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Packing On Mass With Proper Diet And Basic Training With X Reps!

Find out how Mike Semanoff packed on more mass with proper diet and basic training. I recently contacted Mike to see how his career was going. Here he describes exactly how he gained that muscle!

Mike Semanoff
How He Packed On More Mass With Proper Diet & Basic Training With X Reps.

I featured Mike Semanoff and his wife, Holly, last year after they won the 2005 Fit Couple competition at the IRON MAN FitExpo in Pasadena, California. They entered the show on a whim, and the next thing they knew, they got a call on their cell phone saying they'd made the finals.

I contacted Mike to see how his career was going and learned he'd just packed on 20 pounds of muscle in two months. I thought to myself, "If it's legit, the guys reading IRON MAN will want to know how he did it." Let's find out.

Mike Semanoff
Click Image To Enlarge.
Mike Semanoff.

[ DY ] Mike, what improvements have you made to your physique in the past year?

[ MS ] Well, on December 1 of last year I set out to prove I could put on 20 pounds of lean body mass in two months. I wanted to show that I could do it 100 percent natural, relying on high-intensity-training techniques and workouts and a solid diet.

[ DY ] That's an impressive weight gain, but how can you be certain that it was all muscle?

[ MS ] Justin Dees, a well-known and very experienced trainer and competitor living in Utah, monitored me from beginning to end. I started at 7.8 percent body fat, weighing 198.5 pounds in the morning before breakfast. I ended on January 31 at 6.5 percent body fat and weighing 217 in the morning before breakfast. After running the numbers through the computer we got 19.5 pounds of lean body mass.

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[ DY ] Inquiring minds want to know what your daily diet looked like during those two months?

[ MS ] I ate six meals a day, every day, no exceptions, for a total of 4,750 calories, 395 grams of protein, 552 grams of carbs and 110 grams of fat.

Mike Semanoff
Click Image To Enlarge.
I Had To Provide My Muscles With A Unique
Stimulus To Really Kick-Start Growth.

Here's my schedule:

Meal 1

      • 1.5 cups 2% milk
      • 2 scoops whey protein
      • 1 apple
      • 2 cups oatmeal

Meal 2

      • 1.6 cups brown rice
      • 1.5 cups broccoli
      • 1.8 tablespoons Smart Balance
      • 1 apple
      • 6 ounces chicken breast

Meal 3

      • 6 ounces chicken breast
      • 1 tablespoon Smart Balance
      • 16 ounces sweet potato

Meal 4

      • Shake
            1 cup blueberries

            1.5 cups 2% milk

            .75 cups of oatmeal

            2 scoops
        whey protein

Meal 5

      • Same as meal 4

Meal 6

      • 6 ounces fish
      • 1.6 cups brown rice
      • 1 cup mixed veggies
      • 1 tablespoon Smart Balance

My wife did a very good job of keeping my eating schedule on track - even after we found out she was six weeks pregnant. Apparently, pregnant women have a very keen and sometimes particular sense of smell, so there were times that chicken was off the menu. We just substituted another lean meat.

[ DY ] I know a lot of guys think they can get away with skipping meals once in a while, but it just doesn't work. Did you use any special training techniques?

[ MS ] I've been training for a long time, so I knew that I had to do something drastically different if I was going to attain such dramatic gains. First, I started doing some research on the relationship between testosterone and growth hormone. Through my research I found that these hormone levels in my body are almost directly proportional to the intensity level of my workout.

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So I knew that if I could keep my intensity maxed out for 45 minutes to an hour, I would be maximizing a key element of my body's natural growth mechanism. Second, I had to provide my muscles with a unique stimulus to really kick-start growth. I found my answer when I started reading about X Reps in IRON MAN and at

Mike Semanoff
Click Image To Enlarge.
20 Pounds Of Muscle.

I was very intrigued by the concept and started thinking of how I would incorporate these end-of-set power partials into my workout. The whole concept of attacking the semistretched point of the muscle really opened up a new world of training potential. The fun thing about X Reps is the creativity I could use within my workout to really hit the max-force point and overload the target muscle.

Click Image To Enlarge.
X Reps.
Video: Windows Media Player - MPEG

[ DY ] How did you incorporate them into your training?

[ MS ] Intensity and X Reps really go hand in hand. I did a lot of super-sets, keeping my time between sets around 30 seconds to a minute. I would take my last superset to muscular failure and add X Reps.

Once I got the hang of X Reps, I started adding poundage fast and incorporating the technique on almost every set. Like clockwork, the gains just kept coming.

[ DY ] The intensity sounds brutal. What does your training plan look like?

[ MS ] I start every Monday with a different muscle group. I trained five days a week, taking Thursday and Sunday off. I always gave myself three solid days to recover between muscle groups. I'll give you a quick example.

Generally I do three to four sets of every exercise. On heavy days I will do 8-to-10 reps, and on light days I do 10-to-14 reps. I try to do something slightly different with every set.

Mike Semanoff
Click Image To Enlarge.
"Once I Got The Hang Of X Reps, I Started Adding
Poundage Fast And Incorporating The Technique On Almost Every Set.
Like Clockwork, The Gains Just Kept Coming."

I believe every variation works the muscle group slightly differently, which enables me to get more symmetrical development. I also allow myself some freedom to listen to what my body wants. Sometimes one variation feels better than another, so I go with it. I figure there is more than one way to an end result, so if something is uncomfortable, I do something that is comfortable. I'll give you a typical 3-day cycle.

Monday: Legs

print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Monday.

Tuesday: Pull

print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Tuesday.

Wednesday: Push

(Note: One week he starts with chest; the next week he starts with shoulders.)

print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Wednesday.

Thursday: Recovery Day

Friday: Cycle Begins Again

Mike Semanoff
Click Image To Enlarge.
"I Knew That If I Could Keep My Intensity Maxed Out
For 45 Minutes To An Hour, I Would Be Maximizing A
Key Element Of My Body's Natural Growth Mechanism."

[ DY ] What supplements did you use on a daily basis during those two months?

[ MS ] I started out using Tahitian Noni and whey protein.

One month into it I ended up traveling a lot for work and found it difficult to get the calories I needed, so I reintroduced Cytosport Muscle Milk into the diet.

Cytosport Muscle Milk.

[ DY ] What do you find the benefits of those supplements to be?

[ MS ] I've been taking Tahitian Noni juice a few times a day for about four years. I found through track-and-field, triathlon training and bodybuilding that it really speeds up recovery time between workouts, supports my immune system and helps provide sustainable energy throughout the day.

Mike Semanoff
Click Image To Enlarge.
"Intensity And X Reps Really Go Hand In Hand.
I Did A Lot Of Supersets, Keeping My Time Between
Sets Around 30 Seconds To A Minute."

I've been taking whey protein because it's simple, low calorie and inexpensive. My wife makes her special oatmeal and protein bars with it.

I've had good experience using Muscle Milk. I feel it gives me what I need to increase size and strength while enabling my body to efficiently burn fat in the process. I travel a ton for work, and Muscle Milk is convenient to travel with.

[ DY ] What does the future hold for you in competition?

[ MS ] Well, I just won the heavy-weight division at the Mr. Utah, and I took the overall at the Northwest Regional Natural Bodybuilding Championships. So until next spring I'll probably get back into the triathlon circuit around Utah and start racing again.

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I've been debating setting a goal to eventually make it to the Mr. Natural Olympia or Natural Universe, but doing triathlons isn't going to make that practical. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy my new son and whatever else life throws at me.

One more thing before we end this. I'm always interested in suggestions or answering any specific question. So readers can feel free to write to me at or check out Holly and me at

Mike Semanoff
Click Image To Enlarge.
Mike Semanoff.

Editor's note: For more on X-Rep training, visit

Photography by Michael Neveux