Mike: Hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Muscle For Life. I am your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today to learn about the individual response to training. Now, what do I mean by that? Well, different people respond differently to the same training programs, with the same diets and the same lifestyle circumstances, the same age, gender, and so on.
And so, Now, why is that? And how much does the individual response to training vary from person to person? Well, you are going to learn about that in this episode. You are also going to learn about the quote unquote non-responder. Uh, some guys, for example, they consider themselves hard gainers. So much so that they simply can’t gain a significant amount of muscle and strength no matter what they do.
Are they right? Is the exercise non-responder actually a thing? And yet, another question that is going to be answered in this episode is whether you should program your training based on how well you respond to training. So if you are a high responder, maybe. An above average responder should you program your training differently than a low responder or a below average responder.
Well listen to this episode and you’ll get practical and evidence-based answers to those questions and more. Mostly I have a little bit of. Input, but mostly you’ll be hearing from my guest, Chris Barat, who is a published scientist, educator coach, and natural bodybuilder. He is also a repeat guest here on the podcast for good Reason.
Chris is many years of developing his book Smarts, along with his street smarts, his practical know-how of how to get results in the gym, makes him a great source of insights and tips and techniques, and I think you’ll agree that he doesn’t disappoint in this episode. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you want to help me do more of it, please do check out my Sports Nutrition company Legion, because while you don’t need supplements to build muscle, lose fat and get.
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Chris: Thanks for having me, Mike. I appreciate it.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. Thanks for taking the time. I’m excited to talk with you today about individual response to training, which I thought would be a good topic because it is something that I’ve commented on and I actually, I, I think I’ve recorded a kind of a, a long form piece.
Natural potential for muscle and strength gain and going over some of the research on that. Casey Butts, f fmi, blah, blah, blah. But I wanted to get you on the show to, to give your perspective on the topic and for people listening, a few of the questions that I, I wanted to throw out to you, Chris, just to kind of get us started and.
Questions that people like, like listeners, uh, ask me is like, for example, what does it mean to be a high responder to strength training? We hear that. Or a low responder or a hard gainer, sometimes those are used synonymously. And what does that mean in terms of rate of muscle and strength gain, total potential for muscle and strength gain?
And how do those things change depending on how fit you are, where you’re at in your fitness journey? And I think that’ll, that’ll be helpful. I’ve heard from so many people over the years who thought they weren’t making good progress because of something they saw usually on social media or someone they saw some jacked dude or some jacked, uh, woman who’s, uh, only been training for two years.
And then the person reaching out to me has been training for like four years and is not as jacked. And you know, they’re concerned that. Maybe they’re not making progress when they actually are doing quite well. If they understood a little bit more about what we’re gonna talk about in this interview, they would, they would know that they really just need to keep going.
There are no red flags. It’s all green flags. It’s just, even if we take anabolics outta the picture, some people do respond better to training than others, and some people are, are going to be able to get a lot bigger and stronger than, than we will be able to.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. So this is a topic that I find to be very, very interesting.
Cause you, you see it everywhere, not just in body building, but you see it in sports. Not just, you know, young adults or or adults, but you see it even in like young, like really young kids. Like, wow, that kid has a lot of potential. You just see it on the field like right away. So yeah, we all do have different starting points and we all respond to the same exact training stimulus a bit differently.
So when you do look at the science, the literature for exercise science, when it comes to hypertrophy training, something that kind of gets lost a lot of times is people forget that. What’s primarily reported is the group means and the average responses, and you’re not seeing if somebody is a hypers responder or non-responder.
And sometimes we also forget, you know, to take into consideration what is the duration of the actual training study itself. And generally speaking, those training studies are pretty short. It can be like eight to 16 weeks when it comes to most of the lifting studies. But sometimes people are applying those findings and kind of claiming.
Adaptation to take an entire 12 months or so, and I’ve seen this kind of be misrepresented in the evidence based space, or at least what you see people post on social media. So yeah, just a, a couple weeks back, I, I made a post on this where I kind of shared a, a very large study by, uh, at and Hying colleagues back in 2016.
It was basically like an exploratory study where they looked at a bunch of their randomized control trials in their one particular lab and they combined all of that data together. So they had a total of 287 participants. Um, when just looking at this data, and you know, on average if you looked at their strength gains, most people gained about 21% strength.
If you’re looking at their one RM or their 10 RM over again, a 12 to 16 week timeframe. But there was some individuals that actually lost strength by like up to 8%, like negative 8%. And then there are some people that gained up to 60% in strength. And then if you looked at the results in terms of their muscle size, on average people only grew by 5%.
And this is looking at like ultrasound. So muscle thickness, I mean, that’s what you usually expect in a lot of these exercise science studies to see muscle thickness change between like three and 8%. So this 5% average response is like exactly what I would expect, but when you look at. The individual differences.
Some people lost size up to 10% and some people gained up to 30%. So it’s just really, really interesting to take this into consideration and it’s something that I’ve seen every single semester with the randomized control studies that I’ve been a part of. And, uh, it’s made me view the literature from a totally different perspective than I used to when I was younger, before I was directly involved.
Before I just had a really, a, a much better understanding of like the nuts and bolts and all the moving pieces in regards to why are people responding differently and like how large of a variance can you expect to see from person to person. And can you
Mike: speak to that point in particular? Cause I’m, I’m sure that at least some people listening are now wondering how is that possible?
How can you have someone gaining 60% on their one rms or 10 rms and then you have someone else losing they, they are weaker by the end of the training period.
Chris: Yeah. So it’s really important to question and take into consideration where is this person starting point? What is the actual demographic of the study and how strict is that inclusion or exclusion criteria?
So just to give an example in regards to studies, I’ve directly been a part of that. Are super well done, like the standardization and just the way that we do things are like, probably like one notch up from what I would kind of see just as being like the mean of what, how exercise science is done. So just as an example, we generally work with well trained individuals.
Uh, at least in the literature we call them resistance trained, which means they have to have at least three years of training experience. And our inclusion criteria generally requires a certain strength level. So they need to be able to squat 2.0 times their body weight for a one rm or they need to be able to bench 1.5 or 1.75 times their body weight.
So we do have certain criteria level, but each individual still coming in. At very, very, very different starting points. Even if they’ve been lifting for three years. Yep. Yeah. One
Mike: person might be me, but then the other person is like a lineman on the football team or something and, and my one RM is his warmup.
Chris: sure, for sure. And then they just try to throw you in in similar conditions and then they’re just averaging out your results between the two of you. Even though you guys might have responded totally differently, like one of the craziest outcomes that I’ve observed in a randomized control trial was from one of our volume studies.
Um, we had an individual who had three years of resistance training experience, but he was just a college basketball player. So all of his resistance training experience, S and C work, you know, bench press, squat, overhead press, cleans, anything he did with the basketball team, right? But this guy was never doing dumbbell lateral races.
He was never doing, you know, necessarily lap pull downs or low cable rows. He wasn’t doing hypertrophy work, so to speak. He wasn’t on body building routine. But yeah, he is been lifting for multiple years. So he came in and, you know, he looked athletic, but he didn’t look like a bodybuilder. He looked like a college basketball player.
And his results were just absolutely insane. Like this guy gained 16 pounds of lean body mass in a 10 week time span. And people automatically assume, oh, he has to be taking stuff at the same time. But the truth of the matter is like even though he had three years of resistance training experience, in my eyes, he was basically a nube to body building, and he was a genetic outlier from a potential standpoint.
So you couple all of those things together and you just get in same results. Like something that bothers me is that you constantly hear like, oh, you’re really lucky if you gain, you know, one to three pounds of muscle in an entire year. And it’s really important to lay out like, which population is that expectation, realistic for?
You know, that can be realistic for someone like myself, someone like you that’s been doing this for so, so long. So close to your genetic potential, your ffmi is very, very high. That makes sense for, for people like us, but it doesn’t make sense for someone who’s been lifting for five years, but they’ve been inconsistent or they’ve been lifting for five years, but their nutrition has been pretty shitty the entire five years, or their program hasn’t been optimized.
So that’s something that bothers me. That’s,
Mike: that’s, that’s a a good point just to, to emphasize briefly, cuz that also is a question that I’ve been asked many times over the years. Somebody who has been in the gym even consistently for years. The question is, hey, now that I kind of know a lot more about this and I’m gonna be doing things a lot differently, Can I still make newbie gains is really the question and, and yes, absolutely.
I’ve seen it many times as well. Not necessarily like in a study that I’ve, cause I haven’t, I haven’t personally conducted studies, but I’ve just seen it working with so many people over the years that, yeah, okay, you take somebody who’s been lifting weights for X number of years and we don’t even have to get into the specifics of what they’ve been doing or not doing.
If over that, let’s say it’s
Chris: a five year period, this guy
Mike: has gained 15 pounds of muscle over five years, we already know that he has a lot of room for improvement and so he can probably experience newbie esque gains. Maybe it’s not going to be quite as explosive. Can be in the beginning if you do everything right from the beginning.
But that first year, that year six, now of doing things well, eating well, and, and training well, he very well could gain, uh, might be almost year one-ish, five, 10 pounds even in that first year, and kind of feel like a newbie again. Yeah,
Chris: absolutely. No, I’ve, I’ve seen that plenty of times. Um, whether it’s clients, people in, in training, studies, even just like your gym goer that you might have been seeing them like sporadically here and there, and then like they really start crossing their T’s and down their, I and you see them make significant progress.
And that was one, one reason why back in 2020, I kind of like dove into this whole recomposition literature. And I wrote a narrative review with some of my colleagues on that, and that kind of exploded for a little bit and pe like some people loved it and then some people wanted to critique it. But the thing was, is like a lot of times we label resistance trained individuals.
Just based off their training years, not necessarily based off like, well, what has their training actually look like? You know, were they doing full body twice a week or were they doing orange theory and, you know, whatever it may be. Like, they’re not taking that stuff into consideration, so, or, or not
Mike: training very intensely.
I, you know, I see a lot of that in the gym where it’s great that people are in there and they’re doing their workouts, but I, I don’t see. Getting any stronger. I don’t see them really even pushing themselves to, to get stronger. I don’t see them taking, uh, most of their sets at least close to failure. A lot of times, a lot of the sets, they seem to just kind of end.
When they end. Maybe it starts to get a little bit hard and that’s it. So you can kind of go through the motions and go through the actions for a long period of time and say, yeah, I’ve been, I’ve been working out, I’ve been lifting weights five days a week for five years. But again, when you look at the results, that, that’s where there’s a disconnect.
And, and I experienced that myself in my, in my first seven years of training. And I trained five or six days per week, sometimes two hours, you know, young, too much time, nothing better to do. But I didn’t know what I was doing. Uh, I had never done a single, I, maybe I’ve had squatted. Smith machine. I don’t think I had done a single set of dead lifting, I just didn’t know what I was doing.
Right. I had gained maybe 25 pounds of muscle in seven years, not very good. So really what that means is for like the first two or three years, I gained some muscle and then was basically stuck, uh, more or less for, for five years or whatever.
Chris: So yeah, I spun my wheels at the very beginning too. Uh, I just simply wasn’t eating enough and wasn’t training too smart, but could have made exponentially better gains in the same timeframe.
If everything was in line and you just hear these blanket statements, again, you can only gain X amount per year. I just hate hearing that really depends on individual’s genetic potential plus what their previous training experience looks like. And then you also hear some people in the evidence based space.
Yeah, you can absolutely gain 20 pounds of lean mass your first one to three years or whatever it may be. But even that random 20 pound number is so random and so black and white, like, are you a five foot four male or are you a six foot one male? Like, you know, if you’re six foot one and you throw on 45 pounds, like, I’m not even gonna bat an eye.
You know, like I, I believe that that can happen. I’ve seen it, you know, so like, I just get very annoyed with black and white numbers, and just like overgeneralization.
Mike: That’s a fair point. Uh, over the years, I’ve, I’ve said that, you know, most guys can probably gain 10 pounds, be the low end, maybe 15 ish or so in the first year.
But, but you bring up a good point with height, it really does depend. So yeah, maybe, maybe at the, at an average height or, or in a range of, of average heights, that’s, that’s true. But to your point, especially if you have somebody who is below, very below average, in high or very above, like, you know, you see some of these guys every once in a while.
I remember every gym that I’ve been in, there’s at least been one guy who’s like six, six, probably 300 pounds. Just ridiculous. Like, this person has been big and strong, their. Life. And then they got into Weightlift and they’re like, oh, I’m made for this. This is easy. But, but they were also, you know, benching 2 25 at 16.
That was the first time they ever benched. They’re like, yeah, I’ll try that .
Chris: For sure. For sure, for sure. There are some, some genetic freaks out there. Say the least. Can I, can I
Mike: come back to this point of, um, people who in, in research and also just that you’ve observed, again, coming back to people who have gone through these studies and gotten weaker or smaller, is that possible?
And the reason why I wanna bring that up is it speaks to the hard gainer conversation, at least right? And, and to the phenomenon that many usually guys have experienced, but sometimes women where they find it very difficult to gain muscle and strength and sometimes they, they think that, It’s simply not in the cards for them.
It doesn’t matter what they do. So when you have somebody who’s gone through. A research study gotten smaller, gotten weaker. Are there instances that maybe, you know of where there were kind of extenuating circumstances? Like they were not eating the way that they, or you suspected they were not eating the way that they should, maybe they were not sleeping the way that they should or there were other things they didn’t like?
Follow the plan. Exactly. Like the dude who gained 60% strength and, and get weaker, you know, for
Chris: sure. Yeah. I, I have very specific examples, whether that’s fortunate or unfortunate, but, uh, yeah, I have, I actually have some numbers for you too. So before we hopped on this, I, I went through some of the studies I’ve been a part of and besides looking at the means, I wanted to look at each individual real quick and I just took some quick notes.
So in 2017 we published the study. It was on like autoregulation of exercise selection and, uh, my man, Jacob Rouch was the, the head author on that. And this was a very well trained group. And on average, The lean body mass gains were only one point, 1.1 pounds. So a, a very low gain of lean body mass over the eight week training period.
With that said, somebody gained seven pounds, which was our highest responder, and somebody lost 4.2 pounds of lean body mass. So I will say there was a particular subject that was actually pledging for fraternity while being a participant in this, in the study. And his sleep was absolute trash. Um, his nutrition was not good at all, and he was not in a position to prioritize training at all.
He was just showing up to three days per week. Another thing I will say too, like that study itself was three days per week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and we forced those subjects to do our exercise regimen, which was full body three days per week. And some of them. Probably dropped their weekly training volume for each muscle group.
So for example, if some of those subjects used to train five days per week and they used to do nine to 12 working sets for each muscle group per week, now they come into this study and maybe they’re only getting, you know, maybe they’re reducing their volume by 33% of what it used to be. Um, or so now they’re hitting everything three times per week or before they were only hitting it twice per week.
But again, maybe they’re doing a lot more volume per session for that muscle group and their weekly volume is totally different. Yep.
Mike: And, and just for people listening, that’s, that would be important because, uh, what you’ve done now is, is taken the routine that may or may not have even been producing progress.
Let’s say it’s nine to 12, but then by reducing, by significantly reducing that volume, it’s. Gonna be almost impossible, assuming that their programming is halfway decent. It’s gonna be almost impossible to produce, uh, any significant amount of muscle and strength gain with 33% less volume. You’ve now put ’em on maybe a maintenance plus.
So it’s like, it’s probably more than you to do just to maintain muscle and strength, but it’s not enough to gain muscle and strength, which is a fine way to train if you, you understand that and it makes sense for whatever reason. But that’s a very important point just for people to understand, is that that volume baseline, cuz then you might have people where it’s the other way around where now you’ve increased their volume by 33% and look at that.
It, they, they respond.
Chris: Yeah. And another thing I’ve seen too is where participants come in, they’ve been resistance training for the past three months and they’ve been lifting for three plus years. They met the strength criteria, so on and so forth, but they weren’t crossing their T’s and dotting their i’s the three months prior to the study.
And they start the study and this is a. External source of motivation, and it’s also like a tool to keep them accountable. So now they start eating better. Now they start prioritizing, they sleep. And maybe even six months ago or a year ago, they were in a better position. So they kind of like have this rebound effect where they make.
Gains that were previously lost, so to speak. And yeah, maybe they gained more lean body mass in a fast period of time, or they’re, it’s like they regain strength plus add additional strength. So that baseline starting point is so important and it’s something that we’re continuing to investigate. And we’re actually done with data collection for a really cool study where we have three groups.
I, I briefly mentioned this to you on the last podcast, but this is gonna be a really cool volume study where we have three groups. One of them is the control group, where they’re doing the same exact amount of steps per week as they were before the commencement of the study. And it’s just being controlled in the laboratory now and being monitored.
And then we have another group that’s doing 30% more volume and another group doing 60% more volume. And we’re gonna compare strengths and size differences there. That’s just, uh, I mentioned this on the last podcast, like that’s been a huge issue with just exercise science literature as a whole. You’re taking subjects and you’re throwing them into groups without taking into consideration what their previous volume, intensity and frequency was like, and your inclusion criteria is just based off of their current strength levels and how many years of training they have under their belt.
So there’s a lot of flaws in the literature, unfortunately. And, you know, hopefully we keep improving upon it. But yeah, when, when you just. Some information at like black and white face value, and you don’t understand. There’s like a massive standard deviation here and there’s like so many differences from person to person.
You’re kind of like losing the forest for one tree. And,
Mike: and that’s, that’s just a comment on, I mean, that that’s true of, of so much different research that is looking at averages, that, that has a, a use, but it’s also useful to understand that it is an average. And so you could, you could look at research on a drug, uh, for the, uh, treatment of a disease, for example.
And, and on the whole, the research says on average it doesn’t seem to do much of anything. But then if you were to look at individual response, you might find that wow, it really seemed to help some. And a lot of people didn’t seem to make much of a difference, but with some people it really seemed to help.
I wonder what’s going on there and just random example. But, you know, it might be that you would be one of those people because there are certain circumstances that those people who it really helped have in common that were maybe not recognized or that wasn’t even the point of the research. And so it’s, um, to your point, you can’t, if you really, if you really want to, uh, try to achieve a, a deeper understanding of research and how to apply it, you can’t just of course read the abstract or just, let’s say you’re not just an abstract reader and you do wanna read the full paper.
Just understanding this point alone is, uh, is, I think it’s very
Chris: important. Yeah. And my point isn’t to. Like overly critique the science at all. It’s just a limitation, right? I mean that’s, that’s my point. And, and it’s not even just a limitation within the science. The thing that aggravates me is I don’t want people to limit themselves psychologically, limit their self belief and limit their expectation.
Um, I think it’s really important that we have goals that we believe we can achieve, but are also challenging and like a little bit intimidating. So, you know, if, if I tell someone, Hey, you’re gonna gain 20 pounds of muscle this year, and they don’t believe it, or it just seems like. It seems totally unrealistic to them.
That’s not going to be their goal cuz they’re just gonna say, there’s no way that’s happening, right? So that they’re not gonna gain the 20 pounds, regardless of like physiological limits for that person. Whereas if I tell someone, you know, let’s make a goal where this year you’re gonna gain X amount of strength, or you’re gonna build X amount of lean mass, even if they see like that’s going to be their maximum limit.
I would rather them strive for that than say like, Hey, you can gain one pound this year. And they’re so demotivated that like they know they no longer wanna lift weights because they’re like, I’m gonna do this so I can add 10 pounds to my bench press, or I can, I can put on one pound of muscle in the entire year.
I’m gonna, I’m gonna bust my butt like four to six days per week so I can make this really, really small marginal improvement. So I think it’s important that like when, when it comes to stuff like goal setting, We’re not shooting ourselves in the foot by listening to like other evidence based like practitioners or like what is just being like claimed on social media is like, this is your limit.
I don’t like seeing people kind of accept limits when they don’t fully understand their picture and like where they’re actually starting at.
Mike: You know, on the other hand, uh, as a, not really a counterpoint, but maybe just a caveat. Normal distributions being what they are. If we take just base rates, most people fall in the middle of all of us.
I mean, unless, unless we have good evidence to think otherwise, we should assume that we will be somewhere in the middle of that curve. Maybe we’ll be a little bit better than average right down the middle, average, or a little bit worse. But it is probably reasonable for somebody, let’s say, somebody new who’s getting into this to assume, all right, I probably will be somewhere in the middle in terms of my ability to gain muscle and strength again, unless I have some good reasons to believe that I am a low responder or maybe a high responder.
And I’m gonna do really well with this. And may maybe, um, just to, to, to carry that forward. Um, I’m gonna follow that up with a question regarding response and particularly low response. So can my genetics be so bad that. I really cannot gain much muscle and strength to speak of, even if I stay patient, even if I eat right, even if I train right.
I know that that’s a concern for, for many guys out there or that their, their genetic potential is 10 pounds of muscle gain and that’s
Chris: it, you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, I will say that there are people out there that unfortunately, their, their strength gain and just genetic potential for overall muscle building is going to be much lower than the average.
And to that same point, I really do believe a lot of these freaks out there that don’t necessarily. Look natural per se, to like an untrained eye that like, they really are natural and like, believe it or not, they’re, they’re probably not even training optimally. They’re not even eating optimally and they still look freakier and have more muscle and more strength than somebody who’s crossing all their, their T’s and dotting all their eyes.
So yeah, there, there are some people that are very, very low responders, but I hate the term non-responder. I think no matter what, yeah, maybe in one actual randomized control trial, that person can be labeled a non-responder or a low responder cuz they’re, they’re losing strength or size. But, uh, in the real world, if we fixed something, Like a, a confounding variable, they would make some sort of progress, you know?
So, um, yeah. There’s some people that, let’s say they’re in a 12 week training study, maybe they gain zero pounds of lean, lean body mass. That doesn’t mean they can’t build muscle. Exactly. Maybe they could have
Mike: gained five if things would’ve been more optimal for them. Yeah,
Chris: for sure. And like going to the example of the, the actual individual subjects, in some of the studies that I’ve been a part of, this one person that lost 4.2 pounds while someone else gained seven pounds, you know, that doesn’t mean that this person can’t be in a net positive, but it’s like his sleep needs to be on point, his nutrition needs to be better, so and so forth.
So those confounding variables are really, I.
Mike: Hey there. If you are hearing this, you are still listening, which is awesome. Thank you. And if you are enjoying this podcast, or if you just like my podcast in general and you are getting at least something out of it, would you mind sharing it with a friend or a loved one or a not so loved one even who might want to learn something new?
Word of mouth helps really big in growing the show, so if you think of someone who might like this episode or another one, please do tell them about it. And what would you say are some of the signs that, um, you, you might be a high responder or a low responder? And the reason I ask that is I, I just know that a lot of people, especially people who are newer, they wonder about that.
They wonder how they are going to respond. They wonder about their genetic potential for muscle and strength
Chris: gain. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a really good question. I never thought about it too, too much. Uh, things that come to my mind right now is like in the beginning of your lifting career, if you’re not able to add, load or add like more than one rep per week on certain lifts and like you’re just starting off, you’re probably gonna be a low responder.
Whereas like you can see. Nubes that are training, they might have 95 pounds on the bench on week one, and they’re literally on 1 15 1 week later. Like they, they literally added more than 10% in a week. You know, and obviously that’s neurological and that’s learning the movement pattern and this and that.
But you can still have someone else that it’s their week one of lifting and they’re benching 95 pounds and their second week. They’re still lifting 95 pounds and they, they only added one rep, whereas like that person is making that 95 pounds now kind of look like their warmup, right? So like how quickly you were able to gain strength in the beginning is probably a good indicator of like what your potential is.
Um, and again, there’s a reason why there are some high schoolers that are benching three 15 and squatting 500, whereas. People who have been lifting for 10 years that never touched those numbers. Right. ?
Mike: I’ve, I’ve been, I’ve been close to three 15 on the bench. I probably, there was a time, so I was doing probably 2 95 for sets of three.
So that’s about there, even though I wasn’t going to one. And, and I think the most I’ve squatted is 365 for three or four. Now, to be fair, I haven’t trained specifically for either of those exercises. If I really wanted to, to squatter bench as much as I possibly could, I’d be doing it probably three days per week.
I’d be dialing down everything else, maybe doing one set of deadlifts per week, for example, and really just trying to focus. So I, I’ve not done that, but I have trained, uh, fairly intelligently now for. 10 over 10, 13 years. And, you know, I’ve eaten food and I’ve really pushed myself and it’s, it’s just funny to see some people, you know, year one, some dude by the end of year one, he’s, he’s repping 4 0 5 on the
Exactly. I’m in the, I’m in the same boat as you, Mike. Like, I’ve never bench three 15 on the barbell. Um, my best squat ever was like three 15 for 10. I’ve never really lifted more than 365 in my life in the squat. Yeah. So like, yeah, I’ve been doing this forever. Right. Whereas like, I literally remember friends of mine in high school that were benching those numbers and, and just absolute beast, you know?
So yeah. Wre, like how quickly you respond. Those first six months to a year. Like that’s a really good indicator if like, you’re made for this or you’re not.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. That, I think that’s, um, that’s, that’s a good sign. And maybe, maybe if you could follow it up with some specific numbers. Let’s talk about that first year and, and I’ll leave it up to you to, you know, put asterisks however you want in terms of populations.
But what, what would that first year look like for, let’s say an average responding male versus female and then
Chris: maybe lower high? Yeah. You honestly probably know those numbers better than I would to be totally honest with you. Just cuz I haven’t like, spent a lot of time. Investigating like strength levels based on X amount of experience.
To be totally honest, strength seems to
Mike: to be harder to predict than lean mass, than than muscle gain probably just because of, you know, even anatomy comes into it, right? There seems to be more variability in that, in that first year of strength, whereas first year of, of muscle gains seems to be a little bit more normalized, at least.
Chris: Yeah. Unfortunately I don’t even know like what numbers I would throw out there since I haven’t thought about it or like looked at the actual literature. I’m like uncomfortable doing that. But if we are talking about numbers, there was like another thing I wanted to share just when it came to how crazy this individuality principle can be from a numbers standpoint, from a strength endurance standpoint, um, one study that we did, we had subjects squat, 90% of their 10 RM.
For their first three sets. And we just had them do 10 reps. 10 reps, 10 reps, which they can clearly do cuz it was a 10% reduction from their 10 rm. It’s still still
Mike: difficult, but not grueling.
Chris: Not grueling. And then their fourth set, we had them do an m wrap. So I just wanted to share like how large of a variance that Amap looked like for, for some of our participants.
So on average, if we remove this insane outlier, most people. 20 reps on average on that M rap with 90% of their 10 rm. The range, like if you looked at the actual numbers, some people got 16, some people got 21, 1 girl got 32. Right Now our craziest outlier with that, 90% of their 10 RM actually got 68 repetitions.
Mike: You wouldn’t believe it unless you knew for a fact that it happened. Was that also a woman? Was it all women or was it men and
Chris: women? It was men and women, but that participant was a female. And which, which you would expect, right? All the higher numbers were from females and all the lower were from males.
But it was just absolutely wild to see and people were like, oh, well it clearly wasn’t 90% of her 10 rm. And I’m like, listen guys, we tested her 10 RM on three different training days in her spread by 72 hours of rest at minimum. So like we didn’t take their 10 RM on day one and just say like, This is their 10 rm.
We had to test and retest until their CV was so low that we were very confident that that’s their actual 10 rm. But yeah, this one particular person, their strength endurance is just insane and there’s such a difference from that. Difference in load for them was just obviously astronomically different for them to actually produce force and continue to move.
So yeah, I just share stuff like that again, because maybe you’re running a program and it says on the spreadsheet that you’re supposed to do 90% of your one RM or 60% of your one rm. Um, sometimes that can be good, but sometimes it can be bad because for you as an individual, You might be able to get way more or way, way less repetitions that’s being prescribed based on that percent.
So sometimes it’s more practical to just give yourself a loading range, repetition range, and a intensity rather than like X percentage. Right.
Mike: And gender, gender plays a role in that. Right? I think it’s, it, it’s an interesting thing just to note that that’s been shown in that that’s just one of the, the key differences physiologically between men and women.
Right. With strength training.
Chris: Yeah, for sure. There, there seems to be quite a big difference between male and female there. Um, and another thing that I find interesting is some people theorize that this can be a way to get some insight if you’re like more fast switch dominant or more slow switch dominant.
Some people, you know, they’re doing a set and you obviously expect bar velocity or rep speed to slow down as you get closer and closer to failure. And some people it does and maybe they only get like one or two grinder reps and, and they fail. Like they can no longer conceptually move the weight.
Whereas some people they can do like 5, 6, 7, 8 reps really, really slow and grind that out. And that can potentially give you some inclination whether or not you are more fast force dominant or more so dominant. And more importantly, what rep ranges may be most beneficial for you to actually train in. Can you speak more to that point?
Yeah. This is all like hypothetical. There’s not like a lot of good data on that. But again, let’s just say you are somebody who can really grind out slow reps and you feel like your strength endurance is good, but your absolute strength isn’t good. We can look at this two ways. If you are more slow twitch dominant, It might be better for you to do work that is more in the higher rep range, where you’re kind of taxing those slow twitch muscle fibers for a longer period of time.
Whereas if you’re more fast twitch dominant, maybe it’s better that you focus more on quote unquote strength work. Higher intensity, lower repetition. Um, and then some people would pose the other question where, Hey, if you are fast twitch dominant, you should be training your weaknesses. So maybe you should be doing more of the high rep stuff.
And hey, if you’re slow twitch dominant, maybe you should be doing more of the, the higher intensity, uh, low rep stuff to. To do what you’re bad at, not what you’re good at. So the, the answer is kind of unknown. That seems
Mike: like an odd argument for hypertrophy though. Like, yes, if you’re, if we’re talking about a sport and you’re trying to play it at the highest level, yes, there’s no question you have your strengths, but it, you also have to work on weaknesses or you’re probably not gonna make it at the highest level.
But if we’re talking hypertrophy, it might make more sense what you were saying previously. Even if we look at number of reps you perform close to failure and what that means in terms of tension and just a training stimulus. If you can rack up more reps close to failure, then. Your clone who is training with fewer reps close to failure, chances are you’re gonna make better progress.
Chris: Yeah, I would definitely agree with that. Um, I’m looking forward to what the literature is going to show in regards to the whole effective reps theory, where we have some cool stuff coming out soon. So it’ll be nice to, to put some of the pieces of the puzzle together. Yeah, I look forward
Mike: to, to reading that when,
Chris: when it’s available.
It’s so crazy how long this stuff takes . It’s like projects that we’ve been working on for like a year and a half, two years, like probably won’t be published for another year. It’s just, it’s like, it’s like, it’s like the
Mike: book publishing industry. I mean, you work on a manuscript for at least a year, unless you have a lot of time to give it every day.
But a lot of people who write professionally, they have a few hours a day to give to it. And so you, you work a year, a year and a half on a main script, and then if you’re publishing traditionally, it’s not out. Another, at least another year, but it might be more like a year and a half depending on what their editorial process looks like.
And you need to be patient, otherwise don’t even bother. Another, another train question for you. So we have these different starting points. Uh, men and women have very different starting points, and then different men and different women have, you know, different starting points. Uh, do you think that that should be taken into account when deciding where to start, what type of training program, for example, to, to start with different types of exercises, different loads, different rep ranges and so forth?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, let’s just say you have. We’re gonna take two news, but they’re middle-aged. I’m, I’m hopefully getting, like, I’m gonna try to get as close to the demographic population listening to, to this podcast potentially. Right. Um, let’s just say we have two people that are like 25 years of age, but they never really had much training, resistant training experience.
Um, yeah, I would definitely start there. Their split will look different. 40
Mike: year olds have taken offense already that you said middle age and now 25. I’m j I’m joking.
Chris: I’m joking. . Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. No, you’re right. You’re right. You’re right. Maybe you pick the demographics. .
Mike: No, no. Start there. Start with 25.
And then I would be curious, uh, what you would say for somebody who’s 45 or, or you know, let’s say 45 to 50, who’s just getting started? Cause those, those are very different people.
Chris: Okay. So in terms of like weekly volume, that’s gonna look much different compared to some of a more experienced Right.
Weekly volume per muscle group. Their splits are going to look different. The amount of days per week they need to train is probably gonna look different. And that also just depends on the amount of time they wanna dedicate to this craft. But I’ll try to put this all together. When somebody is starting off, let’s say they are 25 years of age, um, without a lot of resistance training experience, they can resistance.
A minimum of two times per week, I would hope. But I would like them to train three times per week. And it might just be like three full body days where they’re doing two to four sets for each muscle group, and that’s really it. So they’re basically picking one compound movement for their chest, their back, you know, they’re doing once one squat pattern, one hip hinge pattern.
Yeah. Like super simple, right? It can be as little as two upper body exercises. So one push, one pull, probably a maximum of four where they’re doing a horizontal push, a horizontal pull. A vertical push, a vertical pull, and then one squat variant. So a lunge leg press, whatever it may be, and some sort of hip H It would be like something much easier to learn.
I’m not gonna throw like an RDL their way. I’ll throw like a 45 degree hip extension their way. Right. And a lot of it will be machine based, especially if they’re, if they’re like that 40 year old or 50 year old, it’ll be more machine based. If they are a bit younger, um, I’d probably start them off with potentially, depending on their starting point, some free weights, maybe some dumbbells.
Maybe a barbell. Just cause I feel. The motivation to use freeway is higher in younger demographics and the risk of injury or just the perception
Mike: of it, even the
Chris: perception of it. As someone gets older, they’ll feel way safer on the machines. I’ve found
Mike: the same with women and men. The motivation to do heavy squats and heavy deadlifts and bench press is very high with a guy just starting out.
Usually not very high with a woman just starting out. And then there are practical considerations too, where if you tell a woman, all right, I want you to start out with sets of five on the, uh, on the bench press, and she might not even be able to do five reps with the bar or May, that might be like, that might be her five RM is is the bar.
So she actually needs to start with dumbbells. And so that’s something that I’ve. Uh, thought with in my programming for women is in, and it’s, it’s psychological, but it’s an important
Chris: component. Yeah, absolutely. And even just the way the gyms are set up, sometimes, depending on not just the age, but it could be the gender, their, their comfort level in the gym.
So, you know, maybe the females or just beginners, males that are just starting off. They don’t want to go to the free weight section where other guys are lifting 70 to a hundred pound dumbbells and they need to use 25 pound dumbbells. They might feel way more comfortable using a pin loaded machine that no one really sees what load they’re doing and like they can just kind of stay in their own lane and not get, like intimidated by the more experienced people.
So all that, all that comes into account, but to get back. To try to go back to the, the original question you’re asking, how is training gonna change over training age?
Mike: Yeah. Just different starting points and how somebody who is 25 and male and maybe naturally strong, where they would start is gonna be different than somebody who’s 45 female and not strong.
Never done any strength training. So lemme just come back to something you said though. So we’re looking, we’re looking at three workouts per week. These workouts sound like maybe 60 to 70 minutes or so, not two to three hour marathon sessions. And some people might be surprised to hear that, you know, this is a question I I get, I’m new, should I work out?
How many days per week should I, how much should I be doing? Uh, should I, should I be in the gym five days per week? Like all of these people I see on social media and then they hear you say, What, three, three workouts per week and the workouts don’t sound like gut busters per se. Like is that enough?
Shouldn’t I be doing
Chris: more? Yeah. So this whole concept of minimal effective volume is awesome. So you wanna basically do a certain amount of work that is gonna provide you with a positive stimulus that doesn’t absolutely crush you and it doesn’t create too much like recovery debt. Um, so you’re not digging a really big ditch in terms of like how much energy, time, and actual resources from like a macronutrient perspective do you actually need to recover from that And soreness too.
Mike: I see people new do way too much too quickly and then they can’t walk right for seven days and they don’t want to train their lower body again. They skip the next lower
Chris: body workout. Yeah, for sure. The problem with that is they are doing workouts that they see someone on social media doing that has a ton of resistant training experience.
The analogy I like to use is, That would be like seeing a, a endurance athlete, like a marathon runner and then challenging yourself to do a half marathon when you haven’t ran a mile, you haven’t ran a mile in the last 12 months, but you know, this Sunday you’re gonna try to go run 13 miles outta nowhere.
It literally makes no sense. It’s the same concept when you see someone do 12 sets of chest for one workout and then like a beginner that has done zero sets of chest for the last 10 years decides to do 12 sets of chest and they can’t feel their chest for five days and they can’t lift their arm. You know?
So understanding like. Where you should start and how you can slowly build volume over time. And as your work capacity increases, you’re increasing the work you’re doing with it, not just like digging yourself into a major, major hall. Um, which actually happens a lot in like, sometimes with these classes, like maybe someone goes to a a CrossFit class or they go to an orange theory class or whatever.
Maybe they shouldn’t be doing all of that volume because their baseline is literally zero. So make a really small, like incremental increase, see how you respond. And again, there’s this really cool concept of minimal effective volume, maximum effective volume. There’s a pretty wide range in where you’re going to positive to a positively adapt.
So you can see really good gains with like, let’s just say six sets per week. And you can still potentially see gains with 20 sets per week. But now you’re doing more than three times the amount of work. Um, and you might actually be making similar progress,
Mike: especially if you’re new, right? I mean, no newbie ever needs to do 20 sets for a, a muscle group in a
Exactly. Exactly. And it’s like you wanna find that sweet spot where you are making the most amount of progress while doing the least amount of work, so to speak. So yeah, that’s gonna change. It’s gonna be different for each individual and it’s gonna change over your training career. Um, where my thoughts are kind of different than a lot of the consensus is, I personally don’t think the more advanced you are, you absolutely need more training volume.
I think your requirements almost look like an inverted u where when you’re a beginner, you don’t need that much. I think when you’re an intermediate, you do need more for multiple reasons. And part of that is just. To practice different movement patterns more and get more work in practices so you can gain strength and continue to progress.
But I think once you get really, really, really strong and you are super advanced, you can get away with doing less because since you are lifting so much weight, cuz you have gained so much strength over X period of time, every rep you’re doing is more stimulative and there is more mechanical tension on the muscle cuz now instead of working with 225 pounds, you’re working with 405 pounds or whatever it may be.
So I think like a lot of people say meta analytic data says 10 to 20 steps per week. The more advanced you are, the more you need. I kind of disagree with that. Like if we were to just use blank numbers and say, okay, beginners can start with six, intermediates might do really, really well between nine and I don’t even wanna give you a huge range actually.
So let’s just say it was like 14 to 18. And I think some really advanced people can still progress with like eight to 12 sets per week. Um, just because they are so strong and each set is so stimulative and so demanding that if they did too much, it might actually be shooting them in the foot. So like, I gotta give credit to like Jordan Peters for that.
Um, and even like Dante Trudell, like, they kind of think along those lines too. It’s possible.
Mike: The quality of every rep is higher as an advanced trainee, right? I mean, you have, you have the heavier load, but then you also just have the experience and you have the improved skill that comes with the experience.
Maybe it’s not worth that much weight, but it just comes to mind where I know that with certain movement patterns, you get a little bit better, better of a, you could say mind muscle connection, but you’re really able to target the muscle group that you’re trying to train, and you are able to control the movement very well.
These things do matter,
Chris: right? A hundred percent. I texted a buddy the other day after one of my like sessions, and I was like, after 12 years of resistance training, like today’s hack squats, like something about it just felt better than ever. The quality, the accuracy was so good. On year six, I just wouldn’t have been able to do that, even though I was well trained and I might have even had a similar amount of muscle back then.
But my control of the load and the way it feels, it really is different. And right now I am getting away with doing less total work, but I just feel like the quality is better. I don’t know if part of that too is like, I just don’t wanna spend two hours in the gym necessarily.
Mike: Cause they, they have the psychology of that, right?
Because now it’s like, I, I’m in the ex, it’s funny, I, I similarly, uh, I reduced my volume. I dropped instead of four sets per exercise, I dropped to three. Right? And so I usually do three or four exercises per. Per workout. And um, I did that one because I was cutting and I was like, you know, I think this is a bit much for, for cutting and doing cardio and life stress and blah, blah, blah.
But then also to, to your point, I was like, I would like to spend a little bit less time in the gym just cause I have so many things that I need to do. And I’ve found now that I enjoy, I look forward to my workouts more. I enjoy my training more because my workouts are a bit shorter and, uh, a little bit easier.
Not even that I am looking for necessarily easier, but, um, then I, I feel like I’m recovering a little bit better, which then increases motivation further.
Chris: Yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting to see how people’s training approach. Evolves over time, over their career. And it’s like when I was younger, I would see some older people doing things and I’m like, how are they doing?
Like so little, you know? And yeah, here I am doing so much. I’m just like, what’s going on there? And then if you asked them what they did when they were litter, when they were younger, they were doing a lot more volume too. And it’s like you kind of just see this trend. I think some of it just has to do with.
Enjoyment. Like some people, when you are younger, you just love being in the gym for two hours and it’s kind of like your social environment too. You’re talking to other people so you don’t mind doing more work. Maybe some of it’s that you need more practice, you need more volume. But yeah, right now, like I’m, uh, I’m not even, I’m not getting nearly as sore as I used to get, but I’m still progressing on my lifts and I’m, I’m starting to question, I’m like, was I doing too much in the past where I was still able to make these positive adaptations, but the magnitude was lower because I was doing too much in my recovery?
Debt was high. So it’s really interesting to take all these things into consideration. It’s like it’s just a never ending game that you can, that you can continue to find ways to get a little bit better over time. Uh, hopefully it shows in your physique or in your strength levels, but at the end of the day, you can just feel it and like you can just know.
Dang. That was a great set. It was, the tension was on my target muscle. Like the entire ecentric, the entire concentric, like, it just felt great. Um, so it’s, it’s cool to see just a continued evolution of the weight lifting, the resistance training, body building gain, you know, so it’s cool and, and it’s good to, I
Mike: think, um, to, to at least be cognizant of some of the, some of those qualitative factors as you get bigger and stronger because the quantitative factors become smaller.
Even, even if you’re a genetic freak. I mean, you can only still get so big and strong. And so the motivation. That was provided by just getting bigger and stronger. It’s going to diminish and so you’ve gotta find, you gotta find something else that that helps you look forward to your workouts and enjoy your workouts.
At least. At least generally. It’s never going to always be like
Chris: that, but for sure. Yeah, you have to at least enjoy the actual weightlift itself and like hopefully you get some sort of like psychological, like dopamine response and, and some sort of relief out of it, right? Where it’s like, even if I make no gains, I still feel better doing this activity, so I’ll keep doing this activity.
Mike: Yep. And that’s, that’s how I feel about it. Even though, you know, over the last couple of years I’ve pushed pretty hard to progress, you know, fair amount of volume, pretty, pretty difficult training for at least where I’m at. And that was fun. But now, recently again, I was like, all right, that was two, maybe even three years of really going after it.
I’m gonna bring my volume down a little bit and, um, and still probably maintain, I still maintain the basic programming and, and still a higher intensity, but a bit less volume, a bit shorter workouts. And I’m just curious. I know I can maintain, but I’m curious, can I still make a little bit of progress, spending a little bit less time in the gym,
Chris: doing a little bit?
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. For sure. But, um,
Mike: and those were all of the, all of the main questions that, that I had this, this was a great discussion. I really appreciate you taking the time and sharing, uh, the information. And is there anything, is there anything else that I haven’t asked before we wrap up? Anything that’s kind of just, uh, pinballing around in your head that you wanna say before we wrap up?
Chris: Yeah, just one thing I will say is I, I like briefly mentioned recomposition before, and that might be,
Mike: uh, an interesting discussion under itself actually.
Chris: For sure. Yeah, we can do, we can do that at some point if you’d like. I would love to do that. Um, I just, I kind of just wanna say to everyone listening, when I go to the LA Fitness down the street from me, I genuinely think that like 50% plus of the people in there, like could make pretty good gains.
And like they have the ability to quote unquote reco if they. Really improve their training execution. Their intensity, their form, and their nutrition. You know, it’s just, it’s one of those things where like people doubt it all the time, but I just see the, the general gym goer, they’re performing sets and reps and again, like their first rep and their last rep look really, really similar.
And I just know that they’re like training way too far away from failure to get the adaptations they’re looking for. So yeah, I just wanted to throw that out there in, in regards to like some of the individual responses. Super quick, there was just one other study I wanted to mention. It was in females, collegiate volleyball players that I was a part of.
So again, these girls were between the ages of like 17 to 23, but in just seven weeks of resistance training, on average, they gained seven pounds of lean body mass while losing seven pounds of fat mass. Did you have the individual? Do you have who was the super, the super responder?
Mike: I do. Yeah. Yeah, I have all that.
Chris: Right. And it’s like, one of those things, if you, if the average was a human, which there was nobody who like literally gained seven pounds of lean mass and lost seven pounds of fat mass, but that person’s scale weight literally would have zero change. But they look, they look like a new person. They look like a totally new person.
So that stuff’s really, really powerful and uh, maybe we’ll talk about that one day, you know?
Mike: Yeah. That would be a good, that would be a good follow up because that’s something I have written about and I have spoken about, but getting into the details would be fun because my general message with Recom has been, if you’re new, everybody knows.
Sure. You can recomp. Uh, there is a point though where you probably can’t, and I might be wrong with that, and I’m totally open to being wrong with that. And so it could be, it could be a. A great discussion. Of course, the people who ask me the most about recounting tend to be more highly trained, uh, individuals because people who are newer, I think there’s enough information out there where it’s like, oh, yeah, sure, I can just, I’ll just maintain a calorie deficit, eat enough protein and lift some weights, and I’m gonna be, uh, set for the, for the, for the next 6, 9, 12 months.
You know? But where, where it gets less clear is, okay, you have somebody who’s been lifting weights for three years and they’ve, they’ve gained a fair amount of muscle and strength. What about that person? And so that could be a great discussion. Yeah, for sure.
Chris: Okay, cool.
Mike: Well, um, why don’t we wrap up quickly with where people can find you and find your work, and if there’s anything in particular that you want them to know about.
Chris: Let’s. Yeah. Um, yeah, so you guys can fire me. In terms of social media, I’m primarily on Instagram, not super, super active, but active enough. So that’s just my full name at Christopher dot Barca. And then for more formal education stuff, resources, training guides, articles, nutrition guides, whatever it may be, you can go to school of gaines.com.
Gaines is spelt with a Z and that’s where my team and I also offer coaching. People are looking for that. But yeah, I keep that up to date in terms of the research projects that are coming out, publications, things that we’re working on the lab and everything like that. So feel free to check me out there.
You can um, shoot me an email through the website, try to shoot me a dm, whatever it may be. And I’ll try my best to get back to you guys as soon as possible. Awesome. Well,
Mike: thanks again, Chris, and I look forward to the next one for sure.
Chris: Thanks, Mike. I appreciate.
Mike: Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have, uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com, and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.
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