Mike: [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to episode 12 of the How To Become A Personal Trainer podcast. We’re your hosts, Mike Vacanti.

Jordan: [00:00:10] My name is Jordan Syatt. And in this episode, we talk about the pyramid that you need to know for muscle gain; essentially the order of importance for you and your clients to make sure that they’re building muscle as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Mike: [00:00:23] Enjoy the episode.

Hello Jordan.

Jordan: [00:00:33] Hello, Michael.

Mike: [00:00:34] This is not a one-take show. This is the first ever– we were one minute into the podcast and then I realized that we have a little bit of a new setup here and our audio engineer extraordinary, David, has certain rules and regulations around the setup, and I realized that I hadn’t set it up properly to par, but now we’re good to go. We were only 45 seconds in.

Jordan: [00:00:59] But you were saying– we’ll just go back to what you’re talking about. I think that was a good discussion. You were saying that you, you– actually, I don’t remember how you phrased it. How about you start off?

Mike: [00:01:09] Basically just that– well, you asked me if, when I’m fasted, like if I haven’t eaten anything in the morning, do I think about that? Do I think of it in those terms? Like, “oh, I’m fasted right now.”

Jordan: [00:01:21] Right, ’cause you were saying you didn’t eat this morning. And I was like, does that pop up in your mind as like something to even think about or do you just not even consider it?

Mike: [00:01:28] I consider it from the perspective of meal timing. And if I have a specific fitness goal, usually fat loss, I’ll fast for a few hours in the morning just for that purpose.

But this morning I realized it because I was able to sustain focus for longer, I was less distracted, I had more concentration, and after eating a meal, and particularly a large meal, but really most times that I eat, I’m less focused for some amount of time after the meal.

And so, yeah, I do notice it.

Jordan: [00:02:08] Interesting. And you were saying that there’s a point where, when you’re fasted, you have better concentration usually until there’s a point of diminishing returns. It doesn’t go like, “all right, I’m going to fast for four days, and because–”

Mike: [00:02:21] “and by the end of day four, I will have maximal focus.”


Right. Hunger eventually just kicks in and outweighs whatever cognitive upside I was deriving. Which I’m going to theorize is related to something with carbohydrate intake because with your basically zero-carb experience, you know, tag along carbs here and there in some dairy product, but really with your Carnivore experiment, you’ve had almost exclusively proteins and fats and your physical energy hasn’t been great, but your mental energy has been…

Jordan: [00:02:59] That’s been one of the surprising parts of it is like, in weightlifting I’ve been awful. Like, strength training, absolutely terrible. Jujitsu, my energy has been abominable. But in terms of mental focus and clarity, I think is a really good word to use, like, it’s interesting. You know, sort of how sometimes people will talk about if they go from eating relatively unhealthy junk food all the time to cleaning up their diet, they’ll be like, “Oh my God, I feel so much better.”

And they’re like, “I didn’t know how bad I felt until I started eating healthier,” it’s been very interesting for me to be like, “Oh, I didn’t even realize that there was certain amount of almost brain fog.” Now this brings up the whole discussion of like, “well, are you going to keep doing Carnivore because you feel so much–“

No, I’m definitely not going to keep doing Carnivore because I think the mental clarity is only one subset of many that we have to consider. And number one, I think the most important part is it is completely and utterly unsustainable for me. Like, that’s just like– like you and I have spoken about when we talk about fat loss, when we talk about whatever, sustainability and consistency are the kings of everything.

So, it doesn’t matter if my mental focus is great, if I can’t sustain it long-term. Not to mention I just don’t like it. I just don’t like–

Mike: [00:04:29] From an enjoyment perspective?

Jordan: [00:04:30] I’ve had three diarrheas today. This is day 9? Is this day 9?

Mike: [00:04:36] Tuesday? Yeah, day 9.

Jordan: [00:04:38] Yeah, it’s day nine today and I’m still having diarrhea. There’s only been two days where I haven’t had it and I had three today. My butthole, just for– just, I’m going to say it — it’s burning in this moment.

Mike: [00:04:53] That’s not comfortable. I’m sorry.

Jordan: [00:04:55] It is so unenjoyable.

Mike: [00:04:57] Yeah

Jordan: [00:04:57] Walking to your spot? Terrible. Just walking around the apartment? Awful.

Mike: [00:05:04] What are some of the other factors?


Jordan: [00:05:08] “Let’s move away from the uh, from the bowel movement issues…”

Mike: [00:05:13] It’s just so graphic.

Jordan: [00:05:14] I just really wanna– I want to make it very clear. But if it wasn’t clear enough…

The physical performance– which, I think one of the main critiques that will come out of it is people being like, “well, you know, you only did it for 14 days.” Now here’s the interesting part. And I was thinking about this — you always have your best ideas in the shower or at least I do — I was thinking about, “how can I start the video? What’s the best way to start the final YouTube video?” And I was thinking, and for whatever reason the idea came to me, basically, coming right up close to the camera being like, “here’s the deal. If you’re a Carnivore person and I say I don’t like this diet, then at the end of the video you’re going to leave a stupid comment being like, ‘yeah well you only did it for 14 days.’ But if you’re not a Carnivore person and at the end of the video I say, ‘you know what I actually really liked this diet,’ you’re going to be like, ‘oh you know like you only did it for 14 days. Try doing it for a long time.’ It’s like listen, I understand this is only a 14-day experiment. Relax I’m just giving you my experience with it and that comes with its own limitations, but take it for what it is.”

So, I understand that in order to reach the level of higher performance with this type of diet you have to take the time to become fat adapted. Like, that’s obvious, we’re very well aware of that. That being said–

Mike: [00:06:37] Carbs over ketones.

Jordan: [00:06:39] 100%. We need to make that t-shirt. Absolutely.

And even then, if you look into the research, especially when you get into higher-level performance, higher carbohydrate diets outperform higher fat diets, lower carb, every time. They do. And it’s consistent in the research over and over and over again. So, I mean yeah, overall, I think the coolest part about this has been the mental clarity, mental focus.

Mike: [00:07:06] And another interesting thing to me was your reduced caffeine intake.

Jordan: [00:07:11] Yeah. Yeah, I’ve only been having about one cup of coffee a day. There were some days where I only had half a cup. I was actually– it’s interesting. So, technically on Carnivore you’re not supposed to have coffee because coffee beans are technically a plant and you are not allowed any plants in this diet. So, I think that’s interesting But–

Mike: [00:07:32] Mark Bell was your fearless leader.

Jordan: [00:07:34] He said if you want coffee you can have some. He recommended I don’t have it, but the reason I did continue to drink it is because I didn’t want there to be negative side effects of not having coffee intermingled with the Carnivore and I wouldn’t be able to tell which one was which.

So, I solely made sure that I only switched that one variable, which was my nutrition. Everything else has stayed exactly the same.

Mike: [00:07:57] Smart.

Jordan: [00:07:58] But yeah, the other thing– and I think I’ll probably talk about this in a video or something is the reduced sugar cravings, which has been, actually, tremendous. I will say the first thing I’m going to have when I’m done with this as a big watermelon. Like, I just I just want fruit. I just really want fruit. But the desire to just snack, the desire to just pick on random things even when they’re right in front of me in my apartment, it’s not even there. I’ve been so full throughout this whole thing It’s been very difficult for me to–

Mike: [00:08:31] I wonder– there are so many possible factors that could be causing reduced craving, like, reduced psychological craving as a result of knowing for 14 days it’s just completely off-limits and you have boxed that somewhere else mentally. Physiologically you just haven’t really consumed carbohydrates or basically any sugar for days and how quickly whatever kind of hunger cues result from that.

Jordan: [00:09:04] I think the massively high fat and protein intake–

Mike: [00:09:09] Oh, and that’s the other thing is just, yeah, you’re satiated from the number of calories and specifically fat and protein you’re eating.

Jordan: [00:09:16] And I think, really the– for me the point of experiments like this are like, “listen what can we take from this that will then actually help people?” And the number one thing is, for me, especially from the mitigating snacking, reducing sugar cravings, is “okay, make sure that you’re eating a ton of protein as often as you can.”

And for me it’s almost like if you have a grilled chicken breast, you’re not going to be craving something sweet right after it. And so, for this has been an interesting mindset for me as a coach being like, “cool so how can I improve my guidelines or improve my coaching to help people who say ‘well how can I deal with sugar cravings?'” In the same way I’ve always been like, “listen if you’re struggling with binge eating, cool. Binge, but just wait 20 minutes and oftentimes that will mitigate the need to binge. So, if you’re having a sugar craving, cool. In 20 minutes if you want sugar go for it, but first, have Greek yogurt, first have cottage cheese, first have chicken, first have a protein shake, whatever it is. If you still want to have sugar after that, great. But have protein first.” That really, I think that could help a lot.

Mike: [00:10:21] Yeah, I mean I’m going on like 24 years of eating protein first and every single meal for– not actually but it is just a good strategy for 1) getting enough protein in the day. People struggle to get enough protein. If you start every meal with a protein entree that’s going to help and it’s going to help blunt hunger. It’s harder to overeat chicken breast than it is to overeat any other food.

Jordan: [00:10:48] And it doesn’t go to the extreme of saying “don’t have it,” ’cause as soon as you tell someone not to have it, they’re like, “screw you.” And it allows them to– essentially the concept of adding rather than subtracting. Rather than, like, “we’re going to remove this, remove this, remove this,” it’s like, “no, you can still have that but we’re just going to add this.”

And through that– it’s sort of like instead of saying, “well don’t eat this, don’t eat this.” “Cool, have a big salad every day. We’re going to add that.” And just through doing that you end up eating less.

Mike: [00:11:20] Instead of constantly focusing on losing those last 10 pounds, focus on getting stronger.

Jordan: [00:11:25] Exactly. Yeah.

It’s funny, I posted this patch on my chin, the hairless patch. It finally started to grow back a little bit of hair recently and I posted it on my Instagram and all the Carnivore people were like, “it’s because Carnivore, it’s because Carnivore.”

Mike: [00:11:43] All the anti-Carnivore people?

Jordan: [00:11:44] No, All the people who are pro-Carnivore.

Mike: [00:11:46] Really?

Jordan: [00:11:46] Yeah, they were like, “it helps with the autoimmune issues.” And actually, I think there is research around that. ‘Cause this is an autoimmune issue. I believe it’s called Alopecia areata or something, and they were like– people go on Carnivore to help with their autoimmune issues — and they’re like, “that’s why.”

And it was so interesting to see how quickly they came up, being like, “that’s why, that’s why!” And I have no idea. Maybe they’re right, they could be.

Mike: [00:12:12] It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the month after you come off of it.

Jordan: [00:12:16] I’m excited to see ’cause I’m going to document the week after, as well, and if the hair goes away, or whatever it is, it’ll be actually very interesting to see what happens here because all the hair is white but it’s the first time there’s actually hair there. And I was speaking to my dermatologist, she was like, “the hair will come back. It might come back colorless at first but after that it will pigment again and it will retake its normal form.”

Mike: [00:12:42] Interesting.

Jordan: [00:12:43] Yeah.

Mike: [00:12:44] That’s very interesting.

Jordan: [00:12:46] We’ll see.

Mike: [00:12:48] The cognitive focus is still the biggest, like– the thing I’m most fascinated by. Because anytime I– you know, I haven’t done full Carnivore, but anytime I’ve fasted or the couple times I’ve done ketogenic experiments my need for caffeine is down and my ability to focus is up.

Jordan: [00:13:06] Oh, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that. That’s super interesting.

Mike: [00:13:10] Yeah. Mental clarity is the best way to put it. That has never outweighed my desire for and enjoyment of carbohydrates, as well as the positive effect they have on my training and like happiness, but I can definitely see myself adopting some kind of similar diet at some point. And this is coming from someone who, like, yesterday I had 525 grams of carbs.

Jordan: [00:13:37] Where did those come from?

Mike: [00:13:39] Uh, yesterday wasn’t the best.

I had a lot of Wheat Thins before bed.

Jordan: [00:13:47] Those are so good.

Mike: [00:13:48] ‘Cause they were just in the cupboard here.

Jordan: [00:13:50] I haven’t had those in years, they’re so good.

Mike: [00:13:52] They’re delicious. Oatmeal, I think I had two bananas yesterday. I don’t remember exactly. I’ve been tracking recently– didn’t have any ice cream yesterday. I had some white rice; I actually got a mango and blackberries from the hot bar and fruit area.

So, it could have been better, could have been worse, but coming from someone who– am trying to get over 500 grams of carbs per day right now, which is related to my muscle building goals, which is something we’re going to talk about in this podcast. I can see myself intentionally having periods where I go very low carb for the mental upside.

Jordan: [00:14:36] Part of me wonders– obviously you wouldn’t be in ketosis if you’re doing this on a day to day basis, but part of me wonders if there’d be any benefit to, essentially most of your morning-early afternoon being zero-carb, high fat, high protein and then saving your carbs for night, right before you go to bed, if you wanted to include carbs and see if you get the cognitive benefits of that type of a diet earlier in the day.

I don’t know if that would work. I don’t know if you have to be in ketosis in order to make this happen or if it’s more of an acute, you don’t have any carbs in your system, you don’t have any blood sugar– very little blood sugar elevations. So, is that why you have the cognitive benefits? I don’t know.

Mike: [00:15:18] Yeah. Test it, find out.

Jordan: [00:15:22] We’ll see

That’d make a good YouTube video: “I only ate carbs after 6:00 PM for 30 days. Here’s what happened.”

Mike: [00:15:29] I love it, I would click on it. Part of– and I think a lot of trainers will be able to relate to this, part of my concern is this type of lesson is so far down on the important stuff pyramid that I’m hesitant to even voice my interest in going very low to no carbs because I know that a handful of coaching clients of mine, if they caught wind of that, would want to go zero-carb and I do not want those individuals going zero-carb.

Jordan: [00:16:05] Yeah

Mike: [00:16:05] For psychological and physical reasons.

Jordan: [00:16:08] Yeah. I very much understand that. When I did the Big Mac Challenge, I got a fair few clients being like, “I want to do this with you.” And I was like, “absolutely not. What is wrong– like, no way.” And that’s why– you can see, like, I still have the stories up on my highlights on Instagram, several days after I started, I had to be like, “do not do this with me. Do not try this.”

And so, it’s funny how people sort of tag along and want to try and do it with you, but I still think– it’s funny, I was actually going over my YouTube channel with Rico this morning and we were looking at what videos we want to do next. And I actually want to get away from doing weight loss stuff ’cause we’ve done so many weight loss things. But the point is we’ve covered all of the questions that you could ask about weight loss. They’re all there.

So, it’s like, what next? How do we continue to make new content that is educational and providing people with high quality information that’s going to help improve them on their journey to whatever it is their goals are without repeating myself over and over again and without just doing the same message over and over again?

So, I like these challenges from that perspective because it adds a new component to education and to content creation that also makes it fun for me and ideally fun for them. But definitely, I mean, that type of a thing is so low on the totem pole of what people need to know for sure.

Mike: [00:17:39] Yeah. Let’s talk muscle building.

Jordan: [00:17:42] Let’s do it. We’ve got a whole pyramid.

We got a great response to the “programming for fat loss” episode, so we wanted to do a “programming for muscle gain” episode, so we made a whole big pyramid. This is probably going to be a longer discussion than the fat loss programming. Depending on how long this goes we might make it a two-parter, but we’re really excited about this and if you enjoyed the fat loss programming episode, we think you’re going to like this.

If you have, please leave a five-star review. They’ve been helping a lot and, seriously, we really appreciate it. And all the comments you’ve been leaving as well have been really amazing and it makes doing this podcast so worth it, so thank you.

Mike: [00:18:26] Absolutely.

So, at the base of the muscle building pyramid we have “training consistency.” Do you want to start on this one?

Jordan: [00:18:40] You know, I feel like we beat the consistency drum so hard I feel like this is we don’t even have to spend too much time on this part, but when you and I were making this pyramid yesterday. When we were going over and– Mike and I spent about probably 45 minutes to an hour coming up with this pyramid, going back and forth on what was more important, what was less important, what is of equal importance, and he one thing that we always always always agree on — and we agree on basically  everything –but the one thing that I think all coaches tend to agree on, all good coaches, is the consistency aspect where you can have the most amazing workout program ever written but if you’re not consistent you’re not going to see results. You can have the most intense workouts ever, you can lift a lot of weight, you go super hard, but if you’re not consistent you’re not gonna get any results.

Your volume could be perfect but, whatever it is, you could have the best technique, all this stuff, but the consistency rules it all. Which is why I think when coaches waste their time arguing against other coaches online about “what’s the optimal program periodization model,” it’s like what are you doing? And the base of this pyramid really outlines why so much of our content is based around getting people consistent, because most people just aren’t– they’re not hitting the base.

Mike: [00:20:06] I’ll never forget when I polled my YouTube and realized that over 50% of the people watching my videos weren’t working out, weren’t doing any kind of workout.

Jordan: [00:20:18] Really?

Mike: [00:20:18] Yeah.

Jordan: [00:20:19] Wow. How did you poll them?

Mike: [00:20:21] I don’t remember if I asked to leave comments on a video below–

Jordan: [00:20:26] Or you did like an actual link? Survey Monkey?

Mike: [00:20:29] Yeah. It was at least three or four years ago. I might’ve done a Survey Monkey but–

Jordan: [00:20:34] Those work really well. I’ve done those.

Mike: [00:20:36] Yeah. But getting people on something that they will consistently do is just necessary, right? You can have the absolute best, most optimized program that the best coaches in the world agree on and do it for a month and if you hate it, take the next– take months two and three off — so you only worked out one out of three months — compared to a mediocre, even somewhat bottom-of-the-barrel training program that you do for three consecutive months, all else equal you’re going to build more muscle on the latter.

And for me, personally, I’ll never forget this workout that I did at Gold’s Gym Venice, where I should have been psychologically amped up to the max. I love training there, this is maybe five years ago with Vince Delmonte’s younger brother, Mikey, who’s a really good videographer, Canadian, really good dude He was doing a program that was– it had to have been 40-50 sets per muscle group, per week. So, the workout we were doing was– I think it took over two hours and they were all super sets and tri-sets without rest. And it wasn’t full body, like, it was a split, so I think we hit the entire upper body in this workout. I didn’t even make it through the whole workout because I was so dead, I hated it so much. Like, I hadn’t even done half of the biceps work and I love curling. Like, I can curl forever. And my biceps were so done, upper traps were completely engaged constantly, my neck was starting to cramp up on me, I just didn’t enjoy it.

So that could– I mean that’s too much volume, which is something that we’re going to get to later in the podcast. But regardless of how “perfect” that programming was I wasn’t going to do a second workout of it And that just goes to show that doing something– ’cause some people love high volume and great, for those people being on the higher end of the spectrum for volume is awesome, but if you’re not going to do it consistently, you can’t build muscle.

Jordan: [00:22:50] I love that. I love the message and the takeaway from that, which is what we all know in terms of you have to find something that you enjoy, but I think a lot of coaches will ask their clients, “well what do you like?” But a lot of times they don’t know what they like. They have no idea. It’s like “well what kind of programming do you like? What kind of exercise do you like? Do you want higher volume, lower volume? And they’re like, “I don’t know.”

And I think one of the best things a coach can do is give your clients different styles of programming, engage what they’re enjoying most, and also track their consistency. If you give them a basic strength program that is lower volume, higher intensity, lower frequency, and heavier lifting and they all of a sudden start reducing their consistency; they’re not liking it as much, maybe they’re not checking in as often as they should, but then you give them a program that’s maybe higher frequency, a little bit higher volume, lower intensity and they’re checking in more, they’re super excited, they’re sending you videos. Now your job as a coach is to gauge that and to be like, “oh this is something they enjoy more.”

Maybe they like feeling like they’re working a little bit harder, they like feeling the muscles burn a little bit more. If they like working individual muscle groups or certain muscle groups make sure you put them in a little bit more frequently even if it’s not “optimal.” Whatever keeps them consistent is significantly more important.

Mike: [00:24:14] Yeah that’s an amazing point. And you can ask your client if– ’cause oftentimes a client will say, “I love this phase.” Say, “that’s great I’m so happy. What do you like about, what are a couple things you really enjoy?” Make a note and use that information in your future programming. Whether you’re catering to their wants in every training phase or not, knowing that will let you put something together that is going to increase your client’s consistency.

Jordan: [00:24:42] 100%. What do we got next on the pyramid?

Mike: [00:24:44] Intensity.

Jordan: [00:24:45] You want to take this one first?

Mike: [00:24:48] I’ll start on this one. So, what we mean by “training intensity” is how close an individual is to failure on a given working set. And this is so important and we ranked it so high partly because one of the reasons that many individuals train consistently for long periods of time and don’t see much progress– maybe in their first six months or first year they got stronger and they started to see certain muscles develop, but then after maybe the one-year mark they started plateauing and they really haven’t seen much difference in their body in the three or four years since despite consistently working out. It’s usually because that person is not trying to increase the amount of weight they are using and is too far away from failure. Or another way to put that is using too low a percent of their one-rep max in most exercises that they’re doing.

Jordan: [00:26:03] I think the part that you said that really needs to be emphasized here is: this is not for people who are beginners. You’re talking about people who have already been lifting for a considerable period of time, they’ve already taken advantage of the “newbie gains,” and then they aren’t seeing the results that they should, that they would expect to see.

In no way shape or form are we recommending you take someone on day one of their workout experience, maybe they have 50 pounds to lose or whatever it is, and you’re like “all right we’re going for a 1RM here.” That stupid. That’s not what we’re saying. Beginners can get stronger with as little as 40% 1RM and there’s also, we have to make the distinction between strength and muscle gain, which are two different things. They’re intertwined but they’re different.

When you’re working with beginners, they’ll get stronger and build muscle if they’re in a calorie deficit, if they’re not eating enough protein, as long as they’re just lifting weight. It’s not optimal but they will just because they’re making those adaptations. As you reach a higher-level trainee, then you have to make sure your training intensity is high, your consistency is sufficient, your protein is enough. We’ll talk about nutrition in this as well, but as you get to be more advanced if you’re not consistently getting to a point where your muscles are contracting at the highest possible intensity, you’re not going to get the best results.

And that doesn’t mean contracting at the expense of technique and we’ll discuss that later, that’s further up the up the pyramid, but one of the reasons that we put intensity here is because you could have really high intensity but if your technique is off then it’s not going to get the best results. You could have perfect technique, but if your intensity is too low, you’re not going to get the best results. Intensity is the constant here where if you’re not hitting a high enough intensity then you’re going to be not getting the best results that you could be getting for yourself or for your clients.

Mike: [00:28:10] Yup that’s exactly right. I don’t even know how much more necessarily we need to say here. Obviously varying intensity over time is important and the point you drove home, which is: beginners will build muscle on lower intensity. So, we’re not suggesting that every set needs to be one rep shy of complete and total failure for beginner, but once you’re beyond that point you need to be within five reps and I say one to four on working sets to build muscle, “hard sets.”

Jordan: [00:28:51] So I worked with Paul Carter for the better part of the last year and I look at him as a very– as basically one of the leading experts in muscle growth, and I hired him because I wanted to learn a lot from him. And he’s spoken and taught me a lot about why you’d want to go such high intensity, the benefits of it in many, many ways. Outside of the physiological benefits and just physiologically getting better results from high intensity training and really like– outside of that, number one is: you don’t have to do– you don’t have to focus on getting as much volume when your intensity is very very high.

So, you don’t have to do four or five, six sets of something. You can do two to three sets and be done. Sometimes Paul has been doing just one set. Like, I’ll work up to one top set of as high intensity as they can and done. Psychologically this is super helpful from the perspective of, if you have– if you see six sets of squats in front of you, if you see five sets of rows, whatever it is, you just get drained immediately. And immediately you’ll start to conserve your energy to not go all out knowing you have so much. And when you do that you immediately drop the level of intensity that you bring to each set, so oftentimes you’re never reaching your maximum level of intensity.

Then when you will look at how many total reps you are at your maximum level intensity over the course of the five-six sets it actually might be less than the total number of reps you’re at your maximum intensity if you just did one or two sets. Which is a super important point that I hadn’t considered until Paul spoke to me about it where he’s like: if you do two sets at your maximal intensity for 12 reps oftentimes those like last 4, 5, 6 reps, that’s where you’re really hitting your maximal intensity. That’s where it’s the most important. But if you’re doing five sets of 10 or whatever it is you might get so fatigued and you might just be trying to conserve so much energy that the total might be 4 or 5 reps at that. Whereas if you did two sets, you’d have about 10 to 12 reps at that high intensity. And so that’s where you really need to start looking at the global picture of your programming and thinking like, what’s the point of programming five sets if they’re never going to reach a point in those five sets of where they’re really giving it their all?

Mike: [00:31:07] Yeah and that plays into consistency. If I see the 5×5 or 6×6 to start the workout I am so much less– I mean, unless I’m in a certain mood or certain kind of period in my life where I’m really amped up for that, but normally I’m just much less excited about that. And so tapering volume down a bit so that you can have maximal intensity in that workout is going to help with adherence.

And then obviously even at a high level of intensity there’s going to be a certain amount of muscle that you can build on X volume and over time that volume is going to have to increase to continue to make more muscle gain for an individual.

Jordan: [00:31:59] I think one of the aspects of why intensity is so important in terms of how much weight you’re lifting, how heavy you’re lifting, and we spoke about this yesterday, is that if you’re looking from a progressive overload perspective getting stronger, adding more weight over time, your volume will increase simply by lifting more weight.

Your volume, and I just want to say it again ’cause it’s super important. A lot of people argue over the volume or intensity debate — your volume will go up if you’re lifting more weight. Period.

Mike: [00:32:35] Correct.

Jordan: [00:32:36] Your intensity will not necessarily go up by doing more volume. And you spoke about that yesterday, if you want to like go off on the examples of how that might work.

You remember that you were talking about that?

Mike: [00:32:49] No.

Jordan: [00:32:49] You were talking about the example of doing, I think you’d said 3 sets of 10 versus this equal volume over different types of set-rep schemes, but the weight changes.

Do you remember that? 

Mike: [00:33:02] I got it, I got it, I got it.

So, the technical definition of volume is weight lifted times sets times reps and what we were saying is that you increase your total volume by adding weight to the bar. So, if you’re doing 3×8 of a barbell back squat–

Jordan: [00:33:21] Increase intensity by adding weight to the bar.

Mike: [00:33:24] Both.

So, when you add five pounds week over week you are increasing intensity and you are also increasing volume. Whereas you can increase volume by hitting 5 sets of 40 reps per set of a lateral raise or even like a leg press or certain cable machines– and this is one reason why you can simplify volume as number of hard sets, which makes it an easier way to calculate, but you can play with volume by choosing certain exercises and completing or programming certain rep schemes that actually doesn’t increase muscle gain progress, doesn’t increase the quality of the work you’re doing, and it might look better on paper if you’re just trying to improve volume ,but it isn’t leading to tangible better results.

Jordan: [00:34:28] As you were saying that I was thinking what’s a good example of how volume can sort of be misleading? And I feel like we all know that if you just look at someone’s body weight you don’t know much about them, but if you look at their body fat percentage you will get a much better picture of that individual.

Volume, just total volume, doesn’t tell you very much. But when you look at volume from the perspective of high-quality volume, of volume where you actually were working your muscles at the higher highest level of intensity, now you’re starting to get a better picture of that workout, how effective that workout might’ve been, and how effective it will be over the long term.

Mike: [00:35:06] That’s exactly right. Anything else on intensity?

Jordan: [00:35:11] Do we want to have any guidelines– are we going to talk about sets and reps in this one? I feel like we’re going to have to make this a two-parter.

Mike: [00:35:17] I think we are too I think that will probably go in the next.

Jordan: [00:35:21] Sets from rep recommendations. Got it.

And those will tie into intensity and volume and how you should structure sets and reps for muscle gain. We’re going to go more in detail on that. It’s already over 30 minutes and we know this is going to be– we don’t want to skimp on anything, so we’re going to make this a two-part episode.

So, for now for intensity I think we’re good. Is there anything you want to add to that? Any important clarifications? I guess we’ll clarify as we go up the pyramid, right? ‘Cause next one’s technique, right?

Mike: [00:35:52] Correct.

And I actually, for a second, made half an argument that technique should have been at the bottom of the pyramid, below consistency. Until Jordan pointed out that he’s seen many big dudes with bad technique, in which I had to concede my hopeful, aspirational argument.

Jordan: [00:36:18] It was a good argument and we could talk about why, right? Like, why might we have– ’cause I was on board for a second before I thought about all the massive dudes I’ve seen with terrible technique. So why might technique– why is technique so important? Aside from the blowing you’re back– blowing your spine out of your back?

Mike: [00:36:35] That’s my number one reason by far. There are two reasons, that one is by far the first because good technique is the best thing you can do to prevent injury and if you are injured you can’t consistently train, was my thought process.

The other benefit of technique is: proper technique with a full range of motion is going to increase muscle fiber recruitment which is going to lead to, not just a little bit more muscle gain, but if two individuals completed the exact same program, and one literally completed the top half of the range of motion on every single move they did and the other person did a full repetition on every single move for 12 phases, for an entire year– I’m just pulling a number out here, but I would say the person who completes full reps will gain three to four times as much muscle

Jordan: [00:37:32] I have zero basis to corroborate that but I would agree that definitively they’ll get better results and they’ll get injured less, they’ll be way more consistent, they’ll have better– and assuming neither of them get injured but they consistently train, guarantee they get better results. And the research showing that is obvious that the muscle fiber recruitment, how much actual muscle they’re actually using, it’s going to be way more beneficial over the long term.

Interestingly, though, and here’s why I was so intent on talking about muscle fiber recruitment; is it because if you tell a client, “Hey I want you to really lower the weight and use better technique because you could hurt yourself,” I found they’re far less likely to do it. Whereas if you say, “hey, if you lower the weight and use better technique you’re actually going to get better results because you’re using more muscle fibers, you’re going to get more muscle involvement, and that will lead to bigger, stronger muscles,” that’s when they’ll actually do it. Not because they’re afraid of getting injured but because, “oh I’ll get better results if I do this.” Which to me is funny.

Mike: [00:38:35] It is funny. It’s good to know, too, for coaches to frame it for the clients to see better adherence to it.

Jordan: [00:38:41] It’s so interesting to me — people, generally speaking, tend to not be as worried about getting injured as they are about not getting ideal results. But the unfortunate part is most people will end up getting injured because they’re not using good technique and that will end up being the reason why they’re not getting good results and they think that there is, “well it’s a programming thing” or “it’s an exercise selection thing,” it’s like no no no It’s like you’re training like an idiot and you’re using too much weight, your technique is off, you’re training too much, your frequency is too high, your duration is too high, your volume’s too high, because they’re doing stupid stuff rather than toning it down a little bit so they can be more consistent.

And us bringing this back to consistency over and over and over again is very deliberate and on purpose because, again, you can have the perfect program, the perfect volume, the perfect intensity, perfect exercise selection, perfect technique, but if you’re not consistent for whatever reason — whether it’s injury, whether it’s you’re just not doing it — for whatever reason if you’re not consistent it’s not going to work. So always finding a way to help your clients be more consistent will be the number one factor in getting them success.

So, by all means let them know they’re more likely to injure themselves, but even more importantly, in my experience, tell them they’ll get better results because of more muscle recruitment by getting a full technique in with lighter weight.

Mike: [00:40:01] That’s smart.

Jordan: [00:40:03] Yeah. Gary responded well to that. Gary always responds well to that type of stuff.

It’s interesting how, like, the things that he responds well to in terms of like– even something as simple as getting more protein in, he responds very well to the, “this is going to help you build more muscle,” rather than, “this is going to keep you more full.”

Mike: [00:40:26] This is going to keep you more full, “well, I’ll be fine,” because in his mind it’s the same as not getting hurt. “Oh no, I’ll be fine.” But if you put it in the context of “you’re going to see greater progress as a result of this,” he’ll do it.

Jordan: [00:40:40] Absolutely.

Mike: [00:40:42] Yeah, that’s really funny. Anything else on technique?

Jordan: [00:40:46] I mean, I know it sounds self-explanatory– I’m wondering if there’s–

Mike: [00:40:52] Maybe just there are other– this is obvious for most of us, but there are other aspects of technique. I know I touched on range of motion but proper time under tension, right? Controlling the eccentric and not bouncing the bar off of your chest. Technique-specific queuing is going to be different for every single exercise, so that’s obviously something that we will cover over the duration of the podcast. If you’re interested in hearing about that, then definitely let us know, but it’s not something we’ll drill down on today.

Jordan: [00:41:26] You know what might be worth talking about is how to correct your client’s technique properly, in a good way, so they don’t get upset. And the reason I say this– I don’t think I’ve told this story on this podcast, and tell me if I have, I had a business coaching client years ago, years and years and years ago, before I even really started charging for doing that stuff.

And he had just started doing online coaching and I’ll never forget he told me, “oh, I’m super excited I got to know on my coaching client,” amazing, all this stuff. I was like, “oh dude, that’s awesome.” And within a couple of days he was like, “dude, he just canceled on me out of nowhere. I don’t know what happened.” And I was like, “well walk me through the interactions and the process of what happened and we’ll figure out where you might’ve gone wrong.”

And he’s like, “all right, well, so we gave him the whole program, he was super excited about it, and I told him to send me videos. He was like ‘okay cool, this is great.’ He sent me videos,” and this guy sent him videos of him bench pressing and uh–

Mike: [00:42:33] I’ve never heard the story.

Jordan: [00:42:33] I’ve never told you this story? Oh, man.

He sent his coach, my client, videos of him bench pressing, and he was like, “and I corrected his technique and then he canceled.” And I was like, “send me the emails that you sent him.”

And I look at the emails and it was so funny because it was so– for me it was just common sense, the way to approach this. But I think some people, they just don’t even think about it. When I read the emails that he wrote to his client about his technique, he sent the videos and he just goes right into being like, “all right, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

That’s how he started it out. He was like, “your range of motion is way too short.” And he just goes down a list of all of the things that this guy is doing wrong and he says, “send me another video,” and that was it.

He didn’t say anything positive about it. He didn’t say anything like, “this is normal,” there was no– there was no any type of comforting at all. And this obviously differs on your clients and who you’re working with and your personality as a coach, but that being said, for the vast majority of people — especially with a brand new client, especially with someone who doesn’t know you, especially with someone who this is a new experience for them I like to– number one, you should always try and find a way to compliment someone genuinely.

Mike: [00:43:58] And before you say this, ‘cause I know what you’re going to say and I love it. One helpful thing to think about when writing this email is: pretend you’re telling this person what you’re saying to their face. Pretend it’s in an actual conversation.

Jordan: [00:44:14] The reason I love that you said that is because it goes back to what we said in the episode where we spoke about what certifications to get as a personal trainer. Which, by the way, if you haven’t listened to that I think it’s the first or second one–

Mike: [00:44:25] First episode.

Jordan: [00:44:26] Definitely go listen to that. It was one of the most well-received ones so far.

One of the things we spoke about is the importance of coaching in person. And if you just go from coaching nobody in person to coaching online you are at a serious disadvantage. Coaching people in person will teach you how to be a better coach online. It does not work the other way around.

So like you’re saying, think about being in person with them, what you would say to their face, what you would say to an in-person client and you would never just have a client that’s brand new, walks in your gym, first one-on-one session and be like, “wow, we got a lot of work to do.”

Mike: [00:44:59] You wouldn’t do that to anyone in any facet of life, let alone in a relationship where you’re the authority and they’re new and almost certainly nervous about what they’re doing.

Jordan: [00:45:15] The only time that I would do something like that is with a very close friend who knows I’m joking around. And even though I’m serious it’s– they know that I have good intent and that it’s how we interact. I wouldn’t do that with all of my friends, only if– I do that to you, for sure, but not to a brand-new client.

And so, what Mike knows I’m going to say is the compliment sandwich.

He’s nodding. He’s like, “yeah I’ve heard this one before.”

The compliment sandwich is– and I’m sure many of you listening know this, but just in case you don’t, especially when someone sends you technique videos and they are, “hey, here’s my squat, here’s my bench, here’s my pushup, here’s my chin up.”

Number one, before we get to the compliment sandwich, is you don’t correct all of the issues in one email. That is a very stupid way to go about it. In the same way, if you’re doing it in person, you don’t go, “oh wow, well this and your traps and this and that,” it’s like, you do one thing.

Mike: [00:46:11] I think that’s a great point, and you’re going over it a little quickly, because I think a lot of coaches will–

Jordan: [00:46:18] Mike just compliment sandwiched me, did you see that? “That was a great point, but you’re going over…” He didn’t even say “but,” it was just–

Mike: [00:46:25] I think, I truly think a lot of coaches will feel like they are doing their client a disservice– and Jordan and I are on the same page with this, but say someone is deadlifting, back is just rounded, everything wrong with it that could be wrong with it–

Jordan: [00:46:42] Like, if someone walked into the gym you’d be like, “I hope they’re not looking at this right now.”

Mike: [00:46:49] I think a lot of coaches would feel like by leaving certain parts of the exercise uncorrected they might not be doing their job as a coach, but that’s incorrect because…

Jordan: [00:47:03] You can finish.

Mike: [00:47:04] It was your point. I’m not– I don’t want to steal it, I just wanted to drive home, like, this is important.

Jordan: [00:47:09] I think you should finish. I agree with you.

Mike: [00:47:13] Well first It’s going to be very discouraging for someone. Even if you compliment sandwich them, you find one thing that you genuinely believe is good about it and compliment, and then you list nine things that need to be changed and then throw, “and, you know, pretty good control the centric on most of the reps, but,” you’re overwhelming the person. It’s too much to change in a single interaction. They can’t go back and apply all that.

So instead of taking one or two things that they can actually take that cue, take that piece of advice, and make the change and send you a video back; it’s zero because putting all nine into play isn’t going to happen.

Jordan: [00:47:58] I mean the way that I would explain it is: imagine if you’re listening to this podcast and you want to build your fitness business and maybe you’re just starting out or you’re at the beginning you don’t really know where to go, and Mike and I were just like, “all right, listen. Here’s what you need to do: first and you get an email list, you need to email that list four times a week at least, you need to post on Instagram three times a day, you need to post on YouTube one time a week, you need to make your own podcast one time a week,” and all of a sudden we say all these things which, yes, over time you should be doing, but that might take a long time.

Whereas instead what Mike and I say is, “be very consistent, focus on one social media platform at a time, learn, the process of time you’ll learn, you’ll figure it out.” Is it optimal to only post on one platform at a time, and only like one time a day? No, probably not. Probably not optimal, but we also know you have a lot of other stuff going on. You’re coaching other people, you’re trying to build your business, you have a family, you have other things going on. So, if we overloaded you with unrealistic expectations, you’d be like, “well screw this, I’m just not going to do it.”

Same thing with your clients when they’re doing technique, especially in a gym with people that they don’t know, they don’t feel comfortable around, they’re already self-conscious, they don’t feel like they should be there, they’re nervous about getting injured. If you’re correcting them and you’re giving them 27 different things, “all right, so you wanna bring your feet a little bit closer together, you want to get your hands a little wider apart, you want to make sure your chest is up, back is flat, hips up a little bit higher, squeeze in, breathe, brace your belly, good, all right perfect,” and then you do it again, you’re like, “all right that was awful, we need to try it again.” It’s like, “oh my God, what in the hell just happened?”

So, if you list all of the things you need to do in one to fix all their technique, you’re screwing them over. You’re actually gonna make it, not only longer for them to fix their technique, but likely they’ll quit.

So, go into the compliment sandwich– actually, before we even discuss that, I said earlier Mike compliment sandwiched me, which he did half  the sandwich. He complimented me, then said what I had to fix, then there was no further comment at the end. But one thing that I said is–

Mike: [00:49:47] It was open-faced. It was a Carnivore compliment sandwich. Lettuce wrap on top.

Jordan: [00:49:56] I said something and as soon as I said I was like, “oh we need to talk about that.” Mike did not say the word “but.” I said the word “but” I was like, “Mike said ‘oh that was great, but,'” he actually didn’t say but, which was good.

If you say “but”– and keep in mind, this goes for every conversation you have in your life, not just for clients. When you give someone a compliment and then you say “but” afterwards, everything was just erased. Everything.

If you’re going to give someone a compliment, follow it up with “and,” or just follow it up with whatever you have to say without saying the word “but” or “although” or “on the other hand,” because anytime you have one of these words, whatever came before it doesn’t count.

Mike: [00:50:36] Yup. It’s kind of like small talk before asking for a favor.

It’s like, “oh, why did you just waste my time for two and a half minutes?”

Jordan: [00:50:45] “Hey how are you doing? Yeah, how’s work? Good, good, yeah. Do you think you could share my article on your page?” It’s obnoxious.

So, for the compliment sandwich, number one, in terms of giving a good compliment sandwich and a good comment sandwiches one that’s actually genuine. And a lot of people are like “well, what if their technique just sucked? What if their technique was awful?”

Mike: [00:51:10] You can find something good about it.

Jordan: [00:51:11] You can either find something good about the technique or just start off by saying, “awesome. Thank you so much for sending me these technique videos. A lot of clients, and maybe even most, don’t even do that. So, I really appreciate you sending me these. I can already tell we’re off to a good start.” Boom. Compliment.

And that’s a genuine one because most clients don’t do that. So, cool, then you go through. Or if something is good with the technique, it’s like, “awesome. I love how you got up to the bar, your setup was perfect, now what I want you to pay attention to…” and notice I didn’t say “but,” “now what I want you to pay attention to is how when you’re doing the chin ups your shoulders are coming up towards your ears. We’re going to want to fix that. Not a big deal, we just wanna make sure you keep your shoulders down and away from your ears as much as possible. Try and keep your shoulders in your back pocket throughout the entire movement.” Boom. That’s it. And then at the end be like “you’re doing awesome. I’m so stoked that you’re already doing this. The email Interactions are great, let me know if I can help.” Boom. That’s the compliment sandwich.

And when you follow that– by the time the client gets done reading the email they should feel more confident not less confident. And when you’re editing your email and reviewing it — which you should, you don’t just write it and then send it off without looking over — think, okay if I was getting an email about my technique or about my fitness business and someone just said all the things that I suck at would I be feeling good or would I be feeling bad, versus if someone said one thing I need to improve and two things I’m doing really well, I’m feeling pretty good about myself.

So really, really focus on that. And again, this is really, if we think about it, going all back to consistency because if you send an email or you tell a client all the things they suck at they’re not going to be consistent. They’re going to– literally, the guy canceled his payment and didn’t coach with him anymore. That was the quintessence of he’s not gonna be consistent, he’s gonna stop going to gym or definitely not work with you anymore. And this happens.

So, when you’re working on technique, yes, tell them it’s going to be better so that they don’t injure themselves. Tell them it’s going to be better so it gets better muscle fiber recruitment, so better results over the long-term, but very very very very much focus on how you communicate as a coach and make sure that when you’re done correcting them, they feel more confident in themselves, not less confident.

Mike: [00:53:19] That’s exactly right.

The last point that– I think when there’s almost nothing good, technically, about a form video, the example Jordan gave for the compliments are good “go to,” like, when you feel like there really isn’t a lot you can say positively about it, those are good examples.

When there is something good about their form that you want to reinforce so that they continue to do that, those are good compliments to give. Those are good types of compliments to give.

Intensity, funny enough, something we spoke about, is one that I’ll often use. Meaning, if someone’s form breaks down because they were aggressive in the weight they selected and they were really trying hard, they were bringing a lot of intensity to the set. I’ll compliment that because I don’t want my form correction to lead to them swinging too far in the other direction. So, “this is amazing You’re really working hard. I love that. That is what is going to lead to Amazing progress over time. Keep it up. One thing to pay attention to though…”

Jordan: [00:54:28] That one thing. I was literally in my head just thinking like, the one thing — it makes it so much more easy to overcome. “The one thing that I want you to work on is this,” rather than like, “all right, we got four things to work on.” The one thing.

It’s sort of like when you want your client to– if you just want someone to do more walking, you say, “all right, so I want you to do an extra like 20 minutes of walking,” versus “I just want you to walk around your local high school perimeter one time.” It’s a very different thing for them to overcome. One time of walking around the high school versus 20 minutes. It might actually take them longer to walk around the high school perimeter but because it’s only one time it seems easier to overcome.

Something else to consider, and this just sort of popped into my mind, when I’ve been working with clients who are somewhat more advanced– they don’t have to be very advanced. Intermediate or they’re super passionate about this stuff. They love it. They love learning about it.  One of the things I’ve done that has both made my job easier and also increased their enjoyment of the program but also made it my job easier from the perspective of I didn’t have to tell them they’re doing something wrong is I would ask them, when they sent me a video, I’d say “do me a favor. Tell me one thing you think you can improve from your technique then I’ll tell you what I think.”

The reason I like that– and I wouldn’t do this with a complete beginner who’s nervous because they don’t know. I’m there to tell them and give them support and be the stability for them so they don’t have to think about it. But for someone who maybe is a little bit intermediate to advanced, they might have a little bit of an ego surrounding their technique, especially if they’re new. What I’m thinking about in my mind is squat technique. I see this all the time and it’s super important you get side view of squat technique so you can really see their depth.

If I have a relatively intermediate to advanced lifter who comes in, they’re relatively strong, and they love this stuff, they might have a little bit of an ego around what they’re doing, I don’t want to just be like, “hey listen, this is great. Your technique is awesome. Your squat depth is a little bit short, so I’d like you to go deeper. Let’s remove some weight and go deeper.” A lot of times what they’ll do is be like, “really? ‘Cause I’ve had coaches before and they said it was great.” And like my immediate response would be like, “all right, so go work with those coaches,” so I have to remove that from the possibility of discussion.

So, I say, “hey, looking at the side view specifically, what do you think one thing might be to improve?” And then 9 times out of 10, 8.5-9 times out of 10 that person will come back and be like, “honestly, like I feel like my depth is a little bit short. I could probably go deeper.” And I’d be like, “honestly, I think that’s probably a really good assessment. How about we just take off 10-15 pounds and see how your depth looks?” Then I do the same thing, “how do you think your depth looks this time?” Boom. Then if they need to take more weight off, great. If not, then fantastic.

That’s a really really good way just to decrease the friction and get them to make the change that they really know they should be making without you having to be like, “hey you’re not going deep enough.”

Mike: [00:57:27] Yeah. That’s an  excellent tactic. It also increases the emotional buy-in and excitement on their end and probably likelihood that they continue to put that practice into play in the future is that it feels like the idea came from within.

Jordan: [00:57:46] Yeah. I gotta be honest, man, one of my favorite parts about doing this podcast has been these coaching tactics. Like, you know, we see all these other people with coaching programs to build your fitness business but they’ve never actually coached anybody online. I mean, let’s be honest, anyone can make this pyramid of building muscle — and we’re super excited about it — but just because you know the pyramid of building muscle doesn’t mean you know how to get someone to actually be consistent with it and develop a good relationship with the client. I love these conversations of client communication ’cause I would be shocked if anybody in the world has had as much client communication as you and I.

Mike: [00:58:23] You just can’t fake this conversation because it comes as a result of hundreds/thousands of interactions with clients online. Online fitness coaching has only been around so long and we both did it consistently for most of that time period. So yeah, I agree. I’m having fun too.

Jordan: [00:58:42] I like– it’s great to talk about what intensity means and why consistency is important, but having these discussions around client communication, specifically, and how to structure client communication to increase consistency, to improve their intensity to decrease their risk of getting injured, I’m really loving it. That’s probably the least expected part of this that I’m enjoying the most.

Mike: [00:59:06] Good, I’m glad.

Jordan: [00:59:08] Yeah man.

Do we want to make a part two? Do you want to stop here or keep going?

Mike: [00:59:14] So we are almost an hour in and we have six to seven more things to cover — and some of them will be shorter and kind of group together — but I think that will make for a really good part two of this podcast.

Jordan: [00:59:32] Perfect. So, in this podcast we covered the base, which was consistency, followed going up to intensity, followed up by technique, and that’s where we just cut it off. That was perfect. I think that’s the strong base, that’s the power base of building muscle, and then we’re gonna go up. We’ll discuss things like volume, we’ll discuss–

Mike: [00:59:50] We’ll give a teaser, but not in any particular order.

Jordan: [00:59:54] Oh, I like that. So, in no specific order this is what we’ll talk about next week:

Mike: [00:59:59] Exercise selection, volume, rest and recovery, training frequency, rep range, nutrition, and rest time.

Jordan: [01:00:13] I like that. I like that.

So, what might be fun for you is to make your own pyramid and you know consistency, intensity, and technique are the bottom three, in that order: consistency, intensity, technique. Try and figure out where you would arrange the orders of importance and then listen to the podcast next week and see how you did compared to us and see if either you like yours better you like ours better and we’ll go from there.

Mike: [01:00:38] Awesome.

Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, we would really appreciate it if you left a five-star review or one-star if you hated the episode. We also really appreciate the feedback.  The complements feel good, obviously, so if you want to leave one of those, but we also really like the what you want to hear more of on the podcast because as much enjoyment as Jordan and I are getting out of this, we’re doing it for you so let us know and thank you for listening.

Jordan: [01:01:09] Thank you so much.

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