Former US Army Captain and MRI athlete Kyle Clarke sits down with Fitness Rx For Men to discuss his training philosophy, tips for hard gainers, his favorite mass-building exercises and more.
NAME Kyle Clarke
How did you get started training?
From the time I was four years old my dad had me playing baseball, soccer and basketball year round. And I was the smallest guy on the team. It’s no fun when you’re one, the coach’s son and two, the smallest guy on the team. I always looked at the [fitness] magazine covers and saw that the guys in the best shape were the ones that were doing well in their sports.
When I was a sophomore in high school a guy from church took me to the gym with him, he took me through a back and biceps routine and that was it for me. From then on out I was in the gym three to five days a week unless I had an injury or was on vacation.
So you were the definition of a hard gainer.
I’m still a hard gainer. For me to tip the scale at 190 would be close to impossible, takes all I got to stay at 185. I don’t want to lose my abs, I want to stay shredded. So I’m not just going to eat bad foods. But to eat so many good foods, it takes a lot of eating just to maintain my weight. I have a lot more cheat meals than most people would but it just because I know my body needs them. My body burns so many calories a day.
How lean do you stay throughout the year?
I can stay at 5 or 6 [percent body fat] and be happy. My muscles are thick enough now so if I’m 5 or 6 and I dehydrate, I feel like I’m 3. But when I’m at 3 percent, I’m just miserable. I think everybody is. I don’t go any higher than 7.5. I don’t store body fat very easily, I just lose size very quickly.
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What is one of the top tips you can share that has helped you put on muscle over the years?
“The biggest thing that’s helped me is to go super heavy. Do barbells first, then dumbbells, then pulleys. Whatever muscle group I’m working, I always try to pack on the most weight. Get underneath some weight that’s really heavy with a barbell. Then after that I can go to dumbbells and work on isolation and pulleys and work on fast twitch muscles.”
What are your typical rep ranges?
Anywhere from 6 to 25 really. I’ll start out with a warm-up set of 10, and then go heavier and as go heavier until I can only do 4. Once do 4 I’ll drop the weight down and go to a set of 25 just for the hypertrophy.
Are you more of a high-volume trainer or high-intensity with shorter rest periods?
I typically hit one or two muscle groups a day and try to hit them pretty hard and do quite a few exercises, so I’d say high volume. I don’t really jump from exercise to exercise too much be cause I work out at really crowded gyms, so supersetting kind of pisses everybody off. I’ll do 45 seconds and get back in if I’m using a moderate weight. If I’m going heavy I may need a 2 minute break before I actually hit it again.
So looking at your training split, are Sundays always your day off?
Each week I hit each muscle group two times and I do three days of cardio. The day off depends on my schedule since it changes so much. I don’t plan a rest day, it just happens when I’m too busy. But I typically take one day off each week.
What is your approach to ab training?
When I’m training for my abs I’m doing more cardio, more squats and more deadlifts. That’s how I bring out my abs. To me, your abdominal muscles are there, it’s the fat layer you have to get rid of. So when I’m preparing for a photo shoot I’ll cut out more of the carbs, take out more of the rice and add vegetables like spinach. And I’m doing, every other day I’m doing squats or deadlifts, back and forth for a week or two. It doesn’t have to be heavy weight it just has to trigger all those muscles because your legs are the largest muscle group in your body, so they’re gonna burn the most calories.