Greg Nuckols on Squats, Progressive Overload, and Muscle Gain

In this 3-part interview, I meet with Greg Nuckols of, we talk about a variety of topics including how he started out in the industry and has come to speak internationally in such a short period of time, how crucial he feels it is to read research yourself versus rely on a research review, the hilarity of consuming too many blueberries and much, much more.


Part 1 – Greg Nuckols on Keeping up with the Research and the Science of Strength

Selected links

Show notes

  • How Greg felt about presenting at a fitness conference. – Greg described presenting with Eric Helms and Mike Tuchscherer as a surreal and great experience. [2:00]

  • How Greg started. – The story of how Greg got started in the industry until now, where he is invited to speak internationally. Greg didn’t feel like his formal education is really meaningful. Greg learned out of genuine curiosity as to why things are true. Greg started writing on because of the encouragement of his wife. Next, Greg started to offer online training because he was moving cities. Greg decided not to go back to school, and instead worked with his wife, Lindsay, to focus on their online business. [3:00]

  • Greg as a speaker. – Greg doesn’t take himself too seriously, even through his material is very data driven. Greg also doesn’t feel like he is on the same level as others with a more formal education. [7:30]

  • Contradicting studies. – Greg explains why this myth exists and how he recommends you critique research findings. Greg mentions different populations, different methods of data collection, different methods of study design, or statistical change. Greg admits that single studies can be wrong, but that’s where a larger body of research is valuable. [9:30]

  • People caught in an “echo chamber.” – Greg thinks that people are generally not cherry picking, but instead are caught in an echo chamber. If you are not spending time on PubMed, you are simply unaware of the information that is out there. [17:15]

  • Hanlon’s Razor. – “Do not ascribe to malice what can be adequately ascribed to stupidity.” [19:00]

  • The Dunning-Kruger effect. – What you think you know versus what you actually know. People who didn’t know much on a topic tend to overestimate how much they know. Greg thinks that more people should use the statement, “I think.” [20:30]

  • Keeping up with research. – How crucial is keeping up with research yourself versus relying on a research review? What Greg recommends you do. Most of the time, Greg recommends to let other people model how to interpret research. If you struggle to read a paper, it is likely not relevant to you. Research reviews, such as MASS, are also available. Sometimes, Greg feels that other people’s interpretations of papers are incorrect. [27:15]

Part 2 – Greg Nuckols on Benching, Blueberries, and Protein

Selected links

Show notes

  • Pineapple on Pizza? Greg thinks, yes. Andy’s odd Japan pizza experiences. [1:45]

  • Ben Carpenter vs. Greg Nuckols. Is Greg really in Andy’s “Top 3?” [2:45]

  • Beard Care. Genetics is really what’s responsible for a great beard, according to Greg. [3:45]

  • Greg’s blueberry intake. Greg usually has one pint of blueberries per day, but it is not the secret to his intelligence. Greg warns not to eat too many blueberries. [4:45]

  • Is there anything Greg does not know? Greg is really good at steering a conversation into things he knows a lot about. [7:30]

  • Why did Greg stop posting on YouTube? Greg feels that the YouTube fitness industry is “cancerous.” He thinks the reason is due to the highly visual nature of the content and the audience’s knowledge. [8:00]

  • Greg on Protein Intake Articles: Jorn Trommelen vs. Eric Helms. Greg speaks to the differences between “Perfecting Protein Intake in Athletes” by Jorn Trommelen and “Reflecting on Five Years of Protein Research” by Eric Helms. The difference really boils down to what research you are looking at and how you balance the research. The newest research has shown that muscle protein synthesis does not show different recommended amount of protein based on lean body mass. Jorn will add an addendum to the article to clarify that if you get enough lucine to trigger muscle protein synthesis. [11:45].

  • Could a protein study work for lighter powerlifters? Greg would want to see if a study would work above and below the normal range. [24:15]

  • Japan’s Powerlifters. Andy and Greg talk about Powerlifters in Japan and their amazing bench pressing technique. [25:45]

  • Misapplication of science to push agendas, GMO vegetables, and wide-squats. Greg thinks you should treat information and people differently. You don’t always need to agree with people, but you should treat them with respect. [27:45]

Part 3 – Greg Nuckols Answers your Questions on Squats, Progressive Overload, and Muscle Gain

Selected links

Show notes

  • Greg on load distribution when Squatting. – How do bi-articular muscles distribute the load over the entire lower body when squatting? If this section goes a little over your head, get in-depth squatting guides and information on [1:15]

  • Greg on hamstring emphasis. – How much can we emphasize the hamstrings when sitting back when squatting? Greg digs into the research on forward knee travel and muscle activation. Ultimately, there tends to be a lot of similar muscle activation, even when squats look very different. Greg was initially skeptical of this research based on his personal experience with front squats. [9:15]

  • Progressive Overload. – How should we think of progressive overload and accumulation of volume when you are not a newbie anymore? Greg is not a fan of the term, “progressive overload.” Training stimulus relative to their capacity is key. [15:45]

  • Not pushing yourself in the gym. – Greg thinks the majority of people train like a bitch. There is a big difference between people working directly with a coach versus given a training program. There are genetic limits, but how hard you train determines how far you can progress. [23:00]

  • Is it fine to add upper body accessory work on a lower body day? – Greg says, yes. You will likely want to hit more of your upper body on different planes. [29:15]

  • What are the behaviors of people who have gained a lot of strength? – They tend to have extreme personalities. They tend to have obsessions with sleep. [32:15]

  • Can unilateral exercises be helpful in bringing up maximal strength in the big lifts? – Greg doesn’t think they build much strength directly, but it helps avoid injuries or hypotrophy. [33:45]

  • Is it optimal to put competition lifts and secondary lifts on different days? – In a perfect world, split them up. However, generally, it is better to put them into one session (based on recovery). [36:15]

  • My squat has plateaued, I’m trying to avoid leg hypertrophy, what should I do? – If your squat is not going up and you do not want to get bigger, you have simply plateaued. [37:15]

  • Should strength go up during a mesocycle? – Greg thinks your strength should improve or stay flat, most of the time. However, if you are seeing a bigger drop, you are likely over-reaching. [38:15]

  • How would you set up a power-building plan? – Powerlifting and power-building are pretty much the same. Power-building is just smart powerlifting training. [39:45]

  • Does the body adapt to cardio and burn fewer calories over time? – Yes, your body does become more efficient, to a degree. There are relatively larger differences between individuals, but the difference within an individual is small. Unless you are a competitive endurance athlete, the differences will likely not be noticeable. [41:15]

  • Is it possible to strategically drop training volume in order to resensitize for muscle growth? – Greg thinks there is something to varying the stimulus itself. However, that’s essentially why you use a periodization program. [43:45]

  • Why do we stop growing (muscle)? There is no strong data to show why. Greg doesn’t know why people stop growing. [47:15]

Thank you for listening! – Andy and Greg

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