‘Tis the season for gains. And by gains, I’m referencing the kind most people aren’t happy about.
Holiday weight gain.
Yep, it comes with the territory: more food, more indulgences, more alcohol and merriment = more calories consumed.
However, I wanted to offer you a different approach than simply doling out tips on how to avoid gaining any and all weight during the holidays … because the truth is? While you’re highly unlikely to gain tons of weight from a few meals, you’ll likely gain a pound or two. It’s not uncommon.
And it’s also not the end of the world.
In fact, if you think about it, those extra calories are now fuel. If you use them correctly, you can get some muscle gains out of this time!
Let’s make those holiday gains work for you.
Focus On Building A Foundation
As I mentioned, during the holidays it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to be consuming more calories. So, with that being said, instead of trying to frantically burn these off with more cardio or HIIT sessions, try using these calories to form a stronger muscular foundation.
In other words: use them for gains.
Whenever we’re trying to gain muscle, we up our calorie intake anyway. During the holidays, this results in a win-win: we get to enjoy ourselves and eat a little more, while promoting muscle growth.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should go hog wild and eat with wild abandon in the name of gains, because if you do that you’ll likely gain more fat than you imagined. What it does mean is, yes, enjoy those meals with your family, while structuring in a few heavier lifting days throughout the week for the next two months.
Focus also on adding in larger compound movements, like your deadlift, bench press, heavy squats, etc … to maximize testosterone output. Keep the reps low, and remember: you should be giving 75-85% of what you have to push out those remaining two reps.
Once you start going heavier, your body is going to utilize those extra calories for growth and repair, which is much more productive than simply trying to burn them off. This way, in January or the start of Spring, you can start shredding to reveal those new formations!
Focus On Your Weaknesses
Great advice, right?
In all seriousness, now is the time to focus on areas you might want to build out on your body (aka: your “weak areas”). Regardless if it’s glutes, biceps, back, etc … think of dedicating those extra calories and nutrients to building this area.
This is also a great mindset shift to employ in all types of situations: focus on what you can build, instead of engaging in excessive worrying.
To maximize build, try to get in some strong eccentric movements as well. Eccentric is basically a fancy term for lowering a weight slowly and with control.
There are two types of muscle contractions: concentric and eccentric. We tend to focus on the concentric type, which is the contraction (think of when you do a bicep curl – the curl is the contraction phase on the lift). However, there are huge benefits to tuning into the eccentric, or lengthening phase of lifts (the phase where you lower the weight during a bicep curl). In fact, studies show that eccentric training can actually be more effective for muscle growth than focusing on concentric training alone.
When we control the lengthening phase of lifts, we recruit even more muscle fibers that are typically untouched. After all, we tend to let the weight “fall” during lifts, and focus on the contraction. When we don’t let momentum take over and lower slowly, we engage fibers we’ve never engaged before. And as we know: more engagement equals improved gains.
To give an example of how to use eccentric movements, let’s take a weighted squat: focus on lowering into the squat slowly and with control, instead of simply dropping and putting all of your effort into pushing up.
Alternatively, if you’re doing pull-ups, focus on lowering slowly from the bar. Trust me, a few of those and you’ll know why this type of training is so effective.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that this approach not only benefits your gains, but also your stress levels and mindset. The holidays can be insanely stressful if your focus is on restriction and trying to burn off extra calories. My advice is to be mindful, but enjoy yourself, and focus on the build!
• Use this time of increased calories to build muscle
• Focus on eccentric movements to build out “weak”areas
• Don’t stress your body by overdoing HIIT exercises or cardio, which will likely backfire