Scott Paltos on Gaining Muscle

Posted on 09 Nov 2015 22:21

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Scott Paltos from Brian Carroll’s Power Rack Strength website recently published an article about gaining muscle and he has brought up a few points that I want to comment on.

I’d like to get into the meat and potatoes of his advice so without any further preamble, here’s what I have to say:

Eat More Eat Clean

I think Scott is primarily addressing competitive athletes but his advice on eating clean is spot on. A lot of old school bodybuilders and strength trainees like to keep shoveling food down their throats hoping that the added mass to their body will add pounds to their lifts but that just makes everyone doing this unhealthy. I am not referring to the skinny guys trying to get big(ger) because they really do need to pack down a lot of food to get big and for some of them this is a real challenge and makes them feel like crap. I recognize that but there is a trend to follow XYZ diet fad that keeps changing with time and depending on who is promoting that diet. If you look at the big picture this is a waste of time. Eating clean to me is just eating healthy and in moderation.

But the key aspect of looking at strength training in relation to nutrition is that the feedback is immediate. If you eat too little you will end up missing lifts over time. I specify over time because in the short term you will be just fine even eating no food. Most of you who lead busy lives will already have experienced this on days when you are swamped with work and responsibilities and you still take time out to train. On the other hand, if you eat too much you will just end up becoming fat and you probably won’t like how you look. So to walk that fine line let your feedback from training guide you. If you are progressing and getting closer to your goals and you like what you see in the mirror then be consistent with what you are doing.

Volume work

I agree with Scott about too many people relying solely on heavy singles for the big lifts being the key to getting big. I have met professional bodybuilders who believe that hitting heavy weights on squats will get them that leg growth to put them in the same league as the guys who sweat it out with tons of volume. In the end, to get muscle growth (which is what the article is about) you should put in the volume. But even from a strength perspective, you must be able to build on your work capacity if you want to get stronger. Ideally you want to take your heavy single and make it a double and then turn that double to a triple and keep building on that volume over time.

Rest and Recovery

I think a lot of us young folk really take this for granted. At the same time I think us young folk are at that stage in life where we can burn the candle at both ends and get away with it. We can only pull this off right now – not when we’re 50. So we should take advantage of that and plan our rest accordingly because we still do need that down time in order to be better prepared to lift some big weights.

Scott’s next point is about maintaining size during prep time or depending on the sport the trainee is training for. I think this is a very general and vague bit so I will skip over it.

Supplements and Steroids

Scott has slammed the supplement market and how they promote their supplements with IFBB PROs vouching for them. I have a more neutral stance on this. I don’t think for strength training you need a whole lot of supplements but then again this article isn’t about strength; it is about gaining muscle. So from the strict perspective of packing on muscle I think supplements do play a critical role. In fact, I find it contradictory that Scott slams supplements but then goes on to defend steroid users saying that to be the best you have to push the envelope. Don’t get me wrong: I support steroid usage despite never having touched the drugs myself simply because I don’t believe in interfering in the choices of adults but you can’t slam one aspect of supplements and be okay with another. In India, I have found most powerlifters and bodybuilders are very honest about what drugs they take and even though the cynic in me believes that it is just to push those drugs and earn a commission off the sale, I think it is good in that they create better expectations.

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If you cannot afford or if it is not a possibility for you to eat meat (a lot of Indians are either vegan or vegetarian and even those that are not will not find it part of their culture to eat meat regularly) then you have no choice but to be dependent on supplements. This is why I feel that you need food and you need supplements but you find the combination that you can afford and that is practical for you. As for steroids: it isn’t some sort of magic pill but I have been around enough lifters to know that if you put a “natural” trainee on steroids he will be able to push his performance to new levels compared to when he was a non-user.

Rinse and Repeat Programs

I agree with Scott on analyzing progress dispassionately and objectively. I mentioned this in an earlier article that not everybody who goes to the gym has the agenda of becoming an actual “lifter”. An overwhelming number of people just want to get in, move around, do some stuff that is cool and feel good about themselves and their accomplishments. I don’t think there is anything wrong with them and I applaud them on their efforts. For them, cookie cutter routines are the norm. But Scott is addressing competitive athletes and when it comes to training programs it is crucial to be objective about training feedback. At that stage you really do have to take whatever routine you are doing and customize it to fit your needs and goals. You cannot and should not just follow something written for a “general” audience.

Train Hard Train Smart

This is what it always boils down to: investing time, effort, money and passion in the right direction. Eric Troy has written an article about this titled Train Smart; Not Hard - Does Intelligence Mean Less Effort is Required? that breaks this notion down of bifurcating smart training and hard work into its essence. I urge you to read Eric's article and I'd like to end this blog post with a quote from Dr. Mel Siff with regards to program design and putting in the hard work:

To me, the sign of a really excellent routine is one which places great demands on the athlete, yet produces progressive long-term improvement without soreness, injury or athlete ever feeling thoroughly depleted.

Any fool can create a program that is so demanding that it would virtually kill the toughest Marine or hardiest of elite athletes, but not any fool can create a tough program that produces progress without unnecessary pain." — Dr. Mel Siff.

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