The 10 Rules of Gains – T Nation Content – COMMUNITY

Follow the Rules, Build Size and Strength

Stick to these rules to build size and strength. There’s no way you won’t grow!

Follow these rules and you’ll build muscle and strength. Period.

1. Train One-Day On, One-Day Off

This is the best way to optimize workout quality. Each day off allows you to maximize recovery and growth from the previous day’s workout and helps you perform optimally on the next one. This schedule allows you to work brutally hard without burning out. Details here: The Most Efficient Way to Train and Gain.

2. Use a Lift-Specific Program

Use a four-workout rotation with each focusing on one big basic barbell lift (bench press, squat, overhead press, deadlift, etc.). After the big lift, do one major assistance exercise and 1-2 isolation movements to strengthen the main lift. Also, do one rowing or pulling movement per workout. More info below.

3. Use the Triple Progression Model

Start with reps of 4-6 or 6-8 (a range of 3 reps). Do 4 work sets with the same weight. When you can do all of your sets with the same weight and hit the top of the range, add 5-10 pounds on your next workout. You have to hit 6-6-6-6 or 8-8-8-8 before you can add weight. If you get something like 6-6-5-4, stick with the same weight. We’ll get into the details below.

4. For Isolation Exercises, Focus on the Burn and Muscle Fatigue

Weight doesn’t matter. Just make sure you hit failure or close to it while getting as much localized burn/pump as possible.

5. Take Long Rest Periods Between Sets on the Main Lift

Rest 3-4 minutes between sets on compound movements using the triple progression model to maximize your performance.

6. Take Short Rest Periods Between Sets of Isolation Work

This helps you get more secondary growth mechanisms activated, like lactate and local growth factors. It also allows you to get a good hypertrophy response without doing more heavy work and overtaxing the nervous system.

7. Eat a 300-500 Calorie Surplus Daily

If your weight isn’t going up, you’re not building a significant amount of muscle. You need a surplus to fuel the muscle growth process. You’ll optimize recovery from the previous workout and perform well. If your weight isn’t going up weekly (or at least bi-weekly), you’re NOT consuming a caloric surplus. Just don’t go overboard and get too fat. Try this simple plan: The 500-Calorie Strategy for Clean Gains.

8. Eat a Gram of Protein per Pound and Increase Carbs

Carbs are almost as important as protein for building muscle. They’re protein-sparing (anti-catabolic), and they promote the release of anabolic IGF-1 and insulin. They also activate mTOR which promotes protein synthesis. Carbs are also the best fuel for intense workouts, and they speed up recovery. A significant portion of those carbs should come around the workout. I recommend Surge Workout Fuel (on Amazon).

9. Drink a Lot of Water

Drink at least 4-5 liters of water (around 1.5 gallons) per day. Water facilitates nutrient transport, stores carbs as glycogen, and is involved in too many key metabolic processes to name! Water is truly a secret weapon for strength and size gains.

10. Get 8 Hours of Sleep, as Many as Possible Before Midnight

Sleep is key for recovery, nervous system optimization, hormone optimization, and muscle building. If you can get a few of these hours prior to midnight, it’s even better. It’s a circadian rhythm thing. As the daylight decreases, a signal is sent to the pineal gland, leading to an adjustment in how cells function.

The Lift-Specific Split

This is one of the easiest ways to program for any goal. It’s an ideal “power building” split because it’s designed to build a lot of mass and strength. (It doesn’t work optimally for pure competitive bodybuilders who need to overdevelop every muscle.)

The split is based on a rotation of four workouts. You build each on one main barbell lift:

  • Day 1: Squat Variation
  • Day 2: Horizontal Press (Bench Press) Variation
  • Day 3: Hip Hinge (Deadlift) Variation
  • Day 4: Vertical Press (Overhead Press) Variation

Pick one main lift for every day – a total of four basic barbell lifts. These will stay the same for as long as possible, so pick those that fit your body type.

Each workout contains 4 or 5 exercises:

  • Exercise 1: It’s the main lift. It stays in your program for a long time (see the triple progression section).

  • Exercise 2: Do a multi-joint assistance exercise for the main lift (it can even be a variation of the main lift, e.g., close-grip bench press). Keep this exercise for a long time in your program, too, using the same progression model as the main lift. Change it if you find that it no longer addresses your weakest link (because you fixed it).

  • Exercise 3: Choose a pull or row. Ideally, pick a different one on each of the four days, including both vertical and horizontal pulls.

  • Exercises 4 and (possibly) 5: Do isolation exercise(s) for a key muscle in the main lift. Isolation exercises can be changed any time you want.

Using the one-day on, one-day off split, it looks like this:

  • Day 1: Squat
  • Day 2: OFF
  • Day 3: Horizontal press
  • Day 4: OFF
  • Day 5: Hinge
  • Day 6: OFF
  • Day 7: Vertical press
  • Day 8: OFF
  • Repeat

The Triple Progression Model

It’s essentially “periodized” double progression that helps you progress on a lift for as long as possible using progressive overload.

Select a range of 3 reps, like 4 to 6 reps. Start with a weight that’s close to your max for the top of the range (in this example, close to your 6RM). Use that same weight for all of your work sets (4-5). The goal is to complete all of the work sets with the same weight, getting all your reps in (6 reps).

If you don’t get all of your reps in, keep the same weight at your next session. For example, if you get…

  • Set 1: 6 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 2: 5 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 3: 4 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 4: 4 reps using 200 pounds

…it means at your next workout, you stay with 200 pounds.

If at your second workout, you get…

  • Set 1: 6 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 2: 6 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 3: 5 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 4: 5 reps using 200 pounds

…there’s progression because you were able to get more reps. But the progression isn’t large enough to justify adding weight, so your sets are not all complete.

If at the next session, you get…

  • Set 1: 6 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 2: 6 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 3: 6 reps using 200 pounds
  • Set 4: 6 reps using 200 pounds

…you’re allowed to add 5-10 pounds at the next workout. Start the progression over.

Keep up with this process until you can’t progress at all. This means that for 3 consecutive workouts, you can’t add any reps or weight. When that happens, you move down one rep range. Your three rep ranges are:

  • First: 6 to 8
  • Second: 4 to 6
  • Third: 2 to 4

Let’s say that you start with 6 to 8 reps, and you can progress for 12 workouts, after which you hit a wall for 3 consecutive workouts. You’d move on to the second zone (4 to 6 reps), starting with 10 pounds more than your last workout with the preceding zone.

Now, maybe you can keep progressing in that second zone for 6 more workouts, then have 3 consecutive sessions where you can’t add a rep. You’d move on to the third zone (2 to 4 reps) and start the double progression process with 10 pounds more than your last workout in the preceding zone and keep going until you hit the wall.

After hitting the wall in the third zone, you can either start over with the same movements in the first zone or use different exercises, starting in zone 1. In both cases, take a week off from the big lifts before starting a new cycle.


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