Off-season Training for Athletes: How to Gain 10 Pounds in 10 Weeks or Less

In the off-season, if athletes train and participate in our Accelerated Performance Nutrition, we have athletes that can put on 10 pounds of fat-free mass in 10 weeks or less. In fact, we have had many athletes put on 16 pounds in 16 weeks or less.

To make rapid changes to an athlete’s muscle mass, three criteria must be met.

  1. A supportive eating plan must be created, adhered to, and adjusted at least weekly.
  2. A hypertrophy-based strength program must be performed four days per week.
  3. Any other training that is taxing must be eliminated or kept to minimum. This especially means conditioning. If you play hockey, for example, you must back way off on skating. Also, no aerobic training.


At HPT, the first step to our Accelerated Performance Nutrition system is taking measurements. We do a 14-site body composition test, 4-point circumference test, and take height and weight measurements. These numbers help to track body composition, and we test for changes weekly. However, if we don’t see improvement and the athlete is adhering to the plan, we adjust the plan. 

Next, we create a customized meal schedule for the athletes to follow and typically adjust weekly. We adjust calories and the macronutrients: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. 

A good starting place for these macros is:

Calories: 15-18 calories per pounds (the leaner you are, the more calories per pounds)

Protein: 20-35% (higher protein percentage for higher body composition)

Carbs: 20-35% (lower carb percentage for higher body composition)

Fats: 30-40% (higher fat for higher body composition)

Implementing the Program

We don’t wait seven days to see if the plan is working. Instead, we meet on day three or four to ensure our athletes understand how to implement the program. We always see a drop in body fat with this first measurement. If this drop comes with a weight gain, we make no adjustment. However, if the athlete loses weight, we increase their calories and possibly adjust their macros.

Thereafter, we meet every week and review their meal plans.  Plans and macros are adjusted weekly, but this is relative to their body composition and weight gain.  Calories can be adjusted around 5% weekly.  If an athlete is gaining body fat, first clean up the quality of the diet.  Next, drop the carbs back and replace with quality fat, and maybe protein. 

We do allow for some junk foods for very lean athletes as they need the calories, and all athletes can take a weekly cheat meal or two.  


To maximize hypertrophy, you must optimize training volume (number of sessions, number of sets, number of reps, and time under tension) and intensity (training load or repetition maximums). 


Day 1: Upper body routine A

Day 2: Lower body and core routine A

Day 3: off

Day 4: Upper body routine B

Day 5: Lower body and core routine B

Day 6 and 7: Off


To get the most bang for your buck for hypertrophy, at least 50% of your exercises need to recruit large muscle groups. 

Two criteria for a “bang for your buck” exercise are:

  1. Exercises that recruit large amounts of muscle mass, such as multi-joint movement patterns. Leg curls are also acceptable for the hamstrings as they recruit large amounts of muscle and deadlifting on the same day as squatting may be to taxing or advanced for some.
  2. Exercises that can yield a Time-Under Tension (TUT) of 30-60 seconds.  To have a high TUT, incorporate exercises that allow for an eccentric phase of 3 to 4 seconds.  Not all exercises have an eccentric component to them.  For example, sled work is great for rehab, speed work, work capacity, and concentric strength, but there is no eccentric component.  Most med ball exercises lack an eccentric component. Plyos and Olympic lifting have an eccentric component, and do recruit large muscle mass, but do not have a long TUT. 

Upper Body/LowerBody

Upper Body: Choose 2-3 press patterns (horizontal and or vertical). Don’t neglect your supplementary work such as neck, trap and rotator work, and of course biceps and triceps. Choose 6-8 different exercises per program. 

Lower Body: Choose 4-5 exercises from this group: all types of squats, deadlifts, split squats, lunges, leg presses, and leg curls. Ideally choose a 3:2 ratio or a 1:1 ratio of quad to hamstring work. Don’t neglect your supplementary work such as glute work, lower leg work, and of course core work. Choose 2 core exercises. Choose 6-8 different exercises per program. 


For hypertrophy, 6-12 reps is your range. Don’t do the same reps every day. Instead, create variation within the program and between programs A and B.  It’s best to go higher with reps on program A (example 10-12) and lower with reps on program B (example 6-8).  Keep in mind these are Repetition Maximums, meaning if the reps are 11-12, choose a weight that you can only perform for those reps.


The best range for hypertrophy is 20-28 sets. The sweet spot is 24. As a rule of thumb, fewer exercises means more sets.  Also, fewer reps means more sets.


A program works only if you make positive adaptations. For most people, that will be after 4-6 repeats. Therefore, change the program every 4-6 weeks. 

If you are going to make incredible gains in muscle mass, you cannot be running or skating off your weight. Keep conditioning down to a minimum. Above all, remember you have to work hard on these programs and your goal should be to improve on each workout. 

Jack Gained 10 Pounds in 23 Days

Below are recent stats from one of our collegiate baseball players at home for 4 weeks on break. Jack gained 10 pounds of scale weight and 11 pounds of fat-free mass weight in 23 days.

off season 10 lbs image

Equipment for TUT Exercises:

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