Diagram of moment arms in the barbell curl lifting weights.

If we want to make our muscles bigger, we need to challenge them enough to provoke an adaptation. How much our muscles are challenged depends on our leverage. By adjusting our leverage over the weights, we can change which muscles are being worked, how hard they’re being worked, and how hard they’re being worked relative to one another.

For example, by changing our leverage while squatting, we could:

  • Lift heavier weights and engage more muscle mass.
  • Emphasize either quad growth, glute growth, back growth, or aim for equal stimulation of all three muscle groups.
  • Make the lift hard at one specific part of the lift, stimulating a smaller amount of muscle growth, or hard throughout the entire lift, stimulating a larger amount of muscle growth.

By understanding and min-maxing our leverage, we can improve how much muscle we build and how much strength we gain while lifting weights.

What’s kind of neat is that the word leverage has two separate meanings:

  1. Leverage: the exertion of force by means of a lever or an object used in the manner of a lever.
  2. Leverage: use (something) to maximum advantage.

Let’s talk about the first so that we can do the second.

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Before and after illustration of an overweight man becoming lean and muscular.

Most people are overweight, most people try to diet that extra fat away, and most people fail. But it’s not that we fail to lose fat. Most of us can grit our teeth, go on a diet, and lose some fat. Most popular diets, ranging from keto to veganism, really do succeed at helping people lose weight (study, study).

The problem is that our motivation ebbs and flows. When we’re riding a wave of determination, we succeed. But then when our well of willpower inevitably runs dry, we succumb to our appetites and undo all of our hard-fought progress.

When we finish a successful diet, we’re still the same people as we were before. The only difference is that because we’re leaner, we’re hungrier, and because we’re carrying around less bodyweight, we burn fewer calories as we go about our days. No wonder, then, that it’s almost impossible to keep ourselves from regaining all of the weight we lost—our cravings are worse than before and our metabolisms are lower.

So over the course of a few months, or maybe even over the course of a few years, our body-fat percentage climbs right back up to where it used to be. And then we need to start the process all over again.

Total bummer. If only there were another way…

The Other Way
Illustration of a man flexing his biceps

Both chin-ups and biceps curls are sorely underrated. Chin-ups are easily worthy of being given the same lofty position as the squat, bench press, and deadlift, and yet they’re left out of most strength training programs. According to most strength coaches, curls are even more of a Pariah, but at least most guys who want bigger biceps know to do them.

To be fair, strength training programs aren’t designed to help guys build bigger biceps, and so it makes sense that they aren’t very good at it. But who wouldn’t want bigger biceps?

In this article, let’s compare the chin-up against the curl for biceps growth, and then talk about how to build a biceps bulking routine around them.

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Sleep is the foundation of a good bulking routine. It gives you the drive to challenge yourself in the gym, it gives you the appetite to eat a big bulking diet, and it gives you the willpower to implement new habits. But for the sake of giving sleep the hype it deserves, let’s put aside that sleep improves our willpower, motivation, compliance, exertion, and all of that other (super important) wishy woo. Here’s how sleep can directly improve your size and strength gains (study):

  • More testosterone: getting enough sleep will boost your circulating levels of testosterone, improving your ability to gain muscle quickly and leanly.
  • More insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1): getting enough sleep will also raise your IGF-1 levels, allowing you to better recruit satellite cells into your muscle fibres, which is critical for overcoming size and strength plateaus.
  • Less cortisol: getting enough sleep will reduce chronic cortisol levels, which will reduce muscle breakdown and increase muscle protein synthesis.
  • Better nutrient partitioning: getting enough sleep makes our bodies prefer getting stored energy from fat instead of muscle, allowing for more muscle growth with less fat gain.

Given how powerful sleep is while bulking, it pays to approach your bedtime routine with the same fervour that you approach your lifting. Min-max all of the little details, give it a high priority in your life. It won’t just improve your gains; it will improve everything.

This article is an excerpt from our Outlift Intermediate Bulking Program.

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Illustration of a man with disproportionately small arms relative to his chest and back muscles

In this article, let’s talk about the philosophy you should adopt while choosing your lift variations and accessories. Should you run lift with your strengths and focus on what you’re best at? Or should you address your weaknesses so that you can build a more balanced and versatile physique?

What’s interesting is that the answer changes depending on your goals. Doubling down on strengths will make you stronger, bringing up weaknesses will make you look better, and a mix of both approaches tends to be best for general health.

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Barbell Biceps Curl Illustration (with EZ-Bar)

Being a loyal, honest, and faithful person is incredibly important. In fact, I think it might even be the most important thing in life. If you doubt that, I highly recommend the book Lying by the neuroscientist Sam Harris, PhD. In it, he outlines the many ways that lying is morally wrong and will ruin your life.

However, cheating while lifting weights has no moral implications, and it will probably help you build more muscle. There are a few different ways to cheat, too, each with their own unique benefits.

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Illustration of a man doing a barbell front squat

The squat is the strength training lift. It’s the best lift for bulking up your quads, glutes, and calves, and it stimulates more overall muscle mass than any other lift, with the possible exception of the deadlift.

There are different ways of squatting, each with different pros and cons. This article has nothing to do with powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting, just with using the front squat to getting bigger, stronger, fitter, and much better looking. For this, the front squat is the best. That’s a controversial claim, I know. But I’ll show you why.

The Front Squat guide
Illustration of a man doing a sumo deadlift (outlift)

The deadlift strengthens our bodies from our fingers down to our toes, bulking us up from our forearms down to our calves. In fact, it’s such a good indicator of strength that it’s the only lift that’s a staple of both powerlifting and strongman training.

When it comes to size and aesthetics, though, the deadlift becomes more controversial. Most casual gymgoers skip it. Many bodybuilders do, too. And it’s easy to see why that is. Deadlifts are hard to do, they’re hard to recover from, and people worry about hurting their lower backs.

And besides, most powerlifters and strongmen deadlift with the goal of developing their max-effort strength. It’s a different style of training designed to get them a different outcome.

If your goal is to build a bigger, stronger, and better-looking body, then you’ll want to deadlift a little bit differently.

The Deadlift Guide
Illustration of a man doing a barbell bench press

The bench press is the best lift for building a powerful chest. It’s also great for bulking up your triceps and the fronts of your shoulders, making it a great overall lift for improving your aesthetics.

The bench press is one of our Big 5 bulking lifts, and in this article, we’re going to go over the best strategies for integrating it into your bulking routine. This article has nothing to do with powerlifting or even powerbuilding, just with using the bench press to becoming bigger, stronger, and better looking.

The Bench PRess Guide
Illustration of a man doing the barbell overhead press

The overhead press is the best lift for building bigger, broader shoulders. It’s also fantastic for your triceps, your traps, your posture, and even your core, making it one of the best lifts for improving your aesthetics and general strength.

As a result, the overhead press earned its spot as one of the Big 5 Bulking Lifts, and in this article, we’re going to go over the best strategies for integrating it into your bulking routine. We’ll also talk about the best assistance and accessory lifts for building an even more massive shoulder girdle.

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