Kris Gethin’s 7 Unbreakable Rules of Muscle Growth
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A few years back, Kris Gethin was a dedicated bodybuilder. Today, the founder of Kaged Muscle supplements is still that—and a whole lot more.
In the last couple of years, Gethin has diversified his fitness resume to include both an Ironman and an Ultramarathon, all while keeping up his customary intensity in the gym day in and day out. Gethin is proving to meatheads everywhere that being a one-dimensional animal in the weight room just isn’t hardcore enough. The real definition of hardcore? Embracing a relentless chase of improvement in every area of life.
If you’re one of the millions who has experienced Gethin’s mentorship in his iconic programs like the 12-Week Hardcore Video Trainer or the 12-Week Muscle-Building Trainer, you know that how Kris trains and how he lives are two inseparable parts of the same project. Here’s how to prioritize your training and lifestyle to keep growing in the gym and out.
1. Overcome Plateaus with Intensity, Not Just Volume
You can’t throw a shaker bottle in the weight room without hitting someone living and dying by 3 sets of 10-12 on pretty much every movement. (Note: Please don’t throw shaker bottles in the weight room.) That classic set-and-rep scheme is popular for a reason, of course: It allows you to efficiently move from station to station, machine to machine, feeling a little burn and watching the weights climb.
At least for a while. When the weight increases stop, many lifters just try to overcome this “plateau” by doing more sets of more movements. In his popular article “Kris Gethin’s 4 Essential Intensity Booster Techniques for More Muscle,” he says a better way is to try to get more out of each movement that you do. That means trying techniques like:
- Giant sets
- Forced reps
“If [these techniques] have a unifying theme, it’s shortening rest periods, hitting high repetitions instead of low reps, and taking my body—and yours—out of the comfort zone,” Kris says.
Yes, this will almost always make you have to drop the weight, and experience more discomfort in your nice little workout. Only outside of that comfort zone will you revive progress in a stagnant physique.
2. But Sometimes, Drown Your Muscles in Volume
The most legendary Gethin workouts have one thing in common: They burn like nothing you’ve ever thought you’d willingly subject yourself to. As the lactate pools in your muscles, you find yourself cursing Kris, cursing yourself, and pushing through every attempt your body makes to stop for rest.
Sound fun? It really is. Especially for shoulders.
Gethin challenges you to match him and Dr. Kaleb Redden rep-for-rep, set-for-set, and sweat-for-sweat in this crazy high-volume shoulder workout. “If you can’t drink your In-Kaged or you can’t pick your nose at the end of the workout, you know you’re on the right track,” he says.
3. Bulk with Food, Not Trash
When you’re a few weeks—heck, a few days—into a Gethin-designed battleground like the 12-Week Muscle-Building Trainer or the 8-Week Hardcore Trainer, your body generally starts sending an undeniable message: Feed me!
You can answer that call one of two ways: in the drive-through, or in the grocery store and kitchen. For Kris, that choice is where the diehards get separated from the pretenders.
Building muscle requires more food than the norm—that much isn’t in doubt. But Gethin is a proponent for quality calories, not spending money on foods that will get you mediocre results. No, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, in his article “4 Essential Foods for Budget Bulking,” he cuts through the confusion and spoon-feeds you truth about how to grow muscle with foods like:
- Rice cakes
- Canned fish
- Dried fruit and nuts
Yes, these foods are more than up to the task of helping you add muscle, without shrinking your bank account.
4. Live a High-Testosterone Lifestyle
Nothing will tank your results in the gym like tanked testosterone levels. But raising them—or keeping them at healthy levels—isn’t just a question of finding the right hack. It’s about gearing your choices throughout the day toward the singular goal of maximizing testosterone. This includes every aspect of the fit life, including:
- Exercise selection
- Workout duration and scheduling
- Macronutrient distribution
- Alcohol intake and other vices
- Sleep quality and quantity
- Stress and cortisol levels
This is the big stuff that’s masquerading as little stuff. Keep a pen in hand—you’re going to want to take notes on this one—and follow Kris’ tips in “16 Ways to Boost Your Testosterone.” It’s a goldmine of nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle, and training tips to keep the king of muscle-building hormones on the throne.
5. Don’t Skip Cardio, Diversify It
Cardio isn’t something that Kris only recently came around on. He’s been advocating it daily or even twice a day since the classic 12-Week Hardcore Video Trainer, and living by example ever since. For health, body composition, gym results, and even for things like sleep quality and digestion, he swears that 30-45 minutes per day of moderate-intensity sweating can’t be beat.
However, the ways that Kris gets his sweat have changed dramatically. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find him on a bike or trail than plugging away on a treadmill. Part of this is because he has broadened his athletic goals to include things such as distance triathlons and ultramarathons. But another part is because these activities can actually help him be a better lifter—seriously!
“There are so many benefits to endurance running that it’s a shame so many of my iron brethren don’t experience them,” Kris writes in “What Every Bodybuilder Needs to Know about Running.” “I just want bodybuilders to understand that they can experience so much more, and still be a bodybuilder.”
The same goes for cycling, as he explains in the article “What Every Bodybuilder Needs to Know About Cycling.” But be warned: In both activities, planning and technique are every bit as important as they are in the weight room.
“Your size can quickly begin to work against you, unless you have the right approach,” Kris says.
Learn from Kris’ research—and mistakes along the way—and follow the path toward “hybrid athletics” he outlines in the inspiring video series “Man of Iron.”
6. Pay For Your Holiday Sins
Most of the time, building muscle and burning fat are about doing solid work in the gym and making great nutritional decisions when nobody is watching. But sometimes, a little excess is inevitable. Kris gets it. But don’t expect any sympathy.
“Here’s my philosophy: If you’re going to splurge over the holidays, then you need to burn to pay for your sins,” Kris says.
And no, that “burn” doesn’t consist of a few sets of curls and presses. Check out Kris’ “25-Minute Holiday Damage Control Workout,” and you’ll see it means legs. And you can’t use the “I’m out of town” excuse because it’s all body weight and doable from grandma’s living room.
Bookmark that workout. Fear it. But do it.
7. Use Every Tool at Your Disposal
Gallons of virtual ink of have been spilt debating the virtues of dumbbell bench press versus barbell, machine flyes versus cable flyes, EZ-bar preacher curls versus… you get it. So here’s the deal. They all work in their own way, and over the course of a long relationship with the weight room, you can and should use them all—and plenty of other implements that you never imagined, too.
Kris brings this point home by repurposing machines daily and making them work for, well, whatever muscle group he wants. As a lifter who lives and dies on the mind-muscle connection, he knows that if it feels right, it will work. Period. A few of his favorites include:
- Bent-over rows on a shoulder press machine
- Decline chest press on the leg curl machine
- Triceps push-downs on the platform of an assisted chin-up machine
- High cable curls on the lat pull-down station