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Skip Hill's Latest Article (35 Bullet Points On Training)

I saw this over on Elitefts and felt like it was worth sharing the bullet points here. Skip has some fantastic and fascinating points here. Would love to get some discussion going on it.

• Using progressive overload, in reference to poundage, is not the only way to achieve hypertrophy. I would even argue that it isn’t the best way to achieve hypertrophy, but this is a list of gems or bullet points, so I can’t break down every gem and discuss it at length.

• Training intensity trumps progressive overload for hypertrophy. Now, I did not say that heavy weights don’t matter.

• Calories in and calories out does not account for hormone manipulation. Calories in and calories out works for the average person, but for someone trying to build or maintain muscle and get ridiculous conditioning, you will be slitting your wrists if you subscribe solely to this concept as a dieting method.

• The top trainers in the industry do not use Intermittent Fasting, IIFYM, and aren’t writing vegan nutrition programs for top bodybuilders. The reason should be obvious.

• GH peptides are not used anywhere near as much by high-level bodybuilders as the average or newbie bodybuilder thinks.

• If you are not training to failure, stay at home, and sit on the couch.

• If you “think” you have gyno, you probably don’t. The vast majority of people will know, for sure, if they are experiencing gyno.

• If you have a shitty body part five years into hard training, that body part will likely be shitty forever. Your focus should be to make it less shitty, but it will probably always be your worst body part.

• Training to failure for 14 reps or training with a slower rep scheme that causes failure at eight reps is still failure. This is one reason I feel progressive overload is overrated (I did not say it doesn’t’t work; I am just saying it is overrated).

• If you are an older bodybuilder or one that is prone to injuries (or both), focus more on time under tension vs. progressive overload.

• The vast majority of injuries in the gym happen due to the weight being too heavy or shitty form, NOT directly from intensity. So, train intensely and use perfect form without focusing as much on moving the heaviest weight possible, and you will have a better chance at longevity while still growing and progressing.

• Carbohydrate will not be stored as fat if there is a need for the carbohydrate. EG: replenishing glycogen stores, training, other activity, etc.

• See above in reference to eating carbs at bedtime, as well. If you train late in the evening, your body may have a use for carbs right up until bedtime.

• Processed carbs get a bad rap. Processed carbs do have a place in a bodybuilder’s diet, but the timing, amount, and level of glycogen depletion are critical.

• I heard it once said that if you are not lean, you are not depleted. This is one of the dumbest things I have heard in 35 years. There are many others, but this is one of the dumbest.

• You can’t support eating white rice and pasta in a regular bodybuilding diet meal and then argue about how processed carbs are the devil’s’s food and unhealthy. This is counterintuitive, and yet so many people continue to do this.

• Eating fat in a cheat/refeed/skipload meal will only make you fat if you are not depleted enough.

• Muscle DOES utilize fat when the muscle is depleted. Many people are shocked to hear this, but this is basic information.

• Eating fat, while insulin levels are elevated, will not make you fat. If you try to show me a study that says otherwise, I will counter with the thousands of people I have trained for 20 years—from the average Joe to high-level and pro competitors in every single division—who have gotten shredded.

• Anyone who insists that antiquated dieting methods of decreasing calories, increasing cardio and not having refeed/cheat/skipload meals is the best method for getting shredded, I encourage you to continue doing what you are doing. Typically, your level of “shredded” is not everyone else’s’s level of “shredded,” but I apologize for my digression.

• Supplementation is overrated unless it has to do with a deficiency. The two exceptions are high-quality protein powders and high-quality EAAs.

• Pre-workouts are overrated and a waste of money. If you can’t get as good of a pump without using a pre-workout, learn how to train harder.

• The fastest way to go flat is to cut sodium.

• One of the biggest misconceptions about peaking for a show is that you cannot move water without reducing, restricting, or eliminating sodium.

• I am not against diuretic use as long as it is responsible. That being said, there are many competitors and trainers who say they don’t use them, and they most certainly do. When you look 12 weeks out at five weeks out, and then at one week out look like you are six weeks out but get shredded in the last two days before a show, your ass is using a diuretic. In fact, it’s your ass that gave it away because your glutes were water-logged three days ago, and are now bone dry and hard as nails.

• Intra-carbs are overrated, and I consider them to be the latest supplement craze. If you are cutting and don’t have a wicked fast metabolism, don’t bother with intra-carbs. One exception is if you train first thing in the morning and do not have a meal before training.

• Do not use EAAs or BCAAs before, during, or immediately after cardio. If you do post-workout cardio and use EAAs while weight training, stop ingesting the EAAs at least 15 minutes before the end of your weight-training session.

• If you DO use intra-carbs, you better cut your post-workout carbs down because the demand for post-workout carbs will be considerably less if you are ingesting carbs while training.

• Increasing calories can help you continue to progress and grow. Too many calories too fast can increase insulin resistance, which will bring your growth to a screeching halt. If you are gaining scale weight but not getting stronger within bodybuilding rep ranges, you are likely becoming more insulin resistant.

• If you are getting stronger within bodybuilding rep ranges, you are growing. If you are holding your strength stable while peeling off body fat, you are not losing muscle. It is virtually impossible to lose muscle while maintaining or increasing strength within bodybuilding rep ranges.

• You are not carb-sensitive, you are calorie-sensitive.

• High-carb refeeds/cheat meals/skiploads can be used successfully with people who have higher BG levels and even for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic. The trick is making sure that they are becoming more insulin sensitive and can benefit from the carbs.

• The large majority of people—even seasoned bodybuilders—squat too deep and have a “butt wink.” You should not squat as deep as you can but instead should squat as deep as your hip and hamstring flexibility will allow before the hips start to turn under you (posterior pelvic tilt).

• There is not one exercise you will do in the gym where the “ass out, chest out” mantra does not apply.

• No one will touch Phil Heath at the O. I like Brandon Curry, but he’s a distant second. Phil’s ego would not allow him to come back if he wasn’t sure he would destroy the field. This year’s O is about who places second.

In particular, I’m a fan of his thoughts regarding pre-workout supplements. I thought the bit about intra-workout carbs was interesting. I’ve seen a LOT of folks championing that recently, and always found it to be advocating for a LOT of carbs in training (we’re supposed to take them in before, after and DURING training) and as a dude that never eats or drinks anything during training, it was nice to see someone going in a different direction with it.

No fat in a refeed continues to break my heart. I don’t want to believe it.

The bit about muscle loss is something I’ve experienced as well. I’ve dropped 33lbs since March and observe no muscle loss in the process. Fighting to hold onto strength has been key. On that note, if someone drops a bunch of weight, don’t ask them “How much strength did you lose?” That’s such a jerk question.

Anyone else have some thoughts on this?

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I like how he said progressive overload is whack. You don’t get stronger to build muscles, you train to build muscles then you’re stronger.

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That’s a big bit of “lost knowledge”. I get it too: we had people spinning their wheels in the gym for years until someone came down from Mt Sinai with stone tablets that said “thou shall progressively overload” and suddenly we found a way to progress. But ultimately all that was lacking was SOME manner of progressing in general. Progressive overload is a way to do that, and Dante’s “beat the logbook” is a great principle, but it can’t be the ONLY principle, or else you got kids taking 15 minutes between sets of 5 on bench wondering why their pecs still look like crap.

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I’m someone that employs intra-workout carbs. It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time now, and will presumably continue doing during weight-training sessions. Some pertinent observations and anecdotes I have to share is that — bear in mind I do not know what people are suggesting with regards to intake nowadays — yes, absolutely if they are employed those carbs have to come out of some other meal.

I’ve come to “learn” that the “ideal” way to distribute carbs for performance is,

  • 15% for breakfast
  • 30-35% for pre-workout
  • 20-25% for intra-workout
  • 20-25% for post-workout

and that doesn’t seem too far removed from what Skip is saying here.

However, that’s not the distribution I myself employ because it isn’t “ideal” for me. I take in no carbs for breakfast, and much less for pre-workout, but some, and no more than 30g in my intra-workout for my current workouts and then the rest gets split into two post-workout meals.

In myself, I’ve observed that if I double the intra-workout allotment I can do a lot more in the gym. I can sustain longer sessions, and do more volume, and still leave feeling pretty good. But, I like to eat whole food and real carbs rather than drink HBCD and that outweighs my “love” for lifting weights :woman_shrugging:

Another observation, two friends used to have the most crippling DOMS after workouts. One, a weightlifting buddy, the other a climbing friend. Both suffer almost zero DOMS when they employ intra-workout carbs.

I believe the above can be explained by the following: they aren’t exactly gulfing down a post-workout meal (or shake) immediately after training. And, this “fits” with how my own “schedule” exhibits itself which is after a training session I feel confident that I had enough nutrition during that (if I want to) I certainly have the time to

  1. Stretch
  2. Shower
  3. Cook

and furthermore, Meadows also seems to subscribe to this notion that if you have intra-workout nutrition you don’t have to hurry to get your post-workout meal in. Given the hour at which I train, I enjoy that intra-workout nutrition offers me the leeway to cook a new meal rather than having to rely on meal-prep. This also tends to work better with my social life.

I no longer have access to those message boards — so I cannot cite it verbatim but will have to paraphrase and omit whatever details I don’t have in memory — but one training camp I did one of the involved coaches informed me when I asked that insulin as stimulated by any post-workout carbs isn’t strictly necessary to transport nutrients into the muscles after a workout as the workout itself stimulates (I believe) the GLUT-4 receptors. Carbs+insulin “help” but aren’t “required”.

And lastly, I really enjoy the pragmatist view and as someone else has already put it so eloquently I’ll quote rather than write it as if it were my own words,

If you’re not using a peri-workout RS* in some form, and doing so doesn’t negatively affect your workouts, digestion or run counter to a personal “anti-supplement stance” or directive to
consume as much (non-supplement) food as possible, you might ask yourself, “Why you would not at least try out such a potentially anabolic strategy… for at least a month or two? …"

Dr. Scott Stevenson — Be Your Own Bodybuilding Coach

*RS stands for recovery-shake

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At last. I hope 2020 will be the year this bro myth will eventually die!!!

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Absolutely correct. I’m learning the wisdom of making a light weigh heavier, saving my joints, and reaping the benefits of a healthier body and more effective training.

Nah. I’ve read too many logs here, notably @simo74 and @ActivitiesGuy, who don’t train to failure every session, yet have excellent results. From reading their logs, I’ve incorporated a moderated approach to reps, stopping upon completion of the prescribed amount for a main lift, and have progressed with less pain injury. @Voxel also suggested a form of moderated reps and effort to @nelg1993 to guard against overuse in accessory lifts.

In sum, I disagree with this point. While going to failure on something during a period can be useful, my experience and observation both say redlining during EVERY workout is unnecessary and counterproductive.

Yes. I don’t advise failure in every workout, but muscular failure IS failure, no matter the weight. I remember @flappinit writing about how a drill instructor said something like he could use an empty sack to bring a man to failure.

Yep. This corresponds to previous two points. With my injury history and (early middle) age, I’m learning the truth of this statement.

That’s relieving and validating. I train before bed and am weak and shaky until I eat both protein and carbs.

Word. Some exercises and rep ranges are more effective at causing a pump, but I think any muscle group can get one. Spinal erector pumps feel almost as weird as sweating IN WATER while swimming (thank you, middle school summer swim team, for causing one of the weirdest sensations I’d felt up to that time.)

I don’t doubt they’re a redonk supplement craze right now. However, a dozen years ago, I was doing intensive, two-hour-long training sessions with a friend shortly after breakfast. Before intra-workout carbs were a big thing, I learned to put a few tablespoons of honey and a bit of salt into my water bottle. My homemade rehydration beverage kept me from bonking/ hitting the wall, as endurance athletes used to (maybe still do) say.

Good to know. When I’m able to squat again, I’ll remember this.

Word. Same with non-gym activities, like moving furniture.

This bullet point does seem slightly dogmatic. But it’s somewhat more easily to comprehend than

  • If you’re not training to failure when appropriate you are leaving a lot of gains on the table

Also, I don’t really know the target audience for the article. There’s always going to be some people on a bell-curve to wit the main sentiment doesn’t apply as cleanly. Personally, I love training to failure for a multitude of reasons but without double-checking it’s my gut feeling from having read through and running (or attempting to run) a few programs that very often when an exercise is programmed to failure it is programmed to failure and using a somewhat heavy load as gauged by the associated rep-range. To be honest, I see this more in CTs work than anyone elses. Meadows will program to failure, and beyond, but employ slightly higher rep ranges.

Where I imagine this goes to hell is in people with a genetic pre-disposition towards injury. Now, I’m not sure entirely what that means, but I do happen to know that heavy weight moved by a muscle under tension causes muscle damage and that muscle damage as a means for hypertrophy is the one with the highest recovery demands as it necessitates an actual healing process. Then, if recovery is poor, and you go back at it, and you see a performance increase that’s not a guarantee that the muscle has healed fully and certainly not a guarantee that the tendons and ligaments have healed fully. Repeat every week for however how long and eventually something might snap.

You’ll enjoy this,

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I got a good chuckle out of some of those, especially the thought of a hit-and-run coach on the board taking a look at bullet 1.

I did enjoy reading this bit here as I experience this often in my personal life. Some people seem to think that, since I keep myself in pretty good shape, I do not eat “bad carbs” (or even carbs as a whole sometimes). This is simply untrue, as I’ve definitely had very small portions of rice/potatoes with dinner so I could get down with some cookies or brownies afterwards.

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This one is just hard for me to “get”. I don’t doubt it intellectually, but I’ve only ever personally gotten lean from really drooling calories very low. Maybe it’s my background, but I just don’t see how it can come down to anything but calories. Even when reading some of the materials you gents have suggested, it feels like a lot of the macro switches’ benefits are promoting satiety to reduce your calories ingested.

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Sure, but training to failure is training to fail. This might be great for Bobybuilding, but it sucks for strength building. Which ties intot he first bullet, which I agree with, that training for strength is not training for hypertrophy and the two shouldn’t be confused.

I don’t subscribe to this at all actually. I think it’s the springboard to not using enough weight and never getting anywhere. Injuries happen for lots of reasons, and training to failure is much more likely to cause a problem than a little body english or overload. Yes, I choosing this hill.

Pretty obvious

Amen brother.

Nope. Buttwink is a form issue, not a depth issue. Yes, I’m on this hill too.

DB Raises. Shrugs. Situps. Bent Press. I could go on.

Nonsense. It doesn’t work that way at all. Getting stronger can give bigger muscles, but working to get bigger muscles will not equate to strength gains on some linear fashion. Training for strength gives a lot less hypertrophy than training for hypertrophy, and training for hypertrophy gives a lot less strength than training for strength.

That’s completely understandable. The first time I got lean was in my early 20s, where I followed a very ‘conventional’ CICO approach based on the usual high carb bro macros found in the Weider mags (which was gospel in its time). So, I don’t think anyone would attempt to deny cutting calories results in weight loss. However, what science (and experience/epidemiology) has shown us is that diets generally fail (I think its estimated failure rate is 93-99%). It leads to the obvious question: is there a better way?

I see two major issues with the CICO idea:

  1. Science has demonstrated that constant caloric restriction, e.g. a 500 kcal daily deficit, even in the short term, reduces your resting metabolic rate. This has been known for as long as the Minnesota starvation experiment of the 1940s, and been borne out more recently through the Biggest Loser study.

  2. Coupled with (1) is the often accompanying belief that frequent feedings are needed at this time to:

  • prevent such a drop in BMR
  • prevent catabolism by spiking insulin and supplying amino acids
  • fuel activity, such as workouts

We have already established that a drop in calories in equals a drop in calories out, so the first bullet is redundant. We also know insulin is a storage hormone, so frequent spikes throughout the day is going to prevent the liberation of fatty acids and the body will have to fuel itself from elsewhere, e.g. available glycogen and proteins; perhaps leading to catabolism.

Sometimes ‘refreeds’ are thrown in as a defence against (1) but other research has demonstrated overeating for a day or so has only a transient effect on leptin levels. (I don’t have the references to hand but could dig them out).

The reason that various forms of fasting are now eventually gaining traction is the scientific recognition that it triggers counter regulatory hormones that actually combat all of these issues:

  • Noradrenalin: this can actually upregulate your BMR. Yes, it actually goes up, not down, during abstinence.
  • Growth hormone: this goes up significantly in a fasted state - another evolutionary facet that protects lean tissue in times of need.
  • Insulin - decreases and, at last, allows the body to call on its fat reserves (which in turn triggers another hormonal cascade of positive events, such as the production of (a) ketones and (b) glycogen via gluconeogenesis (which appears to largely occur through the recycling of the glycerol backbone of those same fatty acids).

Of course, as Skip states, on a more fundamental level, it should be fairly obvious that the hormonal response to Gatorade and a pop tart is going to be different to an equal calorie load coming from a tuna steak. But most folks are smart enough to guess that (apart from the IFYM crowd).

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I guess that’s why 90 pound guys and 400 pound guys lift the same weights.

It’s why the 230 lb guy is lifting lighter than the 180 lb guy in a hardcore gym

I really appreciate the detailed response. I believe you, @mertdawg and @EyeDentist all prescribe to some combination of fasting and reduced/ time-restricted carbohydrate intake. Not coincidentally, I also consider the three of you the most data-driven and articulate posters when it comes to nutrition.

I have always had difficulty with fasting, because I tend to lift early. That probably comes down to not appropriately timing my meals through the day. I have done fine with somewhat time-restricting my carbs (peri-workout window), but have not ever made a consistent effort to really go low carb.

I can absolutely tell you that “bodybuilder-style” dieting was certainly more realistic when I was younger. Real life makes it trickier both to manage every calorie (work, social commitments, not modeling eating disorders for your children) and to manage the hunger (different than being hungry is the mood swings that come later down the road; it’s just not acceptable to be grumpy with everyone). I’m, therefore, not surprised at all to see the high diet failure rates.

If there is a more practical way, even if it was slightly less effective (not saying it is, just saying even if), It’s certainly worth the experiment for nearly all of us.

But it still seems weird!

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What kind of hardcore gym?

We’re talking about building muscles. If you’re trying to be a bodybuilder and you’re lifting more weight than guys with way more muscle than you, you’re doing it wrong!

I think that’s the issue with this debate in general. From a mass point of view mass allows you to be stronger so you can lift bigger weights. From a strength point of view you train your mass to produce more force so you can lift bigger weights. Then maybe you get bigger from that work.

It’s like when science bros study light. If they want it to be a particle they prove its a particle. If they want it to be a wave, it’s a wave.

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Hehe, today in the gym I saw blokes 30 kilos my senior front squat what I bench. But they bench some of forty kilos more than me. Who would’ve thought training bench 3x weekly and rarely legs would create such a discrepancy for them. Meanwhile I’m not content that my front squat isn’t outranking my bench.

tenor

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That’s kind of my point. I don’t know who Skip Hill is, and the points make it obvious that he speaks from a BBing perspective, but the pursuit of bigger is not the pursuit of stronger. You may get stronger as a byproduct, but not like the guy who is pursuing strength and gets bigger as a byproduct.

Here is the point that I have a problem with. Compared to a regular Joe whose lifting consists of 12 oz cans and a fork, obviously you are going to be stronger by means of any lifting at all. But the pursuit of hypertrophy is different than the pursuit of strength. I have trained around guys that look huge, but weigh the same or less than me, and lift no where near what I would be using in the gym at the time. Because they are in a different pursuit. It would be foolish for them to train for hypertrophy and expect the strength to just happen - relative to the PLers and Strongmen at the gym. You could find some little puke 180 lb guy in pling or doing SM that will out squat or deadlift a 230lb BBer. Because size and strength may have correlation, but causation is a leap unsupported.

I don’t know man, I don’t think comparing dude 1 guy against another guy really works. People are different.

Look at real life dudes. Ed Coan, the man amongst all strength bros totaled 2200+ at 198. And 2400+ at 242. He spent a good chunk of his time with sets of 8,10 or 12 building mass, and added more than 40 pounds of bodyweight over his career. He must have thought it was important, and he was awesome.

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