What's your struggle with muscle building? - Part 1/2

Balancing nutrition, Time management, Progressive overload, Injury prevention

Continuing the what's your struggle series, after the diet part 1, part 2, part 3, we will check what the most intelligent machine on the planet lists about workout struggles.

As I started working out regularly I got obsessed with viewing videos by the big bodybuilders, starting with Arnold, then eventually stuck on strongman athletes' youtube channels and related fitness youtubers who were discussing them and broadcasting other truth about the main theme, building muscles. Early on I understood that if losing weight feels like turtle speed than this is snail territory, especially when you are not young anymore and not abusing testosterone and growth hormones. I accepted that it will be a slow gain, so I didn't really identify a "struggle" with this, therefore let's check 8 things that ChatGPT identified and I might also realize I do have struggles.

Balancing nutrition

It says it is hard to find the proper nutrition to support muscle development and fueling cardio workouts effectively.

I beg to differ, the formula for daily protein is 1.5-2g/kg of lean body mass (or 1g/pound). The lean body mass is your weight without fat, for a ballpark number subtract 100 from your height in centimeters. Divide the total to 40-50 gram per meal for best absorption and usage for muscle building. So for a male with a height of 190cm, ballpark lean mass is 90 kg, therefore protein should be 135-180 grams per day, that's 3-4 meals of that 40-50 gram. To continue ballparking chicken/birds have ~25g/100g protein, porc/beef have ~20g/100g; for the visual types that's around 1 chicken breast slice or a smaller stake that you need per meal and it can be reduced further by eating side dish (beans have 5g/100g with low calorie content) and dairy products (my recent favorite is Skyr with ~10g/100g with low calorie content and regular cheese usually has 20-25g/100g, while light versions can go up to the ~35g/100g, but keep in mind the fat content makes it calorie dense).

For cardio and even to just be able to do weight lifting for 1.5-2 hours if you are up to that does need fuel before working out. Based on the speed of your metabolism you should eat X minutes before working out. That X you need to figure out for yourself, it should be in the range of 30-90 minutes. The body can create energy from any of the 3 macronutrients, but it does it fastest from carbohydrates, so you should schedule your CH intake X minutes before working out, it will help. Also if you don't mind caffeine and you are not working out at night, that can help greatly too.

Yes, it does need some trial and error, but I wouldn't consider it a struggle, you can figure it out with a fewer than 10 tries, that's a task, not a struggle. 🙂

Time management

Scheduling your workouts. 

We work best if we follow structures in every part of our lives, so creating your weekly schedule for everything, including workouts is again, a task, that has plenty of benefits.
It can only become a struggle if you don't take your time to do the planning.

I have just changed my schedule this week due to the school holidays, but it was quite straightforward, got approval from my better half and that's it. Before I was opting for night workouts, because the kids were going to bed early and I was helping with the logistics in the morning, now without school as the kids don't have a duty in the morning and don't need to sleep early as they can sleep more in the morning, I could change to have my workout after work, in the afternoon and we still have plenty of time in the evening for each other.

If you struggle with this, drop me a message on linkedin, email me at [email protected] or book a free appointment and let's solve it together, free of charge!

Progressive overload

It says it's hard to keep on track with gradually increasing the intensity, volume or resistance over time.

If you track your workouts, because you should, and your application or method shows you your previous weights, reps and sets for each of the exercises you are doing, you clearly see what you did last week, so it's straightforward if you increase any one of the numbers, you have progressed with overloading your muscle. If you are not ready for the bigger weight, do more reps, if you can't even do that add one more set, which don't have to be a regular one, you can make it more interesting for yourself if you do a rest-pause (rest 20 seconds and continue whatever you have on hand) or do one or more drop sets (drop 20% of the weight and continue without rest), do cheat (reps without perfect form), do half reps, do baby reps, all of these are increasing intensity, then next time try again first raising weight or reps, then the mentioned tricks. There are more advanced things that you can learn from watching videos from famous bodybuilders, but keep in mind that they were using that techniques with elite physique, so if you are just starting or only have a few years in, the chances are quite good that you don't need to match their level of tricks.

Nowadays I am increasing the reps of my squat, because earlier I was focusing on lifting heavy with 1-2-3 reps, but as I have watched the Leg training video from Tom Platz, he said that growth comes by lifting heavy for reps, so I'm doing that. Earlier my effort at 100kg was 5 reps, I have never quite did more, maybe even couldn't as I wasn't used to hold it longer, now I'm doing 120x8 even while on a calorie deficit and fasting for 14 hours when hitting the exercise. I have never did more than 2 of 140 kg, this week I did 4 and only stopped to raise to 160 kg-s, because while I do appreciate reping these weight, I still want to see myself lifting closer to my limits, just to see how the reping "lower" weight affect the capability of lifting my personal record. Which you should avoid while in a calorie deficit, by principle you can't be as strong as with maintenance calories. The body will burn fat to cover the energy expense, but it's mostly not doing that while you are working out as first it tries to get energy fast and fat reserves are that, reserves, like a cold storage, you need an axe to get out any of it, that's not where you go when you need energy NOW. 😁

If you need more motivation for challenging your limits, start watching Coach Greg, he will tell you shout at you in every video to "Train harder than last time". 💪

Injury prevention

Warm up and stretching is not quite my strongest capabilities. I know I should do light cardio for 5-10 minutes before, dynamic stretch the body parts that will be used... 

For the warm up I usually walk to the gym and I consider that as warm up, then I do some leg stretches before squats and mess around with my arms before using them, it's hardly on any professional level that I do see from others in the gym. However I still do pyramid sets. The regular recommendation is to do warm up, then use the weights that are 65-85% of your max for a working set, in which case if that mean heavy and you didn't warm up correctly, you can get injured, because your muscles may not be ready for that load. To manage this you can use the pyramid technique to gradually raise your weight from set to set. So for example for my squat, my max is 170 kg, I'm not going there and doing 120x8 for 4 sets, maybe I should for better growth, but instead I go like this: 60x10, 80x10, 100x10, 120x8; when my workout plan required 6 sets I went with 10 reps: 60, 80, 100, 100, 100, 120. Maybe I'm cheating with the volume, but it feels safer and I still see progress in increasing reps, so nothing to be disappointed about, it works, maybe not optimal, but I don't have goals to be on a professional level, slow gains are fine.

Drink enough water! Eddie Hall is already a walking meme about hydration, he consumes cranberry juice by the liter multiple times a day, in one snip.

To be continued...

What's your main struggle when trying to lose weight? - Part 3/3
Body image issues, physical and health limits, maintenance