Workout Routines

John Meadows' 6-Week Plan for Packing on Muscle Mass

It’ll be hard, but finish Project Colossus and there will be no doubt who’s the biggest guy in the gym.

IFBB-Bodybuilder-John-Meadows-Lifting-Dumbbell-Rack-BW
Erica Schultz / M+F Magazine
Erica Schultz / M+F Magazine
Exercises 26
Equipment Yes

Forty-two days. That’s the amount  of time we’re going to ask you to commit to packing on more muscle to your frame. That’s not a very long time, but by the end of the program, you’ll be begging for mercy.

For six weeks, you’ll follow a six-day (or three, if time is tight) training split that’ll require you to push beyond what your muscles can do alone. You’re also going to have to be comfortable eating far more food than you’re (probably) used to. 

All of this is the brainchild of IFBB Pro League bodybuilder and programming guru John Meadows, C.S.C.S. We’ve included a sample week from his six-week Project Colossus program. The tenets are outlined below, but here’s the gist: You’re going to lift as hard as you can, eat thousands of calories, and let your body guide your progression. When it’s all over, you’ll have the mass to show for it. 

Meadows' Four Tips for a Successful Bulk-Up

Deloads: “There will be no deloads during this program. So suck it up and push as hard as you can for six weeks. Then you can back off for a bit.”

Progression: “One week you may do a certain number of reps, the next week you’ll add partials to that, and then the next week you may add an isometric hold on top of that.” 

Training split: “This is a push, pull, and leg program with optional pump days for each. That said, I do not expect you to do all six days. (You can if you’re a psycho, but that’s on you.) Instead, do all three main push, pull, and leg days [shown here] and add two pump days. If you want to focus on your upper body, you can tack on the push (pump) and pull (pump) days. Or, if you want to hit legs twice, add that into your routine and pick one of the additional upper-body days.” 

Recovery: “To really unlock your growth potential, make it your mission to reduce your stress outside of the gym (paying your bills on time helps big-time) and get a full night’s sleep. For sleep, my general guidelines are: 1) Get eight hours of sleep. 2) Turn off electronics two hours before bed. 3) Keep your room cool. 4) Don’t nap late in the afternoon.” 

How to Eat for More Mass

Directions: If you want to get big, you need to eat like it. Follow these guidelines as a starting point and adjust as necessary. It’s a lot of food, but you need to push it for six weeks.

Eating For More Mass
Macronutrients How Much To Eat
Calories Multiply Body Weight x 20
Daily Grams of Protein Multiply Body Weight x 1.25
Daily Grams of Fat Multiply Body Weight x .5
Your Carbs Will Be Made Up Of Remaining Calories

Example: For a 200 Pound Man: 4000 Calories / 250g Protein / 100g Fat/ 525g Carbs

*To find carbs: Multiply 250 x 4 (4 calories in a gram of protein) = 1,000. Then, 100 x 9 (9 calories in a gram of fat) = 900. Add them up (1,900) and subtract that from 4,000 (total calories). You’re left with 2,100. Divide that by 4 (the amount of calories in a carb), and you have your number.

How to Gauge Your Workload With RPE

Your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) determines how hard to work. Here’s how to decipher the RPE numbers listed below. 

Rate of Perceived Exertion
RPE Description
6 Easy Warmup Weight
7 Can do 4-6 more reps
8 Can do 2-3 more reps
8.5 Can do 2 more reps
9 Can do 1 more rep
10 Hit failure with perfect form
11 Went past failure with loose form
12 Used intensity technique to push past failure
13 Used multiple intensity techniques to push past failure

 

Pull

Exercise 1

Low-Cable Row You'll need: Cable Machine
exercise image placeholder
2 sets
20 reps
-- rest
RPE: 6 / Drop weight by 20% and do a dropset to failure.

Exercise 2

Low-Cable Row You'll need: Cable Machine
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
6,6,8 reps
-- rest
RPE:11/Drop weight by 20% and do a dropset to failure.

Exercise 3

Rack Pull You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Rack Pull thumbnail
3 sets
3 reps
-- rest
RPE: 7

Exercise 4

Rack Pull You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Rack Pull thumbnail
1 sets
10 reps
Rest for a beat between each rep rest
RPE: 10/ Rest for a beat between each rep. 3. Keep your chest up.

Exercise 5

Banded Chinup You'll need: Elastic Band
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2 sets
To Failure reps
-- rest
RPE:10

Exercise 6

Prone Dumbbell Row
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3 sets
8,12,8 reps
-- rest
Do 1 feeder set, then a set to failure with 12, and then up the weight and reach failure at 8 reps.

Exercise 7

Pulldown With Stretch
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2 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest
RPE: 9 / Let the weight stretch your lats at the top of the movement

Exercise 8

Hang From Pullup Bar
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1 sets
60 Sec reps
-- rest

Exercise 9

Decline Bench Leg Raise
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2 sets
To Failure reps
-- rest

Exercise 10

Barbell Curl How to
Barbell Curl thumbnail
2 sets
12,18 reps
-- rest
RPE:10 / Do 2 feeder sets.

Exercise 11

Hammer Curl
exercise image placeholder
2 sets
10 reps
-- rest
RPE: 10

Push

Exercise 1

Decline Dumbbell Bench Press You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press thumbnail
2 sets
8 reps
-- rest
RPE:11 / Do 2 feeder sets.

Exercise 2

Incline Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Incline Bench Press thumbnail
2 sets
12,8 reps
-- rest
RPE:10 / Do 2 feeder sets

Exercise 3

Machine Press How to
exercise image placeholder
1 sets
8 reps
-- rest
RPE:11 /Do a tough 8, rest 20 seconds, go to failure, and repeat 2 more times

Exercise 4

Dumbbell Flye You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
2 sets
10 reps
-- rest
RPE:11 / Hold bottom position of last rep for 15 seconds

Exercise 5

Dumbbell Press You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Bench Press thumbnail
2 sets
10 reps
-- rest
REP:10 / Do 2 feeder sets

Exercise 6

Dumbbell Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lateral Raise thumbnail
1 sets
8 reps
-- rest
RPE:10 / Do 2 feeder sets

Exercise 7

Reverse Pec Deck How to
Reverse Pec Deck thumbnail
2 sets
25 reps
-- rest
RPE:9

Exercise 8

Assisted Dip You'll need: Dip Station
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2 sets
10 reps
-- rest
RPE:10 / Do 1 feeder set.

Exercise 9

Kettlebell Skull Crusher You'll need: Kettlebells
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2 sets
Failure reps
-- rest
RPE:10

Legs

Exercise 1

Lying Leg Curl How to
Lying Hamstring Curl thumbnail
1 sets
8 reps
-- rest
RPE:12 / Do 2 warmup sets of 20, then 2 feeder sets of 6 to 8. On your last set, do 8 reps, then 10 partial reps.

Exercise 2

Barbell Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Man Barbell Squat thumbnail
2 sets
8 reps
-- rest
RPE:10 / Do 2 sets of 10, then a few feeder sets of 4, and then 2 working sets of 8.

Exercise 3

Leg Press How to
Leg Press thumbnail
2 sets
10 reps
-- rest
RPE:10 / Do a tough 8, rest 20 seconds, go to failure, and repeat 2 more times.

Exercise 4

Bulgarian Death Set You'll need: Dumbbells
exercise image placeholder
1 sets
90 Sec reps
-- rest
RPE:11 / Lower yourself to a 3 count, come up halfway, pause for 3 seconds, then come back up all the way. Repeat for 90 seconds on both legs

Exercise 5

Banded Stiff-leg Deadlift You'll need: Barbell, Elastic Band
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2 sets
10 reps
-- rest
RPE:10 / Lower the bar to a 3 count, pause for 1 second

Exercise 6

Standing Calf Raise You'll need: Box How to
Standing Calf Raise thumbnail
2 sets
10 reps
-- rest
RPE:9-10 / After 2 warmup sets, perform 10 reps, followed by 10 partial reps.
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