By Nick Nilsson
Author of Mad Scientist Muscle
Here's a list of the training "rules" I break on a regular basis, both in muscle-building training and in fat-loss training.
And I'm going to tell you why YOU should embrace breaking the rules, too.
1. I do high reps for building muscle
High reps are GREAT for building the legs. The leg muscles are built for moving loads and actually thrive on higher rep ranges with moderate to relatively heavy weight.
It doesn't end with the legs, however...
High reps (100 per set) can also be used to develop slow-twitch muscle fibers and to increase capillary density in the muscles, which improves blood flow, increases nutrient transportation and gives you a fantastic pump.
I use this type of training in my Mad Scientist Muscle program.
2. I do low reps for fat loss
Low reps with a lot of volume...i.e. Time/Volume Training (3 rep sets with 10 seconds rest for 15 minutes). The key is short rest periods and lots of workload. I use this type of training in my Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss program and it's perfect for maintaining muscle mass while cranking up the metabolism.
3. I do cardio training for strength
My cardio these days primarily consists of carrying heavy things around my neighborhood for long distances, e.g. carrying a 165 lb barbell on my shoulder for 2 MILES, Farmers Walk with a 275 lb-loaded trap bar for 3/4 of a mile.
I also do car-pushing sprints...yes, SPRINTS...pushing a car. Believe me, that builds cardio capacity AND strength.
I use this type of training in my Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss program and it's FUN.
4. I do strength training for cardio
Lifting heavy weights demands a lot from your cardiovascular system, especially when you take very short rest periods in between sets, e.g. 20 seconds rest. This is also in my Metabolic Surge program...low-rep, heavy sets with cardio in between.
5. I sometimes work small muscles before large muscles
The idea here is to purposefully pre-fatigue your smaller muscles so that the large muscles can push them to work harder later on in the workout. For example, work your triceps first, shoulders second, chest last and see how your triceps (which are involved in ALL of those bodypart movements) respond.
I've used this type of training in my Muscle Explosion program to force growth in the smaller muscles. It WORKS.
6. I often train the same muscles every single workout
Increasing training frequency is a GREAT way to force growth. The more frequently you can train a muscle (and have it recover), the faster you'll grow. The key is knowing how much training volume that muscle can take and not hitting so hard that you can't work it again the next day.
In my Muscle Explosion program, you'll hit the same exercise (and therefore same muscles) FIVE days in a row with more than 200 sets...(not a typo - that's 200+ sets).
7. I sometimes curl in the power rack (I'm the only one there...so sue me)
If you're in a gym and somebody is waiting to do squats, THAT is when curling in the rack is a crime. But there ARE curl-based exercises for the biceps that can and NEED to be done in the rack.
For example, try this...stand with your body in line with uprights of the power rack. Now curl the bar up until the bar contacts the uprights. Now PULL the against the uprights and squeeze. This forces a greater contraction by biceps because instead of losing tension at the top, they actually have horizontal resistance to work directly against.
I've got other rack-based bicep exercises in "The Best Arm Exercises You've Never Heard Of"
8. I eat TWO meals a day, not 5 or 6
Small, frequent meals aren't necessary for success. In fact, eating TOO frequently can slow down fat loss because you're constantly in a "fed" state and your body has no reason to dip into fat reserves for energy when it's constantly getting food to use instead of bodyfat.
This concept is in my Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss program.
I also use this concept for mass building. I eat a moderate breakfast, no lunch and a HUGE post-workout dinner. Works great for me. Helps save time on food prep, too.
9. I eat most of my calories at night (at least 2/3 to 4/5)
Going back to the two meal a day thing...the first is small to moderate and generally low-carb and lower in calories. The second is the evening meal where I'll eat like an alligator (i.e. a LOT).
10. I RARELY do traditional stretching
I target flexibility via loaded stretch exercises like flyes and stiff-legged deadlifts
There's nothing wrong with traditional stretching. In fact, I SHOULD probably do it. I just personally don't like doing it so I never do. I focus on stretch-based exercises instead, targeting flexibility in other ways.
And yeah, this statement alone would get me kicked out of most personal training certifications...
I use loaded stretches in one of the versions of the high-frequency week in my Muscle Explosion programs, e.g. imagine doing stretch-focused incline curls 5 days in a row. This is targeted for muscle fiber hyperplasia (fiber splitting...a controversial topic, but very possible, in my opinion).
11. I don't get paranoid about maintaining a six-pack while trying to build mass
Nobody wants to get fat while building muscle, but if you freak out about not seeing your abs all the time, you'll never...I repeat NEVER achieve substantial levels of muscle mass. Your body NEEDS a caloric surplus in order to build muscle.
I'm not saying go full-on bulk mode and eat everything in sight, but a little extra fat isn't going to kill you. And it's much easier to lose a bit a fat than it is to try and gain muscle on a calorie-restricted diet.
And just fyi, as a reason to avoid traditional "bulking,"getting TOO fat can work against you...bodyfat above 15 to 18% (approximately) in men decreases testosterone levels and increases estrogen, making it harder to build muscle.
Muscle Explosion uses a low-calorie diet for a week, to keep fat in check and to set up a BIG "rebound" for enhanced nutrient use and uptake during that second week of one exercise for 5 days. You're using rebound weight gain to your advantage here.
12. I'm perfectly willing to change my mind and admit I'm wrong
Yep, when I'm presented with convincing evidence and rational discussion, I've been known to change my mind. This is because I'm not emotionally attached to my opinions on training techniques and nutrition.
This is one of those things that seems rarer and rarer these days. But it's SO critically important!
If I'm wrong about something or there's a better way to do it, I want to know...I don't want to waste my time and energy clinging to it. I don't have time for that.
For example, I used to fully believe in the 5 or 6 meals a day thing...for like 20 years...until I read the research and learned from progressive nutrition experts that it's not necessary. And even then, I TESTED it on myself. Now I NEVER eat more than 3 meals a day (usually 2, sometimes 1)...and it works great for me.
So those are 12 of the "sacred" rules of training that I break on pretty much a daily basis.
To me, no rule is safe....everything should be examined.
YOUR assignment now is to take a step back from any emotional attachment to your own training and eating patterns...hold them up to the light and honestly evaluate WHY you're doing them and IF they really work for you.
Think about what rules YOU can break...then DO IT.
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