Part 4 | 6 Key Principles To Build Lean Muscle, Improve Performance & Develop Sustainable Results

Part 4 | 6 Key Principles To Build Lean Muscle, Improve Performance & Develop Sustainable Results

#4 - Recovery

Sleep is the foundation on which your recovery protocol should be established. Irregular sleep patterns, or lack of sleep, can realize a difference of 40% cognitive function and 20% in regards to performance.

Recovery is just as important as training and should always be apart of your game plan. I often tell people to “train hard, recover harder”. When we train, we cause damage to our muscle. Assuming we aren’t causing excessive damage by overtraining, our body will repair itself and build more muscle to protect our skeleton.
There are more gym memberships than ever in America yet we are more out of shape and overweight than ever before.
You’ve been told to do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) class after HIIT class “to see the best results” and “get into the best shape of your life”.
Over the last few years as a coach, I’ve had many conversations that have lead me to advise clients to actually train LESS, not more.
Training induces stress and inflammation. Too little, adaptation won’t occur, at least not significantly. Too much stress and inflammation, your body won’t be able to repair itself which can result in injury, decreased performance and even adrenal fatigue.
Managing stress means we need to account for several variables.
  • Training load, frequency and intensity
  • Nutrition: calorie intake, macronutrients, micronutrients, water intake
  • Sleep (makes a bigger difference than you probably realize)
  • Hormone levels
  • Underlying health conditions
Each of these bullets can be an article in and of themselves but what you need to know right now is that these should not be overlooked as they play a pivotal role in you improving your performance and most definitely should be taken into consideration as you create a success plan for the body you want.
I know, that seems like a lot to get into and you might be wondering “who the hell has time for that?”. Just like any well thought out plan, it’s not going to happen over night. However, I will provide you with some tips to get started.
Training Load, Frequency and Intensity
This isn’t a one size fits all answer.
I’ll start with an example of a general training schedule that is very effective for a vast majority of the population.
Monday — Full Body Max Effort Strength (High Intensity)
Tuesday — LISS Cardio or Low Intensity Steady State Cardio (i.e. 30-45 minute walk)
Wednesday — Active Recovery (i.e. mobility flow, dynamic warm up, yoga)
Thursday — Full Body Dynamic Effort Strength (60-70% Moderate Intensity)
Friday — LISS Cardio
Saturday — High Intensity Conditioning (i.e. HIIT, Sprints, Loaded Complexes)
Sunday — Active Recovery
This training split will allow you to train hard improving your strength, power and overall physique, while taking a step toward ensuring adequate recovery. However, we still have to take work load into consideration.
I will base the following example with the previous example I gave above in regards to training schedule.
Here is a simple and easy to apply format for strength training as well as High Intensity Conditioning
Max Effort Strength — 75% effort or greater
Main Movement or Compound Lift – 3-5 sets @ 3-5 reps
  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
Accessory Exercises – 3-4 sets @ 6-12 reps
  • Lunges
  • Core Work
  • 1 Arm Rows
  • Push Ups
  • Loaded Sled Push/Pull – 4×30 Yards w/ Heavy weight
  • Kettlebell Swings – 6×30/30 intervals
Dynamic Effort Strength — 60% – 70% effort
*the lower the reps the more focus I put on power output, or the speed of the rep on the way up. If I’m doing any more than 6 reps, I’ll slow down the tempo and focus more on control of the rep.
Main Movement or Compound Lift — 3-6 sets @ 3-8 reps
  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
Accessory Exercises – 3-4 sets @ 6-12 reps
  • Lunges
  • Core Work
  • 1 Arm Rows
  • Push Ups
Escalated Density Training (EDT) — 6-12 minutes with 2-4 exercises.
*Implementing EDT’s to the end of your session will allow you to add volume to your training session. 2-4 exercises with a  6-12 rep count for each exercise at a nearly continuous pace will also provide you with some metabolic stress, key for building muscle, and keep your heart rate elevated to elicit more of a fat burning response.
For example:
8 Minute EDT
  • Sled Push x30 yards
  • Kettlebell Farmers Carry x30 yards
  • Push Ups x8-12
  • TRX Face Pull x8-12
High Intensity Conditioning
Weighted conditioning is my ‘Go-TO’ for my high intensity conditioning days because I can get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. I could simply push/pull a sled for 15-20 minutes or perform a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell complex. A complex is a series of consecutive exercises that look like this…
Barbell Complex — 3-5 rounds
A – RDL’s x6 reps
B – Bent Over Row x6 reps
C – Push Press x6 reps
D – Reverse Lunge x6 reps
E – Squat Jumps x6 reps
You would complete 6 reps of each exercise, consecutively, with out putting the barbell down. Once you’ve completed 1 round, take a 2 minute rest.
Completing 1 round may take you anywhere from 45-75 seconds, allowing our heart rate to stay elevated and eliciting a fat burning response while implementing loaded and explosive exercises to help us build lean muscle mass.
Some of you do not care about how to program for yourself as you would probably rather invest your time into something else that peaks your interests. You’d rather hire a coach to do that work for you so all you have to do is walk in the gym, do the prescribed workout for the day and head home. Awareness is powerful and you recognize that in order for you to be consistent with your game plan, you need to outsource that work load to a professional.
This is one reason why I created The Performance League.
I wanted to give you access to tried and true training systems right to the palm of your hand.
Active Recovery Methods
Although you might think of recovery as a day off, I think it’s important to still move. I provided an example earlier of going for a 30-45 minute walk. Walking is great for resetting our posture and getting our heart rate up moderately to stimulate blood flow and elicit a recovery response. Walk with a purpose! We’re not designed to walk and scroll through Instagram. Make sure you initiate your arm swing  and take each step deliberately.
Yoga is also a great method of active recovery. Understand that Yoga is a skill. If you suffer chronic low back pain, this isn’t something you want to rely on to fix that. An individual with healthy movement patterns can absolutely benefit from a 30 minute yoga session though. Listen to your body. If any particular pose tends to induce pain, skip that exercise and practice your breathing drills.
Sauna! Regular sauna use of 4 days or more throughout the week has been proven to balance the autonomic nervous system – the control system which regulates body functions such as heart rate, digestion and respiratory rate. There was also a 20 year study on humans, men in particular, where they looked at the benefits of sauna use. This study also found that a sauna session can elevate your heart rate between 120 and 150 beats per minute (bpm), simulating a moderate level of physical activity. Although a specific duration has not yet been determined, using the sauna 4-7 times per week with an average of 20 minutes per session showed the best results for improving cardiovascular health and balancing autonomic nervous system both of which play major roles in recovery.
Track! For the next 5-7 days, track everything you eat and drink so you can get an average of how many calories you get throughout the week as well as a break down of how much protein, carbohydrates and fats you’re consuming.
There are several apps you can download on your phone that will allow you to plug in and even take pictures of food labels so all the information you need gets uploaded directly into the software. They can be free but most apps now you will have to pay a small membership fee to get full access to their software.
You can also write everything down yourself in a food journal.
Whether you download an app or write it down yourself, I highly recommend creating a food journal yourself. Even if you put everything into an app, a food journal will allow you to write down how you feel after each meal.
For example: “I had eggs for breakfast and I noticed about 20 minutes later I started getting stomach cramps.” or “I had a kale salad for lunch and I felt energized throughout the rest of the afternoon.”
This simple concept will all you to create awareness of what foods are best for you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because something is labeled “healthy”, that it will be good for you to add to your diet. It’s common for people to have trouble digesting raw vegetables. Even though the cooking process can eliminate 20% of nutrients, it may be more beneficial for you to get the benefits you need from eating certain veggies. If you notice whole wheat bread makes you feel bloated, make a note of it and look for alternatives.
Variety in your diet is important and will help you stay consistent with healthy choices as you won’t get bored with eating chicken and broccoli 5 days out of 7. With that being said, this process is constantly evolving and within a year, you’ll have a grocery list and a recipe book that works for you.
So how does this help us with recovery?
Calories are energy. By tracking how many calories we consume, we will be able to make adjustments to both training and nutrition so we ensure a balance of energy.
There are a lot of fad diets out there that require a low calorie intake. A friend of mine decided to try one of these fad diets that had him eating 900 calories per day. He was also training hard 4 days a week and complained about migraines. I ran his numbers for what was an optimal calorie intake for him and he was 1,000 calories from that number.
I suggested he bump up his calories an average of 100 cal / day which looked like this…
Week 1:1,000 cal / day
Week 2: 1,100 cal / day
Week 3: 1, 200 cal / day
We also tweaked his training intensity as he was doing all high intensity work. He went from 4 days high intensity to 2 days high intensity and 2 days low intensity.
Within the first week, migraines were gone. The next week, significant increase in energy. The week after, down 2 pounds and improved strength.
By making simple adjustments to his training and nutrition, we were able to get a better energy balance and reduce inflammation so he could achieve adequate recovery.
This isn’t going to be the case for everyone. They key is to create awareness for yourself. Awareness, in this case, perceives action and action perceives change.
Most of us don’t realize that when we sleep, we actually burn calories which means we are expending energy. Our body uses that energy to repair and rebuild itself physically as well as download all the information we gave it that day via the nervous system.
Sleep is the foundation on which your recovery protocol should be established. Irregular sleep patterns, or lack of sleep, can realize a difference of 40% cognitive function and 20% in regards to performance.
When it comes to taking a written exam, that’s the difference between getting an A and failing.
In a Powerlifting meet, that could be the difference between 1st place and last place.
Adult human beings should get between 7-9 hours per night of sleep to optimize performance and recovery.
Just 40% of Americans get the recommended amount of sleep. Makes sense why you know a few people who pound energy drinks like they were born in a frat house.
Chances are, you’re not getting the required amount of sleep every night and your ability to recover from training is taking a hit.
You might not realize it because it’s your “normal”.
I have a client who claimed they could operate on 3-4 hours a sleep. When I challenged her to sleep more, she set a goal to average 6 hours of sleep every night over 90 days.
She looked at me like I was crazy but she committed.
Of course, it took some adjustment but she made a point to shut her phone off and create a bedtime routine to get to sleep earlier. A few weeks in, she was sleeping minimum 6 hours every night. By the end of the 90 days she was sleeping almost 7 hours every night.
Her resting heart rate dropped. She lost weight and had more energy during training and recovered faster than ever.
She’s had nights of under 6 hours of sleep and tells me every time she can feel the difference immediately.
If this story resonates with you, here are some tips
—> Track your sleep. You can write it down to get a rough number but if you want to be exact and create the most clarity, look into the Oura Ring or Whoop band. I don’t use these currently but I will be using the Whoop band very soon. The ring and the band will give you a full diagnostic of how much you sleep as well as the quality of sleep.
The ring is $300 and the whoop band is $30/month membership. I do not get compensated if you buy these tools, It’s just what i’ve looked into personally and have heard nothing but good reviews.
—> Set a goal. After you get an idea of how much sleep you get, set a 90 day goal of how much sleep you want to average each night. If your goal is to sleep 7 hours a night but you currently sleep 5.5 hours a night, reverse the process and create a system where you might start by going to bed 30 minutes earlier for the first 3 weeks. Weeks 4-6 go to bed 30 minutes earlier than you were in the first 3 weeks. by week 12, or day 90, you’ll be at 7 hours each night.
I’m not a sleep coach but I do know the power of habits. Even though you might not actually sleep 30 minutes more each day right away, you’re allowing your body to adjust to the change. You will be able to adjust much quicker to a 30 minute difference than a 90 minute difference and you’ll be less likely to give up on your goal.
Hormone Levels
This is something that you can schedule a doctor’s appointment for. They will do your blood work and provide you a full rundown of estrogen, testosterone, vitamin deficiency, etc.
The results from your blood work will not just create clarity on what needs to be addressed when it comes to training and nutrition, but also provide you a baseline so in 6-12 months, you can measure your progress from within instead of just looking at improvements of physical attributes.
Underlying Health Conditions
Like I mentioned above, making an appointment with your doctor for a physical to get the full check up and blood work done will give you the full picture of what you need to address.
You may already know of some underlying health conditions, such as a heart arrhythmia, but as your body changes and indicators of other issues may occur, you can take preventative measures from the onset of other diseases instead of waiting to be diagnosed to do anything about it.

I hope that over the past 4 weeks you have collected valuable pieces that you can apply to your life right away. We live in a world now where simplicity has become a lost art. Where quick fixes trump long term sustainable results and the process has been forgotten. Awareness perceives action, action perceives change. As I stated in part 1, let this 6 part series be a foundational tool for you to become more aware of where you currently are, who it is you want to become, create a strategy and how to execute that strategy to reach your desired destination. 

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