Since last week’s post below on Instagram, I’ve been getting inundated with questions about my current muscle-building protocol…including how I’ve been eating, supplements I’m currently taking, my workout program and more!
So I figured I’d put together a quick and dirty post to give the basics of my entire protocol. I hope this is helpful! You can feel free to leave your questions, comments, and feedback below the post!
Ben Greenfield’s Top 6 Muscle Building Workouts:
My weight training workouts are actually pretty simple. I find that from a cognitive fatigue standpoint and my hefty amounts of family time, work and travel, I can really only handle a maximum of about six different workout “options” – three for when I’m at home and three for travel. I do three such workouts per week, typically with 48 hours between, and my workouts take somewhere in the range of 50-60 minutes.
There’s actually some evidence that hitting a muscle over and over again with similar exercise, movements, sets, and reps can actually be very good for muscle hypertrophy. If my goal were purely metabolic stimuli, I’d use quite a few additional workouts, but I keep things relatively simple for hypertrophy.
Home Workout 1: Basic Full Body Protocol
I perform a warm-up for about 5 minutes, preferably with a gymnastics routine, Animal Flow, a Core Foundation routine, or anything else that dynamically prepares the body for movement and elevates the heart rate. I usually finish my warm-up with a quick set of 100 jumping jacks or 30 burpees.
Next, I choose one exercise from the “Strength” list below:
- one Upper Body Push
- one Lower Body Push
- one Upper Body Pull
- one Lower Body Pull
- one Full Body Move
Then I pair each of the exercises above with one exercise from the “Core/Mobility” list you’ll see shortly below.
Gradually adding weight and decreasing repetitions or maintaining repetitions with each strength set (if do-able with good form), I complete 6-10 repetitions of the first Strength exercise (e.g. Upper Body Push) in a slow, controlled fashion. Next, I complete 10-20 repetitions of a Core/Mobility movement of choice (for active recovery), preferably choosing a Core/Mobility movement that does not exhaust or work the same muscles that I used during my strength set.
Then I go straight back to the Strength set, do another set and follow it up with the same Core/Mobility exercise for active recovery. I continue this scenario until I have completed 3-5 sets for both the Strength move and the Core/Mobility move and then move on to the next movement category (e.g. Upper Body Pull). I then continue until I have finished all movement categories (one Upper Body Push, one Lower Body Push, one Upper Body Pull, one Lower Body Pull, and one Full Body Move).
After this workout, I jump into my cold pool for about 2 minutes to cool my body without staying in long enough (e.g. closer to the 10-minute range) to shut down any type of anabolic response to the workout.
Upper Body Push:
Upper Body Pull:
Lower Body Push:
Lower Body Pull:
Full Body Move (This list is not exhaustive, and there may be others that you like.):
This entire protocol takes me about 60 minutes.
Home Workout 2: NEUBIE Electrostimulation Full Body Workout
You can listen to my podcast about this extremely powerful Russian DC E-stim NEUBIE unit here. Garrett, the designer of the NEUBIE, was kind enough to create two separate full body options for me. Each of these workouts takes me about 40-45 minutes, and I typically begin or finish with some kind of high-intensity set on the Air Assault bike (usually a Tabata set of 20 seconds hard/10 seconds easy, 8x through). I only do this type of workout once every two weeks or so because it makes me very sore.
NEUBIE Workout 1:
NEUBIE Workout 2:
Home Workout 3: “Garage” Strongman Workout
My third workout is probably the most functional and usually takes place in my driveway or garage. It is simply a mashup of “strongman” style exercises using a half-filled keg, a mace, a sandbag, medicine ball slams, kettlebells, monkey bars, a tire, etc. I try to include some running with this workout to keep my obstacle course racing fitness tuned.
One handy book for learning this type of workout approach is Zach Evenesh’s The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning
Travel Workout 1: Body Weight Training To Failure
The nice thing is that, based on good research by Brad Schoenfeld, you can still build muscle with lightweight or body weight training, provided that you complete each set to absolute failure with a maximum amount of time under tension. So I can still build muscle when I’m, say, in my hotel room and have only my body weight or elastic bands. Here’s my routine.
Repeat as an AMRAP for 45-60 minutes (I include the burpee warm-up each round for an added challenge) with minimal rest. You can also use blood flow restriction bands around your arms and legs for an amplified growth hormone response and even a bigger muscle building effect, which I often do.
Travel Workout 2: Hotel or Health Club Full Body Workout
I’m at a hotel or have access to a gym, is to perform back-to-back “supersets” for each body part, with each superset followed by two minutes of cardio performed as hard as possible. For example:
- 2 minutes on a cardio machine such as an elliptical trainer, bike, rowing machine, or stairmill.
- Chest press to failure (8 to 15 reps)
- Row to failure (8 to 15 reps)
- 2 minutes on a cardio machine
- Squat or leg press to failure (8-15 reps)
- Deadlift or leg curl to failure (8-15 reps)
- 2 minutes of cardio
- Shoulder press to failure (8-15 reps)
- Pull-down to failure (8-15 reps)
- 2 minutes of cardio
- Core exercise #1 of choice to failure (e.g., side plank rotations)
- Core exercise #2 of choice to failure (e.g., low back extensions)
Repeat 4 to 5 times through with minimal rest.
Travel Workout 3: X3 Bar
X3 Bar 10 minute workout (this workout is for when time is tight). You can read or listen to the full details on the X3 Bar here, and if you get a bar it includes a handy quick cheat sheet with demos of each exercise below. If I have more time available, I’ll do this routine 2-3x through.
- X3 Bar Chest Press
- X3 Bar Squat
- X3 Bar Overhead Press
- X3 Bar Deadlift
- X3 Bar Row
- X3 Bar Squat To Overhead Press
- X3 Bar Curl
- X3 Bar Tricep Pushdown
Other than these workouts, I include the following basic movement protocols:
- at least 30 min/day walking/hiking for low-level aerobic fat loss without much muscle catabolism
- 60-90 minute hike on weekends
- family tennis for an hour on Sundays
- 30 min Clearlight infrared sauna 3-4x/week, always followed by a 5-minute cold soak
- 10-15 minutes foam rolling and mobility work each morning
My Muscle Building Diet
I’m largely following a “bastardized” version of the carnivore diet, which you can listen to full details about in this podcast. My total dietary intake is about 5000 calories per day, even on recovery days, approximately 30-40% protein, 30-40% fat and 20-30% carbs and is comprised of the following:
- primarily organ meats and fish, mostly in the form of ribeye, liver, heart, braunschweiger, headcheese, bratwurst, sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon and some amounts but not much of poultry. I do plenty of orders from USWellnessMeats for this (code: GREENFIELD saves 15%), and also Wild Planet for canned fish . I typically dress up my meat with mayonnaise and sauces from Primal Kitchen (code: BEN saves 10%).
- small amounts of root vegetables such as yams and sweet potatoes, always steamed or mashed, along with canned pumpkin and sweet potato purees, preferably skipping the skin of these compounds and any excess fiber. I save nearly all my carbohydrates for the very end of the day, at which point I consume about 150-200g of carbohydrates. Occasional white rice too.
- homemade fermented yogurt made from coconut milk and L. Reuteri strain probiotic as described with full instructions here.
- raw, organic honey as a sweetener, especially with dinner. Often served on top of the tubers.
- for desserts, egg yolk/collagen/coconut milk ice cream described on my Instagram post here
- small, anti-oxidant rich, low sugar berries such as blueberries, lingonberries, bilberries , and blackberries. Usually, these are sprinkled on top of my egg-yolk keto ice cream above.
- bitter and tannin-rich teas and organic Kion coffee throughout the day. I often blend my coffee with cinnamon, MiCacao, sea salt, and stevia, but not many other added fats or calories.
- lots of Kettle & Fire organic bone broth (code: GREENFIELD for 10% off), typically one to two boxes per day served as my beverage with meals or especially as a nightly cocktail alternative since alcohol can blunt muscle-building significantly. I usually add sea salt to my bone broth.
- an occasional nightly glass of organic red wine such as FitVine (code: GREENFIELD10 for 10% off) or DryFarms (click here to try a bottle for a penny) or gin with bitters on ice with a squeeze of lemon (3-4 days/week).
- small amounts of easy-to-digest skinless seeds and nuts or nut butter (mostly walnuts and cashews). These are usually sprinkled on the purees or served beside the meat.
- nutrient dense vegetable powders that offer plenty of phytonutrients without excess roughage and fiber. I mostly use Dr. Thomas Cowan’s heirloom vegetable powders (and Kuaui Organic Farmacy blends (code: GREENFIELD saves 10% ). These get sprinkled liberally on all meals.
- 12-16 hour daily intermittent fast to ensure that mTor pathways aren’t excessively activated
- consumption of my friend Dr. Joseph Mercola’s “autophagy tea” before my nightly fast to also limit mTor activation and increase autophagy:
A large serving of coconut yogurt with cashew or walnut butter and a cup of Kettle & Fire bone broth (code: GREENFIELD for 10% off). A small amount of raw honey drizzled on top or sometimes small handful blueberries.
One USWellnessMeats (code: GREENFIELD saves 15%) bratwurst with several slices braunschweiger or head cheese along with a can of Wild Planet sardines. Half can of pumpkin puree on the side. Plenty of the spices listed above. Box of bone broth (code: GREENFIELD for 10% off) for a beverage.
Dessert after lunch:
Ingredients (another option is my mix here):
Dessert after dinner:
Sample power coffee:
I’ll sometimes add extra calories to my organic coffee if I want more calories after breakfast. A typical mix for me is a heaping tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil blended with organic coffee, cinnamon, stevia, sea salt, and MiCacao.
Finally, I kicked this whole thing off with this stem cell procedure with Dr. Chen, which likely also helped and would be something I consider to fall into the biohacking/supplement category.
OK, those are the biggies! As you can see, it’s not that complex. You just need to be very, very consistent. Aside from the occasional handful of polenta fries with my ribeye steak or a taste of my wife’s sourdough bread here and there, I have no major cheat days or days on which I skip movements.
Sure, there’s a few extra recoveries or mitochondrial supporting “biohacks” I throw in, but I don’t think they’re 100% necessary and are actually kind of expensive. Namely the big ones:
- Pulsecenters PEMF table for home recovery and Flexpulse for travel recovery
- JOOVV light each morning to enhance collagen synthesis and testosterone
- Trusii Hydrogen water morning and evening to enhance recovery
- LiveO2 hyperbaric oxygen during some of my Tabata sets
Again, these are nice-to-have, but in my opinion not really necessary to gain significant amounts of functional muscle while maintaining high-end cardiovascular fitness and keeping any fat gain to a minimum, which is really the focus of my entire protocol.
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about this muscle building protocol? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!