Shrugged Collective

The Keys to Getting Bigger, Stronger and Better at the Olympic Lifts Part 2 – Muscle Gain Challenge

In part 1 of this series, we shared some tips on how you can get bigger, stronger and better at the Olympic lifts.

In one year, current Barbell Shrugged Coach Kurt Mullican moved up from 128-pounds bodyweight to about 160-pounds. He has also added over 100-pounds to his back squat, which has improved his performance in just about every movement. All it took was committing to a focused strength program, and putting some new habits and behaviors in place.

If you missed it, make sure to go back and watch video 1 if you haven’t already. Many of the points made are fundamental and essential if you want to grow stronger and perform at your best. In part 2 we’re going to focus on the specific changes Kurt had to make, not only to gain over 30-pounds of solid mass, but also to become a national-level Weightlifter.

Get ready to take some notes. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do it too, if you’re willing to make the same changes.

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1. Try committing fully to Weightlifting. 

If you want to see big improvements in your lifting ability, you must commit to becoming a better Weightlifter. Make it your primary training objective.

You can still condition and perform WODs, just as long as you understand that your job, first and foremost, is to move heavy barbells. Just to give you an example, as a 128-pound dude, Kurt was spending at least 4-days a week busting his ass doing Crossfit stuff.

He did plenty of barbell work, but admittedly, most of it was with lighter metcon loads. Only 2 days a week were actually devoted to strength work. This all changed once Kurt joined our Muscle Gain Challenge. Now, an hour of focused strength work per day is routine.

That’s a huge shift in training focus, and it has certainly showed in the results. Kurt didn’t get fat, he didn’t lose any conditioning, really. And of course, his strength went through the roof. That’s huge.


2. Forget the kipping for a while.

Focusing too hard and for too long on hard conditioning will keep you from developing a proper foundation of muscle and strength.

Likewise, if you rush your progress on gymnastics movements so that you can start kipping and butterflying as quickly as possible, you will never develop the core musculature and body control required to achieve mastery in the pull-up. Also, you are almost guaranteed to experience injury and regression in the future.

Take the time to focus on strict pull-ups, handstand push-ups, ring dips, etc. You will perform much better, but you will also start to look much stronger too. There will be plenty of time for kipping later on.


3. Train hard, but fuel and recover HARDER!

Everyone tends to focus primarily on the training when the switch into a strength building phase. But this is only half of the battle, so to speak.

Learning how to eat properly and time meals is huge. You have to put just as much effort in here as you do with the barbells. Prepare your meals ahead of time (the Crock Pot is your best friend!). Fill your fridge with tupperware containers of meat, rice, eggs, you name it. There are no secrets, you just need to eat.

If you get nothing else right, do this…

  • Drink a protein shake while you train that includes some decent carbohydrates. You’ll be surprised by how much stronger you feel, and how much batter you train.
  • Right after your WOD, pull out a handy-dandy tupperware meal rich in protein and high-quality carbs and eat up. It’s no exaggeration, that might make you feel like you’re fully recover in half the time!
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. On days you really train hard, go for 9. I know you feel like Superman after 5-6 hours, but you are wrong! 8 is about 100% better.
  • No amount of supplements can replace poor diet and recovery.  They are nothing without real food. BCAA’s are great, sure, but it’s still just a little pile of powder in your shaker bottle. It’s nothing like a plate of steak with sweet potatoes and a tall glass of whole milk on the side. That’s real food!


4. Don’t skip the conditioning!

If you want to get bigger, stronger and better in the gym you have to focus on strength for a while. But that doesn’t mean that you should skip your conditioning work and get fat, far from it.

You should still WOD pretty damn hard. The only difference will be that you should include some movements that build work capacity AND support strength grains. You can still do thrusters and double-unders, but you should also include plenty of barbell rows, dumbbell and kettlebell presses, lunges, all that. Also, when gymnastics movements are at play, remember, keep them strict. That’ll only make it harder and more effective anyway.

Trust us, when you’re ready to return your focus to progressive metcon work later on down the road, your conditioning will fall right into place. The added strength, muscle mass and body control will only allow you to see new records on the whiteboard.

You will not die during Fran. Hell, Kurt managed to shave about 2-minutes off his old time, all because he came into it so much stronger. That makes sense. When you move your clean up 100 pounds over bodyweight, a 95-pound thruster just doesn’t feel as heavy as it used to feel, you know?

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5. Finally, don’t sweat the fluctuations.

Your goal should be to gain about 1 pound per week. Now, that said, you definitely WILL NOT hit that week in and week out, it’s impossible.

Weigh yourself daily, same time, same place, and record the numbers. One thing you’ll notice is that your weight will fluctuate 2-5 pounds or so during the course of a day, or between days. No, you won’t always follow a straight line of forward progression, but that’s not realistic to begin with.

Shoot for that magic 1-pound per week number, but track the overall trend week to week, month to month. If you start falling behind, just add more calories and recovery time. What you’ll soon notice is exactly what Kurt noticed – Cumulative weekly progress is very powerful. In this case he changed his body and life forever, just 1-pound of progress at a time.



Check it, we’ve got a 100% free, 100% awesome strength eBook for you.

Got questions for us?

We know we didn’t get to everything you might want to know. So, just leave a question in the comments below. We’d love to help you train better and get stronger.

Happy gains,

The Barbell Shrugged Team

Mike Bledsoe

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