Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS, CSPS, FNSCA, is an internationally renowned fitness expert and widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on body composition training (muscle development and fat loss). He is a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder, and has won numerous natural bodybuilding titles.
Brad is a best-selling author of multiple fitness books including The M.A.X. Muscle Plan, which has been widely referred to as the “muscle-building bible,” and Strong and Sculpted, which details a cutting-edge body sculpting program targeted to women. Brad also has authored the seminal textbook Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy, which is the first text devoted to an evidence-based elucidation of the mechanisms and strategies for optimizing muscle growth.
Brad earned his Master’s degree in kinesiology/exercise science from the University of Texas and his PhD at Rocky Mountain University, where his dissertation focused on elucidating the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed research articles on exercise and sports nutrition, many in high impact factor journals, as well as several textbook chapters.
In this episode, he shared with us scientific insights on gaining muscle and strength. We covered pre and post workout nutrition (including protein intake benefits, optimal time window, amount, and type), the relationship between training frequency and muscle gainz, between keto diets and muscle gainz, recommended rest periods during training, and more.
40g of protein is recommended post-workout, rather than longtime perceived 20–25g.
Vegan protein is effective when it has the right amount of amino acids.
Whole proteins are comprised of 8–9 major amino acids, and you need exogenous essential amino acids to enable your body to produce other important amino acids.
If you take an adequate amount of quality protein, then there’s no benefit, and it might even be detrimental, to take BCAA (creatine). BCAA can compete with other essential amino acids, which are important for muscle growth.
Caffeine is a well researched, effective pre-workout supplement.
During a 24 hour period you need between 1.6g-2.2g per kg of bodyweight to gain muscle.
High protein intake is safe for your kidney health.
Whey protein is a good for people who have problems absorbing proteins.
Quality proteins have to do with quality of complete complement of amino acids intake. Maximize muscle growth potential.
In short, the more you train — the more gainz. But there’s a threshold, and you never want to overtrain. Your body takes time to adapt, so push your training volume progressively over time.
Scott Caulfield is the Head Strength and Conditioning coach at National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Scott is responsible for the day-to-day supervision and training of all athletes, interns, and coaches at the NSCA’s 6,000-square-foot Performance Center at the NSCA National Headquarters. Caulfield works diligently to promote the NSCA and its coaches, including work with the Professional Baseball Coaches Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society (PBSCCS), the National Basketball Strength & Conditioning Association (NBSCA), as well as national governing bodies such as the U.S. Anti-Doping Association, United States Olympic Committee, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, and U.S.A. Hockey.
Scott shared with us his thoughts on how one can become a strength and conditioning coach, what the day-to-day might look like, coaching differences between high schools, colleges, and major league athletes, coaching salaries, and more.
Both education and experience are crucial to getting S&C jobs. So if you’re starting out, get your education and then find a place to intern or volunteer. Nowadays, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum to get into coaching positions, and master’s degree is the minimum for higher level positions. But besides education and certifications, find internships or volunteering gigs to get experience. Scott volunteered for an entire year with Dartmouth college football team before he got hired by them, which eventually led to other teams hiring him.
Usually, it’s best to start at a high school level. A general rule for S&C coaching is that the higher athletic level and more resources, the more complex work and more intense schedule. Coaching experience depends on resources and culture, and can be a hit or miss. On the day-to-day, besides programming and coaching, S&C coaches deal with stress management, injury prevention, how to incentivize athletes, and more.
Pro tip: Leverage social media to reach out to the right people for your an internship or volunteer work, but be sensible and smart with your approach.
“We don’t care how much you know until we know how much you care.” — Scott Caulfield
Max Aita is the head weightlifting coach at Juggernaut Training Systems. He has spent the better part of 20 years in the sport of Weightlifting and Powerlifting. He draws his training methodology and knowledge from the many great coaches whom he has personally worked with including; Steve Gough (USA), Ivan Abadjiev (BUL), Boris Sheiko (RUS).
Max has produced over half a dozen senior national medalists in Weightlifting, Multiple All time World Record holders in Powerlifting, and has worked with CrossFit Regional and Games level competitors to develop strength and Olympic lifting technique. He also competed in Powerlifting himself.
Max shared his experience training under an intense Bulgarian olympic weightlifting system, which he got into as a teenager. He lived and learned from Bulgarians to understand their training systems, which are very demanded. Athletes had to live under the same roof, and Max’s bed was in the dining room.
Bulgarian coaching was focused on winning. It didn’t care much for individuals. It was a system based on pushing hard, with the hopes that athletes will figure out and produce strong minded winners. The training environment was strong. The focus was on hitting 1 RM’s of all the olympic lifts, every single day. No accessory work.
Max also shared a lot of knowledge on training intensity, volume, recovery, variety, tapering, peaking, and more.
In this book, Max breaks down olympic weightlifting technique into how high you pull the bar, time to get under bar to receive it, and trajectory of the bar. Beyond his assessment classification, Max also provides specific training plans and exercises to help you improve your olympic weightlifting.
Max teaching Mike olympic weightlifting tips for a better jerk
Marisa Inda is currently the American record holder in Bench, deadlift as well as total in the 114lb class in the USAPL, but she is probably better known as the “pull-up dancing girl” from the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Marisa trained in gymnastics as a kid, but realized as a teenager the sport had a short shelf life. At 17, she got into a weightlifting gym and fell in love with body parts split training. Her father also had a mini home garage gym, so she would lift weights for fun with her brother and his friends.
Marisa knew her strong gymnastics background provided her an ideal physique for bodybuilding. When she was just getting started, Marisa actually followed a fit girl around the gym and copied whatever movements she did.
What Marisa didn’t like about bodybuilding
Once she started competing, Marisa ranked high in open competitions (4th and 5th places). At that time, there weren’t divisions like there are today; instead it was simply men bodybuilding and women bodybuilding shows. There weren’t many teenage girls competing in bodybuilding either, so she was motivated to keep training.
But Marisa quickly noticed women taking drugs to help them get bigger, and she realized she couldn’t compete without doing the same. She decided to quit bodybuilding competitions, but still continued training.
“As you get more involved into the sport, you know you’re not going to do well if you are not taking drugs.” — Marisa Inda
Bodybuilding is great for strength training
When Marisa started powerlifting, she was already strong for her weight due to 15 years of hypertrophy training under her belt. Bodybuilding is focused on sub maximal weights for high reps, which helps build a strong, stable foundation and prevents injuries. Marisa enjoyed bodybuilding because she was able to see her body change and have control of sculpting it.
Marisa is the current All-Time All Record Powerlifting Champion at 114 lb. (all ages, all divisions). Her best powerlifting meet numbers are: Squat 330 lb. | Bench 209 lb. | Deadlift 413 lb.
Marisa was doing hypertrophy training for 15 years before she stumbled upon a flyer for a powerlifting meet. Without thinking too much, she signed up and competed. She didn’t know the full rules and didn’t even have the legit belt for her first meet. Only afterward her first meet did she start properly eating and training for powerlifting.
Pro tip: If you are interested in powerlifting or even another new sport, don’t wait on your first meet or other competition. Just sign up and enjoy the experience as a beginner!
Bodybuilding exercises help powerlifting training
Marisa incorporates bodybuilding exercises, such as drop sets and partial rep ranges, into her training by adding it at the end of her powerlifting workouts. She likes to maintain a well-rounded, strong physique and finds these exercises beneficial for her powerlifting lifts.
“In bodybuilding, you hit everything. There are not weak links.” — Marisa Inda
Marisa enjoys working out with both men and women for different reasons: men push her harder, but women can do higher reps and train more frequently. While she typically trains with men, she’ll do more sets and reps than her training partners, as it takes women more time and effort to develop muscle than men. The same is true for beginners, who lift lighter weights in the first few years, which enables them to recover faster and lift more reps, more often.
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Try various technique to find what works best for you
Marisa has a relatively narrow squat for powerlifters, with feet just a bit wider than hip width. Marisa tried a wider stance for several years, but it just didn’t work for her. She found she is strongest and most comfortable in the narrow stance she consistently trained as a bodybuilder. Marisa also has a wider bench grip than most powerlifters, but that’s what works for her.
Pro tip: Don’t get hung up on tips of the best form, make sure to experiment with different techniques so you can find what works best for you individually.
Training for 25 years and avoiding major injuries
Marisa is 41 years old and has been training since she was 17. For almost 25 years, she hasn’t suffered from a major injury or joint pain. She is an experienced lifter who knows how much to push herself and how to train around small injuries to prevent big ones. She maintains great muscle and joint health by incorporating hypertrophy training and not pushing too hard, too often.
“I don’t think I pulled out a heavy one rep max deadlift until I was two weeks out of a meet, and it wasn’t even a rep max, beneath what I’ve done on the platform. I save the big lifts to when it counts, at a meet.” — Marisa Inda
Training while pregnant
When Marisa was pregnant, it was nearly unheard of to work out during a pregnancy, but she wanted to keep active and maintain as much muscle and strength as possible. Marisa consulted with her doctor and kept her usual training routine. In the later pregnancy stages (after 6 months), she adapted her training slightly to accommodate her stomach, like changing from conventional to sumo deadlifts. Other than that, she ate regularly and gained 21 lb. with each of her kids, which is normal for her size.
After giving birth, Marisa took it easy at the gym, working with light weights, focusing on breathing and core, letting the body recover and get accustomed to movement again. Only once her baby was around 5–6 months old, she was back to barbell training.
Training as a mother
Since having kids, Marisa started managing her time more tightly, but always finds 45 minutes to workout to keep her sanity. She likes to train and pursue her own goals, besides living vicariously through her kids. She believes her training positively influences them and inspires them to set their own goals.
Pro tip: Send your kids to gymnastics in the very beginning. It’s a great way to learn body and spacial awareness and build upper body strength without using weights. Gymnastics also provides a strong foundation for skill transfer many to other sports.
Chad Wesley Smith is the owner/founder of Juggernaut Training Systems and one of the most accomplished strength athletes of recent years. With a background in track and field, Smith took his 2 collegiate national championships and continued his success in powerlifting and strongman.
We enjoyed recording this episode with our good friend, Kenny Kane, in Chad’s backyard.
“One of the most comprehensive resources available on the topic of building strength. Scientific Principles goes far beyond just giving you sets and reps to use for a few weeks or months, rather it will empower you with knowledge to create effective training programs and make informed answers to tough training problems for a lifetime.” —jtstrength.com
In October 2010, Chad competed in his first Powerlifting Meet, which was also the first USPA Meet with only 36 athletes competing. Chad squatted 800 lb., deadlifted 700 lb., and benched 463 lb. Even though it was his first meet, at that point Chad had already been writing his own workouts for 10 years (since 14 years old!).
Since 2010, Powerlifting took off as a sport, and now USPA Powerlifting Meets happen almost every weekend, with 60-120 people competing.
Check out this throwback video of Chad’s first Powerlifting Meet:
Chad’s knowledge prep for weightlifting
Chad started as a sports performance coach and later got into powerlifting, where he functioned as his own guinea pig. To learn in detail about powerlifting and weightlifting, Chad read two particularly dense and influential books:
Chad also learned by watching James Smith applying principles from these books into his training programs. James Smith is a performance coach and consultant to high level athletes, Navy SEALs, special forces and more.
Specificity — #1 principle for strength training
When he first started, Chad used to write elaborate workouts in an attempt to figure out all the moving pieces of training. Now with 17 years experience of authoring training programs under his belt, he applies more strategic use of exercise variation through a better understanding of sports specificity.
When Chad was training for shot-put in college, he started with a great natural foundation. He had a 36″ vertical jump weighing 290 lb.! He could also dunk a 4 kg medicine ball with two hands. But despite his natural athletic abilities (which indicated Chad should be able to throw a shot-put 71–72 feet), he could only get 64-65 feet.
That’s when Chad learned about specificity and developing special strength. He realized bench press and squatting help athletes improve, but the most important thing is to find movements that apply to the specific sport. For shot-put, he trained over and underweight shots plus many rotational exercises.
Pro tip: Besides training optimization, Chad recommends young athletes internalize two important life skills: understanding proper phasic structure and delayed gratification.
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How to ensure functional training
Training for competitive Powerlifting or Weightlifting is straightforward in terms of what lifts are functional for those sports. But for sports like basketball, football, and baseball, which involve different movements, you need to find functional exercises for their specific sport.
Chad’s 3 principles for functional training
Can the athlete perform the exercise safely and effectively
Can they put some weight to create stimulus
Does it fit in the context of their bigger plan
It’s tough coaching MMA and CrossFit athletes
Outside of weightlifting, Chad coaches athletes in many sports such as football, track & field, volleyball, water polo, swimming, and jiu-jitsu. Chad usually doesn’t work with MMA or CrossFit athletes because there are so many moving parts, which require strong communication between coaches– however that is usually not the case.
Specificity is most important, but don’t take it too far
Sport specificity should set the framework for how all other decisions are made, but you could also take specificity too far. For example, if you are a powerlifter or weightlifter who keeps focusing on 1 RM, you are likely to become overtrained. You are also likely to miss out on variation, how it can help avoid adaptive resistance, and the benefits of phase potentiation and phasic structured training (which ensures you’re making the most of each training phase).
“The longer you do something, the less effective it becomes overtime.” — Chad Wesley Smith
Ironically, athletes usually attribute the most importance to individual differences, which is Chad’s 7th and final principle. Athletes like to think they’re a special snowflake, but individual differences are much smaller than people perceive.
Chad’s 7 Scientific Principles of Strength Training
1. Specificity — See above.
2. Overload — Is training stimulating enough to drive neural adaptation? Training must become harder overtime through more volume and more weight.
3. Fatigue management — Your recovery process: Besides deload days and proper nutrition and sleep, should include adaptive recovery strategies like ice baths, massages, etc.
4. SRA (Stimulus Recovery Adaptation) — Your training process: Frequency and duration of training and recovery.
5. Variation — Avoid staleness by shifting phases. Keep in mind variation should always be in context with Specificity (principle #1).
6. Phase potentiation — Make the most of each training phase.
7. Individual differences — See above.
Keep in mind: Chad’s principles are also useful for the general population. All you have to do it change principle #1 (specificity) to your own goal, which can be losing weight, building muscle, being able to stand on a paddleboard, etc.