Your Training Questions Answered

My good friend Sean Hyson just released a new ebook called The Truth About Strength Training which also includes a great 12-week program. The book/program is over a year in the making, and I’ve talked to Sean about it every step of the way. I really like the setup of the book, and I like the training program as well. I’m not an affiliate for the product so I have nothing personal to gain by recommending it, but I’ve made a point of highlighting good information on my blog and Sean’s new ebook certainly fits that bill.

I highly recommend you check it out at

To give you a snippet into the book, here is an excerpt from the Q+A section. Keep in mind these are just a few of many questions he addresses.

Q: Are the cheaper protein powders I see in the grocery store just as good as what they have in GNC and Vitamin Shoppe?
A: “I would not spend money on cheap protein,” says Ryan Munsey, a trainer and nutrition coach in Roanoke, Va. “The quality of your nutrition is more important than how much. You have to realize that everything you eat affects your body on the cellular level. I would rather go with no protein than cheap protein.”

Cheaper products often contain dubious sources of protein and low potency. They also lack indications of safety and purity, such as a Good Manufacturing Practice seal. You may save a few bucks buying these brands, but you’re getting much less quality.

Munsey adds that, when buying any protein, you should “skip the label hype and look at the ingredients. Try to get a high percentage of protein so you’re buying that and not fillers.” A serving scoop that offers 27 grams of protein out of 31 grams total is a better buy than 30 grams of protein in a 40-gram scoop. “And watch out for ‘proprietary blends’. You don’t know how much actual protein is in there.”

Q: What if I don’t want to gain a lot of muscle or diet down? How should I set my calories to maintain?
A: Set your calories at 13–15 per pound of your body weight. You won’t notice much of a difference on the scale eating like this but you should be able to stay lean and muscular or improve your overall body composition.

Q: When I read workouts online or in magazines, everybody seems to be doing a lot more sets than you recommend. Don’t I need more volume to grow?
A: As much as I love bodybuilding training and the prominent bodybuilders of yesteryear, I cringe when I think about what the popularity of that kind of training has done to the mainstream public’s perception of how to get big.

A lot of these workouts you speak of are done by people on steroids. Many more of them are done by people who have a rare set of genes that makes building muscle easier for them than it is for you and me. I’m not going to say that that kind of training doesn’t work, but it isn’t necessary.

C.J. Murphy, MFS, owner of Total Performance Sports in Everett, Mass., describes the problem with high-volume bodybuilding splits very succinctly: “The majority of the general public isn’t a sponsored athlete that can go home and get a massage and then relax for a day or two. Most of us have to get up and go to work, shop for food, and play with our kids. We can’t afford to be crippled from pounding a body part the way some people do. You can get jacked doing flat bench press, incline press, decline press, flyes, and crossovers in one workout. You can also get jacked by NOT doing that, too. The chest is fairly tiny. It doesn’t need that much work.”

The only way to convince yourself that lower-volume training builds muscle fast is to try it. And read the “Things That Don’t Matter” Section of The Truth About Strength Training.

Q: What numbers do I have to hit to be considered strong?
A: I think it’s dangerous to get too caught up in numbers, as it leads to ego lifting and then injury, but Murphy suggests that a regular guy (i.e., not a competitive powerlifter) squat and deadlift about 2 times his body weight. His bench press should be at least 1.5 times body weight, and his overhead press ought to be 75% of his body weight. “A lady could shoot for about the same stuff. Maybe 50% of her body weight on the overhead is more realistic,” says Murphy. “And if she can do five pullups, she’s pretty strong.”

These are just numbers to shoot for, and if injuries or other obstacles prevent you from training these lifts or doing them this heavy, by all means, set your own benchmarks. But if you can put up those numbers, you can most likely hold your own on any strength test.

For more answers to questions, along with a 12-week diet and training program, pick up The Truth About Strength Training, ON SALE now at