Welcome back to my second piece on how to set yourself up for a better physique. If you missed my first article go back to the blog section of my website and have a read through it on there.
Today I’m going to be talking about the next phase of physique development after you’re already lean and in relatively good shape, and that’s adding size to your frame.
Physique Phase 2 – Add Size
So because you’re already lean and in a great spot health wise, your body is primed and ready to start adding muscle. We’re sensitive to nutrients, mentally confident that we can achieve our goals and we’ve had the initial phase of 8-12 weeks to build up neural connections with our muscles and properly learn the right execution and techniques of specific exercises.
Now, the way we train in this phase is going to be slightly different to the way I recommended you train in the outset. The initial phase was all about creating a calorie deficit, keeping rest times short and energy output high, but now we’re looking to really improve strength and conserve energy a little more so we can be in a calorie surplus and gain weight.
The way I approach this phase of training with clients is to switch over to a lower volume approach, which means you’ll be doing less total work but working much harder in each given set.
I mainly stick to 2 working sets per exercise, a ‘top set’ of a lower number of reps (e.g. 5-8) and a ‘back off set’ of a higher number of reps (e.g. 8-12). In the top set your weight should be heavier, and the back off set should be slightly lighter. However, the prerequisite to this style of training is that we go to absolute failure in every set we do. Nothing left in the tank, work f*cking hard.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the documents I give to new clients to give you an idea:
Low Volume Training – An Introduction
Your programme utilises low volume training to achieve a result in your physique. The term ‘volume’ essentially refers to the total amount of work done in a given session (think reps and sets). The traditional approach to physique development has always been to steadily increase volume and try and do as much work as possible. The issue we have here is that you really aren’t physically capable of giving your absolute all over 38-42 sets in a single workout, after the first 10-14 your work capacity will be severely diminished and your ability to make progress will be a fraction of your true potential.
The approach we’re going to be taking flips the traditional methodology on it’s head. We’re sticking with a low amount of sets covering a range of different rep ranges across each workout you do. This style of training is definitely not for everyone (for reasons we’ll discuss later) which is why I don’t prescribe it to every client, but I’m trusting you to make full use of this approach. If you’re not willing to work hard or put some effort in for your results this won’t work and you should let me know straight away.
Now, the key principle to our training from this point onwards is going to be progressive overload. Progressive overload essentially means making things stronger & better over time. So if you have a 2 week training plan and you come back to week 1 the second time around and beat your weights, you can consider this adhering to progressive overload.
However, there are more facets to progressive overload than most people realise. Yes, increasing weight lifted is one of the best ways to implement progressive overload but obsessing about this can actually be harmful to your progress if you chase weight at the expense of execution.
Other ways of implementing progressive overload would be improving execution, slowing tempo, or squeezing out extra reps at the same weight. These are all signs that strength is increasing just as more weight on the bar is.
Now, coming from phase 1 and a place of low body fat levels, we should start where we left off and slowly work our way back up when it comes to eating. We want the food to go up over time, but minimise the stress on our digestive system and minimise fat gain. So with that in mind, I’d recommend adding in calories sparingly.
Look at creeping the calories up around 100 (per day) at a time and see what that does to your weight. If nothing changes or it goes up a couple of lbs then stalls, add another 100 per day in. Do this until you reach the number you started phase 1 at and then reassess what’s going on. This is called reverse dieting.
From that point onwards, I’d add in food as and when you need it. Use your training as a guide. If strength consistently stalls in the gym, add in more food. Use it as a tool and don’t use this phase as an excuse to get fat.
The general methodology stays the same, carbs are used around workouts and to replenish glycogen stores after training. Consider investing in an intra workout carb supplement for this phase if you struggle getting the food in (I’d recommend cyclic dextrin).
That’s a general overview of phase 2 – this isn’t an all-encompassing guide and there are lots of factors involved in this, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how I go about building a physique on someone once I’ve got them lean.
Any questions on this please ask.
Hope that was useful
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PS – Enjoyed this article? Don’t forget to check out the article I wrote on Stress And It’s Impact On Your Physique