The following is a guest post from Jason Helmes, fitness coach and owner of Anyman Fitness, LLC.
Fitness certainly isn’t “easy”.
In our world of processed food, carry-out, and suburban luxuries, it takes dedication and a laser-like focus on your health to conquer the battle of the bulge and master yourself physically.
Fitness also isn’t “complex”.
We may be swayed by the “glitz” and the “glamor” of all things shiny, organic, non-GMO, and Paleo. But considering you’re reading Coach Slyvon’s informative, evidence-based website, you’re likely immune to such nonsense.
Fitness is “simple”, however.
At times, we may miss the forest for the trees. At the same time, we all instinctively know the REAL methods of improving your fitness: patience, hard work, persistence, consistency, and dedication. If you live the “fit life”, you will be rewarded nicely.
However, there are certain components in fitness that are trickier than others.
A potential client always has one of two, very distinct goals:
Goal #1: To lose fat.
This goal may be masked behind “sound bites” such as “I want to be healthy”, “I want to have more confidence”, or “I want to be able to wear a bathing suit without shame”. But these clichés all have one, common thread: Leanness should always be near the top of your priority list.
Luckily, losing fat is a straightforward endeavor: eat under your maintenance and train hard.
This, again, is simple. But being simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
In fact, getting to a healthy body weight is a near-impossible struggle for some. The difficulty of getting lean certainly doesn’t overshadow its simplicity, though.
The “other goal” potential clients have?
Goal #2: To gain muscle.
Is gaining muscle “simple”? Some would have you believe so. Eat slightly over maintenance and train hard. At least, that’s what the Google articles and the fitness goo-roos would have you believe. All you must do is “eat enough food” and “squat and deadlift regularly”.
Can anyone say “GOMAD for gains”? (You may have to look that one up…)
As a fitness coach, I wish I could say muscle gain comes easily to me. But the anecdotal evidence has mounted as I’ve trekked through my own fitness journey. I can lose fat with simplicity.
However, it’s painfully obvious that if I wish to gain muscle… I need a much more calculated approach.
When I finally was able to lean out and prepare for my first bulk, I did what the “goo-roos” told me to do: I ate over maintenance and squatted and deadlifted.
In fact, I added hundreds of pounds to my “Big 3 Total”, achieving a 500 deadlift, a 330 squat, and a 305 bench press.
I gained strength like crazy. But did my physique change as a result?
You be the judge:
The difference between these two pictures is 15 pounds on the scale.
I was satisfied with my strength gains, but I couldn’t help the feeling that if I dieted back down, I would look exactly the same after shaving off the 15 pounds of muscle.
As a result of my disappointment, I began to research the most optimal ways to gain size.
I turned to the evidence.
Specifically, I turned to Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, C.S.C.S.
I ran across Brad’s groundbreaking 2010 review paper “The Mechanisms of Muscular Hypertrophy and Their Applications To Resistance Training”.
In Brad’s review, he found…
The 3 Most Important Components of Muscular Growth
According to Brad, they are:
Component #1: Mechanical tension
Mechanical tension is the feeling of a contracted or tensed muscle when it is under a load.
- It’s your bicep during a dumbbell curl.
- It’s your lats during a pull-up.
- It’s your pecs during a push-up.
Tension is crucial to muscle building, and must be maximized in order to maximize your gains.
Component #2: Metabolic stress
Metabolic stress is caused by the blocking of veins due to continuous use.
This leads to a lack of oxygen to an affected area and a build up of lactate.
In weightlifter’s circles, this is referred to as “the pump”.
When you maximize Component #1 and keep constant tension on your muscle through a full range of motion – repeatedly, you cause significant metabolic stress.
This gives you the feeling that your arms could split open at any moment, spilling your tendons, ligaments, and muscles all over the gym floor.
Component #3: Muscular damage
This is caused by doing something your muscles have never done before.
Every time you force your body to do a little bit more than before, you force it into adaptation.
You will momentarily become weaker, until your body repairs the tissue, causing a momentary strengthening.
Do this enough times and with enough frequency, and your muscles will respond with size growth.
According to the most respected authority on muscle growth for natural trainees, you needed 3 things to make gains: muscular tension, adequate pump, and muscular damage.
I let this stew around in my head for a bit, and I made an interesting observation:
He said nothing of exercise selection!
Brad said that muscle growth required a few factors – none of which included a specific exercise in the gym.
In short, I was shocked.
Every article you ever read about “simplifying muscle building” said that squats and deadlifts were a necessity to make gains.
Could they be wrong? Was it possible to build muscle in another way?
I reflected on my own training. Although I enjoyed squatting and deadlifting, I began to wonder if they were holding me back. Deadlifts drained me. Squats kept me sore for a good 48-72 hours after I was finished with them.
Could I recover better, and ultimately train with more volume without them? Could the tension, the pump, and muscle damage be achieved more effectively if I eliminated the two “must-haves” in favor of other movements?
There was only one way to find out.
I created a program – a complete methodology for muscle building – that curiously omitted the barbell squat and the deadlift completely.
And I set out to prove my case.
The results were shocking:
By eliminating two of the “must haves” in my own programming, my physique exploded. My shoulders filled out, my biceps bulged, and my chest finally appeared full beneath my shirt.
Armed with this knowledge, I did what any solid, evidence-based fitness coach would do. I grabbed some beta testers and tried to replicate the results.
And the results were universal.
Clients raved about the newfound energy these new, Big 2-less workouts gave them.
The “pumps”, the “tension” and the “damage” were exhilarating and obvious.
The workouts were incredibly taxing, but they were able to recover adequately and return to the gym, begging for more gains.
Take a look at these 3 pictures, side-by-side:
In the first picture, I was deadlifting 400 pounds and squatting 250.
In the second picture, I was deadlifting 500 pounds and squatting 330.
In the third picture…………….not sure. I hadn’t squatted – or deadlifted – in a year’s time.
I know what you’re thinking: “But Jason, I LOVE squatting and deadlifting! I can’t IMAGINE taking them out of my programming!”
I understand this, and if that’s you, then by all means, continue. Fitness should be fun first and foremost. After all, in order to truly win at the “simple” game of fitness, you need to be doing something you love above all else.
But if you’re like me, and you’re training to look sexy and feel great, it just may be time to take a close look at your own programming.
And ask yourself a very simple question:
“Is doing what everyone else is doing holding me back from unlocking my own, true potential?”
No Squats. No Deadlifts. Huge Gains. is available to the public in an easy-to-read PDF format today, just in time for the fall bulking season.
Check it out, pick up a copy if it sounds like it’s for you, and start to build the body you’ve always dreamed of.
About Jason Helmes
Jason Helmes is the owner of Anyman Fitness, LLC, an online fitness firm dedicated to improving the health of regular people – the soccer moms and average Joes of the world. His firm has helped thousands of clients to date. Jason enjoys lifting, writing, and playing with princess castles with his two daughters, Brooklyn (6), and Ava (4). He lives with his wife of 11 years, Kate, in Canton, Michigan, USA.
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