Q&A: Migan (Team ThreeD Alpha) - (2015 Throwback)
I have been watching many fitness related YouTube videos for over 3 years now and I used to watch a lot of channels, I really narrowed my list down in the last year. There are many great YouTube channels out there, but I personally don’t like to watch too many channels where the people who are giving me advice are on some kind of enhancement drug because I am not on any. At the same time, I am not ignorant and there are still many drugged lifters who give phenomenal advice on training, nutrition and the whole lifestyle and there is still a handful of people that I do watch. On the same token, I still like to watch some YouTube channels of lifters who are drug free and achieved great physiques and strength levels naturally.
Today I had the opportunity to link up with one of the best drug-free YouTubers out there (in my opinion) and he goes by the name of Migan and his channel is called TeamThreeD Alpha. I have been watching his videos for a good year and a half and I have learned a lot from his critical thinking and training philosophies.
Migan, first off thank you for your support and being here today, the Fitworld Blog website welcomes you! How old are you now, what age did you start training and why? Also how much did you weigh and what was your bodyfat % as opposed to now?
Thanks man the honor is mine. I’m 26 years old now. First time I stepped into a gym I was actually 16 years old, (first semester in college) but it was just for recreation. I had no split, no program, no diet, nothing. I would just go in and do random exercises. Then I would take entire months or years off, and come back. But I never grew. I didn’t start Bodybuilding until age 22, around July 2011, when I “realized” that the reason I wasn’t building muscle all this time was because you actually had to eat a lot of food to get big lol Believe it or not I had no idea (back at 16) that diet was that important. I thought it was optional lol. The most I ate back then, and my friends will testify of this, was no more than 1 to 1 ½ meal a day. Sometimes I would break that same meal in half and eat half of it in the afternoon and the other half at night. And don’t even mention water, I never drank it. Just juice and sodas. No wonder I never grew. I was 142lbs at that time (when I first stepped into a gym), and 158lbs 6 years later when I actually started Bodybuilding (I’m now floating around 208-210lbs). I was always a fat kid growing up (skinny-fat, huge cheeks and stomach but extremely skinny arms and legs), so I struggled with self-image a lot. I hated my genetics (especially with the fact that my sister ate the exact same amount of foods I ate but was always skinny), and exercising was a rope out of that chasm. I lost most of the weight playing Basketball, Swimming and Bike riding, but since I was already-skinny fat to begin with, I lost some of the stomach but my limbs got even smaller (that’s when I weighed 142). I started Bodybuilding because I always loved muscular physiques as a child, and wanted to look like my childhood heroes. Any cartoon or Anime I watched (big fan of Anime by the way), I would always gravitate towards the buff characters. The Brolys (DBZ), the Sagats (Street Fighter), and the Hulks, Juggernauts etc (Marvel). So it was only natural that at the first chance I got, I began to lift weights (you had to be 18 years old to work out at the campus gym, so at 16 I had to sneak in).
What made you choose bodybuilding over something like Powerlifting or Olympic Lifting?
Like I said earlier, I was more into building my physique than building strength. I always wanted to look like my muscular action figures and favorite anime characters, regardless of how strong they were. For example, I was never a big fan of Spiderman as a kid because even though he was strong, he didn’t have that freakish muscle look. Venom on the other hand I loved to death because of his build. So yeah, I like strength, but shaolin monks are also strong. Yet who wants to look like them, no offense of course. Nothing looks more dominant to me than a guy with boulder shoulders, mountain traps and huge arms and legs.
I noticed in many videos that you talk about studying hard in school and getting good marks while raising a family. How does training get added into the mix without going crazy?
Yeah it’s extremely tough, I won’t even deny it. People don’t believe me when I say that I’m always busy, but here I am raising a kid, going to school full time (just finished my 3rd degree, going for my last 2), taking care of my little brother (he’s 17 years old and came to America for school, so I serve as his guardian and tutor), managing a YouTube channel, answering subscriber questions every day, working 3 additional jobs (I work as a professional Tutor on Campus, tutoring well over 25 subjects, in addition to being a part time Stock Trader and Investor), and of course my love for researching information and knowledge, but then you throw in this Bodybuilding lifestyle which is a 24 hour job in itself, and some days I just feel like collapsing. Let’s not even mention trying to spend time with family and friends. Feels like the entire weight of the world is on your shoulders sometimes you know, because if you decide to quit and crumble, a lot of people that rely on you or look up to you will suffer the tremors. The cool thing about it though is that training is actually an escape instead of a burden (the only burden in bodybuilding to me is eating. I have a horrible appetite and I hate almost all sources of protein, which sucks because we all know the role it plays in BB). So yeah, training is really a way out for me. The gym is literally my sanctuary. It is where I find peace after a long day of all the above duties I mentioned. Sometimes I even forget about the « Rules of muscle building » and just train, train, train, even if I end up losing muscle in the process. I tell people all the time that even though I started lifting for appearance reasons as a teen, I now lift for sanity reasons. Even if science announced tomorrow that due to some chemical released in the air, lifting weights didn’t build muscle anymore, I would still work out. It’s sad because sometimes my cortisol and stress levels are through the roof because of all the workload and parenting, but then my only escape, the gym, ends up adding more physical stress to my body. Combine that with the weird appetite and lack of sleep and boom, I start to lose all my gains! That of course leads to more stress because I’m like « Crap man, all that hard work gone », and it becomes a vicious cycle. But I’m still fighting the fight. I always loved challenge even as a kid, so though I complain about it deep down inside I know it’s all this pressure that is molding me into what I am. So I wake up each day and tell the world bring it on! We’ll all die someday eventually, but I’d rather die from “burnout” than “rust-out”.
I watched many videos of you talking about over training and I actually tried something similar in my article called ‘300 Pull-ups a day for 3 weeks experiment’ and the results were amazing. Would you mind explaining to us some of your thoughts on over training and nucleus overload? What are the differences between the 2 and which body-parts grew the most for you?
Wow nice to know you tried something similar, and with good results. The more stories like this I hear, the more it reinforces my belief in it since most of the lifting world still frowns upon the concept. For one, I try not to use the word « over training » anymore because it’s associated with so many different things. When I first used it, it was in reference to training the same muscle multiple times a day, but every time I mentioned this people would say « oh no that’s bad, that’s over training! » So that’s why I began to call it « over training » with quotes, as a sarcastic gesture. I decided to rename it « Nucleus Overload » as I became more and more familiar with the reason WHY it worked, as opposed to just knowing that it worked. The concept is simple, muscles, like a building, need 3 things to « grow » : The Bricks (protein, nutrients, water etc), the Architects (growth factors like Testosterone, IGF-1, etc), and last but not least, the Workers (those include anything from the satellite cells to the capillaries, mitochondria, glucose transporters etc). Now, you can have all the architects and bricks in the world, but a building can only grow in proportion to the amount of workers there to build and maintain it. Typical bodybuilding emphasizes the bricks (diet) and the architects (lifting weights triggers the growth factors), but little emphasis is placed on the actual workers who do or assist in the building. Yet, while a single heavy lifting session is enough to stimulate the growth factors, and adequate nutrition will provide the building blocks, those little guys (the workers) are only increased dramatically through repetition, volume, and most importantly frequency. The more often you use a muscle, you’re accumulating those tiny little workers (especially the nuclei), though the muscle itself might not be growing yet. Once you have enough workers, building the actual muscle can be done in half the time with twice the results, just like in any other construction project. And even better, after those workers have been accumulated, they stay for years even if you stop lifting. That is what’s responsible for the « Muscle Memory » phenomenon. You stop lifting for months, you lose the muscle (the building), but when you get back in the gym you regain almost all of your size if not more, in far less time, because this time the workers were already there; So your body didn’t have to spend the additional time to first round them up before the construction began. That was the turning point for me, and is mainly how I brought up most of my lagging body parts in spite of a horrible appetite and crappy genetics. Now of course, this is years and years of trial and error that I boiled down to a simple analogy, but I’m so upset that I discovered this secret so late. Many people have even testified to having done similar things by pure accident, as is the case of people who « over trained » a muscle for months or years due to sports or a job, and now have that muscle far more developed than any other body part (ie : ballerinas/calves, speed skaters and cyclists/quads, swimmers/lats, Olympic lifters/traps, wrestlers/neck, boxers/shoulders, gymnasts/arms, mechanics/forearms etc. the list goes on). The only drawback is that it takes time, energy and focus away from other body parts, so it’s tough to do your entire body all at once. I myself have only used it so far on my triceps, biceps, chest, lats, and quads at one point, and got amazing results (in mere months, sometimes weeks) that I couldn’t get in years of lifting. 100% success rate so far for each muscle I tried it on. Right now the only groups that I haven’t tested it on are my delts, traps, calves and forearms, all of which are terribly lagging, an effect made worse (proportion wise) since the other parts grew so big on « Nucleus Overload ».
On your journey to big traps I noticed that you tried everything to bring them up (so did I) and I noticed that you did snatch grip high pulls which is one of the only trap exercises I do besides Deadlifts, but I noticed that you kind of stopped talking about that lift, did you stop doing it?
Yeah that exercise was legit. One of the few exercises that actually got my traps sore (by the way, I don’t care what anyone says, it is extremely hard to grow a muscle you can’t feel activating or get sore on. But that’s a different topic for a different question). Problem is out of my many injuries (both shoulders, lower back, both wrists, both elbows), the most frustrating is the one in my shoulders, and they become excruciatingly painful when I increase the weight on high pulls, which sucks because I freaking loved that exercise. On the bench press they hurt like hell, but not as much as on high pulls. So I had to discard it, as well as similar movements like Upright rows. Unfortunately, those exercises are some of the best for Trap development, my most desired body part, so screw you whoever’s in charge of destiny (ha ha).
For your journey to big traps, what is the main conclusion and what are the 3 exercises that must be in somebody’s routine for building big traps?
My main conclusion, since I’ve tried everything under the sun and noticed rapid growth at some points, is that 1) if it’s a weak point, you MUST train it with a LOT of volume 2) if you can’t feel it activate (that pump or tight feeling you get when a muscle is engorged in blood) then lower the weight and bump up the reps, with shorter rest periods. Also, all my friends who have great traps say that for some reason, it is the muscle that gets sore the most after they train it. ALL of them said that on different occasions, not knowing that I asked the other ones. Coincidence? Maybe, but for me, all my most developed body parts are also the ones that get sore the most after I train them. To make things even more interesting, all my most lagging and hardest to grow body parts (traps, side delts, forearms, calves) almost NEVER get sore after I train them. Not saying correlation means causation, but go figure. Lesson of the day, find a way to get your traps sore lol 3) train it every day at first, 5 times a week minimum with 2 consecutive days to rest. Once you start to see growth, you can scale back on the frequency 4) Testosterone levels are highly, HIGHLY correlated with trapezius thickness and size in both humans and other animals, so optimize yours (naturally I hope) and 5) The best exercises I’ve found for traps are in that order, Rack Pulls, High Pulls and Cleans. My Traps were dead the next day each time I tried those, and grew until I couldn’t do them anymore (rack pulls because of my deadlift injury, and cleans/pulls because of my shoulder injuries).
Let’s talk neck training, some people look at me like I’m a retard at my gym because I train my neck, how often do you train yours and do you ever have times of the year where you don’t train it at all?
Haha. it’s funny because at one point I used to train it a lot, since I heard that it also helped grow your traps (lol boy the things I did just to get traps), but I ran into one big problem. At first, my neck actually grew pretty fast, because I bought that neck strap thingy or whatever it’s called (where you hang a plate on it and move your head up and down in a yes homo fashion), but I started to get nagging pains on my neck because of imbalances. You see, the one I had made it almost impossible to train your neck from the sides (only front and back), and so I started to develop muscle imbalances on my neck, and those are the most uncomfortable things EVER. They’re not even that painful, just very uncomfortable when you try to sleep at night. So I stopped lol. If I get a machine that allows me to do all 4 angles, then it’s game time. I’m obsessed with massive Traps and Neck.
I personally think that you have a great chest and so does Lazy lion, what chest training tips do you have that many people might not know?
Ha-ha it’s funny my chest is one of the things that led me to discover nucleus overload. When I was in high school, there was this guy in my swimming class that could do 50 push-ups in a row. Now it sounds easy but at the time I saw it as a feat, and my competitive nature thought « F*ck that, I should be able to do it too ». Sad thing is I could barely do 6. That’s right, 6 push-ups. So I asked him what his secret was and he said he would do push-ups every day (he also had an amazing chest for his age, and that’s all he did, but EVERY day). I never took his advice, but one day around 15 or 16 years old, a friend of mine named Chauncey challenged me to a push-up competition, and SMOKED me. He did 30 and I did like 10 I think. So once again my pride was hurt, so I remembered that guy’s advice from years back, and started doing push-ups EVERY single morning, not to get a big chest, but to beat my boy Chauncey. Long story short, in a short amount of time of doing them every morning, I got to 35, and beat him lol. The sense of victory was so thrilling (that guy was a push-up freak) that I set a goal for 100 push-ups, and reached it one day by doing one all out set of push-ups every morning, until I could finally do 100 in a row. Sure enough, when I started bodybuilding, guess what was the easiest thing to grow on me. Hello chest! The workers (from the nucleus overload explanation earlier) were all there from the every morning onslaught of the years prior. My body, in some evolutionary twist, began to « think » that my chest was essential for my survival (since I would stimulate it every single day), and had flooded it with « workers » during that « push-up era ». Now, it is the muscle on me that grows the fastest, yet I have a horrible bench press (remember the shoulder injuries? Pretty hard to keep increasing your bench when your front delts are messed up). Moral of the story? It’s not about strength, or how much your bench, it’s about REPETITION, FREQUENCY, and a ton of volume. People still don’t get that. They think it’s all about the most you can bench press. There’s a reason why when Powerlifters become bodybuilders, whether they’re on steroids or not, they say that they are FORCED to lower their world record bench press weights and do less weight for more reps/volume, because otherwise their muscles/chests just don’t grow. That should tell you something, but hey most people don’t even want to observe tiny details like that. Now don’t get me wrong, you need progressive overload to grow, but progressive overload is not always « more weight ». It could be more reps, or more volume, or more frequency, as evidenced by me adding reps until I got to 100. So my advice to those that want to grow their pecs, do more pump work, and stop stressing about the weight so much. It counts, but not as much as most people think (just look at occlusion training or people that do bodyweight training. They have good physiques, but don’t use half as much weight as we think they should). So yeah, more reps, more volume, more frequency.
In one of your videos you mention how you brought up your shoulders by doing the same number of vertical pressing movements that you would do on your chest day for horizontal pressing movements. Are you saying that for every vertical pressing movement there should be another horizontal pressing movement and the ratio should always be 1 :1?
Well it’s not really a ratio thing, it’s more of a volume issue. The more pressing movements (and laterals) you add to your routine, ultimately the more volume you rack up at the end of the session, and that adds up very fast over time. You can just add more lateral movements, but you won’t recruit as much fibers as if you added pressing movements instead. They’re more challenging, harder, and are seen as more of a « threat to your survival » by your body then laterals. When I tried to go back to one pressing movement and increase the laterals instead (tried this for an entire year), my shoulders reduced in size quickly. Not saying you shouldn’t do laterals though, you need them for each individual head of the deltoids. It’s just basic survival 101 (when you look at building muscle from a survival/evolutionary point of view, things make a lot more sense) : take a guy who does 3 to 4 pressing movements, then 2 laterals movements. And take the same guy in a parallel world and have him do 1 pressing movement and 3 laterals, everything else equal. In which one will the body feel a bigger need for more shoulder growth? Now of course there is no scientific evidence on this, but it worked for me and all who tried it so far.
I have a tendency to not train my arms and only focus on the big muscle groups, I do weighted dips but they can’t seem to grow much. What are some must have exercises that must be in my program for building triceps?
Triceps were also one of my worst body parts because of the skinny-fat small arm syndrome, but I always coveted them the most (before I fell in love with Traps). To make them grow, I of course had to do Nucleus Overload on them, but they blew up when I not only doubled to tripled the volume/frequency, but added two arm DB overhead extensions (Db french presses) to my routine. And when I say blow up I mean really blow up. Pressdowns (w/ rope) also helped, but those gave me mainly the outer head of my tris, which is unfortunately one of the smallest ones. DB french presses added the meaty part, the long head, as well as one arm overhead DB extensions. Same thing for my uncle, he had horrible triceps for years, and I told him to add one arm DB extensions to his routine (every day too, Nucleus Overload style) and now his triceps are literally overpowering his physique, especially when he flexes them. Lazy lion can testify of that. He saw him one day at Wendys and said « whoa, what the hell happened to his tris!!! » lol. So yeah, those 2 exercises are key. Dips are also great but front delts and pecs tend to take over at times, and they don’t do a great job at stretching the long head like overhead extensions do. Still they’re a must for overall development. Skullcrushers I’m experimenting with now, but they kill my already bad elbows. French presses don’t. Also do them with DBs, I tried cables but didn’t get the same growth response (the stretch I noticed is the most important for the long head, and cables are made for a good squeeze and contraction, rarely a good stretch unless you go super heavy).
How do you measure your body parts every few months to see if you are making progress?
I keep a log on excel. Unfortunately, I’ve been making almost no gains in the past year or so due to the increased workload and growing kid taking more and more energy and attention from me, but it helps a lot as far as pinpointing the periods when I made the most growth, and matching that with my workout log to see the type of training or exercises I was doing at the time. I use a simple tape measure.
What are your thoughts of training your lower body when your lower body is still very sore from the last workout?
I say do it until it stops getting sore. Eventually, it will. Then take a break every once in a while (to allow it to be able to get sore again), and repeat. Hunters and prehistoric men didn’t stop hunting because they were sore. The body knows how and when to adapt when it feels it’s necessary. As long as your diet, sleep and water intake is on point, and you take long breaks every now and then, you should be fine.
What did you learn from training with Chris Jones from Physiques of Greatness?
That he has a really wide back lol. No but seriously, if you think he’s big in person wait until you see him not only in person, but pumped. And that also goes to confirm that not only volume is important (our back workout lasted like 2 hours, not because it was 3 of us, but because we did, I counted, 8 exercises), but also frequency. Chris used to do pullups (the best exercise on the planet for lat width) every workout day for 2 years, 4 sets of 10 reps. And of course, as my Nucleus Overload theory goes, no one has to guess what is his most dominant body part. It’s not genetics, it’s hard work, and frequency. But what I actually learned (well I already knew, but it served as ultimate confirmation) from the collaboration was not during training, but during eating. The importance of appetite in muscle growth. The biggest natural people I know, that we all call « genetic freaks » (Hanzah, Marco, my Uncle, Tobi, Tayo, even Lazy Lion etc), are appetite freaks. ALL of them, without a single exception or outlier, can eat a house. Raving appetites. So on my way to the collaboration I thought (this is it, I have to see for myself if Chris backs up this appetite to muscle correlation theory of mine), and sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. Chris eats like a BEAST!!! I mean it’s ridiculous. I envy his appetite. But he also trains very hard. Combine both and you got yourself 90% of the « Bodybuilder starter toolkit ». I train hard, but I’ll have to keep working on the appetite thing. It has improved, but it’s not where I want it to be. I still eat under 2500 calories a day, even on junk days. On a typical day, it’s a miracle if I consume 1500. People think it doesn’t add up since I now stay in the 208+lb range, but you’ll be amazed at the amount of things we think are facts, but are really not (like the calorie in vs calorie out myth—it’s true for the average person, but throw in genetics, hormonal status, and the body’s ability to adapt, and you got yourself a lot of once thought facts that turn into myths). But yeah back to the topic (excuse my ADHD), biggest take away from Chris, who is a really cool guy by the way, is that volume + appetite = growth.
You talk a lot about the importance of getting a lot of carbs and carb back loading, would you mind explaining what carb loading is exactly?
Carbs are super important in gaining mass. You can grow without them, but eventually your body will break down a lot of your protein into glucose anyway, so having them helps a ton. Not only you need them for glycogen storage, which means more energy, more powerful contractions, more muscle water retention and therefore better workouts (muscles are as we all know 70% water), but you need them to spare the precious protein that you eat. When you are glycogen depleted, it is extremely hard for your body to keep fueling muscle growth, and so not only the protein you eat suffers, but your own already built muscles suffer too. So carbs don’t directly make you bigger, but they « spare » your protein and muscle from being broken down and therefore increase Nitrogen Retention, without which it is impossible to build or keep muscle. The only downside of carbs though is that they plain out make you fat lol. Especially if you have endomorph or half endomorph genetics (put on fat easy). For skinny people it’s a miracle drug, for the rest of us it’s a double edged sword. We all know the cycle, carbs spike insulin (protein too, but carbs take it to another level), insulin leads to muscle anabolism, but also fat-breakdown prevention AND fat storage. Ouch! For those of us who put on fat easy (we have higher insulin resistance than most people, so instead of the glucose going into our muscles, most of it goes to our fat cells), it is a nightmare. But the good thing is, insulin the fat storing bastard is strongest in the morning and weakest around evening/night time (the body’s natural clock works like that, just like Testosterone levels are highest first thing in the morning and decline towards the day). Combine that with the fact that after a hard training session, your glycogen stores are depleted, and your body redirects the glucose that you eat towards your muscle cells even WITHOUT the help of insulin, and you have a miracle formula. Eat carbs only post-workout, and in the evening preferably. Your muscle cells will absorb most of them, and Insulin will likely be too weak to take those carbs into your fat cells. It’s more detailed than that, but that’s carb back loading in a nutshell. Thanks a dozen to John Kiefer for bringing it to light. It’s like Carb cycling (an age old proven fat control method), the caveman diet, and IIFYM combined, since you eat only fats, protein and veggies in the morning, a ton of simple sugars post workout, and only eat carbs periodically (unless you train every day). I’ve made a LOT of ridiculous gains on Carb back loading (combined with Full Body Workouts and Nucleus Overload), with the most impressive being my 162 to 197 pound gains in under 6 months (nearly 40 pounds), while keeping my upper abs visible. Prior to CBL, I couldn’t put on 3 pounds without having a protruding gut, as my former fat cells from the fat days kept resurfacing (we all know this by now, you never lose fat cells). These days I’m way fatter (I strayed from CBL a lot but plan to return lol), but at least I learned the one downside of CBL. If you do it long enough, then stray from it for just a week or two (once again assuming you have endomorphic tendencies), you WILL get fat fast, even if you keep your calories the same. I’ve proven that a dozen times.
Which body parts are trying to bring up the most in 2015 and why?
Shoulders, Triceps (long head) and my good old nemesis, Traps. Shoulders because it’s their turn to get inducted into the Nucleus Overload Hall of Fame, Triceps because I spent too many years focusing on the outer head instead of the long head, and Traps because…Come on…they’re traps man lol Coolest muscles ever. And the one muscle that I never really conquered, at least not yet. In short, they’re also the Top 3 muscles I think are the most badass. Capped delts, towering traps, and hanging triceps that pop out from the side. Put that on any man and you can forgive his small chest, narrow lats or small biceps (not too sure about legs though, you just can’t forgive small legs, trust me I got chicken legs now).
If you keep making progress would you ever consider competing in bodybuilding?
Nah. I’m an idealist in the sense that I believe in the impossible, and love challenging the norm/proving certain established facts wrong, but I’m also a big realist. I know I have the work ethic to be great at anything I set my mind to, no matter how cocky that sounds (I proved it time and time again), but I also know that healthy turtles can’t beat healthy cheetahs. If someone else with better genetics than me works half as hard as me, we’ll be on the same level. If they work just as hard as me, I’ll get smoked. And Bodybuilding is a « sport » where genetics are literally everything. Even the hardest working professional Bodybuilders who claim the « hard work » card have above average genetics. So let’s not get fancy here. Genetics matter. They are not an unbreakable wall, but they’re a pretty damn sturdy wall. I will exhaust most of my strength simply trying to breakdown that wall than I will have enough to pour into the actual journey. Let’s not even mention the low appetite problem. So no, no competing for me. That fact becomes even more relevant when I train for all those years and accumulate all this knowledge, and then share it with someone like Hanzah or Marco and see them double in size right in front of my eyes lol. Genetics are evil lol. But apart from genetics I just don’t entertain the idea of stepping on stage. I just like training and building muscle. Just for the sake of training and building muscle. The challenge, the journey, the discoveries, the transformation process. That’s why I lift…and of course the therapy.