It’s safe to say I’ve reached a pinnacle in my career where my friends and clients confide in my knowledge of fitness and nutrition because they will regularly tag me on Facebook and Instagram about the latest supplement, diet, or fitness-related product. People also send me Snapchats of their meals to validate to me that they eat healthy while using the hashtag #gains or #gainz.
They know I’m about that life. Some even say that’s all I talk about…there is some truth to that. It’s funny considering I’m not the most jacked guy in the gym, though I’m fairly strong for my bodyweight. So yeah I talk about gains, I read about gains, I eat for gains, and daydream about gains…of all kinds.
So allow to me clarify what gains are because they can be had by all.
This one is likely the most obvious because, well, gains bro. But in all seriousness, this aspect of achieving gains in the scientific community is known as muscular hypertrophy which can be defined as the muscular enlargement resulting from training, primarily owing to an increase in the cross-sectional area (CSA) of the existing fibers (1). Gains in muscular size can typically be achieved when using repetition range between 65% and 85% of your 1-repetition maximum (RM).
This is what a lot of guys and girls are after when it comes to resistance-training. Somewhere along the way, you were inspired to lift weights because maybe you saw fitness models in magazines, your older brother doing it, thought it would improve your love/social life, or maybe the most athletically talented kid in school. You made the decision that you wanted gains in your muscular definition right then and there. The seed was planted and the rest is history.
So that’s gains in a nutshell. When you see it hash-tagged on the internetz or your friends talking about it, that’s likely what it is.
Achieving lean gains is likely the hardest for most to carry out because it arguably involves more discipline as your diet becomes the biggest factor here. Although this term was coined by Martin Berkhan, lean gains is more specific as it generally refers to those wanting to maintain their lean body mass (muscle) but drop some body fat. By making steady decreases in your body fat percentage, this is known as lean gains because you’re increasing your level of leanness.
If you’ve read some of my previous articles on dieting, then you know what it takes to get leaner. Sure, you can start by exercising more and may have luck dropping a few pounds at first but your weight loss efforts need to be strategic. I’ve laid out everything you need to know to get started in 5 Reasons You’re Not Lean(er). That should set you on the right path for lean gains.
Another plus to making lean gains is when you’re successfully losing weight while also making gains in strength AND muscular size. Yes, losing body fat and gaining muscle is entirely possible in certain populations given specific circumstances. Beginner trainees, overweight individuals with limited training experience, and those coming back from an extended layoff would fit into this category of making lean gains. Those that have trained for a while are less likely to experience this type of effect from training and dieting.
By now you’re likely seeing a trend with these.
Acquiring strength gains requires you to lift heavier loads that only allow 6 reps or less. Strength can be defined as the ability to exert force at any given speed (2). Gains in strength are largely due to neural adaptations because the body learns how to generate more force from muscle fiber recruitment, rate coding frequency of nerve impulses, and synchronization motor units (3).
In order to gain strength, you need to move heavy loads that equate to >85% of your 1-repetition maximum. Strength gains are those you’ve made in an effort to become stronger. Maybe you deadlifted or squatted 5 to 10 lbs heavier than you did the week before. That’s always a great feeling of accomplishment! Obviously you’ve done something right to become stronger with your training and/or nutrition to make these kinds of gains in strength.
Gains Are for Everyone
Long story short, don’t hate on the gains someone is making. Embrace them and congratulate that individual’s effort and willingness to strive towards a better version of themselves. In the end, it’s all bout goal-setting and smashing those goals so you can move on to the next. Push your limits and find out how far you can take it in an effort to make your own individual gains.
Nobody likes taking a loss. If you’re not gaining, you’re losing. If you’re not getting gains, you should probably try hiring a professional : )
1. National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. EdD Baechle; CSCS (2011-05-01). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (Kindle Locations 3452-3453). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.
2. National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. EdD Baechle; CSCS (2011-05-01). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (Kindle Location 2730). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.
3. Schoenfeld, Brad (2012-09-19). The MAX Muscle Plan (Kindle Locations 1800-1801). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.