Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Tag: Sagi Kalev

Can a program like Body Beast be modified to be more strength-focused?

I received this question the other day:

Could one tweak the Body Beast program into a quasi-strength training program by decreasing reps and increasing rest time, but sticking to the same exercises?

As I mentioned in my Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting blog, you will gain some strength from virtually any type of resistance training, especially if you are a beginner. Beginners mostly improve through neural adaptations, or in other words, their brain to muscle connection becomes more effective.

It just so happens to be that BEST way to gain strength, especially for those of us who have some experience resistance training, is to use much lower repetitions and longer break periods. This is because the muscle fibers are challenged the most during highly intense sets, and the long break periods allow you to fully recover from every set in order to maximize your effort on every subsequent set.

So, can a program like Body Beast be tailored to be more of a strength program? Possibly, but not really in the way that you think. Here's why:

  1. Let's get the obvious out of the way first and foremost. The break periods in Body Beast are designed to keep the muscles under "attack" and therefore keep the metabolic demand high. This is when you get that "pumped" or "burning" feeling in your muscles. Because you are playing around with various repetition goals with very short breaks (less than 90 seconds), the program is specifically designed to maximize hypertrophy with just a relatively basic selection of weights found at home.

    You could hit the pause button here and there to extend the breaks during the workouts, and in fact I highly recommend this as you become stronger and increase your weights, but in order to maximize your strength and completely recover after every set, your break periods may force the length of the Body Beast workout to become unacceptably long, especially considering the number of sets involved.

  2. Strength training is accomplished (mostly) through compound movements. Compound movements, also known as "core" exercises, work large muscle groups with more than 1 joint involved. For example, a bench press is a compound movement because it is working a large muscle group (pectorals), and it is using more than one joint (shoulders, elbows). This allows the body to better distribute the load being placed upon it.

    There are a lot of isolation exercises in Body Beast targeting a small group of muscles or a very specific muscle. This is what bodybuilding is all about, sculpting the body to look a certain way. In my opinion, only compound movements can and should be used for strength training. For example, a biceps curl, in my opinion, should not be trained with loads that target the 5 and under rep range. I believe that puts far too much stress on the muscle, connective tissues, and joint involved in the exercise.

So what can we do to increase strength. Well, if you are working out at home with a relatively small selection of dumbbells, then you can still continue to use Body Beast to increase muscle size and strength. Yes, you will gain some strength from Body Beast.

Another option that will probably be most common, and one that I have personally tried in the past, would be to try and lower your rep goals for compound movements. So, for example, if you were doing a flat dumbbell chest press, you could target 6-8, 8-10, and 10-12 rep ranges instead of the standard 8, 12, 15 reps that the program uses now. Keep in mind that the higher your resistance climbs to lower your repetitions, listen to your body and take extra/longer breaks when needed.

Also realize that Body Beast uses a wide range of pyramid-style sets (increasing resistance, decreasing repetitions), as I said, to maximize your fairly limited selection of dumbbells at home. Standard strength training involves doing compound exercises first in a workout (with warmup sets) when the muscles are rested and more capable of generating force. Once you start messing around with moving sets around, increasing break periods, and exercise selection, then the program starts to look less and less like Body Beast.

How effective is Body Beast for hypertrophy?

One of the major hurdles faced by Beachbody when creating Body Beast was trying to create a program that could elicit measurable hypertrophy (muscle size) gains with fairly basic home workout equipment. Many people, including myself, was skeptical of the idea of being able to build mass without some of the heavy weights and equipment used in your standard gym.

Although, you may need a decent selection of weight in order to maximize your benefits from Body Beast - staying within specific rep ranges, it turns out, you may not need to train with as heavy weight as you may think.

When working with untrained beginners, personal trainers may be able to produce hypertrophy using lighter loads (15RM+ or <65% of 1RM). Such hypertrophy may be similar or only slightly inferior to that achievable using heavier loads and this may allow for greater variety and an initially less-challenging task for the client.

Here are a few points to be taken into consideration, however:

  1. All of these studies used untrained individuals. Virtually any form of resistance training could probably elicit some sort of muscle size increase in untrained individuals for a number of reasons, including water retention, increased glycogen storage, and swelling due to new stimulus. Virtually all "beginners" achieve some sort of muscular hypertrophy when they first begin a resistance training program (regardless of rep range or resistance used).
  2. Although a home workout program like Body Beast can result in muscle hypertrophy, it is just that, a hypertrophy program and oftentimes I see individuals confusing muscle size increase with strength gains. Sure, one may increase their overall strength due to the stimulus being used, however, Body Beast is not the optimal program in order to develop overall strength. (Refer to the following diagram)

Traditional strength training uses compound lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, barbell row, etc.), typically in the 1-5 rep range with longer periods of rest (2-5 minutes) to maximize the amount of force that you can generate every set.

Resistance training at any rep range will more than likely elicit improvements, especially with progressive overload (increasing resistance every or every other workout). Don't confuse the fact that increasing your weight for a 8-rep set of dumbbell squats as a tremendous increase in strength. Your muscles are getting better at squatting more weight for that rep range, but that doesn't necessarily mean that your 1 rep maximum (1RM) for the squat has improved by any significant means.

Traditional strength training has been thought to be better at producing "denser" muscles by increasing the size and strength of the myofibrils whereas higher rep resistance training (Body Beast) increases the size or volume of the sarcoplasm.

Well, it’s no secret that when you lift heavy stuff and eat enough food, your muscles will get bigger. In fitness circles it is commonly said that gross muscle hypertrophy can occur in one of two ways: Either through increases in the volume of myofibrils inside the muscles, termed myofibriller hypertrophy, or through expansion of the “other stuff” (usually the fluid) in the muscle, termed sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. In normal cells, the fluid inside the cells is called cytoplasm, and in muscle fibers, the corresponding volume is called sarcoplasm (“sarco” meaning flesh). Supposedly, heavy, strength-oriented training (big weights, few reps, long breaks) will grow “denser”, myofibrillar hypertrophy, whereas lighter, pump oriented training will induce “puffy” (often claimed “nonfunctional”) sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. “Non-functional”, because this latter type should not be associated with increases in strength, as the capacity to produce force is derived from the contractile, myofibrillar protein. The really funky part about this idea is that it is the purest broscience and it lacks both solid evidence as well as a sound biological rationale and somehow it has managed to creep into the scientific literature anyway.

I think that the research tells us that various rep ranges of training can generate a wide range of improvements to the muscle. We know that 12+ repetitions improve muscular endurance properties as well as increase muscular size of type-1 (aerobic) muscle fibers. We know that 6-12 reps is *typically* ideal for muscular hypertrophy, with the 6-8 rep range often considered as "functional hypertrophy" due to the added strength benefits. Lastly, we know that traditional strength training in the 1-5 rep range is best for improving the overall force the muscles can generate.

Ultimately, there seems to evidence that points to hypertrophy at all rep ranges. 12+ reps can increase the size of type-1 muscle fibers. 6-12 and 1-5 reps can increase the size of type-2 muscle fibers. Beyond that, you simply need to consume enough calories (surplus to what you burn on a daily basis) to increase muscular size/volume.

In my opinion, one of the most effective things about Body Beast is that the program does target both the 6-12 rep range as well as the 12+ rep range, targeting hypertrophy of both the type-1 and type-2 fibers.

No individual should stick to any program or training style for too long because their progress will eventually plateau. I always recommend an individual transition to another program that will help them reach their overall goals.

Hypertrophy training can be especially important, beyond aesthetics, for athletes or individuals who wish to gain weight for a specific sport or event. Football players, for example, could benefit from hypertrophy training early on in their training macrocycle, gaining weight and muscular size first, prior to engaging in traditional strength training to therefore make their larger muscles stronger. Big muscles don't necessarily mean they are stronger, but they can certainly have a higher affinity for strength gains.

I would personally like to see some studies conducted on the long-term effects of various forms of hypertrophy training. Is it possible to create denser, and therefore more resilient muscle fibers by doing strength training, therefore creating growth for longer periods of time? Will sarcoplasmic hypertrophy "fade away" quicker if resistance training is stopped due to insufficient stimulus increasing the volume of the sarcoplasm?

My Body Beast Success Story Photo Shoot

For those of you who don't know, when I attended Beachbody's Coach Summit in Vegas (June 2013), I was asked to take part in a testimonial to potentially be used in future Body Beast infomercials. Here are some of the photos that were shot on that day!

How Did I Get My Body Beast Results?

A lot of people ask me "how" or "why" Body Beast? More specifically, how come my results were "better" with Body Beast than any other program I have done?

I will fully admit that my results were "better" with Body Beast than any other program. Here are my thoughts on that:


1. I have never been a guy that has needed to lose a lot of weight. Actually, growing up, I have always been very skinny. Now, think of some of the greatest transformations you have seen with Insanity/Asylum/P90X/etc. and most, if not all of the stories you see are of people who have had a lot of weight to lose. I personally never really used any of my previous programs to get thinner, or "ripped" necessarily, but used the programs to boost confidence, stay active/healthy, and to train for the various events I participate in.

2. Body Beast is definitely a program suited for a guy like me. As I said, I have always been skinny, so I knew that I could get a great transformation (opposite to those who need to lose weight) if I really focused on the program and set my mind to it. Not only that, but...

3. I also REALLY focused on my diet during Beast. I made sure to eat a ton during the first 2 phases in order to build muscle, then "cut" the fat away during Phase 3. Also,

4. Shakeology helped me a LOT. I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but it did! I just started taking Shakeology in November 2012. I started Body Beast towards the mid-way point of December 2012. Shakeology helped me to put on mass (used as a healthy snack throughout the day) but to also cut away the fat when I needed to make every calorie 'count'.

5. Body Beast is definitely a "glamour" routine. As I said before, I focused more on my strength and performance gains in the past over vanity, but with Body Beast, the goal is to grow your muscles and get ripped, so that is what I went for!

6. I really enjoyed the workouts! I am always an advocate for doing the things you enjoy...assuming I don't just mean "enjoying" sitting on your ass watching TV all day! Find something that you enjoy doing, and do it often! If you like running outside, go do that! If you enjoy swimming laps in the local pool, go do that! I enjoy a variety of things, and Body Beast happened to strike a chord with me, so I really looked forward to working hard every day! 

Hopefully that helps shed some light on my Beast results!


My Fitness Journey (so far)...

I have been blogging and vlogging for a few years now, with many of you following me throughout, but I have also had a lot of you just recently stumble upon either my website, Facebook page, or Youtube Channel. A lot of people don't realize the fitness journey that I have been taking (thus far), so I figured I would give a refresher course as to where I am coming from, where I currently stand, and where I am currently heading!

I guess you could say that I have not been your traditional "Beachbody transformation success story", as I have never been one to need to lose a lot of weight. Growing up, I was always an active kid. Consistently, every summer I would play rep (competitive) soccer, and then in the winter I would play rep  (competitive) hockey. My diet wasn't the greatest growing up, but I was a naturally skinny kid (nicknamed "skin and bones" by my family) and was active all the time, so if anything, I struggled to keep my weight up.

Holidays January 2006

Holidays January 2006

My love and passion for soccer ended up taking me College, as I earned a scholarship to play NAIA Division 2 soccer. At College, I graduate in 3 years (2003-2006), earning my B.Sc. in Biochemistry: Pre-Medical. Playing Varsity soccer was not entirely successful, as I had to sit out my 2nd season with a debilitating back injury that ended up requiring surgery (December 2004). I worked hard to re-hab in the off-season, and returned for my 3rd, and final season, but soon after graduation, I started developing some pretty bad habits.

I never really worried about working out when I was younger, as playing sports naturally kept me active. Once I graduated and settled into a full-time job, my exercising definitely took a back seat, not to mention some bad eating and drinking habits. I ended up out of shape and not happy with my lifestyle.


My poor lifestyle choices even lead to some pretty bad bouts of depression and anxiety! That moment clicked, when I realized that I could not keep continuing on my current path, so one morning, like so many others, I saw the infomercial for P90X!

September 2009

September 2009

When I first started P90X, I was totally and completely baffled by how "out of shape" I actually was. I always assumed that I was in shape, and a decent athlete, so I really didn't think that a home workout program would be this challenging! I worked hard at the program and made it through a few rounds, but my diet was certainly lacking.  Although I was in pretty decent shape, and was playing in a men's league competitive soccer, I didn't look the way I wanted to, and knew that there was something else that I needed to change besides just working out. I needed to start focusing on my diet, as that was just as much of a contributing factor, of not more so than exercise alone!

September 2010

September 2010

The P90X workouts started getting easier, and I was definitely improving. I went from being able to barely eek out 5 chin-ups in one set to cranking out 8+ every set during a workout. I was feeling good about myself, but still not looking the greatest.

I was starting to realize the importance of fuelling m body though. I started to make the connection between nutrition to perform, look, and feel better rather than to just fill my gut. In the mean time, I was growing my Beachbody workout library. By the end of 2010, I was starting to collect Tony Horton's One on One Series, as well as use the P90X+ series. I also competed my first ever half marathon in October 2010!

In 2011 I did Shaun T's Insanity series followed by Insanity: The Asylum (see my final results video here).

Throughout 2011, I dabbled with various hybrids, also training for Warrior Dash (July 2011), and then my 2nd half marathon in October 2011.

In December 2011, after my son Evan was born, I stumbled upon the promotional video for the World's Toughest Mudder from just a few weeks prior. I immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do next year!

February 2012 (post-P90X2)

February 2012 (post-P90X2)

A week after my son was born, my copy of P90X2 arrived, and I jumped into that program right away. P90X2 quickly became one of my favourite programs from Beachbody, due to the immense amount of thought and science that they put into it. I knew that this (P90X2) would be a great tool for me to use in my training goals to reach the World's Toughest Mudder in 2012.

August 2012, just a few days prior to Tough Mudder Toronto

August 2012, just a few days prior to Tough Mudder Toronto

I signed up for Tough Mudder Toronto, to compete in August 2012, and immediately began training it. I also competed in my 2nd Warrior Dash in July 2012, as a sort of lead-up to Tough Mudder. In the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to qualify for the World's Toughest Mudder by finishing in the top 5% of the participants, so I trained hard throughout 2012 in order to qualify. 

My goal was achieved when I received word from Tough Mudder Headquarters that I did in fact qualify for the World's Toughest Mudder!

There was no time to rest after I returned from Tough Mudder Toronto, as I almost immediately jumped into training to 'bridge' my fitness between Tough Mudder Toronto to the World's Toughest Mudder which was taking place in November. 

December 2012, following World's Toughest Mudder

December 2012, following World's Toughest Mudder

My training went well, although there was a lot of endurance training, and I lost more weight than what I had anticipated. I went on to compete at the World's Toughest Mudder 2012 and came home ready for my new goals.

November was also the month that I began taking Shakeology.  I will be honest, I was pretty skeptical of Shakeology before I started it. I have always been a fan of Beachbody and their products, but I got so sick and tired of so many different Coaches literally trying to pour the stuff down my throat!

When I became a Beachbody Coach myself on October 1st 2012, I didn't even sign up for Shakeology at that time. But after a month, I realized that there was no point bad-mouthing the product unless I gave it a good, honest, 30-day sample. I haven't turned back since! 

Since I had lost quite a bit of weight during my WTM training, as well as at the event itself, the timing to start Beachbody's program Body Beast, along with using Shakeology as a nutritional aide, could not have been better! 

Thinking back to when I was younger, I have always been naturally skinny, so I was really looking forward to a program like Body Beast to see what kind of results (if any) I could get with it. I became a huge fan of the program right away, and, well...I think the results will do all of the talking!

After I completed Body Beast, I have played around with a few different modifications to the program, and have recently started my own strength training program, combined with Shaun T's latest program Focus T25!

I go back and look at how far I have come over these past few years. Not only have I changed my physical appearance a few times, but I have also changed mentally. I now see exercise as not only a way to 'treat' myself, but to also challenge myself and to compete! I enjoy feeling good, looking good, and challenging myself in new ways possible. I hope that I encourage and inspire all of you to go out and do the same!

September 2009 - 180lbs.

September 2009 - 180lbs.

June 2013 - 176lbs.

June 2013 - 176lbs.

Beachbody Coach Summit Day 1

Well, I arrived in Las Vegas late Wednesday night. After landing, getting my luggage, heading to the hotel,  checking in, and getting organized, I wasn't in bed until after 1:30am. That means that I was awake for around 24 consecutive hours on Wednesday. I was then up early Thursday morning, so after just 5 hours of sleep, I was off and running. 

I first headed to find my way around this MASSIVE hotel (MGM Grand). I eventually found the convention centre and was able to register. From there, I walked around checking out the sights and everything Beachbody. I stood in line and waited to pick up a copy of Focus T25. I then headed off to find the Marquee Ballroom for the morning meeting with Coach Wayne and the rest of Team Ripped.

It was awesome to see Sagi Kalev at the training session, but what was even more amazing was finally meeting Coach Wayne in person. CW is a great guy, very genuine and down to earth, eager to help others!

I had to leave the Coach training early to head to my Body Beast photo shoot and interview. There, I was fitted for some clothing, had my makeup done, and did some pushups and tricep dips to pump up a bit to prepare for my photos. I went through a wide range of poses both clothed and topless, looking mean and smiling. I had lots of compliments from the staff at how well my photos turned out! 

After the photo shoot I headed to a different room to do my interview. That was a bit of a nerve-racking experience, as I was in front of big, bright lighting, answering questions the best I could while Beachbody staffers watched from behind the camera. I definitely find speaking in front of my camera at home, producing my own Youtube videos to be a much more pleasant experience, hehe.  After my interview, I changed, grabbed some lunch, then headed back to the last bit of Coach training. 

Once the training was done, I headed to "Core", which is essentially the tradeshow setup by Beachbody, where products are for sale. There, I was able to get my tshirt autographed by Tony Horton, I had a few minutes to speak with Steve Edwards, and also saw Shaun T's Q&A. It really was a pretty cool experience to those 3 all in such close proximity. 

Later in the afternoon was Beachbody's first General Session. During this time, we were given a breakdown on Focus T25 from Shaun T himself. This also included news that Focus T25 will also have a "upgrade" package called "Gamma Phase", not to mention the inclusion of T25 in a Challenge Pack starting THIS Monday June 24th. 

After that, and to the HUGE response from the crowd (I honestly didn't realize that this was as big of a request as it is) Vanilla Shakeology was revealed. Not only that, but Vanilla Shakeology will be available for purchase tonight at midnight (June 20th) and will be available in Challenge Packs starting Monday June 24th, starting with Focus T25! 

Friday looks to be just as busy of a day, with training and workshops throughout the day. The big things I will be looking forward to, however, will be the Tony Horton workout at 7:15am, and day 2 of the General Session at 9am. Stay tuned for even more news tomorrow! 

Beachbody's Body Beast Bulk Shoulders Modifications

Body Beast's "Build Phase" routines are quite well-rounded routines in my opinion, that is why I did not make too many changes to them. The "Bulk Phase" routines, on the other hand need a few more modifications to them. After each blog, I will explain why I made the changes that I did.

Bulk: Shoulders

Single Set
Standing Barbell Press

Super Set
Lateral Raise
Arnold Press

Progressive Set
Upright Row

Super Set
Alternating Front Raise
Plate Twist-Twist

Progressive Set
Reverse Fly

Single Set
Shrugs (Bar)

I was quite underwhelmed by Bulk Shoulders from my first round of Body Beast. In fact, I would say that as-is, Build: Shoulders is a better workout. So, I added two sets to this routine, bookending the routine.

At the beginning of the routine, I will do a standing barbell press with full chanting of "Arnold, Arnold, Arnold" (see video), and at the end I will add shrugs.

Any questions? Let me know!

Beachbody's Body Beast Bulk Legs Modifications

Body Beast's "Build Phase" routines are quite well-rounded routines in my opinion, that is why I did not make too many changes to them. The "Bulk Phase" routines, on the other hand need a few more modifications to them. After each blog, I will explain why I made the changes that I did.

Bulk: Legs

Single Set
Front to Back Lunges (Bar)

Progressive Set
Back Squat (Bar)

Force Set
Back Squat (Bar)

Progressive Set
Split Squat (Bar)

Super Set
Stiff Leg Deadlift (Bar)
Alt. Side Squat

Super Set
Single-Leg Calf Raise
Hanging Open/Close

Single Set
Calf Raises (Bar)

The alternating front to back lunges are a great way to start this routine. This exercise is actually a bit of an extension from the warm-up, allowing the legs, knees, and hips to track through their range of motion and prepare for the workout.

The progressive set of squats will obviously be done with the barbell.

The following force set, I will be swapping out the Sumo Squat for a traditional back squat because I personally find it is a better exercise. I will no doubt have to lower my weight a bit after the previous progressive set.

I have swapped out the core move at the end for "Hanging Open/Close". This is done by hanging from a pull-up bar, engaging the core, bringing your knees up towards your chest (knees kept at 90 degree bend) and you slowly open and close your knees for a desired rep range.

I have also added a bonus round at the end of the workout, with some calf raises (barbell perched on shoulders). All calf raises will be done with balls of feet and toes on a weight plate, to allow a great range of motion in the calves.

Any questions? Let me know!

Beachbody's Body Beast Bulk Back Modifications

Body Beast's "Build Phase" routines are quite well-rounded routines in my opinion, that is why I did not make too many changes to them. The "Bulk Phase" routines, on the other hand need a few more modifications to them. After each blog, I will explain why I made the changes that I did.

Bulk: Back

Single Set
Deadlift (Bar

Super Set
Dumbbell Pull-Over

Progressive Set
Reverse Grip Row (Bar)

Force Set
One-Arm Row

Single Set
Back Rows

Super Set
Reverse Fly
Plank Rotation

I am not a fan of having the Deadlift towards the end of this workout. The deadlift is a full-body, compound movement that requires a great deal of strength, especially when done with a barbell. I am also a firm believer that all strength or heavy resistance-based workouts should start with one of your primary lifts - bench press, squat, deadlift, shoulder press.

Pull-ups in Beast are always done with some sort of weighted vest or weight in a backpack to increase intensity and keep volume down (# of reps).

Since I have moved deadlifts to the start of the workout, I then replaced them with back rows during the routine. These will be done, laying face-down on an inclined bench.

Any questions? Let me know!

Beachbody's Body Beast Bulk Chest Modifications


Body Beast's "Build Phase" routines are quite well-rounded routines in my opinion, that is why I did not make too many changes to them. The "Bulk Phase" routines, on the other hand need a few more modifications to them. After each blog, I will explain why I made the changes that I did.

Bulk: Chest (changes in Bold)

Single Set
Flat Bench Press

Super Set
Incline Fly
Incline Press

Force Set
Chest Press with Rotation

Progressive Set
Incline Bench Press (Bar)

Combo Set
Close Grip Press to Fly

Multi Set
Decline Push-Up
Cobra to Airplane

I added a set of flat bench press at the very beginning of this routine. The workout actually has a good level of volume in it as-is, but towards my last round of Body Beast, I was feeling as though Bulk Chest could use just a little bit more.

The Progressive Set Incline Press, I have modified to use my bar and weight plates. After coming off a set of Dumbbell Incline Presses, as well as Dumbbell Press with Rotation, I think a set with the bar is called for.

Finally, rather than using Russian Twist at the end of the routine as the lone core move, I have swapped it out for "Roundhouse" which is a move from Tony Horton's 20-12 Abs, part of his 10 Minute Trainer One on One workout. In this exercise, you hang from a pull-up bar and lift your straight legs up and over, traveling from one side to the other, almost as if you are trying to get your legs over a wall in front of you.

Any questions? Let me know!

Beachbody's Body Beast Build: Chest/Tris Modifications

In case you missed it, I have started another round of Body Beast.​ This time around, I am utilizing my brand-new squat rack, Olympic bar, and weight plates. The extra fitness toys will allow me to alter some of the workouts a bit to not only take advantage of different exercises, but it will also allow me to up the ante, so to speak, with various exercises.

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