Skinny Guy Muscle Building Mistake #2: Shotgun Training & Dieting

 “What gets measured, gets managed.”Peter Drucker

“The things that get measured are the things that get done.”Michael LeBouef

“You become what you measure.”Anonymous

“The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen filed of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi

The Definition of Shotgun Training & Dieting in application to muscle building:

The practice of firing out a lot of shells i.e. trying out random fitness tips, and hoping that any of them work!

An example of the shotgun approach would be pumping up the protein, buying a cupboard full of supplements, shoveling down the calories and adding a truckload of intensity techniques to your workouts – all at the same time!

Shotguns blast over an area with the hope of a critical hit. The word shotgun is actually defined as “covering a wide range in a haphazard or ineffective manner”.

While conducting fitness assessments with skinny guys, here is a conversation between myself and an individual using shotgun training and dieting. “How many calories are you eating each day?” Skinny guy says, “A lot.”

“Where’s your body fat?” Skinny guy says, “I’m guessing around 8-11%….”

“What’s your training split look like?”  Skinny guys says, “I switch it up every week…. you know, keep the body guessing…”

“How many meals do you consume a day?” Skinny guy says, “Sometimes 2… sometimes 4… I’m pretty busy…”

“How consistent are you to your current meal plans (assuming they are following one)?” Skinny guy says, “Not sure….”

“How many sets and reps can you do for this exercise and this tempo and rest period?” Skinny guys says, “I just train hard…”

Each of these responses are examples of, “Nothing getting measured so nothing is getting managed.”

This approach is as silly as trying to save money without checking your bank statements.

Sadly, this approach is more common than not. The shotgun approach will die hard because it requires less thought and, well, it’s easier. And lets be honest, at first, it works! Strength and muscle gains kick in for a few weeks — maybe even a few months for the novice bodybuilder – and building muscle appears as simplified as the 16-year kids on the bodybuilding forums boasted, “Eat… sleep… train bro!” And for a few lucky individuals, it is that simple. But this is the exception, not the rule.

I whole-hardheartedly believe, the short term gain of shotgun training could cost you heavily in the long run.


1.  You become lazy. Imagine telling a bodybuilder he needs to start tracking calories and macros after he made his first dramatic transformation doing none of that complicated stuff in the beginning. Fat chance.

2. Your shotgun shells might hit something. Not tracking anything is like playing the lottery. Truth is, you might win. Key word: Might. But the hope of might is strong enough to ignore the fact that measuring and managing the details is the most reliable and predictable way to progress for the long-term.

3. You become a sucker for the latest tricks and trends. Bodybuilders who don’t track anything are always on the lookout for the next “magic pill” and “cutting-edge method” because that is more exciting than the tried and true  principles of slow dieting or slow bulking, incremental progress and consistency.

4.Costs you hundreds of hours of firing off shotgun shells. And time equals money so you’re also draining your bank account in the process. Fun.

5. You put a ceiling on how much muscle you can build. Without quantifying where you are, how do you know much more room you still have to improve on?

With all that said, the shotgun approach is NOT for everyone…

Before I propose a concept coined “riffle bullets” as a solution to shotgun shells, I want to state for the record that riffle bullets are not appropriate for everyone.  Here are a few examples:

1) You’re not truly dedicated to outcome-based training.

2) You don’t have a specific deadline you must be ready for.

After being a fitness consultant for six years, I conducted over a thousand individual fitness consultations on new members that committed to 12-month gym memberships. I asked every member, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to your goals?” 9 out of 10 times the new member would say, “8 or 9.”

Very few people are 100% committed to their goals and for these people, the shotgun approach might be appropriate. Just don’t start crying when you are not happy with your progress in 12-months. Why are you surprised? You’re only committed to your goals 8 or 9 out of 10!

The Definition of “Rifle Bullet” Training & Dieting

A better approach to muscle is to use rifle bullets, not shotgun shells. Rifle bullets allow you to accomplish the three T’s -Target, Test, Track! 

Here’s the 3-step process to using rifle bullets:

Step 1: Target — Determine what are of your training or diet you wish to target.  Let’s say you want to master a fundamental nutrition principle – protein intake.

Step 2: Test — Instead of eating “a lot” of protein each day you’re going to self-experiment with 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.  A 175-pound individual would aim for 175 grams of protein each day.

Step 3: Track — The key to tracking is to  fix all other variables. Commit to 7-days of eating 175-grams of protein each day. Execute like a gun is to your head. Keep a journal to track how you feel, look and perform. What happened after 7-days? Is your energy higher? Did you sleep better? Did you recover faster? Were you less sore? Your bodies feedback will give you valuable data. Some self-experiments can be tracked in 7-days, some might take 7-weeks. This is the step that determines whether you achieve an average or astonishing physique. Most people will skip this step and miss out on fulfilling their full potential.

Rifle bullets result in a few major benefits:

1. You take control of the training process. No more hoping that trick A or B might work.

2. You gain accurate intelligence on how your body responds to certain variables. No more wasting time reading hundreds of articles.

3. You can make weekly progress. Yes, weekly progress, because everything is now scalable!

4. You learning by doing, not by reading or debating about it.


A smart muscle building program will be a collection of rifle bullets. A bad muscle building program will fire off shotgun shells and hit nothing.  Which one makes more sense to you?  Where have you been guilty with shotgun training and dieting? Where do you want to shoot some riffle bullets with your training and dieting?

75 comments and I’ll upload Mistake #3.




10 Responses to “Skinny Guy Muscle Building Mistake #2: Shotgun Training & Dieting”

  1. Robertino Hällgren

    Great stuff Vince, I have read a lot and of course sometimes things are conflicting. Great way to find out what really works for you:-)
    Good feeling to be in control as well

  2. Ian Dawson Mackay

    No problem! I appreciate quality when I see it. Let me know if you ever want to be on mine!

  3. Vince

    That’s optimal. Advanced trainees adapt faster to programs than beginners. New plans every 3-4 weeks is what Hypertrophy MAX and Maximize your Muscle is based around.

  4. Vince

    Hey Ash,

    Thanks bud.

    Unfortunately life has a lot of naysayers… the only thing you can control is if you choose to associate or not.

  5. Ash

    good stuff. i appreciate how you cater for a large group of people in this article. i dont know why you get the hate you do on youtube etc. oh well, better for me i guess :)

  6. Corbin

    How frequently do you personally reccommend switching workouts? I’ve been switching between the 6-12-25 workout, and a Pyramid training system, and doing them one month to each one. Thanks for the great article!

  7. Vince

    Self awareness is half the battle. Props.

  8. Vince

    Strive for 4 pounds a month. Anything more will probably be fat.

  9. Vince

    Use a variety of protein sources – including meats. Try to eat 3-5 different protein sources a day. Don’t worry about the percentage.

  10. Vince

    Hey Ian.

    Welcome to the site!