Eat Your Way to a Muscular Physique?

Q: “I am in the process of reading your book Strength and Physique, and I am enjoying it immensely. I do have a question which I would very much like to ask.

“I often hear bodybuilders say that diet amounts to up to 80% or more of the muscle mass that they put on. This statement implies that weight training plays only a minimal role in muscle gain and could be avoided. I do not believe this personally, of course, it is just the semantic conclusion of the above statement.

“In other words if diet is 80% of the equation, then a bodybuilder who only eats properly but does not lift a single weight or exercises in any other manner would look 80% of what he/she would have looked had he also exercised. Thus, is it possible to build muscle and increase strength without any weight training, but solely through diet?”

Thank you for your time,
B. D.


My Answer: No. Dear God, no! Training is just as important in obtaining a muscular physique as diet, so I don’t know how this 80% diet, 20% training idea came about. If you ate well but didn’t train, then you’d just be fat. If you trained, but didn’t eat much, then you would still be tone, but you wouldn’t have much lean muscle gain at all. Ectomorphs would lose muscle weight.

Now can you build muscle without weights, but with diet and some sort of sport or athletic activity? I think you can, but it depends on the sport. Ping pong on a high calorie/high protein diet? Ehh… not so good.

But wrestling, gymnastics or mountain climbing on a good clean diet? Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of people gain quite a bit of muscle with those activities and not weight train at all. The only problem is that your physique gets shaped according to your sport, and your sport doesn’t give a crap about how you look. I’ve seen female rowers develop a lot of upper body muscle, but it was usually hiding underneath a layer of fat.

As far as body recompositioning, nothing compares to weight training aimed at sculpting the physique. All other activities are just adjuncts.


Q: “Hey James, I saw your Ectomorph Pyramid Training program on’s front page. Anyways, my question relates to the exercises:

Bench Press
V-Bar Pulldown
Lateral Raise
Dumbbell Curls
Close-Grip Bench Press

“You say to do all this workout three times a week? It seems like that’d be overtraining to me, no?”

Thanks in advance,
Greg P.


My Answer: No, it would not be overtraining. As long as you keep the workout at an hour length. To do this, the first 3 exercises should have 3 minute rest periods. The second 3 exercises should have one minute rest periods.


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