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The skinny guy’s road map to gaining 40 pounds of lean muscle in just 12 months.
I spent most of my life as a skinny guy, as one of the many guys who is genetically unfortunate when it comes to building muscle. Now I’ve made a career of not only building my own physique but helping thousands of other skinny guys do the same thing.
Skinny guys are often referred to as hardgainers because it’s assumed that we have to work out much harder and longer in order to see gains that are “acceptable”. However, what I’ve learned from my own experience and from coaching and mentoring other former skinny guys is that you don’t necessarily have to work out harder, just differently and strategically.
More than Just Good Advice
When Bodybuilding.com asked me to write an article that would help other skinny guys, especially those who have been working out for less than a year, three key things immediately came to mind as make-or-break strategies: have a long-term plan, make nutrition and workouts 50/50 partners in that plan, and exploit every variable to reap its maximum benefit.
In thinking that, I decided that simply writing an article wasn’t enough. Most skinny guys who have been working out for a year or less really don’t have the knowledge and experience they need to create a plan that will net them the best results. There’s so much information out there and a lot of it is good, but a lot of it is also contradictory or just not as beneficial to hardgainers.
Beginners can’t be expected to know which information to incorporate into a long-term plan. Most don’t know how to optimize and manipulate their nutrition or which variables should be tweaked when going for maximum gains.
This is why I decided to go a bit more in-depth with this article; to explain all of the key factors that will make the difference between an okay year with moderate gains and an exceptional year that ends with 40 pounds of added muscle.
Understand, that by added muscle I mean lean muscle, not overall weight gain. I mean 40 pounds of fat-free mass, made up of dry muscle, glycogen and water.
This is the Framework for Your Long Term Plan
Before we get started, let me explain that I couldn’t possibly map out for you every set and rep of every workout for the next 12 months or give you a nutritional plan that will work for you for an entire year. If you do need and want that kind of detail, I really encourage you to check out my new program, Maximize Your Muscle, which does exactly that.
What I can do here is share with you the most important principles that you need to follow in order to work beyond your genetics and get the kind of results that some people will tell you are unattainable or only attainable with three to five years of hard work. Those principles cover these key areas: Plan, Focus, Work, Eat and Rest.
Area #1 – Plan
You have no chance of adding 40 pounds of muscle in a year if you don’t take the time to create a long-term plan. I’m not saying you need to have every month or every week mapped out down to each rep and each meal. I’m saying that you have to have an overall framework in place.
What a long term plan should be is a list of attainable, track-able goals and a set of guidelines and variables that you plan to use to reach them. It’s all about expectations and strategy beyond the next workout or the next month.
Think of a long term plan this way: if you’re planning a cross-country road trip, you need to know where you are and where you want to end up before you start planning all the stops along the way.
The same is true of bodybuilding. You need to know what your current body fat ratio is, what your measurements are, how fast you can run 50 yards and what your 1RM is with various moves and so on. Tracking your progress is essential and to do that where you are right now is just as essential as where you’re headed.
Your overall end goal is to gain 40 pounds of lean muscle mass. You might also have supplemental goals to bench 200 pounds, get from 15% body fat to 8% or do 25 pull-ups. All of these can become your supplemental, short-term goals but you must ensure that your supplemental goals do not compete with your primary goal. For instance, you’re never going to be able to build 40 pounds of lean muscle mass while also drastically improving your long distance running abilities. With a one-year bodybuilding plan, 40 pounds of added lean muscle is your destination. Each leg of the trip is marked by a short-term goal or deadline. Once you have this framework, you can start working on your nutritional plan (and all of its changes) and your schedule and so on.
One of the best things you can do in the beginning is find yourself a coach. This might be a professional coach or just someone you know, trust and believe in who is willing to mentor you. If you hire someone, it doesn’t necessarily have to be for a full year. A few months of learning the best moves and proper form, how to change variables like time under tension, intensity and volume, and how to tweak your macros can be game-changing and shortcut your success. If you don’t know anyone personally or can’t afford a professional coach, look into a good program available online. I recommend Maximize Your Muscle to get you started. Just make sure to do your homework first. The best gains of my life have always come when I worked alongside a coach and my slowest gains have always come when I went at it alone.
Area #2 – Focus
Focus is absolutely essential to this kind of goal. You can’t achieve anything this dramatic by going at it haphazardly or by jumping from one thing to another. Having a plan and a coach or mentor will help with keeping you on track, but you also need to learn to focus; really focus.
Focus on You: One of the worst things you can do as a new bodybuilder and as a skinny guy is to focus on the guys around you instead of on yourself. There’s nothing wrong with admiring another guy’s progress, physique or form, but when you start thinking you should be doing what he’s doing or lifting what he’s lifting, you’re done.
Focus on Your Priorities: This kind of a plan takes absolute commitment. It doesn’t have to take over your life, but it does need to be a central focus. Sure, you might miss a workout because of a special event like a wedding and you might blow your diet a little at the wedding too. But after your work, family commitments or school, your plan should take priority. That might mean giving up some of your favorite things to do like hanging out with your friends every night or weekend and drinking beer and eating pizza. It might mean going out one night a month instead of two times a week or waking up at 5am instead of 7am.
Focus on One Goal at a Time: Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t try to chase two rabbits at once?” It’s one of my favorites when it comes to setting and reaching goals. You probably want several things at once. You want to lose 15 pounds of body fat, add six inches to your biceps, get a six-pack and bench press 200 pounds. Those are all decent goals but you can’t necessarily chase all of them at once. They all require different methods and different strategies. Chase all of them or even two of them at once and you’ll end up with no rabbits for dinner at all. Chase one rabbit at a time and get it in the cage before you turn to the next one.
In other words, focus on one goal at a time and don’t move on until you’ve achieved it.
Area #3 – Work
If there’s one word that I think is the most valuable when it comes to your actual workouts, it’s variation. It’s hands-down the most powerful tool for growth that you will ever utilize. Variation keeps your metabolism and your Central Nervous System on their toes and allows you to take advantage of the transition period between one thing and another, which is when you will see the most gains in strength and growth.
When I talk about variation, I’m talking about several different areas.
Vary Your Workouts: I am an absolute believer in changing up your routine, but in a methodical and planned manner. You don’t want to change from one method to another without knowing why and you don’t want to do it just because you’re bored or you heard that Plan B was the hottest new thing.
Earn your volume: One thing I firmly believe is that new bodybuilders need to earn increased volume as they go. Here is an example of how you could map out the structure of your program for the next 12 months:
1st 3 months – Full body workouts
2nd 3 months – 2-day splits
3rd 3 months – 3 day splits
4th 3 months – 4 day splits
Focus on cyclical bulking: I also strongly advocate cyclical bulking which you can learn more about at 21DayFastMassBuilding.com. In fact, it’s become something of a trademark of my programs for skinny guys. The thing about cyclical bulking is that when you use shorter bulking and cutting phases, you’re able to take advantage of that transitional phase between bulking and cutting, when your metabolism and anabolic hormones are completely revved up and then switch it out again before your body adapts and you hit a plateau.
When you go from bulking to cutting, you’re able to take advantage of improved insulin sensitivity but then you switch back to bulking and take advantage of all those anabolic hormones that were stimulated by your reduced calorie intake. In other words, you go back and forth before your body has a chance to adapt to either phase.
One of the many advantages of this is that you don’t have all the fat gain that comes with traditional, longer bulking phases and you don’t have all the misery and muscle catabolism that comes with longer cutting phases.
Having said that, don’t be afraid to bulk up during this first year. You’re skinny and you can take a little extra fat. You’ll torch it off during your cutting phase, so it’s okay to overshoot your weight gain goals by about 20% before you move on to a cutting phase.
What I advocate for many skinny guys is bulking for four months and then cutting for one week, and then repeating that nutritional strategy to maximize your muscle gains and minimize fat gain.
Manipulate the Variables: Learn to utilize all of the variables in your workout. Play with shorter rest periods, longer time under tension and so on to increase the intensity and effectiveness of your workouts instead of changing your workout altogether before it’s had time to do its job.
Area # 4 – Eat
Nutrition is half the game. In fact, it may even be the majority of it since you won’t gain muscle on even the best program if your calories and macros are off, you’re deficient in vitamins and your digestive system is out of whack.
Know and adjust your macros: Understand what your best ratios are right now (daily ratio of protein, carbs and fats) and remember that they’ll change as you grow and they’ll change depending on whether you’re bulking or cutting. If your progress begins to slow, check your macros first.
Clean up your diet: You cannot build solid muscle out of garbage. It doesn’t matter how hard you work in the gym, if you’re still eating a nutrient-poor diet you will not make the desired gains. Get all of the processed and packaged foods out of the house and watch your intake of flours, sugars and unhealthy fats. Processed foods are loaded with fat and sugar that slow digestion. If your insulin and blood sugar levels are completely out of balance it will make it virtually impossible to gain anything other than fat.
Two of the best things I’ve done nutritionally were to start juicing and learn to cook in bulk by hiring a professional chef whom you can meet inside The Live Large Inner Circle. Juicing loads your body up with a ton of micronutrients in seconds, speeds up your metabolism, cleans out your digestive system and boosts your immunity. All of these reduce inflammation and get your hormones back on track too.
Cooking in bulk has been a real game-changer for me. I spent a few months with a chef, learning to cook a whole day’s worth of meals at once so that I had healthy meals and snacks ready whenever I needed them. This not only kept me from eating unhealthy food, but ensured that I got a wide variety of whole foods that I actually looked forward to eating. This made such an impact on my gains and my energy levels that I’ve devoted the whole current season of Live Large TV to preparing your meals in bulk.
If you’ve been eating a diet that relies on prepared and packaged foods, you need to start this year-long plan by cleaning out your system so that it functions as it should. I’m not talking about colonics and detox teas. What I mean is that you need to ditch the sugars and flours and even most grains and get most of your carbs from vegetables and fruits. This will help correct your blood sugar and insulin levels and even help raise testosterone levels. It will also help rid your digestive tract of the buildup that keeps you from absorbing micronutrients.
Area #5 – Rest
If you asked me what one factor of gaining muscle is most underrated, I would say it was rest. This is especially true of skinny guys who are so anxious to see change that they think they need to pack two years of work into one. The problem is that a lack of rest will stomp the brakes on gains faster than you think. And, I’m talking about both sleep and physical rest or deloading.
Daily Rest: If you’re not getting at least seven and preferably eight hours of sleep every night, you’re probably not going to reach your goal of 40 pounds in 12 months. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, all muscle recovery takes place while you’re sleeping and it happens during REM sleep. REM doesn’t begin until six hours after you fall asleep, so if you’re only sleeping six hours a night, you’re not going to see the muscle growth that you should. Without adequate recovery time, you’ll be breaking muscle down faster than you’re repairing it.
Second, sleeping less than eight hours a night has been shown to raise your cortisol levels and also throw your leptin and ghrelin levels out of balance. This means your body will be stimulated to store calories as fat instead of turning them into glycogen and sending them to your muscles.
Periodic Rest or Deloading: Giving your body a break from your demands is just as important as getting adequate sleep each night. If you don’t step back periodically, you’ll burn out your Central Nervous System and throw your hormones out of whack.
As I said earlier, I advocate four months of bulking, followed by one week of cutting and then before you repeat this cycle it’s advisable to take a complete week off. This resets your hormones, particularly your insulin levels, so that when you go back to your workouts your body is absolutely primed for gains in both strength and size. Even if you skip cutting, take that week of rest at least every 12 weeks.
You don’t necessarily have to lie on the couch for a week. Some guys (including myself) do take the week off altogether. Other guys are happier if they spend the week doing a much less intense workout or just cut the volume in half for each workout but maintain their normal weights. Other guys work out twice a week instead of every day. The point is to give your muscles and your CNS a break from what you have been doing. I promise you that when you get back to your regular workout (or the next level of it) you will see serious results.
Some of the Best Advice I Know
Now that I’ve shared some of the key principles to seeing 40 pound gains in one year, I want to leave you with some of the best advice that I know for reaching and even surpassing your goals.
Use rifle bullets, not shotgun shells – In tracking your progress and tweaking your program, be sure to use a targeted approach, not a shotgun approach. For instance, if your gains are slowing or you’re feeling hungry all the time, don’t say “I need to up my protein, so I’ll try to eat more chicken and see how that goes.” How do you measure the success or failure of that? Instead, say “I’m going to go from 1g of protein per pound of body weight to 1.5g per pound and see what that does over two weeks’ time.”
With a shotgun, you’re aiming in a general direction and hoping to hit something. With a rifle, you’ve got your eye focused right on target and you’re taking careful aim. Guess which one gets better results?
Every goal, every change and every new idea should have measurable data. Pounds lost, carbs eaten, kilos curled, days worked, seconds rested. If you don’t measure it, you can’t track it and you can’t plan your next move.
Setting goals, following the plan and really paying attention to what I’ve written here is essential to reaching your goal of adding 40 pounds of lean muscle in 12 months. It takes a skinny guy to know one and believe me I know one! I also know what it takes to transform a skinny guy into a muscle machine, so let’s do this.
You may recognize this guy. He stumbles out of bed feeling as though he hasn’t slept. That’s because he really hasn’t. He doesn’t have the time for a real breakfast so he hits the drive thru for a breakfast McFatty. By 3pm he’s ready to face plant on his desk. He resorts to a designer coffee or a cola from the vending machine hoping for some energy.
He plans to hit the gym after work, but by the time he leaves the office he’s exhausted and starving. His wife is just as exhausted, so he picks up some Chinese take-out and heads home.
In the last two months, he hasn’t had a shower that lasted more than five minutes or slept for more than four hours straight. He used to curl 80 pounds, but he’s down to curling 10 – however many reps it takes to change a wet diaper.
Yep, he’s a new father. You may even be him. I had no intention of being him but I narrowly escaped being him, but only because I planned ahead, took some positive steps and had a great deal of help with some of the biggest health and fitness challenges that a new father faces. I learned a lot during the process and I want to share what I’ve learned with others that are expecting a new child, whether it’s your first or your fourth.
Becoming a dad is absolutely incredible. However, nothing can prepare you for it. My B.M.W. (beautiful marvelous wife) give birth to our precious baby girl during a hot summer day last August. She is almost 5-months old and every moment with her is more magical than the last. I’m sure every parent thinks their child is the most beautiful thing ever. I’m the same and my wife and I like to say, “God must have spent extra time making our baby girl!” I really love being a Dad and this is by far my greatest accomplishment and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. With that said, it’s time to get real.
Becoming the father of a newborn is huge game changer. Life is no longer about Vince’s workouts, Vince’s food, Vince’s business, Vince’s movies and Vince’s trips. After having a baby, it’s no longer about me, me, me.
Being the father of a newborn is incredibly challenging. If you’re also trying to gain or maintain lean muscle and eat healthfully, it’s even more so. But being a new Dad doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your own health and physique. In fact, by incorporating these tips into your life, being a new Dad may be one of the best things that could happen to your fitness goals.
I want to share what I’ve learned with you about the five biggest challenges facing a new father: Sleep and stress, diet, focus, accountability and time.
Challenge #1 – Sleep and Stress
Shortly after my daughter was born, I had the Koenigsberg test done to check my adrenal gland function because I was eating in a caloric deficit but couldn’t lose any fat. I was exhausted and stressed and wasn’t very surprised to find that my adrenal function was at an all-time low.
Guys, stress, lack of sleep and the stress caused by lack of sleep will wreak havoc on your hormone levels and throw them completely out of whack. When that happens, you’ll be fatigued, you’ll start to gain fat (or store fat like I was) because of high cortisol levels and your testosterone levels will be too low to continue adding muscle.
Unfortunately, in the first weeks or even months after the baby is born, sleep is going to be a prize, not a guarantee. You may be one of the lucky fathers whose baby starts sleeping through the night almost immediately, but the odds are better that you’ll be getting up at least once a night to either change or help feed the baby.
We all understand the importance of getting enough rest as it relates to muscle recovery and fat loss, but lack of sleep will do a lot more damage if you don’t take steps to get more rest. At the same time, you can’t let your wife deal with the late nights on her own either or else she’ll have a mental breakdown. Accept that you’re going to have interrupted sleep and irregular sleep patterns for a while and try to counter it by getting to bed earlier, or even getting up later if your work allows it.
Because I have a business to run and because I like getting a jump on the day, I started going to bed earlier. In fact, I go to bed earlier now than I did when I was young enough to be told to go to bed. I’m in bed by 9:30 each night and wide awake at 6:00 am, it’s quite an empowering feeling. That extra time means I can still get eight hours of sleep, even if it isn’t all at once. Because my body and my health are a priority, I’m fine with missing nights in front of the TV or working late on projects. In the meantime, my adrenal glands are now functioning as they should and I have a lot more energy, burning fat and gaining muscle.
Challenge #2 – Diet
Eating a healthy diet and hitting all your macros is challenging at any time, but even more so when you have a new baby in the house. If your wife usually does most of the food shopping and cooking, she’s probably not able to do as much as she used to. She shouldn’t be expected to either. Even if you usually share the kitchen duties, time is at a premium and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of ordering out or nuking your meals. But this is a dangerous road to fat gain and poor health.
One of the best things I’ve ever done for my body and my family was to spend $2,400 on cooking lessons with one of Toronto’s top gourmet chefs. I learned how to cook meals in bulk so that I could always have healthy meals on hand that tasted good and covered all my macros. I have to say, I’ve cooked some seriously good food and the meals were easy-on-the wallet and ten times more delicious than my old “bodybuilding meals”. In fact learning how to cook in bulk had such a huge impact on my energy, health and body that I’m making it the focus of a new season of Live Large TV. In this season we’ll teach you mind-blowing recipes and how to prepare up to a weeks worth of meals in less than an hour.
This has saved my health and energy levels but it’s also saved me a huge amount of time and money. Every day after I have my first meal and get my workout in, I have an hour set aside to cook all of our meals for that day and sometimes the next. Believe me, you can cook up to a weeks worth of food in about the same time you cook a days worth of food when life is really busy. Giving my diet a makeover and having nutrient-dense foods ready to eat at any given time has saved me from the fat gain and slow muscle gains that’s typical to new fathers.
Challenge #3 – Focus
Staying focused is a constant battle for some people. For others, it’s fairly easy because they’re driven. But if you’re a new father, you’re going to have a lot of obstacles to staying focused on your personal bodybuilding goals. Things are chaotic at home, there’s a lot more to do to keep everything functioning for your family and you will be wrapped up in this incredible new baby. Staying focused is a challenge, but there are things you can do to help yourself stay on track and still get everything done.
What worked for me was to script my day. I have a set schedule that I follow each day where I perform the most important tasks first before something else has a chance to get in the way.
I can’t stress enough how essential it is to focus on the most important things first. I need to work out, I need to eat well (and make sure my wife does too) and I need to run my business so those tasks are scheduled first. I get up at 7am and eat and then work out from 8-9am. From 9-10 I cook that days meals. By 10am, I’ve taken care of working out and prepared healthy meals for the entire day. From 10-4 I work and then 4-8pm is for spending time with my wife and daughter and having a good dinner. Our daughter goes to bed at 8pm, which gives me an hour and a half to spend relaxing with my wife and doing something fun. I do my best not to go back to the computer in the evening unless there is an emergency that can’t wait.
Even if you normally hate having a set schedule, I can’t recommend it enough. We have a very limited amount of willpower, especially when we’re tired and busier than usual. Decide what you must get done each day to stay on track and take care of your family. Write a schedule that allows you to get the most important things done first. Then commit to that schedule. A lot of guys balk at following a schedule because they don’t like being told what to do at any given time, but don’t forget that you’re the one creating the schedule and it’s your goals that the schedule was created to meet.
Challenge # 4 – Accountability
On that note, let’s talk about accountability. Needing and using accountability is nothing to be embarrassed about. Some people find they do better with accountability at all times. Other people just need it during particularly challenging times. That accountability might be something as small as having a buddy at the gym to check your progress or run sprints with you.
What I chose to do was hire renowned coach Ryan Faehnle to write my workouts and write my meal plans, eliminating all guess work and giving me a structured and progressive program to follow. Hiring a coach is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done and I have never believed in being your own coach. Any time I’ve coached myself, I get worse results. Not only do I get to benefit from his incredible knowledge and unique techniques, but I get to hand over the reins to someone else so that I could focus on other priorities responsibilities. I still need to manage my business and a team of ten people. I need to support and help my wife. But I also need to have definite goals to hit and a specific program to follow. By letting Ryan create my workouts and meal plans, I freed myself up to focus on those things.
I realize that not everyone can afford to hire a great coach and I’m not saying you can’t get results on your own. But I will say that you’ll always get faster results if can find someone to help you stay accountable to your workouts and meals. Join a community, either locally or virtually. Partner up with a friend who’s interested in working together. Enter a transformation contest with a deadline. Follow a program designed by someone you look up to. Spend a few bucks on a program so that you put some money at stake. Donate money to a charity you hate if you don’t achieve your goals by a certain deadline. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable.
Challenge #5 – Time
Time. You used to have a lot of it. Now you don’t, plain and simple. Even if your schedule was already jammed before you had a newborn, now it’s completely covered up. Aside from focusing on what’s important and creating a schedule that reflects that, the best thing you can do for you and your family is to get some help.
No matter how amazing your wife is, she’s not superwoman. Don’t expect her to be able to take care of the baby and everything having to do with your home life as well. Your wife very well may be working outside the home as well, just as you are. Do whatever you can to help each other, but don’t be afraid to get help from others.
Even if you can’t afford to pay for a cleaning service or help with the yard or whatever else, maybe you can find ways to barter for it. If you’re an accountant, maybe you know a guy who can maintain your yard in exchange for help with his taxes. Maybe your wife’s a hairstylist and knows someone who would gladly clean one morning a week in exchange for free haircuts or color. You get the idea. Let the in-laws and your parents or your friends help out when they offer. It’s temporary and it’ll save your health and your sanity and keep your marriage healthy as well.
I’d like to leave you with one last tip that has become my mantra every time the baby is pushing us to our limits – “This too shall pass, soon to be replaced by something else.” It’s one of my favorite quotes and it’s so appropriate to the first few months of raising a newborn. It’s just for a short time, guys, although I hear the bigger the baby becomes the bigger the problems become! Take steps to make sure that you stay on track so that you don’t have to start from square one when it’s over and remember to cherish every single moment with your newborn as these are moments you’ll never get back.
I have a confession to make.
I’ve never been fat. Yep, it’s true. That bloated, mullet wearing dude in the before photos with the sad face, is not me.
Sometimes I feel like I should apologize. For nearly every fitness “guru” has a connecting, personal “fat” story—except me. Sure, I’ve been in great shape, good shape and relatively lousy shape. But compared to most, my worst is still pretty good shape.
It’s not that I want to be fat, it’s just that to become well liked and perhaps even rich and famous, it helps to be relatable. People like knowing you have walked in their shoes, so to speak.
Yet, by remaining pretty much always fit, I was missing that key connecting experience.
Then I turned 40.
There I was, soaring along—a top my game at 39—kicking ass, looking great; all systems “go.” Hence, 40 held no dread for me. I may even have been a little excited, sort of daring it with confidence.
Then, I went to bed one night 30-something and woke up 40-something. Note, “I woke up.” So, right there we have a good sign, right? And honestly, I thought nothing of it. Then I stood up, took a step and it was if the ground had slipped away from me—and I was looking straight down at the end of my life.
The illusion of invincibility—which I had never before experienced—had vanished. The headache, that at 38 would have had me reaching for an Advil, at 40 triggered thoughts of a brain-tumor. And while I jest (picture Arnold in Kindergarten Cop), it is more true than not. Everything had changed.
Culturally held beliefs are subtle and incredibly powerful. They shape so much of who we are and yet most never even know they are acting on us because we don’t experience a belief but instead a truth.
My awake, conscious brain knew “all is well,” that 40 is only one day older than yesterday, but the deeply held cultural belief that “40 is the beginning to the end,” had a mind of it’s own.
Look and you can see this message woven into the fabric of our society. It’s in commercials, “it’s the age of knowing what to do…Viagra,” evidentially. In movies, especially classics, the 40 year old man is the old man. He makes fun of his age, his frailness. He stops seeking, competing, moving.
A particularly painful part of this “40 story” for me is in the belief that your muscle building days are behind you. I see this unconsciously held belief laced all through the pages of nearly every “over 40 training” article.
Even the great Bodybuilding.com does it. The articles start with this sort of, “Build muscle over 40… You can do it!” tone and suddenly they’re telling you, “Be sure to rest more and take more days off. You’re no spring chicken now!” And on and on it goes.
I swear it’s as if we’re all succumbing to a ghost programmed in our psyche a million years ago that we can’t see. Thus, we just can’t stop handicapping our sad, aging selves.
Now, sure, it’s true that “age happens” but if I serve as anything, it’s powerful living proof that age is less a function of the number of years you’ve lived than how you’ve lived them. And my “secret” is no secret at all. It’s pure, simple muscle.
As I make the undeniable case for—in my book, Strength for Life, muscle is the engine of youth. In their book Biomarkers, William J. Evans and Irwin H. Rosenburg show that of the 10 key physiological measures of the aging process all 10 are favorably altered by the act of muscle building training.
So, if you’re nearing or past the polarizing, “big 4-0,” may I make a strong suggestion: Start Building Muscle Like Your Entire Life Depends On It… because it does.
In my 20’s I believed muscle was everything. That all changed when I reached my 40’s…now I know it is. Now is not the time to melt into an easy chair, but the right time to double your efforts, and focus.
Train hard, train with focus. Go deeper into your mind-muscle connection. Continue to find the “zen” place of focus and joy in your training. Don’t start “leveling off” in some seemingly “practical” way. Take solace in the knowledge that in scientific studies, resistance trained 90 year-old men experienced hypertrophy at rates nearly identical to 20 year olds.
Things do gradually change and I encourage you to remain open to that. We all deal with injury, some with illness, and life set backs. There will be things that you change, some for preference and lifestyle, others to optimize results. Even the most well trained body responds differently to some things at 40 than it did at 20. Food is a great example.
As my 40’s have ticked by I’ve changed my eating, my supplements, and my training—gradually. And of course, with men, there’s always the key issue of “t” for testosterone, with Low-T being a plague on the modern man. (We will address the hot question for men; to HRT or not to HRT in a few weeks.)
I fell I am fortunate because while I may have been blindsided by my unexpected response to 40, I was also mindful enough to recognize the story is not reality. I was, and continue to be able to make a new story. Not to just flatly reject the experience of being the age that I am, but to allow whatever comes up to do just that and then come back around, and back to center.
I look forward to sharing with you the details of my experiences. The successes and rampant failures I—and many of my fellow “muscle over 40 men” have enjoyed. We’re going to get real, go deeper and get bigger than any men who have come before us.
And together prove, once and for all, that your age is a number that takes a back seat to your bench press.
To Your Life at Full Strength,
Author Strength for LIFE, ABSolution,
The OWNERS MANual to Living Your 40’s at Full Strength
It’s time! The top things I learned in 2013 when it comes to Muscle, Manhood, Marriage and Money — the four M’s I believe every man can resonate with! Afterwards, let me know which lesson stood out to you most in the comments section below. Deal? Let’s get started!
Top 10 Things I Learned About Muscle:
1. It takes a long time for your body to deteriorate after a layoff, in my case, elbow surgery in March. It took 4-6 weeks before my body started “deteriorating” in shape and size. I was fearful I would look like “crap” after 2-3 weeks of no lifting but my body maintained its shape and size longer than I anticipated.
2. Full body workouts provide an optimal amount of volume for beginners or someone returning from a surgery or injury. I performed 8 weeks of full body workouts to kick start my comeback program, before earning a split day.
3. An optimal first training split for beginners is to perform two strength-based workouts at the start of the week and three size-based workouts at the end of the week. Training for strength at the start of the week helps prime the nervous system for the size workouts later on in the week. It also helps you focus on one goal per workout. Here is my sample split from Weeks 9-12 during my comeback:
Monday – Upper body strength
Tuesday – Lower body strength
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Upper body size
Friday – Lower body size
Saturday – Upper body size
Sunday – Off
4. The 8-8-16 giant set is one of the most agonizing set and rep schemes for size. It requires you to use heavy weights in combination with an enormous amount of lactic acid. I was so impressed that I created a full blown program out of the protocol. You can download it here for free.
5. Use Indicator Sets to measure your performance and progress. Indicator sets are the #1 tool to help you set goals, track your performance and get an indication of your progress. I use Indicator Sets to track my overall strength in the bench press and deadlift. How do you perform Indicator Sets?
a) Determine your 6-Rep Max.
b) At the end of your workout, do an ALL OUT set for max reps with no rest-pause.
c) Record your number of reps.
d) Re-test every 2 weeks until you can achieve 20 reps.
e) Increase the weight 5-10% and then build back up to 20 reps.
I started off my deadlifts with 185lbs and am now up to 315lbs on my way to 20 reps. My goal is 405 for 20 reps.
6. Bodybuilding is about being inefficient. The #1 question you should ask yourself during every set and rep of your size-building workouts is, “How can I make this feel harder?” How can you isolate the working muscle? Eliminate momentum? Initiate with the working muscle? Move through a full range of motion? Increase lactic acid? Make your body scream for mercy? Building muscle is about staying in the moment and not escaping the pain. The more comfortable you can become with being uncomfortable, the faster you grow.
7. Got lagging shoulders and arms? Train them four times in the first three days of the week. Increased training frequency is the most underutilized hypertrophy variable helping me grow at a decent rate. Plus, this is one of the benefits of having a coach write your workouts for you. I do things I would have never subjected myself to! Curious to see how the split is set up?
Monday – Complete Recovery Functional Hypertrophy Upper Body
Tuesday – Complete Recovery Hypertrophy Shoulders and Arms
Wednesday AM – Incomplete Recovery Hypertrophy Shoulders and Arms
Wednesday AM – Incomplete Recovery Strength/Endurance Shoulders and Arms
Thursday – Off
Friday – Intervals and Abs
Saturday AM – Incomplete Recovery Hypertrophy Lower Body
Saturday PM – Incomplete Recovery Strength/Endurance Lower Body
Sunday – Off
8. Isometrics build MASS! Here are two brutal variations in my comeback programs:
a. 3 x 30 seconds at the end of the workout on exercises like lateral raises, dumbbell curls, chest flyes, lying leg curls, leg press and kickbacks.
b. 8 second pauses at 3 different points of the eccentric movement (turning into a 24 second eccentric!) Try this on military press, lying leg curls and reverse barbell curls to jack up your delts, hams and forearms. Aim for 4-6 reps and don’t beat yourself up if you are dying after 2 reps.
9. The secret to EASY and FAST muscle growth is LEARNING HOW TO COOK delicious meals in bulk. After investing $2,400 into personal cooking lessons with Chef Amy I realized that I should have taken cooking lessons 10 years ago! Learning how to prepare my meals in bulk, use residual heat, handle a knife, make small amounts of food go a long way, use a thermometer and so on is going to be a game changer for me. I strongly recommend you make it a priority to learn how to cook and prepare your meals in bulk or else muscle growth will always be slow and hard.
10. Accountability is my secret advantage. As a business owner who manages a team of a dozen full-time workers, a husband, new father and public figure, I need someone to hold me accountable to my commitments. That’s why I hired Coach Ryan Faehnle to design my workouts and diet and hold me accountable to my training goals. I believe in constant and never ending improvement but I can’t do that alone. I refuse to become one of those fitness “arm chair experts” who preaches the fitness lifestyle but doesn’t look or live the part. Going at it alone is the most foolish mistake anyone can make when it comes to achieving success.
Top 10 Things I Learned About Manhood:
11. Spending time with my baby girl makes the most magical and memorable moments of my life.
12. Going to bed at 9:30pm (instead of 11-12pm) has resulted in me becoming 10x more productive during the day.
13. Surround yourself with like-minded brothers and/or sisters. This past year I helped start an online Christian group with fitness business professionals and my father acted as our “chaplain.” He led us through The Purpose Driven Life and the book of Proverbs. It was a revival we all needed. Today we have a private community where we provide each other with prayer, accountability, encouragement and lessons the good Lord is teaching us.
14. A new baby forces you to focus on the most important things in your physical, professional and personal life.
15. Putting your family first is the best decision I’ve made, yet is still a daily struggle.
16. Challenges without purpose or meaning will always feel HARDER. Read that one again.
17. A life without discomfort is a life without change.
18. Shutting down my work day at 4:30pm has forced me to become 10x more productive.
19. Quality food and supplements is not a cost, it’s an investment into how good you look and feel naked.
20. Don’t waste your time or energy on haters. This past summer I had my YouTube and Facebook accounts attacked by trolls (multiple times) and I surrendered the entire situation to God (you can ask my accountability partners) and His will prevailed in my favor.
Top 10 Things I Learned About Marriage:
21. If she says, “STOP! That bothers me…” that really means STOP! Don’t bother me.
22. In the words of my wife, “Pushing it” isn’t going to get you any.
23. If you’re not getting any in your marriage then it’s because you’re not meeting one of your wife’s needs. Find out where YOU are dropping the ball, meet her need, and she’ll give you plenty
24. A wife wants her husband to lead and take daily initiative.
25. One of the best things you can do for your marriage is a date night. Flavia and I usually do a movie and an Italian restaurant.
26. Red wine is a necessity for a happy wife.
27. Surprise your wife at least once a month with something that shows you care about her. HINT: Make sure this is a selfless act.
28. Putting your baby through sleep training is harder than any leg workout you’ll ever experience.
29. Make your baby adapt to YOUR life. Don’t let your baby rule your life. In the end, I believe the entire family will benefit, especially the baby.
30. I can’t stress enough, “Happy wife, happy life!”
Top 10 Things I Learned About Money:
31. Focus more on becoming a VALUE CREATOR. The most financially successful people I know create an enormous amount of value in other people’s lives and focus on solving big problems.
32. When setting financial goals, only two time frames matter: 90 days and 10 years. Where do you want to be 10 years from now? Once you get a crystal clear vision the only thing that matters next is what you do the next 90 days.
33. The love of money will cause you to lose sight of what really matters in life.
34. The more you learn, the more you earn. Every coach, seminar, book, course and event I attended this past year has paid me back more than 10x the cost.
35. If it wasn’t tracked, it didn’t happen. In my business we track every imaginable stat so we can grow and help more and more people.
36. Having a baby girl is expensive. Having a baby girl with hair; financially dangerous. I never knew every outfit required a matching hair clip. And she’s only 18 weeks old… LOL
37. Learning how to cook will save us, literally, thousands of dollars each year because we won’t be eating out as often.
38. If you’re not responsible with the money God has entrusted you, don’t expect to receive anymore. This is a powerful truth. If you’re not responsible with $100,000 a year, He’ll never give you $1,000,000 a year. If you’re not responsible with $1,000,000 a year, He’ll never give you $10,000,000 a year.
39. Don’t buy new technology. You’ll save boat loads of money if you buy everything 2-3 years old and avoid paying a premium for new and shiny.
40. Recognize you are beyond blessed- whatever your current situation. There are tragedies all over the world and a good percentage of people are living in a hellish nightmare right now. Remember that everything you have is a gift from above and that it can be taken away just as quickly as it was given to you. Be grateful and LIVE LARGE with what you have been given.
BONUS TIP: If you’re striving to grow a successful company, focus on hiring and growing a DREAM TEAM. Your success depends on it. I would not be where I am right now without Team Deal Monte.
I hope you enjoyed that…. I believe that we should ALWAYS BE LEARNING AND GETTING OUTSIDE OF OUR COMFORT ZONE to grow and become the best versions of ourselves possible. Thank you for reading. I have been doing this on my website since 2006 and it’s a very reflective time for me. I would love to know what lesson stood out to you most. Leave your comments below.
Vince Del Monte
We all know that we need a good dose of fiber every day to boost metabolism, improve the digestive process, rid our digestive tracts of waste buildup and reduce inflammation. But with everything else you are paying attention to and keeping track of in your diet, it can be hard to focus on getting more fiber.
The recommended minimum daily requirement of fiber is 25g, but if your digestive system is out of whack, you’ll want to get even more than that.
Getting More Fiber Isn’t as Hard as You Might Think
When most people think of getting more dietary fiber, they think first of eating more grains. That’s a natural mistake, considering all of the hype from bread and cereal manufacturers. The problem with those foods is that they are loaded with carbs, sugar, artificial ingredients, sodium and calories. This can be an issue with anyone, but especially for those who need to watch carbs and/or sugar because you’re trying to lose fat and/or correct insulin sensitivity problems. With the grains approach to fiber, you might think you don’t have any carbs or calories to spend on getting more fiber into your diet.
Trying to get 25g of fiber through grains can add up to a ton of extra carbs and calories. A slice of whole wheat bread contains between 1-3g of fiber, around 60-70 calories and anywhere from 13-20 carbs. I know you’re not going to try to get all 25g of fiber from bread, but imagine if you did, you would be adding at least 600-700 calories a day and a ton of carbs.
The good news is that you can get additional fiber into your diet without taking in a single grain food and sometimes without even taking in one single additional calorie. How does that grab you?
Here are my favorite ways to get more fiber into your diet, without adding more carbs or a bunch of calories:
1. Don’t peel it, eat it.
The vast majority of the indigestible fiber in fruits and vegetables is in their peels or skins. The skin also contains an awful lot of the vitamins and antioxidants, especially with things like apples and red grapes. Whenever you can, focus on vegetables and fruits that you don’t necessarily need to peel in order to eat them. You’ll get a whopping dose of insoluble fiber, which is like dragging a whisk broom through your digestive tract. The best part is you’re not adding any calories by eating the peel because it is indigestible.
One note: As I’ve said before, you want to buy organic as often as possible, but especially if you’re eating the peel or skin of the fruit or vegetable. Pesticides and herbicides are absorbed through the skin, so washing and peeling do not remove all of the toxins.
2. Eat more berries.
Even if you’re on a very strict carb limitation, you can enjoy some low-glycemic fruits. When you do, choose berries. Not only are they low on the glycemic scale, but those tiny seeds in strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are nothing but insoluble fiber. On top of that, you’ll be getting a ton of antioxidants, including Vitamin C, B-vitamins and resveratrol, which boost muscle recovery and your immune system. Berries are also some of the lowest-calorie fruits you can eat. Again, please buy organic berries so you are not getting a hefty dose of toxins that cancel out the good you’re doing.
3. Focus on cruciferous vegetables.
Ounce for ounce, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts have more fiber than other veggies. They’re also loaded with phytonutrients that you can’t get from grains, are very low in calories and extremely low on the glycemic scale, which is important if you’re cutting carbs or having insulin issues.
You want to eat these with the fibers as intact as possible, so raw is best. If you do need to cook them, steam them, or sauté just enough to tenderize them a bit but still leave them crisp. This leaves it up to your digestive system to do most of the work breaking down the fibers. That means slower absorption of the carbs and fats in your meal as well.
Because of the high fiber content in cruciferous vegetables, plus their generally high volume, you can eat a lot of these veggies for few calories and feel full and satisfied much longer than you would eating something like spinach or salad.
4. Your invisible friend, Psyllium husk
Psyllium husk is nothing but soluble fiber, meaning that it is indigestible, but also expands and turns into a gel-like substance when mixed with liquids (either the liquid they’re in or the liquid in your stomach). This gives you a real sense of fullness without adding a single calorie to your meal.
The great thing about psyllium husk powder is that it’s practically undetectable. I like to add it to my protein shakes or juices and have even sprinkled it on baked sweet potatoes, scrambled eggs and other foods without being able to taste or feel it on my tongue. You do want to drink up quickly if you add it to a shake or drink, because that gel action starts pretty quickly. Also, don’t add too much or your shake or juice will thicken up too much to be palatable. One or two teaspoons are all you want for a large shake, smoothie or whatever you may be juicing.
Psyllium husk powder will run you under $10 for a large container that will last for months. A little bit of this goes a long way and at 3g of fiber per teaspoon, it’s a fast, easy and calorie-free way to ramp up your fiber intake.
5. Add flax seeds to your food.
Flax seeds are fantastic. They are full of healthy fats and one tablespoon of raw flax seeds has 84mg of potassium, 66mg of phosphorous, 26mg of calcium and 40mg of magnesium. PLUS, that one tablespoon also contains 2.8g of fiber, almost 2g of protein and only 55 calories!
One of the easiest ways to get flax seeds into your diet is to mix them up with the other nuts and seeds you’re snacking on. But you can also add them to oatmeal, salads, stir them into soups and add them to your homemade vinaigrette. They add a nice nutty flavor to a lot of foods.
6. Switch to quinoa for those grains.
I’m a huge fan of quinoa. It’s a seed that acts like a grain and is considered one of the all-time best superfoods because it not only contains a ton of micronutrients and healthy fats but also 2.2g of complete protein per 100g. That 100g also packs 2.8g of fiber, 172mg of potassium, 152mg of phosphorous, 64mg of magnesium and 17mg of calcium, all for 120 measly calories.
One the coolest things about quinoa, is that it’s a great substitute for almost any grain you can think of. You can serve it as a side dish instead of rice (try cooking it in chicken stock instead of water), use it in place of pasta by topping it with your favorite tomato sauce, stir it into soups and stews like you would rice or pasta or even eat is as a hot cereal. We like to cook up a big batch of it at dinner time and stick the leftovers in the fridge. Then we just scoop some into a bowl with a little coconut milk and nuke it. Top that with some fresh berries and you have an incredibly delicious, nutrient-dense breakfast that will keep you full for hours.
Getting more fiber into your diet doesn’t have to mean eating more carbs, adding a lot of calories or having to give up other foods so you can add more high-fiber foods without increasing your calorie intake.
By using these tips for getting more fiber, you will add very little (if any) to your calorie intake and you will feel more satisfied.
You’ll also feel the benefits of your increased fiber intake within just a couple of days. Your digestion will work more smoothly. You’ll rid your body of waste and toxin build-up, making you feel lighter, cleaner and more energetic. You’ll have less inflammation throughout your body. Your blood sugar levels will also improve, since the high fiber content of these foods will slow the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream. That also means improved insulin levels.
You don’t have to use all of these tips at once, though you certainly can. Just choosing and adding two or three of these at a time will have a huge impact on your body. Start with the two or three that appeal to you the most or are easiest for you, then add one or two every week after that. You won’t regret it.