Reader Q&A With Ray Buckton & Russ Howe - Gymtalk

Reader Q&A With Ray Buckton & Russ Howe

Most of the guidance we dish out here at Gymtalk can be fairly one sided:

Do full-body workouts, squat more, be Reg Park, stop making a ponce of yourself on social media…

You know the drill by now.

And while it’s all perfectly good advice , sometimes it’s more helpful to call in the professionals.

People who live and breathes fitness every day, people with a little panache, sophistication and more qualifications than just strength training a few times a week between jolly-ups to Margate.

So, for the second in our Reader Q&A series, we invited along fitness legends Ray Buckton and Russ Howe.


Russ (left) participated in our first reader Q&A session, and he proved such a hit that we have invited him back for round two.

Joining Russ is Ray Buckton (right), who some of you might recognise from our recent interview or from his guest post on Nutrition: Things You Should Know But Probably Don’t.

Suffice to say, both of these chaps are to fitness what Bernard Matthews is to turkey.

Not trying to say they’ve dabbled in ornithological genocide, just that they know the business inside out…

Anyway, a big thank you to all of our readers who took part in this Q&A session, and of course to Ray and Russ for being such a good sports and giving up their time.


Hi, what is better in your opinion: a steady approach of adding lean mass or outright bulking and cutting?

– Alex Mills

Ray: When I have a client come to me with the goal of adding lean mass, I first assess their body to determine a profile of their fat distribution, which in turn will give me a good idea of things like their current insulin sensitivity and testosterone levels.

Any individual, generally speaking, will have the ability to better utilise there own testosterone and growth hormone if they are leaner, as well as having better insulin sensitivity, which basically means that any excess glucose in their blood will be distributed into muscle cells as opposed to fat cells.

I don’t believe in the notion of ‘bulking’, which from my experience implies that you can eat as much of any foods you like because you’re trying to get big.

Well, yes, you will get big but this will be fat and not lean muscle.

So in my opinion, if lean muscle gains are what you’re looking for, get lean first and then build strength and size with a good nutrition and supplement protocol alongside an effective training programme, then the concept of ‘cutting’ takes much less time and is less tortuous.

Russ: Definitely the steady approach.

While there is nothing inherently “wrong” with the old school approach of bulking and cutting, I don’t see a realistic way that it fits into the life of somebody outside of competing.

Lean mass can be added with the slow and steady route and, when done correctly, it causes far smaller side effects than bulking and cutting.

By that I’m talking about rebound weight gain after a show.

It also promotes the right type of approach mentally – you’re focusing on steadily building your metabolism into a stronger, fitter animal which will enable you to stay lean all year round.

That’s much more desirable than a constant yo-yo effect.

It’s unreal how many ex-competitors (particularly ladies) go on to have thyroid issues in their later years and I feel it’s highly likely this is connected to the up and down approach many physique competitors tend to use with their diets.

Is ‘CNS (Central Nervous System) Fatigue’ a real contributor to poor performance or is this just a bro-science buzzword?

– Joe Winyard

Ray: CNS Fatigue is absolutely a contributing factor to poor performance.

We know that your central nervous system takes about five times longer than your muscles to recover, so if you’re not allowing your CNS time to rest you will certainly notice the difference in your training intensity and performance.

This is not to get confused with overtraining of your muscles, which generally speaking, as long as you eat and rest appropriately will reward you by recovering relatively quickly.

The recovery of your CNS is mostly influenced by the amount of quality sleep you manage to get, so if you’re training heavy compound exercises and regularly taxing your CNS alongside poor sleep, you will certainly see a negative curve in your capacity to progress with your performance.


Russ: No, CNS fatigue is definitely not a buzzword.

You should certainly not go to the gym and squat/deadlift every single day, especially if you’re working with serious weight.

Adequate recovery between big sessions is as important as the training itself.

“Outwork Everyone”, my slogan, doesn’t mean go to the gym every day, nor does it mean train longer than the next guy.

It means refusing to settle; refusing to sell yourself short.

I’ll explain…

There’s a scene in The Pursuit of Happyness in which Will Smith’s character realises he has far less time available to attend work than his competitors as he has his young boy to look after.

He refuses to sacrifice his life with his son but he also needs to land the job.

So he takes the limited time he has available and he absolutely destroys it.

He takes no breaks, no excuses.

The others had more time in the office but he outworked them all because he didn’t sell himself short.


That’s what “Outwork Everyone” means.

If you have one hour, you get into the mindset of doing as much as you physically can with that time, no shortcuts.

Time wasted is time lost.

How often should I change routines?

I read somewhere that I should be mixing things up every four weeks to keep my body guessing.

– Beppe

Ray: This is completely down to an individual and the programme they are doing.

I have had clients train the same programme for up to 8-10 weeks before now – this is because they were continuing to see great progression on that programme.

At the end of the day, if you’re still seeing progress and your body is still adapting to the stress of the programme and getting you closer to your goal, there is no real need to change what you’re doing other than perhaps to prevent boredom.

Likewise, I have had clients who have done a programme for no longer than 3-4 weeks before we moved things forward.

This is very common with newcomers, as you tend to see the most progress when you first start out on your fitness journey.

So my advice is stick to your routine until you start to see a plateau in the weights you’re lifting for the specific exercises, at which point, seek to step up the challenges and freshen things up with a new progressive programme to keep you moving forward.

Russ: I agree that a routine should be changed roughly every 6 weeks to keep your body guessing, but it has to depend on one single factor – has your body adapted to your current routine?

If not, if results are indeed still coming strong, don’t change for the sake of changing – no matter what anyone tells you.

A new routine is a sure-fire way to kick-start results in the gym, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

What are your views on carb backloading?

– Jackie Jones

Ray: For those who don’t know, carb backloading is the protocol of eating all of your carbohydrates later in the day as a means to try to control your insulin sensitivity so excess glucose is transported to muscles cells as opposed to fat cells.

This is the opposite to what most fitness professionals will preach as your insulin sensitivity is generally highest in the morning so it is generally suggested you should eat most of your starchy and sugary carbohydrates in the morning if you’re going to eat them at all.

Now, although it is not a strategy I would endorse, I am sure carb backloading has worked for a lot of people, but doubt many of these have been novice gym goers.

If you are going to do it, you need to ensure you are running it alongside a solid resistance-training programme and you have your insulin sensitivity in check.

For me the approach isn’t sustainable enough and is often used as a tool to enable the individual to gorge on poor quality food choices, which does nothing to eradicate the poor lifestyle choices the individual has made to get in the shape they are in in the first place.

Russ: Although thousands of dieting approaches have emerged in the last 10-15 years, a few have established themselves as the diamonds in the rough.

For me, carb backloading is one of those diamonds in the rough.

It’s not for everyone (I’ve known people hate it), and it’s one of those dieting methods which almost every dedicated lifter initially wants to see fail (due to the fact it promotes eating sugary foods, pizzas, etc).

But here’s the thing – it is definitely effective.

With my own training I’m usually a morning person, so carb backloading isn’t something I use regularly as it tends to work better with afternoon/evening schedules, however I used this approach a couple of years ago and it was productive.

I’m lacking flexibility in my ankles which is hindering my squatting potential.

Do you know a good way to remedy this?

– Greg Vinden

Ray: A few different things could cause your tight ankles: tight Achilles, tight Soleus and Gastrocnemius, Hamstrings and tight Anterior Tibialus muscles.

Aside from obviously stretching these muscles with static and dynamic stretching, myofascial release with a foam-roller or lacrosse/hockey ball is also a very good tool to use to help loosen these muscles and the surrounding facia and connective tissue around the ankle.

In addition, there are a few quick things you can do to remedy your squatting form and range of motion.

Wearing Olympic lifting shoes will help your ankle mobility and heel stability.

If you can’t afford these, try elevating your heels by positioning a couple of small plates under them.

Russ: When I first started squatting with a challenging weight, I experienced this.

No matter how hard I tried, I’d always find myself tilting forwards, taking the weight off my heels and really disrupting my ability to drop deep into a squat.

Despite all the over-complicated solutions out there for flexibility issues these days, the best thing I ever did was pick up a lacrosse ball and go to town on my feet with it.

I recommend watching Kelly Starrett’s ‘Lower Leg Business’ tutorial on Youtube, which will show you more in 5 minutes of visuals than I can in plain text.

It’s a great video.

I want a lean body and six pack abs – what kind of exercise and cardio should I do?

– Abhi

Ray: Don’t we all Abhi!

It’s first important to note that the age old saying that ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ is gospel.

You cannot out train a poor diet, especially if you have a lot of fat to shift.

However, if you’re nutrition is in check, there are obviously some forms of exercise and training methods which are more effective than others at achieving a lean physique with good muscular definition.

A 6-pack will only shine through by dropping your body fat, so my protocol of choice is a program devised of resistance training with compound exercises alongside High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

The more muscle fibre you can stimulate when executing an exercise, the more calories will be used for energy as a consequence, which in turn stimulates more potential fat loss, hence the need to train with compound exercises like squats and kettlebell swings, as these give you the most bang for your buck and recruit a lot of muscle fibre in one hit.

High Intensity Interval training is an extremely effective training method to heighten your metabolism and ensure you continue to burn calories beyond your workout.

It may make you feel a bit light headed, but it is an extremely time efficient and effective training method for dropping body fat whilst maintaining muscle strength and lean mass.

Russ: To get lean and athletic, your diet will be more important than your training.

However, there are certain protocols which will indeed burn more body fat. I’d look to incorporate HIIT cardio 3x per week alongside heavy, high intensity resistance training.

Put your main lifting focus on compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, cleans, etc), as they’ll burn more body fat.

For cardio, my ‘go-to’ forms of HIIT include outdoor sprint work, swimming and (in the gym) rower or bike.

Hello, I wonder if you could help me with some exercises for back and chest that I can do without a bench (I have a barbell and dumbbells)?

– Craig Dewis

Ray: The staple exercise for working the chest without access to much equipment is the Press-Up.


The beauty of the Press-Up is you can do it in various ways: incline, decline, close handed, wide handed, all of which will impact your chest development in different ways, helping you to achieve a balanced pectoral region.

If you have a decent amount of strength in your chest as well, you can try doing Bodyweight Flys with dumbbells in each hand on the floor.

If you struggle to do these with full form then drop down to your knees.

For your back, the staple is a Bent Over Row.

Again, with a barbell you can do this in various ways, narrow grip, wide grip, overhand grip and underhand grip, which again will all work different areas of your back for better overall development.

With your dumbbells you could also do single arm rows leaning over a chair or table to help bring your Lats into play a little more and you can even do reverse Dumbell Flyes to hit your posterior Delts and Upper back.

If you have enough weights for your Barbell and/or Dumbells, Deadlifts are also a fantastic exercise for improving your posterior chain and back strength.

Another staple compound back exercise, if you have access to a bar, is a Pull Up/Chin Up, which again will enable you to develop your Lats further.

Russ: The first thing I want to make sure I mention is save up and get a bench.

There’s always alternatives to any exercise, and I’ll show you some below, but you’ll be missing out on the so-called “Big Boys”.


  • Floor press – will remove your shoulders from the rep entirely
  • Floor flys – to increase difficulty stack a couple of pillows or a small step under your back, allowing you to get a deeper stretch
  • Pillow pullovers – lying across a few stacked pillows underneath your upper back, in much the same way you’d lie across a bench without supporting your lower back on the bench during pullovers
  • Wall press – find two walls about 20 inches apart, stand with your back to one and push the other, isometric contraction
  • Weighted push ups – weight plate on your back
  • Deadlift
  • Bent over barbell row – the king of back exercises
  • Dumbbell power row
  • Towel pull ups
  • T-bar row
  • Dumbbell bent over row – double arm
  • Renegade row

Also look into purchasing a stability ball – that’ll prove to be a great little tool.

I wear a size 8 and was recently told by a personal trainer at a popular gym that my body fat was in the ‘obese’ category.

How is this possible and what sort of exercise would you recommend to lower my body fat specifically?

– Victoria Silver

Ray: Being a size 8 has relatively no reflection of your body fat percentage.

It is very common that one will look completely fine in clothes but once stripped bare the problem areas will become more apparent.

It’s a state we call ‘skinny fat’ and it is very common in the western world.

Being lean on the limbs but holding lots of fat around the midsection and, especially for girls, the thighs, constitutes to being skinny fat.

When your trainer has conducted the body fat analysis on you, I imagine your readings in the areas specified were particularly high, bringing your percentage body fat into the ‘obese’ category.

Much like the question above, the key for you will be nutrition and improving your insulin sensitivity.

But a programme of compound exercises and HIIT will elicit an effective fat burning response.

Russ: It could be just me here, but the first thing I thought when reading your question is that something doesn’t quite sound right about this, so my immediate recommendation is have another reading by a different trainer.

However, it is possible.

To lower your body fat, high intensity interval training and heavy weights are the way to go.

Squats, deadlifts, clean and press, all the big movements.

Vary your rep ranges too, don’t just stick in the high rep zone because that’s what girls are told to do to “tone up”.

Lower rep training has been proven to build just as much lean muscle as high rep training, so there’s no need to avoid it.

My clients switch rep ranges on a weekly basis, allowing them to train every fibre in the muscle and get optimal results.

In terms of cardio work, high intensity interval training is the way to go.

Try this short but intense 15 minute bike workout, a firm favourite among my female clients when they don’t have much time to train:

1) 5 minute warm-up at around 80RPM.

2) On the 5 minute mark, burst for 10 seconds as fast as you can, aim for 120RPM (or at least over 100).

3) Keep bursting for another 20 seconds but ramp the gear up high too – this part will burn like crazy, try to maintain that speed of over 100RPM.

4) Come back down to normal (80RPM) for 90 seconds, then do another burst, rpeat until time expires.

Those little 30 second bursts are incredibly good for burning fat, and even though this mini-workout is just 15 minutes it will blast a ridiculous amount of body fat.

I have hypothyroidism and it’s really hard for me to trim down in the stomach and waist area.

I ride a bike, lift weights, do ab work every day, use battle ropes three days a week, eat healthy and drink mostly water.

I’ve been trying to trim my waist for over a year now and the inches have barely moved.

Do you have any suggestions that I haven’t tried yet or something I may not know about that may help?

– James Gravely

Ray: I feel your pain James – there is nothing worse than putting in the hard work and not seeing any rewards.

Hypothyroidism is a difficult condition to deal with but, from my experience with clients in the past, there are certain ways to approach training that will enhance your fat burning potential.

Research shows that too much steady state cardio is detrimental to the production of the thyroid hormone T3 and the metabolism, especially when conducted alongside a calorie restricted diet.

Normal levels of T3 allows your body to burn enough energy to stay warm as well as keep the brain, heart, muscles and other organs functioning normally.

Hypothyroidism is essentially not enough T3, which is why despite the high activity levels you mentioned, your body still accumulates fat easily.

So, by doing endless amounts of steady state cardio, you are probably inadvertently accentuating your state of hypothyroidism.

So my suggestion is to get right out of your comfort zone when training by taking your heart rate well above 65% of your maximum.

High Intensity Interval Training, which I mentioned in an earlier answer, will elicit a nice shock to your system.

Do this alongside your resistance training.

Also, don’t get confused between to notion of eating healthily and eating for improved body composition.

Reducing the amount of starch and high glycemic foods in your diet will also help reduce the fat accumulated on your stomach and waistline and upping the amount of green leafy vegetables has also been shown to help Thyroid function.

Russ: Sadly with hypothyroidism your situation is generally tougher than others.

However, it isn’t impossible.

With diet, it’s a great thing that you are eating healthy but this could be one area which is letting you down.

There’s not enough info in this relatively short question to see any real diet information, but if you are not already tracking your protein, carbohydrates and fats each day I highy recommend starting.

In terms of training, HIIT and full body moves are the way to go.

Keep the battle rope work and combine this with different forms of training such as heavy lifting days (squats, bench work, deadlifts, etc) and full body cardio days (swimming) and gradually the inches will come off, they don’t have a choice.

Hey, how do I get that BURN in my legs after the gym?

– Candeeze

Ray: The burn you mention after a hard workout is what we call Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or ‘DOMS’.


This state is achieved by working your muscles with enough intensity that you’re breaking down a lot of muscle fibre and causing a lot of lactic acid build up.

Resistance training is key, even if it’s only bodyweight exercises, as this will ensure a high amount of muscle fibre recruitment.

Compound exercises like Squats, Lunges and Leg Presses are great for breaking down a lot of muscle fibre at one time, and if you really want your legs to burn, aim for a relatively high amount of reps.

To make your legs burn even more, plyometric movements like squat jumps and scissor jumps are a great way of building up lactic acid quickly!

Russ: Sounds like you need a new approach to your training here.

That burning, wobbly-leg syndrome while follows a tough leg workout is a sure-sign you just smashed your body with a training session full of new techniques and new exercises.

Your body will adapt to anything over time, so it’s always good to throw in some downright brutality for good measure.

Try this workout, one of my favourites, I call it Legatron:

Exercise Sets & Reps Notes
Leg extension (superset) 5 x 15
Bodyweight squat (superset) 5 x 50
Barbell squat 6 x 10 Use as heavy a weight as you can handle, perform a rest pause after the final set
Leg curl (superset) 5 x 15 Focus on the squeeze in your hamstrings
Kettlebell swing (superset) 5 x 20 Focus on the squeeze in your hamstrings
Leg press 1 x 20, 1 x 15, 1 x 12, 1 x 50 For the final set, use the weight you used for the 20 rep set and find a way to get to 50

Hi, I found out I had Crohn’s disease, and that’s why I started working out.

I can’t seem to get my abs the way I want – any food I should be avoiding, except for the obvious?

– Tiffaney Mathes

Ray: Crohn’s disease is an incredibly difficult condition to manage and I imagine one of much frustration for you.

The inflammation in your gut can be triggered by various different foods, and different foods effect people with the condition in varying ways, so there is no one rule fits all with this.

However, avoiding anything processed, sugary or greasy is a good start.

Also, foods which are difficult to digest like nuts and seeds can be hard for your gut to deal with and from my experience of dealing with clients with Crohn’s, they often have other intolerances to foods with gluten and lactose which can also be inflammatory to the gut.

High gluten foods also tend to be the most detrimental when it comes to shifting body fat from the abdominal region, which is where you mentioned you’re finding it hard to define, so eliminating things like bread and pasta will help this.

A higher intake of protein will also assist your fat loss in this area by helping to stabilise blood sugar levels, but try to stick to easily digestible sources like eggs as oppose to sources like red meats which will be quite taxing on your digestive system.

Russ: Ah, Crohn’s disease.

I remember the first time I trained somebody who was diagnosed with Crohn’s and one of the big surprises for me was learning there are so many people who have it.

Now, there are certain foods which are going to do you no good, such as nuts or chocolate, but having Crohn’s doesn’t mean you have to settle for less results in the gym any more.

Meal frequency also appears to play an important role here.

Small, frequent meals tends to work better for those with such a low appetite.

Not to be confused with the old training myth that eating small meals will speed up your metabolism, because it certainly will not, but those with a low appetite do tend to respond better to this approach.

Given your goal of stripping fat around the waist, it could be tempting to pick up a fat burning supplement.

I’d highly advise against this as they’re loaded with caffeine and that’s one thing which will definitely disagree with you.

Diet protocols – IIFYM or general clean eating approach?

If the former, do you still incorporate cheat meals?

– Alex

Ray: I am not an advocate of the If It Fits Your Macros approach.

I have no doubt it works for many people and the results speak for themselves, however my philosophy is more about trying to educate my clients about the nutritional density and benefits of the food they are eating and the effects these will have on their body as oppose to purely looking at the macronutrients of foods.

Most people have gotten themselves out of shape due to years of misunderstanding food and engraining many bad habits into their lives.

Saying to them they can still eat whatever they want rarely goes very far to breaking these habits, and the return to where they started due to the, in my opinion, unsustainable approach is inevitable.

From my understanding of the approach though, it doesn’t warrant a cheat meal, as leptin levels shouldn’t be affected.


Russ: For me it’s IIFYM all the way.

Both approaches work, and which one you go with depends on little other than personal preference, but for me IIFYM is the system I like to adopt.

And yes, I’d still incorporate cheat meals – although I make a point of calling them treat meals, as there’s nothing wrong in enjoying them.

The biggest issue faced with IIFYM, I find, is that it’s often misunderstood.

A lot of folks presume it means eat whatever you want and get in great shape but, as you know, it’s not a miracle system!

Even when following IIFYM, if you want to maximize it’s results then I always recommend following the 80/20 rule (that is, 80% of your food should still arrive from proven, nutritional sources, allowing you to experiment with the remaining 20% and squeeze in some treats along the way).

That’s a good way to get the best of both worlds.

The best thing about the IIFYM system is the fact that it forces the individual to learn about the foods they are eating.

So rather than following a strict regime of greens, rice and chicken every day, suddenly folks area learning how to read the nutritional values on items in the supermarket and determine whether it’s good or bad for them.

That’s one great aspect to come out of this approach.

I have been following Reg Park’s 5×5 routine for seven months.

It’s been extremely effective but recently I’ve reached some plateaus – especially on bench – that I can’t seem to get over.

Any tips?

– Julian

Ray: If you have hit a plateau with your routine, it’s time to either take a break or freshen up your approach.

If you have been training hard for a prolonged period of time your body may just need a week off.

I have had many clients who have returned to training after a week away feeling much more motivated and fresh and as a result have felt stronger with the weights as a result.

But seven months on the same program is a particularly long time – I would certainly suggest looking at moving your programme on and giving your muscles and CNS a new stress to adapt to.

If improving strength is your main goal, perhaps try the 5-3-1 strength training protocol; the difference in reps and intensity will elicit a new stress for your body to adapt to.

Russ: 5×5 is one of my all time favourite routines!

But even the best need a rest.

If it’s already been several months then I’d be inclined to shock the system considerably here and alter my routine for the following 4 weeks.

Periodize your plan starting with higher rep work and work your way down on a weekly or bi-weekly basis (if it’s working, keep doing it for a second week) like this:

  • Week 1-2: 15-20 reps
  • Weeks 3-4: 12-15 reps
  • Weeks 5-6: 8-12 reps

This also gives you the opportunity to re-introduce some exercises into your training, ones which you’d have possibly removed due to the nature of 5×5 focusing purely around our biggest moves.

Suddenly when your goal is 20 reps per set, exercises like dumbbell lunges become a different challenge altogether.

Hi, what are you views on intermittent fasting for getting shredded?

– Matt Foster

Ray: As you can probably guess from my previous answers regarding nutrition, I am not a fan of intermittent fasting and any nutritional approach that is unsustainable and fails to eradicate bad eating habits and engrain better lifestyle choices.

However, having said that, it has been shown by many to be a very effective approach.

Ultimately, all diets work – Atkins, IIFYM, intermittent fasting, Dukan.

They will all get results if you stick to them.

The problem with most of them is they are unmaintainable.

Generally speaking, most people cannot keep up the lifestyle of these diets for a very prolonged period of time, and inevitably when they have had enough of it they ultimately return to there original state as little has been done in the way of understanding how they got to that state in the first place.

They tend to be short-term fixes and that is why we have the term ‘Yo-yo dieting’.

I digress; intermittent fasting is an effective fat loss method.

It works by taking your body into a fasted state which happens after about 12 hours of fasting, which enables your body to burn fat easier as your blood glucose and glycogen stores in your muscles are depleted, which also improves your insulin sensitivity when you do get round to eating again, so glucose is then transported to muscle cells as oppose to fat cells when re-feeding.

From my understanding of research, it is the increased hunger that causes many who take on intermittent fasting to quit and it has also been shown to decrease cognitive function and mood as well.

Despite this, this approach has worked for many people.

It is not however an approach I would advise to one of my own clients.

Russ: IF is definitely a productive method for shredding.

As with all methods, some like to proclaim it as the “be all and end all” of dieting techniques, which is not an approach I agree with at all.

I really don’t think there is a one size fits all approach to dieting, some really get fantastic results through IF while others struggle with the way it’s structured and it makes them want to binge eat.

The only reason it’s not represented in the media as much as other traditional methods is purely because there isn’t a great deal of scientific research out there to back it up yet.

However, that’s not to say it’s ineffective.

I know many who have used it to great effect.

After all, there was a time when both HIIT and creatine were in the same boat.

As I can’t get to the gym as regularly as I would like to, what would be the best way for me to achieve the goals I set for myself (size and strength) quickly?

– Mark Harding

Ray: Firstly, if you’re not getting to the gym regularly, you need to make sure that the time you do spend in the gym is time effective.

Train with intensity and engage as much muscle as possible with big, heavy compound exercises i.e. Bench Press, Deadlifts, Squats, Pull Ups, Dips.

Don’t waste time with pointless isolated exercises like curls and extensions.

If building size and strength quickly is your goal then these types of exercises are nowhere near as effective.

When you’re not in the gym, high volume bodyweight exercises like Press Ups, Squats, Pull Ups and Plyometric Bodyweight exercises will help to maintain strength and stimulate your muscle fibres.

Russ: If you’re able to hit the gym 3x per week you will see results.

To be honest, if size and strength are your goals then your body will appreciate the rest between training days anyway.

But in this situation your diet is your best friend.

Get on top of your nutrition and you’ll reap multiple benefits over a short period of time.

In my last post here on Gymtalk I discussed how to manipulate macronutrients for maximum fat loss, and similar principles can be adopted for gaining lean muscle.

As protein and fat contain several “essential” nutrients (essential as our body cannot create them on it’s own, we must consume them) it makes sense to prioritise these as our primary macronutrients.

There are no “essential” carbs, which makes carbs the macro we can tinker with.

Here’s my approach when looking to gain size:

  • 1.5g protein per lb of your goal body weight
  • 0.5g fat per lb of goal body weight
  • 1.5g carbohydrates per lb of goal body weight

When a plateau is reached (or if you’re simply not gaining size fast enough for your liking) it’s time to increase carbs.

The trick is to do it without going crazy and causing fat storage.

Keep your protein and fats set at the same level and increase carbohydrates to 2g per lb of goal body weight.

This should be enough of a jump to kick-start progress once more.

Also, if you’re not yet using creatine – start!

The next time a plateau is reached (usually 1-2 months down the line), increase carbs to 2.5g, and so on.

By doing it in stages not only do you get a much better understanding for how much food your body is able to handle without gaining fat, you also get to enjoy continuous results as opposed to just piling in an extra 3000 calories per day from the start and hoping it doesn’t get stored as fat.

If you can maintain a solid approach to your diet while still hitting your big lifts, strength and size will come.

More from Ray and Russ


To learn more about Ray and his fitness services, make sure you head on over to where you can also get in touch via the contact form.

Alternatively, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

russ howe

For more from Russ, head over to his website where he regularly blogs about all things gym and fitness.

Alternatively, don’t forget to hit him up on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and say hello!

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  1. I had a question about which T-Booster to purchase.

    I’m trying to decide from Prime Male, Tesogen and Testofuel.

    Which would be the better deal for a guy who is 43 with a waist of 42 inches, height 5″10, muscular build, only issue is trying to lose stomach.

    So I’m looking into a T-Booster to assist with my workout plan.


    1. Hi Lamar.

      I would avoid testosterone boosters altogether.

      As Will pointed out in a recent article, there are very few test boosting products that actually contain an amount of the active ingredients required to even slightly affect the way your body produces testosterone.

      If you’re trying to lose the belly fat, I would suggest, like Russ and Ray in the Q&A above, that you focus on your diet and introduce some high intensity cardio and heavy compound movements into your regimen.

      If you want any further advice, hit me up here or on Twitter.


  2. My body fat % is in single digits.

    I work out 6 days a week for 3 yrs.

    I have good def and comp in my upper and mid abs, like a 4 pack.

    But no matter what I do I cannot get the lower abs to become visible.

    Could it be it’s never going to happen or is there something I can do to finish the 6?