Mike’s vs Menno’s Methods for Maximum muscle

Categories: Videos & podcasts


00:00 What is the best technique?

03:49 Do you think the exact tempo matters? Should we count?

07:40 Is the pump relevant?

14:37 Do we need rest days?

17:20 Are some exercises more injurious that the others?

23:22 Is stretch mediated hypertrophy a revolution?

28:23 Do you stretch?

28:54 Cardio?

29:36 Volume landmarks

32:10 De-loads

43:54 What is the endgame?

47:13 Ending credits


So you have a Technique Cyborg challenge, where you show what is the best technique, you also post in a lot of videos your own technique. And one of the questions I got from my viewers is it looks like in your videos, the best technique is very slow eccentric – pause – and then squeeze the concentric. Is that right? Is that the best technique for muscle hypertrophy? So I’d say there are two levels of analysis to make what is a good technique. There’s a level one, which is things that are fundamental to what good technique is. Then there’s level two of things that are optional and contextual and are marginally beneficial in context and not universally. So an example of universally bad technique is altering the movement in such a way that exposes the muscle to less tension. So if you’re squatting four quads, what you squat really high and really far back instead of down and forward with your knees. It’s objectively inferior and be doing it for some kind of injury management reason or something else. But it’s not a best effort for a healthy individual to try to replicate in order to get their best quadriceps activation.

You know, if you do dive bombing, which is no eccentric control, relying on exclusively passive energy to rebound from the bottom, if you are not doing a full range of motion that includes a deep stretch, at the very least, then we can sort of say, well, you know, that’s not a an open minded, intelligent attempt at what I would call universally good technique. There may be few other checkmarks to that. But not so many. And you would say, okay, that is great. But then why the pauses? Why the slow eccentrics? And that, I would say, is level two types of technique where there are contexts in which such techniques can give you a better stimulus, can give you a better stimulus to fatigue ratio in some situations. And so we tell people if you have trouble feeling your quadriceps, slowing the eccentric can allow a mind muscle connection to develop. And I do not mean simply the kinesthetic awareness of the musculature. I mean you can start to feel the burn in the muscles more. You can feel tension in the muscles more and auto regulate your own positioning to learn where that tension and burn is highest, especially with the tension. If you do your repetitions quickly and you’re athletic and you’re connected to which muscles are active with a minimum amount of eccentric activation on the descent, you can do rapid eccentrics.

Absolutely no pauses as long as you have generally good movement patterns. That’s great technique. But if you’ve done that and you’re like, I can’t really connect with my quads, I would say slowing the technique down, especially the eccentric and pausing is a tool in the toolbox you could use in order to potentially enhance your mind muscle connection. And by that I mean potentially impose more tension on the target muscle at less of a discomfort to your joints or connective tissues. So the technique cyborg stuff, we post techniques that are probably a bit exaggerated versions of that because we want folks to try that. And if it’s too much weird stuff for them, hey, fuck it, go back to the normal shit, but if you haven’t trouble activating the muscles, trying that sort of I would say more meticulous version can give you a net utility. So that’s not like good technique versus bad technique. It’s like drifting versus standard turns on a track, in some situations drifting may be advantageous, that doesn’t mean like if you see someone drifting at a race… drifting is better, right?

It’s not better. You don’t always have to do it. But some turns drifting is an advantage. So that’s how I’d probably answer that question. Yeah, I agree with building control first. I often tell my clients, control first, explosiveness second. Yes. If you don’t have control, don’t bother trying to be explosive. Totally. Do you think the exact tempo matters? Like, should we count? So I’ll say a couple of things to that. From a decent amount of literature. Best reviewed, I think, by Brad Schoenfeld and colleagues quite some time ago. Anything between some kind of modicum of control of a eccentric, some modicum of you have to have some modicum of control on the concentric that the entire repetition may last something like 1 or 2 seconds. And it can be between that and roughly a total eccentric plus concentric plus transitional phases of 9 seconds in duration seems to provide roughly equivalent hypertrophic outcomes and so roughly equal to hypertrophic outcomes on recreationally trained undergraduates is a really good first step in telling us one very important thing. However it is that tempo matters. It’s not like eating a quarter of the recommended protein versus eating one. It’s not that big of a deal. So to me, what I take away from that is and I’ve experimented with tons of different tempos and I found that roughly they actually seem to give you even perceptively similar things. If I do very slow tempo eight reps on the squat or with the same rep, faster tempo, but I get 16 or 12. My pumps are similar, my soreness is similar, my recovery time is similar. It’s just a different way of doing things to what I like to do for tempos. Anywhere in the range of you’re still controlling the weight.

Science so far tells us they’re probably about similarly effective, or at least that’s a good working guess. I treat all different tempos within there as just variations and variations that means if you are just, you know, let’s say you have a barbell at home with a power rack and not much else. There’s a lot of lifters that follow you and I that train like that, you know, you can only do so many high bar squats until you’re like, Fuck this, fuck lifting, I’m out. Is it okay if I swear? Sure! Sweet! Fuck you too Menno, question my shit. I’m Dr. Mike. Sorry. Where am I? But, you know, they might try an exercise called the Squat with standard tempo, and then they might try a slow, eccentric squat with a 4 second eccentric tempo. That’s such a different feel that you can do one for a few mesocycles. And when it gets stale, you can do one for another. And it’s the least psychologically beneficial variation. The other thing is some people individually, at least for some time, can respond very differently for some tempos, like they may be able to get a really good connection with their quads and just externally better technique if they slow down for other people very fast, which explosive athletic people? You slow them down enough, everything turns off, they just get tired. So I think that tempo. Again, to restate my views, tempo has no convincing differential between one tempo or another and those people who get real specific about counting seconds and shit. If that’s a variation for you that seems to be working. Hey, God bless you. Is it something where I see someone lifting in if their tempo was fast on the eccentric, if they’re still controlling it, Applying tension. Really cool way to train, If they’re doing it with a lot of weight and they’re very lean and they’re elite level drug using bodybuilder, what I would say to them is like, you should probably slow that down only for injury risk mitigation, which is not a concern for natural people that aren’t squatting 250 kilos or something like that. So that’s kind of my view on tempo. Right, so is it fair if I summarize that as – given the lack of compelling difference in the literature between one type of versus another, you prioritize good technique and getting a good at least sensory stimulus to fatigue ratio – your general recommendation? Yes.

The only thing I would add to that is given my also work with tons of clients, work at RP, work with sons of bodybuilders and 25 years of training myself. There’s also no perceptive inclination on my part, sort of heuristic coaching inclination to believe that tempos are some kind of magical, really big deal thing as well. Right. And that brings us to the next question I have. You use sensory cues more than most people probably. And in what’s now evidence based fitness. You had some talk with Milo about that. Why? Why is that? Like the literature on this has kind of swung back and forth where originally bodybuilders just said, just, you know, do what gives you the best bump? And then the literature was like, well, metabolic stress doesn’t seem to have a compelling empirical growth, causative pathway associated with it. So one of the questions that was asked is, especially given that current research on stress mediated hypertrophy, which are well aware of the pump, seems to occur mostly in mid-range of motion.

That’s false. Categorically false. A straight I disagree with that. I think anyone who says the pump mostly agrees … mostly occurs in the mid range of motion hasn’t tried lengthened partials or full range of motion and hasn’t had their quads pump themselves off their fucking body before. So please continue. I did. I wanted to just catch that one real quick. Yeah. So the rest of his question was – how do you reconcile your recommendation to go by the pump? You already partially answered that with the current emphasis on lengthened positions. I think if you try the lengthened positions and you take the muscles close to failure with a good degree of volume, […] that that maximizes the pump and maximizes all the other factors we know to correlate with hypertrophy like local muscular fatigue. Like if I, the biggest, if you ever come train with us on YouTube to anyone out there listening, we will give you the pump of a fucking lifetime and we’re not going to do it through partials, I’ll tell you that. And if they’re partials, they will be lengthened partials, not shortened partials, not mid range partials, I think bodybuilders who do pump work in the mid range just realize that at the bodybuilding show where they use bands to pump up, they lose total tension at the bottom. So they have to have some tension, so they do it here. I think that the pump is a pretty robust indicator of what I’ve termed perturbation.

Your muscles are fucked up. If you’re running a marathon and you get a pump, you’re in deep shit. That’s not supposed to happen. And I think the pump has at least now it has been empirically now established, at least with I think, two studies as a good correlate or proxy for hypertrophy. That’s not a surprise. So I think there is I don’t think there is an antagonism there. I don’t think there’s a contradiction. I think training, if we talk about what kind of training gives you the most growth novel training, especially if you’re a beginner training at long muscle lengths, training close to failure, training with high volumes. All of those are a recipe for the fucking biggest pump you’ll ever get in your life. You want high tension with shortened, […] shortened partials, low volumes, you won’t get a fuckin pump. You sure […] aren’t going to grow much either. So I don’t want to overemphasize the pump. There are many contexts in which you don’t get a big pump, but you get robust hypertrophy. Good mornings and stuff like deadlifts for the hamstrings do so much literal mechanical damage. Right? Right then and there. You might even get a big pump Sometimes hamstrings pump are difficult to figure out anyway, but you’re sure as shit getting some growth. But I think if you can check as many boxes as possible, being able to check the pump is almost never a bad thing. Yeah, I mean, there are definitely scenarios where like higher reps, short rest intervals, cluster sets, where the pump differs a lot and there is either no difference in literature or it’s in the opposite. Like short intervals are great for pump, not so good for muscle growth. Unless you make up for it with extra volume, you do more sets and then you get an even bigger pump. So are there ways to get a quick pump and get some kind of semblance of something? Yes, are they, all those ways hypertrophic? Yes. Are they as hypertrophic as taking more time?

No, they’re not. I also think you get a better pump if you take some time between your […] and really push your fucking sets to failure. You get a deeper, bigger pump. There are two kinds of pumps, in my opinion. Bodybuilding pre contest pump where you right before the show you get a small pump, you get a little […] and then this kind of pump where you can’t even flex your quads anymore. You don’t want that kind of pump before the show or […] you do so many fucking flies and shit and incline presses. You can’t feel your fucking pecs. My pecs can get so pumped that if I flex them or contract them, they stay the same. That’s a good fucking sign. That’s the fucking pump we’re talking about. Now that doesn’t that Absolutely. There are still ways to pump and not pump and still grow and not grow. Pump and growth is not a 1 to 1, but I think it’s better than no correlation whatsoever. And that has been shown in the literature. So I think if you can get a pump, great. If you know of some compelling growth strategy that doesn’t give you a pump – rock on, that’s fucking sweet. Which is why […] the pump is not the only proxy we use.

We use the pump, we use local muscular fatigue, we use soreness, we use performance, we use a bunch of different stuff. If all of those variables align versus if they don’t, you’re probably growing versus not as much, right? Yeah, I would personally contest the studies of the pump, but I think it’s a definitely a reasonable perspective and currently we don’t have the literature to adamantly say, you know, pump completely irrelevant versus pump very relevant. I personally are on the side of not so important, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to use it as one of the indicators. Sure. And I think an intellectual point here […] for folks listening is there is not a requirement to be excessively conservative with what you are willing to assume in practice when there is no literature One way or the other. You can make guesses. I’m guessing the pump is better utilized as a metric variable than not. It might be the wrong guess. It might be I’m wrong completely, but there’s nothing to say it’s a stupid idea. And we don’t let the pump countervailing other things that we know are important. For example, for like man, I can get a pump, I just don’t track my weights and I don’t get stronger over time and I don’t eat much or some shit like that to be like, fuck that.

Those are the core elements of getting fucking jacked. Definitely. Fuck the pump. But if you can get all the elements to align and the pump is there, my guess as a practitioner and a reader of the literature is that the pump can add some marginal clarity to the situation. I could be wrong about that, but I think there’s a quote. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and I think a lot of evidence base people miss that completely. If there’s not a study on PubMed for it, I don’t want to hear about it. That’s not how the real world works. Exactly. You have to make decisions based on all kinds of levels of evidence. Yeah, as long as there’s not, as long as you don’t prioritized a pump in situations where we have hard empirical data showing, No, it’s actually not like this. I think it’s not unreasonable to go by the pump as an indicator. Yeah, you mentioned trying to failure. I know you’re not an advocate of training to failure, and that’s because of the stimulus to stick ratio, correct? Correct. Error. Right. Yeah.

I think our views on that are pretty much the same. So we don’t need to go into that too much more detail. Are we only doing contrasting views? Well, we do that in the in one with you, right. Yeah, sure, sure, sure. And we’re really going to fight. Yeah. I’ll leave you to talk most of the podcast here. Okay, no worries. Switching gears a little bit, do you need rest days? Is it mandatory for a program to have a true complete rest day? No. The overall number one variable for your program ability to manage your fatigue is total systemic stress. If you train three times a day, five days or six days a week, one or two rest days is not going to save you. And if each session is a very hard if you train with slightly lower volumes and intensities and it’s part of your lifestyle to train every single day, you couldn’t do that for a very long time. I think anyone who’s trained every single day just on the operating principle of like #teamnodaysoff, should try a few rest days a week because they may find that the psychological benefits specifically and maybe even some physiological ones […] a total reduction in stress hormone release for a while or a huge […] reduction may have a huge or notable not beneficial result for them. But other folks like yourself who train every day or mostly every day seem to think it works just fine.

So I think it’s important not to get too dogmatic on that and say, I would try training five days a week, training six days a week and training maybe seven days a week with identical overall volumes and stress positions and see which way you like it. I will say that to me, I’ve never seen anything convincing that says five days a week necessarily has to be inferior to six or seven days a week. Right. Yeah. There are literature on super high frequency training is not great and it seems to be mostly mediated by volume. So it’s time efficient for sure. And there might be a small benefit, especially when you look at the super high volume studies in elite lifters, powerlifters, olympic weightlifters and the like. There are potential benefits there, but mostly volume total weekly volume is clearly the most important variable there. Personally, I get psychological side effects if I don’t lift for a day. I know, I know a few folks like that. Falling out of habits, also the next day I start questioning whether I should go to the gym and I don’t want to question that. Sure. If the psychology that you have is such that training every day is a more sustainable practice for you than training five or six days a week, or obviously it’s versus training not at all or training seven days, seven days is going to win that one. Yeah, Yeah. And I think it’s also for most people it’s important to understand that the body doesn’t care about the calendar days. I call that the Gregorian calendar bias. People think very much in terms of days and weeks, but the body just considers time as a continuum. So you train, you train again the next day, same time.

That means 23 to 1 hours of rest to training. Yeah, if you’re training one hour. Yeah. All right. This also you mentioned already kind of for you, there’s only so much squatting you can do. Do you think that some exercises are inherently more injurious on average for the population. Yes. Yeah. Exercise is. It’s funny because every practitioner I’ve asked this are like – duh. Yeah. But there is this movement, which is what fueled the question that in evidence based physiotherapy, movement optimism slash nihilism, some people take that to extremes and say every movement really is just equally injurious. It’s all about volume and stress management and technique. Yeah. God. You feel that? Yeah. I’m channeling my nice demons so […] the pain science people, you mean, right? Like those motherfuckers? So […] there are extremities to every view I would say if we have to […] the extreme idea that some movements are totally off limits is almost certainly false and the less extreme but still extreme idea that some movements are pretty much off limits and you have to make insane adjustments to them to make them safer is also false. If there is a movement that you would like to do, you can at least manage volumes and loads and techniques in such a way that takes whatever its inherent injury risk is and multiplies it by a huge decimal, and then all of a sudden it’s a very, very safe movement. That being the case, we know some anatomical realities that are just very difficult to argue against. One is the ratio of muscle strength to joint strength in a particular movement, joint stability to muscle strength. Some movements leverage insanely large muscles against joints and connective tissues that are like, really? And they’re just much going to be much more injurious. For example, if you try to get hurt doing a wrist curls and I’m talking about tendon avulsion, […] there’s a tendon for every single fucking tiny muscle there. You’re just not going to do it. You can 1RM wrist curls every day. The fucking week.

You almost certainly won’t get hurt if you try to do a 1RM on a sissy squat could go well, could go not so well. If you try to do a dynamic 1RM on a straight arm, chest fly could go well. But if you look, the pectoralis major is this big and the tendon […] little bitty, Do you want to take a shot at that title? You’re probably going to be safe because the absolute risk is tiny. But the relative risks is probably different. Another quick example In lordosis or neutral spine, if you have a herniation of the disks, the herniated anteriorly into the anterior collateral ligament, which means they’re asymptomatic, the thing is basically like you could shoot a gun at it and nothing would happen, it’s thick as fuck. And even if you busted through it somehow, you would just shoot like the nucleus pulposus material into your guts It is totally relevant.

You wouldn’t even know about it. If you round your back under extremely heavy loads mechanically, you’re likely to posterior to posterior herniate. And then guess what’s behind that? All of your nerve roots. Shit’s going to hit it. Shit’s going to go south. So on the margins, yes, round back deadlifting, muscle snatching, if you’re not used to it, one arm lateral raises with like your 4RM. Try it. Shit might not go well for you. You’ll probably be fine. There are some movements that are. Here’s another one. Movements that allow you to lift a higher absolute load must be more injurious than […] The movements that cannot let you lift such loads because higher absolute load simply stress the same per square centimeter area of tendon tissue more, they just do. And that can lead to some fucking problems. So yes, there are no off limits lifts, but some lifts need to be treated with a little bit more care and comfort and maybe the worst thing we could say is you have to start with very good technique and just work up slowly into heavy loads. Then you’ll probably be fine. But is it is it really false to say that all movements have an equal probability of injuring you? I would say the biggest argument against that is the same thing as what occurs in sociology when people say, Well, well, human groups, let’s say men and women are not different physiologically in any way or psychologically in any way. And so I think you just made that up to make yourself feel better. So do those physiotherapist have compelling evidence for the fact that all because conjecture is all we have. Conjecture tells us no, there’s going to be some at least minor differences, tractable ones, but minor ones. Whereas if people say like, well, […] you can get just as hurt doing anything as doing anything else. It’s like you just made that up. And I know why they make it up, because the extreme of that view is really fucked.

You got a housewife comes to CrossFit and she thinks like the mere mention of weights is going to snap her quad tendons off her bones. That’s total bullshit. That’s kinesiophobia, that needs to be treated? But the way you treat that is exposing people gradually and slow their lifting and teaching them good technique. It’s not like just telling them like you can’t get hurt doing anything in here. You could get hurt walking up the stairs just as easily as round back cat backing a deadlift like that’s unlikely to be the case. Yeah, I think it’s in large part to use your your phrase quest, A case of mistaking the absence of evidence for evidence of absence. That’s and in this case, I would say there is evidence. Like if you ask PT’s, they will almost all say that certain exercises can be very hard and are not well tolerated by their clients. And it’s a list that’s is pretty consistent among PT’s. Yes. You will typically not find kickbacks in there, for example, but skull crushers, you will find on that list very often. Yes. Another thing is even if you just ask physiotherapists, if you guys take intake forms on what kind of lifts hurt the people that come see you, it’s not going to be an even distribution. You’re right. So stretch mediated hypertrophy is something we’ve touched on a few times in this conversation already.

How big of a revolution would you say it is in fitness? Does it completely change the game, full rom is dead? Have you stopped the full rom team shop? that that was always a tongue in cheek thing and like somebody on YouTube and one of the comments recently summed it up it’s more or less us making fun of like quarter rep squatting bro’s you know stretch mediated hypertrophy seems to have something like maybe in the best case, a 10% relative improvement in the studies we’ve seen over conventional training with full range of motion and on average. And so it’s like yeah, that’s really good. But it’s not a revolution, just, it’s a very marginal revolution to use that term. So that’s something to just put aside there. Like this isn’t like everything is wrong. And there’s, you know, you get some people saying like, so you’re telling me like all the guys, they got big without it are like, how they got big […] it’s like they got big doing a very, very effective method that just might not be the most possible effective method. In addition to that, I think that we still don’t know where the trade offs are of how much stretch mediated hypertrophy in a partial rep is really the optimal amount. Is it just here? Is this is this all we’re doing? Maybe, maybe, and I’ll believe it and I’ll start trying to do it. Or is it like halfway and then back […] and then it’s good. Is it is in some muscles getting a peak contraction actually beneficial? We just haven’t seen that examined yet.

So I’m open minded to the idea. I think we need more evidence. The way I interpret the evidence to practice myself for myself currently and other folks that are asking is at this point the state of the evidence is this You can absolutely train with the full range of motion and look for overall function health strength for you, your kickboxing practice. For my jujitsu, you have to train with a full range of motion because you’re going to be experiencing forces of […] at you through a full range of motion, and you’ll be […] forces out through a full range of motion. You should at least be ready for that sort of thing. Like you’re not punching guys like, like that. You’re going to have to reach out here a little bit.

But for pure hypertrophy purposes, the way I best interpret the evidence right now is for your motion is cool, but whatever range of motion you do, make sure it’s probably not missing a deep stretch under tension. If it’s missing that something not great is happening. So if I see someone squatting and they’re squatting from here to here and here to here and here to here versus I see someone squatting from here to here to here to here. Guy number one won that one for me, because he’s not missing that deep stretch. Is it better to go all the way up and down? I think the jury’s still out on how much of a loaded stretch we have to have. But and I think there are still some minor theoretical points which could give some kind of upside to some kind of testament to full rom. Definitely get a deep stretch, maybe slow down the eccentric at the bottom, maybe pause for a bit, get that loaded stretch, then come up into a full range of motion, at least for some of your sets, because we know that there are parts of the muscle fiber that don’t activate maximally or at all or sorry parts of the total muscle outside of certain specific parts of the range of motion, especially in complex muscles. So full muscular development may at some level be at least some some amount of full range of motion lifting, maybe buttressed by 90% lengthened partials, maybe it’s 10% or 20% or 30% lengthened partial and then the rest full range of motion. So that’s kind of how to interpret the evidence right now is whatever you’re going to miss, don’t miss the bottom stretch usually.

And then for now, I think the literature is not conclusive enough for us to, for me personally, be comfortable giving much stronger advice than that. I would reconcile the literature previously versus now in large part by saying that stretch mediated hypertrophy is the primary mechanism by which we saw the improvements of full range of motion training over partial range of motion training. It’s the mechanism for the empirical observations that we already had. The only question now is, is the stretch so much more important that it’s indeed better to just to lengthen partials? I think we we agreed earlier actually in the gym that it probably depends in large part on the exercise. We see it in the literature.

The only compelling studies I would say that show lengthened partials beat full ROM were in calf raises, leg extensions and leg extensions with a not so great machine, Don’t have a whole lot of tension in the bottom position. So if you do partials, you could put more weight on. And we also saw that in the studies they used considerably more weights with the calf raises and the leg extensions when they did the partials. And then it might be the case that indeed that extra weight in the stretched position makes up for the not doing the lockout. Yes, we need a larger body of evidence to start making grandiose conclusions about how much further had lengthened partials may be than full range of motion, but we know at the very least they’re an important – the lengthened position probably not one you want to miss too often. Yeah. So some personal questions. Do you stretch? I only stretch muscles that I’ve previously torn into bits because the stretching makes them feel like they might not tear again. So I try to stretch my triceps, I stretch my chest, I sometimes stretch my adductors because I’ve torn those a few times through jujitsu and lifting. Other than that, I don’t really stretch. No, but I do train with a full range of motion, especially at the lengthened position. So I’m flexible enough for everything that I need. Right. That’s essentially weighted dynamic stretching. Yeah, correct. What about cardio? Do cardio?

I do no formal what we would call body building cardio unless I need. We do have a treadmill downstairs. I can use it when I need steps. I have a step tracker on at all times. I track my steps and also my wife and I and [..] training go to a real gym. But we have a jujitsu mat downstairs. So we do jujitsu. […] That’s a different kind of cardio. Most bodybuilders are used to. So by that mode, I do do cardio, but it wouldn’t look like cardio to most people. It’s not me on the elliptical for 30 minutes. I would definitely call your home gym or real gym. That’s a pretty serious setup. Sorry, I meant like a real jiu jitsu gym with other people for us to get beat up by. Yeah, right. How about switching gears – volume landmarks when cutting versus bulking? Do you think volume should be different in a cuts versus a bulk phase? The average volume is, I think, going to be roughly the same, but in a in the minimum effective volume in a bulk is lower because you have a more anabolic environment.

Thus you need more … less muscular stimulus in order to get some kind of minimum effect of hypertrophy. Also, you’re getting more food, so your maximum recoverable volume is going to be higher because you can push further or you can […] you stop at 18 sets in a cut, you can make it to 20 sets in a bulk. So in our in cut, the MEV is here, the MRV is here, the average might be 15, but you might be ten here and 20 here, whereas in a bulk you might be at seven here and 23 here, which really allows you, if you’d like to follow that sort of RP model of starting close to a minimum effective volume and working up, it might allow your bulks to go for longer. We also know that if someone’s eating lots of food, they can take more accumulated days and weeks of training without needing an auto regulatory de-load than if they’re cutting unless they make some adjustments. So the volume landmarks do change when you’re bulking and cutting, but mostly like that. I’ll also say that there […] To be clear, so you think the MRV, the maximum recoverable or productive volume – that probably increases during a bulk? Yeah, but the MEV decreases. So everything’s more effective. Everything is more effective if you take steroids and have amazing genetics, the MEV is zero. Your MRV is question mark and then you can do whatever you want.

I will say that at the end of a cut, especially if it’s contest stuff, your MRV starts to come down so much that it might get close to or below your maintenance volume and then you lose muscle because you cannot recover from the amount of training it would take to conserve it. And that’s the natty paradox. And well the drug paradox, if you take drugs for long enough and then you’re just bigger, but you reach the same point. So I think that’s something that has to be understood. People take the other perspective where they go, Well, listen, I’m cutting, so I just need to train at minimum volumes to keep my muscle. And that’s true. That’s totally true. But the minimum amount that you have to train to keep your muscle close to the end of a diet when you’re very lean may be the most you can recover from or beyond. So your MRV really starts to fall towards the end of a cut because your ability to tolerate fatigue is just fucking dog shit, right? It’s like eating has something to do with recovery. Weird. Yep. I would. I would also.

I allocate more volume to my clients when they are bulking versus cutting. It just make sense that energy deficit is a recovery deficit essentially. Totally. You mentioned that you period the volume and you would do that too. Doing a bulk. What would be the benefit of that versus just immediately being at what might be the optimal volume and that just trying to tweak it to be at the optimum volume all the time. I think the optimum volume is lower than the average volume in a mesocycle when you start a mesocycle because you’re not used to those training modalities, those machines, those exercises, those frequencies, that construction, you may have also just de-loaded or taken an active rest before starting a new block. So your maximum adaptive volume, the most muscle you can grow at any one time, the volume that gets you that maybe closer to your minimum effective volume when you start, it’s like if you’re starting someone out with training, do they need six sets of lunges? No. Are you kidding me? You’re going to get such damage that we know from previous literature that damage could compete with the growth processes and you just don’t get much growth, but you just heal the damage. So I’d say start with two sets of lunges, but after a while you realize like I’m comfortably recovering from two sets. I know the literature on volume is more is better if you can recover. So I’m going to start increasing. So my rationalization for that approach of starting low and going high is simply because when you’re starting something new, especially properly, you don’t need as much of that new thing to impose growth. And then as you mature in your training over several weeks and get used to things, you obviously we know that your work capacity goes up. So from that perspective, definitely can do it and your recovery ability for those specific lifts goes up as well. The novelty effect wears off and then you can up the volume a little bit more knowing that you’ll comfortably recover. So that’s kind of my view on that progression. It’s not a necessity to progress like that, but I don’t think there’s a difference between our views of starting at what we think is optimal and starting at the low end. I think the low end is optimal to begin with and that maybe just a one or two week difference and then we’d end up at the same place anyway. But I think if you can get amazing gains by training easier with less volume than normal, why wouldn’t you do that?

There’s also compelling research from the injury field where if you start with a very high volume, your probability of injury in the mesocycle or your micro cycle after is much higher than it normally would be because your muscles are shocked, I would say don’t do that. Start with a little bit, work into it. I think some people just rush right into like what’s optimal right now. […] Let’s start training easy and then work up and you’ll have plenty of time for optimal later and maybe it’s optimal even to do that. And what about if you are using the same exercises that you’ve been doing for a long time, so the mesocycle essentially the last, say, six months, still making gains, So not really changing the core exercise selection, will you keep periodizing? Would you keep fluctuating the volume or is it like at that point you maintain the same level? You autoregulate the volume to your stimulus and recovery abilities. Stimulus needs the recovery abilities. Is it enough volume to cause a robust stimulus by whatever proxies you’re using? And can you recover from it to come back next time and have another overloading workout? And if not much is changing that amount will either not change or will slowly go up until you […] your optimum volume. The theoretical MAV, maximum adoptive volume is actually exceeding your MRV. And then it’s – that’s time for de-load because you’re just too goddamn tired to keep chasing the gains and then you de-load, you rest, recover, and then you come back and start that process over. So if you have a relatively stagnant program, I think your volume is going to reflect that. And no, you wouldn’t do internal, arbitrary cycles. And that’s one thing is like from not from the start, but from publication of our book, How Much should I Train James Hoffman and I, Dr. James Hoffman and I were very clear about the volume auto regulation is auto regulation that should follow your responses it’s like if you just – I’m going to start at ten sets and I’m going to go to 20. Like why?

You should start at a number of sets that has a robust stimulus, but not crazy. Maybe it’s ten. You’ve been training the same way while, 15, and you should continue to update your volume needs week to week based on – am I getting too much volume? am I getting enough volume, how is that going to go up or down? I can do whatever. And if your training is relatively stagnant, nutriotion and training stagnant, you might see for weeks and weeks and weeks the volume essentially identical because the load constitutes most of the progression. There’s also fitness and fatigue dynamics that will change that because, you know, fatigue will escalate. And fitness will escalate too, but maybe not the same slopes. It gets a little more complicated, but there’s no need to impose this artificial like […] right? That […] needs to come from an auto regulated approach. And if the rest of your shift is quite constant, that is going to look really, really smooth. If the rest of the shift is moving quite dynamically, then it’ll reflect itself to move as well. Right? That makes sense because I think some people are under the impression that you kind of periodize the volume just for the sake of it.

Yes. You know, it’s like it was from one infographic we made as an example of what that could look like, The people you know, how people are, they’re like, That’s the way they do it. Then that’s it. Nope. Right. Not even close. And how about the de-load tweaks you recently conducted or collaborated on a study where you found the de-load tweaks didn’t improve gains. Has that radically changed your views? Was it as expected? … if they if the de-load tweaks and that study changed the trajectory of gains, I would have had to reexamine a lot of my own assumptions, which would have been fine as in science. But I’d be, fuck, I don’t know anything, these were beginner trainees doing a not very challenging systemically program for not very long in the grand scheme. Was it not that challenging? It was, they were supposedly training to failure, you know, and decent volume? Well was it a whole body program that was five or six days a week? No, it was not. From what I recall, it was a few days a week. And when you’re not that jacked, you actually can’t impose a lot of systemic stress. Like you’re just not strong enough to do that. And so what I normally say to people is if you’re a beginner and you’re training a few times a week, even if you push things to failure, you may not need to de-load for the first six months of your training. Sure, shit, 16 weeks. And this study found that after roughly two months, a de-load doesn’t have a meaningful effect. And that’s exactly what I have predicted. I would say you don’t need a de-load until you need a de-load. And how do you know that? You know it because your performance falls for a consistent amount of time and is corroborated by systemic symptoms like irritability, a defeatist attitude where you’re like, you know, I can’t even live, fuck, what am I even doing? You can have a lowered appetite, lower sex drive.

I guess the motivation to train can fall precipitously, you line up all of those. You start getting sick and you’re getting weaker. To me, you don’t need any of those except for one. Which is why, like our hypertrophy app is only based on one auto regulator for when to de-load and that’s If you start getting weaker for two sessions in a row in a muscle? De-load time. Because one session you just have a bad workout, two sessions, maybe it’s too bad workouts, but maybe you’ve actually over-reached. So if you’re at a very high training volume for very long duration and all of a sudden you’re getting weaker – the first principle of violation is – there’s this – where’s the overload? Like progressive overload means at least you try to get a little better each time. If you’re not getting better each time. Hey, they’re still happening under the hood. If you’re getting worse, please tell me how that’s sustaining high quality training. Right? So that’s how you know you need to de-load. And there are many other things to say about that. And so I think on a first principles level, de-loading needs to be auto regulated.

The problem is, is that a lot of people have too much psychological bullshit or don’t know how to read the signs and they cannot be trusted essentially to auto regulate their de-load. That’s like telling a 14 year old to stop jacking off. He’ll tell you he didn’t and then he’ll do it. So a lot of times for clients who train in the real world, you give them a de-load accumulation to de-load paradigm that does two things. One, it guarantees that they never experience excessive systemic cumulative fatigue because like once every six weeks you have a de-load, they’re fucking good. And two, it allows them training to life balance. They go on vacation, they fuck off and psychologically unplug from the gym because they might feel like – I fucking got this. And for elite lifters like yourself, auto-regulated de-loading is always […] the right answer unless we’re dealing in the context of like a competition prep. And then when you know you have to have low fatigue in three weeks, you take a de-load now to make sure in three weeks that you don’t have to do that.

But outside of that context for beginners and intermediates, I am a big fan of preprogrammed de-loading because they might just not know any better. And if you get a beginner intermediate to burn out and you’re like, it’s auto regulated de-load time, they’re like, All right, sweet and you just never see them again because that degree of desire to train drop, they can’t handle. It fucks their habits up and they’re gone. Another interesting thing about preprogrammed de-loads is you can intellectually describe them to clients and say, we do this on purpose. You’re still training. It’s a different kind of training versus if they’re really too tired and you’re like, Alright, shut it down, take a week. They start to be like, it’s a week off from the gym and I’m gone and I’m out of here, see ya. And then, and then that could be a backfiring situation.

Great. It’s interesting. Yeah. Your main method is actually essentially a reactive de-load type. I mean, the core of de-loading has to be reactive unless we think that the body’s responses are not instructing us as to what to do next. Right. But auto regulated de-loading is kind of a way to really green checkmark reactive reloading like a just in case safe method. Let me give you a – I think what is a very apt analogy. You can do auto regulated refueling of your car on a road trip, which is when you see the mark you know quarter towards the E – you find some fuel but auto-regulated or reactive de-loading or refueling in that case would be like – like if you see a sign like 20 miles gas and it’s like 40 miles more to go fuck it. Or if it’s 80 miles more. But you’re like, Well, I need to pee anyway. You just fucking stop and do it there. Preprogramed de-loading would be like every 250 miles we get gas because the take is 300 miles. […] your a fan base. I should’ve use kilometers, right? But the fuck is a mile, boo. But you know, if someone is not able to read their gas tank meter, but they know what 250 miles looks like on the odometer, you just do it every 250. But if someone is savvy enough, athletic enough, experienced enough to read that empty and fuel tank. But yeah, auto regulation is absolutely the way to go. And what we do at RP for advanced athletes even is a combined approach. And this is something Doctor James Hoffmann and I talk about all the time. The plan is to de-load you in four weeks because we’ve trained you so many times […] accumulation phases.

We have a 95% certainty that after four weeks you’re not going to have any productive training left. But if after four weeks you’re still feeling fucking good, fucking go again. But if after three weeks you’re like, I need a fucking de-load, then fuck that four weeks, we’re taking one now. And we also don’t do week only de-loads. We do de-loads by one session at a time. We do recovery half weeks. That’s a half week de-load. We do de-loads for a week and we do two and three week active rest phases. It’s the tons of different strategies to deploy depending on the degree of fatigue you experience and depending on if it’s systemic fatigue or local fatigue, because your biceps could fucking overreach by your triceps and the rest of your body is good. You don’t have to do a full body week long de-load because your biceps are fucked up. You just take a recovery half week for your biceps and you’re fucking golden. But if your whole body is fucked up and like you’re basically have the flu at that point, it’s like, Yeah, man, just like, take a reactive de-load for two days. That’s not going to cut it. You need way more downtime and then you deploy those strategies. Right. I like that analogy. So last question, personal question. Okay. You’ve publicly come out multiple times saying most people should most likely not use performance enhancing supplements, special supplements. Yeah, but you might be on some of them. It’s the special […] Yes, I have some suspicions that I might be on some. Fat free mass index or like what is it […] Fuck if I know at this point. Yeah. So the end game for you? Like is.. death by anabolics. like this is a cry for help Menno, I’m suicidal and the way I’m doing it is just taking tons of drugs. I’m kidding. I keep cutting off. Sorry. Finish it. Yeah. So what’s. Yeah, what?

Like, why for you personally, Why do you, why do you do it? We can cut this one out, by the way. No, we don’t have to. I’ve totally public with us. Yeah, Yeah, that’s a great question I had to answer this one on Eric Helms and Omar Isuf podcast about why the fuck I’m doing assault on myself. I started this journey a while back and I had my reasons for using performance enhancing drugs. And basically, like when Nick Shaw and I, our CEO at RP, when we came up drug free bodybuilding was like three people did it and we read all these muscle magazines. I think that’s still the case. Okay so now it’s like 30 … out of world population, but all the muscle magazines we read in the forums and stuff is juice monkeys and we just aspire to be at the top. And we wanted to show people that evidence based training works, evidence based diet works, and that you can do the same thing with gear use because people would say like, Yeah, man, all that fuck nerd shit works. But if you using sauce and .. shut the fuck up.

So I use sauce and I’m more jacked than the 99% of the fucking bros and I use evidence based shit. So to me one of the reasons why I use gear is so I can put my – our evidence based foot in the door of a fucking gear users and be like, the shit fucking works here too. That’s a big one. That’s a personal pride of mine. And the other one is I started a journey. I started using gear and I’m going to fucking see it through. I want to see what my full potential is given my constraints on using too much. You want to see your final form. Exactly. And that brings me to my last point is some just some fajita shit man. Like just looking at like looking above it to the top of the mountain and it’s covered by clouds and thinking, What’s what’s above there? I want to go up there and pushing the body with chemicals that are quite a bit dangerous is, you know, I’m a scientist first and foremost. I was a nerd before I was a lifter. I remember learning about orbitals and radioactive atoms and having like a near religious experience with my textbook at home. And the fact that I could manipulate my own body chemically. Sign me up. That’s as evidence based as it gets.

I think the question is almost in reverse. I would question most evidence based lifters that are fucking nerds. Why they aren’t on gear because this is a simply it’s if an alien was like, hey, like, what do you do to get jacked? You know, like I train, I eat, I never use gear. Why? They’re like, well, it’s too risky. They’re like, […] training risky? Well, yeah but it – arbitrary risks that – cutoff is too high. So if you’re willing to play if you’re comfortable playing on the margins with risk – gear is an option, probably the most compelling reason not to use gear is the psychological side effects and the fact that at least while using it, at least certain types of intelligence are notably reduced.

And that’s not fun, which is why I recommend – gear is like a racing a Formula One race car. Is there anything really wrong with it? No. Is it fucking risky? Yeah, if you like to go. yeah, sweet, use it, intelligently. Don’t just start racing cars. You’ll crash and die. But if you never use, if you never get into a Formula One car, if you never use gear, you’re probably […] the rest of us. So peace be to you. All right. All right. That’s all I got for you. I wanted to get you on the podcast because I think you are literally one of the smartest people in fitness. Not just in fitness. Actually, you are one of the smartest people I know period. Oh, get the fuck out of here. And we have quite some disagreements over the smaller things. Mostly, I think a lot of people see our like superficially see our methods and think, we’re actually we’re completely different. There is no overlap. But I think if you look at the fundamentals, we agree on most of that and we differ in some of the implementations and the interpretation of literature, especially on smaller stuff. But most important is that we both have, I think, reasonable viewpoints backed by the available evidence and we just interpret those differently. So I think it’s beneficial to expose people to different perspectives and I want to thank you very much for coming on the podcast.

Where can people find your stuff? YouTube, Just YouTube, my face […] Mike Israetel on YouTube, it’ll search just fine. Honored to be on your feature here and I’ve been a huge fan of yours for a long time. Thank you very much. I don’t know if many people know that, but it’s been true for forever. Mike

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About the author

Menno Henselmans

Formerly a business consultant, I've traded my company car to follow my passion in strength training. I'm now an online physique coach, scientist and international public speaker with the mission to help serious trainees master their physique.

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