262 – Dr Doug McGuff – How More Contractions may Increase Muscle Growth, Training with a Newborn, and MedX Medical Machines

Dr Doug McGuff on increasing muscle growth
Dr Doug McGuff and Lawrence Neal (Founder, High Intensity Business)

Dr Doug McGuff is the co-author of Body by Science: A Research Based Program for Strength Training, Body building, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week and The Primal Prescription: Surviving The “Sick Care” Sinkhole.

Doug practices full-time emergency medicine with Blue Ridge Emergency Physicians and owns, Ultimate Exercise, where he and his instructors continue to explore the limits of exercise through their personal training of clients. Doug is one of the leading experts in high intensity strength training and provides consultancy services to help you achieve your health and body composition goals, setup a home gym, or start a HIT facility.

In this episode, Dr Doug McGuff shares insights on how more contractions may maximize muscle growth, tips when training with a newborn, utilizing MedX medical machines in your facility, and much more.

Lawrence will help you generate more online revenue inside HIT Business Membership



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This episode is brought to you by ARXFit.com, ARX are the most innovative, efficient and effective all-in-one exercise machines I have ever seen. I was really impressed with my ARX workout. The intensity and adaptive resistance were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I love how the machine enables you to increase the negative load to fatigue target muscles more quickly and I love how the workouts are effortlessly quantified. The software tracks maximum force output, rate of work, total amount of work done and more in front of you on-screen, allowing you to compete with your pervious performance, to give you and your clients real-time motivation.

As well as being utilized by many HIT trainers to deliver highly effective and efficient workouts to their clients, ARX comes highly recommended by world-class trainers and brands including Bulletproof, Tony Robbins, and Ben Greenfield Fitness. To find out more about ARX and get $500 OFF install, please go to ARXFit.com and mention “High Intensity Business” in the how did you hear about us field – ORDER HERE

Show Notes

  • 1:56 – REC 2019 experience
  • 5:21 – Emergency physician life, Doug’s YouTube channel 
  • 11:13 – Doug’s “theory” to maximize muscle hypertrophy
  • 18:20 – Genetic impact on muscle growth
  • 19:37 – How to measure muscle hypertrophy
  • 23:22 – Training with a newborn
  • 32:06 – Utilizing MedX medical machines in HIT studios
  • 38:36 – Future career/business plans
  • 40:54 – Advice on strength training and HIT business

Selected Links from the Episode

People Mentioned

Comments 39

  • Great discussion. You can always do a big five every two weeks … you won’t loose strength.

    • Awesome to know that Doug is still passionate about strength training. I hear the view regarding not record keeping. I have such mixed thoughts on that. To be clear, I don’t track much. If I remember it, that is the extent of my tracking. If I record anything it is the highest amount of weight used for the given exercises.

      I still remember ordering “Ultimate Exercise Bulletin” back in like 2000 or 2001. Still remember a lot of the gold bars of information garnered from the Body By Science blog. 👍

      I like Fred’s comments here. The talk of maxing out strength gains. Also the comparison of effort with negative contractions with different speeds.

      I have some perhaps contradictory thoughts and perspectives about the realm of strength training. I enjoy this stuff.

  • As always with Doug, an interesting and thought provoking interview.
    I have simarly noticed positive physical changes in regards more contractions per set .
    I also think the point made about the principle of diminishing returns is often overlooked and so it was good to hear Doug speaking about it.
    Keep up the great work Lawrence.

    Mark Houghton

  • Great interview Lawrence! Like you I am always keen to listen what Doug is saying, the way he explains things and the reasoning behind it really resonates with me.

    I’m interested in the results both Doug and Ad get with this approach. As they say, ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’.
    If there are proven benefits grea, even if they are only minimal. A little bit of variation and self experimentation can sometimes rejuvenate ones approach and help prevent both stagnation and boredom in your routine, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Take care and stay safe everyone

  • I Always wonder how it comes that Doug over the years comes to some same ideas/conclusions regarding exercise and , as for recently, not give up to gain instead of “just maintain ‘ muscle mass.
    Anuway, Doug why do you wait for someone to show up and demonstrate to you that 4-5 times a week a workout is superior for your goal compared to your routine at the mpment. Discover for yourself. I think that your thoughts justify that. Ok, maybe 3 times a week will do too. J-Reps gave you a direction I think. More reps for sure but also better tension during the complete rep, more fatigue that leads to keeping more fibers active enough, faster cadance that makes sure that there is less or no rest time during negatives. Your calcium idea has valid, look up for myontonia congenita. Curious if you will find your answer and can connect this with rep density, constant tension etc in relation to hypertrophy. I read about this in the mid 90″s in a magazine (flex or ironman??) and this stucked in mybhead since. There is a relationship with Ph, calcium and prostaglandins (maybe now one also knows that myokines can be involved?). Regarding adverse reaction from for instance the Renex crowd regarding moving away from superslow I say, you have been at the renex conference where Joshua told about hid BB routine and told about bodybuilders keeping that tension on the muscles being short faster contractions. Btw, Joshua as far as I know, does use J-Reps too or atleast non strict Renex exrcises for specific BB.
    Any thoughts?????

    • Thanks Ad. Doug doesn’t normally participate in the comments due to his busy schedule, but I’ll drop him an email to see if he can make the time.

      • Thanks Lawrence, I understand. Hope anyway he will find some time to react.

        • Ad, from Dr Doug McGuff:


          I have investigated the higher frequency in the past and found it lacking. I am not “waiting for someone else” to show me. My point in saying that was to demonstrate that I am not completely married to any protocol if something else can be demonstrated to be superior. Also, simply because I put an idea out there for others to consider or to experiment with does not mean that I am being second-handed or relying on others. I am simply too busy to conduct the experiment and I desire the input from those that personally do 50-100 workouts per week, because these people do enough workouts to start to recognize patterns that I am suggesting. Finally, as stated in the podcast, I don’t think protocol is really the rate limiting factor. Meticulous attention to diet and recovery will probably move the needle to a much greater degree.

          One final thought: these sort of protocol adaptations have to fit within the context of a viable business option for the vast majority that are in the HIT Business membership. It is not a violation of integrity if a business owner decides not to optimize infinitely for clients that could care less about the hypertrophy obsessions of a 58 year old HIT geek.


          • Ok, good explaination. I thought to have hear you saying that If someone “showed ‘that more frequence (whatever that is) was better you would dive into it. That you don’t have time for a higher frequencey is another point apart from the stimulus optimisation etc. Relying on others or as you say second handed are not my words nor was t a intention. Recovery, diet, lifestyle and the stimulus influence each other for sure. I’m in a position to have time and playground to juggle these now. That”s a reason why I sarted the experiment. Many years I didn’t have that option as good as now. So, why not. Same for others that are not in that position, make the best option. I NEVER said something else..
            Alos, I have said that a certain business model is fine with me just not for me. But the model itself has no relation with what is possible otherwise.
            I still think that we all here have more in common or agree on more as one might expect from my comments……….in the end I think you don’t have time read or react. But I react anyway just for maybe others. Stay strong.

  • This has been the debate about HIT as far as not enough volume. I know people at the gym that have alot of muscle from traditional weight training. It’s funny about the timing on this because since I’ve been home quarantined, I have been doing a three set 10 to 12 rep bodyweight protocol. I’ve seen better results doing this then HIT. I’m discouraged because I’ve done HIT for so long and I liked the get out of the gym quicker idea. Have you ever experienced this Lawrence?

    • Hi David, my personal experience is that I seem to get the same results regardless of what I do whether that single sets to failure or multiple sets. It always interests me when someone says they tried X protocol and got better results, and I’m always a little bit skeptical (not just of you) because as Feynman said “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool”. I just track my results over the long term using 3-point caliper test and body weight, and input in this tool http://www.weightrainer.net/skinfoldbf.html. My graph shows a slight trend of improvement over years of tracking so that’s good enough for me. And I only started measuring more consistently about 3 years ago. That’s all to say that I’m always very skeptical when someone claims they got better results after doing X protocol for a short time, because it’s very hard to measure that accurately and there are a lot of psychological factors and transient gains based on diet and water intake, etc. I think it’s great to experiment, and we should be doing so during our training careers to find out what works best for us, and we’re all different genetically and respond differently to various diet and training stimulus. But until the science produces controlled experiments to tease out protocol effectiveness, we’re all just speculating.

      • Lawrence, I agree on some, but there are often superior claims made in the once a week 15 minutes camp that are at best doubtfull. They often use Doug Mc. Guffs title of his BBS book “for maximal gains”. And we know what the good Doug himself thinks of that title. There is often this doubt within the HIT camp, if more volume is used and results show up, then this must have to do with some wishfull thinking. This because one set to failure stimulates maximal growth and doing more is by DEFINITION overtraining. They even plan workouts to be short and infrequent at forehand!!!! Sure one has to start somewhere but from the start they only focus on strength increases as the reason to never doubt the once a week mantra. And strength comes in many flavors………. it can become sort of a circus act . If a program works it will in some way show results fast, and that can be acertain feeling in the muscles during or directly after the workout, no systemic fatgue, a denser feeling muscle etc. Sure the hypertrophic results will show delayed and can be not as much as wanted but it still can be worthwhile to go for. That is ofcourse to the individual. Does he or she want to invest mor time working out or watch netflix? And is on prepared to invest in better recovery strategies, the ones that are important for a healthy live anyway, like downtime, sleep, sound nutrition for the goal? As a said before, naked we have to deal with tension volume to get the growth response we want, forget the specific names of methods and instead of figthing over these go to the gym and experiment in a sensible way. There is to much of the being Rational or being a Bro in these sphere of HIT. And isn’t HIT just about really hard work of enough volume and frequency instead of just do the minimal…………that only trumps the efficiency card and neglects the effective card???

  • Ad ligtvoet what kind of routine do you do currently or before the gyms shutdown? I’m getting the sense that 90sec of TUT at a slow cadence is not enough for hypertrophy. What do ya think?

  • David, Im Lucky enough to still be able to workout in my gym. I think your observations are valid. I have my own thoughts about why I( and certainly many others( that are concerned about muscle mass above minimal retainment ) have been doing HIT “wrong” .But that is too much to discus now.
    I currently workout 4 times a week with a 3 way split (but this can also be a 2 way split 3 or 4 times a week). Point is to have more frequent stimulation moments over a period. Forget this recovery before MPS idea . I just heard today a dutch company trainer claiming that 5-7 days recovery are needed and therefore 2 days a week is bad.????
    I also use a faster cadance but controlled anyway. 90 + seconds slow cadance give respite , isn’t optimal. But, it all comes down to goals. And indivifualism too regardless the specific goal

  • My goal is definitely to add some muscle so maybe the split is the way to go!! Do you have videos of your new training or is it on line? Or a quick explanation would be awesome.

  • David,
    Why do you think the split routine I use will help you to gain mass? I ask because I see no value to “just”copy anything. There are theories, methods and then there is the art. of all of this.And the art is to use a program congruent with the individual. I have no video because I don’t like the distraction of recording during my workouts.
    As I mentioned before my workout program changes regular, and I’m doing so based on what and how I feel.
    Ok, my current split is the regular push,pull, leg split. The content regarding exercises and sets is never the same at the moment. I’m more or less sure I will settle in more to some stnadardisation in the future.
    Having thrown off the context of certain methods I focused more on just the body i.e tension on the muscles intended to stimulate, there is no name for this besides maybe stimulating hypertrophy. One can decide to do this safe, efficiënt but the first is effective. Cornering this by a method with a name……………..this is for marketing and method wars.
    Try to find out for yourselve, learn to fish don’t ask for fish. I almost dare to say that this podcast here give all the answers you need………………but you have to look for the nuggets and think. Succes and enjoy the journey.

  • Hi Doug, was wondering what your thoughts were in relation to Chris Beardsley’s theory of effective/ stimulating reps as this could tie in with your ideas about more contractions etc. He also has research about max amount of these reps per session before diminished returns ie 15-25 reps per muscle group.
    Lawrence, he might also be a good guest for the show ?

  • Always good to hear from Doug!

    I actually got into hit after my first child was born 4 years ago as couldn’t get to the gym as much etc.

    Before that I had done high volume training and before that RPT style training. Currently I do one Bodyweight hit workout a week.

    I tried Ted Naimans approach of everyday and then recently tried 3 days a week however, both times I had all the signs of overtraining and felt dreadful after only 2-3 weeks of it.

    All has produced results for me none of it fantastic. Brad Pitt in fight club seems to be my genetic limit. Which to be honest when I started I would have been pleased with.

    Just my N=1 but agree with you Lawrence when you say all roads lead to Rome.

    Personally I think that if you take a muscle to close to failure at least once a week, get enough rest and eat enough protein and calories you are probably gonna get very close to your genetic potential. Additional contractions may give slightly better results but can’t see it making a huge difference.

    • Matt, this getting close to max potential gets used often in these HIY circles and is often just based on the Pareto principle. But how close will it get you to the max potential?80%, 75 %, 66,57 %?? Do you know your max potential? There is a good chanche to one is understimulated and has a shitty recovery procedure for more stimulation to be productive. I think in the end it also comes close to goals and live circumstances.
      also, why go to rome regardless the way, maybe there is a better place!!

      • Matt/Ad, the Pareto Law is true in every domain, as shown over and over again in various contexts. It’s true for training for muscle hypertrophy. It’s a great thinking model. I think 80/20 is a good aim, and will free your resources for other pursuits and responsibilities.

        Matt – interesting that you tried higher frequency and felt bad. That might be your genetic makeup, and I recently had Ryan Hall discuss this in-depth in the membership (he’s also talked about it on the podcast twice). We mustn’t forget how varied one’s response is to training and how varied their diet and training (freq, vol, and intensity) may have be to coax out optimal results. I think it’s a very good investment to do a DNA fit test to learn more about your genes so you can experiment more effectively.

        • Lawrence,
          So, your current programm gives you 80% of the possible gains?? So, you don’t want more? And, how do you know you are even close to your 80%? just because your workouts are efficient and infrequent ( meaning, you only invest 20 % of a certain amount of time you needed to invest if you wanted a 100 % gain)? There is a moment when one can decide that one wants a bit more and have no troubles to invest more (time in the gym) because one loves to do this. Love for mentally bringing oneself to a better physical level. Byt that sounds like sports many say and that is so forbidden in the HIT community aka irrational. As I said before at some point i have thrown off a few mantras and metaphors that IMO led to a false interpretation of things. But it could be that only I fel for these in the past. Slow student!!.

          • I may want more in the future. Right now, I get my 80/20 and then focus on my business, baby and Fiance. At my current place in life, I feel like 80/20 is just fine.

            • Lawrence, listen I’m certainly the person that will agree on your priorities right now. Being a rock that your fiancee and son con escape to and feel safe is of uttermost importance for YOU and them. But, that wasn’t the context of my reply to your Pareto principle idea. First, this principle is a simplification of reality and can not be used as a hard principle in a dynamic systeme as the human body or plasticity of muscle tissue but more as a expression of a probability, in this case satisfied result with not that much time inverstment over the course of some period( all IMO or understanding )..Again, IMO in the HIT texts I got “confused ” by the use of metaphors used as analogies and this Pareto principle now often gets used to lay a verbal hand on the shoulders of clients to express that they do the logical thing , that there isn’t genetical much more possibleand that it isn’t worth or even illogical to try so. Peace of mind, minimal results on average. But I’m fine with that if that is what satisfies a client, but a have some beef with this if that efficiency gets used in the same breath with aal you need for maximal health/fitness and Bodybuilding etc.
              Just my 2 cents.

        • Lawrence – how accurate are these tests? I feel like it’s not needed for me due to years of trial and error. I think practicing mindfulness has also been very helpful in terms on becoming aware of your recovery and how your body feels.

          I’m a 31 year old nurse with two young children who also plays soccer so this stress is likely to have a big impact on my recovery. Maybe in the future when the kids are older my recovery might improve and this is something I can try!

          Two SSTF full body workouts a week seems to be my limit but then I haven’t noticed much difference in terms of results from doing once or twice a week.

          I am very interested in how Ad and Doug get on though and hope they get great results. Although they both look in great shape already to me!

          • I think they can be useful. We’re learning new stuff all the time. Every time I login to 23andme, I get new data. As I said in a previous comment, it’s easy to fool yourself, so to get some actual data on your genetics is useful IMO. How accurate? It’s based on your genetics so I assume it’s 100% accurate.

  • I always enjoy these podcasts. Wonderful stuff.

    Now, at random…

    John Little has a great body of work. And to say “everything works but nothing works forever.” is curious.

    It’s not that nothing works forever, it’s that you cannot keep gaining muscle past 1-2 years of consistant training. Just do the math.

    Add a pound to your bench press every week. Let’s say you’re benching 150 for 10 slow reps. Not bad. Add a pound every session, assuming 2 sessions a week that’s 250 pounds for 10 slow reps at the end of one year. That’s VERY strong.

    Next year, 350 for 10 slow reps. That’s insanely strong.

    The 3rd year? No you’re not.

    So it’s not that a good protocol stops working, your BODY stops being able to produce further gains.

    • Fred,
      strength and hypertrophy don’t correlate on a one to one ,you know that. Your hypothetical increases in pounds are not realistic, and certainly not with 10 slow reps. There is also much strength gains that can be related to lifting proficiency. That’s indeed strength training, different though related to hypetrophy stimulation. All fine ofcourse for each who wants that. Besides these slow reps left respite during the negative and that helps for a certain period to increase tul and or resistance.
      It’s obviuous that a body is the ultimate determing factor, but only in the context of a protocol that fits the individual with sound nutrition and certainly recovery top notch.
      These topics have Always been camp oriented, can be backed up with science fitting all camps , Like in martial arts, but to use a “style ” when needed for self defence it is better to be GOOD at THAT “style “.

      • Ad – thank you so much for taking the time to respond to everyone’s comments!

      • Ad –

        First, I think there is a language barrier here and I apologize for not being able to speak anything but English!

        So…I’m not sure what you are saying. Your comment seems to stray from the point.

        Yes – I know that strength gains and hypertrophy do not “correlate on a one to one” – whatever that actually means. I don’t understand the concept. Can you explain what you mean? I never said they were or are or have anything to do with one another on a 1-1 basis.

        The only way to become stronger – actually stronger – is to build muscle. If you lose muscle you will become weaker. Muscles are force producing material. Without more muscle you cannot produce more force. Forget skill and technique. Set that aside It’s irrelevant to the main point.

        As for slow reps which isn’t the focus but since you brought it up, you are making statements with no evidence to support them. FE, you said:

        “Besides these slow reps left respite during the negative and that helps for a certain period to increase tul and or resistance.”

        Where is the evidence to support this claim? Let’s use an example, shall we?

        Bench Press. Load the bar with 150 pounds or 70 kilos. Lift it slowly to almost lock out. Now, lower the weight in 1 second. FEEL the effort to to that.

        Second rep, lift it slowly to almost lockout. Now lower the load in 15 seconds.

        You suggest that the latter is easier – the 15 second negative offers more respite to the muscles than the 1 second negative. I strongly disagree. And I think just doing it will prove that the slower negative is FAR more difficult to the muscles than the 1 second negative.

        Anyway, the point is this: At some point no more muscle can be built even with “perfect” rest, recovery, diet, etc. This is one reason why body builders use gear – drugs.

        • Fred, speaking only english is ok, or? Just kidding.
          With the one on one correlation I meant that a certain strength increase would correspond with a ertain amount of muscle gain. You came up with strength gains over a period to make the claim that at one point one can’t gain more(i agree). But my issue was muscle mass not strength gans perse. In your respond you now state that more strength comes in the end with more muscle mass and has nothing to do with skill etc. Well, i have seen enough folks increasing resistance over extended periods that would make more muscle mass Obvious yet the just look the same. One can see them juggle with the cadance (short breaks at extension, sligthly faster faster concentris and slowing the negative. Or/and being more able to anticipate the difficulty over a TUL and per rep and thus use their “skill”to prolong tul and justify the next weight increase. Yes I think the negative doing slow is a respite since one is stronger in the excentric so a resistance challenging for the concentric must be easier during the excentric. Proof? My ownexperience. I make this clear here again. I’m not a scientist or exercise professional but JUST tell what I do, have opinions based on read material that I Judge by being rational (ok,as much as possible),and my own experience. To the slow reps, Fred I did these myself no stranger to them. Fast reps fatgue me much faster, but these must be done under control. These slow reps , I found for myself, somehow hold a sort of break on my ability to go full force at a more fatigue state. Just for the record, I don’t promote a one second negative if I say faster reps. Regarding your last sentence I agree. Bur Fred didn’t you gain the previous year?? Looking good for sure, so my compliments.
          Language itself might not be the problem but more my expression of thoughts if typed on a forum like this.. Again, I have my opinions changed and experiment with the no ones. I will be the first to come out and say it was a mistake, but……..learned from it I will have.

          • Btw Fred, I don’t have anything close to a “Bodybuilder “on drugs look in mind for my search to more mass. Now do I invest a lot of time everyday in that .

    • Thank you Fred! I can hear you saying “No you’re not!” Love it!

  • “Just Lift Weights”

    He said it before in a post somewhere, and it is the one that I member the most.

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