Bachelor of Stress: With a Major in Minor Things.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with training, and in life, is to worry about useless-ass trivial things. When I used to be a “pro” bodybuilder (in my parents’ basement), my regime was more complicated than trying to understand why they made 13 movies of Land Before Time. The first one was just fine. Each one just got progressively weirder.

Tinysaurus??? Are you serious????

Here are some of the things I was obsessed with:

  • Did I take all 27 of my individual supplements? Did I take the pre-workout, during workout, post-workout, test booster, BCAAs, multivitamins, sleep muscle enhancer, vasculizer and pulmonizer?
  • Was I making sure to train each part of each muscle using every exercise variation possible? I need to blast each sarcomere until the cell is ruptured and spilling cytoplasm all over my innards.
  • Are my inner pecs developing to the fullest?
  • Was I eating 8 meals a day in the correct macronutrient ranges? Need to be anabolic at all times.
  • Was I resting enough? God forbid I partake in a pickup volleyball game … I don’t want to leave my anabolic state …

Just thinking about my old life makes me stressed out. How do I still have friends?? (Well I have a car so that helps …)

I made the same mistake with everything I’ve ever done. Sports, careers, girls and different skills. Then I read about Pareto’s principle, where you get 80% of the results from 20% of the effort. It took me a while to understand it, but when I did a light when off. The other thing that really helped me was reading Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline’s Easy Strength. It opened my eyes. It’s possible to get a kickass physique without hating life.

Focusing on so many different variables takes up so much space in your brain and produces more stress than any positive effect. As soon as I missed one of those things, the stress started to pour in, which produced negative chemicals in my body. I realized what’s the point of looking good and being strong if you’re not happy, and all you do is workout and eat supplements? This was not fulfilling for me.

The cool thing is, the less I focused on it, the better my results were. When you only focus on the important things your brain is only worrying about the stuff that matters, and you start doing those key things better because of that focus. Your thoughts aren’t spread thin. (This may or may not be scientifically proven—this is my heart talking).

So what is the 20% of building muscle that will give you 80% of the results?

For mass training, you need to do two things:

1. Eat a surplus of calories

2. Progressively overload your muscles with compound lifts. Get really strong at the squat, deadlift, bench press, chin up, row, military press.

This makes it easy to filter out the unecessary.

When you’re considering adding complexity to your routine try to think of the big picture result it will have. Think of your return on investment (ROI). Really think. Is it important? Or is it trivial?

For example, the typical question when starting a bulking program:

“What supplements should I get?”

Answer: Depends on your situation. Take 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1: Billy-Jean is the classic skinny ectomozorph. He’s starting a bulking plan, has never eaten over 2000 calories a day and pops this question.

This is truly a trivial thing. All he needs to worry about is getting his calories high enough and learning how to squat and deadlift.

Scenario 2: Jacob The Werewolf is a pretty muscular 200lb Werewolf, who eats a lot of flesh and trains pretty ferociously. He is trying to push his limit so that he can finally defeat a vampire and get the vixen of his dreams.

Now we’re talking! This would be a good time to increase his creatine intake, take some BCAA’s during training, and inject a couple cc’s of unicorn blood. He’s at a more advanced level, so he can benefit from more advanced protocols. However, most of his results will still be the result of his classic routine of fighting vampires and eating lots of meat.

It’s the exact same with a training plan. If you’re 150lbs, all you need to worry about is eating more food and learning and perfecting  the big lifts until you gain at least 30lbs. You might notice that the result of keeping it simple is that you’ll finally gain 30 pounds.

So what’s more beneficial for building muscle?

4000 calories of whole food filled with healthy protein, carbs, fats and vitamins?

Or 10g of Charmander Muscle Fire 6000?

When you are a beginner, pay attention to the fundamentals of hearty training, and when you’re advanced (aka squat more than 2x bodyweight lower than 2 inches) then worry about advanced protocols.

To recap, when you’re worrying about something, try to decide if it is worth your time and energy. Will it actually affect you noticeably?

Is it truly important?

Let’s start a discussion on what is important and unimportant for mass training or anything! Leave your comments below!

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How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before


  1. Doug Smith on August 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Good post.. I’ve been looking into ectomorph-type workouts for almost 7 years now and am curious as to how you’ve settled on your protocol. I’ve enjoyed your posts and references to studies. It seems like some of the info is parallel to a lot of what I’ve learned from other programs and ectomorph workout buffs, but there are a few key differences in your advice (such as avoiding split-workouts and total failure lifts). Before coming up with your current protocol had you looked into any of the advice from Stuart McRobert (Beyond Brawn), Jeff Anderson (Hardgainer Project X), or Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Body)? If so, how did you decide on which elements to keep and which to discard? Was it through trail and error or additional research that brought new findings to light? I’m looking into starting a new program but am having a hard time deciding which of the protocols to follow… should I research more.. or figure it out through trial and error? I really resonate with the 80/20 rule as I’ve totally gotten stuck in the details with other programs (which resulted in my frustration and dropping them). Both your program and Tim Ferriss’s put a big emphasis on Pareto’s law so I’ll probably end up going with one of these protocols and seeing what happens.

    • Shane Duquette on August 5, 2012 at 2:51 am

      Hey Doug, good question.

      New research is always coming to light, and we’re really passionate about staying on top of it! B2Beast is a constantly evolving program, and we try to base everything on three things: whether the research supports it, whether we’ve found it works for us personally, and whether it works for our members. As for our influences, when it comes to the training it’s actually from the top athletic sports performance experts, a couple of whom Marco knows: Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, Mike Roberts, etc. Bodybuilding is fascinating, but we’re all about building beastly physiques that perform great and then reflect that performance and strength aesthetically. I wouldn’t really call B2Beast a bodybuilding program.

      We’re all huge fans of Tim Ferriss here so when our pre-ordered signed 4HB books arrived we eagerly experimented with Occam’s Protocol, his muscle-building plan. These photos were taken 4 weeks apart. After those four weeks we found we were getting better muscle size results with strength training, and besides, the three of us are big into alignment, strength and performance—which wasn’t a component of Occam’s Protocol. I suspect there’s a very good practical application for it, but personally wasn’t for us.

      I actually still find it interesting and confusing. The strange thing is that slow lifting performs really really poorly in studies when compared with strength or hypertrophy training. Our experience aligns with that. Slow lifting only seems to perform well when contrasted against aerobics, and it’s mainly used for old or injured people.

      Beyond Brawn calls itself a bodybuilding encyclopedia. While it might not be an example of 80/20 training I have heard that it’s a really good book, and it’s on my list of books to read.

      The most important thing is getting started with a program and sticking with it! How easy a program is to follow is obviously a big factor there, so I know what you mean. We’re big believers in efficiency, results and getting creative in order to make the process enjoyable and as easy as possible. Living the beastly lifestyle should be fun, right?

  2. Doug Smith on August 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the reply. I’m thinking I’ll start with the 4 weeks of Occam’s Protocol and see what kind of results I get. Assuming I don’t gain 34 lbs of muscle : ) I’ll then look into the B2Beast program. Thanks!

    • Shane Duquette on August 5, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      Right on man I hope you enjoy it. Let us know how it goes!

      Be sure to take before and after shots!

  3. Dude on October 2, 2012 at 4:26 am

    can you elaborate on the 20 80 rule?

  4. Galev on July 16, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Thought I’d go and read one of the earlier articles. And what a good decision it was! I just watched some alluring ad of yet an other gain all the muscle super fast as presented by a literal top model. Hey it kinda seemed legit at first. And one his tips were to “be anabolic all the time” aka eat smaller meals more frequently. And generally speaking it is probably not bad advice, but this article helped me see some perspective and not stress too much about arcane secret techniques.
    (love the example with the werewolf btw XD)

    • Shane Duquette on July 26, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      Glad you dug it, Galev!

      Yes, eating more frequently can help with building muscle, at least up to a point. When you consume enough protein (20+ grams is a good amount), you’ll cause your body to go into muscle-building “anabolic” mode. Scientists call this “stimulating muscle-protein synthesis.” When your body returns to normal a few hours later, you can do it again. So technically the optimal number of meals to eat per day for maximal muscle growth is 4 or 5, all equally spaced, and all containing at least 20 grams of protein.

      …But this isn’t near the top of the priority list. First focus on eating enough calories to gain weight, lifting enough weight to stimulate muscle growth, and eating enough protein to construct the muscle with (about 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight per day). Leave the meal timing stuff for later. You may even get such great progress without it that you never get to the point where you worry about it. So yeah, definitely don’t stress about this stuff 🙂

      (I would say to avoid more radical meal timing stuff in the opposite direction, though, like intermittent fasting. If you’re eating just 1–2 meals per day and they’re fairly close to one another, you’re only going to stimulate muscle protein synthesis once or twice per day. Not ideal.)

      Good luck, man!

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