The Muscle Clean: The Way to Teach the Clean to CrossFitters
In this article I will share with you how I teach the muscle clean to my clients. You might have heard of it before, but if not, then it’s time for you to learn more!
My goal is for you to become a better athlete because of what I’m going through right now.
I started training CrossFit athletes when they were just starting out. They had no idea what they wanted to do with their lives or where they wanted to go in life.
Their goals weren’t very specific at all, so I helped them realize those goals by teaching them the basics of weightlifting. Over time, I’ve seen some amazing results from these guys. Some are still competing and others are working full-time jobs while continuing to train hard and stay motivated.
As much as I love helping people achieve their fitness goals, there is one thing that really gets me excited…they’re getting stronger!
One of the most common questions I get is “how do you make someone stronger?”
There are a few different ways, but here’s what works best for me.
1) Workout Frequency – When it comes to strength training, frequency matters.
If you only train once per week, your gains won’t last long enough. You need to be consistently overloading your muscles to see the best results.
I train my athletes 2-3 times per week and I’ve found that to be the best frequency for them. If you’re just getting started or you’re not recovering well, then twice a week might be enough. Once you get tired of waiting around for weeks to recover before you can train again, three days per week might be best for you. The goal is to find that sweet spot for yourself.
2) Use Progressive Overloads – This one is pretty simple, but a lot of people don’t do it.
You should always be trying to overload your muscles. If you’re not, then you’re just wasting your time.
Your body will soon become accustomed to the same exercises week after week and plateau will occur. When this happens, your muscles will no longer have any reason to grow.
3) Work on Your Weaknesses – This one is less obvious.
Many people have particular body parts that are tighter, weaker, or just plain suck compared to the rest. You might have strong legs but weak arms.
Maybe your core strength sucks. Maybe your upper body is stronger than your lower body. No matter what your weakness is, you need to do something about it! I had a client who was really strong, but his overhead press was really weak compared to his bench and squat. It didn’t make sense that he could bench more than he could press above his head. We worked on this weakness and within a few months, he added 45lbs to his overhead press!
4) Eat Enough Calories – You’re not going to get bigger or stronger if you aren’t eating enough food.
I’ve had some clients that thought that they were eating enough, but still didn’t gain any weight. The reason for this is they weren’t eating the right things.
They were eating too many of the wrong calories and not enough of the right calories. I’ve also had clients who ate a lot, but still didn’t gain any weight because they ate too much junk food. Eating the right amount and eating the right things is a winning combination for packing on size and strength.
5) Get Enough Sleep – Rest is just as important as nutrition and exercise if you want to gain size and strength.
If you don’t get enough sleep, your body never gets the chance to recover from your workouts. Without recovery, your body never has a chance to get stronger.
I see a lot of people who think that they only need to train hard. Just as important (if not more so) is rest.
6) Use Progressive Overload – You’ve probably heard this mentioned already, but it’s so important that it needs to be mentioned again.
You need to keep pushing yourself or you’ll never get stronger or bigger. If you’re doing the same exercises with the same amount of weight week after week, your body will no longer have any reason to grow.
You need to keep challenging yourself. This is why most programs have you increase the weight after you’ve hit a certain number of reps. As you get stronger, your body adapts and this is the only way to keep making gains.
Now that you know what to do, you need a plan to help make sure you’re doing it. Just reading this article isn’t going to make change happen, so read on and find out about how to get started on building muscle and strength.
Step 2: Setting Up Your Plan
Like everything else, you can approach your plan in either a simple or complex manner. If you have a lot of free time and like to micromanage every little thing, then by all means go ahead and do it!
But if you’re like most people and just want this process to be as easy as possible, then I’ve provided an example of what you can do to get started.
Your first step is to determine how much time you can devote to working out. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll say you’ve determined that you can train 5 days per week for 1 hour each day.
With this in mind, you’re going to want to plan out your workouts ahead of time so you don’t waste time in the gym and you work your muscles when they’re primed to grow and recover the best.
Here’s what a sample week might look like:
Day 1 – Chest & Back
– Chest & Back Day 2 – Off or Legs if you’re advanced
– Off or Legs if you’re advanced Day 3 – Off or Arms if you’re advanced
– Off or Arms if you’re advanced Day 4 – Shoulders & Traps
– Shoulders & Traps Day 5 – Off or Back & Biceps if you’re advanced
Following this plan on a weekly basis will keep you progressing just fine, but you’ll eventually have to switch it up. Your body gets used to the same routine over and over so after 2 or 3 months you’ll need to change things up.
You don’t want to change everything at once or you’ll get confused, but rather make small changes every couple of weeks. This keeps things interesting while keeping your body adapting and growing.
Here’s a couple of changes you can make to the plan above:
Perform one or two muscle groups per session two times per week rather than four. Instead of working on back and biceps one day, instead just work on back.
Keep the other days the same. This allows more rest for the muscles while still keeping them trained. After 3 weeks you can switch it up to chest & bis, shoulders & traps, and legs.
Perform drop sets, rest pause sets, and other forms of intensity techniques one day per week rather than using them throughout the week. So for example you might perform drop sets on arms day rather than throughout the week like you normally would.
You can also perform these techniques on the non-workout days too if you feel up to it.
Use machines one week per month. This will give your body a new stimulus while not having to drastically change things up all the time.
The above changes are just examples. Feel free to make changes as you see fit or need to.
The important thing is to just change things up every couple of weeks or so.
Step 3: Supplementation
Of course we all hope that we can achieve our goals with nothing but food, but the truth is for most of us we do need some extra help. Luckily there are a lot more options available than there were even ten years ago.
Before we start, I also want to mention that depending on your age and health conditions, you should check with your doctor before using any supplements.
Your dosage and frequency will vary based on your gender, body type, weight, height, and several other factors. So while the following supplements are generally safe for most people, you may need to adjust the dosage or frequency.
Everyone is different.
With that being said, the following are supplements I’ve had good success with:
Weight Gaining Products:
Weight gainers are generally composed of a combination of protein and carbs. This is because once you grow past a certain point, it becomes very hard to gain weight since your body has a exceptionally hard time converting carbs into muscle.
Most weight gainers come in chocolate and vanilla flavors, but some also come in banana cream and other flavors. Just check the label to see what flavors it comes in.
My favorite weight gaining supplement is Mass FX7 by Active Body. It has a great flavor, appetite suppressing effect, and works really well.
I’ve gained close to 20lbs in a little over 2 months with this stuff. It’s not cheap though and can cost over $100 for a 4.4lb container, but if you have the money, I highly recommend it.
If you don’t want to spend that much money, I’d recommend going with something like GNC Ultra Mega Mass. It’s a little cheaper and comes in several different flavors as opposed to just chocolate and vanilla.
Another option is to create your own weight gainer. All you need to do is purchase some Whey Protein (in whatever flavor you like) and then buy some simple carbs (maltodextrin is my favorite).
Combine a serving of whey with an equal amount of carbs and you’ll have your own weight gainer cheaper than anything you can buy.
Weight loss products:
The only weight loss product that I’ve had any real success with is Lipovarin. It’s a fat burner that also helps suppress your appetite.
I lost around 20lbs while on it, but you do have to cycle it on and off every 3 weeks or so. You’ll need to experiment with the amounts, but if you use around 25g of protein and 50-70g of carbs (for every 16oz of liquid) you should get something that works pretty well.
Weight gaining phases aren’t just for those looking to get big. Even if you’re not looking to get big, a weight gaining phase here and there can really help with sticking to a surplus and gives your body a little break from having to digest foods all the time.
My experience has been that it greatly enhances your appetite while on it, so I suggest eating a lot more before you start it and during the first week. Also, if you’re a big time sweater, you’ll want to keep some baby wipes around to keep yourself from leaking fat everywhere due to how Lipovarin makes you sweat.
The use of protein powders for bulking and cutting has long been a controversial topic. Some people swear by them while others stay away from them completely.
Personally, I like to use Whey Protein to ensure I’m getting enough protein in my diet on a regular basis. Since I don’t consume tons of carbs, I need to get most of my calories from fat and protein and using protein powder helps me do that.
Recovery products are very important when it comes to building muscle. Your body goes through a lot when it’s recovering from a hard workout and putting back all the nutrients it lost.
The quicker you get your body back to where it needs to be, the sooner you can get back in the gym. A lot of these products actually speed up your natural recovery process and get you back in the game that much faster.
There are tons of different protein powders on the market and it seems like new ones are coming out all the time. The majority of them are just re-branded and promoted more than others.
If you go into almost any health food store, you’ll probably find a whole aisle dedicated to nothing but various types of protein powder.
Some people get way too caught up in the whole “protein powder is life”
Weight loss doesn’t require quite as much of this because you’re not putting as much wear and tear on your body, but if you really want to speed up the process then these products can help.
My favorite recovery product is Rebound by APS. It’s a little on the pricy side, but it works very quickly and does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
mindset and they swear by only the BEST because it has the most protein in it. While that may be true, it probably also has a lot of useless junk in it that your body doesn’t need.
I wouldn’t worry too much about which protein powder you use as long as it tastes good, mixes well, and has a good amino acid profile. You don’t need to be spending $50 a tub for something that’s “THE BEST!”.
Creatine is another product that a lot of people use. It seems to have fallen out of favor with the “true bros” over the years, but I’ve used it a few times with good results.
It’s been proven to help your strength and muscle gains so if you’re looking for something to help you out in those areas, creatine might be worth looking into.
ZMA is another recovery product that a lot of people use. There are great protein powders out there that cost a whole lot less.
My favorite brand is Growing Naturals, which can be found at just about any health food store and even Walmart carries it sometimes.
The main thing to look for in a good protein powder is the amino acid profile. You want one that has a good mixture of essential and non-essential amino acids.
You also want one that’s easily absorbed by the body when ingested. It consists of Zinc, Maganese, and Vitamin B6. This is supposed to improve your immune system, energy levels, and even your testosterone levels. I’ve used it on and off with some success. Some people love it and other people say it does nothing for them. If you want to try something new, I’d try this out for a month and see how you feel.
I’d stay away from the really cheap brands and the ones that use a lot of hype in their marketing. You can’t go wrong with the major brands like Optimum or EAS.
Wrapping Up Dieting
Dieting is a huge part of bodybuilding and aesthetics in general. It can make or break your overall look.
Now that you’ve read all about dieting and how important it is to your success, take all this knowledge and USE IT! Don’t just read this and think that you now know everything there is to know about dieting.
You now have the tools necessary to craft your own diet plan.
I know a lot of people swear by their weight gainers but I’ve never really had good success with them. A lot of them taste horrible and to be honest, most of the time I’d rather just eat solid food than drink that thick, sticky sludge they call a weight gain shake.
If you really don’t think that eating as much as you can is the right choice for you, then perhaps you need to re-evaluate whether or not you should be in this sport. I say that because unless you’re willing to eat all the time, you’re never going to be able to grow and gain size.
This means that meal replacement shakes may be more your style.
Eating five to six small meals a day is the best way to go imo. A lot of guys think that if they eat a big mac and a large fry every day for lunch that they’re going to add on pounds of muscle.
This isn’t necessarily true because the body can only absorb so many calories at one time. If you’re eating big portion sizes all day long, you’re not really adding extra calories your body would’ve used since it just can’t process them all. A lot of guys will eat a full bag of chips or an extra large pizza with the mindset that since it’s “only X amount more calories” it’s ok. This is wrong. You need to be as accurate as possible with your calorie counting and portion sizes. Otherwise you’re going to either not lose any weight or you’re going to end up gaining it all back after your bulk.
The other problem I see a lot is guys eating the same boring foods over and over again. You need to be adventurous and try new things, maybe even try different foods from different countries.
Why not? If you’re going to eat all day why not at least try some new tastes every once in awhile?
Last but not least remember to drink plenty of water! You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. I’d also suggest drinking a lot of milk. It’s high in calcium and will help add strength to your bones which is going to prevent injury and help you lift heavier weights longer.
I hope this article will help some of you guys out there who have been struggling with bulking up. If anyone has any questions feel free to contact me any time.
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Sources & references used in this article:
The three-month effects of a ketogenic diet on body composition, blood parameters, and performance metrics in crossfit trainees: a pilot study by WC Kephart, CD Pledge, PA Roberson, PW Mumford… – Sports, 2018 – mdpi.com
Injury rate and patterns among CrossFit athletes by BM Weisenthal, CA Beck, MD Maloney… – … journal of sports …, 2014 – journals.sagepub.com
Do physiological measures predict selected crossFit® benchmark performance? by SJ Butcher, TJ Neyedly, KJ Horvey… – Open access journal of …, 2015 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Crossfit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition by MM Smith, AJ Sommer, BE Starkoff, ST Devor – J Strength Cond Res, 2013 – g-se.com
Using sport education to implement a CrossFit unit by BA Sibley – Journal of Physical Education …, 2012 – shapeamerica.tandfonline.com