I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.
Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.
The category, Your Health Questions is a more proactive approach to answering your questions so that everyone can benefit from the Q & A.
First, let me say thank you for this website and all the useful information you post here. I am 45 years old, at 6 foot 1 inches and 210 pounds, and my goal is to simply change my weight distribution (don’t mind weighing 210 if it’s muscle and not fat).
Since I am a ‘hard gainer’, I have read your recommendations on the best exercises/workouts to build mass, and I have two additional questions.
First, I’ve continually heard the following: higher reps + lighter weight = definition, and lower reps + heavier weight = mass. My question is, what is the sweet spot for mass AND definition? For example, if I do three sets of curls, how many reps for each set – 12, 10, 8 or maybe 10, 8, 6 (with progressively higher weight)?
Second, what about diet? I’ve also heard that you should eat like a horse – lots of protein and carbs. Of course, if you overdo it, you’ll gain fat as well. So again, where is the sweet spot?
Lighter weight and higher reps = definition is not 100% accurate and actually I would consider it a myth.
For definition, you need to focus on dieting and including some type of high intensity exercise in your routine, at least twice a week for at least 30 minutes. You can choose HIIT or HIRT depending on many factors including your current routine, free time, lifestyle, etc… You diet should be a lower calorie diet, high in protein and healthy fats, and a moderate amount of complex carbs.
In my opinion, the best way to increase mass and definition at the same time, is to follow a fat loss diet and healthy lifestyle, combined with a strength training program that varies reps just enough to occasionally stimulate hypertrophy. In order to keep all your mass (and possibly gain some) on a lower calorie diet, you will need to train with heavy weights.
In your case I suggest starting with a 2500 calorie diet, about 200 grams of protein, 100-130 grams of carbs, and the rest of your calories should come from healthy fats. Since you are a hard gainer I opted to go a little high in calorie recommendations, so you won’t risk losing muscle while trying to lose fat. If you find 2500 to be too high, simply drop it by 100 calories a week until you start losing fat again.
If you end up wanting to focus on strength or muscle gains primarily, without much care for fat loss, I recommend eating about 3000 calories a day minimum, 220 grams of protein, 250 grams of carbs, and the rest should be healthy fats. At 6’1, 210 lbs, if you are truly a ‘hard gainer’ you might have to increase those calories by 100 a week until you start gaining, being careful not to increase too much too fast and end up gaining more fat than necessary.
So, “what is the sweet spot?”, well I think you are better off focusing on mass then cuts then mass then cuts, etc… but if you want to make minimal progress by focusing on both goals at the same time, then you are better off eating slightly more calories in order to gain the mass, but then dialing up your fat loss training (HIIT and HIRT workouts) in order to burn any excess calories and to stimulate lypolysis (the burning of stored bodyfat).
This is assuming you don’t have any health or dietary issues that would prevent you from follow that kind of diet. Consider checking with your doctor first.
Since you are not hell-bent on losing weight and getting down to like 170 lbs, we can focus more on gaining strength and muscle, while secondarily keeping the fat off. I recommend a combination of HIRT and full body training.
Start by following the Werewolf Training to Gain Strength routine for two months. After those two months if you are not happy with your leanness, switch to the split detailed at the bottom of this post: conditioning workouts do not affect strength gains; stick to that for about 1 month, or if at any time you feel like you just want to gain more muscle and put your fat loss on hold, you need to run Werewolf Training to Gain Muscle for 2 cycles (about 42 days). If you want to just maintain your gains by adding a little muscle and strength, while staying lean, you can switch to a generic full body workout routine for about 2 months; add in some additional HIIT or HIRT workouts to increase fat loss.
To answer your original question, “what is the sweet spot for mass AND definition?”, in my opinion you should not do more than 12 reps. Focus on mass by training in the 5-10 rep range. Might I suggest 5 sets of 5 reps, or 3 sets of 8 reps? Try to increase the weight with each set. The definition comes in to play by involving some sort of high intensity exercise like HIIT or HIRT, and by keeping your calories down.