Just a quick update: I have a new article at Bodybuilding.com, an online reprint of my Planet Muscle article “Power Bodybuilding.” The article addresses training for the entire strength spectrum: explosive power, maximal strength, hypertrophy and strength endurance. Also, Tactics and Strategies is currently unavailable. It’ll be re-released soon with some additional chapters, including a chapter on ab training, which a lot of readers have been asking for.
Q: I’ve just recently started following your blog and I have to say, it’s a great source of information.
As a hard gainer, I was particularly interested in reading what you had to say in the 10-8-6-15 pyramid article.
I have a couple of queries. While I am a hard gainer, I have worked out on and off for about 3 or 4 years. My gains have been fairly minimal over the course of that time because I wasn’t attending to my diet in the way I should have been and also, I generally did 4 day split type programs with short rest periods and really fried whatever muscle I was working on that particular day. I now realise I was probably overtraining.
You mention the 10-8-6-15 program is for those at a “young” training age (whether newbies or ectomorphs). Do you think the program is also applicable to someone like myself with a few years experience and a little bit of muscle? Are you suggesting that ectomorphs ALWAYS need to train with the big compound movements (avoiding the isolation exercises), using only one exercise per body part with longer rest periods? Should more experienced ectomorphs always adhere to this advice too or should we be looking to incorporate programs with isolation movements, splits, shorter rest periods (or are all those no-no’s for us too)?
I have one more question, this time regarding the issue of diet whether on a bulk or a cut.
In my previous email to you I mentioned I was an ectomorph. This is only half the truth, as it seems I’m skinny fat.
I recently learned of the importance of diet when trying to achieve any aims regarding physique. I’ve heard that if you want to cut fat subtract 500 cals from your daily BMR and if you want to add muscle add 500 (with a good split between proteins, carbs and fat. I usually go 30%, 50%, 20%).
During the summer I followed a program paying attention to calorie intake for the first time, and I had great results. Lost 14 or 15 lbs over the course of about 6 or 7 weeks. Most of it was fat but I did lose 4 or 5lbs of muscle too. Got body fat down to about 15 or 16% from about 21%.
This was phase one of a long term project. My aim is to eventually get down to 10-12% body fat ,but I couldn’t keep cutting as I was looking a little gaunt given my slight frame. So I decided I’d try a bulking program to add some muscle. So, I upped my calories (BMR +500 cals). I embarked on a strength routine (which I heard was a good choice for ectos given the compound movements and long rest times). I’m four weeks in and my strength has gone up and I’ve gained weight. Problem is, I’ve put on plenty of fat (ratio of fat to muscle gained is about 1.5:1). This has me a little worried and I’m thinking I just don’t have the metabolism for these extra calories.
Maybe a more conservative bulking diet would help (BMR +200 cals)??? What would you recommend? As I said, it’s very frustrating because I need to bulk up but if every time I do it it means putting on fat I lost during my cutting phase, then what’s the point? Your help would be greatly appreciated.
My Answer: I think everybody, not just ectomorphs, can gain more muscle if they adhere to the principles in the 10-8-6-15 article. This doesn’t mean everybody should follow this particular program all the time. But if you follow the principles of brief but frequent training with one exercise per body part, then you will gain and maintain muscle much better than a split routine with multiple exercises for each body part.
Rest periods are flexible. You rest briefly during density phases where you’re pushing your muscles to the limit. You rest for 3 minutes or longer for decompression phases where you pull back on your training and allow your body to overcompensate and grow.
But the principles of frequent training (hitting each body part directly or indirectly 3 times per week) and focused training (one or two exercises per body part) is at the core of all my programs. The Neo-Classical program has workouts which allow for multiple exercises for each body part, but this is because the Neo-Classical program is meant for advanced bodybuilders.
The Neo-Classical program also has a hybrid design with regards to frequency. In other words, it is a combination of a full body routine and a split routine. I devote a whole chapter to this hybrid design in Strength and Physique Volume One.
With regard to diet, I prefer to pay attention to macronutrient profiles as opposed to calorie intake. You should still follow bulking and cutting phases, but during your bulking phase follow a macronutrient profile of 33% protein, 33% carbs and 33% fat or something close to this ratio.
During your cutting phase, follow 60% fat, 30% protein and 10% carbs. Those carbs should be from primarily greens. So to sum up, follow a higher calorie Zone diet to bulk for a couple weeks, then follow an Atkins diet for a couple of weeks.
A great service to use that’s free is Fit Day. It allows you to analyze your diet and observe both your calorie intake and your macronutrient profile.