Want to Gain 10 Pounds? Here’s How a Client Did It!

This past summer I had a client approach me with a simple goal: he wanted to gain 10 pounds. Sounds pretty simple so far, right? Well, not so fast. This young stud played AAA hockey and not only wanted to add some muscle mass, but also needed to make sure he was still quick and athletic. That changes things a bit. Furthermore, he did have a background in training and had a decent level of strength for his age and size. So in this case, just having him do a few sets of deadlifts wasn’t going to slap muscle on. He needed a smart, technical, and intense approach to gain 10 pounds by the Fall.

This program may help you add 10 pounds of functional mass

Did we do it? You bet we did. Was it easy? Of course it wasn’t, but things that are easy aren’t worth fighting for. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the program, let’s just look over the results of how things turned out:

 

StartingEnding
Weight151.4 pounds160.6 pounds
Body Fat Percentage8.7%8.3%
Thigh Circumference19.5 inches20.75 inches
Vertical Jump20 inches24 inches

 
Over the course of 3 months, our subject kept his body fat around the same point, gained 10 pounds of muscle, increased his thigh circumference (among other things), and added four inches to his vertical jump. In case you’re not a numbers person: our athlete can jump higher even though he weighs more. He doesn’t have any additional body fat and he needs to buy new jeans because his thighs blew up (along with an increase in arm, chest, and shoulder size).

Think you’re ready to try the program? I like the enthusiasm! But first you need to go over a simple disclaimer to see if this program will actually work for you.

This Program Might Not be For You

If you’ve never worked out before, or never really done anything below 6 reps, this workout is not for you. Our young hockey player was somewhat “neurologically efficient.” This means that he was able to recruit high threshold muscle fibers, or the muscle fibers responsible for producing a lot of force. They’re also the ones that increase in size the most.

Those new to training haven’t taught their bodies how to use these muscle fibers yet. So it’s not the case that this program will be too hard for you, it just probably won’t be very effective. Strength is a skill and it takes time to acquire it. You’d be better off following a program designed for a beginner (and that’s not a knock against you; once again, it takes time to get strong). Once your body is more efficient and you’ve gotten stronger, by all means, have at it. Here are some guidelines to help consider if this program is for you; these standards aren’t Olympic athlete caliber but will separate a novice from an intermediate lifter:

  • You’ve been doing serious strength training for at least one year
  • You can squat your bodyweight for a minimum of 8 reps
  • You can bench press your bodyweight for 5 reps
  • You’re familiar with the Olympic lift variations like the power clean, power jerk, and snatch pull from the floor

If you have to pass this program up, don’t worry. It will be right here waiting for you when you’re good to go. The increase in strength and bodyweight means that this program will finally work for you. However, If you’re ready to rock and roll now, then let’s get started!
 
Phase 1: Functional Hypertrophy

There are plenty of programs that build muscle, but our focus was to build the right muscle. If you’re not concerned about getting strong, or improving your performance, almost any program will do as long as you have adequate nutrient intake. But for the sake of our hockey player, we needed to develop muscle mass in areas that benefited his performance on the ice while increasing strength as well. So he needed to be even faster with an additional ten pounds of bodyweight.

There’s a sweet spot in terms of reps that can increase both size and strength, and that magical place just happens to land between 6 to 8 reps. While you won’t reach extreme levels of strength with this, it just so happens that this functional hypertrophy zone will give the best from both worlds (size and strength), which was paramount for our athlete. Going above 8 reps builds muscle but once again, not the kind of muscle we wanted. The main moves of his session would stay within this zone, with the goal to have 80% of his training occur with his feet on the ground. The remaining 20% of his training was allocated to machines and higher rep ranges to balance out his physique and prevent injuries. While machines aren’t necessarily entirely evil, keep in mind that we only had a couple of months to get big before the season began so we wanted compound movements that carried over to athletic performance.

We would however top off the session with a 20-rep breathing squat. This is where I made an exception to the functional hypertrophy rule: 20-rep breathing squats are huge for building the legs but they also cause the body to secrete a tremendous amount of growth hormone (a hormone responsible for building muscle mass and burning body fat). By the end of the program, our athlete was able to increase the weight squatted for 20 reps by 45 pounds! While it’s only one set, this squat routine is nothing to play around with. If you’ve never done them before, be prepared to use a fire extinguisher on your legs.
 
Phase 2: Cluster Sets

Clusters sets are a unique way to build strength and size. It allows you to take a weight that you could lift for 4 or 5 reps and actually get 8 or 9 reps out of the lift. More importantly though is the fact that the athlete can still lift the bar fast because you take small breaks inbetween chunks of reps. This fast bar speed means more force production, which in turn results in those precious fast-twitch muscle fibers we talked about before being recruited. If our athlete kept moving the bar fast, he would keep his power and explosiveness. Cluster sets are pretty awesome; I encourage you to click on the link to learn more about them.

The Program

Here’s a layout of the program that was used to get our athlete these results in 2 ½ months.

Phase 1

Day 1Day 2
A. Power Clean – 4 x 6-8, 2-0-X-1, rest 2:30A. Push Press – 4 x 6-8, 2-1-X-1, rest 2:30
B. Back Squat – 4 x 6-8, 3-0-X-1, rest 2:30B. Snatch Pull from Floor– 4 x 6-8, 2-1-X-1, rest 2:30
C1. V Bar Dip – 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-1, rest 35 secondsC1. Chin Up – 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-1 rest 35 seconds
C2. SLDL – 3 x 8-10, 3-1-1-1, rest 35 secondsC2. Leg Curl – 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-1, rest 35 seconds
D1. BB Curl – 3 x 10-12, 4-0-1-1, rest 25 secondsD1. DB Incline – 3 x 10-12, 4-0-1-1, rest 25 seconds
D2. Calf Raise – 3 x 10-12, 2-1-1-2, rest 25 secondsD2. DB Lunge – 3 x 10-12, 3-0-1-0, rest 25 seconds
E. 20 Rep SquatE. 20 Rep Squat (30% of weight from Day 1)

Phase 2

Day 1Day 2
A. Power Clean Cluster – 4 x 2/2/2, rest 15 sec,2-0-X-1, rest 3:00A. Power Jerk Cluster – 4 x 2/2/2,rest 15 sec, 2-1-X-1, rest 3:00
B. Back Squat Cluster – 4 x 2/2/2, rest 15 sec,3-0-X-1, rest 3:00B. Clean Pull from Floor Cluster– 4 x 2/2/2,rest 15 sec, 2-1-X-1, rest 3:00
C1. BB Inc – 3 x 8-10, 4-0-1-1, rest 35 secondsC1. Pull Up – 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-1 rest 35 seconds
C2. Rack Pull – 3 x 8-10, 3-1-1-1, rest 35 secondsC2. Leg Curl – 3 x 8-10, 3-0-1-1, rest 35 seconds
D1. AB Arnold – 3 x 10-12, 4-0-1-1, rest 25 secondsD1. Seated Row – 3 x 10-12, 4-0-1-1, rest 25 seconds
D2. Calf Raise – 3 x 10-12, 2-1-1-2, rest 25 secondsD2. DB Lunge – 3 x 10-12, 3-0-1-0, rest 25 seconds
E. 20 Rep SquatE. Famers Carry. 5 x 45 seconds each

Progressions

The progressions for the first phase of training were quite simple: get more weight on the bar from week to week. It only last 4 weeks, so we simply wanted the athlete lifting more weight within these rep ranges. If you feel fresh that day, 8 reps should be easy to attain, but if you struggle to get 6, you’re going too heavy.

In terms of Phase 2 though, the goal was to add in more volume to the clusters. So for the second week, instead of going 2/2/2, we went 3/3/2, and then 3/3/3 on week 3. On week 4 we backed off and then added in another set to top things off on week five.

Wrapping It Up

So that’s the layout of how a client gained 10 pounds in just 2 and a half months at Upper Echelon. If your goal is to add some appreciable size while getting stronger and more powerful, then this program is for you. Keep in mind that while our athlete worked with a personal trainer who gave him support and encouragement, he also worked incredibly hard. Like we said in the beginning, everything listed here is simple in nature but not easy to execute. You can definitely say that those 10 pounds were worth fighting for.

 

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