February 25, 2022No Comments

The Most Common Mistakes We See Stopping Women From Losing Fat & Building Muscle

The majority of women struggling to build the lean, strong physique they want (despite training consistently and eating healthy) are all making the same few mistakes. 

With over 20 years of combined experience, we as a coaching team have identified the seven most common mistakes holding women back from creating the shape they want.

Today's blog not only takes you through these seven mistakes it's highly likely you're making, but also teaches you the solutions we give the women we coach, so that you can finally start seeing the results you want. 

Rather listen than read? Click here to listen to the podcast version of this blog. 


First, it's important to understand that there are a lot of HIIT-style classes where you may technically “get to failure” on a movement, but it’s often using the wrong exercises.  

For example, if you’re doing a “squat-to-overhead press”, you might reach failure with your shoulders... but more often than not it’s  your cardiovascular system that’s actually failing.

In application, we typically see women on one of two ends of the spectrum: 

1: Somebody's taking things too far to where they’re always training to failure, and can’t recover from the amount of stress they're putting on their body. 

2: While you have been training, you don’t actually consider how close to failure you are... you just stop when you hit the top end of the prescribed rep range, without considering how close to failure the set actually was. 

So why is this a problem?

The closer you take a set to failure, the more muscle fibers you recruit and fatigue. It’s thought that the last few reps of a set are by far the ones you get the most out of (these are the most "effective reps"), because they do the most to disrupt homeostasis and spark new muscle growth. 

But if you’re consistently stopping with more than 3 reps in the tank (which is very common), most of your sets are actually going to do very little to stimulate muscle growth.  

This means that while you may be doing a lot of sets in the gym... you're doing very little to actually stimulate new lean muscle growth. So the most effective place to spend most of your time is likely ending most sets with 1-2 reps in the tank.  

Another thing we've noticed as a team is that typically, women are much better at taking their upper body training sets to failure, but initially are much further off when it comes to lower body movements.  

Upper body pressing movements especially are easier to take to failure because you're usually in an extremely more stable position (i.e in a chest press), and often involve less overall musculature being worked (so are a bit less exhausting to really take to the point where you’re near failing). 

If we compare this with a barbell squat, you have lots more variables than can make it a bit “harder”

→ It’s more challenging for your cardio system 

→ It’s more demanding for your core 

→ You’re burning through more energy when using the large muscle groups of your quads and hamstrings 

→ Your upper back is largely involved to support the bar 

All of this means that you can start to feel tired well before you actually are closer to muscular failure in the target muscle group. 

So it’s important to understand that as a whole, lower body focused compound lifts will generally feel more tiring, but you must consider: 

“How close am I to truly being able to not do another rep with good form?” vs. just stopping when the movement is starting to feel tiring.  

Exercise selection is also an important variable here. 

For example, if we compare a hack squat vs. a barbell back squat:

HACK SQUAT: You basically put your feet on the platform, shoulders under the pads, and move up & down in a straight line. So you’re essentially “locked in” to a specific plane of movement. 

The primary variable here is the fatigue in your quads. You can push much further with less fatigue in other muscles until you get to/very near failure. 

BACK SQUAT: As mentioned before, there are a lot more variables at play, and often more muscle groups than just the target tissue being fatigued, which can make this a harder movement to take close to failure with the goal of creating a lot of stimulus in one specific muscle group (quads or glutes in this case)

This is a great example of why just focusing on barbell movements isn’t always the best idea. 

When the goal is to build lean muscle, it’s often most effective to choose a movement that makes it “simpler” to get close to failure, without all of the overlapping fatigue/thought that would be required for a more complex movement. 

Now, this is by no means saying you shouldn’t do movements like barbell back squats. But again specific to building lean muscle, when choosing movements for clients within their individualized training programs (especially for newer clients) we often have the goal of choosing movements that require you to think as little as possible while executing the movement correctly (the hack squat vs. back squat example works perfectly here).  

If you just want to see your physique change, and don’t care how much you can back squat, the beauty a movement like the hack squat is that we can basically just say… 

“Ok, put your feet here, hit this depth, and take it this close to failure.”…and it’s pretty hard to not do it correctly. 

So you as a client can simply focus on the output, rather than stabilizing and all the little nuances of the movement.  

If you’re struggling to take your movements close to failure, regressing to simpler variations of the same movement pattern, for example… 

Back Squat → Hack Squat or Leg Press 

Dumbbell Bench Press → Machine Chest Press 

…can be a good way to practice the skill of getting closer to failure. 

Later on, you can progress back to more complex variations of the same pattern. 


If you just want to create a smaller version of your body with the same shape, just focus on weight loss. 

If you want to actually change the shape of your body, you need to focus on building muscle in the areas where you want to see more shape. 

You’ll be able to build lean muscle most effectively when you’re choosing the right exercises, and training relatively close to failure. 


Often, we’ll take on new female clients that will start coaching saying something like… 

“I eat pretty healthy… I don’t know why I can’t lose body fat!”

Almost always when we dig into these clients food logs, we’ll see them consuming lots of fat-dense foods like nuts, avocados, oils, and peanut butter. 

Now, it’s not that these foods are “bad” or should be avoided by any means, but they’re also very calorie-dense.  


Peanut butter is often marketed as a good source of protein...

Per 190-210 calories worth of peanut butter, you’ll typically get 6-8 grams of protein. 

So getting just 30g of protein here would require eating over 1000 calories of peanut butter.  

Ironically, most foods that are marketed as being “health foods” (while again, these are not foods that are “bad” or should be avoided) for containing protein or healthy fats, are typically very high in calories. 

So when it comes to fat loss, just focusing on “eating healthy” often isn’t an effective strategy. 

In a situation like this, it’ll usually be advantageous to shift the focus within your macro intake to: 

1: MORE PROTEIN - Protein is the building block of lean muscle. Without enough of it, you’ll be under-recovered and struggle to change the shape of your physique. It also burns more calories during the process of digestion than fat or carbs (which is helpful in the fat loss process). 

2: MORE CARBS - These are your body’s preferred fuel source for strength training geared towards building lean muscle, so with adequate carbs you’ll be able to push yourself harder and recover better - again, very advantageous for changing the shape of your physique.  

Again, it's important to understand that none of this is to say that you shouldn’t eat fat - you need dietary fat for health, so it’s absolutely not something that should be entirely avoided. 

As a whole, the above is why the women we work with track their macros (at least for awhile).  

Just trying to “eat healthy” without tracking your intake is like driving a car without a fuel gauge and saying… 

“Well, I put gas in it sometimes! I don’t know why it’s not fueled the way I want it to be.”


It’s so easy to fall into the trap of wanting instant results... especially in a world where you’re constantly marketed to with two week quick-fixes and 30 day challenges. 

But the reality is, creating sustainable change requires learning new habits, new approaches to the way you’re training, and new approaches to the way you’re eating. 

It requires lifestyle change

And a complete lifestyle change + undoing old habits rarely happens in 30 days.  

An unfortunately common mistake many women make is immediately giving up after seeing the scale spike for a single day, or after not seeing dramatic results in the matter of a week. 

On a similar note, something we often address on the initial call with clients is the thought that… 

“I (the client) want to keep doing the exact same thing I’ve been doing - I don’t want to change the way I’m eating or training - but because I want to pay someone to be a coach, I expect a different result.” 

A great example of this is a female that’s been dieting for years and still can’t get the physique she wants… but wants to continue trying to diet upon starting coaching.  

This often leads to a conversation around setting aside what sounds most appealing short-term (continuing to try to lose fat) for what will actually get you the results you want in a sustainable manner long-term. 

In this case, that likely means we need to take some time away from dieting and to focus on teaching you how to fuel your body, restore health, and focus on building metabolic rate and muscle… and really, you might not lose much fat (if any) for the next 3-4 months.

But, by doing this we’re going to ensure that your body is actually in a good place to diet. And when we do start a fat loss phase... 

- Your body will respond better

- You’ll see quicker results

- Maintaining those results will be more sustainable

...and you’ll love the lean, defined physique you have at the end of the process. 

Or, you can keep trying to grind away at what you’re currently doing, and continue to not see any results.


Oftentimes this will come up as… 

“In high school or college I weighed ___, and I felt great at that weight, so that’s the weight I need to get back to again to feel great in my body.” 

Here, it’s important to remember that one of the biggest keys to changing the shape of your physique is adding lean muscle to your frame. 

Because what we’ve seen over & over again with the women that we work with is that they don’t initially have enough muscle to have the shape they want - so usually, adding more lean muscle is a crucial part of the transformation process. 

But you must realize that adding muscle to your frame also adds weight to your frame (which definitely isn’t a bad thing).  

So usually, when the women we work with achieve their goal physique, it’s almost always heavier than the number they’d initially expect to see on the scale. 

This is an especially common struggle when going through a building phase.  

Here, our goal is to add lean muscle - so that after going through a subsequent fat loss phase - you’ll be very lean and your body will have more shape (but again, adding lean muscle literally requires adding weight and muscle mass to your frame).  

 Understand that this also means that as you continue to change shape, our goal is for you is to literally get heavier over the course of time. 

Let's say that at the end of this fat loss phase, you’re a few pounds heavier than at the end of your last fat loss phase despite looking leaner - we know that we’ve added more lean muscle to your frame between fat loss phases, and your shape will have improved.   

So the most important thing to understand here is that 99% of the time,  just focusing on weight loss won’t get you the result you want. 

Because really, you don’t want to just see your body get smaller.

You want to literally change the SHAPE of your body, and look lean & strong - not just skinny. 

And while losing weight will shrink your body… to actually change the shape of your physique and increase definition, you need to build lean muscle. 

So if you’re always ONLY focused on seeing the scale drop quickly & disregard building lean muscle, you’ll struggle to build the physique you want. 

Because adding lean muscle to your frame also adds weight to your frame. 

Focus on achieving your goal physique, not your goal weight. Because even at the same weight, your physique can look much different as you add muscle and reduce fat. 

A great example of this from our very own Coach Julie:


This is especially relevant to training → because it’s easy to show up to the gym and do endless sets, reps, movements, and telling yourself you should get the result you want because you spent lots of time in the gym… rather than pushing yourself hard on 4-7 movements. 

It’s incredibly rare that a client starts coaching with us that actually needs to spend more time in the gym than she was previously to get a better result.  

As you may have experienced yourself, many women are struggling to get the lean, strong physique they want… despite training 5-6x/week.  

Upon starting coaching, we’ll often pull back to 3-4x/week. Which usually yields the question: 

“I wasn’t seeing results training 6x/week… why would I get better results from doing LESS?” 

The thing to understand... when it comes to building a lean, strong physique, sometimes less is more. 

Here's why women can often achieve better results by spending less time in the gym after starting coaching with our team: 


After experiencing the stress/stimulus of a hard training session, there’s a large amount of recovery that must happen simply to get your muscles recovered back to their previous baseline → this has to happen before new growth can occur. 

Some women are actually doing too much, which leads to your muscles barely being able to recover enough to get back to their previous baseline, due to the large amount of fatigue created in your training. 

Now, some people actually just need to push harder (as we’ve already discussed)… but this is usually a matter of pushing harder within 4-7 movements on 3-4 training days per week. 

On the flipside, if you’re constantly crushing yourself in the gym but not seeing progress, doing less work so that you can actually recover may help. 


If you've been doing lots of HIIT training or workouts focused on burning calories with relatively light weights, while it’ll feel like you’re working hard, these workouts are inefficient for actually sending your body the signal to build muscle. 

So when you actually start following a program geared specifically towards building lean muscle, the “signal” sent to your body for muscle growth will actually be much larger per session than before (meaning you need to do less overall for more muscle growth). 


The best training program on paper won’t yield the results you want if you’re not executing the prescribed movements in the intended manner. 

This is why getting consistent form videos from the women we work with is a huge part of our coaching service. 

Better technique means getting a stronger “signal” for muscle growth out of every set you do, which again often means we need to do less overall sets than you were before.


Calling the most common way we see this manifest “under-eating” isn’t entirely accurate, as really how typically looks is…

→ MONDAY - THURSDAY: You eat very little (<1200 calories per day)

→ FRIDAY - SUNDAY: You got out to eat 2-3x/day, and often don’t track your food intake at all.

The problem here is, you’re putting your body in a situation where it almost always feels like you’re dieting… this means you really struggle to recover from your training, build lean muscle, and experience some metabolic down-regulation. 

But thanks to the weekends, your calorie intake is actually averaging out to the point where you’re still not losing any fat... despite feeling like you’re constantly dieting.  

If you shift your focus to fueling your body during the week (especially on the days you’re training):

1. You won’t feel like you need to “go off the rails” entirely when the weekend comes. It’s much easier to practice moderation and keep your nutrition in check while still enjoying a date night. 

2. You’ll have more energy and less hunger through the week.

3. You’ll get much better results in terms of changing the shape of your body, as you’ll actually be feeding it the calories it needs to grow new lean muscle during the week, and will be better supporting your health.

Often times this is a large mindset shift for new clients, as again, despite the fact that you feel like you’re under-eating, your weekends are more than making up for the low calories during the week.


Coaching is a collaboration between you and your coach. 

Our job is to meet you where you’re at, interpret the data, and help make the best decision as to whether we need to change the plan or stay the course. 

But if you’re not communicating with us when you’re struggling, or not filling out the data in your metric tracker... we as coaches have no way to actually know where your body composition is at, nor do we have any insight into what we can adjust to help you achieve a better result going forward. 

On a similar note, I was on a call with a new client recently. We were discussing why she had left her previous coaching relationship, and I asked the question:

“What needs to happen differently for this to be more successful than your last coaching relationship?”

For her, it came down to seeing that she wasn't fully transparent with her coach about where/when she was struggling. She was scared he’d be disappointed she didn’t hit her targets, and was already disappointed in herself.  

It's important to understand is that we as coaches won’t be mad or disappointed if you weren’t on track... in fact, things like this are the exact reason coaches exist.  

If people just needed information on how to set macros, you could just read blogs or listen to podcasts and get great results… but it never works out like that (but definitely keep reading this blog). 

Because one of the biggest parts of our job as coaches is helping you troubleshoot all of the random obstacles that pop-up in your everyday life and navigate the hurdles you create in your own head. 

The clients that communicate well always get good results. But communication can’t be one-sided. 

As your coaches, we'll always explain to you why we’re doing what we’re doing, make sure you understand why it’s working (and how to do it on your own in the future), and reach out when we haven’t heard from you.

But you as a client must take the responsibility to communicate well with us in turn - letting us know where you’re struggling, what went well, and as a whole being transparent about how things are going - if you do this, then we know exactly how to adjust thing and help you continue to get great results.  

We won’t be disappointed if you didn’t stick to the plan perfectly... we will be disappointed if you don’t communicate with us, which prevents us from being able to fully help you achieve the level of results we know you’re capable of. 

Now, if you're ready to stop collecting information and start transforming your body with an individualized plan and the accountability of a 1:1 coach, click here now to apply for online coaching with our team.   

We apply proven, science-backed nutrition & training methods through individualized coaching to help you get the body you want, and teach you on how to keep it for a lifetime (without us).

Written for you by jeremiah bair

I love simplifying the mysterious art and science of training and looking like it. I’ve been on my own journey, and I share what I’ve learned so you can get there faster, on my Podcast and Instagram.

.studioengine .sse-is-btn, .studioengine .sse-btn{color: #222;}

February 18, 2022No Comments

How To Build A Glutes And Delts Specialization Program

Women typically start coaching with our team describing the way they want to looks as: 

Fit, athletic, toned, and/or lean.

Most are pretty clear they don’t want “bulk.” 

Now in reality, what this translates to is: 

“I want to build muscle (in the right areas) and get a bit leaner.” 

But if your goal is achieving the above fit, athletic, toned, or lean descriptors, understand that it does usually entail building muscle.

Because really the "bulky" look is typically only caused by one of two things:

1. Someone just still has a bit more body fat than they’d prefer, and that fat is covering their muscle. 

2. Someone is truly extremely muscular all over (think: elite crossfitter or professional bodybuilder.) In this case, it's also important to remember that many people that fall into this category are also using performance enhancing drugs - so even if you trained like this person, it's unlikely you'd be able to achieve their level of muscularity.

The thing to understand about the truly "bulky athlete" is that this is that happens intentionally. They have been trying to get exceptionally bulky–for years.  

This wasn’t by accident, and will not happen by accident to you either. 

To use Jeremiah’s analogy, "Getting too bulky is like getting run over by a turtle you see coming a mile away." You can literally just stop the process at any point. 

Another aspect of building muscle to obtain that feminine and athletic look vs. what one might consider too bulky is focusing on building muscle in the right areas.  

Typically for women these areas are the shoulders and glutes. 

If you build shoulders and glutes, your arms look great and make your waist look smaller, and you'll have curves while looking lean. 

So with our online clients, we make sure they have a training plan that’s laid out in a way to emphasize these two muscle groups. 

This will prevent them from getting huge lats, traps, and biceps like a World’s Strongest Man competitor, and instead will create a shape more like a bikini competitor or fitness model. 


Any time we’re creating a training plan for this type of client we look at how their training will be laid out across the week, and then shift volume around to be sure we’re emphasizing the right muscle groups – in this case shoulders and glutes. 

There are many ways to allocate volume over the course of the week, but the most common training split for our clients is a 4 day per week upper/lower split. 

In an upper lower split, you can allocate volume fairly evenly for someone who’s new or doesn’t have any particular muscle groups they want to emphasize, or you can have emphasis days throughout the week.  

For example, we frequently will structure them like this: 

→ UPPER - Balanced 

→ LOWER - Balanced 

→ UPPER - Shoulder emphasis 

→ LOWER - Posterior emphasis 

By doing this, you still get plenty of volume on each muscle group. We place an emphasis (more volume) on areas like glutes and shoulders that need more growth. You will still train your quads, lats, traps, etc. as you don’t want to completely "detrain" them.

A sample balanced lower training day might look like this:

a1.) Lengthened overload quad movement (think: a squat or lunge)

b1.) Lengthened overload glute/hamstring movement (think: a romanian deadlift, glute emphasis split squat, or reverse lunge)

c1.) Shortened overload quad movement (think: a leg extension)

d1.) Shortened overload hamstring movement (think: a leg curl)

e1.) Optional added glute, core, or calf movements 

Whereas a glute emphasis lower body day might look like this: 

 a1.) Lengthened overload glute/hamstring movement (think: a romanian deadlift, glute emphasis split squat, glute focused leg press, or reverse lunge)

 b1.) Lengthened quad movement that also loads the glutes (think: a split squat, lunge, or leg press)

 c1.) Shortened or lengthened glute movement (dependent on recovery ability)

 d1.) Shortened overload hamstring movement (think: A leg curl)

 e1.) Optional added shortened glute, quad, or core work. 

When using one of each of these days (a balanced volume day and a glute emphasis day) you get plenty of volume to keep the quads strong and developed, but more volume on glutes and hamstrings that will create more of a hypertrophy stimulus on those muscles. 

The same principle can be used with shoulders. 

Although shoulders can be heavily prioritized both days because they are a smaller muscle group that can handle a lot of volume and frequency without taking up too much recovery capacity.

Another way of giving more volume to shoulders and glutes is having a higher number of sets for each of the prioritized muscle groups.  

In this case the training day will be somewhat balanced, but you’ll use a higher number of sets for prioritized muscle groups. 

Using the balanced training day example above, prioritizing glutes on these days would look like this:

→ Lengthened overload glute/hamstring movement, 4-5 sets 

→ Lengthened overload quad movement, 3 sets

→ Shortened overload hamstring movement, 4 sets

→ Shortened overload quad movement, 2-3 sets

→ Optional added glute, core, or calf movements, 2-3 sets 

 Again the same principle can be applied to the upper body to give priority in volume to shoulders. 

*One thing you want to make sure of with both upper and lower body is you’re keeping your priority muscle groups as the first exercise of the day (If you want to grow your delts, doing a shoulder press first thing in the training session is going to allow you to put a lot more effort into that movement vs. doing that same shoulder press later on in the training day when you’re already tired from other pushing and pulling movements.)


The movements you select to grow your glutes and shoulders are just as important as how you structure your training days and weeks.

For each muscle group you want to have some lengthened overload movements and some shortened overload movements so you’re challenging each muscle throughout its strength curve.

Research has shown that you create more hypertrophy stimulus in the lengthened overload movements, but they are the more taxing and damaging movements (so to manage fatigue and still be able to recover you can’t just hammer yourself with lengthened movements.)

Here I’ll go over a few of my preferred movements to program for clients.


Assuming that our client have access to a gym and large variety of equipment, I like programming a bilateral lengthened overload movement that puts the glutes under a big stretch.  

The reason I like starting with these is that they are lifts where you can really load up quite a bit of weight. Since they are bilateral, they are a large stimulus and are best as first movements (they are also fairly high fatigue so best to put first.) 

Before we dig into the movements, it's helpful to have a basic understanding of glute anatomy (we mostly want to focus on training the glute max, as it's the large muscle of your glutes):

My favorite options are lifts like: 

→ Bent Knee Romanian Deadlifts

My first choice for loading is a trap bar since these allow you to use a neutral grip (therefore keep lats tight easier) and keep the weight centered around you.  

Secondary choice would be a barbell, but dumbbells are also great for these. 

Hip Dominant Trap Bar Deadlifts

These are very similar to trap bar RDLs, but they’re a “bottom-up” movement instead of a “top-down” movement (Meaning, in an RDL you get to the top, set up, and then initiate, and you finish the set before setting the weights down.) 

In a hip dominant deadlift you’re setting the bar to the floor between each rep and initiating from the floor.  

These are a bit different from regular trap bar deadlifts because hips are starting in a position where they’re pushed further back and your torso is more leaned forward (creating a larger stretch and stimulus on the glutes.) 

Glute Biased Leg Press

For this leg press variation you place your feet high on the foot plate and use a narrow stance. This sets you up to get the best stimulus on the glutes and minimize the involvement of your quads. 

For secondary lengthened overload movement I will usually use a bilateral variation. For these I really like the following movements: 

Glute Dominant Rear Foot Elevated Front Heel Wedge Split Squat

For these you use a long stride and a forward lean with your torso. Because of these changes vs. a standard split squat you put a lot of stretch and emphasis on the glute. 

→ Glute Biased Lunge

These are very similar in function to the glute biased split squat because you use a long stride and a forward torso lean to emphasize glutes.  

In this movement you’ll descend into the lunge, then on the concentric portion of the lift you press through and drive your working leg back into the next rep (which takes your glute through a really full range of motion.)     

Other great variations to add for this secondary unilateral glute biased movement would be a glute focused drop lunge, a reverse lunge variation, or a glute focused step up. 

The common theme in all  of these movements is an exaggerated forward lean, and the intent of fully lengthening the glute in the bottom of each rep. 

After you’ve done one or two lengthened overloaded glute movements you’ll move onto shortened overloaded movements.

These are less fatiguing and less stimulative (so they are great as final movements). These will give a little more volume in a different portion of the strength curve.  

These are movements where the hardest part of the rep is at the fully squeezed and locked out position. 

Here are my favorite movements for shortened overloaded glutes:

Barbell Hip Thrusts

These are great because you can load them pretty heavy. At the top of the rep you are directly opposing gravity. Conversely, when you are standing, all tension is lost at the top of the rep (because you are no longer opposing gravity at all)

→ Kas Glute Bridge

For these, you’re basically doing just the top ⅓ of a regular barbell hip thrust. This isolates just the very shortened portion of the glute movement. 

 45 Degree Hip Extension

For this movement to be focused on the glutes, you’ll round your back forward and just focus on lengthening and shortening the glutes by pressing your hips into the pad. This way you take the spinal erectors out of the movement for the most part. 

Single Leg or B stance Variations

Any of the above movements can be turned into bilateral movements by using a B stance (staggering one leg in front of the other and using the back leg as more of a “kickstand”), or elevating one leg so only the working leg is planted.  

These variations work well if you have limited weight to work with.


For shoulders we want to go through the same thorough process as the glutes. 

First, it's helpful to have a basic understanding of your shoulder anatomy:

We want to start out with more taxing compound movements first, and make sure to include a variety of shortened and lengthened overloaded movements. 

Here are the larger compound movements in a lengthened (or mid-range) overload position: 

Seated dumbbell shoulder press

These will work your front and medial delts. 

For this movement you want to use a very slight incline on your bench and allow your shoulders to come just slightly out in front of your body. This allows for your medial delts to take more of the tension, and takes tension away from the joint.  

The traditional shoulder press motion of having your arms directly out to your side and at 90 degrees can cause a lot of jamming on the shoulder joint and actually takes the tension off of the target muscle (so this slight alteration of form makes them more safe and effective).  

This movement is a lengthened/mid-range overload movement and is a great one to start off with in the training session because they can be loaded up relatively heavy (in comparison to other shoulder movements). 

→ Supported One Arm Dumbbell Overhead Press

These are a unilateral version of the first movement. These are great if you have one side that needs catching up because you can start on the weaker side and match reps on your stronger side.  

The thing to watch on these is making sure you’re not trying to “help” the dumbbell up by leaning to one side or letting ribs flare out.  You want all the work done by the delts. 

After performing the lengthened/mid-range overloaded compound movements above you want to include a variation of lateral raises to focus on growing the medial delts.  

These are also a lengthened overload movement, but with the ‘arms flying out’ motion, you can better isolate the medial delt without as much involvement of the front delt.  

These lateral raise variations are key to capped shoulders.  

Here are a few great variations of lateral raises: 

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

These are a standard standing lateral raise with a dumbbell in each hand.  

They are very shortened overload, as the delt has to do more work the further away the dumbbell gets from your body and you’re directly opposing gravity at the top.  

To properly set up for these you’ll hinge slightly at the hips and let the arms come out to a slight angle in front of your body.  

Think about pushing the weight out not up, and reaching and scraping the dumbbells along the floor/walls. 

 Prone Dumbbell Lateral Raises

These lateral raises are the same basic form as the standing variation, but you are adding stability by lying prone on an incline bench.  

This allows you to focus solely on the motion of your arms without the variable of stabilizing the rest of your body. 

Dumbbell or Cable Y Raise

These are similar to a lateral raise but with arms flying more out in front of you forming a “Y” with your body (Think the “YMCA” dance but with a hip hinge and slight forward torso lean.)  This allows an even more shortened delt. 

Cable Lateral Raise

This is the same form as a dumbbell lateral raise above, but with cables instead of dumbbells.  

This means instead of having no tension for the bottom ⅔ of the movement, you get more tension throughout.   

All of the above movements put focus on the medial delts, which is the side of your shoulder that gives you the capped shoulder look.  

To round out the rest of your delts you want to also make sure you’re doing some direct rear delt movements. 

Rear delt movements are basically divided into rows/pulls and flies.  You can use cables or dumbbells for each type of movement.  

Rear Delt Pull Downs

These are a variation on an upper back pulldown where instead of pointing your chest up you’re more vertical. You are thinking about taking the rear delt through a full range of motion. Your elbows are flared out just slightly so you’re not tucking them in (as if you’re doing a lat pulldown). You should also not be flaring them way out as if to do an upper back pulldown (they’re sort of a hybrid).  

These are a lengthened/mid-range overload movement. 

Rear delt rows

These will use about a 45 degree flare out of the elbows away from your body, and you think about pulling ‘out and back’ rather than just straight back.  

When using cables these are a mid-range overload movement, but with dumbbells they will be a shortened overloaded movement. 

Rear delt flies

These will be performed with a soft elbow but without bending throughout the motion.  

You’re allowing rear delts to fully lengthen at the front of the movement and using the rear delt to pull arms out and back.

These can be done with cables or dumbbells, and just like the rows, when using cables these are a mid-range overload movement. When using dumbbells they will be a shortened overloaded movement. 


When growing any muscle group, you need to set yourself up for success in order to see hypertrophy. (These can all be complete blog posts on their own, but I can’t end this without calling out these other tips to growing your delts and glutes.)

1. You’ll see better growth if you spend some time in maintenance or a slight surplus.  

You can’t build without giving your body the building materials.  

Trying to do this while always being in a calorie deficit is like running uphill against the wind. You’re making it way harder than it needs to be and not putting yourself in the optimal environment for growth. 

2. You need to dial in other aspects of your day to day that support growth.  

That means hydrating properly, consistently sleeping 7-9 hours a night, managing stress, and training consistently and with intention. 

3. You won’t see the progress you want if you’re not working hard enough within each set.  

That means pushing yourself to reach 0-2 reps in reserve in almost every set.  

Just going until it burns a little or gets uncomfortable isn’t enough. You should be seeing reps slow down toward the end of sets, and you should be having to really grind through the sticking points for the last couple of reps. 

Only after going through this process of building can you cut down and actually see the kind of shape you want at the end of it.

If this is something you know and it’s just harder to put into action on your own, click here now to set up a free discovery call with our team.  

We have helped hundreds of clients actually get through the mental hurdles of building and cutting to see the shape they have worked so hard for, and just hadn’t quite had the structure to get to on the own. 


Andrea Rogers is a certified nutrition coach, personal trainer, and coach for BairFit. Follow her on Instagram for more helpful training & nutrition content. 

.studioengine .sse-is-btn, .studioengine .sse-btn{color: #222;}

February 10, 2022No Comments

The Glute Growth Blueprint [Feat. Alex Bush]

Today, renowned physique coach Alex Bush and I embark on a deep dive into all things glute training, covering important topics like:

→ Why most people trying to grow glutes aren’t seeing results 

→ How to tweak your execution to get the most out of every set in your glute training

→ How to choose the best movements for building glutes (along with a few of Alex’s personal favorites) 

→ How to design a training day for maximum glute growth 

…and much more. 

This one is PACKED with so much knowledge from Alex you can take and immediately apply for better results from your glutes training.

If you'd rather listen to the podcast version of our interview, CLICK HERE

[*Alex deserves credit for most of the points and concepts below. I've expanded on his thoughts a bit where helpful, but highly recommend you listen to the episode as well to fully understand the context of the conversation.]


1. Lack of focus on execution. 

Basically, you're just looking at exercises as if they're destinations between point A and point B.

There are a lot of different movements we can use to add quality glute tissue, but too many people fall into the trap of thinking...

"Ok, I'm doing ___ movement, I'm automatically going to grow my glutes."

...which really isn't the case. 

While doing "good glute exercises" will train your glutes, to get most of the benefits of said movement, you actually need to execute it properly.


if done improperly, a barbell glute bridge will often turn into a movement that's mostly working the quads and lumbar spine. And while it's not like the glutes won't be working at all, they won't be the main driver or main muscle group being biased within the movement without proper execution.

2. Trying to do too much

After experiencing the stress/stimulus of a hard training session, there’s a large amount of recovery that must happen simply to get your muscles recovered back to their previous baseline - this has to happen before new growth can occur. 

Some women are actually doing too much, which leads to your muscles barely being able to recover enough to get back to their previous baseline, due to the large amount of fatigue created in your training.

Now, some  actually just need to push harder… but if you’re constantly crushing yourself in the gym but not seeing progress, doing less work so that you can actually recover may help.

3. Not eating enough food

The other side of this problem is under-fueling yourself. This is most often a situation where someone is trying to add a lot of muscle tissue to their glutes... while also trying to get leaner at the same time.

So essentially you're in a situation where you're doing a lot of volume (number of hard sets) for your glutes weekly, but you're also severely restricting your recovery resources (food)

Here, it's important to understand that you don't just grow from training hard... you grow from what you can actually recover from.

Lots of training volume + low calories = the recipe for no progress in most cases.


Our glutes are made up of a few different muscle groups, but the two we can actually see are:

1. The glute max. This provides the "pop" to your glute.

2. The glute med. This provides the "shelf" appearance to your glutes. If you feel like you don't have much "density" to your hips, building the glute med will help.

Another muscle that's helpful to understand is the piriformis - a small muscle that a lot of women have issues with. This is a muscle that gets far too much attention when it comes to glute training, because it does provide a lot of sensation when trained. 

For example, when doing a set in theseated hip abduction machine...

...it may seem like you feel a lot of tension in your glutes. But really, it's often your piriformis becoming inflamed and almost telling you "I've received too much attention, I don't need any more training".

So things like...

- Doing too much abduction specific work (i.e. seated hip abduction machine, band lateral walks)

- Doing lots of curtsy lunges

- Chronically externally rotating at the hip with movements like sumo deadlifts

...can lead to with piriformis pain.

It's important to understand here that while it may feel like your glutes are working a lot, you glutes are actually not going through much range of motion at all, you're just putting a lot of tension on the muscles around the glutes.


When it comes to building great glutes, we want to make the glute max a primary emphasis, as it's the biggest muscle of your glutes (and thus has the greatest potential for growth/creating visual change).

Basically, if you don't have well developed glute max, your butt will just look flat.

This means...

- Lots of hip hinging. N1 Education did a great job illustrating the plane the glute max works in with this illustration:

- Taking the glutes through a full range of motion when training them (I.e. going from hips flexed to hips extended, as shown below):

- Implementing movements that overload the glute max in both the lengthened and shortened positions:

Great examples of movements for the glute max that overload the lengthened position:

- Romanian Deadlifts

- Glute Focused Leg Presses

- Lunge variations

- Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats

- Glute Biased Back Squat

Great examples of movements for the glute max that overload the shortened position:

- Glute Bridges

- Hip Thrusts

- 45 Degree Hip Extensions

- Kickback Variations


It's important to understand that how you execute a movement will impact what muscle tissue we're biasing.

For example, with the Romanian Deadlift we have a few different ways we can execute the movement that will change what muscle group we're biasing:

1. Bent Knee Romanian Deadlifts

Allowing the knee to bend a bit more with this variation allows. us to achieve more hip flexion, meaning you can drive the hips back further and lengthen the glutes more.

So this variation is better for biasing the glute max.

2. Stiff Leg Romanian Deadlifts

Here, we're not going to be able to push our hips back as far/achieve as much hip flexion, because we're limited by the mobility of the hamstring and gastroc, which will lead to more hamstring and less glute bias. 

That said, understand that when we're talking about biasing specific muscle groups, it's not like a light switch where because we're biasing the glutes, the hamstrings are entirely "off"

It's much more like a dimmer/brighter knob - when we're biasing the glutes, that knob is turned brighter, but the hamstrings aren't totally off, just a bit dimmer. 

Similar to the above example, in a split squat or lunge variation, we're focusing much more on the hip hinge/pushing the hips back and allowing the glutes to lengthen vs. driving the knee forward/bending lots at the knee like we would if we were trying to bias quads.

A great example of this is a glute biased split squat vs. a quad biased split squat:


One primary factor you need to consider with your here is the degree of spinal loading, and how much fatigue you currently have the capacity to recover from. 

Movements that involve a large amount of axial loading (load on the spine) are as a whole more stressful/fatiguing for your body, and thus require more "recovery resources" to actually recover/grow from them.

Now, this absolutely isn't to say that you should avoid movements that load the spine to a significant degree... because many of them are going to be great movements for building glutes. You just need to be smart in the way you program them.

Say that in your lower body training day, the first movement that you did was a Romanian Deadlift. While great for glutes, this movement also involves a good amount of axial loading.

So if you wanted to make the next movement you did glute biased as well, doing something like a glute focused leg press would be a great option - you'll still be able to significantly challenge the glutes, and won't have the heavy axial loading that came with the first movement. Fatigue will be lower, and performance likely higher.

Basically, the amount of fatigue we create in the first movement can inhibit performance in the second movement if we're not smart with exercise selection here. 


To revisit our discussion from earlier about lengthened vs. shortened overload glute movements...

Great examples of movements for the glute max that overload the lengthened position: 

- Romanian Deadlifts 

- Glute Focused Leg Presses 

- Lunge variations 

- Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats 

- Glute Biased Back Squat 

Great examples of movements for the glute max that overload the shortened position: 

- Glute Bridges 

- Hip Thrusts 

- 45 Degree Hip Extensions 

- Kickback Variations

Alex recommended that when trying to determine how many lengthened vs. shortened overload movements you should program in a week ok training:

- 75% lengthened biased movements / 25% shortened biased movements is a decent starting point. 

- If you struggled to recover from this, you could start to transition to something closer to a 50/50 split between the two.

It's also important to understand that this should vary based on what phase of nutrition you're in.

In a building phase, clients will often have more lengthened biased work and less shortened biased work because lengthened overload movements are both more stimulative for muscle growth and use more of your recovery resources. So it makes sense to do more of these when you're eating plenty of food and focusing on building new glute tissue.

In a fat loss phase, clients will sometimes be doing a bit more shortened emphasis work to make sure that you can actually still recover from your training. 

So an example of this this in a lower body day could look something like:

- Bent Knee RDL (lengthened)

- Glute Biased Leg Press (lengthened)

- Glute Med Kickback (shortened)

- 45 Degree Hip Extension (shortened)

For a more advanced individual, we could incorporate a third lengthened overload movement here, but it's not often going to actually be needed.

(*NOTE: This is just the glute specific work from a lower body day, not the entire lower body day. We would also want to include some quad and hamstring biased work). 

For most people, it probably makes the most sense to keep the number of glute biased movements to 3-4 per training day that seem to work very well for you, and perform those with more sets vs. doing lots of different movements with less sets.

So in a hypertrophy phase, we would often set this up something like:

1. Lengthened overload movement

2. Lengthened overload movement

3. Shortened overload movement

If we were to put the shortened movement in the middle of the two lengthened movements, performance on the final lengthened movement would likely suffer as fatigue will already be high.

But when we're moving from lengthened → lengthened → shortened, we'll have created a lot of fatigue in the lengthened state, but will still have some gas in the tank when it comes to training the shortened range, as it hasn't been trained too heavily yet.


Like most things within coaching, this should be dependent on you as an individual.

First, where are you at with your ability to create significant tension in your glutes when training? 

If you're struggling to execute most movements in a manner that will effectively create significant tension in your glutes, it could make sense to train glutes more frequently (but with less overall volume per session) to be able to frequently "practice" these movements and get your execution in a good place for glute growth.

For these individuals, training your glute focused movements 3x/week could make sense for a short period of time could make sense.

But for those that do have good execution/ability to create glute tension, Alex mentioned that he'll typically start clients chasing glute gains out with glutes being trained two days per week. Volume (number of hard sets) can be as low as ~12-15 hard sets across all glute focused movements, and can climb all the way up to 20-22 hard sets per week for a more advanced individual in a building phase.


1: Glute Emphasis Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

2: Bent Knee Romanian Deadlifts

3: Barbell Glute Bridge

4: Glute Biased Leg Press or Back Squat

5: Glute Biased Step-Up or Reverse Lunge

6: 45 Degree Hip Extension


Alex's Instagram  


Physique Development YouTube 


→ PD Training Club 

If you found this helpful but need some help creating a personalized training and nutrition plan to hit your physique goals, click here now to schedule a free discovery call with our coaching team.

written for you by jeremiah bair

I love simplifying the mysterious art and science of training and looking like it. I’ve been on my own journey, and I share what I’ve learned so you can get there faster, on my Podcast and Instagram.

.studioengine .sse-is-btn, .studioengine .sse-btn{color: #222;}

February 3, 2022No Comments

Energy Flux: The Key To A Leaner, Healthier Physique

Putting yourself in a state of high energy flux is something we recommend to all of our clients for its health benefits, and the benefits it can have on your physique. 

As a team we recently attended the Physique Education Collective. 

We had the experience of hearing several speakers in the fitness industry present on various topics. Credit goes out to Brandon DeCruz (one of our mentors) for the inspiration for this blog post. Brandon spoke on the topic of Energy Flux (G-Flux). 

Coaching for over a decade, there was a time that I never mentioned going on walks to our clients. I didn’t think it was a bad thing to do or a waste of time, I just didn’t consider it a large part of getting in shape (Going for walks was something my grandparents did, or mall walkers, not something for my clients who wanted to build muscle and burn fat.)  

Now, it’s something I recommend to everyone for all of it’s health benefits, and the benefits it can have on your physique.  

In fact, all of our online clients have step goals to hit in a day, that’s how much we value walking and movement in general. 

I first heard of energy flux (or g-flux) from John Berardi, the founder of Precision Nutrition. This is his explanation of G-Flux: 

“G-Flux, otherwise known as energy flux, is the complex and interdependent relationship between the energy that flows into and out of a physiological system. It’s the balance between the two. You can also think of it as the amount of calories you “turn over” 

Basically, energy flux is the energy (calories) you take in, vs. the energy you expend.  

You can have a high energy flux (meaning you burn a lot of calories and eat a lot of calories) or you can have a low energy flux (meaning you don’t burn a lot of calories or eat a lot of calories.)

You can maintain weight either way. 

For example:

→ A sedentary person burning 1800 calories per day, but also eating that amount will maintain weight.  

→ An active person burning 3000 calories per day and eating 3000 calories per day will also maintain weight, but at a much higher intake and activity level. 

The effect G-flux has on our health has been studied a variety of ways. 

In one study, researchers looked at a group of 98 Amish individuals. These are a group of people who don’t use technology in any way, so their energy expenditure is very high. 

They do all labor, washing, cleaning, cooking, etc. by hand and without power. The men ate on average 3600 calories per day and took about 20,000 steps per day. The women ate on average 2000 calories and took 15,000 steps per day.  

Both groups were very lean by any standard with the men being on average 9.4% bodyfat and the women being 25% bodyfat.  

In the Amish community there is only a 9% obesity rate, whereas the obesity rate of America is 42.5%. 

In another study, workers in a mill were studied to assess their activity level vs. their appetite. 

The study found that sedentary workers had an appetite that far exceeded their energy expenditure, so they consumed more than they burned, gained bodyfat, and had decreased health. 

From there, the appetite of laborers scaled up according to their expenditure: moderate activity workers had a moderate appetite that led to weight maintenance, highly active workers had a high appetite that led to weight maintenance.  

From this we know there is a certain point of activity where it actually helps you control your appetite, but not getting in enough activity will actually cause you to want to eat more. 

In one recent meta-analysis it was found that there is a 12% reduced risk of all cause mortality per additional 1,000 steps per day.  

According to Greg Knuckols analysis of the research on strongerbyscience.com: 

“Comparing the lowest step counts to the highest step counts reported in the studies included in this meta-analysis, walking 16,000 steps per day was associated with a 66% reduction in all-cause mortality compared to walking just 2,700 steps per day. Stated conversely, walking 2,700 steps per day was associated with a three-fold greater risk of all-cause mortality than walking 16,000 steps per day.”

This is a crazy difference and shows just how impactful walking can be for your health vs. being sedentary. 

Another meta-analysis found that the addition of a walking group intervention showed an improvement in many health markers, including: 

→ Systolic blood pressure (-3.72 mm Hg) 

→ Siastolic blood pressure (-3.14 mm Hg) 

→ Resting heart rate (-2.88 bpm) 

 → Body fat (-1.31%) 

 → Body mass index (-0.71 kg/m(2)) 

→ Total cholesterol (-0.11 mmol/L) 

 → Mean increases in VO(2max) (of 2.66 mL/kg/min) 

 → AND a reduction in depression 

Exercise and daily movement is one very consistent variable seen in individuals who have lost weight and have kept it off long term (which we know from the diet registry statistics is one of the hardest parts about the weight loss journey.)  

This is a ton of benefits from just some added daily walking and movement, which is within reach for almost everyone, and can be implemented with a bit of time management, thought, and prioritization. 

Along with all of the above benefits to weight management, adding more walking and daily activity and living a high g-flux lifestyle has a lot of other benefits to health, longevity, and body composition.


In a low energy flux state, you will have to be a lot more restricted with your food intake. Because of this, it’s a lot harder to include any sort of social occasion centered around food like holidays or even the occasional meal out.  

You also would need to place a huge emphasis on making sure you’re covering your micronutrient bases, and even then in a very low flux state, it’s going to very difficult to do so. 

In a high energy flux state you have a lot more flexibility in food choices.  

You can include more meals out and social occasions, and you also have more freedom for more calorie dense, micronutrient dense food (In a restricted state you will have a harder time including foods such as potatoes, olive oil, avocados, and other more dense vegetables and fruits.)  

Being able to include the above foods along with the other less calorie dense produce foods like broccoli, greens, berries, etc. will cover more micronutrient bases.  

If you’re able to ensure you’re covering your bases (micronutrient-wise,) you’re less likely to experience any insufficiencies in things like magnesium, zinc, b vitamins (and so on);  which can have downstream effects on hormones like thyroid and sex hormones.


The more food you can eat while staying weight stable, and the more movement you do outside of lifting sessions, the better you will build muscle, recover between sets, and recover from training sessions. 

More food coming in typically means more carbohydrates.  

Carbohydrates are used to fuel harder training, restore glycogen after training, and give an insulin response which not only assists in building muscle but also in blunting hunger. 

More movement outside of training sessions in the form of formal cardio or more walking means you will have a healthier and more capable cardiovascular system.  

If you are in better cardiovascular shape, you don’t need as much time between sets and can push harder within a set before getting gassed.  

→ That means better performance, more weight/volume lifted, and more muscle built. 

Also, when you are moving more throughout the day (especially before and after eating) you have better nutrient partitioning.

Nutrient partitioning is the process by which your body directs dietary energy (from protein, fats, and carbohydrates) to its ultimate destination. 

Your body will either burn this energy or store it. 

When nutrient partitioning is improved, that means you burn more glycogen, and store more in the muscle for use later rather than floating around as blood glucose or stored as bodyfat.  

When you have more glycogen being stored in the muscle cells, you’re better able to use that glycogen later for a training session.


Several of these are already touching on health improvement, but there are more health benefits besides just being able to train harder and take in more nutrients. 

More walking and movement means:

→ Lowered resting heart rate (a great marker for health)

→ Lowered blood glucose (and less glucose excursion after meals)

→ Better capillary density 

So knowing how important daily activity is for your health, longevity, weight maintenance, and performance…

How do you actually get more steps per day and achieve a high G-flux? 

We like to have our online clients hit a step goal per day.  

This is a flexible way of getting in enough activity, because it doesn’t have to necessarily be time carved out for a walk or a cardio session, it can be accumulated through the day. 

To sneak these in, Brandon gave a few ideas in his presentation:

→ Park in the back of the lot and further from destinations  

→ Incorporate exercise snacks 

→ Walk or bike to work  

→ Walk to the convenience store  

→ Using a standing desk  

→ Take a walk during your lunch break 

→ Post-meal walks (BG lowering benefits from this)    

→ Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator 

→ Mow your lawn instead of paying someone to do it 

→ Get a dog and walk it  

→ Take a lap around the gym instead of sitting on your phone in between sets  

Notice some of these aren’t even necessarily movement, but just standing instead of sitting. This makes a surprising difference in the amount of calories burned during a given time. 

For an 8 hour work day, sitting in your chair will burn about 300 calories. In that same time, just standing to work will burn 1400 calories. 

If you go from sitting at a desk to walking 1mph (very slow and doable while still working) you will burn an additional 120 calories per hour. 

Practical applications from this information:

→ Using a standing desk during your work day 

→ Walk and talk meetings 

→ Taking walk breaks throughout your work day 

→ Setting an alarm to move around for 5 minutes each hour you’re seated (Taking a 5 minute walk break every hour can increase energy expenditure by 16.5 calories an hour, 132 calories over an 8 hour work day and 660 if done for a full work week- Swartz et al., 2011)

Adding physical activity into your day doesn’t have to be daunting.  

Start out by simply tracking your steps with a Fitbit, your phone, or a fitness tracker to see where you currently fall and add 1000-2000 steps per day.  

You can add more walks in small increments into your day before or after meals, or join a rec league of a sport you enjoy.  

You can use this time to walk with a friend, talk, and unwind. 

Finding ways to add more movement into your day will result in having more energy, easier weight loss or weight maintenance, improved appetite control, and better health and longevity.

This is something we focus heavily on with our online clients.  If you’d like some accountability on increasing your movement, nutrition guidance and coaching, and custom training plans fit to your needs, click here to schedule a call with one of our coaches. 


Andrea Rogers is a certified nutrition coach, personal trainer, and coach for BairFit. Follow her on Instagram for more helpful training & nutrition content.

.studioengine .sse-is-btn, .studioengine .sse-btn{color: #222;}

January 27, 2022No Comments

Should You Cut Or Build? (Understanding P-Ratio With Brandon DaCruz)

Today, Brandon DaCruz and I are taking a deep dive into the topic of the P-Ratio (partitioning ratio).

You’ve may have heard that women and men need to in a very specific body fat range when trying to build lean muscle in order to optimize the the way your body partitions nutrients. 

Within this “ideal body fat range”, you’ll be able to gain lean muscle while mostly avoiding fat gain... but outside of it, you’ll gain mostly fat and very little muscle. 

But is there any truth to this concept? 

You'll get these questions answered (and much more) today as we dig into: 

 1: What is the p-ratio? 

 2: Common misconceptions about the p-ratio 

3: Main factors that influence the p-ratio and nutrient partitioning 

4: How does someone's body fat level impact nutrient partitioning? 

5: ”I’ve heard the argument that those with the highest levels of FFMI like college football players also have high levels of body fat... so that must mean that their ability to gain muscle isn’t impaired by body fat. What’re your thoughts on that?” 

6: Many of the debates around the optimal p ratio involve body fat and how it affects hormones and inflammation... so how does body fat impact hormones and inflammation? 

7: How do you approach building phases with your clients and maximize their p-ratio? 

8: Practical applications for the listener

If you'd rather listen to the podcast version of our interview, CLICK HERE.

[*Brandon deserves credit for most of the points and concepts below. I've expanded on his thoughts a bit where helpful, but highly recommend you listen to the episode as well to fully understand the context of the conversation.]


The partitioning ratio refers to how well you partition nutrients into muscle tissue vs. fat tissue. 

So in relation to building muscle, this concept describes the ratio of muscle gained to fat gained:

→ If someone had a high p-ratio, it would mean that for every pound gained, the added weight is mostly muscle, with very little fat gain (they're making "lean gains").

→ But having a low p-ratio means you'd gain mostly fat with very little muscle for ever pound gained.

Generally you'll hear people say (*NOTE: this isn't necessarily true) that...

→ Women between 20-25% body fat

→ Men between 10-15% body fat

...will have the best p-ratio. But outside of these range, for every pound of body fat that you gain, you'll gain much more fat tissue than muscle tissue. So it makes sense to start a fat loss phase when you approach the upper end of this range to prevent excess fat gain, and set yourself up to make more "lean gains" once you're leaner again.

But again, it's important to understand that there is much more nuance than just these ranges.


There are quite a few common misconceptions about the p-ratio, but the most common one:

The leaner you are, the better your p-ratio will be.

You'll often hear bodybuilders talk about about the idea that you're "primed to grow" after getting extremely lean.

The reality is, your body is much more primed for fat gain than muscle gain at the end of a diet where you've gotten very lean (think: photoshoot or bodybuilding stage levels of lean).

Your body needs some fat in order to maintain health, so when you diet to an extremely lean state your body will prioritize regaining fat tissue over muscle tissue - it needs to feel healthy (which does require some body fat) before it would make sense to put on lots of calorie-expensive muscle tissue.

So there is definitely a point where you can be too lean, and it will actually lower your p-ratio until you regain some body fat. It may be counterproductive trying to get too lean before a building phase if your goal is improving your p-ratio.

That said, the p-ratio does usually seem to work well in the opposite direction - individuals with a larger amount of body fat to lose are often capable of body recomposition (losing fat and building muscle at the same time) within online coaching (so they have a "high p-ratio"), as their bodies have more body fat/energy stores to use as fuel while still gaining muscle.  

But the most important thing to understand is that we each have an individual response to the p-ratio, based on where our body fat naturally tends to settle.


If someone was obese most of their life, but got into training and got lean by taking their calories extremely low, this would not necessarily change their p-ratio. 

They wouldn't get extremely lean, and then put on more muscle mass and less fat mass as a result of now being 10% body fat. Really, they'd likely be predisposed to gaining more body fat, due to the body fat overshooting effect

Now, this definitely isn't to say that you shouldn't try to get lean and improve your p-ratio. It just means that rather than focusing on whether your body fat is in the ideal range to build... we need to focus on multiple factors outside of just body fat that influence the way our body partitions nutrients. 

The actual body fat percentage you're at is likely less important to p-ratio than many other factors.

All that said, for metabolic health, managing inflammation, and preserving insulin sensitivity: Staying in approximately the ~18-30% body fat range for women and 10-20% range for men is likely ideal.  

Having higher body fat than this doesn’t necessarily hurt your ability to add lean muscle tissue… but it does have some detriments to your health that can have long-term health consequences.


→ TRAINING: Really the most powerful thing you can do to improve your nutrient partitioning.

- It increases sensitivity to amino acids for up to ~ 24 hours post-workout, which means your body better utilizes dietary protein and increases the process of muscle protein synthesis (the process of your body turning dietary protein into muscle).

- Increases glucose (carb) uptake without insulin. Basically, it lowers our body's need for insulin as a shuttling agent, while still sending amino acids and glucose to muscle cells.

→ CURRENT LEVELS OF LEAN MUSCLE: You can essentially see muscle as a "sink" for glucose/carbs. The more muscle you have, the more carbs will be stored as muscle glycogen rather than in your fat cells. So basically more carbs will be stored in muscle vs. fat. 

→ LEVELS OF INSULIN SENSITIVITY: A.k.a. how sensitive our bodies are to the effects of insulin. Those with high levels of peripheral insulin sensitivity are able to uptake far more glucose into their muscle cells, so that more carbs are stored as muscle glycogen rather than in fat tissue.

So exercise of course increases insulin sensitivity.

→ PHYSICAL ACTIVITY OUTSIDE OF THE GYM: Cardio, daily steps, etc. Very similar to resistance training, doing more activity outside of the gym will yield better insulin sensitivity.

NUTRITION: The size of calorie surplus used in a building phase of course influences the amount of extra calories we have available to be shuttled towards muscle or fat cells on a daily basis, which in turn impacts how much muscle vs. fat we gain in any given timeframe.

The reality is, we can't force feed muscle growth. As you get more advanced in your level of physique development, you likely won't need as large a surplus to build muscle as compared to someone who is newer to proper training and nutrition.

This is because as you get more advanced, the rate of muscle gain you're capable of is slower, and thus you need fewer calories in a surplus, as your body is building less muscle than a beginner.

So an advanced individual with a very large surplus in a building phase will likely gain more fat and less muscle vs. a relative beginner.

BODY FAT PERCENTAGE: The old P-ratio concept was... 

Low body fat = more muscle, less fat gain

Higher body fat = More fat gain, less muscle 

...Which isn’t necessarily true - both to high and too low of body fat negatively impacts insulin sensitivity.  

When you’re too lean (think: bodybuilding stage or photoshoot lean), your fat cells are going to be primed to grow.   

If you have too much body fat especially visceral fat (fat stored around your organs) you’re going to see a rapid decline in insulin sensitivity and an increase in insulin resistance.

This increase in insulin resistance seems to generally start happening for men > 20% body fat, women > 30% body fat. 

So essentially, for the best nutrient partitioning, you need to be at a healthy body fat level (neither too high or too low)

As Brandon says: A healthy body is a responsive body

Finally, realize that insulin sensitivity can also be impacted by your sleep quality, stress management, nutrient availability, and more. 


WHAT IS THE BODY FAT PERCENTAGE RANGE THAT YOU CAN MAINTAIN COMFORTABLY? This will vary quite a bit between individuals, but we want to be within a range of body fat that you can maintain with relative ease (you shouldn't have to feel like you're working too hard to stay lean). For some women, this could be 18-22% body fat, for others 22-26%.

→ SET AN APPROPRIATE SURPLUS: How people respond to a calorie surplus will vary a lot between individual. Some people will move more/burn more calories as a response to eating more food (and thus will need a larger surplus for it to be effective) whereas others will need far fewer calories to maintain a surplus in a building phase.

So rather than aiming to eat ___ number of calories above maintenance, it's smart to adjust your food intake to the point where you're gaining ~.25-.5% of your body weight per week. 

If you're more advanced, it's generally smart to lean towards the lower end of this range (.25%) if a beginner, more towards the higher end (.5%).

→ CHOOSE THE RIGHT TRAINING STIMULUS: If your goal is building muscle, your training needs to be mostly specific to hypertrophy (muscle growth). Learn more about how. to train to build muscle with our Hypertrophy Training Guide.

→ OPTIMIZE YOUR NUTRIENT-TIMING: It likely makes the most sense to prioritize getting a large portion of your daily calories (and carbs especially) in your pre and post-workout meals.

Learn more about optimizing nutrient timing HERE.

→ RECOVERY ABILITY: You don't build muscle just as a response to working hard in the gym. Your ability to grow muscle is limited by what your body can actually recover from.

So you need to prioritize recovery for a productive building phase. Nutrition, stress management, sleep, and smart training programming like our clients follow are key here.

USE A PHASIC APPROACH TO CHANGING YOUR BODY COMPOSITION: No phase of nutrition should last forever. We know that for the best health and body composition, using a phasic approach to changing body composition like we use with our clients is vital:

[To grab a 100% free guide that gives you a simple breakdown of our Phasic Dieting Method that you can implement immediately to FINALLY see the results you’ve been chasing for years, just click here.]


First, understand that we're very much speaking in generalities here. As you've learned above, there is a lot of nuance to consider. That said:

→ If you’re a male between 8-15% body fat, you're likely still lean enough to enter a building phase. However, once you get between ~18-20% body fat (mind you, this will be dependent on where your body fat settling point is, where you’re comfortable, what your metabolic health markers are, how many calories you’re eating) - but from a broad perspective, if you’re over this point, it’s a good idea to enter a mini cut or fat loss phase to mitigate the negative effects of higher body fat. 

→ As a female 18-26% body fat, you’re likely in a good position to enter a building phase, but over ~30% we’d generally suggest a fat loss phase or mini-cut. 

That said, women are much less to adding visceral body fat and have better metabolic health at higher body fat percentages than males. Women predominantly store fat in hips and thighs, and tend to get leaner in the abdomen before men, but tend to store less "unhealthy" body fat. 

But keep in mind, these are ranges and recommendations. Exact body fat percentages are very difficult to gauge. 

 To determine the best course of action go forward for a client, we’re looking not only at body fat and body composition, but subjective data and biofeedback as well. 

If someone looks like they’re 18% body fat, but they’re…  

 - Starting to feel lethargic (especially after meals) 

- Losing pumps in the gym 

- Fasted blood glucose  levels are increasing

...understand that these are all signs you're likely starting to get to a more insulin resistant state, and your cells aren’t uptaking glucose as effectively, so it might be time to shave off some body fat and improve these markers with a fat loss phase before focusing on building.


Brandon's Instagram 

Brandon's Website 

→ Email Brandon: bdacruzfitness@gmail.com

If you found this helpful but need some help creating a personalized training and nutrition plan to hit your physique goals, click here now to schedule a free discovery call with our coaching team.

written for you by jeremiah bair

I love simplifying the mysterious art and science of training and looking like it. I’ve been on my own journey, and I share what I’ve learned so you can get there faster, on my Podcast and Instagram.

.studioengine .sse-is-btn, .studioengine .sse-btn{color: #222;}

January 20, 2022No Comments

Lessons From Coach Andrea’s Photoshoot Prep (that apply to your diet)

I (Coach Andrea) have been a competitive person my entire life. I've missed the competition aspect to training since having my second son and not competing in powerlifting any longer.  

As a physique-focused lifter there are pretty limited options when it comes to competition.

Physique/bodybuilding competition is what you mainly hear about (and that’s a great option for a lot of athletes!)

→ You get to push yourself to an extreme and get your body into a condition you’ve never been in before. 

→ You get to show off all of the hard work you’ve put in lifting for years. 

→You get to have a judge tell you where you rank and what you can do to improve.   

But it’s not something I’ve ever really wanted to do... and to succeed in that sport you have to be all-in.

Just like all of our clients, I want to look lean & strong and feel ultra-confident in my physique... but I don't want to get on a bodybuilding stage.

So when looking for a new challenge to push myself to, I determined the next best option for me was a photoshoot prep.  

A lot of our online clients also decide to take on getting in the best shape of their lives for a photoshoot... it's a great way to push yourself physically and mentally to new levels you didn't know you were capable of... without having to hop on a bodybuilding stage.

You still get to push your body to an extreme and have focus on a goal that is intensified by accountability of being in front of the camera on a specific date.  

A few of our clients that have prepped for photoshoots in the last couple of months:

So starting in mid-2020 I started working toward the goal of getting photoshoot ready.  

If the process of prepping for a shoot is something that interests you, check out our client photoshoot prep case study blogs:

Mom Of 5 Photoshoot Prep

Jeff's Photoshoot Peak Week Protocol

Rachel's 6 Month Photoshoot Transformation

There are a lot of lessons taken from that journey before, during, and after the actual diet that you can take and apply to your own diet, whether that’s just for general health or for a photoshoot prep of your own.


Listen, I get it... when you're set on getting leaner, the last thing you want to do is spend months prepping for a successful diet.  

Because let's be real - we all want the result yesterday. 

But it's important to spend time making sure you are set up for a successful diet as it will save you time and frustration in the end (Plus. you’ll end up with a way easier cut and a better end result.) 

So as mentioned, I started preparing to do a photoshoot in mid 2020. I hired a coach of my own (even coaches need coaches) in October of 2020... but didn’t begin dieting until the summer of 2021.  

The first several months were spent looking at bloodwork, testing blood glucose levels (and getting those in a better spot), eating enough calories, and training to build some muscle (basically making sure I was healthy before throwing me into a calorie deficit.) 

This is why we have our clients follow our Phasic Dieting Method - meaning our clients aren't always dieting - even in a fat loss phase, they'll still have times where they’re eating at maintenance throughout the fat loss phase (like diet breaks and refeeds.

It's so important to understand that before you enter a fat loss phase, you have a plan laid out for the health phase after the diet where you'll spend time focused on maintaining and restoring health.

Basically, maintenance is where your body thrives. When you’re eating at maintenance you can improve your health, performance, muscle mass, and have the flexibility for date nights, holidays, and just not feeling hungry all the time. 

During a maintenance phase you will:

→ Increase hormones like testosterone, thyroid, and leptin 

→ You’ll naturally move more (N.E.A.T.) and burn more energy during training because you’ll have the fuel to have more energy 

→ Chronic stress on your system is decreased because you’ll have the micronutrients and macronutrients available  

So to look at this from the bigger picture of achieving your long-term goal: 

You could jump into a fat loss phase right now and go for the instant gratification.  

In that case you might lose a few pounds now and feel good about that but feel like you have to white knuckle yourself through to maintain that progress.  

Thinking long term mean like planning out the next year or more like we do with clients. Not what do you want to look like in 3 months, but what do you want to look like this time next year, or summer 2 years from now.  

Planning or periodizing like this is the crux of our Phasic Dieting Method, and it entails ensuring your body is truly ready to diet now, having a plan for approximately how long you’ll diet, and what the reverse diet and health phase need to look like afterwards to maintain your results long-term.

[To grab a 100% free guide that gives you a simple breakdown of our Phasic Dieting Method that you can implement immediately to FINALLY see the fat loss results you’ve been chasing for years (without any stupid cardio or god-awful crash diets), just click here.]


The number one thing you can do to set yourself up for success in a fat loss phase is set up a flexible meal plan for yourself. 

[*NOTE: This is not a meal plan created for you by a coach.]

Most good coaches will advise against having a meal plan created by someone that you blindly follow. A meal plan like that is typically lacking in nutrients, and it is very unlikely someone will follow a meal plan for long enough to see meaningful changes.   

A flexible meal plan you create for yourself is much more sustainable because it’s comprised of meals you decide on and fit your taste.  

The flexibility aspect of it also means you have a plan for when things don’t go perfectly and your meal plan needs to change. 

In the beginning of my fat loss phase my carbs and calories were still high enough that I had a meal plan for the first 3 meals of the day and made the dinner with my family fit my macros.  

As time went on and my macros got lower I had a meal plan for all 4 meals.  

Sticking to these same meals nearly every day helped in several ways: 

→ I didn’t have to come up with new meals to fit my numbers on a daily basis. 

→ I knew the groceries I needed to keep on hand. 

 → My digestion wasn’t a factor. 

→ It minimized the decisions I needed to make which saves energy. 

→ It leaves less room for veering off plan. 

Here are the steps on exactly how to create a flexible meal plan for yourself (For the full blog post on it click HERE): 

1. Choose how many different "template days" you'll need for the week:

Again, usually 1-2. 

From here, you’ll simply be plugging foods into MyFitnessPal (or your macro tracking app of choice) to create a plan for these days that aligns with your macros.  

2. Choose your preferred number of meals:

3-5 meals/snacks daily works best for most. 

Choose times you can consistently eat each meal, and stick to those → this helps prevent cycles of under/overeating, or playing “macro tetris” too often. 

3. Plan your proteins:

Choose a primary protein source for each of your meals, & adjust the serving size until it gives you 25-50g protein, OR add another protein source to reach the 25-50g range. (We want to divide protein evenly between meals, most will hit their goal with 25-50g at each meal.) ⠀  

4. Plan your carbs:

Now you'll know what carb sources will pair well with your proteins →  choose 1-2 carb sources for each meal, and adjust serving sizes to fit your macros 

Making the meals around your workouts more carb heavy is more optimal.⠀ 

5. Plan your fats:

Your protein (and some carb) sources will have fat, so we're waiting until last to add fats as needed to meals. 

(Timing these further from your workouts is more optimal.) 

Now you have a template day planned out. 

Figure out how many times you’ll be repeating it during the week, so you know how much food to get while prepping.


In the past I have always kept training constant throughout different dieting phases. I had never taken into account having lower energy intake and responding with lower training volume. 

Most people take that same approach because they think they need to burn more calories via training.  

The truth is, you aren’t burning a significant amount of calories during training, and the fat loss you see will come as a result of your diet.  

So with that in mind you won’t notice any negative effects from bringing training volume down a bit while you’re deeper into a calorie deficit.  

The reason for this is stress management and recovery.  

All sources of stress go into one “stress bucket”, not into multiple different categories when it comes to your body.  

This total accumulation of stress is called your allostatic load

Stress from money, relationships, work, diet, training, poor diet quality, poor sleep, etc. all add to your allostatic load. 

When you’re in a large calorie deficit and losing body fat, that adds to your allostatic load on top of all of your other sources of stress.

You’re also directly taking fuel away from what your body could use as a recovery resource.  

Of course you want to control stress from other areas, but one thing you have direct control over is your training stimulus.  

When your stress is high and recovery resources are low, you can easily overextend with high training volume and not be able to optimally recover (your maximum recoverable volume has lowered.)    

Practically speaking this means you might need to go from 5-6 training days to 3-5.  

You also want to keep your training phase to longer rest periods and slightly lower rep ranges so you’re not creating a large glycogen demand (since you probably won’t have the carbohydrates available to fuel that type of training.) 

When we’re overly stressed and have high cortisol (stress hormone), it causes a negative spiral.  

If you stay in that negative spiral for too long it can cause major issues with things like thyroid function, sex hormone production, appetite regulation, digestive health, and so on. 

The negative spiral starts out with high stress causing your cortisol rhythm to be thrown off. Your cortisol is supposed to be high in the morning to wake you up, and low at night so you can go to sleep.  

If that gets disrupted you have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good quality sleep... which means stress goes up even more.  

Poor sleep and stress have major effects on fat loss, muscle gain, and muscle retention.  

To illustrate this, a 2010 study looked at the effects restricted sleep has on muscle mass and fat loss:

→ Participants were split into two groups: An 8 hour per night sleep group, and a 5.5 per night sleep group.

→ The researchers measured loss of fat and lean tissue. 

→ They also measured changes in substrate utilization (the use of fat and carbohydrate by the body for energy), energy expenditure (calorie burn), hunger, and 24-hour metabolic hormone concentrations. 


“Sleep curtailment decreased the proportion of weight lost as fat by 55% (1.4 vs. 0.6 kg with 8.5 vs. 5.5 hours of sleep opportunity, respectively; P = 0.043) and increased the loss of fat-free body mass by 60% (1.5 vs. 2.4 kg; P = 0.002). 

This was accompanied by markers of enhanced neuroendocrine adaptation to caloric restriction, increased hunger, and a shift in relative substrate utilization toward oxidation of less fat.” 


The people who only slept 5.5 hours per night lost about 2 pounds less fat in 2 weeks, and also lost 2 pounds more of lean mass (not the type of weight you want to be losing!) 

They also started adapting hormonally to calorie restriction (down-regulating calorie output to adapt to the restriction), were hungrier, and burned less fat for fuel. 

When dieting, we’re generally doing everything we can to burn the highest amount of body fat and preserve the most muscle mass possible, so these are the exact opposite results of what you’d hope for on a fat loss diet.  

For me, the stress I experienced had an affect on my fasted blood glucose numbers increasing (one of the more tangible ways we can measure stress levels for clients). But understand that for you it could present differently. 

Regardless of how stress manifests in your body, you’ll have an easier time with fat loss and end up with a much healthier end product if you manage your stress well.


Managing stress can be more simple than you may think. I like to think of stress and stress-reduction in terms of the scales of justice:

On one side you have the inputs that are adding stress.  

On the other side you have inputs that are reducing stress.  

You don’t want the stress side to weigh more than the stress reduction side.  

That means you can reduce stressors where you can, or you can add things that will be more calming and parasympathetic.

Parasympathetic activities can be anything you personally enjoy and relax you (that don’t add stress to your body–sorry, lifting and running don’t count for this).  

Some examples of this could be:

→ Walking, especially in nature 

→ Meditation and/or prayer 

→ Yoga 

→ Reading 

→ Journaling 



The first thing I did, that you can and should apply as well, was hire a coach for expert guidance and accountability.  

Even being a coach myself, I learned a ton from having my own coach, and it’s an irreplaceable source of accountability.  

The knowledge you’ll gain from having a coach is priceless, but the accountability of having someone to check in with on a weekly basis is a huge game-changer.   

It’s really easy to make emotional decisions, and that only gets worse when you’re tired and hungry.  

Having someone there to push you to work hard when necessary helps and that’s what most people probably think of with a trainer or coach.  

But one of the biggest things my coach did for me was pull me back.  

As someone who loves lifting, exercise, caffeine, and pushing myself, it was a big lesson for me to have someone pulling on the reigns telling me when it was time to eat more or take a few rest days.  

When progress wasn’t fast enough that’s not something I would have done on my own. 

A friend or family member as a support system is great and it’s important that the people in your life are supportive of you. But they’re typically not a great source of accountability when things get hard.  

They’re probably not going to give you the tough love you might need when you’re hungry and want to go out for some food that won’t be conducive to your goals.  

They want to see you happy (and probably want that food themselves too!), so in that moment might be more of an enabler than an objective eye, despite best intentions.   

Hire a coach to guide you and keep you accountable to what you want long term. It’s worth the investment and will give way more value than the money you spend on it.

If you found this helpful but need some help creating a personalized training and nutrition plan to hit your physique goals, and potentially even prep for your own photoshoot, click here now to schedule a free discovery call with our coaching team.


Andrea Rogers is a certified nutrition coach, personal trainer, and coach for BairFit. Follow her on Instagram for more helpful training & nutrition content.

.studioengine .sse-is-btn, .studioengine .sse-btn{color: #222;}

January 6, 2022No Comments

The 5 Key Variables For A More Effective Training Program

The variables we change within a client's training program are what make the difference between staying stagnant for months on end, or actually progressing and finally seeing the changes in strength, performance, and physique you've been after. 

These variables can be manipulated to change the adaptation you’re getting from your training, and while on paper two training programs can look really similar, small variations can create big change.

In today's blog, you'll learn the primary variables you can adjust within your program to achieve a better physique, faster


The first variable in the list is volume. This is one people tend to manipulate first.  

While volume is technically reps x sets x weight, most people tend to simplify it as a description of number of hard sets, that is sets taken to a significant Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) value.  

Volume has been shown to be the primary driver of hypertrophy in studies, most notably in a study by Brad Schoenfeld and James Krieger.  

→In Krieger’s Weightology Research Review he writes: 

 “In a study of which I was a coauthor, Brad Schoenfeld and colleagues replicated the design of the Radaelli study, but with trained subjects. 

The subjects performed 1, 3, or 5 sets per exercise, for 8-12 reps to failure and 1.5 minute rests. They trained 3 times per week for 8 weeks. 

One difference from Radaelli, other than the length of the study, was that nearly all movements were compound movements (bench press, military press, lat pull, seated row, squat, and leg press; the only isolation movement was leg extension). 

Total weekly sets were 6, 18, and 30 for biceps and triceps, and 9, 27, and 45 for quadriceps. 

A significant dose-response effect was observed in the biceps, rectus femoris (part of the quadriceps), and vastus lateralis (part of the quadriceps). There was not a significant effect for triceps, although the overall pattern had similarities to the other muscles.”

Shown above are the findings in thickness with each volume group. 

Across the board the higher the volume, the greater the muscle thickness gain (although the tricep thickness wasn’t statistically significant.) 

Even though the upper limit for volume to continually provide hypertrophy benefit is probably higher than would have been thought before these studies had been done, there’s still a practical upper limit. 

The higher your volume gets, the more recovery resources it takes to be able to repair, recover, and do it again next training session.  At some point you exceed the amount of recoverable volume. 

You can attenuate that to some degree by choosing movements that you specifically get a good stimulus from, and that have a good stimulus to fatigue ratio, but there will always be a limit at which you start to over-tax your body and can’t recover.   

In beginners, you would start out by fairly evenly splitting volume between all muscle groups. 

When you become more advanced you can start to move your relatively larger muscle groups down closer to a maintenance volume level and do more volume with your smaller/weaker muscle groups.  

That allows you to allocate more volume for more growth to those lagging body parts while not overdoing it on total volume and still recover. 

The recommendation for volume per muscle group is 10-20 sets per muscle group per week.  

The muscle group you’re training can have a large part in where your number of sets falls within that range.  

Larger muscle groups like quads and hamstrings tend to be able to grow with a smaller number of sets per week while smaller muscle groups like shoulders can take a beating with lots of volume and frequency and still recover just fine. 

→ If you are doing too few sets per week you’ll know by lack of growth in that muscle group, and lack of disruption, i.e. pump, fatigue, and soreness. If you’re doing too much volume you’ll know because you get too sore and don’t feel recovered by your next training session working that same muscle group.


Intensity is the next variable and one that loads of people completely leave out of the equation. 

Intensity is loosely “how hard you’re working per set.”  

For our online training clients, we measure this with Reps In Reserve (RIR.) 

Intensity is also commonly gauged with an RPE, rate of perceived exertion, rating. 

→In theory, RIR and RPE are the inverse of each other (i.e., RPE 10 is RIR 0, RPE 9 is RIR 1, and so on.)  

We prefer RIR with our clients because it is more tangible. There’s a hard distinction of a failure point rather than it being a subjective feeling that RPE can tend to be (especially in more beginner athletes.) 

Most lifters you see in the gym, even if the workout is challenging, don’t lift with enough intensity. Most of the hypertrophy benefit comes from being within the 0-5 RIR range.  

See, the closer you take a set to failure, the more muscle fibers you recruit and fatigue. 

It’s thought that the last few reps of a set are by far the ones you get the most out of - the most "effective reps", because they do the most to disrupt homeostasis and spark new muscle growth. (This is the concept of "effective reps").    

That doesn’t mean you need to or even should take sets to failure. As you get closer to 0 RIR your fatigue becomes exponentially greater and the lift takes more recovery resources.  

We know that if we push the intensity too far (0 RIR/lots of sets to failure), we’ll create too much stress to recover from.  But we also know that if your RIR is too high (probably 5+), you won’t get much out of your set, as it will be very short on "effective reps"

This works on a sliding scale depending on the type of movement you’re doing.  

More compound lifts are more fatiguing, while isolation movements for smaller muscles are less fatiguing.  

For those reasons, with our clients we typically will keep larger compound movements like barbell squats, deadlifts, etc. to 1-4 RIR, but take smaller isolated movements like a calf raise or lateral raise to 0-1 RIR.


We find that women tend to take way too short of rest periods while men can tend to take too long of rest periods.  

Skewing too far in either direction can take your training session and make it much less effective than it could have been. 

If you read our post on the different phases we use in hypertrophy training you know that rest periods are a big variable within this that can change the stimulus.  

→ For example 4 sets of 8 reps of an incline dumbbell press with 3 minutes rest is a very different stimulus than 4 sets of 8 reps of incline dumbbell press with 30 seconds rest. 

The phases range on a continuum from strength/neuro on one side (where you are lifting maximum weight for low reps and taking fairly long rest periods), to the other end of the range with metabolite training (where you’re lifting a bit lighter, focusing on the tension and taking shorter rest periods.) 

The typical range in rest periods for most of our online clients range anywhere from 30 seconds up to 3 minutes, depending on the phase they are in and the stimuli we are going for. 

→ If you are focused on hypertrophy you should be spending most of your time somewhere in the middle, resting for 1-2 minutes between sets, and allowing yourself enough recovery time to get as many reps as possible in your next set. 

If you’re not taking enough rest, you’re not allowing yourself enough time to fully regenerate ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), which allows you to produce more force and potentially eek out another rep or two on the following set.  

When you can do that, you’re increasing your intensity and volume (these all tie in together) to stimulate more hypertrophy. 

→ When your goal shifts to maximum strength, you’ll start to stretch those rest periods out a bit longer, up to 3-4 minutes. 

→ When you’re working on your metabolic system you’ll shift rest periods down to 30-45 seconds to create an adaptation to the metabolite accumulation that happens within the muscle.  

The key when your goal is to hypertrophy is to get in and gain the desired adaptation from those phases and then cycle back out when it’s no longer productive.


Frequency is how often you’re training a given muscle group per week. 

Frequency and volume need to have an inverse relationship so you’re able to recover from each session. Meaning, if you’re only training a muscle once per week you’ll have 6 days to recover until you hit that muscle again (so you have more runway to take volume a bit higher.)  

→ If you’re training the muscle 4 days per week you need to keep the per-session volume relatively low.  

The 10-20 sets per muscle group per week still applies regardless of your chosen frequency, so you’ll divide that over each session.

Ideally you’ll work each muscle group 2-3 times per week.  

With one time per week frequency you tend to lose steam by the end of the session, and end up using less-than-optimal movements and accumulate junk volume. 

→ For example, if you have one ‘chest day’ per week, you’ll start out with a few great sets, then by the end of the session you’re failing because you’re already so fatigued, not because you’re getting a good stimulus to the target muscle group. 

You can use any type of split that works in order to get your appropriate volume for each muscle group, it doesn’t have to fit into a generalized template, however there are some common ones that allow you to get 2-3 times per week frequency: 

3 Days Per Week: 

→ Full Body 3x 

→ Upper, Lower, Full Body 

 4 Days Per Week 

→ Upper, Lower, Upper, Lower 

→ Posterior, Anterior 

→ Push, Pull, Legs, Full Body 

5 Days Per Week: 

→ Upper, Lower, Push, Pull, Legs 

→ Lower, Upper, Lower, Upper, Full Body 

→ Lower, Upper, Lower, Upper, Lower 

6 Days Per Week: 

→ Push, Pull, Legs X2


Tempo is how quickly/slowly you’re performing each rep in each of its constituent parts: Eccentric, pause in the stretch position, concentric, pause in the shortened position. 

Tempo will be marked in your program as 4 numbers noting each of those parts respectively, for example 3121. 

→ In the example of 3121 you’ll perform a 3 second eccentric, a 1 second hold, 2 second concentric, then 1 second hold. 

Tempo has more of an indirect effect on hypertrophy than a direct one, but is still a variable that can be impactful. 

When you rush through reps, especially as a beginner, it can be hard to contract a muscle fully and “own the rep” vs. letting some momentum come into play and let the weight pull you back down. 

With our online clients we use a tempo that slows the eccentric portion of the lift, which gives them more time under tension in the more damaging portion of the lift (which can potentially result in more hypertrophy.) 

Using a tempo that pauses in the lengthened position of a movement prevents you from using the stretch reflex and bouncing out of the bottom of a lift vs. using the target muscle to contract and bring you out of it. 

Another benefit to a prescribed tempo is you’ll keep your reps consistent over the course of the set and training session to training session. That ensure that any progress you’re making in weight increases or reps per set are “true” vs. just using a bit more momentum out of the bottom, or powering through the reps faster.  

The tempo is a way of keeping you honest, so to speak. 

All of these variables together, can make a huge change to the stimulus and adaptation you’re getting from your training. 

Given two training sessions made up of the same exercises, but varying just one of these can create a different program for better or worse. 

If you know how to use these variables to work together you can create a program tailored to your specific goals that you can stimulate hypertrophy from while still being able to recover. 

If you are lost on how to manipulate these variables for your own programming, or just want someone else to take care of it for you, click here to schedule a call with one of our coaches.  

We’ll take the hassle out of putting the time and thought into all of this (and do it for you) so you can execute on a program customized just for you to suit your needs and goals.


Andrea Rogers is a certified nutrition coach, personal trainer, and coach for BairFit. Follow her on Instagram for more helpful training & nutrition content.

December 31, 2021No Comments

How To Set (And Adjust) Your Macros For Any Goal

The single biggest reason most women aren't getting closer to the physique they want?

Your nutrition doesn't align with your goals.

Whether you're chasing fat loss, building muscle, or all-around aesthetic improvements... proper nutrition is vitally important to actually achieving the results you're working so hard for in the gym.

Today's blog gives you the scientifically proven macro strategies we use with the women we coach, and teaches you how to apply them for your best body composition ever (no matter what your goal is). 


Calories are energy.

When helping clients lose, gain, or maintain weight, we're manipulating energy balance.

→ TO LOSE WEIGHT - When you burn more energy (calories) than you consume, you lose weight. This is called a negative energy balance, or a calorie deficit

→ TO GAIN WEIGHT - When you take in more energy (calories) than you burn, you gain weight. This is called a positive energy balance, or a calorie surplus

→ TO MAINTAIN WEIGHT - When you’re taking in the same amount of energy as you're burning daily, you maintain your weight. This is technically energy balance or your maintenance calories.

So in a nutshell, to lose or gain weight, you simply manipulate energy by: 

1. [Changing Calories In] A.k.a increasing/decreasing the calories you eat 

2. [Changing Calories Out] A.k.a increasing/decreasing the calories you burn

To make your understanding a bit more concrete, let's dive into the factors that impact Calories In and Calories Out.


→ Adjust Food Intake - Here, your only option is increasing or decreasing the amount of calories you're eating. 

...I know. It's disappointing for me too. 


→ Exercise Activity Thermogenesis [EAT] - Lifting weights, cardio, etc. Contrary to popular belief, exercise doesn't burn many calories. You could burn 500 calories with an hour on the stairmill, and then drink a 500 calorie margarita in five minutes. 

This is why trying to "burn it off" is so unsustainable (and why a smart nutrition protocol like our online clients follow is so important).

→ Non-Exercise Activity Themogenesis [N.E.A.T]All the calories you burn in your everyday life outside the gym. N.E.A.T. is the most controllable variable of calories out. 

Adding in a bit of daily movement adds up to hundreds of extra calories burned over a week. This is why most of our online clients with fat loss goals will also have a step goal. 

→ Thermic Effect of Food [TEF]Calories burned during digestion. It takes energy to turn the food you consume into energy. This is TEF. 

→ Basal Metabolic Rate [BMR] Your BMR is the number of calories your body burns just to stay alive. Generally, the heavier you are, the higher your BMR. 

The sum of these four components of Calories Out is what we call metabolism.



PRINCIPLE #1: Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain

PRINCIPLE #2: Calories In = Calories Out = Weight Maintenance

PRINCIPLE #3: Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss 

This means that as long as you're regulating energy balance, you don't have to be married to any one way of eating (I.e. only eating paleo). Now (as we'll discuss later), the macro composition of your diet will impact your results, but the key principle you need to adhere to is controlling calories. 

Understanding this allows us to tailor your nutrition protocol to what's truly the best fit for your individual physique goals & lifestyle.


From what we just discussed, you understand that you could just eat whatever fit into your calorie goal and lose or gain weight as desired. 

The thing is, while calorie intake is a key factor for weight loss or weight gain... it gets a bit more complex than that.

Put simply, the composition of your calories (the macronutritients & micronutrients within your food) have a big impact on things like...

→ The amount of calories you burn during digestion

→ The % of muscle vs. fat you gain when weight increases

→ The % of muscle you maintain when weight decreases

→ How well you're able to perform in your training (and thus change your body composition)

→ How much fullness you get per calorie (can make it much easier OR harder to stick to diet)

...and much more. 

So while calories are the overruling principle, to achieve the level of performance you want in your training and the physique you've always wanted, we need to dig deeper.


In simplest terms, focusing on macros (instead of just calories) helps you optimize your food intake to match your body composition goals. 

All the foods you eat/calories you take in are made up of some combination of the following macronutrients (a.k.a. macros)

→ Protein - 1 gram of protein contains ~4 calories 

→ Fat - 1 gram of fat contains ~9 calories

→ Carbohydrates - 1 gram of carbohydrate contains ~4 calories

→ Ethanol (a.k.a. Alcohol) - 1 gram of ethanol contains ~7 calories 

So macros are essentially just a way for us to divide your calories consumed up into these different categories. Tracking macros still involves controlling calories - we're just getting more specific with the types of calories you're consuming to ensure your body is properly fueled.


In order to achieve a great physique (the reason you're reading the blog), sufficient protein is a must, because...

→ No matter how hard you train, you won’t be able to build muscle without adequate protein. 

Protein is the only macronutrient that contains nitrogen, which is a required element to build muscle. So no matter how many carbs and fats you eat, without adequate nitrogen/protein, your body won’t have the raw materials it needs to build muscle. 

→ Similarly, adequate protein is necessary to maintaining muscle mass as you diet.

→ Protein is the most satiating macronutrient (it keeps you full longest).

The hardest thing about diets? You’re hungry. More protein (to an extent) equals less hunger. 

→ Protein has the highest thermic effect (TEF) of all the macros. 

It takes energy to turn the food you consume into energy. When you eat more protein, you're actually increasing the Calories Out side of the energy balance equation, since you're burning more calories via TEF.

Increasing protein intake to 1-1.5 grams/lb of body weight daily is the on of the most impactful thing you can do nutritionally to improve body composition. 


Fat and protein are the "essential macros" (you'll experience adverse health consequences if you under-eat either for too long). 

→ Some of the cholesterol from fat is used as a "raw material" for building hormones, so adequate cholesterol is very important for hormonal health. That said, your liver does a good job of creating cholesterol on it's own, so the primary reason we need fat is...

→ Under-consuming fats puts you at risk for developing a fatty acid deficiency. Basically, your body needs the EPA and DHA we get from some fattier foods for health. 

Considering the above points, it's generally a good idea to keep fat intake around or above .3g/lb of body weight daily. 


Carbs are "non-essential", meaning you'll survive just fine without them.

So there's not a "floor" for how low you can take carbs. 

That said, most of our online clients make carbs a priority in their diet. If you're focused on creating your best body composition, I suggest you do the same. Here's why...

→ Carbs fuel your anaerobic-lactic energy system. 

Your body's energy systems convert the things you eat into fuel, which is then burned for everything you do. The primary energy system used (and thus, fuel source) depends on the type of activity you're engaged in:

If you look closely at the energy system that creates energy for the majority of intense activity from ~15-60 seconds (the anaerobic-lactic system), you'll see that it's fueled by carbs.  

If your goal is to build a lean & athletic body, a good amount of your training will be fueled by this energy system. 

A lower carb approach means that this energy system will essentially be "short on fuel" - your ability to train intensely will suffer. 

As a result, you'll struggle achieving the levels of performance & adding the lean muscle needed for the physique you want.  

This is a common mistake made by women, and is exactly why most of our online clients undergoing the body recomposition process (the art of building muscle & losing fat at the same time) are typically following a higher carb approach.  

→ Not only are carbs are your body's preferred fuel source for training, but they also aids your recovery and ability to build more lean muscle. 

Carbs stimulate the release of the hormone insulin in your body. Insulin has an inverse relationship with cortisol (the stress hormone), meaning that as insulin increases, cortisol decreases. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone - its primary role is breaking things down for energy.  

Now, while cortisol isn't "bad" (like all things, it's very context dependent), spending too much time in a catabolic state will of course hinder your ability to build muscle.   

Due to the insulin and cortisol relationship, adding more carbs to your diet can help get your body out of a catabolic state, and recovering better/quicker. 


Your body essentially views alcohol as a poison. Priority #1 for your body is getting alcohol out of your system ASAP. 

To be more efficient at this, the body shuts down other processes to clear the system faster. Stuff like...

→  Oxidation of fat (fat burning) 

→ Hormone production

→ Muscle tissue repair

...and more. Basically, when you drink, your progress (losing body fat, building lean muscle) stops until your body clears the alcohol. 

That said, fat loss still comes down to creating a calorie deficit. Drinking only causes you to gain body fat if it's kicking you out of a calorie deficit (unless you're taking it to the extreme/alcoholism levels), and for most of us a sustainable nutrition protocol involves working some alcohol into our macros.


To simplify the nutritional science of fat loss and building lean muscle, it's extremely helpful to break this down into hierarchies of importance

The closer to the bottom of the hierarchy something is, the less important it is to achieving your best body composition & specific goals. Similarly, if focusing on something lower in the hierarchy is causing you to disregard something higher on the hierarchy, you won't get the results you want - so prioritize these appropriately.

Make sure you consistently have the level above mastered, before moving on to the next level above.


When it comes to fat loss, the biggest mistake most people making is forgetting to focus on the most important details...

Doing something you can stick to for the duration of the diet, and controlling overall calories.

For a complete breakdown of each element of the fat loss hierarchy, check out our blog The Fat Loss Blueprint.


One of the biggest mistakes intermediate to advanced trainees like you make, stopping you from achieving your best body composition ever… is following the same nutrition hierarchy you followed for fat loss.  

This is what we use for our online clients focused on fat loss, and you should as well… when fat loss is the focus.  

But as an intermediate to advanced female or male trainee, you’ve realized that achieving your best body composition requires not just losing fat, but also periods of time devoted to building muscle (the Building Phase, as we call it within online coaching).  

And to get the most out of your Building Phase, your nutrition hierarchy needs to look much different than it would in a fat loss phase. 

For a complete breakdown of the nutrition hierarchy for building muscle, check out our blog The Best Nutrition Strategy For Building Muscle.


The first step in achieving the physique you want is setting the proper macros. 

Regardless of if you want to...  

a.) Get leaner  

b.) Maintain your current body composition  

c.) Build muscle while staying lean 

...you have to have your macros set up properly to achieve the results you want. 


First, you’ll need to know your maintenance calorie intake (a.k.a. the intake you maintain your current body composition at).  

You have a few options here:  

a.) Use this calculator.  

b.) Multiply your bodyweight by 13-17 (13 would be a sedentary office worker, 17 would be an extremely active construction worker).  

c.) Start tracking everything you eat in MyFitnessPal. Take your weight first thing every morning. Adjust your calorie intake up or down as necessary until your weight stays stable for 5-7 days. (This is the most accurate method, but also takes the longest.)  

Regardless of which method you used, you should now have a number that is roughly you maintenance calorie intake. 



Within a fat loss phase, we'll typically be decreasing or increasing your macros based on your rate of loss.  

How quickly you should lose fat is very individual, but some general guidelines: 

→ If you're only concerned with fat loss, push for .5-1.5% of body weight lost per week 

 If you're attempting a body recomposition (building muscle and losing fat simultaneously) rate of loss should be slower. Aim for .25-.5% of body weight per week. 

→ If you're ok with giving up social drinking/eating, eating out at restaurants frequently, etc., and find the idea of a long diet daunting, push for faster fat loss. 

.75-1.5% of body weight per week. 

→ If you need a more "flexible lifestyle" in order to stick to your diet, or find the idea of drastically reducing food daunting, fat loss should be a bit slower. 

Aim for .5-1% of body weight lost per week. 

Really, there are tons of variables here... but generally, most will do best aiming to lose .5-1% of body weight per week.  

Dropping below this rate of loss makes sense for those looking to build muscle simultaneously.  

Going above this rate makes sense for those with a lot of weight to lose.


→ Aim to gain .25-.5% of body weight per week in a building phase.

Building muscle is a very slow process, and you just don't need to eat that many calories over your maintenance intake to build muscle.

We also know that you can build muscle without eating in a calorie surplus (eating more calories than you're burning), but eating a bit above your maintenance intake creates an environment that's more optimal for building lean muscle.  

Unlike most body recomposition scenarios, here we're actively push you to slowly gain weight. We know that you're not in a calorie deficit, and therefore not losing fat. So if you're not gaining weight through the building phase, you're simply not building muscle.  

Getting heavier at any given body fat percentage over time is a must to actually continue to progress your physique over time (true for men & women alike)

Even when you're super lean, being heavier than you were last time you were here tells us you've built more muscle.   

STEP #3: Set Calorie Goal


Now you need to establish your starting calorie goal, depending on your body composition goal.

→ If you're the rare person who wants to stay exactly the same, just chill at your estimated maintenance.

→ For Fat Loss - Now that you know your desired rate of loss from Step 2, let's put translate that into calories.

We know that to lose 1 lb of fat per week, you need to eat 3,500 calories below your maintenance intake across the course of the week.

So simply use these numbers to determine how many calories below maintenance you should be eating.

[*EXAMPLE: Gerald, a 200 lb man, has a maintenance intake of 2,880 calories per day. 

His goal Is to lose 1 lb per week. So we know that he needs to eat 3,500 calories less than his maintenance across the week OR 500 calories less per day. (3,500 / 7 = 500)

2,880 - 500 = 2,380. 

Gerald's fat loss intake is 2,380 calories per day.   

Generally, creating a calorie deficit of ~3,500 calories will lead to ~1lb fat loss. So eating 500 calories below your maintenance calorie intake every day for 7 days, should lead to about a pound of fat loss. (500 x 7 = 3,500)

Keep in mind, this is just a baseline. You will likely have to adjust this in the near future. Your fat loss won't happen linearly on this intake.]

Finally, you don't have to eat the same number of calories every day when in a fat loss phase. Most of our online clients get better results (due to increased adherence) from Calorie Cycling.

→ For Building Muscle - There's a LOT of variability in how individuals respond to overfeeding (eating in a calorie surplus). Some increase N.E.A.T dramatically without realizing it, and thus seem very resistant to weight gain. Others are able to gain very quickly.

In a building scenario, it's smart to start by simply multiplying maintenance intake X 1.1-1.15 to build muscle while staying relatively lean. 

From here, adjust macros up or down based on the rate of gain you see.

[*EXAMPLE: Gerald, a 200 lb man, has a maintenance intake of 2,800 calories per day.  

To determine building calories, he multiplies maintenance intake by 1.1

2,800 X 1.1 = 3,080 

Gerald's building intake is 3,080 calories per day.]

STEP #4: Set Macro Goals


→ Protein intake - Set protein intake between 1 - 1.5g per lb of body weight (multiply body weight x1-1.5) 

Regardless if your goal is fat loss or muscle gain, protein intake should generally stay in this range. 

When you're losing fat, adequate protein increases the odds that you'll build (or at least maintain) muscle. Plus, it keeps you full, and has the highest TEF of all the macros.

When you’re in a building phase, you're still going to need adequate protein to make optimal gains & perform in your training.

[*EXAMPLE:  200 lb Gerald needs 200 grams of protein.  

200 X 1 = 200. 

800 of Gerald's 2,380 kcal/day will come from protein. (Remember, protein contains 4 calories per gram.)  

200 X 4 = 800 kcal]

→ Fat intake - Set fat at .3-.4 grams/lb of body weight.  

[*EXAMPLE:  Back to Gerald, weighing in at 200 lbs.  

200 x .3 = 60.     

Gerald will be eating 60 grams of fat daily.  

To determine how many calories this is, multiply by 9. (Remember, fat contains 9 calories per gram.)  

60 x 9 = 540.  

Gerald will be eating 540 calories from fat daily.]

Really, you can take fats as high as you want from here… BUT, realize that there aren’t many additional benefits to eating more fat past the .3-.4g/lb mark, but additional fat will mean you have less room for carbs in your diet (which do yield many more benefits for your training, and building the body composition you want).   

So for most of our online clients, fat intake will fall somewhere .3g/lb-.5g/lb. 

→ Carb intake - Now that you have your protein and fat intake determined, simply fill your remaining macros with carbs.  

[*EXAMPLE: Gerald has a goal intake of 2,380 calories per day.  

Subtract the 800 kcal coming from protein.  

2,380 - 800 = 1,580 calories.  

Subtract the 540 calories coming from fat. 

1,580 - 540 = 1,040 calories.  

Gerald has 1,040 calories remaining to fill with carbs.  

To determine how many grams of carbs to eat, divide by 4. (Remember, carbs contain 4 kcal per gram.)  

1,040 / 4 = 260 

Gerald will be eating 260 grams of carbs per day.]

In most fat loss scenarios, individuals prefer to keep fats closer to the lower end of the recommend range, as your overall lower calories must come from carbs and/or fats (as protein intake generally stays fixed). So a slightly lower fat intake allows for more performance-boosting carbs.

As mentioned before, in a building phase, we've found that a higher carb approach while keeping fats in the .3-.5g/lb range suits most of our clients physique goals best - but feel free to tailor your fat intake to your personal preference here. 


Now that you have your macros set, if your body isn't changing, we know an adjustment to your intake is needed.   

But, if your macros are all over the place, it's impossible to know how many calories we need to decrease your intake by to resume progress. 

If you're consistently several hundred calories off-target, we don’t have an accurate baseline to adjust from.   

This applies to under-eating calories, as well as overeating.  This is why it’s crucial to be at or near your macro goal daily. 

No diet adjustment will make up for a lack of compliance.  

We typically give online clients macro ranges of +/- 100 calories / 20g Protein / 20g Carbs / 10g Fat to aim for.  

On a similar note, ensuring that you're tracking food in your food log accurately is also very important.  

When a nutrition client's progress stalls, the first thing we do is ensure they're tracking accurately. This usually results in progress resuming. 

In a fat loss setting, we want you to be WELL-FUELED & eating as many calories as possible while moving towards your end result… slashing calories without good reason doesn’t help either of these causes. 

In a building phase, a true need for macro adjustments (increases) is more common for most.


To be sure you're progressing, you need to measure how your body is changing. This gives you grounds to make adjustments. Too many people get stuck in "diet purgatory" - they always feel like they're dieting, but aren't tracking progress and making needed adjustments. 

Here's what we track to be that clients are making progress: 

→ Body Weight - Although not the end-all-be-all of fat loss, the reality is that everyone should lose weight in a fat loss phase if body recomposition (simultaneous muscle gain & fat loss) isn't happening. This is why you determined a target rate of loss earlier.

All that said, scale weight can fluctuate pretty wildly, due to things like water retention from higher sodium intake, stress, and digestive issues. 

Don't get caught up in weekly weight changes. 

Look at the trend over multiple weeks, and ensure it matches up with your target rate of loss. 

Most should see a monthly trend of 2-4% of total body weight lost, but the leaner you are, the smaller this number will be. 

→ Body Measurements - In body recomposition scenarios, an online client will be getting leaner, but the number on the scale won't budge much (because they're also building muscle)

In this case, body measurements often give a more accurate picture of how your body is changing than your weight. 

→ Progress Pictures - The day-to-day changes in your body are so minuscule, you won't notice them. This is why progress pictures are so important - they allow you to look at the bigger picture of your fat loss over the course of months, instead of just yesterday vs. today. 

→ Biofeedback - This is another part of online coaching that is always very individualized to your goals & needs. But generally we’re tracking things like stress, motivation, mood, cravings, etc. 

Tracking biofeedback allows us to take into account anything that could be impacting your results - not just nutrition and training. This is an essential part of why our online clients get such great results. We take your whole life into account.


Before making any dietary adjustments, you first need to determine if your progress has actually stalled. 

Here's the process we work online clients through to determine if an adjustment is needed (check out this blog for a thorough breakdown of the process):

So if you're sure that fat loss has stalled, and it's not due to mismanaging Calories In (or accidentally decreasing movement), let’s talk about how we’d adjust your nutrition & training strategy within coaching. 

Basically, we have three options:

1. Decrease calories in. 

2. Increase calories out. 

3. A combination of both decreasing calories in and increasing calories out. Of course, we need to get a bit deeper into each of these.


If you're not making progress, normally a 5-10% reduction in weekly calories will be enough to get fat loss to resume again in a fat loss phase.  

→ If progress has just dipped slightly (e.g. you’re still losing, but slower than .5% of body weight per week), your adjustment will likely be closer to a 5% decrease. 

→ If progress has stalled hard (e.g. no weight or measurement changes in 2+ weeks), we’ll err towards a 7.5-10% decrease. 

It's pretty rare that we'll drop someone's calories by more than 10%, unless we need to be super aggressive for a strict deadline (e.g. a photoshoot). 

This reduction in calories can come from carbs, fats, or a combination of both. 

PULL FROM FATS IF... you’re still above the fat threshold (.3g/lb), and are chasing as much muscle gain or maintenance as possible. 

PULL FROM CARBS IF... you’re at the fat threshold, or just prefer a higher fat diet. 

PULL FROM BOTH IF... your food choices are the most important factor to sticking to your diet. 

This will allow you to keep the same foods in your diet (just in smaller portions), instead of having to drastically cut back on carb heavy or fattier foods.


Your second option is to simply move more. This is generally much less practical than controlling calories - it usually takes less effort to decrease calorie intake by 200 (you just eat less), than it does to increase calories burned by 200 (which equates to an extra ~30-45 mins of movement per day)

Your options here: 

→ Increase training volume: We strategically add more sets of compound movements to your training, or add in another training day. I’ve seen this strategy work best with those that are newer to proper training, and have only been following a smart training program 2-3 days per week. 

The problem is, the more we increase volume, the more “recovery resources” your body needs to repair itself. 

Recovery resources are already very limited on a diet, so for more advanced individuals who have been following a smart training strategy 4+ times per week, a big jump in volume would often be detrimental to results. 

→ Increase aerobic work - We prefer to start here when increasing calories via movement for most (outside of those who can realistically add training volume within their recovery abilities). Aerobic work is easier, and actually helps your recovery. 

We would generally start by increasing your step goal close to the realistic limit you can hit (~10k for most), and next add 1-2 sessions of incline walking or cycling for 30-40 mins at a heart rate of 120-140 BPM. 

If the client prefers, this can also be something like shorter and more intense (but still aerobic focused) bouts (e.g. 2,000m on the rower @2:00/500m pace. 2 min rest. Repeat x4.)

→ Increase anaerobic work - While quicker, anaerobic work is much more stressful on the body, and takes more time to recover from. 

We generally limit this to 1-2 sessions per week at most (although it's rare we program it at all).

For a complete guide to programming the best cardio, check out our blog How To Program The Most Effective Cardio For Your Goals.

OPTION #3: A Combination Of Both 


This is pretty self-explanatory. If you would rather increase movement a bit (e.g. add in 1 aerobic session) and decrease calories slightly (e.g. 4-5%), instead of a large decrease or increase in either, that’s perfectly fine.


Similarly to how the nutrition hierarchies for building vs. fat loss were different, so are our primary measures of progress. We're looking for:

→ .25-.5% of body weight gained per week. But realize that many people will often see body weight jump up 1-3 lbs in a week, and then sit still for a few weeks before another jump - so don't get overzealous increase or decreasing calories.

Look at average weight changes across 2-4 weeks. We're slower to make adjustments in a building phase than a fat loss phsae.

Strength increases in the 5-30 rep range. Gaining strength isn't a must to build muscle... but gaining in this range is one of the most likely indicators that you're also building muscle.

Training Performance and Recovery are both generally high. In our client's metric trackers, these a few pieces of biofeedback they'll track daily. Since you can't build muscle without stimulative training + adequate recovery, eating enough to properly fuel these is essential.

Past this point, clients are still taking progress pictures and measurements bi-weekly to monthly, but we won't see as large of changes in either of these as we would a fat loss phase. (Again, building is a slow process.)


If you’re NOT seeing increases in weight or strength in the gym after three week, it’s time to increase calories. 

→ Increase your total calorie intake by 5% (via carbs). Continue this weekly until you're gaining in the recommended range. 

If you’re surpassing the recommend rate of gain for 2+ weeks, you’re likely adding unwanted excess fat. 

→ Decrease calories by 5% (pulling from carbs). Repeat this weekly until your rate of gain falls back in the recommended range.

And that's how to set your macros for any goal.

As your next step, I highly recommend you check out How To Plan A Year Of Training & Nutrition For Physique Development. This is an all inclusive guide to creating a synergistic training & nutrition strategy to propel you towards your best physique ever by the end of the year.

Now, if you're ready to stop collecting information and start transforming your body with an individualized plan and the accountability of a 1:1 coach, click here now to apply for online coaching with our team.  

We apply proven, science-backed nutrition & training methods through individualized coaching to help you get the body you want, and teach you on how to keep it for a lifetime (without us).

Written for you by JEREMIAH BAIR

I love simplifying the mysterious art and science of training and looking like it. I’ve been on my own journey, and I share what I’ve learned so you can get there faster, on my Podcast and Instagram.

December 23, 2021No Comments

The 5 Keys To Maintaining Weight Loss Forever

A large number of people who lose a big chunk of weight will unfortunately gain it all back (and sometimes more)

When talking to our clients, prior to joining the team, many struggled with constantly being stuck in a cycle of losing and regaining weight. 

The problem? 

Our environment isn’t set up for us to stay lean.   

→ There is fast food everywhere

→ Delivery is incredibly easy 

→ You can outsource things like cleaning to robot vacuums, mops, and other machines 

→ You can drive anywhere you need to go and more people are working from home than ever 

It’s so easy to move and eat more. 

So it’s no wonder that you can get through a few months of dieting and lose the weight.. but when you finally let loose post-diet, you up regaining the weight, due to your current environment. 

Today's blog teaches you the 5 keys we teach our clients to ensure you're able to keep the weight off long-term, and turn having the physique you want into a sustainable lifestyle. 


The first thing to do post-diet to make sure you maintain your results is to exit the diet with a reverse diet plan.  

Reverse dieting is a way of bringing your food up in a systematic way so that you aren’t outpacing your metabolism. 

When you diet your metabolic rate slows down. There are a few mechanisms for this slowdown.  

The components of your metabolism are: 

→ Basal metabolic rate (BMR) - this is the calories your body burns at rest just to keep you alive. This is to fuel processes like keeping your organs functioning–heart beating, lungs breathing, etc. while you rest. 

→ Non-exercise thermogenesis (NEAT) - These are the calories you burn by not exercising. These are all the little movements you do throughout the day that aren’t structured. Think things like pacing around, blinking, fidgeting, typing on the computer, tapping your foot, etc. 

→ Thermic effect of food (TEF) - These are calories burned through the digestion of food. 

→ Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) These are calories burned during structured exercise–your training and/or cardio

When you diet all 4 of these components are gradually slowed.

Your basal metabolic rate can slow because you’re smaller and hormones like thyroid hormone output can be altered by your body in an attempt to conserve energy. 

Your NEAT will naturally decline because you’re in a calorie deficit and your body wants to conserve that energy expended through spontaneous movement. 

You’ll also burn less calories through NEAT because it takes less calories to move around a lighter body. 

TEF lowers because you aren’t eating as many calories. 

EAT lowers because you will burn less calories doing the same activity with a lower body weight. 

If you end your diet and go immediately up to what “should” be a maintenance intake, you’ll outpace the reverse of these adaptations and gain weight.  

If you spent a really long time dieting and/or were in a very aggressive deficit the adaptations will be more extreme and your reverse diet may need to be more gradual.  

If you dieting for a shorter amount of time or were in a much smaller deficit you won’t have to take it quite as slowly. 

Another factor in how quickly you can reverse diet is how lean you got in your diet.  

If you are a lifestyle dieter who just needed to lose some fat to get into a healthier range, you can likely reverse a bit slower because you won’t be experiencing any negative health effects from the level of leanness you achieved.  

If you are someone who is either a competitor or a photoshoot prep client you will probably need to jump up to closer to an estimated maintenance range and accept a little bit of fat gain in the beginning of a reverse (because in this case your main goal is to get out of the deficit and add a little bit of bodyfat for health.)

On the slower end of reverse dieting you can add in small increments every 1-4 weeks.  

The macros you add will depend on what your macros ended up at, but typically you will begin by getting fat to a healthy minimum (0.3-0.4g/lb of bodyweight) and then focus on just adding carbs from there. 

On the quicker end of a reverse diet you’d want to begin by jumping calories up to about 90% of an estimated maintenance calorie intake.  

From there, you can finish the reverse by using the slower approach discussed above.  

You know when to end a reverse diet by watching the scale, pictures, and biofeedback. 

In the first weeks of a reverse diet you will gain weight. This does not mean you are necessarily gaining bodyfat (although there might be a little bodyfat necessary if you got extremely lean.) 

What you will gain is water. When you eat carbohydrates they are stored in the muscles as glycogen. Each gram you store of glycogen brings along 3g of water with it.  

You’re also going to gain water from any extra sodium in or on your food.  

Another thing that will cause scale weight to go up is having more food in your digestive tract. 

You’re eating more food, so when you step on the scale that food is in your gut and will be reflected in your scale weight. 

All of these are really good things and don’t mean you’re doing anything wrong in your reverse diet. (We have a full blog on reverse dieting HERE if you want to go in depth on this subject!)


Anyone who keeps weight off long-term is going to be eating mostly whole foods.  

Whole, unprocessed foods are more filling calorie-for-calorie than any processed foods, and they’ve also been found to have a higher thermic effect than processed foods.  

Making the switch from processed to unprocessed foods is a simple way to reduce the total calories you’re eating without feeling hungry all the time. 

This doesn’t mean you can never have anything processed, but if you’re filling your entire day with packaged food it’s really easy to go beyond maintenance calories without feeling like you’re eating much. 

When you think of processed foods you’re probably thinking of things like pizza and donuts. 

Those foods have a mix of fats, sugar, and salt that makes it extremely hard to stop eating when you’re full.  

You get a dopamine release from those types of foods that you won’t get with something like chicken breast, broccoli, and rice.  

A lot of processed snack foods also have people employed by the company to get all the flavors and textures just right to make it very hard to stop eating them. (Side note: if you’re interested in this kind of thing, The Hungry Brain by Stephan Guyenet is an excellent book that dives into all of this in detail.) 

You can also think of processing in the terms of how a food is actually prepared.  

Think of an apple vs. apple sauce vs. apple juice.  

You could drink a glass of apple juice and get 60g of carbohydrate in that glass without making a dent in your hunger. 

In order to get that from apples you’d need to eat 2.5 apples, which would also give you about 12g of fiber and you’d probably feel pretty full. 

 Staying close to the form your food was grown in will make it literally hard to overeat, making your weight loss and weight maintenance much easier.


Protein is a great weight management tool and has a ton of effects that make it a powerful tool for maintaining lost weight or making fat loss easier: 

First of all, protein has the highest thermic effect of food of all the macronutrients.  

Protein digestion will burn about 25% of its calories, while carbs will burn about 10-15%, and fats about 0-5%. That’s a fairly small thing when you’re looking at numbers, but combined with it’s other benefits it’s meaningful. 

Protein is very satiating. If you’re filling up on protein first, it’s going to be a lot harder to over consume calories afterward.

Protein-rich foods tend to be relatively low calorie. 

This isn’t in comparison to something like spinach…but if you’re looking at something like a chicken breast compared to a dish that’s not protein rich like pasta, sandwiches, casserole, etc. a protein centered meal tends to be lower calorie overall. 

Protein helps you build and maintain muscle.  

The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic rate will be. You’ll burn more calories at rest, during movement, and have a larger storage capacity for carbohydrates. 

Protein is very unlikely to be stored as bodyfat. Even when consuming more than maintenance calories from protein, studies have found that participants not only didn’t gain as much body fat as participants who overate the same amount via carbs and fats, but they actually gained muscle mass (meaning they ended up leaner than when they started.)  

→ In a study by Jose Antonio one group overate by 800 of carbs and fats and one group overate by 800 calories from protein. These were people who were resistance training.  From the article:

“It is notable that the high-protein group increased FFM (+1.9 vs. 1.3 kg) and reduced FM (−0.2 vs. +0.3 kg) compared to the control group despite eating an additional 800 kcal/d."

→ In a follow-up investigation, Antonio et al. randomized 48 healthy, resistance-trained men and women to consume a minimum of 3 g/kg of protein daily or to maintain current dietary habits for eight weeks while undergoing a standardized resistance training program designed to increase lean body mass.

(4) Compared to the control group, the high-protein group consumed significantly more calories (+ 490 kcal) and protein (3.4 vs. 2.3 g/kg) from primarily whey protein shakes, leading to a diet that was 39% protein, 27% fat, and 34% carbohydrate. 

Both groups significantly increased FFM and significantly reduced FM compared to baseline, but the reduction in FM was significantly greater in the high-protein group compared to the control group (−1.6 vs. −0.3 kg). Accordingly, body weight gain was also significantly less in the high-protein group compared to the control group.”

Translation:  Even in a calorie surplus, overeating protein while resistance training leads to more muscle mass and less body fat.  

We recommend to our clients around 0.8-1.2g/lb of body weight in protein per day, but these studies suggest that if you digest it ok and you have high hunger that makes it hard to stick to your target calories, it’s ok to go above that number.   

When you’re looking for good protein sources in your diet, you want to look for foods that are predominantly protein.  

Meaning, while things like beans and peanut butter are healthy foods, they’re not protein sources as they contain more carbohydrates and fats, respectively, than they do protein. 

Things like lean meat, eggs and egg whites, high quality protein powder, low-fat dairy, and fish are all great sources of protein to build a meal around.   

(We also have a full blog post on protein and its benefits for your physique HERE.)  


Training consistently helps you maintain weight through several different mechanisms, and it’s not just that training burns calories…in fact that’s probably the least significant reason it helps you maintain fat loss.   

Resistance training builds muscle. The process of building muscle is a calorie-expensive process. 

You have to burn calories to train. This sends a muscle building signal that builds the tissue, which allows you to then burn more calories, both at rest and during activity (because you’re more dense and sometimes more heavy as you build more muscle.)    

Muscle also acts as a storage container for carbohydrates.  The larger the muscle, the more glycogen it can hold.  

If the carbohydrates you’re eating are being stored as glycogen in the muscle they’re not using as much insulin, not floating around as blood glucose, and not being stored as fat.  

All of this means that to an extent, the more muscle mass you have the healthier you’ll be.   

Training also helps regulate appetite.  

A study of Bengali millworkers found that the more sedentary workers actually had a more dysregulated appetite that led them to overconsume calories, whereas the workers that were more active had appetites that matched their energy output.  

The lightly active workers had blunted hunger, and the more highly active workers had a higher hunger that matched their calorie expenditure.  

Appetite response to activity is pretty individual; some people are ravenous after doing a hard workout and some people feel like they can’t eat anything because their appetite is completely gone for a while after training.  

Either way, staying active can help you regulate your intake over time.   

On a more practical level, working hard in the gym seems to have a psychological effect in regards to diet. If you’re working hard in the gym it’s easier to stay on track with your diet because you’re more in a mode of doing things that are good for your body, and the opposite seems to be true, too.


A lot of people seem to think people without weight struggles just don’t like food as much. Not true at all! 

People without weight struggles tend to keep their environment set up for success in that area.  

If you are working or living in a space that’s full of your favorite junk food you’re much more likely to have more of it just because it’s there.  

With so many people working from home this is now more evident than ever. You’re either out of the office that was full of tempting junk food OR now you’re right there a few steps away from your pantry full of tempting junk food.  

Believe it or not, this has been studied.  

Office workers set a dish of chocolate candies either on their desk, in a drawer, or across the room in a cabinet. The workers who had them on their desk ate an average of 9 candies, the ones with the candy in the drawer had 6, and the ones with the candy in the cabinet had 3.  

When it’s something that doesn’t support your goals, out of sight and out of mind is best. 

To take this principle into real life, if you are a parent with kids you are likely to have tempting snacks in the house. This is a challenging scenario. When it’s just your own snacks, it’s easy to simply tell yourself to not buy the food. When it is for the kids it’s a different story. 

The first thing to try (if you truly don’t think this is a healthy food for you or your kids to have), is to not purchase the food and keep it in the house and instead go out for it on a special occasion.

This might be hard (at first), but in the long run everyone will be healthier and happier with making it a special treat. 

If it is a healthy food for them and just doesn’t fit your calorie targets on a consistent basis, you can use some environment design tactics to help.   

→ Put things in an opaque container and on a high or low shelf, out of the line of sight. If you don’t see it constantly, you’re much less likely to be tempted. 

→ Put things into pre-portioned baggies. Eating things out of the large container more often than not results in eating more than you’ve planned. 

→ Keep healthier groceries in stock in your fridge and pantry, and replace treats on the counter with a fruit bowl. What you see is what you’re more likely to grab. 

→ Pre-plan your meals. If you have meals and snacks planned and ready for the day you’re less likely to compulsively grab something that’s not planned in. 

Using these methods of maintaining your fat loss result, you’re much less likely to end up having to go through multiple diets losing the same weight over and over again.  

You can make this fat loss phase the last one you ever have to do. 

If you’d like some guidance on losing fat, building muscle, or maintaining the results you’ve gotten on your own, click here to schedule a call to talk with one of our coaches.


Andrea Rogers is a certified nutrition coach, personal trainer, and coach for BairFit. Follow her on Instagram for more helpful training & nutrition content.