat – you move on to a bench press and have to repeat that process. This helps a lot of people learn how to create tension properly in their training.
Plus let’s be real here, we all love having days dedicated to training just upper or just legs and getting a solid pump – this is going to build adherence and adherence is the first major key to achieving any result.
[Here’s a video I did breaking down the best training splits, which includes the one described in this article.]
So how do these days actually look? Glad you asked:
Day 1 → Max Effort (This means you’re focusing on pushing some serious weight, we need to build some strength if we want to get jacked. Rep ranges should stay in the 3-8 rep range for the most part.)
Day 2 → Repetition Effort (The max effort days will be the most fatiguing on our central nervous system, therefore we’ll need to hit a repetition day to give the CNS a bit of a break. Reps should stay within the 8-20 rep range, rarely the 8 unless it’s the first compound lift.)
Rest Day → You need to recover and if you don’t feel like you do, well shit… You’re probably just not training hard enough or with enough volume to really grow.
Day 3 → Repetition Effort (Since we already hit the max upper body day, today will be dedicated to getting some reps in and it’s the ideal day to do it because it’s overhead press day. I say that because from experience personally and from many other great coaches, shoulders tend to grow best from more time under tension and higher rep training. Again, reps should stay within 8-20 range.)
Day 4 → Max Effort (We’ll save the best for last… Well actually, it’s the worse because it’s max effort leg day. This is ideal here because you’ll get 1-2 days of rest, for sure, and longer sleep, given it’ll be the weekend, after this day. It’ll be needed, too, because it will probably be your most taxing day.)
Now we know exactly what each day should be focused on and where it falls within the week, but what about the actually workout itself?
To be honest, it’s truly is impossible to break down in a single article. When it comes to program design there are so many variables that change depending on the individual, time-frame of workout, training experience, movement patterns, injuries, etc. That’s why having a coach to work with is truly a vital key for success here.
But for the sake of this article and my attempt to give you as much content as possible for you to do it yourself, I’ll give you the main template.
|Warm Up||Don’t skip this; it’s absolutely necessary. If it’s upper body, focus on thoracic and shoulder mobility. If it’s lower body, focus on ankle and hip mobility along with dynamic stretching.|
|CNS Stimulator||This would be something explosive – could be a short burst sprint, a throw, a slam, a jump, etc. The point here is to fire the central nervous system up, because when we do this – we perform better and can recruit better for strength.|
|Metric Based Lift
(i.e. compound lift)
|This is where we hit our squat, deadlift, bench or overhead press. It’s the big component of training that should not be left out and we’ll likely need the most energy for, therefore it’s at the beginning. But I use the phrase Metric instead of Compound, because for you it could also be a bent or or weighted chin. The point is, it’s your MAIN lift you’re tracking and progressing week to week and month to month.|
|Accessory Exercise(s)||This could be 1-3 different movements, but usually are things like rows, lunges, splits squats, chin-ups, presses, unilateral work, etc. Anything that supplements the metric based lift, we can still go decently heavy with, and has high priority.|
|Specialization Work||This is where the isolation movements come in! (The fun stuff) Things like lateral raises, flies, curls, leg extensions, hip thrusts, etc.
This is the stuff we need less energy to perform, yet is still vital to build muscle in the lagging areas and places we want to grow more in.
This could be anywhere from 1-5 exercises, super-sets, single sets, EDT’s or AMRAP’s, strength circuits, sled pulls/pushes, energy systems work, etc…. Could be many different things all depending on the individual!
[Below is a video I did breaking down this exact concept, in case you’d rather watch me describe this training system!]
I’ve been using this exact system for YEARS inside my programming and although many things have changed over time, the framework has not. It actually doesn’t matter what the person’s goals are or how far along they are in their training journey, this template is the key to programming properly. It’s exactly why Functional Muscle has been such a big success.
Now we’re going to cover a topic that needs way less consideration, way less specifics, and in the position you’re in right now – way less focus overall.
Step #2 – Cardio…
I see WAY too many guys at the gym who are trying to get big, yet they are finishing there workouts with a 30 minute walks on the treadmill. So first rule of thumb when on a mission to get big – Never step on a treadmill.
Cardio creates a deficit and the main caloric principle when trying to get big is that we need to be in a surplus. Now that doesn’t mean you should never do cardio, in fact I suggest it to anyone who wants to get big without getting fat – well, almost anyone.
If you’re literally brand new to lifting, 1 year or less, and are extremely skinny, you should solely focus on building muscle. Which means training, eating, and chilling to recovery.
But for everyone else, which is actually the majority, I do believe adding cardio will help you out. Cardio is going to help promote better recovery and more fat mobilization, meaning you’ll actually stay leaner in your journey to getting jacked.
So, there are some rules to abide by if you want to seriously pack on serious muscle and keep an aesthetic physique:
1.) Leave your cardio to separate days or times.
Try to avoid doing cardio pre or post training. Pre training will leave you fatigued before the lifting even begins and remember, lifting is what gets you jacked. Cardio post training can possibly lower the muscle protein synthesis signal if taken too far, which is the anabolic signal in our bodies that we WANT to be going on as long as possible, and it can also drag on the recovery from starting which we do not want when training hard.
2.) Incorporate HIIT.
HIIT cardio will not sacrifice muscle, doesn’t keep you in a catabolic state for a long period of time like really long LISS sessions do, and most importantly it can actually boost that anabolic signal I spoke of in #1 – in fact, this is the only cardio that should be done post training when your goal is purely muscle gain, because of this anabolic effect it has.
3.) Periodize Your Cardio.
Cardio is something our body adapts to, pretty quickly. So it’s important to incorporate a couple days of it and vary the intensities and intervals as you go. When doing this, you will constantly improve your energy systems – which has a direct effect on your recoverability. If you can improve energy systems, you will recover better in your training sessions between sets and between sessions.
4.) Leisurely Walks.
If you can just increase your NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) then you can keep fat at bay without sacrificing muscle. But this literally means walking the dog, taking the stairs, standing instead of sitting… You get the point.
5.) Do Fasted Cardio.
I know, I know… I said it. Do fasted cardio. This is the super bro myth to many coaches, but the reality is that it’s been shown more and more in studies to be beneficial for teaching your body to utilize fat as fuel, keep you lean, and believe it or not… stay healthy! Something like a fasted morning walk for 20-30 minutes – far from intense – is all you need.
Ok that’s all for training and cardio. To be honest, I didn’t think this guide was going to be so in depth – but the truth is, when I got to writing this it just got more and more detailed and part 2 is no different.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I cover Supplements, Nutrition, and the most simple, yet most important, step of it all…