We love to say that no one has ever gained weight training at Gym Jones, and generally, this is true. Male athletes tend to lose about 10-15 pounds when they began training with us, and it happens during a period when they are also gaining strength. However, some athletes start out light, with little fat mass, so gain weight. In fact, we love to claim that we packed three whole pounds of muscle onto James Litz in six months, “he ballooned up to 128 pounds.” This extra muscle did contribute to a great season of climbing during which he sent several of the hardest routes in the country.

In special circumstances gaining mass is necessary. Maximus dropped from 225# to 213# and freaked-out because he needs to cut from the mid-220s to fight light-heavyweight at 205#. He changed his training and diet and put the mass back on. John McKean took a fight at welterweight (170#) in March and had to add some size because he normally walks at 170#, which allows him to fight at 155# after the cut. For the fight in March he wanted to come down from 180# or slightly higher so we changed his training and diet to “get swole.”

For an MMA fighter gaining weight is not as easy task. The MMA fighter must develop and maintain many different skills and capacities so the weekly schedule is very high volume. Under these conditions it is difficult for the body to recover enough to repair and rebuild. John followed his plan, worked, and ate and slept for two months but only gained a few pounds. Then, a knee injury forced him to rest more about three weeks out from the fight, and that’s when the weight stacked up. He had been sending the “gain weight” message consistently. He was recovering well enough to maintain training volume but not well enough to repair his muscles and grow. The rest gave his body enough extra energy to rebuild. For the fight he cut from 181#, and continued gaining weight during the post-fight window of rest and recovery. The key lesson from this is that recovery is important. 

This plan is a one month plan based on what John McKean did to gain weight. On Mondays we used ladders of 2-3-5 reps for each set since 10x10 proved too destructive and needed too much recovery afterward, which affected the rest of the week’s training. On Tuesdays we focused on the upper body, pressing overhead or on the flat bench and always combined with a pulling exercise. John pressed light loads (60-65% for the bench) for 3-5x ladders of 2-3-5-10, also totaling 100 reps but getting there in a different way. He used DBs overhead due to the stability requirements, which benefits the shoulder girdle.

The sheer volume of MMA, Muay Thai, BJJ, and power-endurance work done at Gym Jones, which is all “cardio” and contradicts the “gain weight” message meant that John’s size gains were minimal until injury enforced the rest period. Once he began resting more he stacked on the meat in a hurry. This plan would work best during a period of time where you could reduce the amount of fight specific training outside of the gym or if a reduction cannot be facilitated then work on technique only. 

You could do this plan for a month and go back to a traditional training plan or repeat this month if more weight gain is needed. 


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