Do you know what things you need to be doing to get the physique you want? Joining me on the show this week is Jesse McMeekin, owner and founder of Adapt Performance, where he specializes in working with coaches, trainers and other high-level clients in training, education and mentorship. He and I sit down together to talk all things body composition, hypertrophy, getting jacked, and building the physique you want this summer.
We start the conversation off by sharing our tips and strategies for finding the right training structure and layout to understand and maintain stress complexity in your training. We share different protocols, rep schemes and program structures that will help drive hypertrophy and get you the body composition you are looking for. We then re-examine a handful of the industry’s sacred cows, one of them being barbells and why they are overrated.
We steer the conversation to the double progression method and the dopamine effect and how it gets you excited and always keeps you coming back for more. Listen in as we discuss programming effort, accountability and flexibility, training splits, and balancing complexity with simplicity. We then share why it’s important to gamify your programming, that way you can give your clients specific numbers to work with and try to beat.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [05:17] Intro to Jesse McMeekin
- [08:15] Knowing how much stress you can handle
- [09:55] Training structure and layout
- [12:14] The importance of having fun in your training
- [13:41] Whole body day versus upper lower splits
- [15:43] The psychological wear and tear lower body training has on you
- [17:12] Why barbells are overrated
- [21:08] Understanding stress and complexity
- [24:06] Using accessory work as maintenance
- [26:32] Double progression method
- [28:24] Dopamine effect
- [35:41] The importance of gamification in your programming
- [39:54] Requisite work capacity and recovery
James Cerbie: We have a phenomenal episode today, so let’s jump in with Jesse McMeekin. All right, there you go. Jesse McMeekin, what is going on, my friend?
Jesse McMeekin: Not much. How are you doing?
James Cerbie: I’m doing well. We were just bonding a little bit over coffee because when you, Kyle and Karen came out to Salt Lake and that was almost two and a half, almost three years ago now maybe. We walked up into the avenues, and you all got to discover Jack Morman Coffee, because it’s a really interesting proposition that Mormons don’t drink coffee yet. One of the best coffee spots in America. I am not afraid to make that claim.
Jesse McMeekin: No, I’m going to stand by you.
James Cerbie: It is here in Salt Lake City because I’ve ever told you guys, there’s this place here that has amazing coffee. You’re like, we’re from fucking New York. We have good coffee, but your coffee’s not going to be that good.
Jesse McMeekin: You have to get 20 miles across the city. It’s like, yeah, we’re going to go grab some coffee. I’m like, all right, we’re going to the corner. It’s like on the highway head all the way across. Like, I got nothing to do. So, I’m here for it. But damn.
James Cerbie: Worth it.
Jesse McMeekin: Absolutely worth it.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Like I would do unthinkable things to get them to give me their cold brew and or iced coffee recipe.
Jesse McMeekin: I’m thinking a sponsorship. I’m like, you guys sponsor athletes? You’re a pre-workout as far as I’m concerned.
James Cerbie: It’s the best pre workout on the planet. I should try that. Maybe I’ll walk up to them and be like, hey, do you guys feel like sponsoring a local small business? I have viewership and listenership of people that love to consume some caffeine.
Jesse McMeekin: Yeah. You know, we’re going to do an ad break now. Just do a quick ad for Jack Mormon coffee. They do have a website and they do deliver. Check it out.
James Cerbie: Or just give them the home roasting train. I’m so far down the rabbit hole.
Jesse McMeekin: I am so impressed by that for everything else you’ve done. And that’s what’s got me the most impressed.
James Cerbie: Let’s dive in here. Well, first I’ll have you give your background who you are, blah blah, blah, blah, blah. But then what we’re going to do is we’ll dive in. We had a little bit of a back and forth off air of what we want to talk about today. It’s summer. Everybody has it on their mind, right? Everyone wants to look good naked, everyone’s going to pools.
Everyone’s going to the beach. Everyone’s like, hey, maybe I’m holding on a little bit of extra Covid weight. I’d like to be more jacked. I would like to lose some weight, shred out whatever it’s going to be. So, we’ll dive in and talk more about just like tactics, strategies, things that people should be doing to actually put on muscle and get that physique they’re interested in along the way. I think hopefully we can knock down some sacred cows, like barbells. And then dopamine can be a really cool backend part of that conversation. It ties in really well. But first, let’s have you give the elevator pitch who you are, what you do, because you’ve been in the game for a long time.
Jesse McMeekin: Yeah. So as fast as I can do it without skipping over stuff too much.
James Cerbie: Take your time. Because the longer you talk, the less questions that I have to ask.
Intro to Jesse McMeekin
Jesse McMeekin: This is always the painful part for me. I got into this originally as an athlete and I was your prototypical hundred- and sixty-pound skinny high school athlete and so was a pretty good lacrosse player. But bottom line needed to be stronger and probably just heavier, carry a little bit more weight on the field and kind of help prevent some injuries that I was starting to see crop up. And so walking into a gym, owner of the gym showed me around, put me on a bodybuilding body part split, you know, and more years than I’d like to admit later.
I’m still sort of playing around with some of the same stuff. At some point, I realized I was more than kind of passively interested in this. And so, I started working as a trainer when I was in college, got away from that a little bit. But ultimately, as I was doing some other stuff I worked in management, I realized that if I looked at my bookshelf, that was all this kind of stuff like this was still something I was looking into for fun.
So, maybe seven years ago or so got back into it. I run my own business, Adapt Performance, which focuses mostly on online training and then also work for Equinox doing both training and then in-house education for them. So, work on onboarding process and development for their trainers.
James Cerbie: Beautiful. I love it. So, if we were going to try to throw a number on it, how long have you been involved in the iron game?
Jessie McMeekin: You’re going to make me throw that out. People are going to work backwards to figure out how old I actually am. Yeah, 27 years.
James Cerbie: Beautiful. So, we have a decent size exposure there. We have some experience.
Jessie McMeekin: For better or worse. We’ve got at least some numbers there, right.
James Cerbie: Absolutely. So, let’s start with this. If we’re going to have this conversation about physique and let’s put a quick qualifier on this. We’re not talking bodybuilding and we are not talking stepping on stage and bodybuilding, that is a totally different conversation. We’re just talking about, hey, I’m a 30-year-old, whatever, I still like to train to be athletic. I’m strong and powerful. I have good conditioning. Right. And who doesn’t want to be jacked and carry around some muscle mass?
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah. Look like you’re an athlete, right?
James Cerbie: Yeah, exactly. I don’t want to look like, no offense to cross-country distance runners, if you’re listening. I don’t want to look like you. I want to look like an NFL strong safety if that resonates with people, whatever that means. Right. So, if we’re going to think about that as a context. But if someone comes to you and they’re like, Jesse, it’s June, I’m still holding on to a little bit of this covid weight. I would really love to put on some more muscle, lose some of this fat and just look more like a superhero when I go to the beach, or I go to the pool. Where would you like to start that conversation?
Determining Your Training Schedule and Structure
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah, I mean, I think the conversation probably starts around schedule. It is just trying to figure out if you’re realistic and not make someone feel like it’s a trick question. But like, what can you give me? I had a conversation actually with Karen a few years ago and sort of said, like, your job is to be able to take as much stress as you can. And my job is to give you as much as you can handle and they give you the right kind of stress.
But it’s an honest conversation to figure out how much can you take. And that’s not a tough guy thing. That’s not a macho thing. That’s just looking at the entirety of your life and saying what’s your sleep, what’s your work, what’s your family commitment, what kind of facilities have you got? And ultimately, if someone’s coming in with those kinds of goals, I probably bare minimum, I’m looking for three days a week with me or with weights in their hands and at least one or two other days a week where I can get them to do something that feels like activity. If we want to make good progress. I try to be honest up front. If you’re not able to do that, we can make some progress, but it’s going to be slow.
James Cerbie: So, yeah, the population listening here will fit very nicely into that because we don’t really have people listening that are like I’m maybe going to make it two to three days a week. It’s like I’m going to train five to six days a week. It’s just a question of what I am going to be doing when I show up to train.
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah, exactly.
James Cerbie: So that is the context. I think they fit in really nicely here. So, let’s say a perfect world scenario, right. You can do exactly what you want with this person. Are you looking three days a week of lifting, four days of lifting, using upper lower split? Are we going whole body days? I’m intrigued to know what you’re thinking in terms of structure and layout.
Jessie McMeekin: I think you kind of hit on all the things that I default to and some of that, you know, as much as we like to think, this is just hard sciences, it’s sort of playing around and seeing what works.
I’ve seen the best success myself, and I’ve got a bodybuilding background. I stepped on stage. I competed, I did the body part split stuff. I was moderately successful with it. I’ve seen more success actually with either an upper or lower split or a full body approach than anything else. I think the first thing to take out of people’s minds is this idea that somehow that’s a beginner thing and say, no, that’s absolutely not. There’s no such thing.
It may work for beginners, but it’s probably going to work for you, too. You just need to let go of the ego and take a fresh look at it. I think some of that is just sort of how hungry are you to get in the gym? Right. And this is I guess, previewing the dopamine conversation. I found recently that if I’m hitting weights three days a week, I’m pretty excited for the days that I get to lift.
And I think that goes a long way. I was at a point, and I spent my entire week in a gym where if I had to actually lift four days a week, I’d get it done. I’m a good little boy and I’ll do what’s written on the program, but I’m not quite as excited for it. And I think something gets lost in it where I’m not hitting it quite as hard or not going after it the same way. And so, I’m probably getting more out of those three days a week.
But I think it’s saying what works for you at a given time and then also, to some extent, priorities. You know, I think for me right now, chasing the conditioning side of this a little bit more, that gives me more time to spend on that conditioning. Whereas if I’m hitting weights four days a week pretty hard, I’ve got to pull the conditioning back a little bit.
The Importance of Having Fun in Your Training
James Cerbie: Yeah, for sure. One hundred percent. And I think two things there that are really important to kind of highlight for everyone listening. One, you can achieve this physique goal, right. This physique conversation, training, lifting three or four days a week. You don’t have to lift four days a week to get a really good physique. You just don’t. Three really good days of lifting can make it happen, right? As long as it’s built into another plan with everything else we’re doing, because at the end of the day, you have to be having fun.
On our training team, every two weeks, we send a check-in email to our people and I think the second question on that check-in is, are you having fun training? Because that’s a hugely important to me. If you’re not having fun training, then you can have the best program that’s ever been written and you’re not going to get any results or outcomes from it. So, if you’re sitting there sweating bullets and you’re walking laps around your house, I don’t know, should I do three days a week or four days a week, three days a week or four days, just pick one.
Jessie McMeekin: OK, yeah, you’ll be fine, right.
James Cerbie: Yeah. What I like to do for my people is we have three lift days and then the fourth day is a hybrid. Right. You’ll get something that’s like a metcon or more of a medley because people end up really enjoying the novelty of that. It’s something new. I know that I’m still going to be getting some type of a body comp, hypertrophy response to that stimulus because I get load. I get hypoxia.
Dr. Mike T. and I have talked about this where the metcon is in this weird realm all in itself, where you’re getting hypertrophy and endurance somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Right. But you can lift four days and still be really successful. And then the other point here, and maybe you want to dive into this more if we’re thinking whole body day versus upper or lower split, is that, again, going to be more preference for you and the person? which one of these are you going to enjoy more? Which one are you going to work harder on?
Whole Body Day Versus Upper Lower Splits
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah, I think it’s a combination of things. For me, it’s probably I guess if I can put a number on it, maybe three different things. One, it’s kind of what are you going to enjoy more. Two, in some cases some wear and tear stuff comes in on that, like, are you getting beaten up with the extra day? And if that’s the case, let’s pull it back. That’s happened to me in stretches. And then I think the third is, ironically, the four days a week sounds like more frequency, but if there’s an upper lower split, it’s actually less frequency, about 50 percent less frequency. Right. If I’m going to hit a full body Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I get a squat stimulus three days a week. And for the record, that sucks. But that also works, right? And now I’m going to go deadlifts too. Let’s just take a hinge and hit it hard. And I think it can be tough. I work in a global gym environment, and you watch dudes come in and just hammer away at a muscle group. Right. And you and I have talked. I love me some volume. I like getting high volume stuff.
Nobody likes the sets of 20 squats. But that said, how many different versions of a bicep curl do you need? Right, you’re bending your elbow, you can bend it upside down, you can bend it with a cable, you can hold the kettlebell. At some point, the same is true to your press, the same is true to your row. The same is true to your squat. And it’s being smart enough to get a little dumb and say there really is not that much distinction between these. I don’t need to hit this from nine different angles despite what I read in a magazine when I was 15.
James Cerbie: I very much agree. And so, I think the upper lower split for me, sometimes it’s nice being able to go in and just not have to worry about hitting legs.
Jessie McMeekin: Yes.
James Cerbie: Psychologically, it is wonderful because I don’t ever need to get excited or amped up to do anything upper body. I’m pumped right from the get go. If I’ve got heavy squats or heavy deadlifts, there is just a psychological wear and tear that that takes and I’ll wake up in the morning and be like, oh boy, that’s happening. Like tomorrow, I already know it’s coming tomorrow, and I’ve been sitting around thinking about it all afternoon.
So sometimes it’s nice just to go in and I’m just going to get a massive upper body pump, whatever it is, maybe it’s delts, arms, back, lats, etc. I don’t need to psychologically go anywhere to really get after that. You have to go someplace if I’m putting a lot of weight on a bar to squat or deadlift, and this could potentially transition to a really good conversation because I think people listening to this may hear us say squat, deadlift, bench.
And they’re immediately thinking straight bar back squat. Yeah. Straight bar deadlift, straight bar bench press. And I’m just going to go ahead and throw up the huge no to anybody that watches the video because that’s not the case. We’re talking about these three movements as larger patterns. Yeah. And so, this is potentially another sacred cow that we can knock off the pedestal because if the primary outcome goal is this physique, is getting jacked, looking like a superhero.
Why Barbells Are Overrated
You do not, and I would probably recommend that you do not touch a straight bar. I would love for you to weigh in on that. And we can unpack more what we think when we say those movements. What are we actually thinking of in terms of exercise selection?
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah, no, I think we’re largely in agreement there. I mean, I think we’re on the same page. I love to bench. I like to deadlift. It’s my one respectable lift I can put some real weight on the bar. When I think about hypertrophy driven movements, though I think the one that I would keep with a barbell where I say, you know what, I’m taking this one to my desert island to get jacked, I’m going to take an RDL.
James Cerbie: Yes, I would 100 percent agree with that.
Jessie McMeekin: But other than that, I don’t think I would take a barbell. I wouldn’t take a bench. I’m sure as hell not pressing overhead.
I mean, my back squats is just another dead lift. Right. And I think that Zac Cupples broke that down a couple of years ago. And you look at whether you’re getting fancy and looking at what’s happening at your pelvis, or you just look at the butt goes back and the butt goes down. Yeah, you’re stronger because you’re getting so much posterior chain. And I think it’s important. Like, I’m not knocking those movements.
I’m looking at them. Yeah. Through the lens of that outcome. I think what makes them bad hypertrophy movements makes them great strength movements and makes them great athletic movements. If I’m trying to squat heavier, front squat heavy, there’s 95 different things that might give and make that exercise fail. That means it’s terrible for my legs, but it’s fantastic if I’m back to being a strong safety, if I’m playing strong safety and I’ve got to keep a tight end off who’s trying to block, I’m trying to move you to the side, and I need head to toe strength all working together. So, they’re great movements. They have their place. I will kind of rotate through some of them. But if I’m focused on hypertrophy, I’m not seeing an awful lot of it. I had the embarrassing experience of saying, you know, I found a version of a Smith machine squat that I really like. I’ve got it set up in a way that I can hit crazy depth. The weight is garbage, but it’s the closest I can set up in a commercial gym to a hack squat because they don’t have one. And it’s a great exercise for Quadro.
James Cerbie: For sure. And the one thing I’ll say there in the RDL realm, I think you can also be tremendously successful with a trap bar RTL if you have it as an option. But yeah, I think as far as a straight bar goes, we’re thinking this more physique body comp, hypertrophy realm, the only thing I would use it for would be an RDL, snatch grip RDL, something in that realm so I can actually chase some hamstring hypertrophy.
But then when we think about a squat, there are so many better options. If my goal is to drive hypertrophy and your legs and particularly your quads like you just mentioned, why would I choose something like a front squat, which is a great exercise for a different outcome? But like you mentioned, I have a lot of things going to fail before my quads fail on a front squat or an SSB squat for that matter. Granted, I think the SSB squat heels elevated would be a better option than a front squat. It gets me closer there.
But in a perfect world, if you have access to a hack squat like you just mentioned, or it’s like one of those pendulum squat swing things. Both are ten times better options for this physical realm. You’re going to get a huge quad pump. Your legs, your quads are actually going to be the thing that fails. I’m going to take away all this extra risk and complexity by putting you on a machine, which is an OK thing to do. Yeah. So that’s where you got to think. Think of them as patterns, think of them as outcomes, and we’re trying to match the right choice for the right outcome.
Understanding Stress and Complexity
Jessie McMeekin: I think that that complexity idea is also an interesting one. You know, it’s this idea that complexity is inherently a good thing. But, you know, the more stress I want to apply to you, the less complexity I want you to deal with. I think it was Pat Davidson and then kind of his prelude to Mass was just talking about taking exercise you could teach a gorilla, you know, that kind of stuck with me is like, could I teach a gorilla to trap or lift? I probably could.
I was pretty dumb by the time you get to that last round of the thirty, thirty. But I think that’s important. Right. I need to stress where I want it. And if the stress is mental, that’s driving a different kind of fatigue than what I’m after for sure.
James Cerbie: My goal is again; I don’t think people ask that question of like what is the outcome that I want from this exercise on this day? Because depending on what that outcome is, I may try to do something really dumb, or I’ll shoot something a little bit more complex. Right. If. I just want a physique outcome and I have a hack squat; you’re going to hack squat. Yeah, it’s idiot proof. It is so hard for you to mess up a hack squat.
You can load the piss out of it and your legs are going to be the first thing that fails. Perfect. If I’m trying to choose something that as another random example, maybe I want more of a movement outcome. Like I’m trying to improve movement, the ability to control a rib cage and the pelvis to get into left stance, to get into right stance etc. Maybe I’m doing a wall supported split squat.
More complex, more things happening. You’re just free floating in space. You’re probably not going to get a great hypertrophy response out of that movement. You’re going to feel your quads like crazy, but there’s not enough external load and tension to probably get any type of muscular change unless you’re a total beginner. But what I do know is that by giving you that exercise, I can teach you to move a little bit better. You’re going to feel a little bit better. And so, I think that the economy is incredibly important for people to get clear on.
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah, well, I think there’s also an interesting place where those exercises for me still have a place in a hypertrophy driven program. I kind of look at them over the years as kind of preventive maintenance. This is the benefit of twenty-three, whatever I decided. Twenty-seven years of doing this because I’ve run into a lot of trouble. I’ve tried to run just sagittal bi lateral, nothing but that for months on end and it goes really well until it doesn’t.
And saying no to the left stance, right stance. If I spent a little bit of time on a split squat and if I learn to rotate my pelvis around my femur, my hack squat or my leg press or whatever I’m doing is less likely to get wonky on me. Right. My knees, my hips are doing what they ought to do. The same can be true of my shoulders, the same for whatever I’m looking at. But saying like, yeah, those are going to have a place. They’re just the side show. They’re not the main stage.
Using Accessory Work as Maintenance
James Cerbie: Yeah. And places that we like to bring those in are, I like to put them in the back end of days as accessory work. Right. Just like you said, its maintenance is just car maintenance. Sometimes if we get more aggressive with the programing and I just don’t have room to fit it on your lift days, then that becomes your conditioning. On an easy conditioning day. I’ll just give you a movement circuit with low reps, high rounds.
You’re never going to get a pump. You’re never going to get failure. But we’re just going to work through these eight to ten exercises for twenty minutes and we’re just going to get repetitions. And that’s where I can get my movement input there. Right. And so, I think those are two really good options for people listening. If you’re like, well, I need this work, but I’m not sure where to put it.
Jessie McMeekin: I think I look at it the same way. And I think you also mentioned that with the metcon, that variability, maybe that little bit of novelty in there. That’s the other problem inherently is if you and I are both saying, like, do just hack squat like, you know, six months from now, I’m probably still going to tell you to do just hack squat. So, if we can put something else in there that has some room for some complexity or stability progressions, that may help keep you engaged and feel like you’re not living Groundhog Day, especially these days where we’ve all been living Groundhog Day.
James Cerbie: For sure, 100 percent. I think the hack squat example is good because when I’m thinking about laying out a training day, I have an output block and that output block is where I want to put my big moves for the day. And I don’t tend to change that a lot. If I’m writing a program, say, 12 to 16 weeks, that output block doesn’t change. Minus set reps scheme or you start changing exercises is going to be more the accessory realm because we’ll get more novelty there.
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah. And I think increasing novelty is sort of sacrificing stimulus, at least from a hypertrophy standpoint. But here it’s good. I think the other benefit of that novelty is the variability where it’s saying as much as I’m hitting this pattern, I’m hitting it a little bit differently. So, preventive maintenance, again, maybe it’s rotating the tires. We’re not hitting the exact same thing for your joints every single day, every single week.
Understanding the Double Progression Method
James Cerbie: Yeah. So, if you think set and rep scheme in this realm, there are a lot of options. But I think the easiest way to do this that you can’t mess up that always works is double progression method.
For me, when I do double progression method, I have like three ranges. You can be 12 to 15 reps, 10 to 12 reps or eight to ten reps if we’re thinking hypertrophy. You can’t go wrong for people listening who are like, what is this witchcraft and wizardry you’re speaking of? So double progression method is fantastic because it takes away any and all guesswork of what loads should I be using for this exercise?
So, say that we have a rep range of ten to twelve reps for this given exercise. You’ll come in and you’ll work. If you hit twelve reps, so the top of that range, doing three sets of 10 to 12 reps, if you hit the top of that rep range for all three sets, you have to increase load the following week. So arbitrary numbers like, let’s say I hack squat 100 pounds, three by 12.
Awesome. Next week I have to increase weight. And you’re going to keep doing that. Eventually you’re going to reach a point where maybe you go three by 12, three by 11, three by ten. Now we’re where we want to be. And now we’re working because now the following week, you come back, you repeat the weight and you’re fighting to get the top of that rep range across the board once you hit the top of the rep range, now we bumped the weight again, right. So, you can use that as an indicator of when it’s potentially time to change exercises, because eventually you will run into somewhat of a wall with that.
Jessie McMeekin: I’ve found that things like that provide kind of a better focus for a workout. And I think that focus is really where that dopamine kick comes from. And so going in saying I’m getting all 12 reps, all three rounds so that I can put more weight on the bar is a much different experience than you and your buddy looking at each other and going, I don’t know, another five pounds on the bench.
Yeah, sure. A. that was not all you no matter what he was saying and B. Where’s that coming from? Is that sustainable over time? I think it’s measured there. Yeah. And I think it’s pretty foolproof.
What is the Dopamine Effect?
James Cerbie: It’s one of those things that just always works, and you can’t mess it up. Right. That’s what we’re looking for here. And I think the dopamine conversation is interesting and CrossFit has given a really interesting glimpse into the power of this dopamine effect, because that’s another place where these metcons and these Medley’s come in, where you get this massive dopamine rush after that you get addicted to. Another way that you could replicate that potentially is going to be doing something more like a machine circuit, like you can think of the 30/30 circuit.
Just pick ten exercises, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, move through machines. You’re going to get a humongous dopamine kick. You’re going to be in such a pain cave, but you’re probably going to come back for more. And I think that’s what you’re interested in when you start talking about the dopamine effect is getting people to have that buy in, to work harder, to keep showing up, to keep coming back.
Jessie McMeekin: I think dopamine is interesting and I kind of dug into this a little bit a few years ago to try and get a better understanding of it. And, you know, I think pop culture, we always hear it’s the reward hormone, right? You go do something and it’s pleasurable, so you get dopamine. And what we kind of misrepresent there is that it’s actually released in an anticipatory fashion. And so, it’s anticipating you doing something rewarding and it’s what makes you go seek that out.
We may have talked about it, but Joel Jamison, who obviously has some kind of a complicated relationship with CrossFit due to his area of expertise, but he wrote an article maybe four years ago and just said the biggest thing that CrossFit does, and he just hits on dopamine. Whereas, a traditional gym environment, we kind of define your goals by, hey, we’re going to lose some weight. At some point that starts to slow down, and your dopamine kind of trickles off, crossed that it’s going to change the game.
And he says it’s such an amorphous description of what they do. We’re going to make you a better athlete in all contexts and whatever that it is. But ultimately says the goal just becomes to survive the workout, just finish it. And guess what you did, and so you get that dopamine kick the next time and you get your butt up off the couch and you go do it again. I think dopamine is why you get excited to do a workout that you ought to dread. That’s the sweet spot there.
James Cerbie: I was going to say the secondary effect there with CrossFit in particular, when you get the community and the competition aspect right, and correct me if I’m wrong here, I would imagine that’s just like pouring gasoline on the dopamine fire.
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah, I mean, that’s certainly been my experience with any of those environments. Right. I’m not going to claim I’ve gotten so into it that I would be the expert. But I think that yeah, just kind of anecdotally, like, you give me something that’s a little bit out of reach, a little bit of a challenge. I might get it done. And then you put me in the trenches with some other people who are in the same fight.
Right. I think we’ve all had that experience, whether it’s sports. I mean, I’ve even had it jobs. Right. There were jobs that I loved, despite them being miserable. And I turn around and look at it years later. I’m like, no, I hated the job, but I love the people I was doing it with. And we were all getting our ass kicked by the same thing at the same time together. And so, we showed up and did it again. So, yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. Right. I think it just kind of amplifies the whole thing.
James Cerbie: I think I’ve definitely had that experience. You mentioned sports. I think one of the things that really drew me to training in the weight room I got bit by that bug is it was the only thing I found that could get me a similar high as when I played sports. I was actually talking to someone about this the other day. We’re talking about emotions and all this other stuff because I’m a pretty analytical dude. Ask my wife; I’m not I’m not very emotional. I’m working on it.
But we were having this conversation, she’s like, well, when did you actually feel like you were the most emotional? I was like, oh, sports. Like sports gave me the largest range of exposure of these just like crazy highs, these really low lows. But like, there’s just there’s nothing that beats that rush of hitting a home run in a big game in the bottom of the ninth or making a big play.
And any athlete listening to this is going to know exactly what I’m talking about. And then when your sports end, you’re left with this humongous gaping hole. So, for me, like the only place I can still find that outlet, still get that rush, a little bit of it. That sensation like I’m kind of chasing that high is when I train because I can I start blasting music out there and having a good day, hitting PRs, you just start getting after it. This is what it felt like.
Jessie McMeekin: I think it’s interesting, I mean, I’ve kind of been playing in terms of my own programing and stuff I’ve given to clients with different ways to I almost think of it as like part of what defines sports in such a positive way was there was a scoreboard, right? You knew how you did. That home run in the bottom of the ninth doesn’t matter if nobody’s keeping score. It’s like, hey, great games.
We don’t know what it is. We’re not sure if someone else is coming up to bat. But like, you hit that thing really far. Nice job. And so, there’s got to be some stakes. Yeah, right. Like there’s got to be some stakes to it. I think looking at stuff where, you know, kind of the flip side is that it’s the downside of the workouts. Sometimes it’s like, hey dude, how was your workout today?
Like, all right. Why just all right? I don’t really know. Were your weights off? No. Right, like you don’t have a great answer for that, and so I think what I can put a section in a program that kind of answers that question for you. You walk out and you say, I won today, or I lost today, and a loss isn’t that defeating. It’s just refocusing. You know, one of the dumber things and simpler things I’ve been playing with is just total reps.
Right. I’ll pick two non-competing movements, really simple, like a leg press and a plate loaded machine press. Right. And say we’re going to pick a weight. You’ve got this much time. I want you to get fifty-five reps with both, go. And you go. And if you get it in the time, we add weight and if you don’t get it in the time, we stay where we are. And it’s just one of these things, you got a clock, we got a scoreboard, and you know whether you won, or you lost, and it’s hard as hell.
But the people have done that or show up and they worked their asses off for a few minutes. And then we get some more of that kind of sensorimotor stuff done later on in the workout. We finish with conditioning, and they get huge progress week after week. I think it has more to do with the effort and the dopamine than anything genius. And like, hey, I don’t know if you guys ever heard of a leg press. Pretty cool.
The Importance of Gamification in Your Programming
James Cerbie: That’s why it’s so important. And I’ve harped on this a lot. It’s so important to you have to cook competition and challenge and any good training program. Just giving the sets and reps is step one. You have to figure out how to gamify that experience for the person doing it, like for people listening to this, managing your own program, if you’ve ever done any of the programs, I’ve written that most of the rubble, like anything in our training team for sure, we gamify everything for our people because it changes, no pun intended, changes the game.
Right, because they know exactly what they’re trying to beat every single week. They have numbers like I’m either trying to beat reps or I’m trying to beat total volume and tonnage moves or there’s a challenge. I got to post it in this thing. So, I want to give you exposure every single day, every single week, so you know, exactly like you said, the win loss column. Where am I keeping score? What am I trying to do this week? Because otherwise you can just go train three weeks and just going to go through the motions.
Jessie McMeekin: And I think, you know, you kind of started with it. A great program, mediocre effort is going to get just crushed by mediocre program, great effort. And imagine if you had great program, great effort. Right. Like yeah. But I think we’ve all seen someone running a program that doesn’t look very smart or working with a trainer that we don’t think is very smart, but they’re making progress. And you kind of have to step back at some point and say like they’re getting something right. Let me look at it and figure out what that is.
James Cerbie: Yeah, and I love the time stats are such another powerful tool that you can use, and it ties in really well with this body composition, physique hypertrophy conversation, because that can work in a really big way, like the time stats are doing density type protocol.
Jessie McMeekin: That’s really kind of where I took that from. Right. Is if you’ve looked at like escalating density training, you know, there’s sort of that particular model of it has some pretty defined parameters for when you progress and how many reps in this or that. But it’s this idea that you take in a trap bar deadlift and again, something that’s not going to compete with the upper body and just go to town. You know, you can use it for strength.
You can use it for whatever. But I think density is another one of those training variables, especially when it comes to the body comp, that’s not really looked at it. So, yeah, total tonnage. But how long did it take you? The clock is a really underused element in most gyms. You know, you kind of look at the wall, you’re like, why is everyone wearing a watch and why are there all these clocks? Because apparently Instagram is how you time your rest.
Of course, you can bench more. You rested nine minutes and maybe that’s your goal and maybe that’s in line, but maybe it’s not. And so, I think just sort of saying, cure those parameters, again, especially if I’m looking for that body comp, it’s just like, yeah, look, you moved thirty thousand pounds in ten minutes to see if we can make it thirty-one thousand.
James Cerbie: I love it. Fantastic. So, I’m trying to think if there’s anything else in this realm that would be really pertinent to hit on because we’ve talked about sort of upper lower split structures, how many days a week each frame talked about rep schemes, things in that realm, different protocols. Is there anything you feel like we’re just totally leaving? Is there a big, gaping hole here for people listening?
Requisite Work Capacity and Recovery
Jessie McMeekin: I don’t think there’s any big gaping hole. I mean, I think to kind of put a bow on sort of where my thinking is, I think we’ve got a really similar program structure and very similar structure within a day. Right. I’m starting with the thing that I think will do the best and where I want you to apply the most stress. If it’s hypertrophy or body comp driven, it’s going to be sagittal, it’s going to be bilateral. It’s going to be really simple. And I’m going to try and use a tool that targets the stress where I want it, as opposed to making it really general. Right. I think general stress can be a really good way to drive fat loss. I may want hormonal. I may want mechanical, but I don’t really want that neural stress.
As I get farther into the workout, things get a little less gorilla like. Right. We may get on to one leg. We might use one arm. I’m a big fan of rowing patterns and pulling patterns as a one arm thing just to kind of keep scapular movement good. Because I think that feeds into everything else, and then maybe the last part of it we haven’t touched on is just the idea that conditioning supports that.
Right. Cardio is anabolic, even if not in the moment, all recoveries are aerobic. If you don’t have an engine, you’re not recovering on your off days the same way you are if you’re resting heart rate is high 60s, you probably want to hit that a little harder and see if we can get it down under 60.
James Cerbie: You need the aerobic side of the world. You need the requisite work capacity to be able to handle the stress that’s going to get you the outcome you want. The conversation around hypertrophy, body comp, physique. In order to make that happen, you need the requisite work capacity to take on that type of stress. And Ryan L’Ecuyer, who’s with us here at Rebel Performance, is a hypertrophy coach, phenomenal coach. I’ve seen him do that so many times where early on in the program when he first get somebody, they do a work capacity phase right off the gate.
Because he knows that this person won’t be able to actually handle. The other train they’re going to be getting to, you have to earn the right to do that other training, so you had a work capacity phase and then maybe we go into metabolic stress, mechanical tension. Things are more classical hypertrophy.
Jessie McMeekin: Yeah, I think that’s fair. And I think “earn it” is not meant that, like are you cool enough? Are you tough enough? It’s just not going to do any good. Like you don’t know what to do with it. Let’s throw you into 400 level physics before you took 100 level physics. Like it doesn’t make any sense quite literally. Like building blocks and foundations for sure.
James Cerbie: Yeah. One of the things that I try to harp on a lot on the podcast with our athletes is that if you want adaptation, you have to be able to purchase that adaptation. You have to have the money in your bank account to buy that adaptation. You can’t buy a house if you don’t have the money to buy the house or a car, whatever it is. It’s a similar thing when we’re training. The work capacity, these other bits that we’ve been talking about, those are the things that are putting money in the bank account for you so that when you have this big stressor and you make a withdrawal, you can actually pay for it and not go into the red in the bank account.
Jessie McMeekin: Right. Right. Because that ultimately is where injuries crop up and, you know, you start seeing stuff slide back.
James Cerbie: Jesse, it’s been beautiful. Fantastic conversation. So, where can people go to find you all the cool things that you guys have going on right now?
Jessie McMeekin: I think the easiest place probably just find me on Instagram @jessemcmeekin. Probably the one that’s most updated. If you don’t mind looking at the occasional picture of my wife or my dog, they’re both better looking than me. So, I’d recommend you deal with it. But yeah, I think stuff there and then obviously can check out the website, just adapt-performance.com.
James Cerbie: Beautiful. And we’ll link to all of that in the show notes for the listeners. So yeah, definitely go check out Jesse. Everything that he has going on. Phenomenal coach. Awesome dude. You guys can sign up and chat more about Jack Morman Coffee and Cold Brew. He can give you all the important details.
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