Maingaining and Workout Questions

I thought I’d put together a separate post on the comments and conversations I’ve had in the past few days from this post. Obviously I’m not any kind of certified health practitioner and what I say here is just what I think currently. I’m also not a personal trainer and don’t do health/fitness/nutrition coaching. I’m including posts like these on my blog since looks are a massive part of pick-up.

Are you overthinking this?

I thought I’d actually kept it quite simple! Having yo-yo dieted for many years I decided that it was time to put some checks in to stop it happening again. That’s where weighing myself every day and continuing to track calories, even though I’m not dieting, comes in. It’s great for those people who can “just eat” and make small adjustments here and there when they notice themselves changing too much in the mirror, but unfortunately I’m not one of those people. That means I need to be a bit more mechanical to protect against mistakes.

Isn’t fat gain inevitable?

I don’t think so. I think it depends on your aims. If you say “I’m going to gain 20 lbs this year” then yes it is nearly inevitable that a lot of it, if not most of it, will be fat (PEDs aside). My aim is to gain six lbs this year, which I think is a reasonable goal. One which should ensure minimal, if any, fat gain.

Why are all the exercises done in the 10-15 rep range?

I found out that it doesn’t really matter how many reps you do, as long as you are getting close to failure. So it makes sense to me to use lighter weight and higher reps to lower the risk of injury. If you’re doing a set of five and you fail on the fifth rep, you’ve got 20% of the total volume to escape from; if you’re doing a set of 15 and fail on the last rep, it’s only 7%. And if you’re injured, you can’t be making any gains! It’s like how in investment you avoid having your portfolio blown up because then you continue to earn compounding returns.

Then there’s the argument of different muscle fibres and needing to use different rep ranges to activate them. This doesn’t make sense to me. Let’s say you hit a different fibre by doing sets of eight compared to sets of 15. So what happens when you do your eighth rep on a set of fifteen? Does the muscle have to wait for the end of the set to confirm how many reps you did so as to know what kind of fibre to activate? If anything I’d say it was the other way round: sets of eight would be worse than 15 because you aren’t pushing further and activating different fibres by reaching that 15th rep. Of course, you can go heavier for a planned set of eight versus a planned set of fifteen, but I don’t think it matters for muscle growth as long as you’re getting close to failure. Then you’re also progressive overloading on the sets of 15 anyway and increasing the weight.

Why do you do pull-ups and lat pulldown?

This is a really good question and I’d be open to swapping out the lat pulldown in future for something else; it’s just that my gym doesn’t have other variations for back movements and I’m not bothered with barbell rows / t-bar rows (more below on big compounds).

For my back workouts I’ll gradually change the hand placement so that I can squeeze more from the muscles. I do the pull-ups with a pronated grip, then I do the seated rows with a pronated grip but switch to neutral when I fail (and finish off the reps), and I do the lat pulldown only with a neutral grip. The change from pronated to neutral brings my biceps in more and so I can continue lifting with their support.

So there’s a good question: “why not just do seven sets of pull-ups then and change the grip?” Which I’ll answer in the next question.

Why are you not employing muscle confusion?

I don’t believe that muscle confusion does anything; it doesn’t make sense to me. A muscle is designed to perform a certain movement so if you swap from standard bicep curls to hammer curls, you’re still just curling your arm. I don’t think the muscle thinks “oh shit, a new exercise, I better grow more now.”

I think that if muscle confusion works then it’s only from a standpoint of boredom and of recruiting other muscles to help out. For example: you do BB bench press and your chest gets really tired and so you go over and do incline; incline uses different parts of the chest more and more shoulders, and so you use their assistance to put more stress on your chest. Then there’s the boredom component: being at one station for half an hour isn’t as interesting as moving around.

The same would go for swapping in and out different exercises after a few months: it just keeps things interesting. And how about all the guys who do BB bench press for years on end? I’d say the muscle would be thoroughly certain, and not confused, by that point, and yet who can argue against bench press being good for your chest?! So really, I think that at the end of the day you’re finding balance between the best exercises for a certain muscle and boredom.

Why don’t you do big compound lifts such as the overhead press, barbell squat and bent over row?

To be entirely honest, it’s because I can’t be bothered to set the barbell up. I know that it is more convenient to work a lot of muscles at the same time e.g. BB squat versus leg press, extensions and curls, but I’ve got time on my hands and I find isolation movements more fun. I also don’t like the go-up-go-down nature of squats and rows and would rather just be roughly stationary while working out.

Also, I don’t find any kind of “masculine quality” in any particular exercise i.e. I wouldn’t do a BB squat just because it’s hard. If I don’t like an exercise, I don’t do it, and I go to the gym to build muscle, not to be masculine. I’ve always said I’d rather be muscular and weak rather than skinny and strong.

In terms of the overhead press, specifically, I don’t do direct front delt work because I think I’m getting enough from my chest movements.

Why aren’t you training lower back and abs?

I don’t care about training my lower back, it’s not going to contribute much to my looks. And with abs I think it’s a waste of time since it’s much more effective to just be lean to show them off. And I’m sure both of these muscle groups are getting hit elsewhere, indirectly. I don’t think I’m going to have posture or stability issues or anything, especially since I’m natural.

Yours unfaithfully,

Thomas Crown

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8 thoughts on “Maingaining and Workout Questions

  1. >> So it makes sense to me to use lighter weight and higher reps to lower the risk of injury

    This can be argued both ways…with the heavier weights on compound movements, you are distributing the weight across more muscles. And strength coaches often prescribe sets of 5 (i.e. not > Of course, you can go heavier for a planned set of eight versus a planned set of fifteen

    Well yes, this is what I meant

    >> And how about all the guys who do BB bench press for years on end?

    The better term would have been “assistance exercises”, not muscle confusion. BB bench pressers will often practice other pushing variations to work on weak points in their main lift. For example, the BB bench press may be supplemented with: close-grip bench press, paused bench press, floor press, DB bench press.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. >> So it makes sense to me to use lighter weight and higher reps to lower the risk of injury

        This can be argued both ways…with the heavier weights on compound movements, you are distributing the weight across more muscles. And strength coaches often prescribe sets of 5 (i.e. not less than five) for the purpose of injury prevention and to get in quality reps. The concern with a high number of reps (on any exercise) is form breakdown.


      2. I’d say that’s also something to argue both ways: with lower reps and a higher focus on strength, you want to shift the weight any way possible (bad form). Doing higher reps means not involving your ego as much and taking a more patient approach.


  2. >> you want to shift the weight any way possible

    That would indicate there is too much weight on the bar. The good thing about barbells is that they can be micro-loaded to provide the proper resistance.


  3. Ok thank you for taking the time to respond to all the points I had brought up earlier. I didn’t mean to sound as if I was ripping apart your earlier post or imply that I would be any good at adhering to a difficult 5-day body-building split.


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