Q&A for the Month of October
I have decided to do something slightly different starting with this month.
Over the last couple of weeks - since I switched over to my new email address - I've received multiple emails. Not exactly an entire plethora, don't get me wrong, but enough that it's been hard - or, at least, very time consuming - to answer them all. And, so, I'm afraid that I simply haven't answered some that I otherwise would have - I apologize, right now, if yours is one that I haven't answered as of yet.
Several of the emails, however, while not being exactly the same, are at least in the same ballpark. Which got me to thinking: Why don't I return to writing a regular Q&A column (something I've attempted in the past). If this is successful, and if it gets enough views (some of my posts, depending on popularity, get decidedly more views than others), then I will continue to do this sometime around the first of each month.
I've changed each question around from the original(s) to make it more precise, and I've also gotten rid of anything that might have been personal in the original questions.
In the future, if I get specific questions, and the questioners don't mind me using their names or initials, I will include more personal Q&As.
Now, on to this month:
Minimalist MassQ: I know that you regularly recommend frequent workouts in order to gain as much muscle as possible in the shortest amount of time, however, I only have enough time to make it to the gym 2X a week. Can you give me a good workout program for someone with a limited amount of time to train?
A: Yes, I can.
But first things first, make sure that you really can't make it to the gym for frequent workouts. I have personally known some guys who have complained to me that they don't have time to train, and have asked me to write out programs that require minimal amount of time for training. (Which I, typically, never mind doing - I love discussing, and writing, about training.) But when I actually looked at these guys' lifestyles, it was clear that they had the time to train, but they would rather spend that time doings things other than training (taking naps, snacking while binging on Game of Thrones, hooking up with girls, or other fairly useless things). Now, I'm not saying you should spend more time in the gym than you do with your family. Your family, in fact, should be the one thing that takes precedent over training. But I am saying that you should prioritize training over being lazy. And you should, for the most part, prioritize it over work. Too many men and women work too many long hours in this country, when there's often no reason to do so. Many times, the extra hours are only in order to make even more money, or to climb the corporate ladder. Chances are, if you're this person, then you have enough money - more won't make you any happier - and getting a promotion will, in all likelihood, just make you unhappy. Work is important, yes - we all need a good work ethic - but make other things your priorities - namely, God, family, good friends, good food, good beer, and good, frequent training sessions.
With that out of the way, let's get down to the specific question being asked.
If you really can't find the time to train more than twice a week, and you have read my blog for any good period of time, then you probably have some idea the kind of training that I'm going to recommend.
First, make sure that the 2 training days per week are evenly split apart. You can't train on the weekends, for instance, and just relax Monday through Friday.
Typically, the two most favorite days for the majority of people are either Monday and Thursday, or Monday and Friday. Personally, I like Sunday and Wednesday. Training on Sundays always felt good as a way to prepare my mind and body for the coming week. And Wednesday was always the best for any sort of "mid-week blues" after going a couple of days without training.
Pick a handful of exercises (that means 5 of them) that you will train at each and every session. This is not the kind of program to use a "full-body split" as I often recommend for high-frequency training. My personal 5 favorite are squats, deadlifts, power cleans, chins, and bench presses. If you're one of the few people (such as myself) who have more lower body and back development than you do upper body and arm development, then pick squats, power cleans, bench presses, overhead presses, and barbell curls. Train each exercise for 5 progressively heavier sets of either 5, 3, or 2 reps.
Follow these guidelines strictly for several weeks, and you may just find that 2-times-a-week is plenty for building a nice combo of mass and strength.
Eating for Strength and Power
Q: You have a lot of recommendations for building strength and power in workouts, but what's your advice on eating when your goal is strength and power?
A: With this question, I am under the assumption that you only are concerned with strength and power, and not gaining muscle mass in addition to the strength.
As you may know, when it comes to strength and power athletes (powerlifters and Olympic lifters), the training is vastly more important than the diet. Now, this is the opposite if your goal, for instance, was to excel at bodybuilding. For bodybuilders, diet is 70-80% of the battle. Without plenty of calories, in the right proportion of macronutrients, you can hang up gaining muscle at a fast rate.
When it comes to strength and power, I advise a lot of protein and fat, while keeping carbohydrates relatively low. I'm not a hater of carbs - don't get me wrong. I think carbohydrates are of paramount importance when trying to gain mass, or a combination of both mass and strength, but, when it comes to pure strength, you can't go wrong with a diet heavy in fat and protein.
On a side note, when I was competing in powerlifting, and wanted to get down to the 165 lb class for a meet, I would combine intermittent fasting with a high-fat diet, and I always lost the weight while getting stronger at the same time.