An Overview Of Minimalist Adaptive Training [Part 2]

May 9, 2016 | 4 Comments

muscle building minimalist

Note: This is Part 2 of 2 of my minimalist training article series. If you didn’t read Part 1 yet, be sure to read it here first. 

So in Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about the big minimalist training lie and how it only works for a certain group of people (primarily beginners) and how it’s one of the worst ways to help intermediate/advanced guys pack on more muscle and strength.

In this article, I’m going to cover my modified approach to minimalist training called Minimalist Adaptive Training (MAT).

What is Minimalist Adaptive Training (MAT)?

MAT is my approach to training (and one of the main pillars of the non-fitness lifestyle) that works no matter what your current goals or training experience is.

It’s like traditional minimalist training in the sense that there’s no useless exercises or crap in it, but at the same time it has the ability to mold and adapt itself (pun intended) to the user’s goals and lifestyle as the user gets more advanced.

With MAT, you’ll continue to progress, lose fat, and build muscle for years to come because its not a “set in stone” routine.

MAT isn’t one of those 30 day programs either; I don’t just give you a set routine that tells you to workout 3-5x per week and at the end of the 30 days you have no idea what the shit you’re going to do next.

Think of MAT as more of a template and set of guidelines more than anything else and as long as you apply these guidelines and templates, you’ll never have to question yourself about what workout you should do next.

MAT progression

great wall
The Great Wall of China wasn’t built overnight. Slowly but surely, it got built little by little. Same goes for workouts and your body – you slowly get stronger over time.

Progressive overload is the most important law in training.

With progressive overload you need to constantly get stronger over time to build more muscle and improve your physique.

If you’re benching 135 pounds for 5 reps, you’re not going to build any more muscle if you continue to bench 135 pounds for 5 reps over the next 6 weeks.

There are A LOT of different ways to progress in training, but the 2 most common (and most powerful) are to:

  1. Increase the weight (e.g. go up from 135 pounds to 145 pounds)
  2. Increase the amount of reps you’re lifting (e.g. lift 135 pounds for 6 reps)

Other methods to achieve progressive overload include:

  • Increasing training frequency (lifting 4x per week vs 3x per week)
  • Increasing relative strength (lifting more weight at the same bodyweight)
  • Using training styles such as drop sets, rest pause training, super sets, partial reps, forced reps, pause reps to further fatigue the muscle
  • Decreasing rest times between sets
  • Doing more work in the same amount of time (do 15 reps in 60 seconds vs 10 reps in 60 seconds)
  • Changing the rep tempo
  • Changing training styles (ex: straight sets, pyramid training, reverse pyramid training)
  • Lifting the weight faster (with more speed)

As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to progress in your workout, and which method you use largely depends on your current training and strength levels.

I’m going to break down which method is best depending on your current situation below.

Beginners: Focus on the basics, and please, slow the fuck down

Think of your progression like the Iron Man suits. You start off with the crappy suits made in a cave and upgrade over time. Hopefully these analogies make some sort of fucking sense.

You can’t go “balls to the walls” and train 6x per week as a beginner…you just can’t

You need to rewire your mindset and understand that you’re a beginner, a complete newbie.

I don’t say this to insult you, but to make you understand and save you years of frustration.

Want to get the fastest possible results? Then don’t train more than 3x per week, regardless if your goal is fat loss or building muscle.

Since your body isn’t used to the stimulus provided by weight lifting, that’s all you need.

[x_custom_headline type=”center” level=”h5″ looks_like=”h5″ accent=”true”]MAT Beginner Fundamentals[/x_custom_headline]

  • Train 2-3x per week.
  • Train 2x per week using a full body split if you have a lot of weight to lose (30+ pounds).
  • Train 3x per week if you only have 20 pounds or less to lose
  • Train 3x per week using a full body or upper lower split if you are trying to build muscle.
  • Beginners tend to lose fat and build muscle quite easily so this can mess up the scale since you’ll build muscle while losing fat. So pay more attention to the mirror than anything else.
  • Workouts should be within 10-16 working sets, closer to 10 if you’re trying to lose fat and 16 if you’re trying to build muscle.
  • Strength gains are fast and linear as a beginner. You will not gain strength any faster than when you’re a beginner.
  • Training style should primarily be straight sets. This means you lift the same weight for the same number of reps. Straight sets are typically done in a “range” (e.g. 4-6 reps).  This is how you progress on straight sets using the 4-6 rep range example:
  1. Pick a weight you can only lift for 4 reps
  2. Keep lifting it until you can lift that same weight for 6 reps.
  3. Once you hit 6 reps, increase the weight by the lowest possible increment(typically about 5 pounds).
  4. Repeat steps 1-2.
  • The only other training style I recommend for beginners are super sets.
  • Stay away from advanced rep schemes and training styles like as reverse pyramid training and rest pause training for now.
  • You should primarily lift in the 4-6 rep range for compound lifts like bench press, squats, and deadlifts. Accessory or secondary lifts should be done in the 8-12 rep range.
  • You are a beginner until you get at least 12 months of solid training under your belt.

Intermediates: Periodization and bumping volume up a bit


Graduating from a beginner to an intermediate is a big change.

You’re well past the newbie stages of training and you now have a solid base of muscle to work out of.

Maybe you’re even happy with the way you look now and have no desire to keep going forward. That’s totally fine. I’m not one of those guys who say you need to constantly keep building muscle and getting stronger. Do whatever makes you happy…

Anyways, as an intermediate, you need incorporate more periodization (which means you basically need to rotate and cycle around your training a lot more). This will help you smash through any strength and muscle building plateaus you experience as an intermediate lifter.

[x_custom_headline type=”center” level=”h5″ looks_like=”h5″ accent=”true”]MAT Intermediate Fundamentals[/x_custom_headline]

  • Train 3-5x per week with 3-4x per week being the sweet spot.
  • I find training 5x per week is largely unnecessary unless you enjoy it.
  • A more advanced full body or upper/lower split works best.
  • Total training volume should be between 16-20 working sets, closer to 16 if you’re training for fat loss and 20 if you’re building muscle.
  • Start using training methods such as reverse pyramid training, rest pause training, and drop sets to help blast through plateaus.
  • Remember, strength gains come A LOT slower than when you were a beginner. Don’t expect to bump up the weight you’re pushing every week like you were before. Aim for slow, consistent progression.
  • Rotate exercises every 6-8 weeks if you’re experiencing a plateau. For example, if you’ve been stalling on the flat bench press for a while, switch to flat dumbbell presses.
  • You can also rotate rep ranges every 6-8 weeks. If you’ve been performing a lift in the 4-6 rep range, start doing it in the 6-8 rep range. Or if you’ve been performing a lift in the 6-8 rep range, start doing it in the 8-10 or 10-12 rep range.
  • Throw in a bit more isolation work. As a beginner you primarily focused on big compound lifts because you had to build a solid foundation. Now you can focus a bit more on “fine tuning” your physique and doing more isolation work to bring up lagging body parts. But still try to make sure at least 70% of your workout are heavy compound lifts.

Advanced lifters: More work, more results, and slow ass gains

rock lift weights

You’re now at a stage very few people ever reach.

As an advanced lifter, strength and muscle gains come very very slow and you’ll have to do even more work than you did before.

Sound scary? Well maybe it does if you’re a beginner but most seasoned lifters understand the slow nature of progression when they’re at this stage and they love it.

[x_custom_headline type=”center” level=”h5″ looks_like=”h5″ accent=”true”]MAT Advanced Fundamentals[/x_custom_headline]

  • Train 4-6x per week. Sorry it’s time to leave the 3x per week routines behind. There’s simply not enough you can do with a 3x/week routine to spark muscle growth as an advanced lifter.
  • Train each muscle at least 2x per week. To spark more muscle growth, train it more often. How do you think pro athletes get extremely good at their sport? It’s not by reading articles on the fucking internet. They practice more and more as they get more advanced.
  • Body part specialization becomes a focus. By now, you should have an extremely solid base of muscle. Everything is pretty well developed but like most people, you probably have 1-2 muscles you feel are lagging. This is why you see a lot of advanced lifters “focusing” on a certain body part and they have good reason to. Give these extra attention while doing your best to just maintain your other muscles.
  • Gains come extremely slowly at this stage, don’t expect to gain more than 1 pound of lean muscle per month if you’re lucky.
  • Incorporate principles from all rep ranges (yes even 20+ rep range) and training styles.
  • While you typically do need to train with more sets and volume as an advanced lifter, it’s not all about “quantity.” Quality still wins in the end. You still need to lift with a high degree of intensity and really contract your muscles with every rep.

That’s MAT in a nutshell

So that’s MAT in a nutshell.

As you can tell, these are guidelines that a dependent on your current level of experience.

A good workout plan is never written in stone because so much of it is dependent on the individual’s unique traits and goals. That’s why you don’t hear me saying stuff like “Everyone needs to be benching 10 sets or 10 reps.”

That might work for certain people, that might be under training for others, and that might be overtraining for others.

The point is – you need to adapt your workout to your body and goals.

That’s my goal with Superhero Shredding 2.0, which will launch (hopefully) next month in September. If you get the original Superhero Shredding now, you will get 2.0 for free when it launches.

SS 2.0 will lay out not only what you need to do in terms of training, but also give you the framework and blueprint needed to adapt and customize it to your unique lifestyle.

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