In a new video on his YouTuber channel, bodybuilding coach Eugene Teo shares his best advice and mistakes to avoid when overcoming muscle-building plateaus and putting on size if you’re a hardgainer—without necessarily gaining lots of fat.
Avoid “junk volume”
“Junk volume is anything that is contributing to your fatigue, but isn’t contributing to your workouts,” says Teo. “Whether it’s in the form of too many sets, or choosing inefficient exercises, too many exercises or too many sessions in a training week, it’s all the same thing; too much work.”
While there is no definitive, one-size-fits-all answer to how many sets or different exercises you should be doing, Teo acknowledges that the general consensus seems to allow for between 10 and 20 sets per body part each week.
Track your nutrition
“When it comes to fat loss, people are very good at tracking what they’re eating to some degree, to ensure they don’t overeat,” says Teo. “But with muscle-building, people get lazy with it, and just start eating more, going off-plan, and going off how they feel. But if you log for a few weeks, it’s quite common to find that these people are eating at maintenance intake, or even lower at some kind of deficit.”
Don’t rely on “clean eating”
“There are no clean or dirty foods, and there are no good or bad foods,” says Teo. “There are simply foods that are higher and lower in calories, higher in nutrients and fiber or lower, foods you enjoy or you don’t.” He explains that you don’t need to only eat a pre-established set of staple “clean” foods like chicken breast, sweet potatoes or oats; there’s a “sweet spot” between the extremes that you need to work out for yourself based on your own goals and preferences.
Sleep, stress management and general lifestyle habits are all enormously important factors that surround your body’s ability to rest and recover between workouts. “If your body isn’t getting enough sleep, or is under chronic stress, this will hamper your ability to handle significant amounts of training volume, and it will put the handbrake on your ability to build muscle, as your brain is constantly trying to manage this stress response instead of diverting those precious, finite resources towards building muscle mass,” Teo explains.
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