What Layne Norton Can Teach Us About Building Muscle
Alright gym noobs, skinny dudes, hardgainers… Gather ’round.
If you wanted to build as much muscle as possible without using illegal drugs, what would you do?
You could just hit the gym, and make up your own plan from exercises you see the gym rats doing. Uh, good luck…
Or you could buy a bodybuilding magazine, and see how those half-human half-beasts are training, in between their injection sessions in the dark corners of the locker room. Err. Maybe not.
Or even better, you could go to all the forums and websites and read about a million different ways to train, endlessly searching for the program. Well, actually, that might take way too much time.
Wait, I got it.
You’d ask one of the top natural bodybuilders in the world, who is also a doctor and studies skeletal muscle protein metabolism (getting jacked) for a living.
That’s what we did, and today, we’re sharing that interview with you.
Enter Dr. Layne Norton
- Download the Audio version of the Interview: Get the MP3 here (Right click and save the file)
- Download the Full Transcript: Get the PDF here (Right click and save the file)
- Layne’s Basic Non-Linear Periodization Workout Routine
- Ectomorphs/Hardgainers don’t need a different plan specially formulated for their body type. Whichever plan research shows works best will work best for the ectomorph body as well, just the results won’t be as spectacular.
- Bodies ARE different. Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all when it comes to bodybuilding, but by starting with a great plan, you’ll make less tweaks and make progress faster.
- Consistency and Experimentation (with diet/macros and training). That’s what it all comes down to. No magic, no special pills. Gym, eat, sleep, repeat.
Layne Norton’s Bio
Dr. Layne Norton is a Pro Natural Bodybuilder with the IFPA and NGA. Layne has his PhD in Nutritional Sciences with his thesis emphasis in muscle protein metabolism. He is also an accomplished powerlifter holding the AAPF Squat and Deadlift American Records in the 220 lb class at 568 & 700 lbs respectively.
Spencer: Alright guys, today we’re talking to Dr Layne Norton. Now this guy probably needs no introduction. You probably already know him, but in case you haven’t heard of him yet he’s the owner of BioLayne. He’s a natural pro bodybuilder and pro powerlifter. He’s got a PhD in nutritional sciences, he’s a columnist for Muscular Development, consultant for Scivationandbodybuilding.com and, like I said he’s probably the most well-known and respected bodybuilder on the internet, so thank you Dr Layne for joining us today, man.
Dr Layne: Nice to be here. Thanks for having me.
Spencer: So the theme or the premise of what we’re talking about today is the best way for ectomorphs or hard gainers to get huge. So if some actor from Hollywood came up to you and was like “hey, I’m this skinny dude, I need to get huge for this role in like, a couple of months. What do I do?”
Dr Layne: Well I think that there’s, that the term hard gainer gets tossed around quite a bit. I probably tell most people that almost everybody is a hard gainer because you know muscle just takes time to build. I mean, there are a few. You know, as a guy in high school I’d never really lifted or Jacked, you know, but those are pretty few and far between. Most of us have to work pretty hard to build muscle. You know, I think that when you’re talking about what’s going to work best for this person, and what’s going to work best for that person, typically it doesn’t change the rules, in terms of what works. What changes is the schedule of response that you’re going to get. So if you take somebody who has really good genetics and responds really well, they’re just going to respond really well, whereas somebody who doesn’t have a good genetics is not going to respond really well. It doesn’t necessarily change what you’re going to have to do in terms of…you know a lot of the high intensity training guys made their mistakes and you know, this training’s for ectomorphs or this training’s for hard gainers and I really think that’s kind of bogus, to be quite honest with you. I think that, you know, typically hard gainers…we tend to think in kind of the hard gainers as like the ectomorphs, the very slender, you know, builds like that, and so usually what you doing with somebody who has a very fast metabolism who, honestly, most of the problem is they really need to eat more, and I accuse them. “Oh well, Layne I eat 4,000 calories a day.” OK well you aren’t gaining anything, it’s not enough. You know what I mean, you got to eat more. I think sometimes one of the problems we have, is that people almost try to gain too fast. They’ll have like, the skinny fat syndrome, where like somebody will, you know, they’ll start bulking and they’ll be skinny but they’ll start getting a little sort of pudge, so the thing is they’ll put on twelve pounds in a month or something like that, and they’ll wonder why they’ve got pudgy. Well you can only add, you know the amount of muscle you can add, the amount of amino acids that you can actually deposit as muscle per day, so the amount of tissue you can actually build is on the gram scale, it’s like five to ten grams a day is what you can build. It’s as though like if you take that and extend it out over a year and you look at the fluid that’s associated with that tissue and everything, it ends up about the most that you can gain. I’m not saying that it’s the most natural limit or anything like that because everybody’s different and you know for every rule there’s the exception that proves the rule but typically of all is twenty to twenty five pounds of lean body mass in a year and so you know, you’ve got these guys, these hard gainers and a lot of them who’ll say “well my goal is to add fifty pounds of mass this year, or thirty pounds of mass this year.” When I say twenty to twenty five, I’m talking about if everything goes perfectly, like which usually it doesn’t you know, and so I really think a lot of it comes down to just patience, you know. A lot of people say that they’ve gained lean muscle but I very rarely see somebody who’s been eating hard for ten years and doesn’t look pretty darn good, you know what I mean. So I think a lot of it is just like being able to be persistent and not get discouraged if, you know you’re talking about high reactors you know to put on a lot of muscle or whatnot. Typically what happens is they don’t put on a lot of muscle they just put on an awful lot of fat at the end of it. To be honest the best way to look like you’ve gained ten pounds of muscle is to lose ten pounds of fat. Every time I start dieting for down for a contest I’ll post pictures of it. “Oh my God you’ve got so big, you know, you got way bigger.” No, I’m actually you know ten, fifteen pounds lighter, it’s just I look, because the muscle stands out more, I look more muscular. So I guess I’m willing to give you a substitive answer as well as a philosophical type answer, but that’s my opinion is that, you know, what works for a quarter of the regular population is going to work for hard gainers too. It’ll take them a little bit longer and they might not have as good a response. It might just take them longer to see the same level of results as a normal person would see, but I think a lot of it boils down to persistence and perseverance. I mean, I never called myself a hard gainer, I got called that by other people who said you know my genetics were terrible and this or that. It’s so funny when I first started body building everybody told me – 1, you can’t do it, you’ll never do anything with it and – 2, your genetics are terrible, and magically ten years later suddenly I have great genetics and I must have been using drugs to do it because there’s no way I got there naturally you know. Again it’s one of those things when you’ve done something for you know, ten years, you’re typically going to be pretty good at the end of it so I guess my advice to people out there who had that problem is really, just be persistent, stick with it.
Spencer: OK, all right, so I guess we kinda learned already then that like just because you’re an ectomorph or you’re a different type of body type it doesn’t mean that you need to train differently. It just means that your response to optimal training is going to be different than other body types.
Dr Layne: Yeah I mean, you know, I do think that training is very overt from person to person. You know, undulating periodization training has kind of been shown to be basically the most consistently the best form of training for strength and hypertrophy. Basically that’s the premise of undulating periodization is that you know, there’s basically three different ways that you can train with resistance training that’s for strength, for hypertrophy – I guess you could say endurance too but we’ll leave that out because endurance training is going to make things worse than strength training – so strength, hypertrophy and then power. Power is a measure of, you know, not necessarily like a heavy weight, but how fast can you, like forty to sixty per cent of workout max but moving it fast, so we’re talking about like explosive power. So those three things and the premise is, of undulating periodization is that you never maximise any one of those outcomes so even without doing all three, some of all three, so if you’re a power lifter you still get to do hypertrophy work, because if you don’t you’ll never maximise cross sectional area, you’ll never maximise your actual strength. If you are a track athlete you still get to do some power lifting with heavy loads because you’ll still never maximise your power output if you don’t maximise your strength, or if you don’t do some strength training, and if you’re a body builder you still need to do, you know, strength training, maximal effort training because if you don’t do power training you won’t maximise your hypertrophy. So it’s just now, when you’re wanting to focus on one or the other of those you just switch your emphasis so if you’re a body builder you’re primarily going to do hypertrophy but you should add in some strength training sessions, some power sessions. If you’re going to train for strength you should do hypertrophy, you should do power but you should mostly do strength sessions, so you’re just changing the emphasis where it goes, so that’s you know, I do believe in undulating periodization or non- linear periodization as kinda the best ways to get results, and that’s kinda how I developed you know the, well I’m not going to say I developed the power hypertrophy and added the training system, but it was me basically taking information from a bunch of other people. I didn’t make anything new I just kinda made it a little more powerful for people. They didn’t feel they needed a bachelor’s degree to read, but that’s basically what it’s based on, linear undulating periodization, but I do think that different people respond differently to different programmes as well and you need to be able to kinda understand how your body, let me give you an example for that – there was a study done in Sweden where they looked at different rep ranges and the hormonal responses that people got back, so like how much their testosterone spiked after training response to these different rep ranges, and they found that some people got better responses from high rep training and some got better responses from low rep training OK, and so they took the people who got, wherever they got the best response from, they put them on that training programme and they got really good results for six weeks. Then they crossed them over, so if you did, if you got your best response from low rep training then they put you on a high rep and vice versa. What they found when they did that they didn’t get significantly worse results OK, just in six weeks’ time, so yes, there definitely is something you need to know what works for you but at the same time that doesn’t mean that you should completely eliminate all other forms of training. I think that’s where, I think people make mistakes by doing that. I think all forms of training have, kind of, merits. I just think it’s a matter of scale, how you do it, how much of it you do and how often you incorporate it, so I think one of the problems is a lot of the coaches and gurus out there; we get to the point, you know, we have all this information out there. We’re also defending the political position that actually tries to like find out what the best for somebody is, and you know you find people that taking, they’re trying to fit the person to the system, instead of trying to fit their system to a person, you know what I mean? So I think that yeah, you know you need to try out different things to find what it is that works for you. I mean I don’t follow a strict power hypertrophy adaptive training, the example that’s online, I don’t follow that necessarily straight up. I’ve changed things to tweak it for myself. So you need to, it’s OK to start out with a basic outline of different training programmes but you need to work with stuff, you need to tweak stuff, you need to – and be warned, I mean trial and error is really huge in body building in power lifting and everybody wants to know, you know, what’s going to be the best for me right now, but you got to put the work in, you got to understand it, and I think a lot of people also have paralysis by analysis. I talk about this a lot, but you’ll see these guys online who, they like, stress over every minute detail when they never actually go do anything. They’re like “what do you think of my routine, what do you think of my routine?” They have like fifteen different routines and then they never actually do anything and it’s like “do them.” I always tell people this – the worst laid plan executed today is better than the best laid plan executed too late. OK, like I said, if you lift really hard for ten years and even if you have no idea of what you’re doing but you lift really hard for ten years you’ll look pretty good at the end of it if you’re just consistent. So I think that’s important to know that, yeah really like that, that everybody will say “Oh well Layne you know you always say work out a body part at least two to three times a week, but look at this guy who works out one time a week and he looks great.” I’m not saying you can’t get results that way, what I’m saying is that guy would probably look even better if he had a more optimal training programme ‘cos like I say you can always find the exception that proves the rule. Everyone can find the guy who eats three meals and looks awesome, but that would be disaster for most people, you know what I mean but that doesn’t necessarily make it optimal for most people.
Spencer: Is there like a good starting point though where someone could, you know, ‘cos obviously they’re going to have to experiment with different programmes, but is there a good general idea, like should everyone start with a five day split or should everyone start at a three day split you know. Like is there one or another that’s probably going to be a bit more optimal?
Dr Layne: You know what, I hear a lot of people say “oh you should start with a three day full body split if you’re starting out” or something like that, and it’s fine but I think I honestly, part of it I tell people a lot, I think that you need to do a programme. You can have the best programme in the world but if you don’t like it you’re not going to work hard at it and it’s going to give you sub optimal results, so at the end of the day yes, it needs to be a properly constructed programme but you also need to enjoy it as well. For a long time I stopped enjoying my body building, well I won’t say I stopped enjoying it, it was stale, I just got bored with it. That’s when I picked up power lifting and why I was expecting to get all these sub optimal results with power lifting, and I got great results with power lifting because it really motivated me, because I was, you know, excited to go to the gym and be doing something new and trying something different. I still kept aspects of my training in there I mean I kind of figured you know, I already got smaller by lifting heavy weights, but just that I think people underestimate the physiological factor and motivational factor of getting a routine that’s fresh, something that they enjoy, something that they can keep doing, and so I think that’s an important thing too, so if somebody wants to start with a five day split I think that’s fine, and if they want to start with a three day split I think that’s fine, or whatever fits their schedule. You know for a beginner it’s almost more about like, what motivates them and what’s going to keep them in the gym consistently because after you’ve been doing it five years all of a sudden something’s not going to happen when they say “ I quit it’s not for me.” When you’ve been doing it that long you’re already into it, but when you’re first getting started, you know I think whatever you enjoy and what motivates you is going to be best. You know if I had to pick out a specific, some routines like strong lifts, five by five, you know some of those routines, but they’re typically strength, I know they give you a decent base to start off with, to get used to, you know. I’m a believer that you do need to learn how to squat, you do need to learn how to dead lift and when you start out you’re probably going to be pretty awful at those things. I mean, think about the first time you had to throw a football or something like that. If you try to throw a football the first time it didn’t come out a perfect spiral most likely you know, it was pretty terrible. It takes time to get used to, you know, people don’t think about weight lifting as a skill. He just thinks about “oh he lifts weights” but it’s a skill. I mean, if I take, if I show you somebody who’s in the gym just doing squats, and I show you an elite power lifter and the way they do squats it’s like watching a rabid dog chase a ball versus watching a machine, you know, something which is just automatic, so I think that, you know, that’s discounted too, just the practising element of things. I realise as well that I always have these things going on in my mind, one of the things, there’s a power lifting coach in the gym that I train at, and he’s a real good guy and one of the things he says is that you want to treat like, heavy weight like it’s light, and light weight like it’s heavy, and he always tells that to his kids. He trains a lot of teenagers, so he tells that to the kids, because they’ll be there just warming up and just having easy weight in the bar and they just go through their warm ups real quick. He’ll say “no, slow down, practice, this is practice” because you’ve got to think about, if you’re actually going to change your form, if you’re actually going to improve your form it’s never going to happen when you’re doing your heavy lifts ‘cos you’re going back to what your bad parts are, so in that way it’s a skill. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything so if you want to get good at lifting weights it’s going to take 10,000 hours at it before you’re good at it. So think about that when you’re starting out and don’t shy away from the big lifts because you’re intimidated by them, but realise that it’ll take you a while on a learning curve to get proficient at them.
Spencer: OK, what do you think about, like you mentioned hits earlier and do you know the book “Body By Science” by Doug McGuff I think his name is, have you heard of that book?
Dr Layne: It sounds vaguely familiar. There’s a lot of books out there. You got to forgive me.
Spencer: OK, it’s basically on that concept, but the book itself is like, it’s all based on scientific studies that show that the hit methodology of working out is like the optimal way to produce results.
Dr Layne: Hit training?
Spencer: Yeah, like the whole thing that like mentions like two ways, like once or twice a week. Do you have any…?
Dr Layne: I’d really like to see the science that makes that offer, because based on the analysis that I’ve read, and that most of the scientific community is raised on is that the one variable that you look at is intensity, if you look at frequency, if you look at time and retention, volume. You want to start picking out the variables that we talk most about and we’re talking about hypertrophy. Volume is the number one variable associated in hypertrophy, it’s not intensity and so now people will take that and say you know, you’ve got to do fifty sets and that’s not what I’m saying, my point being that that’s the variable most associated with hypertrophy and I’ve seen very few studies that suggest that high intensity training is the optimal way to prove results. In fact, I can’t say I’ve seen one study that suggests that. I think what happens is a lot of people when they first start off and they’re not used to training, they will overreach. I won’t call it over training because people think over training is a term that gets used a lot and really over training is not something, it’s more of a whole body central nervous system problem. It’s not something intrinsic to the muscle. The idea of over training that most people have is that you train muscles to the point where it becomes so over trained that it is kind of odd. No-one has ever ever shown that, ever. They’ve shown you know that you can have problems with hormone levels, with really high volume loads of training. Usually people who are like iron man, marathon runners, not typically weight trainers, but you can still get it, I mean, if you get really, really heavy and really, really high volume you can get over training, but I call it over reaching because the Russians a long time ago knew that over reaching produced results, and what they would do is, they would take weightlifters and put them through an adaptation phase and they would put them through an over reaching phase. Basically purposely, systemically over training them and then after that they would have a phase where it was super low volume, and they called it super compensation. It was almost like a rubber band, like if you pull a rubber band to see how far it stretches and then “boom” it snaps back, and they would actualise, they called it actualised gains so they had actualised their gains in their super compensation phase. Well that’s exactly what a lot of people do if you think about when they start to hit they start by trying, they’ll start do like a higher volume routine and something like that. They’ll feel sore, run down, feel like they’ve over trained and then they’ll switch to a high intensity, or a lower volume routine and they’ll start making gains and they’ll associate those gains with that lower volume routine, but actually what’s caused it was that over reaching cycle. It was just that the low volume routine actualised their gains, so that’s what allowed them to make those gains, so it’s not that low volume never has a place, it does have a place but it’s after an over reaching cycle and what happens is the problem with high intensity training as a kind of philosophical thing, you know, the whole, if you look at it as somebody who doesn’t have a background in science necessarily and they say well if you, the whole, there’s a very famous saying we had “if you hammer a nail to a board once, you know, once it’s in you have to hammer it again.” Well that’s great for hammering a nail but that means absolutely nothing for muscle physiology, and you know what happens is you only have essentially two ways that you can make progress on that programme – get stronger or do more reps, to do one set essentially is failure. You can’t get stronger for ever and you’re not going to be able to be doing more reps, you can’t get more endurance for ever. You can always add and move on and so the problem is that yes, you can get results with it but you will plateau eventually and you can’t get over it, so again that’s one of the problems I have with it, and as far as, if somebody wrote a book saying it was scientifically based it think they probably skipped over a few studies personally, I mean based on literature I’ve seen.
Spencer: OK, it’ll still be cool to check out and see what they’re referencing?
Dr Layne: Yeah, I mean does it actually list references in it?
Spencer: Yeah, I think so, yeah.
Dr Layne: You know one of the other problems is, I’m not saying I’m always right, you know ‘cos certainly I’m not, I’ve been wrong on some things, but at least in the scientific community, the strength and conditioning community, it’s pretty well, I wouldn’t say they’re proponents of necessarily a high volume, but it’s pretty well been a concensus that multi sets are superior to single sets in terms of producing hypertrophy or strength or what have you. So yeah, I’d be really interested to see. One of the things you have to be careful with is a lot of times, you know people cite things and ninety nine per cent of the time nobody ever checks those citations to make sure that what that person is citing is actually what they, people found in the results or maybe, a lot of times, part of the problem is a whole generation of people, you know “pub man” is great. I have what we call “pub man scientists” where they can ignore the pub man they can quote any abstract they want. The problem with looking at abstract and determining conclusively from that is that you don’t get to see how they did the study in terms of the methods. You don’t actually get to see the results for yourself. All you get to see is the conclusion, their interpretation of that data and I’ve been on pub man studies and read conclusions and we’ve gone back and looked at the actual data and said “that isn’t what they found, you know, so it’s you know, people want to think about science as kinda black and white, and it’s not, there’s very much a grey area in there. It’s kinda like, you know, politics. Nothing’s ever black and white you know, politics, you know, would like to make it out to be black and white, but it’s not, everything’s in the grey area, and so things are kinda like that so you’ll very rarely say these following words – never, always, best, worst, you know these kind of like, absolute terms simply because most things have some kind of merit. It just depends on how you’re open with them.
Spencer: And the other thing that could be is sponsorship where it’s like a study on the effectiveness of a drug sponsored by the company that produces the drug, you know, so…
Dr Layne: Yeah, I mean that is a problem that you have to think about also like, and also it’s like a double-edged sword like for a company, for example I’m a consultant for Scivation and so it’s funny because you’ll see these people that complain about none of these companies actually have research to back up their product, and then when a company does research on a product, when they have favourable results people say “well you backed the study” so it’s obviously bum. So you can’t win so, certainly that can be a problem, but at the same time, like for example my research was sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the Egg Board and I have met one person from the Egg Board in my entire life and that was at a conference, and it was two years after they gave me the money. So you know, I never had anybody from the Egg Board like looking over my shoulder and laugh like, you know “you better make sure that sample goes in…” you know what I mean, so it can, where your money’s coming from, it might influence your interpretations of the data but, you know I would like to think most scientists out there have a lot of integrity. Obviously there’s definitely some whom fly out, make up stuff, but yeah, I mean it can be a double-edged sword you know, because you want to incentivise companies to do this research to show that their products are effective, but at the same time that’s going to be a major criticism is that they’ve altered the research so, it’s kind of, you know… I, for the most part, tell people, “You know take it with a grain of salt then, if you don’t believe it, then don’t believe it” but at least they’re trying to put some money in and do some research. I can say for a fact, after you know, after originally being a sponsored athlete, this is going to sound like a plug, but after being a sponsored athlete for Scivation, and not really knowing the inner workings of the company, and now being a consultant, beginning to see how they do stuff, I can say, you know, pretty confidently that they have a lot of integrity, you know, they’ll, they will, and I say this because I’m sure that a lot of other companies are like this too you know. Everyone writes about this sort of industry as being all shady and the people that are at the top of Scivation they’ve always said “OK well let’s, let’s” …they’re actually putting more money into a study. They had some trouble with a study, in what, I can’t really say what, but they had some trouble with a study and they’re actually putting more money in to it, without the benefit of necessarily knowing they’re going to get the results they want, and they’re sinking more money into it just ‘cos they want to know, the owner actually said “I want to know the science. I want to know if this works because if it doesn’t work I don’t want to market it” and so I think a lot of people will just say “well hell if it doesn’t work we’re going to market the heck out of it, and we’re going to put it out there, so I think there are some companies out there like that, and I think unfortunately a few bad eggs, you know spoil it for everybody. I tend to think that you know, most people are actually good and decent for the most part, you know, but my wife also says I’m kind of naïve, so I don’t know.
Spencer: Well that kinda brings us into supplements, so like, are there certain supplements that are just, like obviously the whey protein is probably a staple for most people, but even getting into like, timing. Should someone just be having a whey protein shake after they work out, should they have…I’ve read, I’ve heard of studies where they say it’s best to have one before and one after, or one before and one during, stuff like that. Is there anything like that you know about?
Dr Layne: I mean, first of all, I’ll say that whey protein is probably one of the highest quality forms of protein sources, if not the highest quality form of protein sources and it’s great. I also would say that I think there’s nothing wrong with whole food either. I’m also not like, it seems like there’s, there’s a “shake camp” and then like a “whole food” camp and you can’t ever mix the two, you know. I think both are fine. I don’t think you necessarily have to have a shake close to work out, you know those studies show, there is a study by Stuart Phillips at McMaster, Egg Protein Post Workout, and they got a really good response. Now, the only difference is if you doing…you know, whey’s a little higher quality so you can probably use less and get the same response, than something like egg, or another protein source. I think that whey is convenient too and pretty inexpensive and really tastes good, so I think for most people, a lot of people it’s a convenience factor. Now me personally, I actually just take 3-4 grams molasses after my workout right after I’m done and I just eat whole food when I get home because I know that will add something, like it’s going to go through me in thirty minutes or anything like that, so I just do that and have a whole food meal when I get home, or you can do a whey shake post workout, I would think either one’s fine. I think that, that gets down to half a per cent difference over the course of time. You know it’s like we’re splitting hairs but I mostly tell people for protein shakes consume it as you need protein and you know whether that’s one time a day or maybe you’re travelling and you need one three times a day, it’s not going to hurt you and it’s a high quality convenient protein source. I mean I think it’s definitely one of the best things you can buy in terms of bang for your buck.
Spencer: And creatine as well, creatine monohydrate?
Dr Layne: Yeah, I mean if you want to talk about supplements I have actual data that show their effectiveness, I mean creatine got a mountain of data, you know a lot of people will say “it didn’t work for me” or whatnot and that’s probably valid and it’s like about thirty per cent of people aren’t responders and that’s basically because, essentially what the sciences show is that purity. When creatine works it increases the intramuscular levels of creatine. OK creatine phosphates specifically and once you get to a saturation point with that, that’s when you actualise the benefits of creatine, by saturating your muscle cells with creatine phosphate. Well people who, if they naturally have high levels of creatine, if you only take in for a, let’s just arbitrarily say, ninety five per cent saturate to one hundred per cent saturate you won’t notice much of a difference, but if you’re only fifty per cent and you take it to one hundred per cent you’re probably going to notice a huge difference. That’s why you see some people get really, really, really good results with creatine, while others don’t get hardly anything at all. I think, you know as far as specifics, I mean don’t buy anything other than creatine monohydrate. It’s what’s been proven in research. Nothing else has ever been shown to be as effective as creatine monohydrate. The reason you see all these new creatines come out every single week is because that’s what companies can market. You know they can higher gainer and I’m not saying those products don’t work, they probably do work but they’re twice as expensive as creatine monohydrate, and they’ll say things like, my favourite is, “well it doesn’t cause water retention.” You’re going to retain water inside the muscle cell with creatine. That’s the point of creatine. That’s one of the most anabolic properties of creatine, so if a company says creatine doesn’t cause water retention, ask them where they say in their…that creatine isn’t anabolic, and see what they say because basically that’s what they’re saying, so a lot of people will confuse water retention inside the muscle cell, with like bloating like gas. That’s a GI problem, that’s usually people that have that problem is the loading or the amounts of creatine that they’ve been getting. You can only absorb about five grams of creatine a day or something close to that, and so if you’re taking in twenty you’re going to saturate your muscle cells pretty fast, but you’re also going to have all this undigested creatine sitting in your intestine which is going to cause gas, bloating, all these things, so if you’re one of those people that has those responses try not loading, just start off taking the maintenance dose and stay on that and over time you’ll still get the most saturates and you’ll still get the same results.
Spencer: OK, and what about diet, you know like there’s the Paleo community that, they’re like business is the best way to eat, and there’s some science which supports that, right, but is there like an optimal way, obviously it’s going to be like an individual prescription for everyone, but is there a good template that a hard gainer or an ectomorpher, someone that’s not gaining muscle or they’re not eating enough. Is there a good template for them to take? Can they just start eating pizza like for weight gain?
Dr Layne: Well as far as, I’ll just use Paleo as an example, but I’m not trying to pick on Paleo people or anything. Paleo is an example of a great concept with solid principles that has gotten taken to extreme by zealots and I’m probably going to get some twitter messages from angry people over this but basically like, the principles are fine. More protein, more fibre, more vegetables, more fruit, less refined grains. Then you take that and get ninety per cent of the population to do that we’ll be a heck of a lot better off, but the problem is, you have these people who “you’ve got to eat just like a caveman” so if it’s not organically grown beef and you know, it didn’t come from the ground. If you didn’t grow the ground the cow would be raised yourself on, and you cut the beef off yourself, it’s not any good. It’s like, come on, there’s a middle ground here. The same thing, they’ll say don’t eat any dairy, don’t eat any, you know, gluten and you know gluten’s evil and all that stuff. You know there’s probably twenty to thirty per cent of the population that have mild dairy and gluten sensitivities. If you’re one of those in the population you probably shouldn’t eat it or at least, restrict it but if you tolerate that stuff fine, there’s no reason you can’t have it. There’s a real problem conceptually that comes from OK yes, cavemen have eaten this way. Last time I checked cavemen weren’t trying to get as Jacked as possible. OK, so that’s an important point to keep in mind, so yeah, I think it’s one example. A lot of these diets are examples of good principles that have been taken to the extreme by people who don’t know how to have that middle ground that I’ve been talking about. As far as like, well I think it’s good for ectomorphs. I mean, I’ll be honest I’ve dealt with some extremely fast metabolisms when I’ve been coaching people. I had a guy, and he, I mean, it was incredible, he could eat 700 grams of carbs a day and he couldn’t gain weight and he was eating five and a half thousand calories purely to gain weight, and I eventually just told him, look if you try to start eating some pizzas or something, to get enough because at that point he’s just so miserable eating such a high volume “clean foods” that it’s just not feasible to add any more to the food intake. So I told him, like start having a pork leg, burrito or a pizza or whatever. You know, not eat as much as you can, but you know, fit it into your Mac training targets and you know, when you’re eating 700 grams of carbs a day and 200 grams of fat you can fit it into your maximum daily targets, but if you’re somebody with a slower metabolism who, you know your Mac targets are like, 250 grams of carbs a day and 60 grams of fat, well then pizza isn’t going to be on the menu, you know what I mean, unless you’re only having one slice, so I really think nutrition is a very very individualised thing, and so it’s this, the spotlight on the hard gainers, I would say that, you know typically hard gainers can get away with a little more carbohydrate intake. They tend to be a little more carb tolerant and more insulin sensitive so, you know I would say, actually make sure you eat enough protein, if you’re getting gram for pound, that’s pretty solid, but don’t overdo the protein. Some people say eat two grams per pound of body weight of protein. I think that’s pretty ludicrous. There’s absolutely no diet that’s any better than one and a half grams per pound, and since protein actually has a thermogenic effect, if you’re a hard gainer you’ll lose a load of calories anyway. If you’re taking all this extra protein, now you’re burning even more calories because it’s thermogenic and it’s a less efficient source of calories for you, so a lot of times with extreme ectomorphs I’ll back them off on their protein intake because they’re taking really high protein intakes off their carbs and fat and they’ll start growing when I do that. So I’m not saying that you should do low protein I’m just saying not ridiculously high. So I think it’s important to keep everything in balance, you know, a lot of times again, like I’ve been saying to carry that whole concept of a middle ground, you know what, like a happy medium. So you know if you’ve got a guy who’s a hundred and fifty pounds, you know and he’s having trouble in gaining weight, then maybe a hundred and fifty grams of protein a day and you push the carbs and fat up a little more and, you know, always looking like more of the lower end of the calorie range if you aren’t gaining weight, you know you go through a month and you’ve only gained a pound, well push it up a little bit, it’s soul destroying adding calories. It’s always easy to keep fat off you know. It’s hard to take fat off if it’s on, just not put it on in the first place OK. People get impatient and they want weight gains now and that’s why they tend to, you know these people who over bulk. It tends to be from getting impatient and just trying to want to see the number on the scale go up just for the sake of seeing the number on the scale move, but I really recommended just starting lower and then slowly adding calories in until it starts to move at the appropriate pace.
Spencer: OK. You know as far as those ectomorph clients that you had, did you find there was a certain style of training that you kind of either went to by default with them first of all, or a type of training that they all responded best to or was it very individualised?
Dr Layne: It’s pretty individualised. Like everyone I’ve talked about before, you know they would get results from, like most people got results, from properly periodized routines. It was just a difference of scale. Most people I’ve worked with, I’d say seventy or eighty per cent who had been on low frequency, typical body building splits, I put them on a properly periodized routine. They saw pretty significant increases in strength and hypertrophy compared to before. I’d say seventy or eighty per cent of them would definitely agree and then the other twenty per cent I think they probably didn’t follow it. No, I mean I won’t go that far but I would say that I say that mostly people respond to, you know, kinda the same things, but it’s a difference of scale, a difference of where they should put their emphasis. I mean, along the tour you’ll figure out where your weak points are, where you want to make adjustments and really putting your emphasis there. You know if I get a guy who’s got enormous legs and no chest, well I’m going to spend a heck of a lot more volume in frequency elements, on his chest than I am on his legs you know. So I think a lot of it, a lot of tailoring comes down to those sorts of things and also seeing the feedback from the client too, you know. Typically, you know there’s always, genetics aside, it’s called a gaussian distribution, and that’s where you basically have, I don’t know, eight or ninety per cent of people fall within one range, and they don’t deviate outside that and then you get about two standard deviations at each end, about five per cent on each end that are kind of like these outliers, and so typically if I get an outlier I’ll know because they’ll give me feedback, because their response will be so funky that I’ll have to start changing things because their feedback is abnormal. But typically, you know, everybody likes to think that the’re one of the outliers, especially like, the ones on the worse end, you know, everything’s harder for them, but I always tell people, hey look, gaining muscle’s hard for almost anybody.
Spencer: OK. A moment ago you talked about, these guys were on a split, and then you put them on a proper periodization programme? What do you mean by that?
Dr Layne: Well most body building splits aren’t really periodized. It’s you know, chest on Monday and doing bench press for three sets of ten reps, and then doing flyes for you know, three sets of fifteen reps, you know that sort of thing. It’s kind of a set routine that doesn’t really change. When you’re talking about periodization, you’re talking about your varied, you’re going to start varying rep range, you’re going to vary rest times. You’re going to vary time and attention, you’re going to vary volume, you’re going to vary frequency, you know. You’re going to start adjusting these different variables and so, you know, I don’t want to call it confusion, or whatever you know, because that’s kind of like, we don’t confuse a muscle, muscle won’t get confused but you’re introducing different stimulus, you know, and in order to keep the stimulus fresh and keep the muscle responding to the training you’re doing, whereas typical body building splits may work for a little while, but because it’s not properly periodized, you’re going to plateau and stagnate a lot more frequently. So typically those people when they build on those sorts of things and they get on to something periodized, oh, wow!
Spencer: Is there like a set amount of time, like, will you change every work out in a way, or will you do something to keep the reps at one level or whatever for four weeks and then switch up then?
Dr Layne: Well that’s actually a form of periodization that’s called linear periodization and that was how the first form of periodization, so the concept was, OK, you would do, the first four week training block would be low reps, I’m sorry, the first four week block would be high reps, low weight, high volume. Then medium, medium, medium, and then low reps heavy weight, low volume for the final four week training block and that would come up to the twelve week training block, and they found that that was significantly better than, you know, unperiodized training splits, but what they felt was that it wasn’t as good as non-linear periodization, and non-linear periodization basically you’re varying it within the micro-cycle of training, so the power hypertrophy split is basically an example of non-linear periodization. Early in the week you’re working out, you know, your upper body, lower body, you’re doing low reps, lower volume, heavy weight, almost like a power style routine and then later in the week you’re doing higher reps, higher volume, like a body building style routine, and that’s why it’s non-linear because it’s going up and down like that. Now what they found is that was superior because in the four weeks like, let’s say you do your low reps on your training block for linear periodization, when you go to high reps, what they found was, even though it was non-linear periodized, you would lose the, you would lose some of the favourable adaptations that you made during those times when you were lifting heavy weights, and then when you were doing heavy weights you would lose some of those favourable adaptations from the high reps, so by doing it non-linear, by putting everything together at the same time, and just varying within the week within the training micro-cycle, the benefits of all those three different types of training at the same time, and you don’t lose those adaptations over time.
Spencer: OK, so someone could try out, for example, like a four day type split when you do like, power lifting lower body, and a power lifting upper body on like Monday, Tuesday, and you do like a body builder type upper body on Friday, and a body type lower body on Thursday.
Dr Layne: Yeah, that’s like, actually exactly how I started out with the power hypertrophy split. I don’t mind giving people credit, Eugene Sanik, who’s I believe this guy’s MD now, and he was a person I used to talk a lot to on various body building message boards – and this was on MindandMuscle.net. It’s still up, there’s a great forum, a lot of really great people on there, and he was the one that actually kinda convinced me to try out that sort of split, and the way it was kind of set up. Now I’ve changed it a little bit over the years and now you know there’s a five day, a five day if you want it, but he kind of instilled those basic principles and basically that’s how the whole thing started, doing that sort of split, the four day upper, lower and the rest in upper lower and that worked great. I mean, like I said, I was used to the typical body building splits, each body part one time a week. You know, it’s twelve reps, that sort of thing, and man when I went on that, I got better gains in the first twelve weeks on that, than I got in probably the year or two prior to that regular body building. I mean, that’s, when I went on that, I stayed on that for like, after about a year, that’s when I started getting accused of using steroids, because it, I just got really good results from it because it was a properly periodized routine, and I got really strong from it and it, just it worked really really well, so I was my first client. My first client who’d been on those body building splits, and I got some sense talked into me, and I switched over to something periodized, and made a lot of progress.
Spencer: OK, so maybe that’s a decent starting point?
Dr Layne: Yeah, actually you know what, I wrote an article for Teenage Body Builders on bodybuilding.com and that’s exactly the split I recommended, actually, because you know, if you’re a beginner it can be tough sometimes to get in more than four days a week so I think that’s reasonable, and a lot of people, I get emails all the time saying “hey can I change this, can I change that?” I mean really, you can change a lot of stuff on undulating periodization with power hypertrophy training protocol, you know it’s adaptive, but it’s, it’s, it’s those basic principles, that so early in the week you’re doing basically power lifting, and later in the week you’re doing basically body building. I mean those are the principles you know, and then you can, some people who like, their legs are a strong point, but you know you’ve got chest and back weaknesses, but you’ve got good arms too, so maybe on your hypertrophy days, you’ll have a really long upper body day, and by the time you get to your, you know, weak points you’re really tired. On your leg day, you also put your arms on that day as well, so you’re working two strong points together that don’t need a whole lot of volume and now you’ve got more time you can focus on your other upper body stuff. So you can always modify it that way as well, but yeah, it’s very, you know I tell people it’s very modifiable and you should modify it.
Spencer: It’s interesting because I remember reading a Charles Poliquin book. I think it was on TNation where someone was basically like “hey I’m trying to put on as much muscle as fast as possible. What shall I do?” and Poliquin basically said work out twice a day and in the morning you do a power lifting style work out and then in the evening you do like a hypertrophy, like eight reps volume type of work out and that was his advice for it, so…
Dr Layne: That’s from the Bulgarians I think. In a lot of Bulgarian literature they train twice, and when people talk to me about over training, I’ll point them to, you know, the Bulgarians who were like, some of the first guys ever to squat eighteen pounds raw. They train twice a day and work up to like a run reps laps like almost every single time, and everybody would say that’s over training and yet, somehow it works, you know what I mean, and in that period people said “well those guys are on steroids.” Well, yeah, but so are the guys who are recommending these typical body building splits, like you know, it’s like, you know the splits that are in all the magazines are, you know, one body part per week. Well those guys are on steroids too, you know, so that’s really kind of a cop out answer in terms of why something is over training for the average person. I think, I honestly think that more people under train than they do over train, probably for feat of over training.
Spencer: Is there any tell-tale sign of over training? Do you just start to break down your ability to squat because your nervous system is so fried?
Dr Layne: I mean, you would actually notice it psychologically before you finally noticed it physically. I mean you would just lose the… For you to get to the point where you had actually been over trained you would actually had like a very decreased amount of drive to train. You’d be lethargic, you wouldn’t want to go in to train, you’d be irritable, you know, might even be a little sick, that sort of thing. Your strength would go down and in that case you’d, but in that case I’d recommend for people that structure in de-loads, and de-loads are basically, don’t take a week off, I mean a lot of people go a take a week off and they’ll come back and they’ll be better, but it wouldn’t be as good as if they’d just done a de-load. A de-load allows you to actively recover and maintain those positive training adaptations, so you don’t want to just completely stop for a week or two ‘cos you’ll lose a lot of the positive adaptations even at that short period of time and so you want to do what is called a de-load so you want to back off like, if you’re used to doing, let’s say you squat three hundred pounds for ten reps. Well, do your normal routine but instead of squatting three hundred pounds, you’re going to do sixty per cent of what you normally do, sixty or seventy per cent of what you normally do. So you’re going to do, you know, two hundred pounds for ten reps and that’s going to be an amount of weight that you don’t have to get all Jacked up for, but it’s heavy enough to maintain your muscle but it’s light enough it’s going to allow you some aid to recovery and for you to get past the over training cycle. If you do that for one, two, very rarely would you ever need three weeks you’ll really notice the…you’ll be a lot better and you’ll know mostly when you’re ready to go again because you’ll start getting back that you’ll be like chomping at the bit to go heavy again.
Spencer: Yep, OK, all right, cool. Layne, what’s next for you, man? What are you working on right now?
Dr Layne: Well, I got, I’m about ten days out from a pro-parallel thing. I’m doing a Europa Super Show in Orlando. That’s an IFPA ProPro show but they have a pro-power lifting unit attached to it. I sent in my application, they accepted, so I’m going to do that, so hopefully…I would love to be able to win money in power lifting and then say I’ve won money in body building and in power lifting ‘cos I feel like that would be pretty cool. So that’s my big thing on the horizon for me. I’ve also clients who are trying to gear up for shows this year, so that’s fresh on my mind. I’m doing quite a bit of travelling this year. I’m going to the New York Pro actually in May because I have a couple of clients in that and then we actually, my wife and I are putting on a natural body building VIP camp, where we’re flying in some of the best natural pros in the world, and some of the top experts in the world to speak on training and nutrition to like, a group of people. So these people paid a premium but they’re going to get basically access to the best in the world for, you know, the weekend. It’ll be pretty cool for them.
Spencer: It sounds it. Is that open to the public or is that like a…?
Dr Layne: It was open to the public for about twenty four hours and then we sold out all the slots. Yeah, I made it available to my clients first and they occupied everything but four slots and then when we made it public those four slots went pretty quick, but we do hopefully plan on making it an annual thing, and maybe one of these days we’ll do something that’s a little bit, you know, it’s tough because you got to…I wanted to keep it personal, you know so the people could get a lot out of it, but I also want to be able to bring in the big names which means it costs a lot of money, and so you know you have to charge kind of a premium to do that if you’re going to keep the number of people down, and then the problem of bringing it in, you know, making it less expensive but, you know, making it so that a lot of people can do it, ‘cos a lot of people will sign up, it’ll be like a hundred people and it’ll be more like, you know, it won’t be like that one on one interaction that I really wanted to get, you know what I mean, but, you know, we do plan on making it annual so, you know, next year people can look out on my website, you know, maybe even grab one of those public slots next time it comes up, if you guys are watching and you’re interested, but that should be interesting for us because eventually I think we’d like to promote a show, promote a natural pro show and so, like, that’s kind of a, not really a test of that, but it will be interesting to see how we can co-ordinate the logistics and those sorts of things, rather than coming. Trying to find big news and trying to find your airfare and all that stuff and just actually it’s hard to imagine, like, what goes on into putting on a show. So next time you do a body building show or a power lifting, make sure you thank the promoter, because it’s a tough job and it’s a thankless job as most time all you hear about is people complaining.
Spencer: Yeah, well it sounds like you got your work cut out for you then.
Dr Layne: Yeah always.
Spencer: Thanks so much for talking to us today. I’m sure that the people listening learned a lot. You dropped some little hints in there too, that I thought were pretty cool, so…
Dr Layne: Yeah, I know some of them, I appreciate it and hopefully we won’t get too many hate messages over it.
Spencer: All right brother. Take care.
Dr Layne: Bye man. Thank you.