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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.

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

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

 

Push-Pull-Workouts-Front-Pulldown-Bench-Press

The Basics of a Push and Pull Workout Split

Train your muscles every third day with a push-pull workout split.

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Routine

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Pull

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 26

Low-Cable Row

Equipment
Cable Machine
Sets
2
Reps
20
Rest
--
RPE: 6 / Drop weight by 20% and do a dropset to failure.
Exercise 2 of 26

Low-Cable Row

Equipment
Cable Machine
Sets
3
Reps
6,6,8
Rest
--
RPE:11/Drop weight by 20% and do a dropset to failure.
Exercise 3 of 26

Rack Pull

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
3
Reps
3
Rest
--
RPE: 7
Exercise 4 of 26

Rack Pull

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
1
Reps
10
Rest
Rest for a beat between each rep
RPE: 10/ Rest for a beat between each rep. 3. Keep your chest up.
Exercise 5 of 26

Banded Chinup

Equipment
Elastic Band
Sets
2
Reps
To Failure
Rest
--
RPE:10
Exercise 6 of 26

Prone Dumbbell Row

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8,12,8
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 of 26

Pulldown With Stretch

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
RPE: 9 / Let the weight stretch your lats at the top of the movement
Exercise 8 of 26

Hang From Pullup Bar

Equipment
Sets
1
Reps
60 Sec
Rest
--
Exercise 9 of 26

Decline Bench Leg Raise

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
To Failure
Rest
--
Exercise 10 of 26

Barbell Curl

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
12,18
Rest
--
RPE:10 / Do 2 feeder sets.
Exercise 11 of 26

Hammer Curl

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
RPE: 10

Push

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
8
Rest
--
RPE:11 / Do 2 feeder sets.
Exercise 13 of 26

Incline Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
2
Reps
12,8
Rest
--
RPE:10 / Do 2 feeder sets
Exercise 14 of 26

Machine Press

Equipment
Sets
1
Reps
8
Rest
--
RPE:11 /Do a tough 8, rest 20 seconds, go to failure, and repeat 2 more times
Exercise 15 of 26

Dumbbell Flye

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
RPE:11 / Hold bottom position of last rep for 15 seconds
Exercise 16 of 26

Dumbbell Press

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
REP:10 / Do 2 feeder sets
Exercise 17 of 26

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
1
Reps
8
Rest
--
RPE:10 / Do 2 feeder sets
Exercise 19 of 26

Assisted Dip

Equipment
Dip Station
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
RPE:10 / Do 1 feeder set.
Exercise 20 of 26

Kettlebell Skull Crusher

Equipment
Kettlebells
Sets
2
Reps
Failure
Rest
--
RPE:10

Legs

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 21 of 26

Lying Leg Curl

Equipment
Sets
1
Reps
8
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 22 of 26

Barbell Squat

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
2
Reps
8
Rest
--
RPE:10 / Do 2 sets of 10, then a few feeder sets of 4, and then 2 working sets of 8.
Exercise 23 of 26

Leg Press

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
RPE:10 / Do a tough 8, rest 20 seconds, go to failure, and repeat 2 more times.
Exercise 24 of 26

Bulgarian Death Set

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
1
Reps
90 Sec
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 25 of 26

Banded Stiff-leg Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell, Elastic Band
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
RPE:10 / Lower the bar to a 3 count, pause for 1 second
Exercise 26 of 26

Standing Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
RPE:9-10 / After 2 warmup sets, perform 10 reps, followed by 10 partial reps.
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