SAPT MailBag: The Path to SwoleCity

SAPT MailbagQ: I’m 6’1 and I weigh 160 lbs soaking wet.  My goal is to get to 200 lbs by June.  I work out 5 days a week.  Monday & Wednesday belong to the Lower Body; leg press all day, then burn it out with hamstring curls and leg extensions. Calf raises if I took my pre-workout.  I do upper body on Tuesday and Thursday.  I run on Fridays.  I start out with chest flys, then I grab a squat rack and knock out 4 or 5 sets of bicep curls.  I’ll finish up with some lateral raises, tricep extensions and lat pulldowns.  I take mass gainer before and after my workouts, but the scale hasn’t moved at all!  Tell me the secret to getting ripped!

-       Drew C, NY.

Drew… first of all, thanks for your question.  Second of all, I’m sorry to hear about your lack of success thus far in the mass-gaining department.  Luckily for you, I’m about to drop a knowledge bomb that is bound to get you moving in the right direction.  Relax, take a seat, and get ready to learn.


It’s great to have goals.  Goal setting is a vital skill to possess, and it’s the first step you need to take in order to actually accomplish anything of significance.  Not only that, but you’ve also put together some semblance of a plan on how to achieve your goal.  That’s fantastic, but let’s take a minute to examine your goal and see how feasible it actually is.

By my count, we have about 18 weeks until the beginning of June.  This means you’ll need to gain around 2.2 pounds per week to achieve your goal.  When gaining mass, putting on 1-2 pounds per week is considered excellent progress.  Remember, our goal is to put on lean muscle mass.  Sure you could sit on the couch, drink a gallon of milk a day and eat oreos until you develop a mild case of type-II diabetes.   You’ll have no problem ballooning up to 200 pounds, but how much of that weight do you think will be muscle, and how much do you think will be oreo?

Patience is key.  The mass gaining process is a journey, and there’s no point in gaining weight if it doesn’t make you stronger, healthier, and manlier.  A more achievable goal would be to put on 25-30 pounds by June, or extend our deadline to the end of July.  With either of these strategies, we would only need to be gaining 1.5 pounds per week.  A much more attainable feat that gives you a greater chance to succeed, and allows you to maximize how much muscle you will gain, while simultaneously limiting excess fat accumulation.


As convenient as mass-gaining shakes are, they aren’t magical.  You may be drinking upwards of 2 mass-gaining shakes a day, but if you’re not in a calorie surplus, you’re only spinning your wheels.  Hire a nutrition coach.  Make an appointment for a consultation with our very own Coach Kelsey Reed, mass gaining extraordinaire.  She’ll point you in the right direction, show you how to truly understand nutrition, and book you a one-way ticket to swole-city.

Most experts agree that you’ll gain about .5-1 pound of fat for every pound of muscle that you put on.  Making sure to properly manipulate your food intake is vital to gaining muscle in the most efficient and effective manner.  Shoot for around 1.5-2.0 g/kg of protein a day, and try to hit about a 10-15% calorie surplus.  Understand that more is not always better, and it is accuracy and consistency that really matter., and Precision Nutrition are fantastic resources for all things diet-related.  The web is wonderful place.  Take advantage of it.

Exercise Selection

The average person interested in bulking up will google “workouts for getting yolked,” grab the first routine that pops up, and repeat it over and over again until they develop an over-use injury or get bored.  Oftentimes, these routines are loaded with isolation exercises.  They’ll consist of a chest isolation movement, a back isolation movement, a shoulder exercise, three more for your arms, and core circuit.  The program will have you going to the gym 5, sometimes even 6, days a week.  I’m here to let you in on a little secret...

You don’t need to be lifting 5 or 6 days a week.  You’re wasting your time isolating muscles.  Ditch them and start performing multi-joint, compound movements with heavy weight.  Bench press, overhead press, squat, deadlift, row, perform chin-ups and push-ups until you can knock them out in your sleep.  These are the “bang-for-your-buck” exercises.  These are the exercises that will allow you to gradually add weight to the bar over time.  They allow you to use greater loads and utilize more muscle mass, which in turn releases more growth hormone, more testosterone, enhances bone density, strength, and power.


Believe it or not, your run on Friday is probably working against you.  Long, steady state cardio is exactly the kind of thing that you want to avoid when your goal is to put on size.  Instead, try higher intensity methods of conditioning.  Perform hill sprints, prowler sprints, loaded carry variations, crawl variations, medicine ball slams, etc.  High-intensity conditioning work and resistance training have a synergistic effect upon each other.  Sprints, slams, and loaded carries, just like heavy barbell work, is going to seriously jack up your hormone production, and leave you gassed and weak-kneed.


Follow the above recommendations and you’ll be well on your way to gaining a respectable amount of size.  Remember, individual differences will also play a huge role.  Genetics are the cold, hard reality, and some of us (myself included) just aren’t as genetically gifted as others.  Work with what you’ve got.  Learn the how to lift with PROPER technique before you use heavy loads.  We can help you with this.  Book an appointment for a consultation with one of our coaches today and you won't regret it.  We excel at teaching proper lifting technique, and progress our clients intelligentlysystematically, and consistently.  We absolutely love this stuff, and have been turning average Joes into superheros since 2007.