Author: Austin Stout

A passionate physique and performance coach making waves in the industry, Austin Stout first turned his attention to bodybuilding when training alongside his school’s varsity wrestling program. Since then, he has went on to compete extensively in the sport, winning numerous shows and earning widespread recognition in his native state of Ohio for his unique training methods, attention to detail and immense devotion to the sport.

Napping: Short or Long?

Posted By Austin Stout on January 8, 2019

It’s well documented that sleep is a crucial factor in performance, body composition and overall health. Sometimes our sleep is not always sufficient, and we want to get more from our recovery efforts. Naps compliment or normal sleep schedule and have some unique benefits.

Ability to nap depends not only on a person’s schedule but their needs as well. For some a short 5-15 min nap is extremely beneficial and for others a longer 30+ min is better. Research has shown us that different lengths of napping have different benefits. More is not always better. Naps as short as 5-10 minutes can provide a cognitive boost. Not everyone has the ability to lay down for a 30+ minute nap during the day. However, these short power naps are easy to do anywhere. At your desk, in your car, in the break room etc. You don’t have to have a couch or bed to take advantage of short naps.

One study states that “The benefits of brief (5–15 min) naps are almost immediate after the nap and last a limited period (1–3 h). Longer naps (>30 min) can produce impairment from sleep inertia for a short period after waking but then produce improved cognitive performance for a longer period (up to many hours) (Lovato & Lack 2010).” I find this to be pretty accurate from my personal experience. Once I start going much past the 30 minute mark, there seems to be some lag time in the positive impact after waking.

Napping is also relaxing in nature of course. Any type of relaxation is likely to help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. Naps can be a great way to lower sympathetic drive during the day as well. If you are someone that is very sympathetically driven, then breaking up your day with a short nap to take the edge off can be beneficial.

A common concern with napping is that it will disrupt normally nightly sleep patterns. A study from Harvard Health found the following. “Participants found it harder to adhere to the two-hour nap schedule, but neither long naps nor short naps disrupted nighttime sleep or led to daytime sleepiness. Napping increased the time spent in slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, which are thought to play important roles in restoring the body and brain. Whether they took long naps or short naps, participants showed significant improvement on three of the four tests in the study’s cognitive-assessment battery (Harvard Health Publishing 2011).”

Timing of naps may play into this. It seems from the research the early afternoon naps are the best in terms of effectiveness and not disrupting normal sleep patterns. However, this will usually boil down to the person schedule. If you are worried about napping disrupting nighttime sleep patterns, then I would suggest starting with shorter naps further away from bed time if possible.
If you are considering adding naps into your day to enhance your recovery game, then this may help you decide if short or long naps are right for now. Of course, any nap is probably better than no nap for most people so don’t think those super short power naps are a waste of time. They are usually going to add much more productivity and positivity into your day when its all said and done.

Harvard Health Publishing. “The Benefits of Napping.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 2011, www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-benefits-of-napping.
Lovato, N, and L Lack. “The Effects of Napping on Cognitive Functioning.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21075238?fbclid=IwAR0wjuZkMQM0pLdfa6xet4WC7XxL3K2cTksHxPX569rQzsOoKxu5tKmKBFY.

The Importance of Holding Phases: Letting the Gains Marinate! with Austin Stout

Posted By Austin Stout on November 1, 2018

Austin Stout - Letting The Gains Marinate

The body is constantly trying to remain in a state of homeostasis. In fact, the feedback loops within and between or body systems are designed to maintain balance. From a mechanistic standpoint, gaining larger amounts of muscle or losing large amounts of fat isn’t a priority to our body.  This is where the term “set points” comes into play. These set points can be our friend. Constantly pushing bodyweight up or down without holding phases isn’t always the best way to achieve lasting progress.

Where might these phases come into play?

There are two main instances where these phases are especially important. First is after a large growth phase before attempting to drop bodyfat. Take contest prep for example. You just had a very successful offseason and you want to compete again. Your weight has been climbing for the last several months. Should you jump right into prep or should you hold your current bodyweight for a bit before doing so. In most cases, holding at the high weight set point is a great idea before dropping calories. Even if its just for a few weeks to a month.

Scenario two would be the opposite end of the spectrum. You have just lost a lot of bodyfat and you want to keep it off long term. Inevitably, you can’t stay at the low caloric intake forever, you will need to build up to avoid severe metabolic adaptions. However, holding that low set point or at least close to it, before raising calories is helpful. In most cases, the person is even able to very slowly add in some calories while holding that set point. On paper this sounds like a very slow reverse diet, which isn’t beneficial to most folks. However, in a case where someone has just lost large amounts of fat these holding periods are helpful. This isn’t so much applied to post show as it is to someone who wants to attempt to hold a leaner physique long term.

These holding phases can be especially important for enhanced individuals. The last thing you want to do is complete a growth phase in a high hormone environment then drop the hormones down while pulling calories at the same time. Let hormones stabilize and REMAIN stable for a sufficient amount of time before attempting to drop fat.

Holding phases can come into play during other periods as well. Though the scenarios above tend to be the most common.

There are times when it is perfectly fine to remain at the same body weight. In the long run, you CAN get better that way. Its not always a matter of having to constantly push up or push down in weight. There are certainly instances where letting the gains marinate matters!

Without this you may very well find yourself not retaining the progress you worked hard to attain. A holding phase isn’t stagnations, it’s solidification!

Peak Week Secrets with Renowned Bodybuilding Coach Austin Stout

Posted By Austin Stout on September 18, 2018

Renowned bodybuilding coach Austin Stout shares some of his favourite peak week secrets with our loyal reader, drawing on massive experience in prepping athletes for the sport he loves.

1) Best advice for peak week?

DON’T STRESS! At this point, the amount of fat you are going to lose before show time is minimal. De-stressing and clearing inflammation should be a top priority. Aside from filling out a flat physique, clearing inflammation is a huge factor in enhancing your look.

You should know how your body responds to carbohydrate and/or fats by now, so a loading strategy should be nailed down. If not, then always play it safe. You are better off being conservative and coming in 80-90% peaked rather than trying to pull some voodoo magic and butchering your physique.

Also, if you don’t understand how to manipulate macros, electrolytes and fluids, hire someone! There are so many misconceptions and common mistakes that I see constantly when it comes to manipulating variables. Anything from dropping water days out, dropping sodium, dangerous diuretic practices, its all a recipe for disaster. Its not worth ruining your prep efforts over a couple days of mistakes before the show.

2) What stage out should you start your prep?

It seems like there are these time frames within the industry that most people think are standard. You know, 12 weeks, 16 weeks etc. The truth is it really depends. For many competitors, I don’t like to set a time frame in prep. Start leaning out and when we are within striking distance, choose a show. For those doing national level or pro level shows, that may not be an option of course since there are only so many shows.

Even if someone is losing 1+ lbs. per week, its hard to predict the weeks because that never accounts for any obstacles. If I am going to set a number of weeks, I like to look at the approximate amount of fat that needs lost, set the pace at 1-1.5lbs per week then tack on a couple extra weeks to the total just to be safe. Its REALLY hard to be ready too early for 99% of people. Id rather have someone ready early and have to hold it for a week or two than be rushing to finish the job close to stage time.

3) What key strategies do you use to give your clients an edge on the competition?

Going back to question 1, don’t stress! You must be confident in your plan and know even through those times that are mentally challenging that the plan is working in the background. Afterall, that is part of the reason people hire a coach in the first place.

I also like to explain what’s happening with a person’s body when needed to reassure them everything is going well. For example, maybe their weight spiked up out of nowhere or they feel off one day. Its important to have good feedback from client to coach but then also in return from coach to client. That way I can tell the person WHY something is happening, and they know its normal or at least fixable.

I also like to have the right attitude toward the show. We always want to be our best but at the end of the day, this is a competition. Let’s not do it just to do it. Let’s do it to win or at least strive to.

Lastly, I of course want to give the clients the best chance of success. This includes a proper starting point for prep in terms of their metabolic/hormonal health, mindset, finances etc. I want to make sure they have enough time in the prep and have the best guidance possible in terms of nutrition, supplementation, training and mindset. I think some folks fall to encompass the whole scope of what goes into making someone their best.

Muscle Growth Tips with Coach Austin Stout

Posted By Austin Stout on September 4, 2018

In this series of Q & A’s, we tap into the knowledge base of some of the most respected and knowledgeable heads in the industry, this episode with Project AD coach – Austin Stout, drawing on massive experience in prepping athletes for the sport he loves.

Is it best to vary rep ranges when training solely for hypertrophy/muscle gain, or is there a sweet spot bodybuilders should generally stick to?

You will see a lot of debate on this in the community but its mostly hear say based on preference. When we look at the actual literature on the topic, it really doesn’t matter much. The “effective” range for hypertrophy is pretty broad. We can progress in the mid-single digits clear up to the 20+ range.

One factor to consider here though is intensity. Regardless of the rep range, the literature shows that we need to meet a minimal intensity threshold. Even then, the intensity range varied a lot. There were still pretty similar results in the 30% of max load range compared to much higher.

At the end of the day, where the person feels best and performs best is probably best. We know that progressive overload is also important. Progressively overloading on a regular basis in the 15+ rep range might be a pretty daunting task. Knowing you must try to crush PR sets of 15 on squats is enough to psych anyone out. Others may love it though. Bottom line is it doesn’t matter much. I prefer to see a wide range of rep counts used in a program depending on the exercise and context.

What is the optimal training frequency for muscle growth?

This is much like the topic of rep ranges in that it doesn’t really matter much. Some newer research may point toward slightly higher frequency but at the end of the day it depends heavily on volume. A person needs to complete the amount of volume required to progress. How they spread it out in terms of frequency isn’t really important.

In general, I feel people recovery better and have more productive training sessions with a bit less volume per body part per session spread into higher frequency but that’s not across the board. Some do perfectly fine with the traditional “bro split” spreading volume per body part over 1 day each week. Body parts that are lagging and need more attention may play into frequency set up as well.

Training twice per day: are there any circumstances where you would advise this for muscle growth if somebody has the time?

Its possible sure, just not going to be doable for most. Time would be part of the concern, but the recovery equation is main concern. Now if we go back to the frequency question, you can see how 2x per day could work. If you are still hitting the correct volume, you could certainly spread it out over 2x per day sessions. The person may simply be able to get themselves more mentally in tune for shorter sessions. On the other hand, hammering the nervous system 2x per day could really run them down quickly.

I have used a 2 x per day scheme with a few people over the years but its usually short terms. It’s usually intentionally periodizing overreaching due to their schedule. For example, I have worked with some people that will do things like work 10 days on then 10 days off and repeat. Or they have very heavy seasons at work and seasons where they are hardly working at all. I will intentionally periodize really demanding training blocks during the light times and 2 x per day sessions could very well be part of that. Then during the heavy workloads, I will have them back off training drastically since they are already under higher stress.

Conclusion

Armed with your new knowledge, go out and attack progress like never before! Austin is one of the most respected in the game, so take the time to assimilate his info and go and apply it to your own training and nutritional regime to get results.

Muscle Hacking & Contest Prep Advice from Renowned Bodybuilding Coach Austin Stout

Posted By Austin Stout on August 29, 2018

Renowned bodybuilding coach Austin Stout shares some of his favourite contest prep secrets with our loyal reader, drawing on massive experience in prepping athletes for the sport he loves.

1)   What is the ideal amount of time for a contest prep?

Ideally I like the idea of no time frames. This allows the person to prep at a pace that is right for their body/situation. However, not everyone will have this luxury if they are competing at the national or pro levels since there are limited shows.

In general, the longer the better in case unforeseen obstacles arise that set things back. This will all depend on the body comp starting point for that person. If they are someone that does well losing .5-1.5lbs per week then estimate the amount of fat and base it that way. For good measure, tack on a couple extra weeks for cushion. I would much rather be able to dial things in smoothly without stress at the end rather than rush it to the last minute.

A long prep may even allow for things like reset weeks to bring calories up and improve metabolic health before getting back into a deficit.

The takeaway is that more time tends to allow wiggle room for any circumstance and take the psychological stress of the “gun to the head” approach off the person. Unless of course they thrive on that.

2)   When should somebody introduce cardio into contest prep?

First off, I feel that it’s important to understand what type of deficit the person responds best too. On paper someone can create the same deficit through either nutrition, cardio or a combination of both. In a perfect world, it would work the same regardless. However, this simply isn’t the truth when applied.

Some folks tend to adapt and downregulate more quickly with nutrition cut vs cardio or vice versa. Knowing these tendencies allows for the right timing. Some may need to introduce it right away and others may not need much at all.

3) What is the optimal meal frequency for muscle growth/protein synthesis?

Most of the newer research tells us that meal frequency isn’t nearly as important as we once thought assuming the person is getting in the proper calories/macros.

When I am looking at meal frequency, I want to take into consideration a couple primary factors for each person.

-Schedule: What frequency is most practical, enjoyable and stress free in terms of adherence.

-Digestion: Some folks simply digest meals quicker than others (meal composition matters of course). These people may do better with higher meal frequency. Others have far too much overlap in digestion from meals to eat higher meal frequency.

In terms of protein synthesis, we don’t need to eat 6-8 times per day to maximize this. It seems that the research settles around the 3ish meal per day mark depending on the context. We do not need to eat every 2-3 hours to ensure MPS is fully stimulated. Though it certainly won’t hurt to eat more meals each day if that suits you.

3)   What calorie surplus should I eat at to gain muscle when bulking?

For most people, a massive surplus isn’t needed. Being just over baseline (whatever that is for that person) is enough to grow. We can only add new muscle tissue so quick so being massively over our maintenance calories will likely just result in more fat gain, loss of insulin sensitivity etc.

Eat enough over maintenance to keep things going but not so much that you are gaining more fat than muscle! Finding that sweet spot may take some trial and error.

4)   How important is flexibility/mobility work for bodybuilders?

It can be extremely important for some and not so much for others. We want to be able to perform an exercise properly through the entire ROM. Some people need zero extra mobility/flexibility work to accomplish this and others may need a lot.

I tend to prescribe this work on an as needed basis based on the idea above. We do not want to be hypermobile so doing mobility work when we don’t need it can do more harm than good.

5)   Calf Training: What’s the best way to get them to grow fast?

Full disclosure here, this is my worst body part! Mainly because I have very high insertions genetically. Many folks with poor calves have the same issue. There may be muscle there but visually they don’t have the same pop that a lower insertion has.

With that said, I have found that calves grow well with higher total workload. They are constantly beat up day to day with walking and indirectly when training other muscles. Therefore, overload will take some extra work above and beyond this.

If your calves grow slowly then train them OFTEN. In fact, assuming you can recover from it, train them everyday you are in the gym with various rep ranges, loads and tempos.

6)   What are your favourite training techniques to shock muscle into new growth?

This might not be the type of “technique” most are thinking of but tracking progress. People throw the kitchen sink at their training with every intensity technique in the book and a mash-up of 10 different training methodologies.

The problem is the have no benchmark of progress. Whether that is getting stronger, adding volume or a combination of things.

Keep training progressive in some way, shape or form!

7) What is the most overlooked supplement for pro bodybuilders?

Supplements that keep all body systems functioning optimally! We cannot expect to drive a square peg into a round hole. Inevitably to gain the type of muscle needed to be a pro bodybuilder, it’s not always going to be the poster child for health. The better someone can keep each body system functioning the better.

What a person needs in terms of health supplementation should depend on need. This can be evaluated through lab work, past health history, pre disposition etc.

Many health supplements are what I would consider preventative as well and are great to have working in the background. ProjectAD Liver+ and Heart + for example, can be used by anyone looking to optimize organ and cardiovascular health.

Others may have spotless lab work but have a hard time managing digestion. Again, supplementation is based on need. In any case, managing any and all health imbalances through nutrition, lifestyle AND supplementation will lead to a better physique. If you want to gain maximal muscle, you need to cover your bases.

Conclusion

Armed with your new knowledge, go out and attack progress like never before! Austin is one of the most respected in the game, so take the time to assimilate his info and go and apply it to your own training and nutritional regime to get results.

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