Bodypart Splits

Build Muscle: Top 5 MUSTS!

How is it some build muscle with, seemingly, little to no effort? Putting meat on the bones comes easy for some: they’ll do a couple curls and drink a glass of milk then BAM, they’re swole.  For the rest of us, it can feel like we have to grind and suffer day in and day out for an ounce or two of muscle.  The methods used and the advice given can sometimes become overwhelming.

Do this program... “Take these supplements... Eat 22.75 grams of protein every 76 minutes... Train each bodypart once every ten days.”

Sometimes you’ll hear fitness experts give advice that can be contradictory or confusing, or just plain unreasonable for you and your lifestyle.

Amongst the sea of information on the quest for building muscle out there, here are my top five tips for beefing up.

1. Make Strength a Priority

If your goal is purely to build muscle and you couldn’t care less about your deadlift max, that’s great!  Good for you, and to each their own.  However, understand that as you get stronger you can increase the muscle building stimulus by utilizing greater loads.  We know we need time under tension via resistance training to stimulate growth, but if you continue using the same loading schemes over a period of time your body will eventually adapt and the stimulus dies.

How do we avoid this?  Focus on getting stronger!  Have a handful of “indicator lifts” to use to track progress.  These lifts are ideally big compound lifts that you strive to become stronger in.  Personally I use the the biggie compound exercises: back squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press to track my progress in strength.  Other good options to use are any squat exercise variation (front, box, goblet), push-ups, pull-ups, single leg movements, row exercise variations, prowler work, or farmer’s walks.  Heck, if your goal is to grow enormous biceps focus on getting stronger at the curl.

The point is we want to look back at our own records after months and years pass and see that we are capable of throwing more weights around.  If you make awesome improvements in strength over a significant length of time I’d be willing to bet that you’ve made progress in your lean body mass as well.

2. Volume

This is where we see a big difference in the typical comparison of how a bodybuilder trains versus how a powerlifter By joining a RED franchise, you could earn in excess of ?1,300 more per year than at other national truck driving schools – and significantly more than if you choose to operate as an independent instructor. trains.  The bodybuilder, whose primary goal is to build muscle, will utilize a ton of volume into their training.  A bodybuilder"s workout for his (or her) chest may do something along the lines of the following:

Bench Press


DB Incline Press


DB Flyes


Pec Deck


The powerlifter, on the other hand, may work up to a heavy single on the bench, do a few sets of rows and go home.

Now this is a very simplified comparison of the two training disciplines but you get the message: if mass is your goal, you need more volume in your workouts.

More volume, however, does NOT necessarily mean that you have to be lifting in the 10-20 range for each exercise.  If you did that, you’d be sacrificing too much tension to get those reps in.  Try some different set x rep schemes that will allow for significant volume with moderately heavy weight.  7 sets of 4, 5 sets of 5, and 4 sets of 6 are all good options, especially for your “main movement” of the day.

3. Eat Better

This is a problem for a lot of younger athletes that stay very active year-round.  You need food to live, and you need food for energy, but you need even MORE food to build muscle.

Be honest with yourself!  You want to be bigger and stronger but all you had for breakfast was… nothing?!  Re-think that strategy.

The nutritional side of muscle gain is underestimated too often, and it needs to be a consistent effort everday.  If you eat like an infant all week, but binge at a Chinese buffet on Saturday it doesn’t count.  Eat a lot of good food every single day.

Sometimes it’s not an issue of eating enough food, but eating enough of the right foods.  A diet consistent with cookies and cokes probably won’t be the key to building a big strong body that you work so hard for.

Keep a food log and make sure you’re eating right.  If your still confused and overwhelmed, just have Kelsey analyze your diet and she’ll tell you everything you’re doing wrong.

4. Aim for a Horomonal Response

Your hormones are the key to growth.  Without them we’d be nothing.  No need to go into a complex physiology lesson right now, but here are some quick tips you should keep in mind.

Testosterone: Stimulated by lifting heavy weights.  Hit it hard and heavy, and get adequate rest between sets.

Human Growth Hormone: Stimulated by moderate weights, higher volume and lower rest periods.

Cortisol: Evil. Catabolic stress hormone that doesn’t want you to gain muscle.  Keep it low by getting enough sleep and doing whatever helps you de-stress your life.

5. Be Aggressive!

Building muscle takes hard work and focus.  You can’t just casually hit the gym once every couple of weeks and expect huge gains.  Lift and eat with a purpose, and be stubbornly consistent.  If you hit a plateau, change something up and keep grinding.

Make your goal important, and put in the necessary effort it takes to make it happen!

Is Direct Arm Work Necessary for Sculpted Arms?

Today we're going to step a bit away from the athletic performance side of things and touch a toe into the aesthetic department (or vanity, depending on who you ask).

A question that I'm continually asked, by females and males alike, is whether or not direct arm work is necessary to obtain a set of defined arms (for females) or bigger gunz (for males).

Before I continue, allow me to provide the Cliff Notes version of my answer: Direct arm work (or isolation exercises) will not be the difference maker in one's quest for tickets to the gun show. But it can have a time and place. 

Moving on....When it comes to direct arm training, people tend to fall into two camps:

#1. "You don't need any direct arm work to develop a head-turning set of arms. All you need to do is squat and deadlift, and your biceps will grow."

#2. "You need to do copious volumes of direct arm training. One full day dedicated to biceps, another entire day for triceps, baby."

The answer, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. While I'd love to say that #1 is true across the board (I personally find direct arm training quite boring), I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you all you need to do is squat to make your arms grow. This will hopefully be the case in heaven, but I'm afraid a bit more is needed for us earth-dwelling folk.

For the majority, a healthy dose of pulling and pressing heavy, vertically and horizontally,  coupled with a sound nutrition regimen, is going to be all that is required during the first couple years of training to watch your arms develop. After you're consistent (three days on, thirty days off doesn't count), then I'd venture to say that a few sets of curls and pressdowns here and there won't hurt things.


After all, you're biceps are going to be involved in any "pulling" exercise (rows, pullups, pulldowns), and your triceps are going to be involved in any "pressing" exercise (pushups, bench press, military press, etc.).

Using a quick example, and at the risk of sounding extremely pompous and foolhardy, I've decided to use myself as a personal testimony to the value of foregoing direct arm training in favor of sticking to compound movements (presses, pulls, squats, deadlifts, and loaded carries). For over three yearsnow, I have performed zero dedicated isolation arm work during my training sessions. Zip. Zilch. Nadda.

Below is a picture I snapped just yesterday.

But before we get to that, you didn't think I could remain serious during a picture of myself flexing, did you? No. I tried, to be honest, but I couldn't take myself seriously giving an arm pose for the camera; you can peruse the innumerable Facebook profile pictures and forums of the boy population to see some of those.

So I decided to spice it up a bit. Ladies and gentlemen, meet my Animagus form, Mr. Bananas. I only partially transformed to illustrate my point:

Mr. Bananas flex
Mr. Bananas flex

Now, before all the internet warriors jump in from the confines of their basement computers, let me be the first to admit that I don't consider my arms at all impressive. Are there countless individuals out there with bigger arms than me? Of course. Could my arms be "bigger" or "more defined" if I did include direct arm training into my programming? Probably.

My point that I haven't obsessed over direct arm training for well over a few years, but instead focused on simply training consistently: Pushing things around, pulling things around, carrying heavy objects to and fro on a daily basis, and eating accordingly in order to fuel these activities.  And what do you know, my arms have still grown somewhat.

Which brings me to my central points:

Mindset, Priorities and Consistency

1. Mindset

You can walk in to any gym and immediately notice those who have a winning mindset vs. a losing mentality. Those with winning mindsets are training with conviction and purpose, attacking everything from their warm-ups to their working sets like they mean it.

Take those who train with conviction and have lazer-like focus during their ENTIRE time in the gym (no matter if they're doing something as simple as a band pullapart vs. something as complex as a clean+jerk), and compare them with those who lollygag through some curls to pump up before hitting the bars on Friday night, and I don't think I need to explain myself any further.

It's common knowledge that mindset is key with regards to relationships, handling finances, and one's profession; how you go about achieving results in the gym is no different.

2. Priorities

If one only has thirty minutes a day to dedicate to keeping themselves healthy, then obviously he or she should prioritize something like squats, deadlifts, or pullups before bicep curling, correct? You'd think this would be obvious, yes, but you'd be surprised (or maybe not) how many adults I've witnessed rushing into a commercial gym, clearly pressed for time, only to curl away in the mirror for twenty minutes before walking back out the door!

Look, I do recognize that I am biased, as I primarily work the athletic population, and the amount of direct arm work I give them is usually somewhere between 0-5% of their total training volume. (Keep in mind I'm NOT saying that athletes don't need to be doing direct arm work at all because it isn't "specific to their sport"; go ahead and slit the biceps tendon of a NFL running back and tell him to hold on tightly to the ball as he rushes upfield....)

But even if you're just someone who wants to look better: In the end, your choice of including or omitting isolation work for the arms isn't going to make or break your results. Whether you are male or female, prioritize the compound movements, and then treat direct arm work, if you get to it, as bonus material.

3. Consistency

Regarding consistency, you'll rarely notice any progress if you're spotty with your training sessions. The bodybuilders and gym rats who possess the largest and most defined arms did not arrive where they did because they've got the "perfect" or "secret" arm routine (or even steroids for that matter), but because they've been consistent day in and day out.

But what about.....

What about guys with longer arms that never seem to grow no matter what they do? A few sets of curls or tricep extensions at the end of your session could quite possibly help, but also note that there's a MUCH larger picture at hand (Hint: You need to eat more).

What about females that approach me, seeking to tone the backs of their arms? Sure, I may give them a few tricep pressdowns at the end of their session for the "feel" effect, but the results they end up obtaining primarily stem from their efforts in kitchen, and us helping them to focus on (and master) their rows, chinups, and pushups.

As an aside, I do recognize that genetics can play a big role here. For the males out there with long arms, or those of you that may be "skinny-fat ectomorphs," I usually give this recommendation: If you're going to do direct arm work, keep it to ten minutes or less at the end of your session. If and only if you have giving everything you have to the compound movements.

Heck, toss in a 60-second chinup, follow it up with 2 sets of 10-15 reps of EZ curls, and call it a day.

Anything over that won't necessary be doing you any good.

Closing Thoughts

1. When it comes to whether or not you should include direct arm training for better arm development, my answer is typically, "Ehhh, sure. But it's not going to be the deciding factor in your results (or lack thereof)."

2. Mindset, priorities, and consistency are the deciding factors for #1.

3. Remember: Everything you do has the potential to take away from the bang-for-your-buck exercises performed during the beginning of the training session. Your body only has a limited capacity to recover. Let the compound lifts - along with winning on the nutrition side of things - be the primary driving forces behind your tickets to the gun show.

4. Some of my reservations regarding direct arm training lie in the fact that I work with a very broad range of athletes and clientele. A lot of direct tricep work can utterly destroy "old man elbows," and too much direct bicep work for overhead athletes can wreck havoc on the shoulder. Also, I only have a limited time to work with those who train at SAPT (usually less time than that of your average gym rat) so I have to funnel out the things that don't provide the greatest return for investment. Direct arm training usually falls under that umbrella.

5. Yes, I'm an unregistered Animagus. Shhhh, don't tell anyone.

6. I apologize to those of you non-nerds who didn't understand #5.

Basic Speed Development Program

The overwhelming request we get almost daily: Do you guys do speed training?

My answer: Hellz YES!

In an effort to compliment my running related warnings over at from earlier today, I wanted to take this post to another level and get all geeked-out over some real-deal sprint training.You gotta present both sides of the coin, ya know?

While I've termed this post as "basic speed development," please DO NOT confuse that for BEGINNER speed development. There's a big difference. This sample program is for someone who has at least a year of regimented general training under their belt that is heavy on both sprint and weight training fundamentals.

Without further delay...

Basic Speed Development Program

  • Day 1 - Starts, Speed, & Total Body Lift with Lower Body Emphasis
  • Day 2 - Tempo Run
  • Day 3 - Special endurance & Total Body Lift with Upper Body Emphasis
  • Day 4 - Tempo Run
  • Day 5 - Starts, Speed Endurance, Long jump/triple jump Technique (at high intensity and include as overall daily volume), & Total Body Lift (even split)
  • Day 6 - Tempo Run
  • Day 7 - Rest


  1. Keep your intensity above 90% or below 65%! The in-between work is trash for developing true speed and will only increase the likelihood for injury, while decreasing the chance for improvements.
  2. Avoid the pitfalls of starting with high volume and low intensity. Rather begin with HIGH INTENSITY and LOW VOLUME. Then gradually increase volume while keeping the intensity high.

Sample Program Details:Monday - Speed Work: 2 x 3 x 20-30m accelerations (rest at least 4-minutes between reps); Med Ball Throws @ 6-10lbs: Squat to Overhead Push Throw x 6-8 + Keg Toss x 6-8 (at least 1-minute rest between each throw, we're after MAX EFFORT with every single toss/throw); Weights: Total body lift with lower body emphasis; Core: 100 reps (choose whatever floats your boat) Tuesday - Tempo Run: 8-12 x 100m (easy, basically a fast jog) + complete 10-20 V-Ups (or whatever core work you prefer) between each run - use the runs as the recovery between the V-ups Wednesday - Special Endurance: 2 x 150-300m with 20-25 min recovery; during the recovery (every 7-8 mins) do some light tempo runs, body weight calestenics, core, etc. the goal here is to simply stay warm during the break; Weights: Total body with upper body emphasis; Core: 200 reps (choose whatever floats your boat) Thursday - Tempo Run: Similar to Tuesday Friday - Speed Work: 2 x 3 x 20-30m accelerations (rest at least 4-minutes between reps); Med Ball Throws @ 6-10lbs: Squat to Slam x 6-8 + Falling Forward Chest Throw to Sprint x 6-8 (at least 1-minute rest between each throw, we're after MAX EFFORT with every single toss/throw); Weights: Total body lift (even split); Core: 100 reps (choose whatever floats your boat) ***After several weeks, longer sprints (50-60m) can be added to the speed workouts on Mondays and Fridays.

Good luck, may the Force be with you...

Get it? Force...

...I already said I was getting geeked-out over this one, so I think that was a pretty solid joke.