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Yaad Mohammad

How is it that some people get no hypertrophy at all?

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Aaro Helander

Regarding mass gains from Lyle McDonald:



1. First and foremost, for reasons outlined in my article Initial Body Fat and Body Composition Changes, trainees should not be starting out their muscle gaining phase too fat. Males should be ~10-12% body fat before even considering going on any kind of ‘bulk’ (fatter trainees can usually gain some muscle while losing fat with a basic recomposition plan; this is beyond the scope of this article). For a female, this would be roughly equivalent to 19-24% body fat.

Bodybuilders with contest aspirations might even start out a little bit leaner, perhaps 8% for males and 17-20% for females; this is simply to facilitate getting into contest shape in less time. Any leaner than that and hormones and energy tend to suffer. And, yes, this means that many will have to diet first before they even consider putting on muscle. That’s life.


2. It would be ideal, if, after dieting, the trainee took two weeks at maintenance to stabilize at the new body fat level. The reasons for this are numerous but revolve around letting some of the hormonal adaptations to dieting normalize. I’ve written about this endlessly on the site and my full diet break concept is outlined in detail in both ((LINK DELETED) and (LINK DELETED). Briefly, take two weeks at roughly maintenance calories with at least 150 grams/day of carbohydrate.


3. Now you can start gaining weight. Assuming relative average partitioning (not superior or inferior), a weight gain of approximately one pound per week (of which half should be muscle) and half a pound per week for females (of which half should be muscle), or 4 and 2 pounds/month respectively should roughly maximize muscle gains without excessive fat gain. There will be some fat gain, of course, but, simply, any faster rate of weight gain (I’ve seen folks suggest 2-3 pounds per week) will only increase fat gain without increasing the rate of muscle mass gain.


4. When the trainee hits a body fat percentage of approximately 15% for men (24-27% for women), the mass gaining phase should end. How long this take will depend on the size of the person but realistically, a 170 pound male trainee with 10% body fat could gain 16 pounds (8 pounds fat, 8 pounds muscle) before hitting the 15% mark. At one pound per week, that’s 16 weeks of gaining. Which, I’d note should be broken up into at least two separate training blocks.

A female starting at 130 pounds and 19% body fat could realistically get to 154 pounds (12 pound fat/12 pounds lean) before hitting 24% body fat. For the female trainee, at one half-pound per week is nearly a year of training; again that would be broken up into distinct training phases.


5. After finishing the mass-gaining phase, a consolidation phase of two weeks (this used to be called a ‘hardening’ phase) where calories are brought back down to maintenance levels (and cardio, if not being done, is brought in) should occur before actively dieting.

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