Guest Post: The Definitive Guide to Gaining Muscle

Guest Post By Jason Helmes, Author of No Squats. No Deadlifts. Huge Gains.(50% off until TOMORROW Sunday 9/25)

My name is Jason Helmes. I am the owner of Anyman Fitness. Like Dick, I cater to fitness for “normal people”…not powerlifters, bodybuilders, or bikini models. Our clientele are the soccer moms, the average Joe’s, and the college kids who graduated with the “Freshman 15” (to me, it was more like the “Freshman 50”).

Yep, it didn’t take long for all of the comforts of suburban life to catch up with me upon graduation of college:


Shortly after this picture, my first daughter, Brooklyn was born, and I did a full analysis of what I gazed upon in the mirror. I was overweight and unhealthy. I drank too much alcohol and smoked like a chimney. And most importantly, I was emasculated. I was not presenting a positive, male image to my newborn daughter.

When I began to get my own health in check, I had an essential characteristic for long term progress:  Curiosity. I was intensely curious as to what the optimal approaches were to fitness. I had read all of the “Yahoo Health” articles and tried my best to “eat less, move more”, but such vague, parameter-less approaches simply did not work for me. Perhaps you can relate to the struggle.

Luckily, I came across Martin Berkhan, Andy Morgan, Alan Aragon, and a number of evidence-based coaches in my internet searches. I jumped deep down the rabbit hole of “real” fitness. It was a smooth blend of hard work, dedication, adjustments, and big-picture thinking.

And it worked like a charm:


I was happy with this progress. After all, I had shed 70 pounds of pure blubber in two years. My workouts were simple:  linear progressions using beginner’s templates, such as Stronglifts 5 x 5 and RPT (which is more intermediate than beginner, but still a linear progression).

I had become as strong as an ox in the process – deadlifting over 400 pounds, bench pressing 260, and squatting 275.

And I just KNEW what would add size to my wiry frame. I needed to get even stronger! Every article I read told me that as I gained strength, and ate at a surplus, I would pack on muscle. I wanted those “noob gains”. I wanted the 20 pounds of muscle every publication I had read promised me.

Into the gym I trekked, squatting and deadlifting with regularity. My strength shot through the roof. In a year’s time, I was deadlifting 500 pounds, squatting 330, and bench pressing 305.

I was elated with the “gains”, but I wasn’t all too pleased when I looked at the yearly progress pictures side-by-side:


The difference between these pictures is about 15 pounds. I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I simply dieted off the fat I had gained, I would be right back where I had started.

I was deflated. Where were all the “noob gains”? Where was the “20 pounds of muscle” I had been promised! I knew I was lifting hard enough – nobody had more intensity in the weight room. I had pushed myself to the limit, day in and day out for a year.

To say I was frustrated by this apparent lack of “muscle building genetics” would be an understatement.

Back to the drawing board I went. This time, instead of just using the Google Machine, I turned to someone I could fully trust to guide me on my path to masculinity. I turned to Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, C.S.C.S.

After researching Brad’s work, I came across his groundbreaking 2010 review paper “The Mechanisms of Muscular Hypertrophy and Their Applications To Resistance Training”.

In Brad’s review, he found the 3 most important factors of muscular growth:

They are, according to Brad:

  1. Mechanical tension – this is how your muscle feels when contracted under a load. This is how your bicep feels when you are curling, or your pecs feel when you are performing a push-up.
  2. Metabolic stress – this is caused by your muscles contracting from repeated use. When this happens, your veins cannot allow the blood to flow normally through your body, and lactic acid builds up. In bodybuilding circles, this is referred to as “the pump”.
  3. Muscular damage – this is created when you force your body to work harder than it has worked in the past. When you push your muscles past their comfort zone, they will be momentarily damaged. As your body repairs the tissue, they will become stronger – and bigger – as a result.

After coming across this invaluable information, I began to look closely at ways to maximize these variables:  tension, the pump, and muscle damage. I started to write programming for myself to capitalize on these factors.

And I made a crucial revelation:  Nowhere was exercise selection even mentioned!

This got me thinking and reflecting on how I had been training in the past year (there’s that curiosity kicking in). I asked myself some crucial questions:

  • When I was lifting, was I keeping maximal tension on my muscles at all times?
  • When performing a movement, did I maintain strict form to isolate the muscle I was working?
  • Did I ever feel “the pump” or “the deep burn” during a training session?

The answer to all of these questions was clear cut: No, I wasn’t.

In a quest to lift as much weight as humanly possible, I was missing out on the factors that determined how much muscular growth I would be able to achieve.

I also began to wonder what would happen if I eliminated squats and deadlifts from my programming. Those moves were incredibly draining to me. After a heavy deadlifting day, I felt like a train had run over me. After a heavy squat day, I had trouble walking for the next 3 days. These moves were taxing to my CNS, and they required a good dose of time off and recovery in order to train with them regularly.

I excitedly created programming for myself to reflect these new goals. I set out on a new muscle-building mission. I had to maximize tension, the pump, and continue to play “beat the training log”.

And I curiously eliminated squatting and deadlifting from my programming.

The results blew me away:


Everything grew – rapidly. My shoulders began filling out, my chest appeared full under my shirt, and my biceps stretched out my sleeves. I finally was getting the results I was after.

Eliminating barbell squats and deadlifts from the floor allowed me to recover much more quickly. I still worked hard – perhaps harder than ever before. But without being so drained all the time, I was able to up my training frequency and volume like never before.

Most importantly, I wasn’t abnormally sore any longer. My quality of life improved tremendously. I was able to play with my kids without needing help getting up off the floor. I no longer spent the day after “Leg Day” lying on the couch in agony.

Armed with this knowledge, I did what any solid, evidence-based fitness coach would do. I grabbed some beta testers and tried to replicate the results.

And the results were universal.

Clients raved about the newfound energy these new, Big 2-less workouts gave them. The “pumps”, the “tension” and the “damage” were exhilarating and obvious. The workouts were incredibly taxing, but they were able to recover adequately and return to the gym, begging for more gains.

Take a look at these 3 pictures, side-by-side:


In the first picture, I was deadlifting 400 pounds and squatting 250.

In the second picture, I was deadlifting 500 pounds and squatting 330.

In the third picture…………….not sure. I hadn’t squatted – or deadlifted – in a year’s time.

I know what you’re thinking:  “But Jason, I LOVE squatting and deadlifting! I can’t IMAGINE taking them out of my programming!”

I understand this, and if that’s you, then by all means, continue. Fitness should be fun first and foremost. After all, in order to truly win at the “simple” game of fitness, you need to be doing something you love above all else.

But if you’re like me, and you’re training to look sexy and feel great, it just may be time to take a close look at your own programming.

And ask yourself a very simple question:

“Is doing what everyone else is doing holding me back from unlocking my own, true potential?”

No Squats. No Deadlifts. Huge Gains.” is available to the public in an easy-to-read, .pdf format today, just in time for the fall bulking season.

Pick up a copy today (50% off until tomorrow, Sunday 9/25 only ) and start to build the body you’ve always dreamed of.


Jason Helmes is the owner of Anyman Fitness, LLC, an online fitness firm dedicated to improving the health of regular people – the soccer moms and average Joes of the world. His firm has helped thousands of clients to date. Jason enjoys lifting, writing, and playing with princess castles with his two daughters, Brooklyn (6), and Ava (4). He lives with his wife of 11 years, Kate, in Canton, Michigan, USA.


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