So you want to build muscle on a vegan diet?
Whether you recently saw a certain documentary, or was out of the blue, inspired to banish a few commonly interpreted “necessities” from your diet and go vegan or vegetarian…
Going plant based was a great choice.
No doubt about that. One of the most healthiest lifestyle decisions one can make.But something people tend to struggle with is building muscle on a plant based diet. It is NOT because the muscle building gods, one day decided if you choose not to consume meat, it would automatically be detrimental to building lean muscle mass.
Rather, its a training issue.
Individuals that struggle to build muscle may be training incorrectly. Which in result, they’re unable to build muscle, regardless of the fact of whether they choose to consume meat or not.
Your muscle building goals can accomplished when you adhere to a few simple but crucially important key principles of muscle building. Once you understand, accept and apply these key principles you will be well on way to building lean muscle mass on a vegan or vegetarian diet, where meat is absent.
Of course, I’m assuming you understand how important nutrition-diet is when it comes to achieving your fitness goals, so I’ll save that lecture for another time.
I want to share with you what I consider to be rather “unorthodox” to building muscle on a plant based diet. Why I say that is because, most fitness gurus, and experts when it comes to plant based fitness and muscle building only speak and share advice on the nutrition side of the spectrum.
Typically with a huge focus on a caloric surplus and high protein dieting. Which of course are important, but I often don’t hear any on the training component of the muscle building process.
Most trendy fitness magazines, popular bodybuilding websites, and other popular sites don’t put much emphasis on the important training components of muscle building. Which I would like to lay out for you to help you reach your muscle building goal on a no meat diet, vegan diet.
Who doesn’t want to feel fit, lean and strong, with the perfect amount of lean muscle?
Without further a do,
Here are the 5 key principles to Building Muscle on a Vegan Diet.
What is relative strength? How is it relevant in the muscle building process?
These are common questions asked when I am when the topic of muscle building is brought up. Relative strength is The amount of strength you have, in comparison to your body weight. Basically how strong you are, for your size.
As a general principle:
The better your relative strength, the better you will look.
So train like a warrior.
Most fitness enthusiasts I believe do understand that building relative strength and your level of strength has a direct correlation to how much muscle mass you carry.
In other words, Muscle is a by product of your Strength.
Tattoo this into your skull, and don’t forget it.
On a side note, If this is your first time hearing a statement like this, congratulations on stumbling upon the truth that most sneaky supplement companies and popular fitness-bodybuilding magazines try and cover up.
When individuals understand how tremendous of a role strength level plays in the muscle building process, popular supplement companies can not manipulate you on there next muscle building supplement or workout programs promising “xx muscle in 90 days!”
Although there are a few highly researched supplements out there that may be of value. The basics, such as supplementing protein powder if you struggle to meet your daily protein intake, Creatine which is heavily studied among athletes -weight lifters and B.C.A.A supplementation for fasted training sessions.
Even then, supplements mean very little for the muscle building goal, if your training isn’t focused on improving performance and building strength.
Anyways, supplement industry and mainstream fitness magazine workout fallacies are a topic for another article.
Since strength takes time to cultivate as you surpass the beginner stage and have a year of weight lifting under your belt, you must be patient in the muscle building process. Rather than frequent visits to the gym mirror to contemplate whether your muscles have gotten larger, focus on the process.
What do I mean by this? I mean what I said, focus on the process.
Come into every training session with an attitude of improving on at least one working set of your compound movements you’re performing. This can be in terms of jump in weight (2.5 – 5 lbs) to the bar, or simply adding a repetition to one of your working sets.
When you become laser focused on improving your performance on key compound movements every training session, you’re building strength on key compound movements over time. Based on what you have learned so far, what is the by product of your new found strength?
Rather than following long marathon type workouts from the back of that fitness magazine that mainly have you training for a pump in different angles, all of your training should be heavily focused on getting stronger at compound movements.
That should be your goal, if you wish to build muscle that is. Simple as that.
Although if you enjoy the temporary pump, and not interested in building muscle and getting stronger, feel free to focus on the pump, and hitting the muscle from different angles. Also don’t forget to feel the “tension.!” Can’t build muscle without good old “tension” can we?
On a serious note:
Training in higher rep ranges (8-15) and accessory exercises for a pump have there place in your training but should not be the primary component of your training.
Your whole training style, frequency, and volume should all be tweaked to ensure that you’re building strength on compound lifts and improving every training session.
If you’re following the golden rule above, you’re on the right path.
After sharing the statement above, i’m often hit with:
“But Andi, How is it possible to improve every training session? It doesn’t seem realistic!”
First off, don’t ever use the words “be realistic.”
If you catch yourself saying a combination of those words, either you’re scared to step slightly out of your comfort zone or you are simply finding an excuse not to do something, from a slight lack of self belief.
And yes, you can come into every training session and dramatically improve your compound lifts with a few changes to your training protocol.
Before I lay out how to do so..
If you’re not willing to step slightly out of your comfort zone, take action and try something new, the following methods are not for you.
Wisdom without action is simply useless. Always continue learning, while having the practical action step in place as well.
The way to structure your training to ensure you’re continuously building strength is to:
- Lower Training Volume
- Lower Training Frequency
- Increase Training Intensity
- Incorporate Reverse Pyramid Sets over Standard Pyramid Sets.
The above are the four pillars of strength and muscle building. Don’t just take these tips as a word from god, test it out for a few weeks and observe your strength.
1. Lower Training Volume
Training Volume – Is the overall number of sets, reps, and exercises you do per workout session
If you’re simply performing too many sets, reps, exercises per training session you will zap your recovery capabilities and be repellent to building muscle and strength. Do you want to be repellent to building strength?
Ditch the fitness magazine workouts, and perform no more than 5-6 exercises per training session.
The first 2-3 being compound exercises.
2. Lower Training Frequency
Training Frequency – Refers to how many days per week you train.
Like I said in the past, as a natural weightlifter not on performance enhancing drugs you cannot handle training 5-7 days per week.
It’s simply too taxing on the central nervous system (CNS).
Although if you’re very new to lifting weights and go to the gym everyday and get a pump and leave. Training 5-7 days per week will work for you.You will see progress, and this is most commonly called your “newbie gains phase.”
Our bodies simply grow when we progressively introduce resistance the body is currently not used to. Hence the concept of progressive overload. When someone has never lifted weights, picks them up, they will grow since the body wasn’t formally used to any training stimulus at all.
But this newbie gains phase quickly wares of after the first year of weight lifting, which is why it is crucial to continue getting stronger to ensure you continue your muscle building journey.
So, I recommend keeping training frequency to 4x per week at max, and training on non consecutive days.
To maximize recovery capabilities, and come into every training session, refreshed and ready to hit the weights hard with your full potential!
3. Increase Training Intensity
Training Intensity- Commonly refers to the effort an individual exerts on an exercise, relative to his or her maximal effort.
This is in relation to improving your strength every session. Incorporate reverse pyramid sets into your compound movements.
Reverse pyramid sets are when you perform your heaviest working set or your “top set” first when you’re fresh, followed by a 10% drop in total weight and performing 2 additional sets.
Verses standard pyramid sets where you start light and build up to your top set, and be burned out and fatigued by the time (Pyramid up) you get there. It’s crucial you incorporate a warm up, before you perform your top set first using the reverse pyramid training protocol.
Warm up for your heavy set, when incorporating reverse pyramid protocol:
60% of your first heavy working set for 5 reps, 75% first working set for 3 reps, and 90% of your first working set for 1 rep. Rest 3-4 minutes after your last warm up set and perform your heaviest set first, and drop the total weight 10% performing 2 additional sets.
Become laser focused on improvement in performance on those compound movements while incorporating the reverse pyramid training protocol.
To give you and example of how a training session would be set up:
- Compound movement (4-6) (6-8) (8-10) 3 RPT Sets
- Compound movement (4-6) (6-8) (8-10) 3 RPT Sets
- Compound movement (4-6) (6-8) (8-10) 3 RPT Sets
- Accessory movement x 4 (8-15) reps
- Accessory movement. x 4 (8-15) reps
RPT = Reverse Pyramid Training Sets.
The first 2-3 exercises in every training session are compound lifts using reverse pyramid training in the 4 – 10 rep range. First set being the heaviest, will be in the (4-6) rep range, followed by sets in the (6-8) and (8-10) rep ranges.. (dropping total weight 10% each set)
After the compound movements follow 2-3 accessory movements in a higher rep range of (8-15) reps.
The Vegan Spartan Muscle Building Program
For those of you who have been eagerly waiting on the release of my new Vegan Spartan Muscle Building Course, I am happy to say it’s finally finished.
This course includes the training and nutrition protocols that I have developed over the course of many years to building lean muscle strategically in a way that improves overall appearance.
With an end goal of reaching a physique that resembles a modern day warrior an with elite Spartan level of strength. I have followed nearly every muscle building plan and every variation of plant based diet and have tracked it down to a tee.
Over the years, I have worked with a multitude of clients incorporating different systems and protocols to get a wide variety of feedback. Overtime I have uncovered the most efficient way to set up training and nutrition that makes muscle and strength gains simple, enjoyable and incredibly effective.
Learn more about the Vegan Spartan Muscle Building Program