The 40 Laws of Muscle & Strength

How to Reach Your Ultimate Potential

The 40 Laws of Muscle Strength

I'm known for my detailed articles, but let's do something different. Today, I want to give you forty truths based on my experience, observation, and education.

  1. The simplest program done with a high level of effort and focus will work better than the perfect program done at 80%.
  2. Most people who get great results from following the training of their favorite expert do so because it motivates them and makes them train harder. It's not because the program is magical.
  3. Muscle tension – especially muscle tension while lengthening the muscle's fibers – is the primary stimulus for muscle growth.
  4. To keep muscle tension sufficiently high, you must progressively add weight as your body adapts and gets stronger.
  5. Only add weight when your body is ready for it. If you lose the mind-muscle connection or lose technical efficiency just to use more weight, you're not ready for it.
  6. Using too much weight – or adding too much weight too soon – can decrease tension on the target muscle because you compensate with other muscles or use
  7. Those who major in the minors probably don't train hard enough to progress.
  8. Hypertrophy studies comparing different training approaches don't account for variables like nutrition, recovery, lifestyle, stress, genetics, or the amount of muscle already gained by the subjects. And as a result, you shouldn't take those studies at face value. The luck of the draw can favor the experimental group that happened to have more subjects with favorable conditions for building muscle.
  9. You will not build a significant amount of muscle if you're in a caloric deficit. Most people need at least 300 surplus calories per day to gain optimally.
  10. Those constantly roaming social media for the next coolest exercise likely don't train hard enough to progress.
  11. Those who overthink everything likely don't train hard enough to progress.
  12. Those who love to argue training semantics likely don't train hard enough to progress.
  13. Those who are trying to gain muscle and get ripped at the same time likely don't train hard enough to progress (toward either of the two objectives).
  14. Those who freak out because they did their set at a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of 8.5 instead of 8 likely never train above an RPE of 6.
  15. The way you eat should NOT be part of your core identity. It's just food, bro.
  16. If you train HARD, taking the same number of rest days as you have training days will give you shocking results. It will allow you to progress faster and feel better than if you train 5-6 days a week. (Try this program.)
  17. You can't compensate for piss-poor effort on your sets by doing more sets.
  18. Once you're past the beginner stage, you don't need to do the same amount of work for all your muscles. Do more for those lagging behind and less for those that respond easily. (More info here.)
  19. Keto has done more to kill gains than anything else. It made people afraid of carbs, and carbs are one of the most anabolic substances you can ingest. It's not just about energy. Carb intake increases several factors that promote muscle growth (mTOR, IGF-1, insulin) and decrease cortisol, which is catabolic.
  20. Only about 10% of the protein you ingest is used to build new muscle tissue. Going from 150 to 300 grams of protein doesn't increase the amount of protein used to build muscle as much as you'd think.
  21. Protein synthesis is elevated for 24 to 36 hours after a workout. If you create so much damage that, after that period, you have not repaired the damage and added new protein to the muscle, your growth from a workout will be limited.
  22. Most of the time, your program works. It's just that your rate of progress is not up to your expectations. The natural rate of possible progression is lower than you think; it's not because your program sucks.
  23. Many people kill their strength progression by adding too much weight too soon. You can gain 0.5 to 2% in strength per week on a lift. Very advanced lifters progress at an even slower rate. Arbitrarily adding 5-10 pounds to the bar every week exceeds the normal rate of progress. It won't take long until you hit the wall if you try to do that.
  24. Don't bulk if you don't know for certain that you'll have the capacity, motivation, and dedication to diet off the added fat.
  25. If your motivation to train dies off after 30 minutes, train 29 minutes. If it dies off after two exercises, do two exercises. It's better to do less at 100% focus, intensity, and drive than add a lot of half-assed work.
  26. Don't train without a plan, but don't be afraid to adjust the plan based on how you feel or perform in the gym.
  27. Cortisol and adrenaline are related. Cortisol increases the conversion of noradrenaline into adrenaline. That's why it's hard to sleep when you're stressed out or worried. The stress increases cortisol, which leads to higher adrenaline. Adrenaline keeps your brain firing on all cylinders, making it hard to rest.
  28. Low-carb dieting, intermittent fasting, and very low-calorie diets can give you a false sense of energy. That's because they increase cortisol, which increases adrenaline.
  29. Too much adrenaline can lead to burnout by rendering your adrenergic receptors (which interact with adrenaline) resistant to your own adrenaline. (How to spot true burnout.)
  30. Under most circumstances, 2 to 4 work sets per exercise are perfectly adequate if done with enough intensity and focus.
  31. The vast majority of overweight people overeat and under-move. It's their fault. The good news? They can change the situation by doing the opposite.
  32. You can achieve a caloric deficit by eating less, being more active, or a combination of both. But the less you eat, the less sustainable your fat loss efforts are, and the more likely you are to regain the weight. Moving more throughout the day makes fat loss more sustainable.
  33. When you want to lose fat, move more, but don't train more. When you cut calories, your body has a lower capacity to recover from hard training.
  34. There are no mandatory exercises, nor are any exercises "the best" for everybody. What is best for you depends on your body type, goals, and experience.
  35. Your body has a limited capacity to tolerate and positively adapt from training stress. If you add work for a muscle you want to bring up, reduce volume elsewhere.
  36. If you train hard, very rarely will you under-train.
  37. Even if you skip a workout or don't train for a week (or even two) you will not lose your gains. You might feel flat and have a lower muscle tone, but you're not losing muscle.
  38. If you train hard, focus on progression, eat enough, include sufficient rest days, and remain patient, you will achieve your full potential regardless of the program. What you do in the gym is mostly a matter of personal preference and enjoyment.
  39. The most important factors in a training program are: level of effort, getting enough rest in the week, and exercise execution and selection (the best exercises for your body type and goal).
  40. Advanced or special methods can be useful, but a great coach doesn't use a lot of these methods. A great coach knows a lot of these methods yet rarely uses them. He or she only uses them when they're necessary to progress.
Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.