Dr. Mike Israetel’s Bodybuilding Notes



  1. It’s easier to gain muscle when you’re lean.
  2. Don’t be too restrictive in your diet – it won’t work. Allow yourself some freedoms so you can stick to it.
  3. Have a healthy relationship with food – don’t rush your goals at this expense. He goes as far to say that, « If you don’t have the healthiest relationship with food, it’s imperative to work on that BEFORE you start a diet. »
  4. Muscles have different ‘MRV’s, or Maximum Recoverable Volume. This is the recommended number of sets you should do for each muscle each week. Knowing how they vary can help you plan your training. For example, in the article, Dr. Israetel says side delts can handle around 25 working sets per week. (I don’t do nearly that much, do you?)
  5. He recommends starting with the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) for growth, progressing up to the MRV, then once progression is no longer sustainable without excessive fatigue, deloading.
  6. The minimum hypertrophy threshold is around 60% of your 1RM. Increasing too far above this level of intensity will cause a disproportionate amount of fatigue (bad, if your only goal is muscle).
  7. Some lifts have limiting factors that need to be brought up for them to improve, such as the Deadlift. Other lifts may have limiting factors, but do not require you to specialize on a specific weak muscle (Bench Press).
  8. Varying your training is important for muscle growth, as your body gets used to the stimulus it’s given. This isn’t on the scale of weeks, but rather several months.
  9. You cannot train all of your muscles to their MRV at once due to the limitations of your body’s overall recovery. He recommends focusing on several muscle groups at once while maintaining others to deal with this.
  10. Going to failure will produce slightly more stimulus, but MUCH more fatigue. Use failure sparingly.
  11. As you progress, you will likely have to reduce your volume / frequency to allow adequate recovery. Just one reason to not blindly follow someone else’s program.
  12. Cardio burns more calories for an equal amount of stress – if weight loss is your only goal, don’t wreck yourself lifting or you won’t be able to recover from cardio. His opinion is that anyone who ignores either cardio or reducing food intake is doing themselves a disservice.
  13. Flat and Incline Barbell Bench are the best for chest hypertrophy. Learn to arch! He recommends 15-25 sets per week, for chest.
  14. Because dumbbells require more stability, they should be used for volume, not intensity.
  15. Compound movements for chest take care of most of your front delt training. Additional work should be only 6-10 sets per week, after your chest training.
  16. Side delts should be hit with variations of upright rows and lateral raises (not for your lats). Your technique is especially critical for your side delts to make sure you hit the muscle directly and reduce injury risk. They recover quickly, so MRV of 20-30 sets per week.
  17. Rear delts are hit mostly through rowing, but if improving your rear delts is a big goal, train them very frequently (like every workout).
  18. Arms -> High frequency. Especially your triceps.
  19. Dr. Israetel says he never does cheat curls, but rather sticks to strict technique. Make sure you’re not just feeding your ego. Do you want to look like you’re lifting a lot, or do you want to look like you lift?
  20. For biceps, somewhere around 15-30 sets is your MRV, bets spread out over many sessions (remember, high frequency).
  21. For triceps, Overhead Triceps Extensions, Skull Crushers, Dips, and Close Grip Bench. MRV of 15-20 sets.
  22. Most of your grip training will be done through your other movements, like pulling. If you choose to train your forearms, though, your MRV is around 10-15 sets a week.
  23. Quads can take 15-25 sets a week. The stronger you are, the lower this will be. He recommends having heavy days and light days, due to how fatiguing quad training can be. Oh and heavy leg extensions suck.
  24. Proper technique and form are crucial. He mentions how he does 445lbs for leg press despite having huge quads. Heavy is for compound movements, not isolation moves. We’ve all heard going lighter and focusing on working the muscle, but how many of us actually do it?
  25. Compounds > Isolation, but isolation moves have their place.
  26. Squat.
  27. Hit hamstrings with both hip extension movements and knee flexion movements. (he says Leg Curls specifically, but those aren’t the only knee flexion movements that will suffice). Hamstrings can take longer to recover than other muscles.
  28. Calf exercises should include a deep stretch to maximize muscle damage. If your calves don’t feel sore, you should train them.
  29. For back exercises, stick to 15 to 30 sets per week, depending on your MRV. Stick to strict form, full ROM, and the basic exercises, like rows and pull ups. Also, be patient. If you want a big back, you gotta train for years.
  30. Most trap training comes from other bodypart training, so MRV for direct trap work is around 10-15 sets. Start from full scapular depression and hold at the top.
  31. For glutes, do glute bridges, lunges, glute-ham raise, sumo squats, sumo deadlifts, glute pull-throughs, and glute machine kickbacks. For compound movements like squats, the lower the better, but for isolation exercises, squeeze at the peak contraction.
  32. Different forms of deadlifting have different effects on your muscle growth. If you aren’t sure what they are, then seriously, read the article. Also, keep frequency low.

I left out a LOT of quality information – these are just a few of the key takeaways from his notes. If you read through my list but haven’t read the article yet, then just trust me, his notes are way better than mine. Dr. Israetel is both highly educated and very experienced. What more can you ask for?


Have anyone of you seen a pro bodybuilder workout off screen

  • Phil Heath (Armbrust): Keeps it simple, lots of supersets and giant sets. During his off season he goes pretty heavy on stuff, but during Olympia prep I’ve never seen him touch bench, deadlifts, or squats.
  • Jeremy Buendia (Armbrust, Golds Gym Venice): He’s pretty typical training style. Love benching, only have seen him training chest or shoulders. High volume training, pretty moderate weight for everything.
  • Shawn Rhoden (Gold’s Venice): Machines and Free weights. Super into his training. The couple times I’ve seen him at Gold’s in Venice he always wears a big ass hoodie and leggings. His trainer is constantly telling him which muscle is moving and to focus on it. Saw him do 315 on incline bench for a set of 30….. Ridiculous volume
  • Ronnie Coleman (Metrofelx): Took a road trip to Metro to hopefully run into him, paid off. Sounded like a squeeky toy in the gym the whole time he was there, screaming and saying all his phrases. He was training shoulders and he did 180lbs for 15 clean reps.
  • Branch Warren (Metroflex): Caught a quick glimps of him during the same trip to see Ronnie. Literal meatball, loves to destroy his chest on incline when he benches.
  • ive seen phil heath train a few times when i was in denver. he never used free weights only machines…
  • Was at a gym training while Branch Warren was. Can confirm fucker is crazy.
  • There is a bodybuilder who trains at my gym who is fucking massive beyond all reason. Forearms the size of watermelons.

    I see him all the time, but I only ever seen him train quads. He’ll do an exercise and start stupid light. Like 30 lbs on leg extension. Or 1 plate on leg press. Then 2 plates. 3 plates. 4 plates. 5 plates. 6 plates. 7 plates. 8 plates. 9 plates. 10 plates. 11 plates. 12 plates. 13 plates. 14 plates. 15 plates. 16 plates. 17 plates. 18 plates.

    Then the same for another exercise. He doesn’t do flashy shit. Just 2-3 basic exercises and grind them out for eternity.

  • Ive had the pleasure of training with ifbb pro’s on multiple occasions and train with one daily. The volume is what sets the sessions apart from most people. Especially in the offseason. 8-10 sets of 8-12 reps on 5 exercises. Its soul crushing and just beats you down mentally to focus on every rep for almost 2 hours. Yes, gotta eat immediately due to low blood sugar when dieting. But intra workout drinks with up to 125g dextrose keeps that at bay usually and fuels those marathon sessions. As for weight, its all relative, but most go until positive failure on every set throughout the whole workout and only rest enough to breathe normally.

What are some things that have gotten you through a plateau?

S-Tier (try these first)

  • Eat more calories.
  • Sleep more.
  • Be patient and keep doing what you’re doing (works more often than you’d think).

A-Tier (usually help)

  • More volume is a very common suggestion. This can take a lot of forms, including drop sets, heavy negatives, assistance exercises, variant exercises, and simply doing the same exercise more often.
  • Add assistance exercises.
  • Deload and work back up .
  • Periodization routines.

B-Tier (try these if you’re still stuck)

  • Change workout frequency.
  • Double check your form.
  • Stretch the body part giving you trouble.
  • Break week, do something completely different.
  • Remove assistance exercises, you may be overworking yourself.
  • Try microloading.

C-Tier (I don’t know what else it could be…)

  • Alter the equipment you’re using (squat shoes, belts, straps, etc.).
  • Change your macro split (more protein, more fat, etc.).
  • Start using supplements (creatine, preworkout, etc.).
  • Cut alcohol intake .
  • Get laid .
  • Change the time of day you work out.

D-Tier (only try if desperate)

  • Sacrifice a goat to Baal .
  • Trying acid & mushrooms .
  • Ice on your balls .
  • Hop on the juice .