94 Comments

  1. hey andy, have you heard about MAT:muscle activation techniques? if not search for it, it can bring you new insight on how stress causes muscle dysfunction, injury and decreased performance, the guy who created it has a podcast with Ben Pakulski talking about it; his name is greg roskopf.

  2. quick question re your powerlifting program, both of them. I currently do S/S ADV Novice on a 3×5 basis. Looking to switch to your powerlifting program yet still looking for a mix of mass thrown in in certain areas. I was wondering if switching to your program, lets say the novice for a month or so, and then to the intermediate, would lead to a decrease in muscle mass or an increase in itching from 3/5? But also due to your program having zero direct tricep/bicep work, which in S/S ADV in catered by chins or dips after each session. I also wanted to ask whether back size and i suppose strength would decrease, as with S/S back is hit nearly every day, either via a dead, a row (twice a week) or chin and whether shoulder mass would be decreased due to you only having a direct shoulder exercise once at the end of the week.

    thanks

  3. Hi Andy,

    Firstly, thank you very much. I’ve found out about your website around a month ago and now I’m completely obsessed with it. Reading as many articles as my time allows me. The knowledge you input here is ridiculously high and I am grateful for the opportunity to read concise and precise information. I am also reading your books and they are all amazing, true eye openers.

    How do you adapt Martial Arts into your weightlifting training and your diet? I’ve heard you mention in Greg’s Youtube channel that you practice Karate. It looks like a reduction in training volume would be appropriate as I believe Martial Arts (MA) training would be another stressor to the body across the week. Let’s assume we are talking about mild training and nothing close to a fighting championship prep. Would you consider this type of training similar to a “cardio” training?

    Since the MA training levels would be kept relatively constant throughout the year (as there is probably little ups and downs in intensity), I am not sure in which ballpark I should classify this type of training. Definitely nothing like training for a marathon but also not a “warm up”. I got to be really honest here and admit that I am curious on how you adapt it to your own routine as well, given your experience.

    Kind regards,
    Luke

    1. Hi Luke, thanks for the question.

      “How do you adapt training when doing Martial Arts training concurrently?”

      1. Arranging the positioning of certain exercises (lower body especially) across the week to minimize the effect of the MA training on the lifting performance, and vice versa. Which you prioritize depends on which is your priority. Based on what you have said, I’d say the lifting is the priority and you should just “embrace the suck” when you’re in the dojo.

      By way of example, Karate can be hard on the legs, especially certain stances and katas. Thus, you wouldn’t want to put a Karate session prior to a leg training session if you can help it. (Prior in this case is dependent on individual recovery time.) You could argue it the other way of course, but as I say, it depends on your priority. Compromise is needed.

      2. Reduce training volume (choose either, or a mix of both) when the above isn’t sufficient. (Related article.)

      Hope that helps, Luke.

  4. Hi Andy & Greg, if you’re still reading this.

    Why does stress/lack of sleep affect fat loss detrimentally?

    Does stress/lack of sleep just cause increased hunger, poor workouts (leading to more weight lost being muscle), and water retention (which would likely affect someone psychologically), or are there other factors that I’m missing?

    Thanks,
    Drew

    1. It interferes with recovery and calorie partitioning (how well calories are used for recovery and muscle building vs fat storage). I’m not sure of the physiological reasons for the latter.
      Thanks for the question, Drew.

  5. Hi Andy,

    Thank you so much for this great resource. Question about stress/recovery from a sport outside of resistance training: I train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 1-2 times per week in addition to 3 resistance training days. Obviously, things differ between people, but on average if you had to compensate somewhere would you prefer to add in more calories (typically carbs) in the meal after BJJ class, or cut back to two resistance training sessions per week? Or is this simply too much for an average beginner/intermediate gym guy to handle, typically?

    I don’t mean to be too specific to my situation – it can really apply to any type of exercise/sport on off days (outside of resistance training) where some short duration HIIT work is performed. Thanks for any advice you can provide in advance!

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for the question. I’d increase carbs on those days and just split it however it best sits with your preferences/comfort. Make sure you don’t eat so much that you get an upset stomach while on the mats.

  6. Andy,

    Stupid question: Let’s say my current total volume on squats is 10,000lbs. Does this mean if I switch to an IF cut that I want to aim for 60%-85% of that total volume?

    Here’s the long version of the same question with potentially irrelevant information.

    I’ve been working these past few years on building overall strength and am only now thinking again about cutting again. However, I’m not sure how exactly to calculate the best training to maintain muscle but minimize CNS stress. This article helps, but I’m confused about how to find the right target volume.

    For reference, here are some squat stats and how I’ve increased total volume over time to help break through plateaus (based on your other article with Greg).

    July 2014 (RPT): 255×6 + 230 x 8 + 210 x 10. TOTAL RPT VOLUME = 5470
    Nov. 2014 (8×4): 225x8x4 TOTAL 8×4 VOLUME = 7,200
    Nov. 2015 (Wendler wk 3): 225x5x1, 245x3x1, 275x1x1 + 155lbsx10x5. TOTAL WENDLER VOLUME = 10,130

    As you can see, I’ve roughly doubled my total volume over this last year (largely thanks to the low rep high volume programming of Wendler’s boring but big routine), but I haven’t increased PRs per lift. I’d like to cut and then return to RPT perhaps to bring up PRs.

    For the duration of the cut, I was planning to switch to an 8×3 / 3 day split routine. Am I shooting for 60%-85% of recent work capacity? In this case 6,000-8,500lbs. Or is this the wrong way of thinking about it?

    Thanks Andy! Deeply grateful for all that you do!

    1. Adam, thanks for the question. You’ll probably need to reduce volume a little so that you can still recover. It’s not possible to put a percentage on how much.

  7. Hi Andy,

    a bit late to the party, but maybe you are still reading this:

    Are there any other training adjustments I should make during a caloric deficit aside from cutting down volume? Should I still push for linear progression? My strength will usually be decreasing a few weeks into the deficit, so that would mean I’d eventually be going to failure quite often (which I usually avoid). Or should I (gasp!) lower my weights?

    1. Hi Martin, thanks for the questions.
      1. Make sure you are sleeping well and work to reduce any stress.
      2. Work to still make linear progressions as you would if you were in a calorie surplus, just know that there are limits to this (and a balance to be had) when in a calorie deficit. You can see that by the curves above – though they shift down, they’re still have areas above the x axis.

  8. Hey Andy

    Thanks for the response. I measure the food after I cook it except oatmeal.

    I use a digital measurement tool as well.

    Is there a way to test if stress is an issue?

    Is it possible if I am eating at 2k calories but training that much I need to eat more?

    1. Allen, thanks for the follow up questions.
      “Is there a way to test if stress is an issue?”
      – There is HRV testing, and there are apps for it, but it has mixed reviews from colleagues that have attempted to use it with clients concerning accuracy, so it’s not something I currently use with clients.
      – There are ways to rate your stress based on current life events, such as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, but this misses an important component which is inter-individual variation between how people respond to life events. (Example: The family pet dies – to one person this will be far more stressful than another.)
      – In summary, I would’t bother with either of the above. The fact that you’re having to ask whether you are stressed tells me that you know the answer already.

      “Is it possible if I am eating at 2k calories but training that much I need to eat more?”
      – Absolutely.

  9. Hi Andy

    If you’re maintenance calorie levels are 3000 and you are eating 2000 calories day but your waist is getting bigger is this a sign of stress wreaking havoc ?

    I’m currently 27 yrs old at 189 at around 15-20 body fat.

    Train 5 Days a week hitting each muscle group once with 30 minute cardio at 3,5 speed and 15 incline 5 days a week.

    Thanks for the response.

    1. Hi Allen, thanks for the question.
      Water retention can happen when we’re stressed, but it’s not going to lead to an increasingly expanding stomach line when in the presence of a calorie deficit. What you’re describing is typically a down to either mis-measurement, counting incorrectly, or mistaking a temporary water weight fluctuation for fat gain.

      If you have a lot of stress in your life then work to reduce it. Probably a good idea to reduce overall training volume while you get that under control.

  10. Hello Greg!! I love this article. I have a question though. When you say “Your first set or two each day will generally be your highest quality sets” does this include the warm up sets?
    I am guessing the question is no.. but I wonder how does the body know this? If I start with squats for example I wouldn’t want my first set (warm up) to be my quality set obviously, and of course for protein synthesis.

    1. Hi Dani, let me answer as I doubt whether Greg is checking back in these comments any more.

      “Highest quality” because you’re the least fatigued at this point. As the warm-up is light it won’t contribute to overall training stress/stimulus in any significant way.

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  13. Hi guys, great article. Hope you can help me out with this as I’m really in suffering…
    Been having problems with my sleep lately (wake up after 5-6 hours) and after searching intensively for the reason, some sources seem to suggest that a caloric deficit may cause this by additionally stressing the nervous system.
    Sleep is basic to reduce stress/overtraining and recovery, but is it possible that my deficit (combined with my training) is stressing my body/nervous system enough that I’m getting this response? Have you ever encountered this with any clients? In that case, what would you recommend? Do you think adjusting my training (reducing intensity/volume or removing one of the exercises) would be a good option? I was practically having no problem before, i’ve been increasing my deficit gradually…
    I’ve also thought it might be related to the change of seasons: all of a sudden it got significantly hot after a very cold winter. Any thoughts on this?
    Is it possible that IF is not for me? I find it really useful having a feeding window as I usually go overboard with eating and was always used to not having breakfast, i’m afraid that by doing so i might screw up my deficit.
    Any suggestions/techniques on how to reduce stress?
    Help will be highly appreciated!

    1. Hi Isaias. Yes, all are possible, though it’s most likely the first one – the calorie deficit combined with training stress and other stress in your life is affecting your sleep. The first thing to do is to test this by taking a diet break and seeing if this clears things up. If not, start to test the other variables one by one.

    2. Thanks for your reply Andy. Will do.
      One last thing before I head to your archives: is keeping up with the cutting/bulking cycle a personal decision or something forced by nature?
      I know you posted an article about this but I also recall that maintenance was described as something temporary and not long lasting (permanent), which is possibly how I’d like it for me, as bulking can be real tough economically with keeping a high protein intake and also having to raise the other macros. I live by myself and I don’t think I could keep up with it. In case is something forced, are there any suggestions you should have for someone living by themselves and bulking on a restricted budget?

      Thanks again, hope you have a great off time. You are really an inspiration.

    3. Sure, answered in order:

      There are two ways to think about this, maintenance in the caloric sense (bodyweight regulation), and maintenance of training adaptations (roughly – muscle vs fat mass).

      As you’ll have seen from the article, training adaptations require a training stimulus in order to be maintained, increasing with how highly trained someone is. Muscle mass maintenance works very much on the basis, use it or lose it.

      Caloric maintenance – where we maintain body weight – is something that most people achieve without counting at all, as our bodies are exceptionally good at regulating it. Consider this, the vast majority of people do not count calories, yet the average person gains or loses less than 1lb of mass per year. Maintaining weight is the norm, so if you go far over or under the ‘set-point’ your body is used to, your body will fight it. It will take months for your body to establish a new set point, so after dieting or bulking people need to still monitor their calorie intake for a while before they are able to maintain it with ease. (For more on this see Set Points, Settling Points, and Bodyweight Regulation.)

      The cheapest way to hit your protein intake is going to be protein powder, dairy and chicken breast, in most countries. It’s down to you to figure this out though.

    4. Just to clarify the maintenance point, this would mean that once I get to my desired looks, I could keep them as long as i continue monitoring my caloric intake (without going over or under) but also continue advancing with my training?

    5. Yes, you can keep your desired look if you are at maintenance. This will depend on a few factors, see section, “What is the Maximum Level of Leanness That I Can Reasonably Expect to Maintain?” from this article:
      How Do I Find Maintenance Calorie Intake After Dieting?

      However, to advance with your training you will have to gain muscle. That may require a strategic gain in body fat depending on the method you wish to choose for bulking. Sounds like you’re after the lean gain style, but just be aware of the pros and cons of it. Very detailed article covering this here:
      How To Adjust Your Diet To Successfully Bulk

    6. Very helpful, thanks again!
      Let me know if you need help with spanish/italian translations;)

    7. Most welcome Isaias. I believe someone is doing Italian translations currently. If Spanish is something that you personally wish to work on then please feel free, though publishing on this site in multiple languages is not something I am looking to do. More regarding translations here:
      Don’t Make It About The Money

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