Category Archives: Lifestyle

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Synergizing Training and Nutritional Sciences for Maximal Muscle Growth


Why do some people possess the innate ability to pack on muscle and cut body fat on a whim, while others struggle their entire lives to create the body of their dreams? When it comes down to it, it’s all about nutrition and training.

We all know we must prioritize strength training, get our daily protein and even eat a few veggies from time to time.  However, what most people struggle with is the synergy between these two all-important variables.

Follow along as coach Luke Briggs literally walks you through the step by step process to customize your nutrition, improve your training, and coach you through some of the best muscle building exercises in the industry.

Read more HERE.

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5 Muscle-Killing Mistakes that are Keeping You Scrawny


Are you struggling to pack on size?

Does it seem like you’ve tried everything, yet nothing you do seems to work?

If so, you’re not alone. Every day, millions of dudes across the world venture to the gym with the goal of getting huge, yet many fail.

Type “how to build muscle” into a Google search, and you’ll get more than 4 million results!

With so much information out there, it’s no wonder you’re confused.

You can build muscle a number of different ways, but there are certainly plenty of things you can do to completely kill your gains.

What are they?

Check out these five muscle-killing mistakes you may be making.

Read more HERE.

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7 Action Steps to Start Building Muscle Now


Does this sound familiar?

You’ve been trying to pack on size for quite a while now, but nothing seems to work.

You’ve tried bodybuilding splits, whole-body splits, supersets, drop sets and everything in between. Despite your best efforts, you still can’t put on a lick of muscle.

Why doesn’t anything work?

Read more HERE.

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Why I’m Training for a Physique Show


After spending years focusing on adding size and even dabbling in powerlifting for a while, I’ve decided to do something I never imagined I would ever do.

Later this year, I’m going to compete in my first physique show.

A couple of years ago, I wrote off the idea of ever training for a bodybuilding contest because I thought it was too hard and I would be uncomfortable posing in front of a large group of people.

Now, I’ve decided to tackle that challenge head on.

So what changed my mind?

Growing up, I was never very confident in myself, and I would never get out of my comfort zone because I was too afraid.

I was able to finally gain some confidence once I started building muscle. Since high school, I’ve put on 40 pounds of muscle, gotten my dream job as a personal trainer at a great facility, bought a house at just 25 years old and gotten married to the girl of my dreams.

If you had told me when I was in college I would have done any of these things by the age of 27, I would have told you that you were crazy.

If you had told me I was training for a physique competition, I would have probably laughed in your face.

Now, I’m challenging myself to do something I never thought I could do.

Sure, I will face many challenges along the way.

It’s going to be tough because I need to make sure I’m eating the right foods in the right amounts every single day. I also need to make sure I’m getting enough sleep and recovering from my workouts. As the competition gets closer, my diet and training are going to be even more strict than they are now. That means I’m going to have to make some social sacrifices as well.

I know it’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be well worth it because I’m going to have a physique I’ve always wanted and one that not too many other people are willing to put in the effort to have.

My progress in May 2016

My progress in May 2016

To help me, I hired a contest prep coach. It’s made everything a whole lot easier. Even though I’m a coach, I still need accountability and guidance. I think we all do.

(If you’re looking for guidance on your training, check out my coaching page)

What’s one thing right now you wish you could do but have never built up the confidence to try?

It certainly doesn’t have to be training for a bodybuilding show. It can be something like going for a job you never thought you could have.

Whatever it is, figure out what’s holding you back from achieving that goal. Are you scared to fail? Does starting it seem too daunting of a task?

Right now, I want you to write down one actionable thing you can do right now to move closer to that goal.

Using the job example from above, maybe that entails doing some research on what type of skills/credentials someone in the position you want needs. You could also reach out to someone in that position and ask him or her what he or she did to land that job.

Whatever you choose to do, make it really easy. You’re more likely to follow through if you give yourself lots of small, simple tasks rather than one large one.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this post, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. My e-mail is

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Can You Guarantee More Muscle and Strength?


If you can never seem to get anywhere with your training, don’t worry.

I’m about to reveal to you the most effective methods to see progress. We’re talking about bigger gains in both muscle and strength!

And you know what’s funny – these keys have absolutely nothing to do with training or nutrition!

I love reading self-improvement books because I’m always trying to make myself better.

Recently, I read Essentialism, by Greg McKeown. In a nutshell, the book discusses the advantage of being an “essentialist” – someone who chooses to focus only on things that are absolutely necessary to reaching major goals.

While the entire book is pure gold, in my opinion, one chapter in particular stood out to me.

In a chapter titled “Progress,” McKeown discusses a study that reveals the two main internal motivators for people:

  1. Achievement
  2. Recognition for achievement

McKeown elaborates that the “essentialist” always starts small and gets big results and also celebrates small acts of progress.

The “nonessentialist” begins with a big goal and gets small results while also going for the flashiest wins.

The concept makes complete sense. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to have lots of small wins along the way.

By creating small wins for yourself every day, you’re going to be happier and more productive.

A prime example of a way in which I took a “nonessentialist” approach was with my bench press. Back in college, I would try for a one-rep max all the time.

Instead of building up the weight each week, I would just randomly decide that day I was going to go for it all. More often than not, I would miss the attempt and feel terrible about myself the rest of the workout because I couldn’t improve.

Had I simply started at a lower weight and added five pounds to the bar every week, I would have had a much better chance of reaching my goal weight because I would have been working on improving my technique.

This is one of the reasons a 5×5 program works so well for beginners or for those who have reached a plateau in their training.

Pick a few compound exercises like the back squat, bench press, deadlift and military press. Then, start at a light weight you know you can easily do. Leave your ego at the door.

Let’s say you have alternate between an “A” and a “B” program and train three days per week. Your program would probably look something like this:


Back Squat, 5 sets of 5 reps

Bench Press, 5 sets of 5 reps

Deadlift, 5 sets of 5 reps


Back Squat, 5 sets of 5 reps

Military Press, 5 sets of 5 reps

Bent-Over Row, 5 sets of 5 reps

You’ll have two warm-up sets and three working sets for each exercise. Your “working” sets will all be at the same weight. A sample back squat workout may look like this:

Set 1: 95 pounds

Set 2: 125 pounds

Set 3: 145 pounds

Set 4: 145 pounds

Set 5: 145 pounds

Pretty simple, right?

Then, your next workout would look something like this:

Set 1: 95 pounds

Set 2: 130 pounds

Set 3: 150 pounds

Set 4: 150 pounds

Set 5: 150 pounds

You just lifted 15 pounds more than you did your last workout during your “working sets.” That’s huge progress. If you continue adding five pounds to your squat workouts the next 10 times, your workout would look something like this:

Set 1: 115 pounds

Set 2: 165 pounds

Set 3: 200 pounds

Set 4: 200 pounds

Set 5: 200 pounds

If you’re following the 5×5 template above training three days per week, not only did you increase the weight on your working sets by 50 pounds, but you also increased the total weight lifted on your working sets by 150 pounds.

And all that happened in less than four weeks!

It’s amazing what can happen over a long period of time when you focus on small wins every day.

Now, obviously, you won’t be able to add weight forever, but you can still practice progressive overload.

Sometimes, your sets will look like this:

Set 1: 115 pounds

Set 2: 165 pounds

Set 3: 200 pounds (5 reps)

Set 4: 200 pounds (4 reps)

Set 5: 200 pounds (2 reps)

In this case, you got 11 of the 15 reps for which you were aiming on your three working sets. So next time, shoot for at least 12 of the 15 reps. Keep using this method until you complete all 15 reps. Then, add weight.

Once you’ve reached your goals, give yourself a “mini-reward.” Obviously, you can always have ice cream and pizza or something like that, but you can also buy yourself a new book you’ve been wanting to read or get a new lifting shirt.

The possibilities are endless!

These rules apply also to adjusting your nutrition.

Instead of completely overhauling your diet, add one habit at a time. If you set up an elaborate 4,000-calorie diet for yourself to put on size, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

You’re going to follow it for maybe a few days and then fall off because it’s really hard to make that many changes at once. Instead, focus on adjusting one thing at a time.

First, focus on eating a solid breakfast every day. Once you’re able to eat a compliant breakfast at least 90 percent of the time over a long period of time, add another habit.

By making changes that are so easy you can’t fail, you’ll be much happier and see greater gains. If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll feel like a failure and end up right back where you started.


1. Focus on progressive overload. Pick lots of compound barbell exercises like squats, overhead presses and deadlifts, and add weight incrementally. You’ll be constantly succeeding.

2. Keep a training journal. You’ll be able to visibly see your small successes on a day-to-day basis. Also, you’ll know exactly what to lift each time and eliminate any guessing.

3. Instead of creating an elaborate nutrition program for yourself, add one habit at a time and don’t change anything else until you stick with that first habit for at least a couple of weeks.

4. Reward yourself for accomplishing your goals.

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The 7-Step Muscle-Building Checklist


Back in my college days, the gym was my sanctuary.

I loved exercising so much I would sometimes spend four or five hours at a time working out. I would lift for two hours before heading to the basketball courts for some pick-up games.

I dreamed of getting bigger and stronger like some of the other guys I saw in the weight room. I would see others heaving up massive amounts of weight while I plateaued.

Why couldn’t I make those kinds of gains? I spent endless hours in the gym only to look and perform the same day in and day out.

My bench press never went up, and I couldn’t buy a pound of muscle.

At some point, we all face the dreaded workout plateau. We feel like we’re training hard, yet having nothing to show despite our tremendous efforts.

If you haven’t gotten any bigger or stronger, don’t worry. It happens. I’ve been there.

So how do you start making gains if it seems like nothing you do works?

I’m going to take you through the seven crucial questions (in order), you must ask yourself if you want to stop being a weakling and start building the muscle and strength you’ve always wanted.

1. Do you have a structured program?

Well, duh.

Of course you’ve got to actually have a workout program. Still, so many gym-goers have no idea what they’re going to do each time they set foot in the gym.

Winging it won’t cut it.

Walking into the gym and bench pressing the same weight for the same number of reps every time won’t get you stronger.

You’ve got to make sure you pick a plan and stick to it.

When I was in college, I went to the gym often, but just did whatever I felt like doing that day. If I felt like doing some bicep curls, I did bicep curls. I had no way of tracking whether I was getting stronger in any lift.

If you have no consistency, you can never measure progress.

Whether your goal is strength development, muscle gain or fat loss, you’ve got to first get strong before worrying about anything else.

Drop sets, rest-pause sets and burnout sets will do you no good if you’re weak.

So how do you organize a proper strength training program?

While you can make gains doing a number of programs, the basics still apply to everyone.

Linear periodization works really well for beginning lifters. If you haven’t touched a weight before or have lifted improperly throughout your training career, even if you’ve been working out for 20 years, you’re still considered a beginner.

Rather than hitting your biceps and triceps from five different angles, you’re going to focus on progressively overloading your musculoskeletal system using compound exercises. That’s the fastest way to progress.

You’re going to focus on adding weight to the bar every time with exercises like the squat, bench press, deadlift and military press.

You’ve got to earn the right to perform more complicated exercises by mastering the basics. Until you’ve reached a certain level of strength, you have no business adding in fancy exercises. By improving your technique, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of gains. Who wouldn’t want that?

As a beginner, you also have more potential to increase strength by performing exercises that allow you to move the heaviest load. You can increase the weight only so much doing front delt raises, while you can add a substantial amount of weight with a military press.

Some of you may be thinking – “I don’t care about getting stronger. I just want to get bigger.”

Even if your goal is increasing muscle mass as a skinny dude, you’re going to benefit far more from doing a program with predominantly compound exercises.

Come on, do you seriously think getting a “pump” from curling a 40-pound dumbbell with terrible form is going to do anything for you? How many big bench pressers do you see walking around with puny arms?

Your new workout program

If you’re looking for a program that’s going to get you stronger and set you up for a lifetime of gains, look no farther than this 5×5 routine.


Back Squat 5 sets x 5 reps

Bench Press 5 sets x 5 reps

Deadlift 5 sets x 5 reps


Back Squat 5 sets x 5 reps

Military Press 5 sets x 5 reps

Bent-Over Row 5 sets x 5 reps

I know what you’re thinking – “I’m only doing five exercises!”

Remember, you need to master the lifts that are going to give you the most bang for your buck in the muscle and strength department.

Train three times per week, alternating between the “A” and “B” workouts. Start with an extremely light weight (for many people, this may be just the barbell) and focus on grooving your technique before adding weight. Add five to 10 pounds to the bar each workout. Use two warm-up sets for each exercise before doing three “working” sets at the same weight.

If you’re working up to 135 pounds for your three working sets in a particular exercise that day, you can do a warm-up set at 95 pounds and a second warm-up set at 115 pounds.

Keep a workout journal!

It may seem tacky, but how are you going to know if you’re making progress if you don’t know if you’re lifting more weight each time.

Don’t go off memory. Clearly, that hasn’t worked for you up to this point.

Get a sound program before worrying about anything else.

2. Are you truly following your program?

Nine times out of 10, you don’t need to go any farther than this step.

Adherence is the most important factor for making gains in your strength training program. If you’re not really doing the program, you’ve got to buckle down and stick to the plan.

Don’t change workouts every couple of weeks. You’re never going to know if you’re making progress if you never follow a program for a consistent period of time.

It doesn’t matter if your favorite bodybuilder releases a new workout that helped him gain 20 pounds of muscle. You’ve got to stick with your original plan to know if it’s going to work.

Sure, that new program may work great, but no program works well if it’s not carried out in its entirety.

Skipping workouts or adding in extra exercises will get you nowhere.

The nice thing about the gym is you get out of it exactly what you put into it. If you put in a consistent effort for a long period of time, you’re going to see results. Plain and simple.

If you miss workouts or don’t execute your workouts according to plan, you’re not going to like the results.

If you find yourself missing a number of workouts, you may need to ask yourself if you’re following a program sustainable for your lifestyle. Don’t try to train six days a week if you’re working two jobs or have lots of other commitments. You’re just setting yourself up for failure.

On the other hand, you may have the time to workout, you’re just not prioritizing it. If something is a priority, you should make time for it rather than find time for it.

Instead of waking up late every morning because you stayed up too late the night before, you may consider going to bed earlier so you can get up and train first thing in the morning.

Schedule a workout just like a meeting. Don’t let anything get in the way of it.

You’ve also got to consider whether your effort level is up to par. It’s easy to walk into a gym, but it’s hard to push yourself in the gym if you’ve lined yourself up with distractions.

When you’re lifting, you shouldn’t be doing any of the following:

-playing on your phone

-talking on the phone (just put your dang phone away when you’re at the gym!)

-checking yourself out in the mirror

-talking to others for extended periods of time between sets

-playing around with other equipment (i.e. dribbling a basketball when you’re supposed to be squatting)

Focus on your lifts! In today’s fast-paced society, it’s easy to get sidetracked doing just about anything. Don’t let technology or your laziness get in the way of a good workout.

How to improve adherence

In order to gain weight and build muscle, you’ve got to have a S.T.R.O.N.G. approach:

Specific focus – Is all of your training in line with your most important goal? If not, you better stop doing things that are wasting your time.

Time-sensitive goal – Do you have a deadline for your goal? Just like due dates for homework, they make you get things done.

Reason to change – Why is building muscle or getting stronger important to you? If you don’t know, you won’t change.

Organized lifestyle – Is your daily schedule conducive to your goals to build muscle or get stronger? If not, you better change some things.

Never-give-up attitude – Keep your head up. You’re never going to get anywhere with your goals if you don’t put in the work.

Great support system – Do you hang around people with similar goals as you? If not, you better find some new friends.

3. Is your form correct?

You can follow a perfectly designed workout and get terrible results.

Say what?

The execution of a program is far more important than the program itself because if you’re not doing the exercises properly, you’re not going to make any gains.

It’s equivalent to showing up for school every day, but still failing all your tests. You showed up every day, but you obviously didn’t learn the material well enough to pass the test.

Is your form right? If not, you may consider hiring a coach.

You need to understand how you learn best.

If you’re a visual learner, you may be fine watching videos on YouTube to correct your form. You can check out the Luke Briggs Fitness YouTube page to find lots of free videos on exercise technique.

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you may be better off hiring a coach to watch you exercise.

So how do you choose the right coach for you? Here’s what you should look for when hiring a coach.

1. Have others had a positive experience with him or her? In the age of the internet, you can search for feedback on just about anyone. If you don’t see any testimonials for him or her, you should be wary of working with this person. It’s even better if a close friend or relative recommends someone to you.

2. Does he or she specialize in the area in which you’re trying to improve? You wouldn’t hire a dentist to do your taxes. Along those same lines, you shouldn’t hire someone who runs large group bootcamps to prep you for a physique show. Whatever your goal, make sure you hire someone effective at training people precisely for that goal.

So get that form down because flailing your body around like you’re having convulsions won’t get you bigger or stronger and could get you hurt and make you look like a fool.

4. Is all of your training in line with your most important goal?

Ever heard the term “jack of all trades, master of none?”

Unfortunately, that term applies to far too many people in the weight room.

You can make only so much progress if you don’t have a focus with your training.

You’ve got to pick a goal and eliminate anything you’re doing outside of your training that negatively impacts your goal.

If you want to get big and strong, you can’t play basketball for two hours after a hard lifting session and run five miles the next day.

If your goal is to be able to lift as much weight as possible, don’t have too much volume in your program. Adding in drop sets and including lots of slow negatives will heavily fatigue your body and create muscle soreness.

If you’re an athlete, you shouldn’t be lifting heavy every single day because you’re lifting to improve at your sport, not to become a great lifter.

You’ve got to consider the purpose of your training. What’s the main reason you’re working out?

If you’re the type of person who likes to sample different types of workouts every week, just understand you won’t reach your potential on any one aspect of fitness.

Playing a game of tennis on Monday, going for a five-mile run on Tuesday, attempting a one-rep max on a deadlift on Wednesday and doing a CrossFit workout on Thursday may be fun, but you’ll never truly excel in any of these activities if you don’t have a focus.

The best tennis players play a lot of tennis and not much else. The top runners log a lot of miles and do little else. The best powerlifters lift weights and don’t do many other activities.

It’s fine if you’re an explorer who likes to try lots of different activities – just don’t get frustrated if your skill level never matches that of your competition.

Basic guidelines for building muscle

Regardless of your goals, you need to focus on getting strong first. Getting a “pump” won’t help you build muscle if you’re weak. Start with three full-body workouts per week and focus on getting stronger each workout. If your goal is to get as strong as possible, you may not need to add in extra workouts or more volume if you’re continuing to make gains.

To gain weight, you need to be in a caloric surplus, consuming more calories than you burn off. If you’re looking to add muscular size, you’ve got to be sure you eat a lot because nutrition is more important than training for gaining muscle weight.

Just like with anything else in life, consistency is king for building muscle. If you’re not going to the gym several days per week every week, tracking your progress or eating plenty of high-quality food every day, you’re not going to see much in terms of gains.

5. Is your nutrition and recovery on point?

Assuming you don’t have freakish genetics, you’ll find it rather difficult to make gains as a lifter if you eat like crap and sleep poorly.

Your body adapts to your workouts only if you provide it with adequate fuel and recuperation.

Things to consider

1. Are you sleeping at least 7 or 8 hours per night?

Your body releases its greatest concentration of growth hormone while you sleep. A lack of quality sleep can not only decrease anabolic hormone levels, but increase concentrations of catabolic hormones (Cook, Kilduff and Jones; 2014).

If you’re not sleeping enough, why aren’t you sleeping? Are you getting too wound up right before bed? Are you drinking caffeine too late in the day? Are you not getting enough done during the day and saving it until late at night?

Whatever the reason, figure it out because your lack of shut-eye is killing your gains!

2. Are you consuming the appropriate number of calories for your goal?

As long as your metabolism is balanced, the number of calories you consume is the most important factor in determining whether you gain weight, lose weight or maintain your current weight.

To gain weight, you must be in a caloric surplus (take in more energy than you burn off). To lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit (expend more energy than you take in). To maintain your weight, you should balance your calorie intake and energy expenditure.

Do you even know how much you’re eating each day? If not, you better figure it out. It’s going to be a bit of work, but you should start by tracking your food and liquid intake in a journal every day. From there, you can make adjustments to match your diet with your goals.

3. Are you consuming the right types of nutrients?

Are you eating whole, unprocessed foods? Loading up on pizza, ice cream and candy may satisfy your taste buds, but won’t do you much good over the long haul.

Protein has been, and always will be, the most talked about macronutrient for muscle growth. Increasing your lean body mass will help you build muscle, increase strength and burn fat. Be sure to include a complete protein source with every meal – foods like chicken, beef, steak, eggs and fish.

Carbohydrates provide fuel for your body, especially during high-intensity exercise like strength training. So if you want to build muscle and get stronger, add foods like rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa and oats to your diet.

Add some fats in to support the production of hormones. Cook your foods in healthy oils like coconut and olive oil and add nuts, seeds and avocados to your salads.

Sample muscle-building diet

Here’s a plan to follow if you’re consuming 3,400 calories per day.

4 whole eggs
½ cup broccoli

3 ounces lean ground beef
5 slices Ezekiel bread
1 cup spinach

MEAL #3 (1.5-2 hours pre-workout)
1 serving protein powder
1.5 cups raw oats

1 serving protein powder
100 grams maltodextrin

MEAL #4 (within 2 hours post-workout)
4 ounces chicken breast
2 cups white rice

4 ounces tilapia
1 cup quinoa
½ cup green beans

3 ounces steak
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
½ cup cauliflower

6. Are you doing a little bit more each workout?

Bench pressing 135 pounds for four sets of 10 reps every time you set foot in the gym isn’t going to get you anywhere.

You need to lift a little more weight and work a little harder each time.

Hans Selye is credited with first describing General Adaptation Syndrome in 1950. A workout must have ample volume and intensity to cause overload, leading to fatigue (the alarm phase) and supercompensation. That’s a positive adaptation (Rosenblatt, 247).

That’s why having a training journal is actually beneficial. Instead of trying to guess what you lifted during your last session, you can just look at your notes. You need to progressively overload your musculoskeletal system to create adaptation.

Simple linear periodization (i.e. adding weight to the bar each workout) works really well for a while. Here’s what it looks like if you have the following workout:

Squat 3 sets x 5 reps

Bench Press 3 sets x 5 reps

Bent-Over Row 3 sets x 5 reps


Squat 135 135 135

Bench Press 125 125 125

Bent-Over Row 115 115 115


Squat 140 140 140

Bench Press 130 130 130

Bent-Over Row 120 120 120


Squat 145 145 145

Bench Press 135 135 135

Bent-Over Row 125 125 125

Simple, right? In this example, all you’re doing is adding five pounds to the bar each workout. But since you’re increasing the weight for all three sets each workout, you’re increasing the total amount of weight lifted during the workout and disturbing the integrity of your musculoskeletal system to a greater degree, leading to increased strength and muscle growth.

Obviously, a linear approach won’t work forever. Once you stop making gains with that approach, it’s time to make slight adjustments to your workout by manipulating the volume and intensity. You’re still going to try to increase the weight over time – just at a slower pace.

Since your body can now handle heavier loads, you’re not necessarily going to be fully recovered in time to increase the weight lifted for the next workout. That’s why you’ve got to have certain days of lifting heavy and certain days in which you reduce the load.

Your body can handle only as much volume as from which you can recover. Don’t train six days per week if you’re feeling sore and beat up constantly. You’re better off starting at three days per week. Only when you stop making gains should you add either more workouts or more volume to your current training days.

How to progress your workouts

Continue with linear progression for as long as you can because adding weight to the bar every time if the fastest way to make progress. After a while, you’ll reach a point in which you can no longer progress in that fashion. At this point, you’ve got to drop the weight slightly and begin using linear progression again.

For example, if you can’t bench press 185 pounds for five reps, drop the weight down about 10 percent to 165 pounds and continue to add weight each week. Hopefully, after a slight back-off period, you’ll be able to hit 185 pounds for five reps and continue progressing.

Once you stall multiple times, it’s time to stop with linear progression and manipulate the volume and intensity within your workouts. Since you’re now moving very heavy loads consistently, you’ve got to have workouts with lower intensity during the week. In other words, you’ve got to throw in an “easy” workout each week. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lift anything over 10 pounds, but you need to back off the weight a little bit and work on your technique.

For example, if your best back squat is 200 pounds for five reps, you should have one workout during the week in which you squat maybe 150 pounds for five reps to allow for recovery. If you follow a three-day-per-week routine, continue to progress with sets of five reps on Monday, have a light day of two sets of five reps on Wednesday and then go for a two- or three-rep max on Friday.

7. Are you in an environment conducive to your goals?

If you want to lift heavy, you probably don’t want to train at your local family gym.

To get serious results, you’ve got to place yourself in an environment conducive to achieving those results.

Lifting around people who don’t care about results or who come to the gym to socialize will hinder your progress.

If you’re struggling to get past a certain weight on a lift, you probably want a group of supportive folks surrounding you to push you to the next level.

Studies have shown people perform better when listening to music that pumps them up. In one study, researchers investigated whether resistance-trained collegiate men showed altered performance in the bench press and squat jumps when listening to self-selected music vs. no music. The study found improved performance during an explosive exercise and a better mood state when participants listened to the music of their choosing (Biagini et. al, 2012).

So picking your own jams can make your workouts better. Well, duh.

Another study found no difference in performance between stimulative music and silence, but found a decrease in performance when subjects listened to sedative music (Kravitz, 1994).

So that light jazz mix playing at your local health club is actually slowing you down. Either put on some headphones or find another gym – or both.

Take a look around your gym and honestly assess the situation. Is your training facility full of people you want to look like? If not, find another place to workout.

Tips for creating the perfect gym environment

Pick a gym in which people with similar goals as you lift. Don’t go to your local family Anytime Fitness if your goal is to train for maximal strength. You want to feed off the energy of your environment. If other strong people are around you, it will motivate you to be better.

Eliminate any distractions. Get rid of your phone and leave other thoughts and stresses behind.

Listen to your favorite music. You’ll feel much more energized if you lift to music that gets you going.


Biagini, MS, LE Brown, JW Coburn, DA Judelson, TA Statler, M Bottaro, TT Tran, and NA Longo. “Effects of self-selected music on strength, explosiveness, and mood.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(7): 1934-1938, 2012.

Cook, Christian J., Liam P. Kilduff, and Marc R. Jones. “Recovering Effectively in High-Performance Sports.” High-Performance Training for Sports. N.p.: Human Kinetics, 2014. 325. Print.

Kravitz, Len. “The effects of music on exercise.” IDEA Fitness Journal, 12(9), 56-61, 1994.

Rosenblatt, Benjamin. “Planning a Performance Programme.” High-Performance Training for Sports. N.p.: Human Kinetics, 2014. 247. Print.

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The Simple Solution for Skinny Hard Gainers


The skinny struggle is real.

In every weight room across America, you’ll see guys who have been coming to the gym day-in and day-out and still look like the same wiry-framed individuals they were a year earlier.

They read all the muscle magazines and take every mass gain supplement known to man yet can’t buy a pound of muscle.

On the other hand, you’ve got dudes who can simply touch a weight and grow. Heck, they can even miss a couple of weeks here and there and still get yoked.

Not fair, right? Then again, life’s not fair.

If you’re scrawny, you can easily put on size. You’ve just got to work a little harder than others.

Let’s discuss common pitfalls with your current training and nutrition (yes, I said nutrition) regimen and what changes you need to make to get that muscular frame you’ve always craved.

Read more HERE.

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6 Biggest “Skinny Guy” Training Mistakes

Here’s the workout of a typical gym bro.

Walk into the gym and maybe do a couple arm circles with a five-pound plate. Next, head to the bench press and perform sets of eight to 10 reps. In between sets, check yourself out in the mirror and play on your phone for three or four minutes before continuing.

You guard the bench like your life depends on it because you don’t want another soul taking over your precious bench press station.

After you’ve been at the bench for 20 or more minutes, you make your way over to the dumbbell rack and bust out endless sets of bicep curls, tricep extensions and lateral raises. You might add in a few pull ups or single-arm rows if you feel like it.

You walk back and forth between the water fountain and dumbbell rack with your headphones blaring while constantly checking your phone. You don’t want to be away from your dumbbells too long because someone might take them, so you sit on a bench next to them.

You have no intention of continuing your set until you post that last selfie you took of yourself in your cut-off t-shirt.

You constantly walk right past the squat rack because, honestly, who needs to work their legs? How are you going to get a pump from doing things squats, deadlifts and lunges?

Besides, you can’t flex your legs in front of the mirror.

Months go by, and you’re still doing the same workout with the same weight every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You haven’t really seen any gains, but you like going to the gym so you can get a pump going and look bigger than you actually are.

Don’t be the typical gym bro.

Be better than that.

So where do you even start? How do you design a good muscle-building routine?

Let’s first go over some of the biggest mistakes skinny guys make.

Mistake #1: Not using proper form and using too much weight

By far, the biggest mistake skinny guys (and most guys, for that matter) make in the weight room is not using proper form. Just because the guy next to you is lifting heavier weight doesn’t mean you should.

Your body doesn’t know how much weight you’re lifting. All it knows is the amount of tension it feels. You can make a 25-pound dumbbell feel like 50 pounds if you lift it in a slow and controlled manner.

Tension is arguably the most important variable for muscle growth. Have you ever watched world-class bodybuilders train?

Guys like Phil Heath and Kai Greene execute each lift with such precision. You won’t ever see them flailing their bodies around trying to match the weight the bro next to them uses.

Get it into your head – lifting weight you can’t control will get you absolutely nowhere.

Check your ego at the door because your pride is getting in the way of your gains. You’ll get stronger if you use proper form. Do you honestly still want to be lifting the same weight a year from now?

Before I became a personal trainer, I thought I knew how to perform every exercise correctly.

I had been lifting for years. Of course I knew what I was doing.

Oh wait.

Maybe the fact I had looked essentially the same the past five years was because of my crappy form.

Once I started working under the guidance of a trainer and had someone actually show me how to use proper form, I learned quickly I had been lifting completely wrong for years.

Maybe I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.

Don’t think you know everything because, if you did, you would probably be jacked out of your mind right now.

Watching online videos on proper technique is a good start, especially if you’re a visual learner. If you’re a kinesthetic learner like me, you should seek the help of a top-notch experienced lifter or a qualified professional.

Stop trying to muscle through the weight. You’re not getting anywhere using terrible form.

Trust me, I know from experience.

Mistake #2: Not working legs

Ah, legs day.

The workout nearly every gym bro in the world does anything to avoid.

Walk into almost any commercial gym, and you’ll find dust piling up in the squat rack.

But did you know working your lower body can help your upper body grow?

Say what?

Did I just blow your mind?

Look at top bodybuilders like Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman.

Do they have skinny legs? Absolutely not.

Researchers have found because testosterone and growth hormone are released by your body following a leg workout, you may have a better chance of increasing the size of your arms and upper body.

Plus, you don’t want to completely ignore one half of your body and end up with pencil legs.

So start adding in those squats, deadlifts, RDLs and lunges. Believe it or not, they can actually help you grow your guns.

Mistake #3: Taking too much rest between sets

While it’s sometimes OK to rest a few minutes between sets to allow your body to recover from an intense set of squats or deadlifts, you have no business wasting five minutes between a set of bicep curls or tricep extensions.

A big mistake skinny guys make is spending way too much time in the weight room. A workout should never take you two hours.

If you’re taking that long, you may actually be doing more harm than good. After a certain amount of time and once your energy stores are depleted, your body begins producing a muscle-wasting hormone called cortisol.

If you don’t have enough fuel from food to get you through a workout, your body will start pulling from other things in your body to use for energy – including muscle.

So you can have a great workout, but if you train for too long, you can end up killing your gains.

Keep your workouts under an hour. Don’t count your warm-up or cool-down period, but you shouldn’t lift for more than 60 minutes.

For your strength exercises (one to five reps), rest two to five minutes between sets. In other words, just rest until you feel fully recovered before you begin your next set. Strength exercises are compound lifts like the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Yes, I said the squat and deadlift. Yes, those are legs exercises.

I’ll say it again. If you want to put on some serious size, work your lower body.

For assistance exercises (six or more reps), you shouldn’t recover fully between sets because the goal is to drive as much blood to the area as possible to create the “pump” you’re chasing.

Simply doing your current workout faster will probably net you better results.

Next time you’re in the gym, take a watch and actually track the amount of time you take between sets. You’ll be astonished how much time you’re wasting.

So stop procrastinating between sets and get to work. Watch your results improve dramatically.

Mistake #4: Doing too much cardio

I’ve always been a huge fan of sports, whether it’s watching my favorite teams on TV or playing against my friends.

During college, I absolutely loved playing basketball. In fact, I would often play three or four days per week for two or three hours each time.

A lot of times, I would play basketball and lift weights back to back.

So I would be in the gym for between three and five hours. It was awesome.

But seeing as my main goal was to build muscle and bulk up, I was making a huge mistake.

I wondered why I never seemed to get much bigger or stronger despite spending so much time in the gym. Maybe it’s because I was performing cardio-based exercise six or more hours per week.

If you’re a skinny guy who truly wants to put on size, you’ve got to minimize the amount of additional exercise you do outside the weight room.

That means no long runs and no marathon basketball games.

Once again, you’ve got to have a specific focus with your training if you want to get jacked.

If you love playing basketball, soccer, racquetball or another sport, by all means do it. Just play for 30 minutes two days per week instead of two hours four days per week.

Mistake #5: Not bracing your core during sets

One of my biggest “a-ha” moments came watching a video of two fitness professionals discussing the concept of “bracing” your abs to help improve your pull-ups.

I had never heard of that before.

The next time I had pull-ups in my routine, I tried flexing my abs before I pulled myself up.

It was like I was feeling my back muscles for the first time.

Then, I tried the same thing doing bicep curls. I felt my biceps like I hadn’t ever felt them before.

To truly isolate a muscle group, you need to learn the concept of bracing your core.

Here’s how you do it – if someone were to attempt to punch you in the stomach, what would you do?

You would flex or tighten your abs.

When you’re working a muscle group, you don’t want your body to flail around like a fish out of water.

Once again, you’ve got to control the weight. If you can’t, then go down in weight.

You’re doing yourself no good trying to curl 60-pound dumbbells. No one is impressed – not even the girls on the cardio machines. In fact, they’re not even watching you because you look absolutely ridiculous.

So before you perform any exercise, tighten your abs. You’ll feel muscles you never even knew you had.

Mistake #6: Lifting the weight too fast on your assistance exercises

We’ve discussed this already, but it’s worth mentioning again. You’ve got to work on controlling the weight.

Watch bodybuilders train.

They’ll contract their muscles at the top of a movement and lower the weight under control.

Keeping a weight in the same plane of motion is extremely important. To build muscle, you’ve got to keep tension on it the entire set.

If you’re performing a dumbbell bench press and you’re not keeping the weight in the same arc the entire time, you’re doing no good.

Work on lowering the weight for two or three seconds and exploding the weight up under control, with no or minimal deviation in the plane of motion.

Slow down bro! Show that you own the movement.

You control the weights. Don’t let the weights control you.

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Smarter Science for Swol-Tastic Muscle Growth


Enough with this “hardgainer” mentality people. There is a reason why the vast majority of people, both male and female, have a damn hard time putting on lean muscle mass and taking their bodies to the next level, and sometimes end up flabby and soft in the process.

Hypertrophy isn’t achieved through random acts of strength training alone as most assume. The mechanism of hypertrophy is actually one of the more complicated muscle adaptions in all of sport and fitness.  This week we have Luke Briggs back on JRx dispelling muscle building myths, and laying down what exact variables need to be addressed to pack on a little muscle armor.

Read more HERE.


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SMARTER SCIENCE FOR SWOL-TASTIC MUSCLE GROWTHWant to know how many days per week you should train and how many sets…

Posted by Luke Briggs Fitness on Thursday, September 3, 2015


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Think You Can’t Afford Healthy Food? Think Again.

I’ll keep it short and to the point this week. Some people often argue they can’t get food that’s “all-natural,” “organic” or “grass-fed” because they don’t have enough money.

I recently ran across an article from USA Today titled “20 ways Americans are blowing their money,” and it discusses a number of ways you don’t even realize you’re wasting your hard-earned cash. I’ve listed a few of the big ones below.

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