It’s that time of year again in Boston so start breaking out the hoodies and adding the layers because it is about to start getting chilly.  The fall is my favorite season not only because football is in back in high gear, hockey is starting and great fall T.V. shows like Fringe are starting up again but because I worry less about what my abs look like.

To me this means I can stop training like a flea on crack and start focusing more on strength training and packing on some muscle.  This year especially since I have come to realize that I have been 170 lbs and lifted the same weight for the past 4 years.  Talk about a plateau.

So this year I am changing up my program, quite a bit I might add, and doing some powerlifting and decreasing my volume.  A lot.  The other half of the equation is lifting heavy.  Very heavy.

Lift Big, Get Stronger

I don’t care who you are, male, female, hobbit, if you are training for strength you should be lifting above 90% of your max.  This means keeping your reps below 8, for me 3-5 is sufficient for most lifts (I keep deadlifts 3 or lower).

Rachel Cosgrove showing whats up

The key is to focus on progressive overload and getting stronger either each workout, each week, or each month.  If you are not increasing your lifts (and yes, the 2.5 lb weights are o.k. to use) then you should rethink your training.  It could be your program OR your diet which I will get into in a bit.

If you have seen me around the gym over the past few months I have been on a mission to increase my deadlift so many of my workouts have revolved around just that.  Using my own variation of a 5-3-1 program I managed to increase my deadlift from a meek 335 lbs to 405 in just two months.  My bench went from 235 to 295 and my squat…well we won’t talk about that but it is floundering around 315.

Last week was my deloading week where I focused a bit more on mobility and the technical points but today starts a new day.  I am excited to say that I will be going through Eric Cressey’s Show & Go program which was designed not only for strength but to get you to move, feel, and look better as well.  I will keep you updated on my progress.

For the most part, each training day focuses on one of the big lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench, rows, pullups, and overhead pressing.  This should be the majority of your workout and include at least 3-5 sets of low rep work.  The rest of your workout can include single leg work (lunges, single-leg rdl’s), good mornings, close grip bench, push presses, face pulls, suspension rows, farmer walks and tons of core (planks, side planks, anti-rotation holds, and rollouts).

Eat Big, Get Big

The other half of the equation is to add more calories which some people, like myself, is easier said than done.  I don’t mean eating crap calories either, you should still be consuming mainly nutritious foods just in massive quantities.  I don’t care who you are, if you are eating like a 12 year old girl then you are not going to get big.  Period.

My diet doesn’t change much  between bulking and cutting down but there are a few changes I make to the food I consume.  I obviously increase my caloric intake and the easiest way to do that is to eat whole foods that contain more calories.

The first change I make comes at breakfast and is going from eating an egg or two with the addition of some whites to eating a butt load of whole eggs.  The fat content of the yoke not only provides more calories but extra vitamins as well.  I could get into the egg debate on whether or not yokes are good for you but I believe they are and I will continue to eat them until research proves me wrong.

The next addition comes from milk.  Any other time of the year I almost cut milk out of my diet completely and opt for the more nutritious and delicious almond milk but that just won’t cut it when I am trying to get in the calories.  But if you are working on building some muscle, then milk does provide extra calories as well as protein, some electrolytes, and extra vitamins.  I recommend at least 2% milk and for the hardgainers whole milk works pretty well.  My personal favorite is a nice glass of chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery drink.

In addition to continuing to eat boat loads of fresh produce, a few other ingredients that I add to my diet during this time are tons of peanut butter, cheese, red meat, and truck loads of tubers.  Sweet potatos still work well here, but white potatos add tons of extra nutrition and good carbs to aid in the battle.  Remember: even though you are trying to increase your calories, you are what you eat.  Eating a little less clean is ok but junk food and overly processed foods are still off limits for this guy.

Getting big is a battle and my weapon is a fork” – Dr. John Berardi

Add your questions and comments below because I would love to get a discussion going on this one.

Written by Steve