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Q: I've got calves that look like Tara Lipinski's. Once and for all, high reps or low reps?
Standing calf raises or seated calf raises? A bullet to my head or a good dose of anthrax?
A: Perhaps you should stop watching the lithe, supple bodies of young women floating
along the ice as their tiny skirts are buoyed upwards by gentle drafts, their budding young
breasts delineated by?oh, sorry. I digress. My point is, working calves involves all the
brain work you can muster. Calves, physiologically speaking, are problematic. A lot of
trainees are frustrated with their calf training because the optimum loading parameters for
lower leg development are a lot more restricted than they are, for say, arm training.
Contrary to something like biceps work, your calf exercise repertoire is limited. To
counter this, you have to be more diligent about manipulating reps, sets, and even rest
intervals to give yourself more exercise routine permutations.
Another problem is the limited range of motion afforded by calf movements. Let's say
you were doing squats. The range of motion in a squat is considerable and it's easy to
vary the tempo. For example, it might take you 3,4,5 or more seconds to complete the
eccentric portion of the movement. However, during calf exercises, you have a limited
range of motion and you can't vary your tempo as easily as you can in the squat or other
During the last Olympics in Nagano, a bunch of my athletes from different sports were
riding the bus after an event. For some reason, they started discussing the merits of the
calf routines I had given them, and in particular, the one I had given to Luke Sauder, one
of my alpine skiers. One skier recalled the fact that Luke had come into training camp
sporting a new pair of calves, and the ski company rep was freaking out because he had
to remold him a new set of boots. I recalled that Luke had wanted a calf routine because
big calves prevent knee injuries in alpine skiing (they actually provide a cushion to
prevent the skier's knees from reaching too acute an angle as they jet down a mountain).
Anyhow, when I got home, I dug out the routine that I had given Luke from my computer
archives. It's one that would serve anyone well. Here it is:
The Luke Sauder Calf Routine
Day 1: High-Volume
Exercise A: Calf Superset*
A1) Seated Calf Raises
3 x 10-5-5 (one set of 10 reps, followed by two of 5 reps) at a 101 tempo (1 second to
lower the weight, no pause, and 1 second to raise the weight)
A2) Donkey Calf Raises
3 x 30-50 at a 101 tempo
*After finishing a set of the A1 exercise, proceed immediately to exercise A2. Then
rest two minutes before repeating the super set.
Exercise B: Standing Calf Raises
B1) Standing Calf Raises
10 x 10-30 at a 111 tempo, ten seconds**
**In other words, you'll be doing one, long, extended set, resting ten seconds between
each mini-set and lowering the weight in between.
After day one, you'll probably have to call the fire department to extinguish the fire in
your calves. You may also find that you have the same walk as Homer Simpson's 80year-old father.
Day 2: Low-Volume (to be done 48 hours after Day 1)
Exercise A: Triple Drop Standing Calf Raises
A1) Triple Drop Standing Calf Raises
3 x 10-10-10 (in other words, three drop sets) at a 121 tempo,*** resting 90 seconds
between sets.
***The pause is taken in the bottom stretch position, and be sure to take the full two
This routine provides freaky size increases. As you can see, it uses a great number of total
reps. I've found that in order to build calves, you need some frequency of training and
some volume, but you can't have both high volume and high frequency. Therefore, I
advise training them twice over a five-day cycle, one workout being very high sets (16)
and high total reps (250-510 reps); and the other being low sets (3) for a low amount of
total reps (90). I've known people to gain in between 5/8ths of an inch to a full inch with
this routine in as little as 30 days.
If you fail to meet the aforementioned results, and as far as your suicide option is
concerned, may I suggest instead that you watch six back-to-back episodes of "Gilligan's
Island": you'd be braindead within the day.
Q: When I bench press, my shoulders hurt like hell. Should I work around the pain, or
should I just take up stamp collecting?
A: Most likely, one of three different shoulder problems is responsible for your pain:
Improper Muscle Balance: If the strength ratio between two muscle groups is offkilter, you can actually experience faulty alignment. For example, if the strength of
your pecs is far greater than that of the external rotators of the humerus (teres minor
and infraspinatus), you'll likely feel a sharp pain in the superior anterior portion of the
upper arm (this problem is often misdiagnosed as bicipital tendonitis). There are lots
of other examples of off-set muscle/strength ratios, but explaining them all is beyond
the scope of this column.
Adhesion Build-Up: One of the regrettable side effects of years and years of weight
training is the build-up of adhesions in soft tissues and structures. Adhesions are a
result of the load used and the total volume of repetitions. In other words, the more
sets and reps you perform and the stronger you've become, the more adhesions you've
developed. These connective tissue buildups can take place within the muscle,
between muscle groups, or between the nerve and the muscle. Adhesions can occur in
any muscle structure but the one most often responsible for bench-press induced
shoulder pain is the subscapularis muscle. The good news is that they can be found
and "cured" quickly through a soft-tissue management technique called Active
Release Techniques?.
Lack of Flexibility: Failure to stretch the muscles on a regular basis can precipitate
the onset of injuries. You don't need to become the Grand Master of Yoga, though.
Regular P.N.F. stretching of the shoulder girdle before your upper body workouts will
do wonders for keeping your shoulders healthy and functional. I'll be doing an article
about stretching on this website soon.
Recently, my good friend and IFBB professional bodybuilder Milos Sarcev called me out
of the blue. He mentioned that he was scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery the
following week for both of his shoulders. He was understandably upset. For one thing,
the surgery would cost him about $18,000. Additionally, he'd have to undergo an
extensive rehab program, and this would keep him from competing and earning an
income for a long time. I told him to get his ass over to my office right away and see my
colleague and ART? specialist Dr. Mike Leahy before letting a surgeon anywhere near
his shoulders. (Incidentally, the orthopedic surgeon who made the initial diagnosis told
Milos that he had an impingement syndrome and surgery was the ONLY option. The
surgeon actually wanted to cut away some of the bone above the shoulder to make room
for the muscle.)
When Milos came to the office, he hadn't trained in over 4 months because of the
excruciating pain. Even lowering an unloaded Olympic bar (45 pounds) caused him to
recoil in pain. However, after working on him for just 45 minutes, Dr. Leahy told Milos
to go to the gym and give his shoulders a trial run. Somewhat reluctantly, Milos allowed
me to take him to the local World Gym. In total disbelief, he bench pressed 315 pounds
for two reps. Five days later, he did 6 reps with 315 pounds, without feeling any pain!
A month later, he saw Dr. Leahy again for a follow-up. Milos was already back in nearcontest shape and he was training full-force for some upcoming IFBB shows. Dr. Leahy
made a few minor, additional "probes," but all-in-all, Milos was cured.
The important point to realize is that you don't have to suffer or quit training because you
have shoulder problems. Depending on your particular problem, either get a certified
strength coach to help you design a proper routine, or locate a credentialed Active
Release Techniques Provider. You can phone the National Strength and Conditioning
Association at 888-746-CERT to find a qualified strength coach in your area. To find a
credentialed Active Release Techniques Provider, call 719-473-7000. (Remember, use
only credentialed ART providers?there are far too many doctors who are more than
willing to experiment with your body).
Q: Every time I go to the gym, I see some mutton head doing "twists" with a broom stick.
Are they really working their external obliques and slimming their waists, or are they just
doing a passable imitation of a propeller prop?
A: There are two issues here: working the obliques, and waist size reduction. Working
the external obliques will not ensure a slim waist. Quite the contrary, highly developed
obliques will take away from your V-taper and detract from the classical bodybuilding
look. However, if you're a judoka (practitioner of judo) or a wrestler and care more about
function than looking purty for the girls, you'll want to have stronger obliques to aid you
in your throws and takedowns.
As far as doing twists with a broom stick, they'll do as much for your obliques as Monica
does for Bill's popularity in the Bible Belt. Why? A broom stick puts a minimal load on
the obliques. Since you're not fighting against gravity, you're not subjecting the muscles
to any kind of overload. Effective oblique recruitment requires a load greater than that
imposed by a broomstick and correct body positioning in relation to gravity. If you want
to learn more on how to train the obliques effectively, you may want to consult the
excellent performance video tapes by Paul Chek. To find out more about them or to
purchase them, call 1-800-552-8789.
As far as having a slim waist, it has more to do with body fat reduction than choice of
exercises for spot reduction. Since spot reduction has never been demonstrated either
empirically or in a scientific setting, I doubt very much that doing a gazillion reps of
various kinds of oblique work would have any kind of direct slimming effect on the fat
stores on the iliac crest (otherwise known as love handles). Effective fat reduction is a
function of dietary manipulations and optimal training volumes and intensities.
Q: How would you recommend incorporating Power Cleans (my favorite exercise) into a
Mass/Strength routine? Oh yeah. "The Poliquin Principles" has proven to be a source of
first class reference. I've had a copy for nearly a month and still haven't absorbed all the
A: Power Cleans should be used on leg day for the first exercise of the routine because it
uses high velocities. Accordingly, it should be done when the nervous system is fresh. Be
sure never to do more than six reps per set, and take plenty of rest between sets (3-5
A: What sort of phases should a bodybuilder who wants maximal strength development
include in his periodization plan and what do they include?
A: That is a very interesting topic, but I need about 30 hours to answer it. And I need
plenty of information on the physiological make up of the athlete, i.e. fiber make-up,
strength ratios etc. The complete answer goes beyond the scope of this column.
Q: What are your views on the theory of static-contraction training, and where would one
utilize static or partial-reps of extremely heavy weights?
A: From the earliest start of my career as a strength & conditioning coach, I have been a
strong believer of using the power rack to promote rapid strength and mass gains after
applying my readings of authors Don Ross, Rasch, Bill Starr and Anthony Ditillo. This
program is most effective. The average intermediate bodybuilder can expect to beat his
personal records in the curl by 10 to 25 pounds, and in the close-grip bench press by 30 to
45 pounds. This is rather impressive since those gains are made in the time frame of only
3-4 weeks.
This routine's physiological basis is what sport scientists Fleck & Kraemer and O'Shea
call "functional isometric contractions" (FIC). Over thirty years ago, players of the Iron
Game were introduced to this training method under the term "isometronics" which was a
contraction of the term isometrics and isotonics. The German strength experts like
Letzelter & Letzelter and Hartmann and T?nnemann prefer to use the term auxotonics to
describe this training method. The concept behind this protocol is to use the best of what
the isometric method can offer and combine it to the regular type of lifting still known as
With FIC you make use of the specific joint-angle strength gains of isometrics after prefatiguing the muscles involved by using heavy short-range repetitions in the power rack.
These systems like any other systems have advantages and disadvantages.
? Allows one to learn to disinhibit the nervous system: may help you overcome
psychological barriers regarding certain weights.
? Provides variety in the training process because of the new challenges.
? Increases in maximal strength at the specifically worked ranges. For example, it can
be good for a power lifter who has a problem locking out deadlifts or benches.
? Takes a lot of time for setup.
? Produces the strength gain in plus or minus 15 degrees of the angle worked. In other
words, if you do heavy isometrics holds at 130 degrees of elbow flexion, your
strength will only go up between 115 and 145 degrees of elbow flexion. Therefore,
the first 115 degrees of elbow flexion will remain untrained.
? Becomes circus acts for certain exercises. This can be quite entertaining. For
example, one of these books recommends heavy isometrics holds at the top of
preacher curls. I saw a kid try to do this with a weight that was superior to his body
weight. Unfortunately, his limited knowledge of physics got the better of him. He
made the mistake of trying to hold the weight too far down the range of motion, with
the end result of flipping forward over the standing preacher bench.
Q: I currently rotate all of your shoulder routines published in muscle media with great
results (I love lean away laterals), and I'm curious as to what you think is more effective
to building deltoid size. Out of lateral raises for both the posterior and medial heads
combined with front raises: pressing movements like behind the neck and dumbbell
shoulder presses: pulling exercises like upright rows what do you see as most effective?
Why do gymnasts have such fantastic shoulder development? Do you plan on writing a
book on just shoulders, and can I forward you the cash for it? In the meantime may I beg
you for another shoulder workout.
P.S. Have you gotten up to your pre-heart-surgery, shoulder-pressing strength?
A: There is no better approach for shoulder routines. They are all as good as the time it
take you to adapt to them.
Gymnasts have fantastic shoulder development because they train at a variety of angles
and points of overload.
Yes, I have recovered my shoulder strength and more. Thank you.
Q: I've read your web article about the Max Weights routine for arms and am excited
about trying it. What kind of split and training frequency do you suggest for the routine?
Once a week or twice a week for arms?
A: Once every five days is best.
Q: I follow your writings and enjoy your advice! However, I noticed that you recommend
the Donkey Calf Raise quite often when talking about training calves. The couple of
gyms that I frequent don't have a Donkey Calf Raise machine and I'm rather reluctant to
interrupt other people to get them to sit on my back. Are there alternative exercises that I
can use to replace the Donkey Calf Raise?
A: The reason I like the Donkey Calf Raise is that it places your gastrocnemius in a
superior stretched position. Seated calf raises are fine, and the most common piece of
calf-training equipment in most gyms, but they're geared to working the soleus. For
complete calf development, you need to work both the soleus and the gastrocnemius. If
your gym doesn't have a donkey calf raise, or if you're reluctant to have someone of the
same sex straddle you like a horsey, your best alternative would be the Dumbbell OneLegged Calf Raise.
Another problem posed by donkey calf raises is figuring out how much resistance to use.
For instance, how many fitness bunnies equal one Roseanne?
Q: I really like the column, Charles, which brings me to my point. I have a question about
back training. I injured my back doing heavy squats about three years ago and although
they're undoubtedly my favorite exercise, I'm no longer able to do squats or bent-over
rows. My back is more than wide enough, but the thickness is suffering because I can
only use rowing machines (Cybex, Hammer iso, etc.). I would really appreciate some
advice to help me work around this problem. Please help! I want to win the Western
Ontario championships this year!!!
A: First of all, it's not because you injured your lower back three years ago that you can't
do the exercises you want to. Often times, the lower back pains/strains experienced after
an injury are caused by tight hip flexors. Regular stretching of these muscles would help
you return to squatting. To learn how to stretch the hip flexors, I suggest you consult the
book titled "Facilitated Stretching" by Robert E. McAtee and Jeff Charland. It's published
by Human Kinetics 1-800-465-7301.
Of course, there are a lot of exercises that can help you thicken your back. You can, for
example get more thickness by doing chins and focusing on bringing your lower sternum
to the bar. Another thing you can try is to hold the contracted position for 3-4 seconds
during your machine rows; this will overload the scapulae retractors which will
contribute to upper back hypertrophy.
Q: What's your opinion of 20-rep breathing squats? I just finished reading my copy of
Stuart Robert's BRAWN, and I have been talking to a lot of people over the net about the
benefits of 20-rep squats. What's your opinion of this training method?
A: The classic 20-rep squat routines are certainly worth a try. They were popularized by
earlier Iron Game writers like Peary Rader and Bob Hise.
What sort of gains can one expect on it? Typically, a teenager weighing 150 pounds can
go up to 165 pounds in 8 short weeks while following a 20-rep breathing squats program
(assuming he's eating something other than Ding-Dongs and Mountain Dew). To do this
program, one takes 3 deep breaths in between each rep. And, of course you're only
supposed to do one set. What's really happening is that you're doing 20 single-rep sets
with 10 seconds between each rep. This 10-second pause, while taking the 3 deep
breaths, allows you to recruit higher-threshold motor units than if you did the 20 reps in a
slam-bam fashion. Hence the greater-than-normal motor unit recruitment. When
performed with the right load, you'll cough up a lung at the end of the set (which is a real
badge of honor among hardcore trainers).
If you're underweight and have low-work capacity, I strongly encourage you to try 20-rep
breathing squats. But, like any other routine, it will work only until you adapt to it.
Q: If a trainee returns to the gym and finds that his strength hasn't increased from his last
workout for that body part, should he just call it quits on that body part for that day?
A: Yes. The motto one should respect is, "go heavier or go home." If your strength hasn't
increased since the last workout, two things could have happened:
1) You waited too long between workouts and thus lost the training effect. (This is
often seen during what I call the "Menstrual Training Cycle," which is 4-days on, 26
days off.)
2) You didn't wait long enough, and therefore supercompensation hasn't yet taken
place (the most common of the two causes).
As a rule of thumb, you should try to do one more rep or add some low percentage (12%) to the bar. The key to sustained progress is to continually add small increments to
the load to coax?not force?the muscles into strength adaptation. This can be
accomplished two ways:
Small Disks: You can buy Eleiko Olympic small discs of 0.5 kg and 0.25 kg from
Sports Strength. They fit on Olympic size bars and dumbbells. 1-800-285-9634.
(Most of the time, you're forced to jump up in weight by increments of 5 or 10
pounds, and this often presents an insurmountable load).
PlateMates: PlateMate magnets fit on the end of the bar or dumbbell. The company
offers them in 2-1/2, 1-7/8, 1-1/4 pounds and 5/8 pound sizes. To purchase them call
1-800-877-3322. I recommend you buy the donut shaped ones because they also fit
on hexagonal dumbbells.
Q: I have a question about carbo powders. For the last six months I've been following the
nutrition and training advice outlined in your book, "The Poliquin Principles." The results
have been amazing?I still haven't hit a plateau on a single body part! (Looking back at the
training time I put in during my pre-Poliquin years makes me cringe).
Getting to my point, you highly recommend quality carbo powders and I've found they
work excellent for me, too. However, my local GNCs only carry Cytomax and they
charge a bundle for it?even with the 20% discount. Do you know where I can get quality
carbo powders at a great price? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
A: Here's a sneaky trick to save a bunch of money. You can go to one of those specialty
stores that sell wine-making products, and ask for straight maltodextrin in bulk. (Tell
them you are one of the Gallo brothers and that you're breaking away from your brother.)
You can buy it very cheap there. Many veterinary supply stores also sell it in bulk. It's
high quality stuff and should work as well as many of the expensive carbo powders.
Remember, there's nothing magical about most supplements. With a little thought and a
little extra work, you can save yourself a lot of money. But please, whatever you do, don't
tell the store clerks you need it for bodybuilding purposes as they're bound to jack up the
price. I revealed this little trick once before during a seminar in Montreal, and the
seminar attendants descended on the local stores to buy up their stock of maltodextrin.
Within a month, the store owners progressively jacked up the price until it was almost as
expensive as the bodybuilding brands.
Q: I collect everything written on weight training and bodybuilding. Is there anything
new you can recommend that covers my favorite hobby?
A: Yes, there's a new book called "Serious Strength Training" by Tudor Bompa and
Lorenzo Cornacchia which certainly would be of interest to you. Tudor Bompa, aside
from having the distinction of owning bodybuilding's best name (what else could a Tudor
Bompa be other than a weight lifter?) is well known in coaching and sport science circles
for having popularized the methodological basis of training periodization in North
America. Tudor not only has theoretical knowledge but also plenty of practical
experience since he's coached 11 Olympic medalists, four of them being gold medalists.
Tudor and I have exchanged training ideas many times over the years as we have lectured
together at various coaching conferences such as the International Coaching School in
In this book, Tudor and his associate use an interesting system of 6 different training
phases. Each phase is fully outlined with plenty of workout plans and each is
accompanied by dietary recommendations. This bodybuilding training book is innovative
in many respects. For example, there is an actual rating of the most effective
bodybuilding exercises based on Lorenzo's extensive electromyography research. In other
words, his research has shown which exercises recruit the greatest number of muscle
fibers and this will tell you which movements give you the most bang for your training
buck. That alone can maximize your training efforts.
There is also a great chapter on drug-free training by my friend Dr. Mauro DiPasquale
who is undoubtedly one the world's foremost authorities on drugs, nutrition, and exercise.
All in all, a great book.
"Serious Strength Training" can be ordered through Human Kinetics (US: 1-800-7474457, Canada: 1-800-465-7301).
Q: Instead of just focusing on arm training, etc., how about showing a long-term training
cycle for legs and back, along the lines of the 22-week training cycle you used with
Olympic hammer-thrower Jud Logan, or the training cycle you prescribed to skier Pierre
Lueders that you alluded to in your theory of strength coaching?
I also noticed that you don't recommend learning the more complex Olympic lifts. If
that's the case, what variations of Olympic lifts do you rely on for training athletes?
A: Let me work backwards here. As a matter of fact, I use a wide variety of Olympic lift
derivatives while training athletes in the speed-strength sports like track and field and
bobsleigh. For example, I use over 70 variations of the Olympic pulls! However, these
types of training cycles don't generally strike the fancy of the typical bodybuilding
magazine reader. Therefore in the past, I've only presented these techniques in coaching
conferences or in sport-specific training seminars. As far as the classical snatch and clean
and jerk are concerned, I think they're best reserved for the training of Olympic lifters. I
may, however, try to present a modified Olympic lifting based program for bodybuilders
at some point. As far as outline a 22-week cycle, it's way beyond the scope of this Q and
A, but I'll certainly cover mid-term strength development cycles in future issues of
Q: Thank you very much for providing a logical source of information, especially when
there's so much confusion and crap being passed around. My question refers to the
"Maximal Weights" article you wrote: How often should someone train each body part
during this cycle?
A: As a rule of thumb, at least for most individuals, once every 5 days per body part
should be optimal. However, stronger individuals may need more time in between body
part/key lifts. I have seen many athletes get better strength gains on key lifts?particularly
squats and deadlifts?by lifting only once every 7 to 10 days. Individuals like those just
mentioned with a very high fast-twitch fiber make-up can get by with lower training
frequencies. For example, I have an Olympic bobsledder who can full squat over 550
pounds at a body weight of only 208 pounds, but he squats only once a week. Of course,
you also have to take into consideration that his legs are generally quite overloaded by
the sprinting he does.
Q: I was reading through the May Muscle Media magazine and saw that author Paul
Chek mentioned your name when he was talking about mesomorphs. I also note that most
of your clients are elite-level athletes, who probably represent the best genetics on the
planet. My question is this; how relevant are your training ideologies and workouts for
trainers with less than elite genetics?
My concern is that you might personally find gaining muscle and strength easy and not
really have empathy for the plight of "hardgainers" with bad bone structures, low
recovery ability, low testosterone levels, etc. And, as most of your workouts have been
designed for Olympic athletes, they might not be advantageous for genetically average
trainers to try?even those with significant muscle mass. I look forward to your answer.
A: As far as my training methods being impractical for the average trainer, nothing could
be further from the truth. In fact, I get letters and emails every day from readers who are
following my advice and finally making gains. Many of them used to see themselves as
hardgainers, but are now putting on strength and mass.
Keep in mind that not every Olympic athlete I coach is genetically gifted. The truth is,
most of them get there through hard work. One of the strongest guys I ever coached was
Ian Danney, an athlete who competed at a bodyweight of 212 as a member of the
bobsleigh team at the last Olympics. Three years ago he weighed 184 pounds, and three
years before that he was a buck forty eight. But, through intelligent workouts and close
attention to post-workout nutrition, he was able to pack on over 60 pounds of lean muscle
You must consider that there are MANY factors that contribute to muscle growth
including fiber types, number of muscle fibers per cross-section area, insertion points,
and endogenous levels of anabolic hormones (i.e. testosterone, IGF-1, GH, etc.).
Additionally, there are psychological attributes, like intelligence, which allow you to
make decisions that allow you to put on muscle mass.
It's very rare for one to really suck on ALL factors. Therefore, gains can be made by offsetting certain factors. If you are born with lots of FT IIa [fast-twitch] fibers, why bust
your ass trying to gain mass by training with low reps? In my case, even though I was
blessed with a high FT make-up, I was plagued by a poor appetite. I had to make postworkout nutrition a science to gain size. I had other more serious problems, too. For
instance, I had great insertions in the elbow flexors, but not in the lats, etc. Therefore, I
had to find ways through readings, personal discussions, and experience to counter those
training problems. (And sometimes, I felt that my mother didn't really love me like she
loved my brother. Try training with that hanging around your neck!) I strongly believe
that most hard gainers are hard gainers because they believe they are. It's the negative
thoughts and beliefs that keep them small. For example, they're the ones buying medium
sized T-shirts to make their physiques look better when they should be buying XXL and
working towards filling them up. If you visualize it, it will happen.
Q: Where do you get good fat calipers?
A: I strongly believe that when you buy something, you should only buy once. Look for
top quality, and you'll have a product for life. In my opinion the best calipers are the
Harpenden calipers made by the British company John Bull Calipers. They are extremely
accurate and reliable. I purchased a pair 12 years ago and I'm still very happy with them,
and I recently purchased a second pair for another training center. They're expensive,
though, as they run about $600.00. To purchase them, contact Novel Products at (800)
Q: Can you give me a list of worthy authors to read on the subject of strength training and
A: Hey, what do you think I am? A librarian? I'll tell you what; I'll give you a list of
strength-training authors, but you've got to do the leg work. You can consult the local
medical library or the Internet to locate works by the following authors:
? Hauptmann
? Hartmann
? T?nnemann
? Bosco
? Schmidtbleicher
? Fleck
? Kraemer
? Komi
? H?kkinen
? Stone
? Fry
As far as bodybuilding authors, I've always enjoyed the writing of Anthony Ditillo and
Don Ross. These books can be purchased by contacting IRONMAN Books at (800) 4470008.
Q: I'm trying to find the supplement phosphatidylserine that you mentioned in your "One
Day Arm-Cure" article. Please tell me a little bit about this supplement as I don't have a
clue what it is.
A: Phosphatidylserine is generally used for two purposes. Life extensionist types like it
because it allegedly increases the number of neurotransmitter receptor sites on the brain,
making you more mentally efficient. Bodybuilders and strength athletes in general,
however, are interested in PS because there's evidence that it blocks cortisol from binding
to sites on muscle tissue. If you train very, very hard, you may be suffering from a
cortisol overload, thus making additional muscle gains difficult. Users should be careful
not to overdose on the supplement as some cortisol is needed for good health. If you take
too much, you may find yourself experiencing achy joints and other assorted negative
side effects.
The best PS supplement on the market is Corti-Stat from Champion Nutrition. They can
be contacted at (800) 225-4831. You can also order Corti-Stat from the Power Store.
Here are their contact numbers:
Technical Support: (815) 288-7432
Order Line: (800) 382-9611
Fax: (815) 288-7433
Email: [email protected]
Q: Once and for all, is a loading phase of creatine necessary, or is it just the
manufacturer's way of moving more product?
A: Personally, I think the loading phase is crucial. There is however, some evidence that
taking a small dosage for a longer time will be effective, but those studies were done on
subjects whose activity levels were equivalent to that of full-time stamp collectors. It's
my personal opinion, based on research studies and personal experience, that in hardtraining athletes, the loading phase is of paramount importance. I recommend 0.45 g of
creatine per kg of bodyweight for a 5 day period. After that, a "maintenance phase" of
about 5 to 10 grams a day should suffice.
Q: My triceps development has stalled, big time. Got any new routines I can try?
A: This one could also be called "the pre/post exhaustion training routine from hell". I
was first exposed to the concept of "doubl?s" by former Canadian National Weightlifting
Coach Pierre Roy, who produced a host of weightlifting champions including Olympic
silver medalist Jacques Demers. Doubl? is a French word which means to do it twice.
Pierre originated the concept by having his athletes do the same lift twice in a workout if
he wanted rapid improvement in that particular lift. For example, if one of his Olympic
lifters needed more leg strength, he would have him squat at the beginning of the workout
and the end of it.
I received added incentive to incorporate this principle in my training when I came across
a strength training book by French strength physiologist Commetti, where he extolled the
virtues of doubl?s. My curiosity was piqued, so I began to prescribe doubles to many of
my athletes, most of whom reported unbelievable muscle soreness and subsequent
growth. Although you can apply this type of training to any body part, try the following
routine for your triceps:
1) Lying EZ Bar Triceps Extensions to forehead 6-8 RM (repetitions maximum, i.e.
using the greatest amount of weight possible to allow you to do 6-8 reps) on a 3-1-1
Without resting, move to:
2) Close Grip Bench Presses 4-6 RM on a 3-1-1 tempo.
Without resting, move to:
3) Lying EZ Bar Triceps Extensions to forehead 4-6 RM on a 311 tempo.
Rest for 2 minutes. Repeat steps 1 to 3 twice (you'll probably have to drop the weight 510 lbs. every new Doubl? Tri- Set).
You can follow this up with a couple of other triceps movements, but let Doubl? be the
cornerstone of your workout for a brief period (until your body adapts to it).
Q: I have purchased The Poliquin Principals and it listed a few muscle groups that are
predominantly fast or slow twitch muscles. I would like to see a more comprehensive list
or chart of the average muscle fiber composition. Do you know where I can get this info?
A: I know of only one author who's published information on this topic and he's the
Finnish researcher, Vittaasalo. The name of his book is Voima Harjotelu (Strength
Training). Unfortunately, it's in Finnish! Maybe one of our Finnish readers can kindly
forward a translated copy to us.
Keep in mind, though, that:
1) For most individuals, most muscles lean toward a particular muscle-fiber type. For
example, hamstrings and gastrocnemius usually have a greater proportion of fasttwitch fibers and conversely, the soleus and adductors have a greater proportion of
slow-twitch fibers. Incidently, I've only found one individual out of 60 with slowtwitch hamstrings. (Editor's note: Typically, fast-twitch fibers require heavy, low-rep
training, while slow-twitch muscle fibers respond best to higher reps).
2) However, in some individuals, there's a wide variance between muscle fibers, even
in the same individual. For instance, one can find individuals with fast-twitch biceps
and slow-twitch triceps and vice versa. In my experience, the deltoids are probably
the muscle group with the greatest variance of fiber make-up.
3) Doing an inordinate amount of aerobic work can make fast-twitch fibers behave
like slow-twitch fibers. Consequently, a high aerobic capacity often goes hand-inhand with poor, overall strength.
4) Within the same muscle, there are some variances. For example, the upper fibers of
the latissimus dorsi are slow-twitch while the lower ones are more fast-twitch. The
fast-twitch make-up will vary whether you insert the biopsy needle near the origin or
the insertion of the biceps brachii. Muscles like these require a great deal of work in
all rep-ranges.
As far as getting more info on fiber make-up, try accessing the PubMed website
( where you can access a large number of studies
on that topic.
Q: What would be the major, if any, differences between a bodybuilding program for a
natural bodybuilder and a drug assisted lifter?
A: In general, there are two main differences between the bodybuilding program of a
natural bodybuilder and that of a drug-assisted lifter:
? I don't believe that anabolics necessarily allow one to train more often than a natural
trainee, but they definitely can accelerate the rate of progress. In other words, a
steroid assisted trainee may gain 5% each workout instead of 1-2%. I am in
agreement with those who say you may, in fact, need to train less frequently while on
steroids. That's probably because you're getting stronger faster and each workout
makes greater inroads into your recovery ability.
? As Mauro DiPasquale has said, the body is very forgiving while being on anabolics.
The natural trainee must pay more attention to frequent feedings and quantity and
quality of sleep than the drug-assisted lifter who can stay up late and party with little
or no negative effect. In other words, the drug-assisted bodybuilder can train terribly,
eat terribly, and sleep terribly, and in short, do a whole lot of things wrong and still
put on some muscle. (Makes you want to kill him, doesn't it?)
However, don't feel you're at too much of a disadvantage when training naturally. I've
often seen people who train smarter surpass drug-assisted lifters in gains, particularly
when you look at their progress over the long-run.
Q: What's the best way to build traps? I notice that powerlifters and Olympic lifters seem
to have the best traps, bar none. By comparison, bodybuilders' traps are nothing. Shrugs
and upright rows don't seem to do a whole lot for me, and I seriously doubt powerlifters
do any shrugs...what's their secret? Is it deadlifts? And, if so, are there any little tricks to
put more load on the traps, like retracting the scapulae? Any insight would be greatly
A: Powerlifters get their trap development from years of deadlifting while Olympic lifters
get them simply from the Olympic lifts and their derivatives. The power cleans and
power snatches are probably the most effective exercises to develop the traps after
shrugs. Doing five sets of six reps on one these lifts will pack meat on your traps.
If you're going to do shrugs, I suggest you use dumbbells and work only one side at a
time. This way, you'll have way more range than with a bar.
As far as machines are concerned, the Hammer ground pull is probably the best on the
market, since it allows one to work the traps unilaterally. It also offers the advantage of
having two points on the lever where you can overload the strength curve, permitting you
to better match the resistance curve with your strength curve.
Retracting the scapulae at the top of the motion when doing shrugs is certainly not a good
trick. In fact, it's somewhat dorkish. Just think about this for a moment. How does gravity
exert its pull when you try to move parallel with it, instead of against it?
Q: How much does creatine increase maximal strength? What's the latest scoop?
A: Two papers presented this week at the National Strength and Conditioning Conference
in Nashville suggest that a high dosage of creatine does not increase maximal strength
(Walters and Olrich; Stevenson and Dudley) when measured with a one RM test.
However, the study by Stevenson and Dudley demonstrates that seven days of creatine
daily supplementation (20 grams per day) can increase the number of repetitions in a
fatigue test. This suggests that creatine supplementation may allow one to increase
training volume, and thus, in the long run, accrue more lean mass.
As far as repeated efforts are concerned, the study of Thorensen et al. showed that
creatine supplementation for six days at 20 grams a day does not improve repeated 40yard sprint performance.
Clearly, creatine adds weight very quickly and it also seems to increase training volume.
And even though the study cited above didn't show an increase in maximal strength, I'm
not entirely convinced that it doesn't increase 1 RM. Regardless, creatine is a fascinating
compound and more research is needed.
Q: I'm going to be opening a gym and I would like your advice on the equipment that
should be purchased. Is there a line of machine equipment that is better than another?
Any information in general you can get me would be greatly appreciated.
A: I first have to ask who you're trying to cater to. Hardcore lifters have different needs
and different wants than the general fitness market.
Secondly, I have yet to find a company that fills all my needs. I tend to buy from a
variety of sources.
For benches, racks, pulley, and some selectorized machines, my favorite company is
Atlantis (514) 629-3000. They use very high quality materials and craftsmanship. Since it
is a Canadian company, you might save up to 50% right now as the Canadian dollar is
currently very weak.
For variable resistance equipment, I buy Strive (800) 368-6448. We recently purchased 4
pieces of their equipment for the Testosterone training facility and plan on purchasing
And, in my new house, I will also have selected pieces from Flex, Hammer, Magnum and
For dumbbells, your best bet is Advanced Freeweight Systems (800) 872-8811. For
Olympic bumper plates and bars, I strongly recommend Eleiko (734) 425-2862.
If you are more avant-garde and want to be on the cutting edge, I recommend you invest
in Negator, the best free weight eccentric training system I have ever seen. Call 888MYONICS for more information.
Q: Charles, I've read your book and I think it's fantastic. Right now I work out each body
part once every five days: day 1 = legs, day 2 = chest & back, day 3 = off, day 4 =
shoulders and arms, day 5 = off and day 6 = start over. I do cardio training on the off
days along with training abs, calves, forearms and external shoulder rotators. I want to try
the arm routine in your book, but I'm not sure how to fit in 3 arm workouts a week? Also,
what's the best day to do deadlifts on? Right now I do them on leg day.
A: Regarding your first question, the answer is very easy. Unfortunately, it seems there
was a mistake in the book. The arm routine should be done once every 5 days, not 3 days
a week. I have no clue how this mistake got in there, but I suspect some 6-workout-aweek, 20-set-per-bodypart Weider saboteurs were at work. I will therefore commit a
written version of Hari-Kari by falling on my pencil.
Oh well, that's one way the second edition will come in handy. The next edition will have
new pictures?ones that were taken this century? and some of the errors in the first book
will be eradicated. I'll also include a chapter on supplementation that I promise will be
unbiased. This second edition of the Poliquin Principles should be available by early fall.
As far as your second question, you're absolutely right, deadlifts should be done on leg
day too.
Q: So here's the situation: I am an kickboxer and freestyle fighter (you know, like the
UFC but with rules), and have to maintain a certain weight. I am currently fighting as a
light middleweight which ranges anywhere from 147 to 155 pounds, depending on the
organization/promoter. I really like this division because I am not disadvantaged by the
height and reach of fighters in higher weight classes. So the question I really want
answered is how to improve strength WITHOUT putting on mass. Every time I begin a
weight training regimen, I always manage to put on a few pounds within a week. Realize
that I am 150 pounds and carry only 6% body fat. Any suggestions? Also, I really don't
like cutting weight too close to a fight because I lose endurance.
A: Increasing strength without increasing lean body mass is best accomplished using 1-5
RM loads for multiple sets and taking long rest intervals?along the lines of 3-5 minutes.
This will ensure that hypertrophy will only take place in the higher threshold motor units
which are the ones responsible for power output.
One thing you failed to mention, though, is your height. It may be to your advantage to
gain a few pounds of muscle mass and move up a weight class. I know this is against the
instincts of all athletes who compete in weight classes. Why would you want to move up
a class? Well, some studies show that an increase in muscle cross-section of only 17%
can result in strength increase of 85%. The only drawback is a possible loss in endurance,
but your cardiopulmonary system should adapt in no time.
Q: It seems clear to me that there is a correlation between an increase in body weight
(whether fat or muscle) and maximal strength. I'm drawing this conclusion from the
powerlifting formulae and the huge difference in world records for various weight
classes. I'm 200 pounds at about 12% body fat and I FINALLY benched 315 pounds. All
other factors excluded, what, if any consequences can I expect if I drop to 7% body fat or
a weight of around 188? Please keep in mind that I'd rather jump off a bridge than not be
able to bench 3 plates again.
A: As far as the correlation between body weight and maximal strength, I doubt very
much that an increase in fat will increase your strength unless, through some sort of
strange genetic mutation, your fat now has contractile properties.
Conversely, it is possible to drop to 7% body fat and still bench at least the same weight,
as long as you do it through dietary manipulations and not by increase aerobic workloads.
There are plenty of combat sport athletes who do just that on a regular basis.
Q: Charles, you've not commented much about Tribex or Power Drive, why? Is the
reason for your reticence, because you haven't had much experience with these
supplements, or is it because you're not keen on them. I'm not trying to be disrespectful,
nor is it my intent to cause a big scandal. Please be open with your response. I mean,
really tell it like it is.
A: Excellent question, and one that I have really wanted to answer for a long time. I
personally know the results that Tribex and Power Drive are producing in my elite
athletes, but I've never been comfortable promoting products that I'm intimately involved
with. I know far too well how skeptical the public is, and I've never wanted to be
categorized as just somebody who pushes supplements. However, I believe Tribex and
Power Drive will stand on their own and I'm willing to stick my neck out for them. But
before I go any further, I want everyone to know the whole truth about my involvement
with Biotest and Testosterone.
TC Luoma, Brian Batcheldor, Tim Patterson, and I put these two companies together for
two basic reasons: to produce the absolute very best supplements possible, and to write
the most advanced hardcore information that would truly take bodybuilding the next leap
forward. And we didn't want anyone telling us what to do, what to say, or what to sell.
The four of us, with the help of our very talented staff, have produced everything you see
in Testosterone. Yes, we have other contributing writers, but with that one exception,
everything is done "in house."
Regarding Biotest supplements, TC, Brian, Tim, and I design all of our formulations and
conduct the preliminary research. We put these two products out because we believe that
they are by far the very best in their categories. We're just about done with two research
projects (one on Tribex and one on Power Drive). So far, users of Tribex are showing as
much as a 22-32 percent increase in testosterone levels. (I'm not kidding!) And subjects
using Power Drive are consistently producing a plus 6-8 percent in strength levels 45
minutes after taking a single dose. (Once again, I'm not kidding.)
In essence, Testosterone and Biotest were produced and paid for by us-no one else was
involved. And nothing was done out of market pressure or fear of "doing the wrong
thing." What you see and buy is from our hearts. We really believe in what we are doing
and selling.
Now, I've said what has been on my mind for two months. Love me or hate me, it's the
Q: A few years ago, I read an article of yours concerning the "critical drop off" point.
You stated that when a muscle reaches a 5%-7% decrease in performance (either in
weight or reps), that particular exercise should be terminated. My problem is that I
usually reach this point after only 1 or 2 sets! For example, I was performing incline
dumbbell presses on a Swiss ball using 110 pound weights for 4 reps at a 505 tempo.
After 4 minutes of rest, I could barely perform 2 reps at the same tempo. I dropped down
to 100 pounds for the third set and got 3 reps; and then dropped down to 90 pounds for
the fourth and got 3 reps. Each set had 4 minutes rest. The same thing happens no matter
what rep tempo I use.
My question is, should I continue to perform multiple sets and just allow the weights to
drop, or should I terminate the exercise after only one or two sets?
Finally, I just want to say its wonderful to have this forum in which to pose questions.
Over the years, I sent several questions to MM2K for you to answer, but I always got a
response from some fitness trainer at MM headquarters.
A: Thanks for the compliment. As far as your problem, please note that the 7% rule
generally applies to training for maximal strength (loads of 85% of maximum or more) .
In classical body building training, I recommend approximately a 20% drop-off.
Even so, given the rest intervals you listed-for your given reps and tempo-I'm amazed
that you have such a low ability to repeat loads. The normal drop-off for most people is
about 2% per set, but for you it's nearly 10%! This indicates very poor work capacity.
It could be due to two things:
1) Genetically poor work capacity. You may need to do more exercises for less sets.
In other words, instead of doing 2 exercises for 4-5 sets each, try 3-4 exercises for 2
sets each.
2) Inadequate diet. In your case, I would pay attention to your nutrition as you may
not be eating enough carbs to ensure sufficient glycogen storage.
I hope this helps. Write me and let me know how you're doing.
Q: You've convinced me to take tempo seriously. I even bought a metronome, but I have
a question. I usually take all my sets to concentric failure. The last rep might take twenty
seconds to squeeze out. However, tempo implies all reps take the same amount of time
under tension. Should I consider a rep a failure if I cannot achieve it with good form fast
enough? Will I still make gains if I don't push myself to grind out those slow painful final
A: First, let me correct a few things. Tempo implies all reps take the same amount of time
under tension. That's definitely the goal, but realistically, the concentric part of the last
few reps almost always take longer.
"Should I consider a rep a failure if I cannot achieve it with good form fast enough?" No,
not at all. It doesn't matter how long the last rep takes as long as it is equal or slower than
the tempo prescribed. In other words, if doing bench presses on a 402 tempo, bouncing it
off the chest and lifting your hips to get through the sticking point-which may take less
than a second-is a big mistake.
But if your plan is to do 6 reps on a 402 tempo, and the sixth is done on a 405 tempo,
that's perfectly okay.
Q: In last week's "Question of Strength," you mentioned one-arm dumbbell shrugs. How
do you do these, especially with a heavy weight?
A: To maintain balance and proper posture, have the free hand hold a post like one of the
four on a power rack. Make sure the hand performing the movement is semi-supinated
(hammer grip) so you can have greater range. Also, make sure to hold your sternum high
so that your neck is properly aligned.
Q: In response to a previous question about the powerlifter wanting to drop body fat
without losing strength, what kind of dietary manipulation would you recommend?
A: Giving a complete answer to this question goes beyond the scope of this column, but
here are three very simple, yet effective dietary manipulations to cut body fat without
losing strength:
1) Reduce carbs so that they make up a maximum of 40% of the caloric intake (you
may have to go lower than that if your body fat is quite high).
2) Take 2-5 grams of glutamine on an empty stomach before going to bed and in the
morning to induce growth hormone release.
3) Increase the consumption of good fats like pumpkin seed oil, flax seed oil, fish oils
etc. This is will help manage your insulin output.
4) Use a thermogenic supplement like Champion Health's Thermadrol.
Q: Over the years, I've built a pretty good physique, but the guy who owns the gym
where I work out says I have the upper trap development of Bill Gates. How can I grow
some traps fast?
A: Your lack of trap development could be caused by a two things: neural blockage or a
poor routine. The neural blockage could be caused by a subluxation at C3 or C4 (the third
or fourth cervical vertebrae of your spine) or by the accessory nerve having adhered to
the trap itself. A health practitioner trained in manipulation and Active Release
Techniques can help you if that's your particular problem. To find one in your area, call
If, however, you're well-aligned, here's a great routine to pack meat on your traps
(excerpted from The Poliquin Principles, Volume 2):
1) Seated Dumbbell Shrugs*: 1 set of 6-8 reps, done using a 202 tempo.
2) Rest 10 seconds.
3) Standing Barbell Shrugs: 1 set of 10-12 reps, done using a 111 tempo (pausing at
the top of the movement).
4) Rest 10 seconds.
5) Hammer Neck Extensions**: 1 set of 12-15 reps, done using a 202 tempo.
6) Rest 2 minutes.
7) Repeat steps 1 through 6 two more times.
* Perform these with your palms facing each other, and make sure you keep an
upright position while doing these or the standing barbell shrugs.
** Very few people realize that neck extensions will help you thicken your traps. The
truth is, when the shoulders are fixed in position, the clavicular division of the upper
trapezius draws the occiput towards the shoulder. In other words, trapezius
involvement is necessary to move the neck.
There are, of course, worse things than having trap development reminiscent of Bill
Gates'. For instance, your male appendage could be an advertisement for Microsoft.
Q: How can I get a copy of "Poliquin Principles?" I called the number from an OLD copy
of MM2K and apparently your departure prompted them to boycott your material (which
is so damn hypocritical?they praise you when you're on their team and throw knives at
your back when you're not).
A: To order the book, call Biotest Laboratories at 800-525-1940. I'm selling them for
$29.95 plus $6.50 for Fedex shipping and handling. By the way, that's the lowest price
available on the market. The $29.95 price is a full $10.00 cheaper than what Muscle
Media was charging for it.
Incidentally, the second edition of the Poliquin Principles should come out soon, as there
are very few of the original around. The second edition will have a completely new
chapter on supplementation (and yes, I'll recommend a variety of supplements from many
different manufacturers).
By the way, my new arm training book is going to press soon after I am done with the
finishing touches, but I'd like some help figuring out how many to order from the printer.
The retail price will be $29.95, plus $6.50 shipping and handling. However, for those of
you who pre-order BEFORE October 1st, I'll sell it to you for only $19.95 plus $6.50
shipping and handling. Of course, your credit card won't be charged until the day we ship
the book. Call Biotest Laboratories at 800-530-1940 if you want to take advantage of this
special offer.
Q: I'd like to give real growth hormone a try, but I haven't been able to because of the
cost and lack of access. Meanwhile, I've noticed lots of ads for supplements saying they
can increase growth hormone. However, I'm skeptical. Are there any supplements that
will raise my natural growth hormone enough to make a difference? And, are they worth
the money? Thanks, and oh, by the way, your book has helped me so much.
A: There are in fact some hyped up supplements out there that can actually raise your
levels of growth hormone, but the dosage needed makes the product more expensive than
taking the real stuff.
But don't despair; you can significantly boost your own growth hormone by taking in
glutamine. The study by Welbourne (1995) showed that taking as little as 2 gm of
glutamine can elevate circulating levels of growth hormone. (The only subject for which
it did not work was an obese female.)
Glutamine has certainly come a long way in a short time. When I was studying for my
undergrad degree twenty years ago, glutamine was a non-essential amino acid. Now, it's
considered to be "conditionally essential" status. I certainly agree. I think glutamine,
when used properly, can improve the anabolic drive by:
1) Accelerating muscle glycogen synthesis during the first two hours after severe
2) Regulating protein synthesis.
3) Improving immune function. In my opinion, there's a strong correlation between
the health of your immune system and your ability to put on size and strength.
4) Sparing glucose.
Glutamine levels have been used as a monitor of overtraining by many Special Forces
services. For instance, Canadian Armed Forces started measuring glutamine levels twenty
years ago to assess overtraining levels in soldiers involved in Arctic maneuvers.
Australian elite troops followed suit when they started measuring the physiological
effects of jungle fighting drills. Nowadays, most of the research on glutamine's ergogenic
effects has been done on marathon runners. I predict they'll soon start looking at its
effects on strength athletes.
Unfortunately, experts disagree on its proper use. Dr. Eric Serano recommends very high
dosages (refer to the interview that was posted last week), whereas Dr. Marcus Jones
cautions against high dosages (see this week's "Gang of Five.") I, for one, prefer a
middle-of-the-road approach, generally restricting my intake to no more than 4 to 6
grams a day.
There are many good brands of glutamine out there. I personally have my athletes use
Power Glutamine by Champion Nutrition for its anabolic support functions. Why do I use
Champion Nutrition? Because I own 10% of the company stock? No, I wish I did. I
recommend it because I know I can simply trust that company. They make very high
quality products.
Call them at 800-225-4831 to find the name of a dealer near you.
Q: First of all, I have to say what a privilege it is to be able to have my questions
answered by a highly respected Olympic strength coach?one whom I have admired since
I started bodybuilding.
Here's my question. I am 16 years old and feel like I have a low testosterone level. Is
there a reason why I shouldn't supplement with a pro-testosterone formula? If so, are
there any other ways to get and keep the level of testosterone up, such as lower intensity
Also, do you recommend serious (all natural) bodybuilding for anyone under 18?
A: I am not convinced that you need to take a pro-hormone like androstenedione. I have
several reasons:
A) You're only 16. It's possible you're just a late bloomer. Therefore, you may start
producing more testosterone if you just wait a few months.
B) Taking a pro-hormone may inhibit your own endogenous production of
testosterone. And, depending on the status of you enzymatic system, you may convert
a lot of the pro-hormone into estrogen. Unless you're training for a sex change, I see
no point in taking products such as DHEA or androstenedione.
C) You may be deficient in some trace mineral like zinc or manganese. Teenagers
from Iran and Iraq are known to have delayed onset of puberty because the soil in
those countries is lacking in these very important trace minerals. To estimate what
your mineral levels truly are, you may want to get them checked by Balco Labs. They
do the best mineral profile test in North America. A host of pro tennis players,
football players, track athletes and bodybuilders get their blood analyzed by them. It's
surprisingly cheap, too. Call them at (800) 777-7122.
Of course, there's always a chance that you already have high testosterone levels. You
may just be having trouble putting on muscle because your cortisol levels are also high.
There are a couple of things you can do to ensure a desirable testosterone/cortisol ratio,
though. For one, you can regularly employ a post-workout shake (something that contains
roughly 40 grams of protein, 200 grams of carbs, and perhaps a teaspoon or two of flax
You may also want try the supplement known as phosphatidyl serine. The optimal dosage
to lower cortisol is apparently between 300-800 mg . A cheap source for PS is the Power
Store . They sell the "Now Foods" brand of PS. Each capsule contains 100mg of
Phosphatidyl Serine. You can contact them by calling 800-382-9611, or faxing them at
815- 288-7433. Or, if you prefer, you can e-mail them at [email protected].
Incidentally, PS has also been shown to improve memory and learning.
You also asked whether I recommend serious, natural bodybuilding for anyone under the
age of 18. Of course I do. As long as you follow proper exercise ergonomics and your
workouts never exceed an hour in length, you should grow like a weed. Best success.
Q: What ever happened with you and Muscle Media? Did you leave because of the
magazine's new format?
A: I stopped writing for Muscle Media for a variety of reasons. For one, I disliked the
fact that they added editorial promos to my answers. At other times, they would cut an
entire paragraph or section out of one of my columns because I said something that
promoted another company or that went against EAS philosophy.
Probably the main reason, though, is that after TC was replaced, the magazine became so
lame and sanitary. I used to receive comments at my seminars and by e-mail saying, "?I
only subscribed to MM because of you and Duchaine, and Duchaine was so edited down
that he wasn't worth reading half the time." Dan once pointed out that when the magazine
was climbing the charts, all the contributing writers routinely got reports about magazine
sales that compared MM to its competitors, but once the infamous "Goldfinger" issue
came out, no one got any more sales reports. Was it because sales plummeted? It sure
seems like it.
In any event, I figured that I had enough of a following to move on to another magazine
where I could be free to express myself without having my ideas bastardized.
In retrospect, I'm very happy. Testosterone Magazine, after only 11 weeks, probably has
as many subscribers as Muscle Media had after being on the stands two or three years.
Our numbers keep growing and we have now readers all over the world, in faraway
places such as Australia, Croatia, and the former Soviet Union.
Don't get me wrong, though. I'm very grateful to have worked for Muscle Media as it
gave me a lot of exposure, but it was time for me to move on.
Q: Could you give me some advice on how to get my forearms to grow? They don't seem
to want to budge at all, no matter what I do. I recently started using thick grips whenever
possible to hopefully remedy the problem. Should I use thick grips on every exercise
possible or vary the grip from exercise to exercise? Help turn me into Popeye!
A: Thick grips should be used as a source of training variety. Therefore you should vary
the thickness of the handles the same way you vary your training parameters, i.e. reps,
sets, tempo and rest intervals. In other words, use thick grips on certain exercises for a
predetermined amount of time. Then, when you plan a new workout program, use them
on another exercise. The key, of course, is to continually provide new methods of
Here's a little trick you can try that should trigger more growth in your forearms when
you do wrists curls. For this method, a one-arm low pulley works best. Do your wrists
curls like everybody does, with your forearms on your thighs and your upper body
leaning over the forearms. This method will recruit the flexor digitorum profondus, but
NOT the flexor digitorum superficialis (but you already knew that, right?). Use a load
that allows you to do 8 to 12 reps. Once you reach muscular failure, stand up and back
away from the low pulley (while still holding onto the handle). Now with the elbows
locked and the upper arm at 45 degrees in relation to the ground, continue your set of
wrist curls. The elbow-extended position will allow you to better access the flexor
digitorum superficialis, thus creating a greater overload on a higher proportion of motor
units in your forearms. And don't forget to load up on the spinach!!!
Q: I'm a fan of yours because everything you've ever written has worked for me. I have
one big problem, though?my legs. I'm 186 cm tall, weigh 96 kg, and am a lifetime
natural. My problem is that my upper leg size (quad and hams) isn't what it's supposed to
be (I do have great calves, though). I can barely squat 120 kg for 6 reps, although I can
bench more than that. Please help with some kind of a routine for upper legs because the
rest of my body grows quite well (even better since trying some of your ideas).
A: This a very legitimate question, but could you please be more...vague?
It is hard to suggest a routine since I don't have a clue as to how you're training legs now.
In the future, if anyone wants to ask me these types of questions, please, please, include
your present routines.
I'll do my best to give you some advice, though. Keep in mind that what works for one
body part may not work at all for another one. For example, French bodybuilding coach
Rene Meme told me that IFBB pro bodybuilder Francis Benafatto had problems making
his legs grow for the longest time. Why? Because he was using the same loading
parameters for his legs as he was for his arms, which were his strong point. Once he
started training them completely differently than his arms, they responded. In fact, they
grew 5 cm larger in only 6 weeks.
In the meantime, let me suggest the following routine; it should keep you limping for
days. (Up to a certain point, the more myofibrillar damage you inflict, the more growth.)
A) Full squats, 4 sets of 5-8 reps, done on a 501 tempo (take 5 seconds to lower the
weight, no pause, and 1 second to rise to the starting position). Superset these with
lunges, 4 sets of 10-12 reps, done on a 20X tempo (where X means as explosively as
possible). Rest 3-4 minutes between supersets.
B) Leg curls, 4 sets of 5-8 reps, done on a 501 tempo. Superset these with Romanian
deadlifts (essentially the same as straight leg deadlifts, but keep the knees slightly
bent), 4 sets of 10-12 reps, done on a 301 tempo. Rest 3-4 minutes between supersets.
That routine should jolt your quads and hams into new growth.
Q: I know that if you're doing specialization work with a certain body part, you're
supposed to cut back on the volume for other body parts, so as not to cut into the gains
you might be making. If I follow your arm specialization program from the "Max
Weights" article, how do I incorporate the chest, back, and legs into my routine, without
taking away from my arm development? Can I still make gains, let's say in my chest,
despite cutting back in the amount of sets I'm doing, or can I only expect to maintain my
chest development? Thank you for your time and patience.
A: When embarking on a specialization program, I suggest you cut back 40% on the
number of sets used for other body parts. You will still make gains on these other body
parts, but obviously not at the rate of the body part you've targeted for specialization. If
you didn't cut back, what then would be then the essence of your specialization work?
Q: I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. I'm 6-foot-2, 218
pounds, 17% body fat, and 25 years old. I've been bodybuilding for 1 year and I'm caught
up in a dilemma: Should I cut up now to a single digit body fat percentage or not worry
about a little flab and just go on and get massive? I plan to compete at about 235-240 at
5% body fat.
A: Lose the fat first, then worry about gaining quality muscle. The practice of bulking up
first may in fact increase the number of fat cells, and once you develop fat cells, you can
never really get rid of them?only shrink them. I would strongly suggest you get below
10% first. If you train properly, you can do it in 7 weeks or so. Losing a few pounds of
body fat in that time period is quite realistic, particularly if you increase your intake of
good fats like fish oil, and flax or borage oil.
Q: I want to take advantage of your special book offer. I want to pre-order your arm
training book and your second edition of the Poliquin Principles (I already have the first
one). I will send you my credit card data via fax if I get a number from you. While I'm at
it, I have a few questions, too. You mentioned a few times that: 1) if you train for relative
strength, TUT [time-under-tension] should be under 20 seconds, 2) if you train for
hypertrophy, TUT should be around 40-70 seconds, and 3) you adapt to a routine in 6
training sessions or less.
How did you arrive at those numbers? Is this just your personal experience, or have other
coaches found the same thing? Are there any studies to prove the numbers?
A: To pre-order the arm training book, you can fax us at 719-473-7479. Or, you can call
the Biotest order line at 800-525-1940.
The time-under-tension figures are the results of scientific research on substrate
utilization curves, motor unit recruitment, and exercise protocol comparisons, to name a
few, plus the practical experience of myself and other strength coaches.
Keep in mind that I have also mentioned many times before that empirical and
experimental evidence have shown that hypertrophy can occur with sets of time-undertension that are below 20 seconds. There are plenty of massive powerlifters, e.g., Roger
Estep, and weightlifters like Arakelov and Rigert who have developed extraordinary
hypertrophy levels using sets of 3 reps or less. That is why I advocated low-rep training
in my "Maximal Weights" article. Over the years, I have built my arms up to over 19
inches in girth with sets averaging only 3 reps.
Conversely, training for hypertrophy with sets that are between 40-70 seconds long in
duration will also increase maximal strength, as there is a correlation between size
increases and strength increases, but not necessarily a correlation between strength and
cross-section. In other words, Bob with a 14-inch arm may curl and press more than his
training partner Bill, who has a 16 inch-arm. Of course, if you increase Bob's crosssection to the point where he has a 16-inch arm, you can be sure his maximal strength
will further increase.
Please don't write me for references, though. I am a strength coach, not a librarian. I used
to forward the references for such inquiries but it started to take too much time. Strangely
enough, I normally get these questions in March and November, which is about the same
time university students in exercise physiology are scrambling to do term papers and are
too lazy to do their own research.
I do not mean to give the impression that my training beliefs are accepted by everybody,
though. For instance, frequent Internet-poster and alleged exercise physiologist Mel Siff
recently had yet another post on the Internet questioning the validity of my TUT figures.
Instead of coming up with logical and practical solutions for the reader, he simply?as is
customary for him?attempted to "answer" a question by asking a series of questions.
In answer to that particular posting, I recently received a communication from top
Australian strength coach Ian King. King wrote:
"On the subject of answering questions with questions, I respect the power of a
question. Many leading authors quote 'questions are answers.' However the
practitioner needs more than questions to survive?he needs answers, or at least
paradigms with which to guide their actions?
"In the interim, Mel perhaps could provide his interpretation of TUT, it's relationship
with specific adaptations, and guidelines for the practitioner. For in reality what
Charles has presented in his TUT guidelines are nothing more than paradigms.
Paradigms that I support and use daily.
"In relation to finding the 'right answer,' I refer to Jacob Bronowski in 'Ascent of
Man,' who wrote '...there is no right absolute knowledge, and those who claim
it?whether they are scientists or dogmatists?open the door to tragedy. All information
is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility....' On the subject of humility, perhaps
Mel could use some...."
As far as the six workout rule is concerned, that one that results from my experience. I
am not the only one to come to that conclusion, though. Powerlifting coach extraordinaire
Louie Simmons came to the same observations while coaching at Westside Barbell Club.
But many top weightlifting experts such as Bud Charniga will confirm that observation,
too. Please keep in mind that this rule applies to about two-thirds of individuals; some
individuals like Olympic Gold medalist Pierre Lueders adapt much more quickly, while
some others may take 8 to 10 workouts to adapt. Former Soviet Union sport scientist
Rodionov established a few decades ago that 4 weeks is probably the longest one should
be on the same programs before the trainee actually starts to regress. More recent studies
on variety in training conducted in Australia and the US have demonstrated the
superiority of periodization models over constant training regimens.
On a final note, if you wait for sport science to come up with the perfect loading
parameters for training, you can end up passing up on one or two Olympics; a few Mr.
Olympias, or a half-dozen Super Bowls.
Q: Hi! I'm interested in buying your new book, "Winning the Arms Race." However,
previous purchases of other arm books have left me disappointed (Manfred Hoeberl,
Larry Scott, etc.). What's so different about yours?
A: I have yet to meet a bodybuilder who is satisfied with his arm development. "Winning
the Arms Race" helps deal with this frustrating issue. One of the first chapters deals with
the truth about arm measurements. When pro bodybuilders quote arm measurements, one
can use a simple tried-and-true conversion factor in calculating the real-life arm
measurement. For those of you have had advanced math training, this amounts to
subtracting 1.5 inches off the quoted measurements. In other words, many pro
bodybuilders exaggerate about their arms in the same manner that insecure men lie about
the length of their love tools. This chapter also contains a very interesting mathematical
formula that indicates how much you'll actually need to weigh to attain a given arm
measurement. Based on this formula, you'll know how a former Mr. Olympia who
claimed 22-inch arms would have needed to weigh 308 pounds to sport such
measurements. Interesting, isn't it? Particularly in view of the fact that his best contest
body weight was 235 pounds.
My book is different in many aspects. For example:
? Exercises are rated based on their effectiveness. I've also included the best way to
perform these particular movements.
? I've included plenty of routines with useful tips on how to customize
them to meet your individual needs.
? There are also plenty of chapters on topics related to arm development such as goal
setting, measurements, and strength norms. I've also included a section on
supplements and how to best cycle them.
I suppose the main reason you may want to purchase this book is that it contains dozens
of arm routines which will allow you to bring your arms to measurements you never
dreamed of. Now, isn't that a good enough reason?
Q: I read one of your articles where you said that, in your opinion, Zottman curls are the
best exercise for beefing up one's upper arm. I have two questions:
1) On the eccentric part of the movement, does one have his wrist/hand in a neutral
position (as in a hammer curl), or in a semi-pronated position (palms turned down)?
2) Does doing the Zottman curl on an incline bench take anything away from the
effectiveness of the movement?
A: For those of you who don't know what Zottman curls are, they combine a standard
dumbbell curl with a reverse curl. Sit on the edge of a bench with a working pair of
dumbbells. Curl the weights up and as you near the top of the concentric motion, pronate
the wrists so that the palms are now facing the floor. Do the eccentric portion of the
movement with the palms in the pronated position. Supinate, or turn the palms up, before
doing the next rep. (In order to make the movement more "comfortable" for the wrists,
grab the dumbbells as close as possible to the collar that's nearest your body?this will
allow you to pronate the dumbbells more easily).
In answer to your first question, the hand should be pronated (palm facing the floor).
Doing Zottmans on an incline will not take anything away from the movement, but it will
increase the recruitment of the long-head of the biceps brachii at the expense of the shorthead, which, depending on your goals, might be a good thing.
Q: I recently saw on a news post about a "smart drug" called Hydergine and how top
athletes were using it. Do you know anything about this drug, or can you suggest any
A: Hydergine is one of the few "smart pills" available in the US. It was originally
produced in the forties by Sandoz of Basel, Switzerland to combat high blood pressure. It
failed at that task but was later found to improve cognitive function.
Hydergine supposedly has a host of beneficial effects on the brain. It is supposed to
increase blood supply to the brain, increase the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain,
enhance metabolism in brain cells, protect the brain from damage during periods of
decreased and/or insufficient oxygen supply, slow the deposit of age pigment in the brain,
prevent free radical damage to brain cells and increase intelligence, memory, learning and
recall. Hydergine was initially introduced as a treatment for senility related to circulatory
problems. However, the dosage permitted by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), 3
mg/day, was shown to be insufficient for many patients with cerebrovascular disease.
In contrast with FDA politics, European countries approved a dosage of 9 mg/day.
Research shows that the higher the dosage levels are, the more effective Hydergine is in
cases of senility due to cerebrovascular disease. In this context, the FDA position on
Hydergine dosage is particularly surprising considering the fact that hydregine therapy
has not been found to produce any serious side effects. There have been occasional
reports of sublingual irritation, slight nausea, gastric disturbance and headache, but these
are uncommon. Nevertheless, recent research has shown that Hydergine has the ability to
increase blood supply and consequently oxygen to brain tissues. By the influence of
Hydergine on the level and the balance of several neurotransmitters in the brain, it is
possible to improve brain metabolism. Finally, it is now evident that Hydregine
stimulates the growth of dendrite nerve fibers, permitting stimulation of the central
nervous system and allowing for an improvement of memory and learning capacity.
Hydergine has had some popularity in European bodybuilding circles as it potentiates
other stimulants (giving an even greater "buzz?"), increases concentration for workouts,
and enhances endogenous production of growth hormone. It also supposedly lowers
blood fats and acts as an anti-oxidant. Athletes who require complex motor skills, such as
gymnasts, often experiment with Hydergine.
Regarding alternatives to Hydergine, you may want to look into taking ginkgo biloba,
one of the ingredients of Power Drive. Regarding the treating of cerebral insufficiency,
ginkgo biloba extract compares to the effect of Hydergine ( British Journal of Clinical
Pharmacology 34:352-8,1992). Furthermore, when you combine ginkgo with
phosphatidylcholine?as Biotest has done in Power Drive?you allegedly get increased
absorption, and this combined form has been shown to be 40-60% superior in improving
symptoms than the unbound forms of ginkgo biloba.
If you're more interested in cognitive effects than increases in strength, you might want to
try the Ginkgo/Phytosome product from a company called Enzymatic Therapy (800-7832286 in the US, or 800-665-3414 in Canada). If you want increased cognitive ability and
increased energy and strength, try Power Drive.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to answer my e-mail. My question is regarding the upper
pecs. I have your book and have tried your dumbbell routine (varying the angle of the
bench), but have a tuff time building my upper pecs. Your routine has helped, but only to
a small degree. Are there any other exercises or routines that you can think of for the
upper pecs?
A: The problem probably comes from your elbow position when you did the routine. Did
you remember to keep them back? You may think you keep them back, but it's fairly
common for many strength trainees to subconsciously let the elbows move forward. And,
if you let your elbows drop forward, you're shifting a great deal of the overload away
from the clavicular pectoralis and onto the inferior fibers of the serratus anterior and the
anterior deltoids.
Change your technique and your upper pecs will grow faster than Monica can get on her
knees and sing a song on the Presidential cordless mike. No static with the teeth, please!!!
Q: Do you ever employ undulating loading patterns with your athletes? Tudor Bompa
presented this concept in his book, "Serious Strength Training," as if it were one of the
Ten Commandments of strength training. I've never heard of it and am curious if this is
something that I should incorporate into my own training.
A: Yes, in fact, my own model on undulating loading patterns has been compared in the
scientific literature to other modules of training. You should definitely incorporate it in
your own training.
As a rule of thumb, I would say that the musculature grows best when both high volume
phases (known as accumulation phases) are alternated with high intensity phases (known
as intensification phases). The respective length of each phase will be affected by a
variety of factors such as nutrient intake, serotonin and dopamine ratios, hormonal makeup, and fiber-type make-up.
Accumulation phases are normally characterized by the following:
? High number of exercises (2-4 per body part)
? Higher reps (7 reps or more)
? Lower sets (2-4 sets per exercise)
? Higher volumes (number of total sets times total reps)
? Lower intensities (below 80%)
? Shorter rest intervals (30 to 90 seconds)
So, for instance, a typical accumulation phase may consist of 3 exercises of 3 sets of 1215 reps, resting an average of 75 seconds between sets.
Intensification phases are characterized by:
? Low number of exercises (1-2 per body part)
? Lower reps (1-6)
? Higher sets (10-12 total sets per body part)
? Lower volumes (total number of sets times total number of reps,
e.g. 6 sets of 3 reps=18 reps of volume)
? Higher intensities (80% and above)
? Longer rest intervals (3-5 minutes)
So, for instance, a typical intensification phase may consist of 2 exercises of 5 sets of 4-6
reps, resting an average of 3-5 minutes seconds between sets.
Keep in mind there are plenty of ways to undulate the training loads, but the way given
above is the one I prefer to prescribe to my clients. To put this into practice, you might
try alternating intensification and accumulation phases about every 3 weeks, or every six
workouts. In other words, do an accumulation phase for 6 workouts, and then switch to a
intensification program for 6 workouts.
Q: I know this question doesn't relate specifically to the magazine's focus, but I wonder if
you could tell me if this device will help develop the vertical jump anymore efficiently
than doing power cleans, plyometrics, and using the reverse hyper. I don't know if you
have ever heard of this machine or not. It's called the VERTIMAX and they have a
website at Also, I know you work with a lot of hockey players and
they can afford you, but what is your cost to design a program for a 12-week period if
you know the specific goals of the client?
A: First, ALL questions concerning athletic endeavors relate to this magazine's focus.
Regarding the VERTIMAX, it's one of the multiple toys on the market that can be used to
train the vertical jump, but can it do a better job than power cleans and squats? I doubt it.
Look at any Olympic lifter. They almost always have better vertical jumps than their
athletic peers from all other sports do. There is simply a direct correlation between
maximal strength levels of the hip and knee extensors and vertical jump height. A classic
example of this occurred a few years ago at the National Strength and Conditioning
Association convention. Vertec was there and they were giving away a vertical-jumpmeasuring device to the strength coach who had the highest vertical leap. For the first few
days, I was in the lead. After all, my vertical leap had hit 36". I lost. The late Dave
Passanella, World Powerlifting Champion who had power squatted over a 1,000 pounds,
beat me.
Regarding the second question: normally, I do not coach anybody who I haven't
evaluated personally. I generally ask for a three-year commitment and a minimum of 16
contacts a year. I change the client's training programs every 3 weeks and the program I
design is designed specifically for YOU. What's your investment for making rapid
progress? I charge $350.00 an hour. Yes, it's steep when you compare it to what ordinary
personal trainers charge, but I won't waste your time and I assure you that you'll progress
faster than you ever have before. I travel all over the US, so I am sure we can arrange a
meeting point in the near future if this is something you want to do.
If your budget is limited and you just want to do a Q and A session, phone our office (1888-847-2727) and we can arrange a phone consultation.
Q: I just finished reading your book, "The Poliquin Principles," and loved it (worth every
cent of the $73 Australian I paid for it).
I am just finding out the truth behind your statements; that my years at the University
aren't going to teach me much about being a strength and conditioning coach (I'm
currently studying for degrees in exercise science and nutrition). What are you favorite
sources of information and what publications should a novice coach begin acquiring?
P.S. Where can I get more info on "Active Release Techniques" by Dr. Mike Leahy?
A: I get this question every week and the answer remains the same: there is NO SINGLE
BEST SOURCE of information. I read material ranging from the European Journal of
Applied Physiology to a book like Roger Enoka's Neuromechanical Basis of Kinesiology
to a book like Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kukic. Every author has something to say,
and you can learn from everybody. Even Mike Mentzer, at times will repeat something
intelligent that Arthur Jones first said. The basic rule is that you have to read 10 hours a
week on a particular topic for 5 years to develop an appreciable level of expertise on that
precise topic. If you are not willing to commit that much time, you might consider a
different line of work.
Regarding your second question, there will be two Active Release Techniques seminars
conducted in Australia next spring where I will assist the good doctor. Registration will
be limited. Send us your snail-mail address and we'll forward you the information.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information on just what kind of magic Dr. Leahy can
perform on athletes, check out Backstage Pass in this issue.
Q: It's obvious that you?like all great strength coaches?are a big free weight advocate.
Have any new developments been introduced in free weights other than the elliptical
shaped handles I've seen?
A: Yes, as a matter of fact, there is a very interesting development called the Tribar
Gripping System. It was introduced to me by Boyer Coe of bodybuilding fame during our
first meeting in Phoenix this year.
It is a somewhat triangular-shaped handle (if you look at a transverse cut of the handle),
which makes it a more natural extension of your hand. (To see what the Tribar looks like,
check out It's far more ergonomic, and it makes many upper body
exercises more comfortable for the hands, wrists and fingers. It actually makes all
circular handles rather obsolete. For example, doing reverse curls with the Tribar version
of the Olympic EZ-bar is way easier on the thumbs and wrists than any brand on the
I personally have four different types of Tribars and use them regularly. After using them
once, my business partner Tim Patterson ordered a set of different bars for himself. He is
even convinced that training with these new devices will bring his arms over the
"eleventeen-inch" plateau.
All kidding aside, the Tribar concept has turned dumbbells, barbells, and pulley
attachments into more enjoyable and more effective training tools. To purchase Tribars,
you can reach them by calling 510-895-5991. Or, if you want to find out who the closest
distributor is, call 1-888-874-2271.
Q: I am about 1/4 way through a Deca and Sustanon 250 cycle, and with the help of your
book "The Poliquin Principles" I've made some awesome gains. The problem now is that
I want to get rid of all this fat. I am currently 96kg at 15% body fat and would like to be
between 6-7%. If my calculations are right, it means I have to lose about 8-9 kg. I was
thinking about dropping my calories to about 2400kcal a day. Is it possible to lose this in
about 8-10 weeks without losing muscle? I don't really want to do cardio after what you
said about it in your book.
A: Yes, your goal of not losing any muscle should be easily attainable without direct
aerobic work if you limit your fat loss to about 1 kg per week. I have plenty of clients
who have done just that over the course of two months.
Make sure you restrict your carb intake throughout the day and limit most of your carb
ingestion to your post workout meal. Since your body fat is relatively high, I would eat
only about 60 grams of carbs along with 40 grams of protein in your post workout shake.
Q: I am 22 years old and have been working out for the past two years. I've hit a plateau,
and actually lost some weight. My current procedure is eating at about 5:00, lifting at
7:30, followed by EAS Glutamine pills and a Myoplex Shake. I eat properly (not a lot of
protein, though, and lift hard, but I still can't make any more gains. And my biggest
problem is all the advertisements out there for mass building supplements. They all seem
so tempting that I'm actually thinking about giving in (Xenadrine, or Met-rx's new form
of creatine). After going through this web page and reading your thoughts, I really need
the advice of someone of your caliber.
A: Two years without gains? Have you considered hiring Dr. Kevorkian?
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going on when I take a look at the way you
eat. How can you say that you are eating properly when you admit that you're not taking
in a lot of protein? With apologies to Dr. Marcus Jones, if you want to gain muscle, you
need to eat at least 1.8 g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
I've mentioned my prescription for a post-workout shake umpteen times, but here it is
again: the post-workout shake must contain 1-2 g/kg of bodyweight of carbs preferably in
the form of malto-dextrin. (Read my previous columns on where to buy cheap maltodextrin.) It should also contain about 40 grams of protein.
Also, waiting 2.5 hours to workout after eating is too long. One to 1.5 hours should be
Q: I was reviewing a number of your older articles (i.e. Loading Parameters of Strength
Development, etc.) that applied to the training of athletes. I was curious as to whether you
recommend that athletes train once every 5 days, on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday,
Friday upper body / lower body split, or on an individual recovery basis. The reason I ask
is because I've noticed that the volume you recommend is lower with your athletic
programs in comparison to your current bodybuilding protocol. Do you have any tips in
determining optimal frequency and whether an athlete is undertraining or overtraining?
A: The volume for strength is always lower for athletes than for bodybuilders because
athletes have technical/tactical training to do in addition to their strength training.
Regarding your second question: the answer is quite lengthy and goes beyond the scope
of this column. To give you an idea of just how lengthy a topic it is, I take between 1.5
and 2 hours to go over that topic in my Strength and Mass seminar, since it is one of the
main keys to continued progress. Distinguishing the fine line to travel between
undertraining and overtraining is what makes easy gainers out of hard gainers. That is
why people are willing to pay $320 to attend one of my seminars.
It sounds like a lot, but consider that people go for weeks and weeks without making
progress and they simply endure it. Let me present it to you this way to put it in
perspective: Let's say you were paid $10.00 a workout, and trained four times a week for
eight weeks. That means that it would take you less than eight weeks of "work" to pay for
one of my seminars that would jolt you into making instant progress.
Q: I love squatting, but when I go heavy (5 RM or less), I get freaked out, and I think this
fear is somehow inhibiting my success in the movement. Any ideas as to how I can get
around it?
A: You can overcome this problem by using the technique called "Heavy Supports."
Chuck Sipes, a Mr. America known for his amazing strength, developed it. He claimed it
built tendon strength, but the truth of the matter is that it helps heighten the shutdown
threshold of the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO), which is a tension/stretch receptor located
in the tendon. The GTO inhibitory effect can be seen when two people of unequal
strength arm wrestle. As the weaker person loses, it looks like he's suddenly quitting and
gets his wrist slammed to the top of the table. What's really happening is that the GTO
perceives a rapid rate of stretch during the eccentric contraction, at which point it yells to
the brain, "Shut down, or this pimply-faced goon is going to rip the biceps apart!" The
brain then sends a rapid signal to inhibit the contraction in order to prevent a muscle tear.
The same thing is true of your legs when you do squats. However, you can raise the GTO
threshold by interspersing 8-second heavy isometric holds, aka supports, in between
regular sets. So a squat routine may look like this:
Set 1: Full squats 5 RM at 85% of max (rest for three minutes after each set).
Set 2: A heavy support of 8 seconds at 200 % of max. Basically, it's 1/16th of a squat.
You just unrack the weight and hold an upright position with your knees just short of
lock-out. The weight should be heavy enough that your knees will look like they are
suffering from a Parkinson's attack, or how TC's knees quiver when he finds a new 8track Barry Manilow tape.
Set 3: Full squats 5 RM at 85% of max.
Set 4: Heavy support 8 seconds at 210 % of max.
Set 5: Full squats 5 RM at 85% of max.
Set 6: Heavy support 8 seconds at 220 % of max.
Don't be surprised if your heavy support loads climb up dramatically. Don't be shy to use
even greater percentages for the heavy supports than the ones suggested. As a result of
doing these, you'll gain greater confidence and greater control over heavy squat
poundages. And, consequently, your rate of development will go up.
Q: I can probably bench about 350 pounds on a Hammer machine, but if I were to
attempt to bench 350 pounds of free weight, it would probably decapitate me. What's
going on here? Are my stabilizers pathetically weak?
A: No, not necessarily. It's not so much your stabilizers but the fact that most Hammer
machines provide you with advantageous leverage. Therefore, you can handle way more
weight. As a rule of thumb, if you do five plates a side on a Hammer bench press
machine, you'll have a hard time doing three plates a side on the bench press. Likewise, if
you do 150 pounds on an Atlantis leg curl machine, you may be able to do about 220 on a
Bodymasters leg curl machine.
The bottom line is that one can convert lifts from one brand of apparatus to another if you
spend enough time around different brand names.
Of course, it's possible that your stabilizers are poor, too. If they're up to snuff, you
should be able to do 90% of the barbell bench press weight when doing semi-supinated
dumbbell presses. In other words, if you bench 200 pounds, you should be able to press a
pair of 90 pounds (2 x 90 = 180 pounds, which is 90% of 200 pounds).
Q: I tried your One-Day Arm Cure routine. I was impressed with the results. Do you have
a similar routine to boost chest size? I'd be interested in trying it.
A: Sure. I've included it below. If you compare to the One-Day Arm Cure, you'll notice
that there are a few differences. Since the chest is large muscle mass, I prefer to do fewer
sets, as smaller muscles like the biceps recover much more quickly. I've also made some
dietary changes based on the interactions I've had with Dr. Eric Serrano, my co-host at
the "Alternating Body Composition Seminar" (the next seminars are in Dallas, Texas,
November 7-8, 1998, and Phoenix, Arizona, December 5-6. Phone 1-888-847-2727 to
reserve a spot).
The reasoning "behind the madness" of this program is that the extreme, excessive
volume brings about extreme, excessive supercompensation. In fact, if everything goes
according to plan, you could actually add inches to your chest measurement!
7:30 Breakfast:
? 1 lean steak
? 2 poached eggs
? 1 slice of whole grain bread
? 1 orange
? 1 teaspoon of flax seed oil
? 3 grams of vitamin C
? 1 multi-vitamin-mineral tablet
? Udo's digestive enzymes (optional)
? 1 serving of Power Drive
9:00 Program A:
? Incline Dumbbell Press (6-8 reps on a 402 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Flyes (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Press (6-8 reps on a 402 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Flyes (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo)
9:30 Program B:
? Chest Dips (4-6 reps on a 404 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Flyes (4-6 reps on a 303 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
10:00 Program A:
? Incline Dumbbell Press (6-8 reps on a 402 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Flyes (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Press (6-8 reps on a 402 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Flyes (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo)
10:30 Program B:
? Chest Dips (4-6 reps on a 404 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Flyes (4-6 reps on a 303 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
11:00 Program A:
? Incline Dumbbell Press (6-8 reps on a 402 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Flyes (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Press (6-8 reps on a 402 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Flyes (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo)
11:30 Program B:
? Chest Dips (4-6 reps on a 404 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Flyes (4-6 reps on a 303 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
12:00 Lunch:
? 2 chicken breasts
? 1 mixed greens salad
? 1 yam
? 1 teaspoon of flax seed oil
? 3 grams of vitamin C
? 1 multi-vitamin-mineral tablet
? Udo's digestive enzymes (optional)
1:30 Program C (exercises, reps, and tempo differ from the morning workout):
? Flat Dumbbell Press (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Decline Dumbbell Flyes (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Press (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Decline Dumbbell Flyes (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
2:00 Program D:
? Incline Dumbbell Presses on a Swiss Ball (1 x 15-20 reps on a 201 tempo)
2:30 Program C:
? Flat Dumbbell Press (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Decline Dumbbell Flyes (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Press (8-12 reps on a 302 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Decline Dumbbell Flyes (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 90 seconds)
3:00 Program D:
? Incline Dumbbell Presses on a Swiss Ball (1 x 15-20 reps on a 201 tempo)
3:15 Mid-Afternoon Snack:
? 1 serving Grow (or some other meal replacement drink)
? 1 low-glycemic index fruit, like an orange or pear
? Udo's enzymes (optional)
? 1 serving of Power Drive
4:00 Program E (high reps):
? Incline Dumbbell Press 912-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 60 seconds)
? Barbell Bench Press (15-20 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 60 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Press (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 60 seconds)
? Barbell Bench Press (15-20 reps on a 201 tempo, you'll have to decrease the weight
on the second set)
? 20 grams of glutamine in 8 ounces of water
4:30 Program F (high reps):
? Decline Dumbbell Presses (1 x 20-25 reps on a 101 tempo)
5:00 Program E (high reps):
? Incline Dumbbell Press (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 60 seconds)
? Barbell Bench Press (15-20 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 60 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Press (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 60 seconds)
? Barbell Bench Press (15-20 reps on a 201 tempo, you'll have to decrease the weight
on the second set)
5:15 Snack:
? 2 pieces or servings of low-glycemic index fruit, like mandarin, apple, orange, pear,
cherry, etc.
? 20 grams of glutamine in water
5:30 Giant Set (high reps):
? Incline Dumbbell Press (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Barbell Bench Press (15-20 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Flat Dumbbell Flyes (12-15 reps on a 201 tempo, rest 0 seconds)
? Incline Dumbbell Flyes (15-20 reps on a 201 tempo)
6:00 First Recovery Feeding:
? 2 servings of Champion Nutrition Creatine Extreme
? 20 grams of branched-chain amino acids
? 2 grams of vitamin C
? 4 tablets of Champion Nutrition OxyPro
? 800 mg of phosphatidyl serine
7:00 Second Recovery Feeding:
Blender drink consisting of:
? 1 Grow (or other meal replacement drink)
? 125 grams of carb powder
? 10 grams of creatine
? 20 grams of glutamine
Now that you're warm-up is over, it's time to get down to the real workout?nawww,
just kidding. It's over. You survived. Slap yourself on the back, if you can.
Regarding the One-Day Arm Cure, I've further refined it based on the feedback I got
from readers and the nutritional tips I got from Eric Serrano in the upcoming edition of
"Winning the Arms Race."
Q: I took "Principles of Nutrition" last year as an undergrad. My professor taught us that
taking an amino acid supplement would do no good for two reasons: A) To do any good,
an amino acid must be accompanied by all of the other essential amino acids, and B)
Even if they are all there, the body cannot process amino acids in such quantity. Athletes
will use more, but still nowhere close to the levels in most supplements. Have you ever
heard someone make this kind of argument?
A: I've heard about someone making the same argument before, about the same time that
the medieval scientific community was horrified at the concept that the earth was round.
Let me attempt to answer each question:
A) Where the "phoque" (French word for seal) did he get this one? Amino acids have
long been used in single presentation to elicit a specific physiological response. For
example, tryptophan and lysine have been respectively used to induce sleep and treat
herpes. Our pre-workout stimulant Power Drive uses the amino acid tyrosine to
induce arousal for training. And, many readers report that when they combine it with
thermogenic agents, such as Thermadrol Extreme from Champion Nutrition, it
extends its fat-burning properties.
B) The scientific community?for lack of proper measuring tools and insight?has
underestimated protein requirements for athletes. Thanks to the work of protein
research pioneer Peter Lemon of Kent State University, the knowledge on protein
requirements has been greatly expanded and corrected.
You could do your teacher a great favor by having him read Dr. Mauro DiPasquale's
awesome treatise on amino acids called "Amino Acids and Proteins for the Athlete?The
Anabolic Edge." You can order it from CRS Press by calling 1-800-272-7737.
Q: Last night I was listening to an old Muscle Media audio tape, and you mentioned
using a triathlon stopwatch to time your rest period. Would you happen to have the
specific model? I'm looking for something that will "beep" when my rest period is over.
A: I use the Timex Triathlon Indiglo that you can purchase at any major department store.
Just follow the instructions on how to use the timer function. It's as simple as that.
Q: I've found that if I lift weights a few hours before my karate lesson, I have much
greater speed and strength in my strikes. Is that normal? Shouldn't I be fatigued?
A: No, it's quite normal that your karate-specific strength is enhanced by a weight
training workout before going to the dojo. Optimally, you should have 4-6 hours between
the two sessions. What you are experiencing is a phenomenon called post-tetanic
facilitation. When you recruit high-threshold motor units, like you do in a weight-training
workout, and take a subsequent 10-minute rest period, there's a temporary increase in
strength lasting 4-6 hours. That's why Ben Johnson used to do heavy squats before a race
and achieve those world record starts. This trick for enhanced power performance is
thought to have been developed by former Soviet Union sprinter Valery Borsov, Olympic
gold medalist of the early seventies.
Q: I take a few weeks off from training several times each year, and I am concerned
about whether this is counter productive. I have long-term goals of staying fit while
continuing to get stronger. I race mountain bikes in the summer and hit the weights
harder in the winter. The down times seems to be vital to my motivation. Should I try to
stay ON all the time?
A: No, you should not try to lift year-round, unless you're committed to be world class
powerlifter, bodybuilder, or weightlifter. Even those types of athletes can benefit from
taking a week off from training once every 12 to 16 weeks.
During that week off, I do recommend, however, that you stay active doing whatever it is
that you enjoy: tennis, windsurfing, biking, whatever. If you stay inactive, you'll
experience mood swings due to the circadian regulation of hormonal output. There is
some evidence that these mood swings may also be due to insulin sensitivity and
carbohydrate uptake.
Keep in mind that the current Olympic gold medalist in the bobsleigh can power clean
160 kilos (352 pounds) while strength-training only five months out of the year.
Similarly, the best weightlifter in the world in that same weight class can do about 212.5
kilos (467.5 pounds) in that lift.
You don't need to train year-round to have appreciable amounts of strength.
Q: I just received your book "The Poliquin Principles" and have read it cover to cover. I
am 21 years old and am currently studying for a degree in sports nutrition. In the book,
you outlined some routines for building mass. But I would be interested in a routine for
building strength as well. Got any suggestions?
A: When training for relative strength, the following loading parameters apply:
Loading Parameters of Maximal Weights
Intensity: 85-100%
Repetitions: 1-5 RM
Sets: 5-12
Rest Intervals: 4-5 minutes
Concentric Tempo: 1-4 seconds*
Eccentric Tempo: 3-5 seconds*
Total Set Duration: Under 20 seconds*
Because of the high number of sets you'll be doing for this type of routine, you'll only
need to do one to three exercises per workout. You could, however, do as many as four if
you pair agonists and antagonists together, as opposed to working agonists alone.
Researchers have found that the ability to achieve full motor unit activation (MUA) is
enhanced when immediately proceeded by a contraction of the agonists. For example,
after doing a 3-repetition maximum (RM) set of close-grip triceps presses, rest 2 to 3
minutes and perform a a 3- to 4-RM set of dumbbell curls for the biceps. Rest 2 to 3
minutes and repeat for the required amount of sets.
This method has the added benefit of allowing you to double the workload per training
Q: I'm using the "Poliquin's Maximal Weights for Arms" workout that I found on your
site and I'm making great progress. I started off doing dips with a 35-pound dumbbell for
5x5, and I've moved up to a 50-pound dumbbell in six weeks, working the arms once a
week on average. Anyway, I'm getting ready to start the 4x6 phase and I have no clue
what "rack lockouts" are. Can you guys help me out here?
A: Rack lockouts are partial reps in the bench press. The range varies between 1/3 and
1/4 of the normal range of motion. This shortened range is predetermined by using a
power rack. Normally, the bar is paused in the bottom position so that you cannot use the
elastic component of the muscle.
Set your bench up in the power rack. Situate the supports so that when you rack the bar,
it's considerably higher than chest level. That way, when you press the bar off the rack,
you'll only be pushing the bar a short distance: 1/3 to 1/4 of what it would normally be.
Q: I am a personal trainer at Lees Mills World of Fitness in Auckland, New Zealand. I
have a copy of "The Poliquin Principles," and it's the most helpful tool I've come across
in my two years as a trainer. I must admit that I've directly lifted some of the workouts
from the book and used them on my clients, and they've been incredibly successful and
Following your programs did change my thought process, though. Now I am writing a
similar style of program under my own steam, which leads me to my question.
I've been training some of the members of Team New Zealand?the New Zealand
America's Cup team. One of them has asked me to prepare him for Sydney 2000 in an
individual yachting event. I guess they think I know what I'm doing!
We've seen some great results in the last three months?radical changes in body fat lost
and muscle gained?but I know I can offer them more.
Are you able to give me advice on how to periodize something for the next two years
and, if so, what are your fees for email, phone consultations, etc.? If you are not able to
help, are there any reference books that I should be reading that may give me a little more
to go on?
Thanks again for being quite an inspiration.
A: Although I don't have any plans on coming to beautiful New Zealand in the near
future, I do offer consulting at the rate of $350 an hour (American dollars).
I realize that this is kind of steep for most people, so here are some textbooks that you
can use to learn more about the physiology of strength training:
1) Strength and Power
By Paavo Komi Ed
Published by Blackwell
2) Theory and Methodology of Strength Training
By Zatiorsky
Published by Human Kinetics
3) Designing Resistance Training Programs
By S. Fleck and W. Kraemer
Published by Human Kinetics
The fourth book that I would recommend is "Fitness and Strength Training for All
Sports" by Hartmann and T?nnemann. Don't be misled by the title. The original title of
this book, in German, was "Modernes Krafttraining," which more accurately translates as
"Modern Strength Training Methodology."
The first German edition was published in the former East Germany and was recognized
as the strength training Bible of East German coaches. This excellent book delves at
length into the physiological mechanisms of strength and mass building without getting
overly scientific. Chapters of interest to you would be:
Chapter 1
The Biological Basis of Strength
Chapter 2
Muscle Contractions and the Dynamics of the Neuromuscular System
Chapter 4
Training Components and Principles
Chapter 7
Strength Training Methods and Programs
Chapter 8
Foundation Strength Training Methods and Programs
Chapter 9
Maximal Strength Training Methods and Programs
The physiology isn't entirely cutting-edge research, but it's better than anything aimed at
the coach and athlete market. The authors go to great lengths to explain the methodology
of strength and hypertrophy training. All loading parameters (sets, reps, tempo, etc.) are
well described. Those are the best chapters in the book.
The section on nutrition is nothing to write home about. Some sections, like the one on
speed development, will probably not interest the average Testosterone reader.
At times, the translation leaves a lot to be desired. For example, the word "weightlifter" is
used when the term "bodybuilder" should have been used. For German speaking readers,
I'd recommend the original edition. Unfortunately, the book is not widely distributed. It
can be purchased by phone from the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto (416-9777009). These guys are good?I got the book three days after I ordered it.
Q: Excellent job on the site?it rocks!
First, I want to tell you about an exercise that I've been using that almost makes me puke!
It was initially introduced by Joe Lewis. We call them manual biceps. If you've never
done them, then get ready to feel pain like no other biceps exercise you've imagined. It
involves maximal resistance throughout the entire range of motion and every rep. You'll
need a partner for this one.
Set up a preacher curl bench, but get rid of the weights?you won't need them. Grab a
broom stick or a bar and sit as if you were going to do a regular set of preacher curls.
Start at the bottom of the movement. Your partner will resist your curling motion by
pushing down against it so that the broomstick/bar is creeping along its arc while you're
using maximal force to curl against the resistance provided by your partner.
Once you hit the top, the motion changes. Now you resist your partner who is pulling
back against your biceps toward the ground (most normal people are a whole lot stronger
here). After the eccentric portion, reverse the resistance. Again, you are curling against
your partner's resistance. Continue this at whatever tempo you desire.
I generally stop when I can no longer slow down the broomstick. At this point there is no
feeling in your arms from your shoulders to your fingers, and your hands will be a nice
shade of white or red.
This is a great exercise to break through plateaus. I've used this type of resistance with
triceps extensions, lateral raises, leg curls, and even crunches. It's pretty flexible,
depending on the strength of the muscle (you obviously couldn't use it with squats).
I find that it's a good idea to pre-exhaust the muscle for the benefit of the person
providing the resistance. Otherwise, you might be able to resist their entire bodyweight,
and that makes it a little too much work for them. Try this and tell me what you think.
It's a good form of punishment for pissy friends too, as a set of manual biceps will make
anyone surrender and bow down!
A: Assuming that I've never heard about this is a mistake. No bowing down to you. Sorry
to disappoint you, but I did manual bis back in 1978 in my basement with my fellow
kinesiology student and training partner. We started doing them after listening to a lecture
on isokinetics in our class.
In fact, I have a better way for you to do it. Yes, using the preacher is good idea, but try
using a towel instead of a broomstick (working one arm at a time). This works better for
your training partner as he will be able to apply resistance more appropriately matched to
your strength curve.
Q: I'm a discus and hammer thrower for a college in upstate New York. I'm trying to gain
muscle mass as well as relative strength. I'm going back and forth between a relative
strength program and actual muscle growth workouts every four to six weeks. I'm lifting
four times a week now.
For the relative strength program, I'm doing Olympic and powerlifting-type workouts
(power cleans, power snatches, lowbar squats, miscellaneous pulls and jerks, etc.) with
progressively lower reps (1 to 5).
As far as trying to gain muscle mass, I have been using different exercises than before
with a higher rep range (8 to 10), more time under tension, supersets, dropsets, and less
I want to try Tribex-500. Where do you think it will fit in best?in which phase? Do you
think what I am doing is going to accomplish my goals? Is there a better way to lift in
order to make me jacked for the 2000 season? If so, would you please send some info
about it to me?
A: "I'm a discus and hammer thrower for a college in upstate New York..." Why does this
sound like the beginning of a letter to Penthouse magazine? Oh well, here are some tips
for your training:
1) Don't exceed eight reps in your hypertrophy phase?otherwise, you'll dive into the
lower threshold motor units that won't help your throwing much.
2) Cycles should be of three-week duration, max.
3) Use eccentrics in your relative strength phase.
If you're on a limited budget, Tribex will help you most during your hypertrophy phase.
Take four tablets before the workout, and four tablets after the workout. Use it four days
a week or so.
By the way, in case you didn't notice, my first book was a bodybuidling book and not
necessarily geared towards strength training. Strength training for sport is an entire
different issue. I'm in the process of preparing sport specific books.
Q: I would like to start your GVT in a few weeks. Should I take some time off after a
high-intensity cycle before I begin it? And what should I do during that period? Is it
enough to train one body part once a week in the Ten Sets Method? When should I
increase weights?
A: For those of you who are new to this site, GVT stands for German Volume Training.
In strength coaching circles, this method is often called the Ten Sets Method. However,
because it has its roots in German-speaking countries, I like to call it the German Volume
Training system.
To the best of my knowledge, this training system originated in Germany in the midseventies and was popularized by Rolf Feser, who was then the National Coach of
Weightlifting. A similar protocol was promoted by Vince Gironda in the US, but
regardless of who actually invented it, it works.
In Germany, the Ten Sets Method was used in the off-season to help weightlifters gain
lean body mass. It was so efficient that lifters routinely moved up a full weight class
within 12 weeks. Incidentally, it was the base program of Canadian weightlifter Jacques
Demers, silver medallist in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Jacques was known in
weightlifting circles for his massive thighs, and he credits GVT for helping him achieve
that level of hypertrophy. Bev Francis also used it in her early days of bodybuilding to
pack on muscle.
The program works because it targets a specific group of motor units and exposes them to
an extensive volume of repeated efforts; specifically, 10 sets of a single exercise. The
body adapts to that extraordinary stress by hypertrophying the targeted fibers. To say that
this program adds muscle fast would be an understatement?gains of 10 pounds or more in
six weeks are the norm, not the exception.
The goal of the German Volume Training method is to complete 10 sets of 10 reps with
the same weight for each exercise. You want to begin with a weight you could?if you
really pushed it?lift for 20 reps to failure. For most people?on most exercises?that would
represent 60% of their 1 RM load. Therefore, if you can bench press 200 pounds for one
rep, you would use 120 pounds for this exercise. Now, it may sound easy, but you'll be
pleasantly, or unpleasantly, surprised.
For beginners, I recommend using the following body part splits:
Day 1: Chest and back
Day 2: Legs and abs
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Arms and shoulders
Day 5: Off
Do one exercise, and one exercise only, for that particular body part. (If, however, you're
a real masochist, you may wish to supplement that one exercise with another exercise for
three sets of 10-12 reps done on a 402 tempo.)
When performing this program?or, for that matter, any program?you should keep a
detailed journal of the exact sets/reps load and rest intervals performed, and only count
the repetitions completed in strict form. Increase the resistance when you can do 10
repetitions for all 10 sets.
You may discover while doing this workout that, although your number of reps may go
down about the sixth or seventh set, they may actually go up again at the eighth or ninth
set. The thing to remember is that you are not going crazy; this is merely an interesting
neurologically based phenomenon.
Oh, go ahead and start right away. No need to recuperate after your high-intensity cycle.
Q: You recommended somewhere or another (damn, I don't have my CP archives in
order) that one-and-a-quarter squats will hit the VM specifically. Is this movement "buttto-calves to parallel and back, then stand," or is it "half-way up from parallel and back?"
A: "Butt-to-calves to parallel and back, then stand" is the range of motion that targets the
VM (vastus medialis) best.
The "half-way up from parallel and back" will only contribute to further destabilizing the
Q: Please answer this ASAP. I am starting week 4 of the arm workout?maximal
weights?and I have two questions. When doing the Scott bb curls, should the wrists be
neutral or backward? Secondly, what exactly are rack lockouts?
A: The wrists should be bent backward. Although you'll have to use less weight, bending
the wrists backward will isolate the elbow flexors by inhibiting the forearm flexors.
Rack lockouts are partial reps in the close-grip bench press. Because you are using a
close-grip, you'll strongly recruit the triceps. Furthermore, the highest recruitment of the
triceps occurs at the end of the range of motion in the bench press movement.
To take advantage of this extra degree of recruitment, you can use a power rack to limit
your range of motion, which will also allow you to use a greater amount of weight than if
you were doing full range of motion bench presses.
I recommend using the "stops" in a power rack to shorten your range of motion. In other
words, place the stops several inches above your chest so that your range of motion is
only 1/3 to 1/4 of what it would normally be. You should also pause at the bottom of the
movement (the point at which the bar hits the stops) so that you cannot use the elastic
component of the muscle.
Q: I am curious. If you could train Monday through Friday, but not on the weekends at
all, how would you do it? I work 12 to 16 hours every weekend, but I have Monday
through Friday off. I am in the medical profession, and there would be a large demand for
this type of workout split.
A: You could try this split:
Monday: Chest and biceps
Tuesday: Legs (with emphasis on quads), calves, and abs
Wednesday: Upper back and shoulders
Thursday: Hamstrings and calves
Friday: Triceps, forearms, and abs
Or, for someone who needs more leg work:
Monday: Squat-based leg workout
Tuesday: Shoulders, arms, and forearms
Wednesday: Calves and abs
Thursday: Deadlift based leg workout
Friday: Chest and back
Q: This morning, I did your chest and back workout described by TC in a previous issue
of Testosterone. After I finished (and was moaning in the corner, sucking on my postworkout drink), I was approached by one of the trainers at the gym. He said, "Sure you're
gonna' be sore after that workout, but that's an aesthetics workout, not a strength workout.
You'll get great separation working out like that?but you'll also get arthritis when you're
60." He went on and on, mumbling about connective tissue and other such things. I really
couldn't pay attention; I was just concentrating on getting my protein/carb drink to my
lips. Do you know what he was going on about?
A: I have no clue what he was talking about. Neither does he.
Q: When is the best time to have a post-workout meal? I know it's a good idea to
consume protein right after a workout, but many say that it's better to wait about an hour
after a workout to have a regular meal. Who's right?
A: The sooner, the better. Scientific research points out that there is a direct correlation
between the proximity of the post-workout meal and the rate of glycogen resynthesis. I
believe that liquid meals work best, and adding protein to the liquid carbohydrate solution
will markedly increase the glycogen content of muscle.
However, if you're training to put on mass, use 2 g/kg (0.9 grams per pound) of carbs,
and 0.5 g/kg (0.23 grams per pound) of protein. If you need to lose body fat, keep the
carbs at 0.6 g/kg of bodyweight (about .27 grams per pound).
Remember, this is my prescription for a post-workout meal only, and it does not reflect
my feelings about total daily protein or carb intake.
Q: I've heard and read tons about how you need to change your routine frequently in
order to obtain maximal results. However, I am a creature of habit (no, not a nun). I've
found three or four routines that work for me and am planning a stretch of German
Volume Training in the future. How long could someone reasonably wait before
returning to a routine that has worked for them in the past?
A: From practical experience, I would say 12 weeks would work. In other words,
assuming you've been doing completely different routines in the interim, you could return
to a previous "favorite" workout after three months. Regardless, you might still want to
make some changes in that workout. For instance, if your favorite routine employed lying
barbell triceps extensions, you might want to do the movement with dumbbells or cables
the second time around.
Remember, variety is the key!
Q: I'm 58 years old and have been seriously training for 11 months. I train three days a
week, exercising each body part once a week, doing three sets of ten, eight, and six reps,
with progressively heavier weights each set. The result has been increased muscle tone
and strength. I'm seeing some muscles that I've never seen before! I'm surprised to see the
change at my age, but I'd like to see a little more mass.
I realize that increased age means lower testosterone levels, and increased muscle mass is
not very likely to happen. I've tried some of the prohormones?a stack of norandro, andro,
androdiol, and chrysin?with no noticeable effect. Most recently, I've tried andro gel with
no noticeable effect, either. What can I realistically expect concerning increased mass at
my age? Do you have any recommendations for workable solutions to increase muscle
A: Well, one of the reasons you've stopped making progress is that your training's
become too monotonous and, consequently, isn't challenging enough.
There is plenty of empirical evidence that beginners such as you need more training
frequency per body part to elicit strength gains. Furthermore, I suspect that you need to
train each body part a little more often. Most trainees find it hard to believe the following
truism: When you're weak, you recover rapidly. When you're strong, it takes you longer
to recover. I doubt that you've built enough strength in only 11 months to fall into the
"strong" category.
I also want to take this opportunity to air a minor pet peeve of mine: When most people
say they've improved their "muscle tone," they really that they've lost fat and/or gained
muscle. There's no evidence of an increase in the actual tonus of a muscle from strength
training. Therefore, I'd appreciate it if all of you out there would drop-kick the next
Cosmopolitan or Men's Health reader who says that he or she wants to improve "muscle
Regarding the prohormones, recent lab testing points out that not all companies are
giving you what you pay for. You may be taking in some expensive fillers with little
prohormone. Also, given the poor absorption rates of oral prohormones (along with the
efforts of the liver to break these hormones down), the basic recommended dosages aren't
going to cause much of an anabolic effect at all. Now, I am not recommending that you
put all of your 4-androdiol pills into a Tweety Bird Pez dispenser and start snacking on
them like so many candies. Still, it explains why you might not have had any success
with these products. You may want to try a "natural" hormone boost of Tribex-500 and
ZMA as suggested by our special feature, The Andro Wars.
As far as realistic gains are concerned, I have seen men in your age group gain 18 pounds
of lean body mass in one year of proper training. It sounds like a lot, but I am confident
that you can do it, assuming no underlying health problems.
Keep us informed about your progress!
Q: Back in 1994, I ordered a program put together by Tom Platz, Leo Costa, and Russ
Horine titled "Big Beyond Belief." I just happened to be looking through a box of books
that I had put away some time ago and discovered it. The entire program is based on socalled "Bulgarian" training principles. In summary, those principles are basically stated as
1) Train in sessions of 45 minutes or less.
2) Train six days per week with less than 72 hours rest for each body part.
3) Train each body part three times per week.
4) Choose exercises that require the most neuro-muscular activation, i.e. squats.
5) Perform each repetition as quickly as possible while still maintaining proper form.
6) Follow a micro-periodization technique.
Some other notions that they denote in the program are that the biggest problem today
(1994) is not overtraining, but undertraining, that the body recovers much faster than
once believed, and that high-intensity training doesn't produce the greatest gains.
Are these, indeed, actual Bulgarian training philosophies? Or, is it just another program
that works until your body adapts?
A: Go in the closet. Pull out the Hoover "Nordic Queen" model with 200 amps. Pull off
the rotary carpet-cleaning head. Put on the dust devil attachment used for cleaning
furniture and picking up bowling balls that were accidentally dropped in the sewer.
Attach it to one of your testicles (whichever one hangs lower). Turn the vacuum cleaner
on "hurricane" mode.
Now you have an idea of the worth of the Bulgarian Burst program. In short, it sucks.
I have come across plenty of people who gave it a fair try a few years ago, with basically
zero results. The volume is far too great for most people to handle without using buckets
of steroids.
Q: I weigh 150 pounds. Even though I do a very reasonable workout which doesn't
exceed 15 sets, I often feel very sore, exhausted, and half-asleep the day after.
The following is my current program based on the principles that I learned from your
book. As you can see, it's a very low volume and simple routine.
? Bench presses, 185 pounds, 5x5 (rest three minutes between all sets)
? Chin-ups, 50-pound plates, 5x5
? Standing behind the neck shoulder presses, 120 pounds, 5x5
? Jiu-jiutsu practice, 1-1/2 hours (Brazilian style)
? Squats, 245 pounds, 5x5 (rest three minutes between all sets)
? Stiff legged deadlifts, 250 pounds, 5x5
? Abdominal exercises (hanging leg raises and crunches)
I take multi-vitamins (Super Radical Shield formula), NAC, Twinlab DMAE and
magnesium, essential fatty acids (Udo's Choice), protein powders (100 g), and fruit and
vegetable extracts.
Based on the above information, I am hoping that you could give me some insight as to
why I feel so horrible the day after a workout. I am sure that if you were to answer this
question in your magazine, others would benefit as well.
A: By the way, if you're going to ask me questions, the very least you could do is use
Biotest's DMAE (contained in Power Drive) instead of Twinlab's! Either that, or have the
common decency to lie to my face about whose products you are using! Okay, I'll let you
off the hook?this time!
Actually, the answer to your problem is rather simple. I really think that your total
training volume is so low that you haven't forced your body into developing increased
work capacity.
Power Drive might help your feelings of fatigue. You might also want to start using a
calorie-dense post-workout drink to aid in your recovery. My tried and true formula is as
? 0.5 g/kg protein
? 2.0 g/kg carbs
It's a lot of calories, but it works wonders.
Q: What do you think of the idea that Louie Simmons had of using "relatively" light
weight, but maximally accelerating it, to make strength gains? I read that in another of
Testosterone's great articles.
I believe that your mind is the Mecca of mass/strength workout protocol derivation, and
Testosterone magazine blows MM2K away, even when compared to the early days!
Really, you all are great on your own merits. Please keep it going!
A: Thank you for the compliments!
Louie Simmons has observed that maximally accelerating "relatively" light weight does,
indeed, lead to strength gains. This technique has been backed up in recent research.
This technique is better known as "compensatory acceleration." You train the central
nervous system (CNS) to improve the rate of force development when using high loads.
This particular training method has been shown to improve both strength and power more
than conventional strength training. If you want more details, read: Jones et al. 1996. The
Effects of Compensatory Acceleration on Upper Body Strength and Power. J. Strength
and Cond. Res. 10(4):287
Q: First, I'd like to thank you for all of the knowledge that I picked up at the recent Los
Angeles seminar. I'm using your techniques on my clients so I won't forget any of it. I've
been packing on mass ever since, and my personal training fees have doubled. But, then
again, why shouldn't they?
I've been having tremendous success with the GVT program, but I'm unsure about a few
How often should I be changing the exercises? Every workout, or could it be every
three weeks so I can get a better idea of what kind of strength increases that I'm
I incline press 60% of my max for ten sets, but I don't really start working hard until
my fifth set. Consequently, I usually go heavier during my beginning sets and
eventually strip some weight when ten reps gets to be too hard. This makes the
routine a lot harder. Am I screwing up by not keeping my weight the same for all ten
sets? Here's an example:
? 205 x 10
? 195 x 10
? 195 x 10
? 195 x 9
? 185 x 10
? 185 x 10
? 185 x 10
? 185 x 9
? 175 x 10
? 175 x 10
A: I recommend that you change the exercises every six workouts. In fact, that's my
general recommendation, regardless of whether you're doing the German Volume
Training program or a more conventional program.
You should also keep the weight the same for each of the ten sets. The first four sets
might not seem that hard, but, believe me, you'll get better results. You'll also be able to
experience an interesting central nervous system phenomenon if you keep the weight the
same for all ten sets. As you fatigue around the fifth and sixth set, your number of reps
will probably go down (assuming that you're using the correct weight). Then, around the
eighth or ninth set, the number of reps will go up again. Strange, but true.
Q: I am a 190-pound, 6'1", 15-year-old sophomore in high school. I play starting halfback
and defensive end on the football team. I am looking for a workout that will increase my
leg strength by a lot so that I can run over people, just like the "Bus" and Natrone Means.
I currently incline leg press 405 pounds, five times for three sets, going as far down as
possible. I would also greatly appreciate it if you could give me some good advice on any
exercises I can do to increase strength in the muscles that I use for blocking and getting
past offensive linemen. I currently bench press 200 pounds at five reps for three sets.
A: Leg presses are rather useless for an athlete, as the lower back isn't involved in the
muscular chain. They may increase the size of the quads a bit, but they have little
functional carryover.
You would be far better off learning how to squat and doing variations of Olympic lifts,
like the power clean. These movements are generally far too complex to teach in this
column, so you might want to contact the US Weightlifting Federation at 719-578-4508
for a certified coach that can help you learn these important lifts.
Furthermore, that person should also be able to help with your workout. I'd love to be
able to do a complete workout for you, but I just don't have the luxury of having enough
time to write hundreds of workouts a day for interested Testosterone readers.
However, we'll soon be posting workouts that are more applicable to the strength athlete,
and you may be able to benefit from one of these.
Q: I've read many opposing views on the subject of chest exercises. One school of
thought suggests that they shouldn't be done using a full range of motion. The same camp
believes that, during bench presses, the bar shouldn't touch the chest.
Apparently, if the elbows are lowered much past shoulder level, the pectoralis major does
not get any real added benefit, and the rotator cuff muscles must pick up a lot of the load.
In other words, the rotator cuffs are exposed to high loads and tension (since most chest
work is quite heavy), and this full range of motion may contribute to tendonitis or tears of
the rotator cuff muscles.
On the other side of the story, the pecs need to be stretched and worked over their full
range of motion in order to grow maximally. Could you please clear this question up for
A: I am a member of the camp that believes that the range of motion should be maximal,
providing that the tissue is healthy.
The problem with the "restricted motion camp" is that they don't understand everything
they read. For example, one argument they extoll is that there is a 15-degree carryover for
training in a particular range?if you train using 120 degrees of range of motion, you'll
gain the same amount of strength as you would if you trained using 135 degrees of range
of motion.
This comes from an incorrect application of German strength research from the 1960s in
which trainees performed isometric training at 100% of maximal force for multiple sets
of eight seconds. For example, they found that if you did isometric curls at 90 degrees of
elbow flexion, a radiation effect caused subjects to increase their strength between 75 (90
minus 15) and 105 (90 plus 15) degrees. In other words, they used 90 degrees of elbow
flexion as their test parameter, but the strength gains carried over a large range of motion,
plus or minus 15 degrees.
The trouble is, this radiation effect occurs only with maximal isometric training, not
concentric or eccentric training.
Just ask any powerlifter who gets in the bad habit of not going all the way down in
benching. He'll get a string of red lights in his next competition because he won't be able
to push the weight off the chest when trying to conform to powerlifting rules. The partial
range of motion movements made him weaker!
Besides, I know plenty of elite strength athletes who have used cambered bars for bench
press training?which increases the range of motion?who can hoist plenty of weight while
having healthier shoulders than their "geek range of motion" counterparts.
Q: I just recently completed your Maximal Weights workout and am very satisfied with
the overall results. Thanks! My problem now, though, is that my chest won't grow.
So, how can I get my chest out of slow gear? I'm especially interested in building the
lower part so it gets big enough to provide shade for small children and women. I've tried
everything over the past eight months and have received very minimal results from my
efforts. I'm a very motivated and determined person, so hit me with whatever you've got.
A: Glad you enjoyed the Maximal Weights program. It would have been interesting,
though, to know how much strength you've gained.
Anyhow, by your letter, it sounds like you're interested in developing the sternal portion
of the pectoralis major. A good routine for building thicker sternal pectoralis muscles
would be:
A) Parallel Bar Dips
Sets: 5
Reps: 4-6
Tempo: 3210
Rest for three-and-a-half minutes between sets. Then, superset the following two
exercises, resting two minutes between supersets:
B1) Decline Dumbbell Flyes
Sets: 3
Reps: 8-10
Tempo: 4020
B2) Decline Dumbell Presses
Sets: 3
Reps: 8-10
Tempo: 4020
Try this routine for six workouts and keep me posted. Expect to have a hard time slicking
back your hair for the three days following that workout.
Keep in mind, though, that if you're going to undertake any serious chest training
program, you need to supplement this workout with external rotator cuff exercises as
outlined in my book. Otherwise, you're likely to get injured and acquire the posture of a
Cro Magnon that just got kicked in the family jewels.
Q: I really enjoy your articles and trust your expertise. I've been lifting for one-and-a-half
years and have made great progress in strength and size for my entire body. I am bigger
than most of my friends and can lift more on traditional lifting exercises, but they can still
beat me in arm wrestling.
For some reason, I just have never had much ability to arm wrestle well. I was wondering
if you know anything about the muscles involved? And could you give me some
suggestions on exercises I could do to increase my strength in the muscles involved and
improve my arm wrestling ability? Thank you very much.
A: What very few people know is that arm wrestling is 60% technique, 20% strength, and
20% strategy. I suggest you consult one of the many books on arm wrestling technique to
improve your odds.
Breaking the opponent's wrist hold at the beginning of the movement is the secret to arm
wrestling performance. That is a function of timing and the strength of the flexor carpi
ulnaris muscle, which can be trained by using ulnar deviation exercises.
Of course, supplemental specific strength work may help you improve your performance.
The muscles that will most increase your chances of winning are the forearm flexors,
brachioradialis, brachialis, pectoralis major, lats and teres major, and subscapularis.
To describe how to do all the exercises involved goes way beyond the scope of this Q and
A. To find out how to specifically isolate these muscles, consult Everett Aaberg's book
"Resistance Training Instruction" to be released early next March.
To order his book, call Human Kinetics at 800-747-4457.
Q: In the Feedback Letters in Testosterone Issue No. 36, someone mentioned that you
have a gym in Calgary. Is this true? If so, where, and what's it called? I live in Calgary,
and I've never heard of this. Please respond! It will only take a second, and I really want
to know.
A: The gym was located on acreage on the outskirts of Calgary and open only to my
clients for both their privacy and mine. It didn't have a name, and you would have to
know where it was.
Since most of my clients are NHL players, I had to be able to train them without having a
hockey fan interrupting them in the middle of a set of power cleans to ask a question like,
"Hey, do you think they'll trade Fleury to the Sharks?" or "Dude, you must have felt
really sore from taking that beating from McKenzie last March."
I now operate out of Colorado Springs in a private training center for the same reasons.
Q: I tried your German Volume Training. I can't, for the life of me, handle ten sets of any
kind of chin. This is what usually happens...
Wide-Grip Pullups
Set 1: 10
Set 2: 8
Set 3: 6
Then I resort to lat pulldowns, but I feel like a pussy because it's such a "candy-ass"
exercise. What could I do to help my chinning strength?
I attended your Los Angeles seminar. Throughout my life, I have met very few people
who actually are "huge" enough to be able to shave their body parts without looking gay
or weird to a "normal," non-gym oriented person. You meet this criteria. Your forearms
are fucking huge! You definitely should shave them.
A: Regarding your pullups, you need to have more patience. The law of repeated efforts
will enable you to develop the work capacity to perform all ten sets of ten. Your present
strength levels just don't warrant the use of ten sets of ten in the pullups.
What I suggest is that you not start at ten sets of ten, but rather do ten sets of five reps as
your first goal so that you can accumulate volume. Then I'd progress to ten sets of six,
and so on.
In regard to German Volume Training in general, many people have trouble determining
how much resistance to use. Say, for instance, you want to do ten sets of four reps. How
do you determine what weight to use without several bouts of trial and error?
Just multiply your target rep range, in this case four, by two. For those of you who can't
find your calculators, four times two equals eight. Now, chances are you know what
weight you'd use to do an 8 RM in a particular exercise. That's the weight you'd use to do
ten sets of four to elicit the proper response from German Volume Training.
Shave my forearms? If shaving body parts was my thing, I would be parading around the
EAS booth at the Arnold Classic with plucked eyebrows and hair groomed by Eduardo of
Manhattan, saying stuff to my cronies like, "Get the plane ready." This would no doubt
impress many members of the bodybuilding audience, many of whom have an average IQ
that's lower than that of a WWF audience. That is, an IQ of 5 (it takes 6 to bark).
Q: I am a football coach in New Jersey. I have been reading a lot about the Bigger,
Faster, Stronger Program of lifting weights for high school students. I was just wondering
what you thought of the program, and if you think it is a good idea for a high school
football program.
By the way, I must say that your website, Testosterone, is absolutely wonderful. I love
the "no holds barred" attitude of the site. Keep up the good work, and don't give in to
being a pussy like some other publications.
A: The Bigger, Faster, Stronger program is a family-owned, multi-million-dollar business
that seems to have genuine interest in helping high school students get stronger.
It has its advantages and drawbacks. It makes very strong use of basic motivational
techniques while relying on basic movements. It produces results because it has
structure?something lacking in most high school programs.
It does have its drawbacks, though. It makes use of exercises such as box squats and
towel benches. Some of the dietary recommendations they make also need some serious
Q: What do you think of those parachute-like devices that are attached at the waist? Also,
could you recommend a program employing them?
A: They are excellent if you plan on falling out of a plane. Using them as a training
device isn't nearly as effective, though. Parachute training can be useful in training for
short-term speed (100 meters or less). However, most of the ones on the market are too
sensitive to winds and may, in fact, destroy your technique.
The vast majority of athletes need to do plenty of other things first to improve their shortdistance speed, but I might recommend them to someone who already has superior sprint
speed, i.e. someone who's placed in the top ten at the Nationals.
I should tell you, though, that Canada has the world's highest concentration of worldclass sprinters as evidenced by their gold medal in the 4x100 meters in the Atlanta
Olympic Games. To the best of my knowledge, none of them have ever used any of the
parachute devices.
It's impossible for me to tell you exactly how to use them, as I don't know what your split
times are (i.e. 0-5 meters, 0-20 meters, etc.).
Q: I normally do squats, dips, chins, stiff-legged deadlifts, standing military presses (in
short, the basics) for my strength workouts. I do 5-6 sets of 2-5 reps and rest 4-5 minutes
between sets per body part. If I switched to strongman training for 3-4 weeks (log lifting,
rock carrying, car pulling and pushing, and other "dinosaur" movements), how will this
affect my strength and hypertrophy gains? What downfalls are there to this kind of
More importantly, do you really wear a fur skin hat, as mentioned in T-Mag?
A: You'll find that doing the "Dinosaur Training" as outlined by Brooks Kubik can only
increase your strength on the more classical lifts. In fact, it's a type of training I'd like my
athletes to do more of because I can't supervise all of them all the time.
You'll find new strength/size increases in your forearms, traps, and lower back once you
get into strongman lifts. Your gains in hypertrophy may slow down in the show muscles
like the biceps. Once you get back to more traditional training, muscle memory should
allow you to hit new heights of strength.
Regarding the crack about the "fur skin hat" that appeared in a response to a feedback
letter, it's just another example of Tim Patterson's jealousy. The latest thing to set him off
was the recent Biotest Christmas party, where some of the female secretaries gave the
executives G-strings made out of animal hides.
Mine was quite impressive, made from the pelt of a Kodiak grizzly bear, while TC's was
made from an Albertan cougar. Tim, however, was quite embarrassed when he found that
his was made from the skin of a single mole rat, with plenty of hide left over...
Q: Your advice is really great, and the mag and everyone writing for it is top-notch!
My question is about crossbench dumbbell pullovers [doing pullovers while lying across
a flat bench]. I feel that it's a superior exercise for the upper body, and I alternate it week
to week from chest day to back day. What's your opinion on this exercise? I go rather
heavy (up to 115 pounds) and stretch as far as possible.
I read an article by Arthur Jones a long time ago in which he called the Nautilus machine
version of the pullover the "upper body squat." We all know how good the squat is for
building mass throughout the lower body and the upper body to some extent, but is there
really an upper body version of the squat?
It seems to me that, since pullovers involve a lot of of muscle groups, they would be an
ideal exercise. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
A: The pullover is a great exercise, but since Jones was selling the Nautilus pullover
machine, he was obviously biased in promoting it. The biggest advantage of the pullover
machine is that it takes the elbow flexors out of lat work, thus improving the isolation of
these powerful shoulder extensors.
In fact, the Nautilus pullover was one of the few Nautilus machines that had a built-in
resistance curve that matched the human strength curve for the shoulder extensors. A
more modern and better designed version is the selectorized model from Cybex Eagle.
I'm not really keen on the crossbench pullover, as I've actually seen a few cases of
herniated abs that were directly attributed to it. I'd rather have you do decline pullovers
using an EZ bar, as they allow your shoulders to pivot more naturally.
Q: I'm not having any luck training my triceps. I'm sure it's because I've been doing the
same old routine forever. Got a good tricep routine that I can try out today?
A: There are two important variables that will lead to large increases in triceps mass:
??Choosing the right exercises
??Using a variety of rep brackets
With those two points in mind, here's a great triceps mass building routine:
A1) Parallel Dips
Sets: 5
Reps: 4-6
Tempo: 5110*
Rest: 180 seconds between sets
*For those newcomers among you who are still unfamiliar with the concept of tempo,
the designation 5110 means to take 5 seconds to do the eccentric, or lowering, part of
the movement; followed by a one-second pause; followed by a one-second lifting, or
concentric, movement; and no pause before doing the next rep.
In my opinion, this is the king of triceps builders. Yet, like the ever demanding squats
and chins, it rarely makes the Men's Fitness pulley artist-type of routines.
To start the exercise, hold the bars and boost yourself up until you've stabilized yourself
at arm's length over the handles. Then, lower your body as far as possible in between the
bars. In fact, lower your body until your biceps make contact with your forearms?your
triceps must get fully stretched. Once you reach the bottom position, press yourself back
up by extending the elbows. Try to stay as upright as possible throughout the range of
motion. If you lean too far forward, it will increase the recruitment of the pectoralis
If you can't lower yourself under control until the biceps make contact with the forearms,
go back to collecting stamps, or perform decline close-grip bench presses until your arm
strength is sufficient. Using an incomplete range in the triceps dips is a complete waste of
time. And please do not go for the El Geeko version where you put your feet on a bench
in front of you and your hands behind you. This exercise, along with Smith machine
pressing exercises, is one of the major causes of shoulder impingement syndromes in the
bodybuilding community.
At first, your bodyweight will probably provide enough resistance. As you get stronger,
you can progressively increase the resistance by holding a dumbbell between your legs or
hooking a plate or dumbbell to the specialized chin/dip belt. There are a lot of chin/dip
belts on the market, but I prefer the ones that are standard leather lifting belts with hooks
sewed into the belt.
If you have access to the better V-shaped dipping bar, use as narrow a grip as possible
without, of course, compromising shoulder integrity. And please, do not cheat yourself by
doing chopped reps where you don't go all the way down and you only come up three
quarters of the way. By the same token, your elbows should only come to 98% of lockout
to maintain maximal tension on the triceps.
B1) Incline Dumbbell Extensions
Sets: 3
Reps: 6-8
Tempo: 3210
Rest: 0 seconds (superset with B2)
Lie on an incline bench and hold two dumbbells at arm's length. Lower the dumbbells
while keeping the elbows themselves stationary. Make sure that the triceps are fully
stretched in the bottom position (the forearms should be in contact with the biceps at that
point in the range of motion). Use a semi-supinated grip.
Don't get too anal about wanting the tips of the elbows as close as possible as it creates a
lot of strain on the supportive structures of the elbow.
B2) Lying Cable Triceps Extensions
Sets: 3
Reps: 2-15
Tempo: 2010
Rest: 120 seconds between supersets
Use a revolving-type handle attached to a low pulley. Place a flat bench perpendicular to
the cable station. Lie on the bench with your head close to the machine. Grasp the bar and
extend it overhead. Bring the bar to the forehead on the eccentric descent and extend the
elbows until they are at 98% of lockout. Be sure to keep your wrists in a neutral position
to prevent any future elbow problems.
I've seen many individuals gain as much as a half-inch on their triceps in 30 days using
this workout every five days or so.
Q: I see women doing lunges all the time, but I rarely see men doing them. What's your
take on lunges? Are they strictly to develop the ass, or do they work the quads and
hamstrings too?
A: You rarely see men do these exercises because of the standard bodybuilding bullshit
that lunges are designed to "tone your butt." This falls into the same category of bullshit
as the belief that leg extensions will cut up your legs.
Nothing can be further from the truth, though. I have seen many sprinters, jumpers, and
bobsledders add inches to their already muscular legs by supplementing their squatting
programs with lunges or split squats. By the way, the difference between a split squat and
a lunge is that during the concentric portion of a lunge, you explode back to an upright
position. With the split squat, you use a stationary stance where you go up and down on
the forward leg.
Here is how to perform split squats properly:
Starting Position Setup
? Stand facing away from a barbell placed on a squat rack.
? Using your index fingers, set up a reference point on the bar (use the knurling to
determine the width of the grip).
? The index fingers should be as close as possible to the outside of the shoulders.
? Duck under the bar and place the bar on the thick area of the trapezius muscle.
? The chin should be be slightly up.
? Focus your eyes at a point on the opposing wall that's slightly higher than the eye in
order to maintain proper neck alignment.
? Feet should be shoulder-width apart.
? Take a big step directly forward with your non-dominant leg to reach the initial
starting position.
? The front knee moves directly forward maximally before the hips are lowered.
? The hips are then lowered keeping the back as erect as possible and the chest up.
? The body is lowered under control until the hamstrings come in contact with the
? There should be a conscious effort to keep the elbows under the bar throughout the
movement. This will ensure that the load is kept as?close as possible over the center
of gravity.
? The knee should be traveling forward and over your toes throughout the descent.
? The athlete should inhale through the mouth throughout the descent.
? The athlete should first raise the hips.
? The torso should remain as perpendicular to the floor as possible, particularly at the
sticking point.
? The athlete should exhale throughout the ascent.
Watch Fors
? Trunk should be as erect as possible throughout the movement.
Safety Concerns
? Keep the eccentric lowering under control.
? Do not lean forward.
? To change the resistance curve on this movement, you can hold dumbbells; position
the barbell on the traps; keep the barbell on the clavicles using a front squat grip; or
hold a single handle hooked to a low pulley using the contralateral hand (opposite).
? Not only do these exercises develop the glutes, they also provide plenty of growth
stimulus for the quadriceps, adductors, and hamstrings. They also provide plenty of
leg growth stimulus on days where you may want to overload the spine by squatting
or deadlifting.
Q: Wide-grip pull-ups are one of my favorite back exercises, but I've sort of stalled on
them. I know you say trainees should be able to do at least 12 reps using bodyweight, but
I haven't been able to get beyond eight. Any suggestions?
A: Here are three tips that will help you break through your wide-grip pull-up plateau:
Tip 1: On the last rep of every set, pause on the way down (eccentrically) at three
different positions for eight seconds each time. In other words, pause for eight
seconds when you're one-fourth of the way down, halfway down, and three-fourths of
the way down. This will prolong the time under tension of the exercise, thus favoring
protein synthesis. Don't be surprised if on your last isometric stop you look like you
have an extreme case of Parkinson's Disease.
Tip 2: On the last rep of every set, have a partner put a dumbbell between your ankles
to augment the eccentric overload and try to lower yourself (and the dumbbell) over a
span of ten seconds.
Tip 3: Supplement your arm training day with direct brachialis work. Make sure to
always perform one form of reverse curls on arm days and, while doing them, pause
for a count of two seconds when your elbows reach 30 degrees of flexion on every
eccentric lowering (this will increase the recruitment of the brachialis muscle).
Q: I have read some of your articles where you talk about "time under tension" and
recommend sometimes doing sets where you take one or two seconds to raise the weight
while taking anywhere from three to eight seconds to lower it. Is there any point in doing
extreme time-under-tension reps? For example, I tried doing some sets of dips where it
took me 15 seconds to raise my body and another 15 seconds to lower it. It hurt like hell.
Did I discover something interesting, or am I just doing a slow-motion jerk-off?
A: Don't rush to the patent office just yet. On the other hand, don't put yourself down. My
colleague Ellington Darden suggested many moons ago to do chins or dips using a 30-
second count for both the concentric and the eccentric portions of those lifts.
Likewise, former Soviet weightlifting coach Medvedev recommended very slow (8-10
seconds) pulls (more like deadlifts) for developing maximal strength in weightlifters.
You can use extreme time-under-tension training as long as the total time under tension
does not exceed 60 seconds?otherwise, the load would be too low to elicit strength and
muscle mass gains.
Q: When training twice a day, can you train only one muscle group for that day or can
you train two, such as a pair of antagonists like chest and back?
A: Well, I think that one can grow more if they have the luxury of training twice a day.
However, most of us have career and family commitments that prevent us from
employing such an extensive training schedule.
Working out twice a day can be very effective, provided that you pay respect to the
following principles:
1) Keep the workouts short. Excluding warm-up time, your workouts should be no
more than 40 minutes in length. Training longer than that would be
2) Use the proper training sequences. In my opinion, the same body part should be
trained twice on the same day. Here are a variety of options:
Option A
Morning: Heavy
Evening: Light
From experience, I have found that working heavy in the morning and doing
higher reps at night works quite well. For example, do sets of 4-6 reps in the
morning and sets of 12-15 at night.
Option B
Morning: Low reps, fast tempo
Evening: Low reps, slow tempo
You could also use the same rep brackets during both workouts but with a
different tempo. For example, do 4-6 reps on a 30X tempo in the morning, and 57 reps on a 505 tempo at night.
Option C
Morning: Heavy
Evening: Eccentric-only
Another one I like is training heavy in the morning and doing eccentric-only
training at night. For example, heavy front squats 6x2-3 on a 501 tempo in the
morning; and eccentric back squats of 7x1 on a 1001 (10-0-1) tempo at night. To
help me do this type of workout, I use the eccentric hooks known as Power
Editor's Note: Power Recruits allow you to hook extra weight on the bar, but when the
additional weights come into contact with the ground, they jettison, thereby lessening the
resistance and allowing you to do the concentric part of the lift. Call Bob Kowalski at
814-378-7108 for more information.
Regarding exercise selection for both workouts, you may want to do the same ones
morning and night if strength is your main concern. However, if hypertrophy is your
goal, you may want to use different exercises. For example, weightlifters will do back
squats twice a day, while a bodybuilder may do bench presses in the morning and incline
dumbbell presses in the afternoon.
3) Pay close attention to post-workout nutrition. Liquid nutrition is best. For a 200pound bodybuilder, I recommend a shake containing 40-50 grams of protein and an
appropriate number of carbs. Here's my updated formula for post workout carb
? 1.0 gram of carbs per kg of bodyweight if total reps per workout is 80 reps
or less (relative-strength workout)
? 1.5 grams of carbs per kg of bodyweight if total reps per workout is around
250 reps (25 sets of 10 reps)
? 2.0 grams of carbs per kg of bodyweight if total reps per workout is 400 reps
or more (30 sets of 15 RM)
Obviously, simple math will allow you to figure out how many reps you did and
what your total volume of training was for that day.
When training twice a day, I suggest you take a very good anti-oxidant formula
and an extra 10 grams of vitamin C each day. If you can afford it, take a
phosphatidyl serine supplement (800 mg) after the second workout of the day. I've
found that PS helps you have a better testosterone:cortisol ratio. I've also found
that taking alpha-lipoic acid post-workouts with your shake helps reload the
energy substrates more quickly.
4) You must leave 4-6 hours between workouts. This time spread is critical. If you
use a shorter one, you will be too fatigued.
5) For every two weeks of twice-a-day training, do one week of once-a-day
training. This will insure that you will not overtrain. It has been shown that
training twice a day for short periods may depress testosterone temporarily.
However, the testosterone will shoot right back up if you cut back to once-a daytraining for a week.
Good luck!
Q: Should there be any modifications to training routines for those of us who are tall
(6'5")? I weigh 200 pounds and seem to be stuck at this weight. After moving up from
170 as a result of one year of training, I've been stalled at 200 for about a year now. I am
38 years old. Training is as follows:
Day 1: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Day 2: Back, biceps
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Legs (yes, I squat)
Day 5: Off
A: Height has nothing to do with loading parameters, but athletes who rank higher on the
ponderal index (weight divided by height) tend to need longer rest intervals between sets
and training days.
The mistake you are making is overtraining your upper body. Put your leg workout in
between the two upper body days.
Q: Just a little "question of strength" that I thought you could answer. A couple of days
ago, I hit the gym without my brother (training partner/spotter) on chest day, so I thought
I'd try out the Smith machine just for a change of pace. By using the SM, I found that I
could increase the weight by almost 40 pounds for the same amount of reps. What gives?
My guess is that the SM takes my stabilizers out of the movement, allowing me to use
more weight. I also found I got a much better pump with the increased poundage,
compared to regular benching.
A: The reason you can do 40 pounds more is that most Smith machines are
counterweighted, and that takes away some of the load. You're also right about the
stabilizers?you've taken them out of the picture, and that allows you to use more weight.
However, if you keep using the Smith machine, you'll increase the odds that you'll incur a
shoulder injury. Habitual use of the Smith machine forces the muscles to experience
something called "pattern overload syndrome." In other words, it forces the muscles,
tendons, and ligaments involved to work in the same pattern, over and over again, greatly
increasing the chances of injury. Overuse of the Smith machine is discouraged for other
reasons, too. Consult my book "The Poliquin Principles" for more information. It's
available at Barnes and Noble and Borders bookstores.
Q: Is there anything I could add to Power Drive to make it even more effective? I make a
good living, so money isn't an issue.
A: I would say that your best bet is to add phosphatidylserine to your stack. This
phospholipid molecule, when combined with Power Drive, will take your concentration
levels to new heights and will also blunt exercise-associated increases in the catabolic
hormone know as cortisol. Phosphatidylserine may, therefore, not only help improve your
ability to focus during a workout, but also help you accelerate recovery rate and minimize
the risks of overtraining. It is Dr. Serrano's and my opinion that the optimal pre-workout
dosage for phosphatidylserine appears to be between 800 and 1,200 mg.
You should only use phosphatidylserine on days that you work out. Using large amounts
of phosphatidylserine on a daily basis will suppress cortisol levels to a point that's too
low. This can lead to various medical problems ranging from severe joint pain to even
more serious medical conditions.
I have recently stumbled upon a very good brand of PS at a decent price. There's a
pharmacist in Dallas named C.D. Parks who makes supplement combos to order. He
made me 150-mg capsules of PS, using cinnamon as the filler. I take six capsules along
with one serving of Power Drive 45 minutes before I work out.
If you're interested, he'll make you a similar supplement, or make any modifications you
desire. To contact C.D., email him at [email protected] or call him at 1-888-481-8711
or 214-871-8711.
Q: I have a friend who is a strength coach at a university. While sitting in on an in-season
training session with the football team, I noticed that they weren't controlling the
eccentric movement of the bench press. We then got into a discussion on tempo
principles. My friend claimed that he observed a high incidence of shoulder pain (which
mimics biceps tendonitis) when he had the players slow down the bench press. Does this
make sense? What would be the cause or causes?
A: You might want to use the Jack Nicholson line from the movie "A Few Good Men"
with your friend: "The truth? You can't handle the truth!!!"
No, no, no. There is no way that slowing down the eccentric portion of the lift can mimic
bicipital tendonitis symptoms. His players are pissing on his leg and telling him it's
raining. In other words, they can't bench press any appreciable weight unless they use
their pecs as a launching board.
The best powerlifters in the world for the bench press have been found to lower the bar
slower than their lesser-ranked colleagues. For a great analysis of bench press technique,
read "Bench Press More, Now" from biomechanics expert Tom McLaughlin. This is
available from the Crain's Muscle World website.
Q: I can't seem to keep track of my completed repetitions during the middle of my sets.
I'm concentrating on using the proper tempo, especially when the eccentric portion is
over four seconds long and my time-under-tension exceeds 40 seconds. Any tips would
be appreciated!
A: Have you got a serious case of repetition obsessive compulsive disorder? Are you
afraid of stepping on sidewalks? Do you lock and relock your door 52 times before going
to bed? Do you wash your hands between sets?
Relax! In essence, you are placing form over substance.
Why do you think most powerlifters don't do more than five reps per set? Because most
of them can't count to six! Yet, they get great results. Likewise, rugby players need to
drop their pants if they want count to eleven.
Double your gingko biloba intake by taking a double dosage of Power Drive.
Q: I was looking through my anatomy book, and while doing so I realized that I need
some help developing the lateral head of the triceps. Any tips for this?
A: The best exercises for developing the lateral head of the triceps are probably the
1) 10-degree decline close-grip bench presses*
2) V-bar dips
3) Overhead rope pulley extensions
*Keep the elbows under the bar.
A good superset to make your lateral triceps heads grow would be overhead rope pulley
extensions (4x6-8 reps on a 4110 tempo) supersetted with 10-degree decline close grip
bench presses (4x6-8 reps on a 3210 tempo).
Rest only two minutes between supersets, but expect to drop the weight 5-10% every
superset. If you suspect your fiber make-up is predominantly fast-twitch, drop the reps to
4-6 and increase the rest interval to three minutes.
Q: One needs to lift heavy to get big and strong, but I get pretty big when I lift moderate
(8-10 reps). I'm 5'7" and weigh 203 pounds at about 10% body fat. When I start lifting
weights in the six-rep range, I don't experience any growth. All I feel is pain, and I do
control the weight.
I know guys that are half my size who can bench twice as much as me, and that makes
me feel like a wimp. Everyone thinks I should bench 300 pounds, but I can't. I want to be
able to get stronger, but my main goal is to look like a bodybuilder.
In a nutshell, I can get big without eating much and lifting moderate to light weights. Am
I a freak? More importantly, can you help?
A: You appear to suffer from the "all show and no go" syndrome. You're probably able to
do plenty of reps at a high percentage of your 1RM. You're someone who can, for a
variety of reasons, hypertrophy lower threshold motor units. You may also have the gene
for muscle growth that's evident in about 8 of the top 22 IFBB pros.
If low reps bring about pain, you're not destined to be strong, just big and nonfunctional?like my ex-mother-in-law. Of course, if bodybuilding is your main goal, you
really shouldn't worry too much about it. Most guys would be happy to at least be able to
get big!
Q: I don't know understand why power cleans and deadlifts are considered leg exercises
instead of back exercises. Based on your principles, if you were incorporating these
movements into your routine, you'd be doing a chest and a back movement on day one,
and then doing cleans or deadlifts on the next day. Isn't that working the back two days in
a row? If so, should I change my split?
A: In deadlifts and in power cleans, the quads, glutes, and hamstrings are the prime
movers. Hence, these movements are typically done on leg day. Back day is usually
designed to train all the muscles of the upper back which are lateral to the muscles that
extend the spine (i.e. erector spinae), laterally rotate it (i.e. multi-fidi), and laterally bend
it (i.e. quadratus lumborum).
In other words, there's really no reason to change your split.
Q: I work out late at night and finish about one hour before bed. Should your postworkout drink still be used at this time?
A: Sure, otherwise you might slip into a catabolic state all night. Having the drink will
also help you sleep better. You may want to gulp down three or four capsules of ZMA to
help you reach an even more restful sleep (in addition to making sure your body's making
all the testosterone it's supposed to).
Q: When you say "the knee should be traveling forward and over the toes through the
descent" on the lunge, do you mean to intentionally let the knee go beyond the toes as it
travels forward? Obviously, this is contrary to what most personalized trainers say, so I
just want to make sure.
A: It's apparent that you have a very firm grasp of the obvious. Maybe you can also
answer this one: What is the color of Napoleon's white horse?
Q: I've never been able to make my serratus muscles emerge satisfactorily. What exercise
would you consider to be the definitive serratus movement?
A: Read Ellington Darden's latest book, "Strident Striated Serratus in Eight Weeks." It
contains all the information you'll need.
All kidding aside, for the serratus anterior to show prominently, your body fat levels have
to be below a genuine 6%. Look at the pictures of the Kosovo refugees if you don't
believe me. Of course, I'm assuming you're not talking about the serratus posterior, which
is covered by many muscle groups.
Secondly, there's no definitive serratus movement, as the inferior fibers have a different
function than the superior fibers.
The inferior fibers are responsible for drawing the scapula downward while the superior
fibers rotate the scapula, raising the point of the shoulder as in full flexion and abduction
of the arm.
Therefore, if you wanted to completely hypertrophy the serratus anterior muscle, you'd
need to do overhead presses and pullover exercises.
Q: Could I use your Training With Maximal Weights program for the rest of my body at
the same time, using the same rep and set ranges, as well as tempo and rest periods for
legs, chest, and back? If so, what type of split would you recommend? Thank you for
taking the time to answer my question.
A: For those of you who didn't read the original article in Testosterone Issue 1, the
nervous system is the forgotten component of bodybuilding, and training with maximal
weights targets this area by improving the link between the central nervous system and
the muscular system. This is what German exercise physiologists refer to as intramuscular training. By using this method, the trainee will learn to access a greater
percentage of motor units in a given cross-section of muscle tissue.
With that said, yes, you could use the same loading parameters on other body parts, but
you couldn't train at that intensity for more than three weeks without going back to
slightly higher reps for another three weeks.
Of course, you could start your workout with a maximal weights loading parameters
scheme and finish off with hypertrophy work. Here's an example for quads:
A) Back squats on a 5110 tempo, resting four minutes between sets
Then, superset B1 with B2:
B1) Barbell hack squats
3x6-8 reps on a 3020 tempo
B2) Barbell lunges
3x6-8 reps on a 30X0 tempo
Rest two minutes between supersets.
Q: I've searched your site and haven't really found anything about how to train shoulders.
Any tips or suggestions?
A: Throughout the years, strength athletes and bodybuilders have used both high loads
and high volumes to build round, powerful shoulders. On one hand, powerlifters and
Olympic lifters have built impressive shoulders using low reps for multiple sets on
compound exercises such as presses and upright rows. On the other hand, there are plenty
of bodybuilders out there with fantastic deltoid development who have used high reps,
short rest intervals, and mainly isolation type movements. Personally, I'm of the opinion
that people will achieve better deltoid development if both approaches are cycled in and
I've also found that descending sets and the pre-exhaustion method are particularly
effective at promoting shoulder growth. I guess it's clear by now that I'm advocating that
you expose the shoulders to a wide variety of training stimuli. You may want to
experiment with low-rep, multiple compound set exercises for a short period (around six
workouts), and then switch to higher rep, isolation type exercises for an equally short
Here, however, is a sample routine you may want to try. It employs high-volume and
shifting-torque curves:
1) One-arm dumbbell lateral raises (6-8 reps on a 3021 tempo)
2) Rest 10 seconds.
3) Incline bench lateral raises (10-12 reps on a 3010 tempo)
4) Rest 10 seconds.
5) One arm cable lateral raises (12-15 reps on a 2010 tempo)
6) Cry out in pain and curse the gods.
Repeat steps one through six with the other arm. Rest two minutes and do the entire triset two more times.
Q: My wrists hurt when I do upright rows. Is there some way I can do the exercise to stop
the pain?
A: There are three things you can do to alleviate the stress on the wrists when doing
upright rows:
1) Use an EZ-curl bar and grip the bar where you might normally grip it if you were
doing curls (the angle on the bar will permit pain free movement).
2) Use a rope with the bulky rubber ends (the one normally used for triceps
3) If using a conventional barbell, don't lift the bar past the clavicles.
Q: I'm a black belt in karate and I can bench 200 pounds. Is that good?
A: Which hand?
On a more serious note, if you're a devotee of full contact karate, a 200-pound bench
press is good only if you weigh 130 pounds or less.
Q: I was hoping you could tell me what would be better for muscle growth. In the past I
have worked each muscle group twice a week. For example:
Monday and Thursday: Chest, tris
Tuesday and Friday: Back, bis
Wednesday and Saturday: Shoulders, legs
I was wondering, would I get the same effect working each muscle group once a week?
What if I were to work chest and tris on Monday, back and biceps on Wednesday, and
shoulders and legs on Friday?
A: You're using way too much volume and too high a frequency. Your best bet would be
to use one of the following splits (the one you select should be influenced by factors such
as recovery ability, strong and weak points, time schedule, gym opening hours, etc.):
Split Option A
Day 1: Chest and back
Day 2: Legs and abs
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Shoulders and arms
Day 5: Off
Split Option B
Day 1: Back and triceps
Day 2: Upper thighs and abs
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Chest and biceps
Day 5: Shoulders and calves
Day 6: Off
Split Option C
Day 1: Hamstrings and calves
Day 2: Back and shoulders
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Quads and calves
Day 5: Chest and arms
Day 6: Off
Split Option D
Day 1: Back and calves
Day 2: Chest
Day 3: Hamstrings and abs
Day 4: Shoulders and arms
Day 5: Quadriceps and calves
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
Q: Where do you get the 35-pound tubs of carb powders that you wrote about in your
book, "The Poliquin Principles"?
A: Contact Pro-Circuit Nutrition at 1-800-565-2639.
Q: What's the best way to perform bent-over barbell rows? Dorian Yates says he uses an
angle of approximately 70 degrees, while other people say a steeper angle (30 degrees or
thereabouts) is better. What's your opinion?
A: Both camps are right. Varying the angle changes the line of pull, thus affecting muscle
recruitment. Vary the angle often. If you need proof, just look at the impressive back
development of judokas, grapplers, and gymnasts, who all routinely use a multitude of
angles in their sports.
Q: Should traps be trained on back day or on shoulder day?
A: It depends on which split routine you use. If you need to get into a shoulder
specialization program, you'll have to cut back on the amount of work devoted to other
body parts, particularly the chest muscles. This is because all chest work recruits the
anterior deltoid.
If your traps are definitely a weakness, they should be trained first in a training session,
and the best way to train them is by using the power clean and shrugs (using a variety of
implements such as barbells, dumbbells, and low pulleys).
Interestingly enough, when a trainee has a hard time increasing his or her curling
poundages, employing a trap specialization program can often bring about an increase in
the strength of their elbow flexors. One way to tell if your arms will benefit from a trap
program is by the way the trainee carries his head. If he carries it forward, as if he were
looking for loose change on the ground, he should definitely start giving the traps some
extra work.
Q: I was thinking of doing some lateral-motion training for aerobic conditioning. Can you
recommend a good slide board product?
A: I can't recommend a good slide board product because I don't like them. I think they're
harmful to the knees. The damage might not surface immediately, but like developing a
dental cavity, it'll take time, and once you perceive the damage, it'll be too late.
A few years ago, I lectured at the International Skating Union. John McCall, one of the
best orthopedic surgeons in the business and physician for several Olympic and World
Championships teams concurred with my opinion on how they help to trash the knees.
Those devices have a breaking system at the lateral aspect of the foot to prevent you from
coming off the board, which in turn creates unwanted torque on the lateral aspect of the
Additionally, a Finnish coach present at the lectures did his Masters degree thesis on the
various dryland skating drills/devices. Using telemetric EMG technology, he showed that
the slide board has the least transfer to the actual skating stride.
My best advice is to invest in a pair of in-line skates. They're cheaper and safer.
Q: This may sound a little obsessive, but in your Achieving Structural Balance article,
you mentioned doing a 14" close-grip bench press. Is that 14" between the inside of the
hand (second metacarpals), or the outside (fifth metacarpals)? Thank you very much for
taking the time to deal with my question.
A: It's a legitimate question. The 14 inches is between the inside fingers, so it can be the
thumbs if you use a false grip or the index fingers if you use a normal grip.
Q: I'd like to know more about this reverse hyperextension exercise for developing
strength and rehabilitation of lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. What's the difference
between this exercise and good mornings, for example?
A: The vast majority of our readers are interested in gaining large amounts of muscle
mass and functional strength. This is best accomplished by concentrating the bulk of the
work on leg and back training. One machine that can target those muscles very
effectively is the reverse hyper machine. I first got to try one out a few years ago while
coaching the Canadian Bobsleigh Team in Innsbr?ck, Austria. After coaching my
athletes, I stayed at the gym to do my workout. Since the gym was so busy, I had to share
the equipment with two of the local powerlifters who held a few national titles.
There, in the corner, was a reverse hyper machine. The Austrian powerlifters swore that it
helped improve their deadlift and squat performances. Both athletes claimed that it made
a difference between 35 kg (77 pounds) and 50 kg (110 pounds) on their respective
squats and deadlifts. Even though I had seen the machine advertised in back issues of
Powerlifting USA, I had never paid any attention to it until I tried the machine. I jumped
on it and pumped away. The movement felt quite right since the glutes, hamstrings, and
erector spinae were being trashed by the machine. After my workout, I went to inquire
about it.
This device is the brainchild of Westside Barbell Club owner and powerlifting coach
extraordinaire Louie Simmons. The machine has helped make many world records in the
deadlift and squat possible, and it's a staple of Louie's deadlift training. To gain more
insight on the possibilities of this type of training, I made the trip to Columbus, Ohio to
meet with Louie.
Louie is better known in the iron game community for his powerlifting successes, both as
a coach and an athlete. Now he's achieved world-renowned status as a strength coach,
too. Louie Simmons first used the reverse hyper to rehabilitate back injuries incurred over
a lifetime of heavy lifting. Interestingly, the injury that prompted the development of the
reverse hyper machine was caused by a loss of concentration during a five-rep set of
good mornings using 435 pounds! While physicians recommended surgery on several
occasions, Simmons turned his back on the knife and used the reverse hyper to repair the
damage and alleviate the pain. To quote Louie:
"So far, over two dozen people with bulging or herniated disks have used my machine
without pain. The machine decompresses the disks when the weights travel to a
position under the face."
He now uses it to create new world standards in the deadlift.
I had professional bodybuilder Milos Sarcev try the machine during a hamstrings-only
workout. After doing five sets each on two different Atlantis leg curl machines, we
hopped on the reverse hyper machine for three sets of 20 reps. Milos told me that he
could feel it in the lower back and glutes, but not as directly in the hamstrings as the leg
curl machines made him feel. By the next day, while he was limping to do a back
workout, he had definitely changed his mind. He walked (limped) like he'd been beaten
up with Kendo sticks on the hamstrings by a horde of Samurais.
The reverse hyper machine is also excellent for improving posture and correcting
abnormal pelvic tilt, which can immediately give the illusion of a flattened abdomen
wall. One of the consequences of having weak erector spinae muscles is the development
of a posture in which the upper back is rounded, causing the shoulders to droop forward
and the chest to appear sunken. In order to maintain the center of gravity for this type of
incorrect posture, the pelvis begins to thrust forward, ultimately causing a distended
lower abdomen. This condition is often referred to as a kyphosis-lordosis posture.
Together, the glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae form what kinesiologists call the
posterior chain. The posterior chain is responsible for allowing you to run at high speed,
or to jump either forward or vertically. For example, in the vertical jump, the posterior
chain contributes to 80% of the power output. So don't waste your time on quads and
calves development if you want rapid increases in your vertical jump.
The reverse hyper machine will allow one to work the posterior chain in a synchronized
manner. Back extensions would target the same muscle group, but not in the same
recruitment pattern. Another disadvantage of movements like back extensions is the
dizziness associated with their performance.
Bobsleigh Olympic gold medalist and Overall World Cup Winner Pierre Lueders
purchased a reverse hyper for himself, and it allowed him to increase his squat by a full
50 pounds over the summer of 1996.
If you're interested in getting more information about the reverse hyper, email
[email protected] with your questions.
Q: Must... have... bigger... arms. Can't... make... biceps... grow. Need... Poliquin... arm...
training... book. Finish the damn book already!
A: Yes, yes, yes, the "Winning the Arms Race" books are being edited right now by a
PhD candidate in Boston. There's so much text and so many routines that I've decided to
publish three different volumes:
Volume 1) The Best Exercises for Arm Growth: This volume explains the best arm
training exercises and their possible variations.
Volume 2) Training for Arm Size and Strength — A Six-Month Plan: This volume
explains in detail what I think is one of the best arm training plans to obtain the most
extensive gains in hypertrophy and maximal strength.
Volume 3) Plateau Busting for Arm Growth: This book contains plenty of training
methods to help you bust through plateaus in your development. It also explains what,
in my opinion, are the best supplement strategies to accelerate strength and mass
Since TC has encouraged all of you to bust my chops with daily emails, I've decided to
hire an editor and a personal assistant to edit and publish all of the material that I've been
working on over the last 18 months. That should speed things up considerably. I've
scheduled a photo shoot for the exercises in early July. The beginning of September is the
target date for the release of the three different volumes.
Q: A cry for help! Which is it, Arnold or Mentzer? Six days a week, two hours a day
volume training, or three times a week using one hour of high-intensity training? All I
care about is gaining some freaking mass! I'm 5'11", 185 pounds, low fat. People tell me
I'm already big, but I laugh in their faces, as these "compliments" are coming from
ordinary people. I'm an intermediate bodybuilder looking for ways to shock myself into
new growth. But I'm confused between Arnold's and Mentzer's contradictory theories.
I've done Arnold's routines, and when taken to failure, I end up overtraining every month!
What works? I'm tired of all these commercial, money-grabbing magazines, fake-ass
chocolate, fat-in-a-can supplements, and fake information!
A: The truth of the matter is that the research comparing multiple sets to single-set
protocols prove over and over again that, where long-term gains are concerned, multiple
sets induce larger and more rapid strength gains. The larger increases in strength seen
with multiple sets protocol may, in part, be associated to the fact that higher volumes of
total work produce significantly greater increases in circulating anabolic hormones during
recovery (Gotshalk et al. 1996). Recent research has pointed to elevated levels of growth
hormone in multiple sets training versus single set training, which may promote a more
anabolic environment (Mulligan et al. 1996).
The important distinction is that there's very little need to take sets to failure outside of
your standard concentric fatigue (when you can't raise the weight on your own). Forced
reps should be used sparingly, if at all. Just look at Olympic lifters. None of them use
forced reps, yet they still achieve impressive levels of maximal strength and hypertrophy.
Q: What should I do if I rest too long between a set? Say, for instance, that I plan to rest
for two minutes between sets, but someone talks to me for about ten minutes. What can
be done to rectify this, and does this affect total workout time, under one hour?
A: How can you talk to someone for ten minutes and still expect to keep up your workout
An hour is an hour, but don't expect to do the optimal amount of sets in the given hour if
you work on your social life between sets.
To rectify this situation, you could wear a T-shirt that says, "Please fuck off, I'm training
right now." Or if someone talks to you, say that you suffer from multiple personality
disorder and that they can call you Bob for now, but don't be surprised if you only answer
to Mary tomorrow. As a last resort, you could walk around with those barf bags that they
issue on flights. Make sure that it's filled with oatmeal and one of those floor-cleaning
products (to provide a nice swishing sound and an appropriate smell). No one will dare
talk to you.
Q: I think that your structural balance plan is a great idea and should work. When you
said that you added rotator exercises on a five-day cycle, did you mean to do two rotator
exercises every single day? What would your training split be? Should I still work the
chest? What about the back? I really want to do this program, so could you please give a
detailed outline? I only have twelve weeks left until football season starts. Thanks, you're
the best.
A: I suggest doing two exercises for the external rotators, either on chest day or back day.
Since the pectorals and the lats are both internal rotators of the humerus, it doesn't matter
which body part you pair with your external rotator work.
I suggest using an A1/A2 system. That is, for every set of, let's say, chest work, do one
set of external rotator work. For example, for rotator cuff work done on a chest day, you
might try the following:
A1) Dumbbell bench presses
• 5x6-8 reps
• 5010 tempo
• Rest for two minutes
A2) 30-degree low pulley external rotations (shown below)
• 5x10-12 reps
• 2020 tempo
• Rest for 90 seconds
B1) Incline barbell presses
• 3x10-12 reps
• 4020 tempo
• Rest for 90 seconds
B2) Elbow-in-front dumbbell external rotations (shown below)
• 3x10-12 reps
• 2020 tempo
• Rest for 75 seconds
Q: Chuck, I read your article on Achieving Structural Balance with great interest —
mouth agape, drool, the whole bit. Along the same lines, what percentage of work should
people do for their body parts? For instance, should 50% of leg work be devoted to quads
and 50% for hams, or do they require different amounts of work? Similarly, should
biceps and triceps get equal work? How about back and chest?
A: The percentage of amount of work should be dictated by either:
1) Your training goal
For example, if you want to make the finals of the 500-meter kayak race at the
Sydney Olympics, you probably want to cut back on squats and deadlifts. Conversely,
if competing in the high jump is your goal, a twenty-inch arm is rather useless.
2) Structural balance
For example, bench press is probably the exercise that gets the most attention in the
gym. Therefore, most people could further extend their training careers and
performance by cutting back on pressing work and doing more work for the
rhomboids and external rotators. A basic training concept is that the height of the
competitive peak is a function of the width of the general preparation base. In other
words, the more well-rounded your program, the more strength performance you can
achieve in the long run.
Q: I understand that the hams should be about 2/3 as strong as the quads. Is there any way
to test this? I thought of seeing what I could do on a leg extension and then comparing it
to what I can do on a leg curl, but is that legit? I mean, don't the machines have to be
made with the same strength/force curves?
A: First of all, the concept that the hams should as 2/3 as strong as the quads is
antiquated. It's based on rather inadequate testing devices, and that figure was suggested
when ergometers were about sophisticated as a circa 1950 computer. To get the true
torque measurement of the hamstrings, you must be able to test it at very high speeds.
Based on data that I have from various Canadian National teams, I theorize that the
minimum ham/quad ratio should be at least 80%, and the optimal ratio will vary
depending on the sport. For example, alpine skiers have lower rates of injuries when the
ratio is near 80%, while bobsledders should target 125% ratios (meaning that the hams
are actually stronger than the quads).
Interestingly enough, the ham/quad target can easily be reached by implementing "leave a
stain on the carpet" full squats in the training process. In my first year with the Canadian
National Ski Team, I got them to drop their half squats and substitute full squats, and
their ratio went from 57% to 79% in eleven weeks.
Regarding the idea of testing strength ratios with the usual weight room machines, it's
nearly impossible to do as there are so many different models of resistance training
machines out there. If you're really concerned about the ratio, you can get it assessed in
the biomechanics or physical therapy department of a major university. Ask for a
ham/quad on the Kincom, Cybex, or David ergometers, which are far superior to what
was available just a few years ago.
Q: My shoulders hurt all of the time when I work them directly. I've thought about not
working them at all and instead concentrating on all of the other body parts. What do you
think — will they shrink away?
A: I think it's a great idea. I don't prescribe direct delt work to most of my clients, yet
they end up developing impressive delts. Recent anatomical research points out that there
are seven different innervation patterns for the delts — not three, like originally believed
(anterior, medial, and posterior). The shoulders will actually grow best if left alone.
Anterior innervation patterns get plenty of stimulation from chest work, and posterior
innervation patterns get plenty of stimulation from back work. Therefore, most torso
work is bound to involve some of the seven innervation patterns.
You may, however, want to train using some shoulder abduction work (i.e. cable lateral
raises) once every ten days or so.
Q: I never see you really advocate any time off, or even lessening the workout level of
effort. In other words, it's always balls to the wall. Should I ever take a week off, or
should I just spend a week where I only use, say, a 50% level of effort?
A: I think that holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas often take care of the time
off. You can plan on having five days off during those time periods so that you can enjoy
your holiday and, at the same time, regenerate the entire neuro-muscular and neuroendocrine systems.
However, the longest amount of time I'd recommend that you take off is five days. If you
can't regenerate fully in five days, then you really have some issues.
I also don't believe in performing 50% level of effort weeks, but I do believe that you
should reduce your total number of sets by 40% once every three weeks. It's very hard to
overtrain by employing only high intensity — your body just won't be able to lift the
weight. You're far more likely to overtrain by volume. In other words, if you do ten sets
per body part for the first four workouts, cut down to six per body part for the fifth and
sixth workouts. Then change the program. Studies actually back up this concept of
periodic volume reduction. The exact physiological reason isn't yet clear but, evidently, it
does work.
Q: Football season is coming up. I'm still a few pounds underweight and need to gain
weight fast. Any tricks that can put me in an anabolic state faster?
A: I'd say that your best bet is to use branched-chain aminos while you train. I learned
this trick from Dr. Serrano and Dr. DiPasquale and have been using it with athletes who
have difficulty gaining size. What we've found is that there's a serious decrement in postworkout soreness when you use BCAA during the training session. I recommend taking
0.44 g per kg of bodyweight. In other words, if you weigh 90 kilograms (198 pounds),
take 40 grams of branched-chain amino acids. If you're on a restricted budget, use at least
20 grams. If you can't afford that much, don't bother. Of course, you could save your
BCAA loading for those days when you train your weakest body parts, and that'll allow
you to save some money.
How does it work? Well, BCAAs consumed during training raise both growth hormone
and insulin at the same time, hence the increased anti-catabolism and anabolism. Of
course, the study by Carli et al. (1992) showed that supplementing with branched-chain
amino acids prior to a workout not only prevents a decrease in post-workout testosterone
levels, but actually allows testosterone levels to increase following exercise.
There are two ways to ingest them: tablets/capsules or powder. If you prefer to use tablets
or capsules, I recommend that you use Muscle Mass from Beverley International.
Swallow three to four capsules every time you sip water. If you'd rather take the
powdered form, you can use Gluta Cene from Advanced Genetics. It contains both
branched-chain amino acids and glutamine that's meant to be mixed in water and sipped
throughout a workout. Since BCAAs are very disgusting in taste, the company has
managed to mask the flavor quite adequately. My athletes agree that grape is the most
palatable of all of the flavors. To contact Advanced Genetics, call 888-629-6277.
Q: You're obviously the "king of the ring" when it comes to improving performance
using weight training, but what suggestions would you have for mental/psychological
conditioning? Surely, the mind plays an important role in elite level sports. Have you
seen anything in the elite world that would benefit average lifters?
A: Your question reminds me of something that happened at the Nagano Winter
Olympics. There were a few of us sitting around at the cafeteria in between events, just
shooting the breeze. Then one freestyle skier asked my client, Al MacInnis (the man with
the strongest slapshot in the NHL and winner of this year's Norris Trophy for best
defenseman in the league):
"Al, do you guys use sports psychologists in the NHL?"
To which Al answered in his usual dry, sarcastic humor:
"No, because we have the American League where we ride the bus for 16 hours a
day, sleep at a Motel 6, and eat at Taco Bell, kid. That'll straighten out anybody's
In other words, not everyone needs that sort of thing. Still, there are a lot people who
swear by it. Even so, not all psychological conditioning methods have merit in increasing
strength. Mental rehearsal and self talk are poor tools for strength increases, while
activation techniques can make a significant difference. And the psychological
techniques that increase strength have different effects on different people. For example,
while hypnosis can increase strength up to 40% in novice lifters, it rarely helps elite
lifters improve by as little as 10%...and that's if you're respondent to hypnosis. The ability
to get into a hypnotic state follows a descendent curve in the population. A
disproportionately low number of people reach a hypnotic state that enhances
Even though mental skills can be acquired through learning, it's my opinion that the
superior mental proficiencies of elite athletes are more innate than learned. I doubt that
Arnold Schwarzenegger took Visualization 101 in high school to achieve the success he
had in his early teens.
Still, if you lack the funds, the means, or the stomach for a "visualization coach," you
might want to try "psychological conditioning in a can," otherwise known as Power
Q: I'm a high school basketball player, so my ears really perk up when someone talks
about increasing vertical jump. While I know that genetics are involved, all I need are a
couple more inches to dunk the ball. You've said something about doing power cleans
and explosive movements to help increase vert. Aren't these football exercises? My
basketball coach just has us do speed reps with light weight, usually in combination with
circuit training. Is there any hope for me?
A: If power cleans and explosive lifts were football-only exercises, then I guess openhanded geek slapping would be a table tennis-only exercise.
Editor's note: I have no idea what the preceding analogy means, and Charles only gives
me a dirty look when I ask him. A free T-shirt to the first person who can explain it to
Improvements in the Olympic lifts and their variations, plus increases in the amount of
weight you use for squatting, are your guarantee to an improved vertical jump.
As far as doing speed reps with light weights, they don't favor the recruitment of highthreshold fibers like rapidly accelerating heavy loads will. Doing speed reps in
conjunction with circuit training is even more useless, as the lactate buildup will drive the
blood pH downward, thus making the blood more acidic and impairing the recruitment of
high-threshold motor units.
Does your high school also tell you that you can catch herpes from a toilet seat and that
smoking one joint will make you a crack addict in less than three days? Your high school
coach reminds me of a supplement company owner who thought that eating kangaroo
meat would increase his vertical jump. I don't want to embarrass him by revealing his
name, but let's just say that his initials are James Bradshaw of Pump magazine.
Q: Can I get really strong without putting on too much weight? I noticed that most
champion powerlifters are fat. Franco Columbu seemed to look good and be strong
enough to compete in powerlifting, but he's in the minority.
A: Of course you can. The reason you perceive powerlifters as fat is because TV likes to
show the people who lift the most amount of weight and focusses on the super
heavyweight class, members of which tend to have a higher percentage of body fat. This
just isn't true of competitors in the lighter weight divisions. For instance, when Mauro
DiPasquale, MD dominated the World Championships in the 148-pound and 165-pound
weight classes, his body fat percentage was close to 3%.
Also, you might've only seen American powerlifters who tend to have higher body fat
percentages because of their diets. Look at world-class powerlifters from Finland, Japan,
and Sweden — most of them are on the lean side, with body fat percentages under 7% in
most weight classes.
When training for relative strength, as stated previously in some of my writing, the
following loading parameters apply in training with maximal weights:
1) Intensity should be between 85% and 100% (the weight used should be between
85% and 100% of the maximum amount of weight that you can lift for one rep).
2) Rep range should be between one and five.
3) The number of sets should fall between five and twelve.
4) Rest intervals between sets should be four to five minutes.
5) The time that takes you to raise the weight should be between one and four
6) The time that it takes you to lower the weight should be between three and five
7) You should pause between the raising and lowering part of the rep for one to four
8) A set shouldn't take longer than 20 seconds to complete.
Because of the high number of sets that you'll be doing for this type of routine, you'll
only need to do one to three exercises per workout. You could, however, do as many as
four if you pair agonists and antagonists together (opposite muscle groups: back and
chest, biceps and triceps, or quads and hamstrings), as opposed to working agonists
Researchers have found that the ability to achieve full motor unit activation (MUA) is
enhanced when immediately proceeded by a contraction of the agonists. For example,
after doing a three-repetition maximum (3RM) set of close-grip triceps presses, rest two
to three minutes and perform a 3RM or 4RM set of dumbbell curls for the biceps. Rest
two to three minutes and repeat for the required amount of sets. This method has the
added benefit of allowing you to double the workload per training session.
Q: You've always been openly critical of Joe Weider and Nautilus guru Arthur Jones.
What's wrong? Didn't these guys pave the way for modern training techniques?
A: Stop it, you're killing me! My spleen's about to rupture. Were you dropped on your
head as an infant...for a set of fifteen...from the second floor, or are your parents cousins?
Did they pave the way for modern training techniques? No. But they did make very
significant contributions to the fitness industry.
Joe Weider, besides claiming to have invented the hole in donuts (better known as the
"Joe Weider donut hole principle"), popularized bodybuilding as a mainstream activity
through his many magazines. He had the genius to recognize the amazing marketing
potential of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was the true factor behind the general public's
acceptance of pumping iron.
Likewise, his brother Ben has been trying for years to legitimize bodybuilding by
lobbying to have it accepted as an Olympic sport. Unfortunately, based on the present
IOC standards, bodybuilding should make it the same year as dwarf throwing, underwater
hockey, and surf skeetshooting.
Arthur Jones was the greatest tonic the fitness club industry's ever known. During the
'70s, his ideas led to the birth of hundreds of Nautilus clubs that eventually graduated to
larger clubs with more free-weight apparatus, which then converted to health and fitness
clubs. I can honestly say that he created a whole new industry of better-designed
strength-training equipment by setting up a new standard, but the training methodology
that he advocated has been refuted by controlled scientific studies many times over. That
is one of the reasons why his biggest cult disciple, Mike Mentzer, was booted out of
Muscular Development magazine (MD column writers such as the highly respected
sports scientist William Kraemer kept demonstrating with plenty of scientific studies that
Mentzer's training dogma went out of style about the same time as the notion that the
Earth is flat).
All fun aside, they did contribute some valuable things. But in this day and age, it all
comes down to "what have you done lately?"
Q: You've mentioned "dynamic stretching" several times. What exactly is that, anyway?
A: Dynamic stretching is also called ballistic stretching, among other things.
Unfortunately, it's gained an undeserved bad reputation, thanks to physical therapists and
athletic trainers who have claimed that it's a sure way to injure yourself.
Contrary to popular belief, there's very little correlation between static flexibility and
dynamic flexibility. That's why you see black belts in karate who can kick you in the
face, yet they can barely touch their mid-shins with the tips of their fingers when they
bend over. If ballistic stretching was so stressful, though, every martial artist who
emphasizes kicking in his style (Tae Kwon-Do, Hapkido, Savate) would be dead, as
would every rhythmic gymnast, artistic gymnast, ballet dancer, and diver — ballistic
stretching is a staple of their physical preparation. Interestingly enough, when the
Philadelphia 76ers won the NBA championship in 1986, their strength and conditioning
coach was a ballet teacher who used plenty of ballet-type movements to teach the
basketballers how to use the concept of acceleration and learn to relax the antagonistic
Dynamic stretching involves fast movements which place the muscles under a rapid, but
very short-lived, stretch. Opponents of dynamic stretching will argue that the imposed
stretch is too small in terms of time to be beneficial and increases the likelihood of
muscle pull. But what these people fail to understand is that the correlation between
dynamic flexibility and static flexibility (r=0.42) is quite poor. In other words, it's
possible that someone who can barely touch his mid-shins in a sit-and-reach" test (static
stretch) can kick you in the face (dynamic stretch). Similarly, someone who can go
beyond his feet in a sit-and-reach test can barely kick you in the navel. In the dynamic
expression of flexibility, there's more involved than the ability to relax the muscles and
connective tissue. It also requires the ability to activate the antagonist muscle to place the
muscles in a rapid stretch. So, in our kicking example, you may able to stretch your
hamstrings well in a slow sit-and-reach test, but your may not be able activate the
quadriceps at high speeds to place the hamstrings in a rapid stretch.
There is a correct way to do ballistic stretches, however — the pendulum method. Don't
try to reach maximal range in the first stretch. Rather, build up to it. So, for example, to
warm up for a high kick, you'd first kick at the ankle level for starters, then aim at midshin, then kneecap, etc., until you reach your maximal kicking height. But you definitely
wouldn't start out with your best impression of a Jean-Claude Van Damme kick.
Q: Let's say that I wanted to devise an extended program based solely on your training
principles: GVT, GBC, the 1-6 Principle, and Maximal Weights. Yeah, I know, I'm a
glutton for punishment. How would you recommend scheduling these different phases?
A: Assuming that your goals are to gain size and strength and improve your body
composition, I suggest the following periodization model:
Phase 1
German Body Composition (see Issue 34 of Testosterone)
This phase provides a very sound general conditioning base. It should lean you out
considerably and improve your anaerobic endurance. Your maximal strength probably
won't go up too dramatically, but strength endurance should climb. In other words, you'll
be able to do a greater amount of reps at a given weight than you could otherwise. Of
course, people with a high percentage of type II-A fibers, like TC, have made substantial
gains in size on it. Contrast that with someone like me, who just leans out from the
program because of a heavy concentration of FT II-B fibers.
Phase 2
Maximal Weights (see Issue 1 of Testosterone)
After a phase of high volume like German Body Comp training, your nervous system will
welcome an intensification phase like this one. The program will make your maximal
strength levels soar so that you can start the following hypertrophy phase at a higherthan-normal level of overload.
Phase 3
German Volume Training (see Issue 59 of Testosterone)
In a nutshell, for those of you who aren't familiar with GVT, it consists of doing ten sets
of ten on specific exercises. Since you'll be coming directly off of a strength phase, your
average load for this type of hypertrophy training will be high and, thus, you can expect
to apply a better overload and, therefore, reap more muscle mass gains than usual.
Phase 4
The 1-6 Principle (see Issue 58 of Testosterone)
This will finish off your cycle nicely, since it's a hybrid method that combines both
strength and hypertrophy stimuli. I'd suggest doing each program for about three weeks,
so this total road to "buffness" would take about 12 weeks.
Q: You and Ian King have convinced me that I should incorporate power cleans and
deadlifts into my program. Where should I put them? Should I do them on leg or back
day? I am sore in the legs, back, and traps after deadlifting and have the same problem
with power cleans. Any suggestions?
A: Power cleans or deadlifts are to be done on leg day, since they overload the powerful
hip and knee extensors. If you choose to do power cleans, make sure that you do them
first in the workout — they require a lot of coordination. Doing them last might cause
you to wreak havoc on the gym, yourself, and the people around you.
If you're on a program that aims at driving up your power clean or deadlift, make sure to
cycle your squatting workouts appropriately according to your level of recovery ability.
The number of mutants out there that can naturally drive up their squats and deadlifts at
the same time — the last time I checked — is very, very low.
You may also want to watch the amount of indirect work, such as bent-over barbell rows,
that you do for the lower back. I remember having dinner with exercise rehab specialist
Paul Chek a couple of years ago and, of course, the topic of training came up. Paul was
complaining that none of his lifts were increasing. I asked him some questions about how
he was training, and the reason for his plateau became obvious: he wanted to improve his
squat, deadlift, and bent-over row poundages at the same time.
My advice to him was rather simple: choose one of those three lifts and work hard at it
for three to four weeks, then switch to another lift.
Q: Okay, big guy, you don't seem to get much criticism. I have a feeling that it's because
you "walk the walk and talk the talk," i.e. you aren't some kind of flabby, armchair
expert. In fact, the only thing negative that I've heard about you is that your training
principles are designed primarily for athletes, not bodybuilders. If you want to improve
performance, they say, talk to Poliquin. But if you're interested in getting bigger, there
are better ideas out there. So, how do you answer these criticisms?
A: The main reason that I work with athletes and not bodybuilders is a financial one. In
other words, as Dan Duchaine has pointed out, bodybuilders would rather spend money
on Deca than sound training advice. Dan even admitted to me once that he didn't think
training was very important for size gains until he tried my stuff.
You're mistaken, though, if you think that my advice doesn't help to increase muscle
mass or lose fat. My average NHL hockey player loses 11 pounds of fat and gains 18
pounds of muscle mass in just 11 weeks of summer training. If you're interested in
reading about what sort of progress my athletes experience, check out this article about
Martin Lapointe of the Detroit Red Wings.
Also, there are currently four sports agencies who send me athletes for that very purpose.
Just ask the NHL hockey enforcers who've had to deal with my client, 236-pound
Anaheim Mighty Ducks enforcer Jim McKenzie. Jim packs a punch that will knock you
into next week. Read my Achieving Structural Balance article from Testosterone Issue 52
for more details.
Furthermore, when I started working with bobsledders, the average bodyweight was in
the 187-pound range. Just one Olympic cycle later, the average bodyweight was up to
231 pounds. By that time, we had the fastest start in the world. In 1998, we took the gold
medal in the two-man, becoming the first non-German speaking nation in Olympic
history to win that event.
Now, come on, do you really believe that bodybuilders are the only ones who need to
gain size and lose body fat?
Q: I use the Smith machine extensively in my training, but I've been hearing that it's not
the greatest piece of equipment ever invented. What's your take?
A: To be frank, I don't think much of the Smith machine. In fact, when I design a weight
room for a client, I never ever buy a Smith machine. In fact, if a dork asks me a question
about chest training during one of my workouts, I quickly prescribe him ten sets of 20 on
the Smith machine as my way of getting revenge. One of the reasons that the Smith
machine has so much publicity in the magazines is because it makes a great visual picture
but, as far as functional transfer, it scores a big zero. It was probably invented by a
physical therapist who wanted more business for himself.
What you might perceive as positives with the device are in fact strong negatives. The
perceived positives are only short-lived because, in a Smith machine, the weight is
stabilized for you. However, the shoulder really operates in three planes. But if you do
exercises in a Smith machine, none of the shoulder stabilizers need to be recruited
maximally. For example, the rotator cuff muscles don't have to fire as much because the
bar's pathway is fixed. That creates a problem when the trainee returns to free-weight
training. When that happens, the trainee is exposed to the three-dimensional environment
called real life. Since the Smith machine has allowed him to develop strength only in one
dimension, it predisposes him or her to injury in the undeveloped planes of movement.
Exercise prescription specialist Paul Chek of San Diego has identified what he calls
pattern overload syndrome. In his seminar and videos, he stresses that the Smith machine
bench press is one of the most common sources of shoulder injuries:
"People get a pattern overload from using the Smith machine. The more fixed the
object, the more likely you are to develop a pattern overload. This is due to the fact
that training in a fixed pathway repetitively loads the same muscles, tendons,
ligaments and joints in the same pattern, encouraging micro-trauma that eventually
leads to injury. If Johnny Lunchpail always uses a Smith machine for his bench
presses, he ends up working the same fibers of the prime movers in the bench press
all of the time: triceps brachii, pectoralis major, long-head of the biceps, anterior
deltoids, and serratus anterior. But he can't change the pathway — the bar will always
be in the same position."
Because of the mechanics of the human shoulder joint, the body will alter the natural bar
pathway during a free-weight bench press to accommodate efficient movement at the
shoulder. A fixed bar pathway doesn't allow alteration of this pathway for efficient
movement of the joint, thereby predisposing the shoulder to harmful overload via lack of
All in all, the Smith machine is a training piece for dorks. If you're interested in training
longevity, you're far better off sticking to the standard barbell and dumbbell exercises or
try the newer chest machines from Magnum and Flex.
Q: You provide some interesting supplement recommendations in your "Poliquin
Principles" book. Given the evolving nature of the supplement industry, would you
change anything if you were going to rewrite it?
A: Of course I would change my supplement recommendations. Scientific knowledge
doubles every 18 months nowadays. In fact, my opinion on supplements would fill an
entire book. Since this answer goes beyond the scope of my column, I'll just mention a
few things that I do differently.
For one, I take Power Drive before my workouts, as do all of my athletes. I'm not sure if
it's because of increased neural drive or enhanced muscle fiber recruitment, but Power
Drive usually guarantees that I get a great workout.
I've also customized my post-workout recipe. Since 1982, I've been a strong advocate of
post-workout liquid nutrition. In my book, I made a rather precise recommendation for
post-carb intake. After lengthy discussions with Dr. Mauro DiPasquale and Dr. Eric
Serrano, and after analyzing the feedback of personal trainers who used the formula, I've
come up with a new formula. Here's my latest recommendations based on my
observations and a host of scientific research (these recommendations are for one-hour
Protein content: It should be at least 0.6 g/kg of lean body mass. So if the athlete
weighs 90 kg (about 198 pounds) with 10% bodyfat, that would represent at least 50
grams of protein.
Carbohydrate intake: My previous recommendations were based on the research
available at the time. I generally recommended two g/kg of bodyweight but, after
being exposed to more research and discussing it with my colleagues over the years, I
have come to the the conclusion that the total carb content of your drink should be a
reflection of the training volume for the training session — the greater the number of
reps per training unit, the greater the carbohydrate intake.
The trouble is that all reps aren't necessarily equal. A squatting or deadlifting rep is
more demanding than a curl or triceps extension. By the same token, three reps of
slow-tempo squats have different caloric requirements than three reps in the power
clean. Still, you may want to make the assumption that all reps are equal so it doesn't
get too complicated.
12-72 reps per workout: 0.6 g/kg/LBM
73-200 reps per workout: 0.8 g/kg/LBM
200-360 reps per workout: 1.0 g/kg/LBM
360-450 reps per workout: 1.2 g/kg/LBM
Glutamine intake: Again, after many discussions with my low-carb proponents
DiPasquale and Serrano, I've been experimenting with higher glutamine intakes.
Recent scientific research has demonstrated that consuming glutamine following
exercise can accelerate muscle glycogen resynthesis and, of course, elevate
glutamine levels — both of which are critical in the prevention of overtraining
and the creation of an anabolic environment.
So let's take the case of San Jose Sharks defenseman Gary Suter, who weighs
around 100 kg (about 220 pounds). His post-workout shake would look something
like this:
Three scoops of Grow!
•?40 grams of protein, 23 grams of carbs
Four scoops of Champion Nutrition Revenge
•?80 grams of carbs
Five scoops of Champion Nutrition Power Glutamine
•?35 grams of glutamine (counts toward the total protein content)
I'm also big on antioxidants these days. All my athletes use an antioxidant blend because
they tend to have a higher fatty acid intake than their colleagues. Fatty acids are
extremely sensitive to damage and oxidation. This happens regardless of whether they're
in your body or outside of your body. For example, an increased consumption of fish oil
has been linked to higher levels of lipid peroxides in the body, which apparently prompts
an increase in the need for vitamin E. If you supplement with E, try to use a blend of
mixed tocopherols — not the single form of alpha which is most commonly sold.
Aside from taking E, I'd recommend using a formula of antioxidants that contains a wide
array of them, such as selenium, vitamin C, and beta carotene. I also like to include a
blend of antioxidants of an herbal nature that contain grape seed extract, green tea extract,
bilberry, quercitin, hesperidin, turmeric, gingko biloba, and ginger. In my practice, my
athletes use both Champion Nutrition Oxypro and Twinlab Antioxidant Fuel, rotating
between the two.
Many of my athletes use Tribex-500, too, as the formulation results in added strength and
size as well as enhancements in overall performance. Frankly, I wasn't 100% sure that
Tribex was right for my athletes until the preliminary results from two university studies
arrived. One of the studies looked at strength while the other looked at performance, the
latter being very rare and often quite hard to prove. Nevertheless, Tribex came through
with flying colors, showing a dramatic increase in the free testosterone:cortisol ratio over
the placebo (a strong anabolic indicator). I'm also quite interested in Ribose-C, our new
ribose/creatine formulation, as well as some of the exotic new flavones currently being
I could go on and on about new recommendations. But suffice it to say that, yes, if I had
written "The Poliquin Principles" recently, the supplement chapter would look very
different than the original.
Q: What are your thoughts on the frequency of squatting? I've seen lifters squat as
infrequently as once every ten days, while national team weightlifters squat as often as
nine times a week.
A: I can understand how being exposed to such a variance in training could be rather
confusing for the reader. Let me put it this way. One shouldn't be concerned with the
maximal frequency of training that they can handle, but more with the optimal frequency
of training.
Successful strength coaches like Ian King and Al Vermeil, who have given serious
thought to the optimal training process, will point out that there's no point in going back
to the gym if you're not going to make progress. I'm in full agreement with this principle
that I learned from Ben Johnson's coach, Charlie Francis. In other words, when you go to
the gym, the motto should be go heavier or go home. There's no value to go to the gym to
repeat a workout. If you're not going to do an extra rep or add some weight, you might as
well stay home and wait for the right time to ride the supercompensation wave.
Now, I fully expect some readers to write in that it's impossible to keep making gains
week after week, year after year, arguing that if infinite progress were possible, we'd all
be benching a thousand pounds for reps. Yes, yes, that's true, but I'm talking about
making perpetual progress within a particular workout routine. Let's face it, if you've
been doing the same routine for more than three or four weeks, you've already extracted
every last drop of usefulness from that routine. In other words, that workout has grown
stale, and it's time to change. So, assuming that you're changing routines regularly, each
workout should show some progress from the previous one.
Regarding squatting nine times a week, it's a classic case of "extraordinary training
methods for extraordinary athletes." This approach works well, but only for mutants who
might feel comfy as extras on "The X-Files." Less than 1% of the population of athletes
can survive this kind of workload. Granted, it has produced results in these athletes, but
I'm not convinced that it's the most efficient way to train.
The reason I say that is because in 1992, I was training a hammer thrower who could
power clean more than the super heavyweight lifter who accompanied him to the
Olympics. The thrower squatted an average of once every 3.5 days during his 22-week
Olympic cycle and only bothered to power clean from the floor the last three weeks of
that cycle. I am of the same opinion as Louie Simmons in regard to lifts being limited to a
structural weakness within the musculature responsible for that lift.
In my opinion, the best training frequency for most individuals (70% of athletes) is once
every five days. The more gifted ones will probably do better at once a week. And I've
even seen some individuals who do better at once every ten days. That doesn't necessarily
mean that they only train legs once every ten days. For example, they may follow a leg
program that looks like this:
Day 1 — Sled work
The athlete pulls a weighted sled for sprints up to 60 meters in distance.
Day 5 — A lunge-oriented workout
The athlete tries to drive up his lunge or split-squat poundages. A form of step-up is
also usually included.
Day 10 — Squat workout
Obviously, the goal here is to drive the poundages achieved in the chosen squat
exercise upward.
Day 15 — Repeat
The athlete starts the cycle over again.
The feeling that you get while you do your warm-ups should tell you if you're ready to
squat again. You may not squat that day, but do some other type of leg work like lunges
or step-ups. This would suggest a case where the movement pattern frequency (how often
you do that particular exercise) is too high, but your muscles are well recovered.
It's important to point out again that the nervous system takes five to six times longer to
recover than the muscular system. In other words, your leg muscles may feel fine, but the
squatting pattern may be hard. In that case, I wouldn't waste time and, instead, move on
to other movement patterns that still overload the legs.
If you're not improving, change your frequency. Most trainees train too frequently, so
experiment with reduced frequency. There aren't many people who can continue to
improve on a frequency of two to three times a week per muscle group while holding a
regular job and being exposed to other life stresses. While anabolics do allow you to
increase your frequency due to improved recovery ability, it's possible that the majority
of anabolic users are training too frequently, regardless, and consequently limiting the
training effect.
Q: You recommend a lot of pull-ups in your "Poliquin Principles" book. Since
abandoning the old pull-down machine, my strength has really shot up — thanks! My
problem involves doing pull-ups on one of those bars built onto a dip/leg raise station.
The bar is bent down at the ends, like most are these days, but it's very uncomfortable! Is
this just me, or is it better to use a straight bar?
A: The pain that you're experiencing probably stems from the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle
located medially on the forearm. Hanging from the bent bars shortens this muscle
excessively, which may have prompted the pain. That condition can be very easily treated
in a few sessions by a qualified Active Release Technique practitioner. Call 719-4737000 to find the one nearest you.
Q: We hear that creatine can cause cramping. Then that's bunk, and all you need to do is
drink enough water. Dr. Serrano recommends that you take buckets of creatine, but not
before a workout or a game because you "might" cramp. You work with million-dollar
athletes who probably use creatine. Do you feel comfortable with them taking it before
training sessions and/or games?
A: For the most part, I would agree with Dr. Serrano, assuming that the creatine you're
using is of good quality. The cramping can be caused by impurities found in the cheaper
brands of creatine, and we know that there are a lot of them out there. For instance, I'm
under the impression that the majority of creatine in the United States is being shipped in
from China, where quality control remains an issue. Currently, the best creatine comes
from Germany.
I also believe that it's an individual thing, like tolerance to carbs or something similar.
According to research, creatine poses certain side effects in 22% of subjects, even if the
creatine is of high quality and they hydrate fully.
I'm very pleased that Biotest's current liquid delivery system (used in Ribose-C) should
alleviate many of the cramping problems seen in athletes. The creatine is extremely pure
and high in quality, and laboratory testing has shown that the amount of degradation (to
creatinine) in each bottle is less than .01%. Furthermore, the purity and enhanced
absorption allows the athlete to use far less than they would ordinarily. Gone, hopefully,
are the days of cramming down 25-30 grams of gut-wrenching, powdered creatine!
Q: My old training partner used to say, "If you ain't sore, then you didn't work hard
enough!" Since our main goal was to induce hypertrophy, is that statement accurate? Do
you have to get really sore to grow?
A: I would agree with your old training partner, up to a certain point. The question comes
down to what hypertrophy is, exactly. As stated by Canadian exercise physiologist
Duncan MacDougall, hypertrophy is "a biological adaptation to a biological stimulus."
The biological stimulus is generally a microscopic tear associated with the lowering of
It's been clearly shown many times in scientific literature that the eccentric contractions,
not the concentric contractions, are responsible for tissue remodeling, and lowering
results in tears that are often associated with pain. Maybe we should get used to saying,
"Hey, dude, I'm going to the gym to lower some weights and get big."
That's the main reason why, in the early '80s, concentric-only isokinetic devices, like the
Mini-Gym and Hydra-Gym machines, failed to stay in the iron game market. Since those
machines didn't provide eccentric contractions, trainees failed to make significant gains
over longer periods of time when compared to free weights.
There are definitely some ways to pair your exercises to create greater muscle soreness
and, thus, more hypertrophy, but you've got to be a real masochist to want to learn them.
However, all of the possible pairings go beyond the scope of this column, but I generally
make a point to address them in my seminars.
Q: I have good levels of strength, but because I'm in chiropractic college, I'm rather
limited in the amount of time that I can train. I would like to gain a few pounds over the
school year, and I don't want do any of those wussy Stuart McRobert routines where my
arms will shrink to what you refer to as the "eleventeen-inch" mark. Any suggestions for
a a routine? I can train for 40 minutes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
A: I suggest that you reevaluate your priorities, quit school, and devote your life to
training. Okay, just kidding. I've outlined an effective routine for time-challenged
individuals, but given your time restraints, obviously, it doesn't allow for any "beach
work" like biceps curls. Here's the routine:
A1) Bench presses
Sets: 5
Reps: 5-7
Tempo: 5010
Rest: 100 seconds
A2) Wide-grip pull-ups
Sets: 5
Reps: 5-7
Tempo: 3011
Rest: 100 seconds
B) Seated dumbbell presses
Sets: 3 (triple drop sets)
Reps: 6-4-4
Tempo: 4020
Rest: 90 seconds
Notes: The designations A1 and A2 mean that you should do these two exercises in
tandem. In other words, do a set of bench presses followed by a set of wide-grip pullups, then go back to bench presses. Continue bouncing back and forth until you've
done five sets of each.
A tempo of 5010 means to take five seconds to lower the weight, no pause, one
second to lift the weight, and no pause before lowering the weight again.
A) Bent-knee deadlifts
Sets: 5
Reps: 6, 6, 4, 4, 4
Tempo: 5010
Rest: 180 seconds
B) Partial deadlifts
Sets: 3
Reps: 7-9
Tempo: 2110
Rest: 120 seconds
C) Standing calf raises
Sets: 3
Reps: 10-12
Tempo: 2210
Rest: 60 seconds
A1) Incline dumbbell bench presses
Sets: 4
Reps: 6-8
Tempo: 5010
Rest: 90 seconds
A2) Supinated chin-ups (palms facing you)
Sets: 4
Reps: 6-8
Tempo: 5010
Rest: 90 seconds
B1) Parallel bar dips
Sets: 4
Reps: 8-10
Tempo: 4020
Rest: 75 seconds
B2) Seated cable rows
Sets: 4
Reps: 6-8
Tempo: 2102
Rest: 75 seconds
A1) Back squats
Sets: 6
Reps: 6, 6, 8, 8, 10, 25
Tempo: 5010
Rest: 120 seconds
A2) Lying leg curls
Sets: 6
Reps: 4, 4, 4, 6, 6, 8
Tempo: 5010
Rest: 120 seconds
In order to accommodate him, I prescribed that he do my One-Day Arm Cure during the
study week before exams, Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas holiday break, and so on. In
addition to gaining 12 pounds of mass, his arms grew over an inch bigger during the
school year, just by doing an abbreviated, short routine and four, one-day arm cures.
Q: One of your industry colleagues talks about tonic and phasic muscles. What's the
difference, and how would they affect my training protocols?
A: That terminology is rather outdated. It hasn't been used in exercise physiology since
the mid-70s since it was deemed rather simplistic. Consider that there are wide interindividual differences among muscle fibers. My colleague is referring to the assumed
ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch fibers per muscle group.
I say "assumed" because, for example, I recently tested the relative strength of two worldclass athletes — a hammer thrower and a speedskater. Both held the world record in their
respective disciplines at one point in time. The thrower could only do three reps at 85%
of maximum with his neck extensors, while the speedskater did over 200 reps at the same
percentage. Of course, the hammer thrower was much stronger than the speedskater. It
goes without saying that these physiological profiles explain why they naturally
gravitated toward their respective disciplines.
Obviously, even though a particular individual's specific muscle might be deemed phasic
or tonic, categorizing it as such might not accurately reflect its fiber make-up.
Tonic muscles, as they used to be called, are muscles known to have a higher slow-twitch
make-up. They are, therefore, more suited for endurance tasks. A muscle with a high
percentage of slow-twitch fibers may require a higher number of repetitions. The soleus
muscle, for example, contains 88% slow-twitch fibers and, therefore, repetitions in the
15-25 range may be needed to give sufficient time under tension for these fibers to
receive a stimulus for hypertrophy.
The soleus is also considered part of the antigravity muscle chain. These muscles are
firing when you're in a standing position. If they didn't fire, you wouldn't be able to stand
erect. Understandably, they're often required to maintain isometric tension for a long
Phasic muscles have a higher fast-twitch make-up and are used mainly for explosive
bursts of activity. Muscles that fall into this category are the hamstrings and
gastrocnemius, illustrating Wolfe's law in physiology:
Structure dictates function.
As a rule of thumb, the higher the fast-twitch make-up a muscle, the lower its relative
strength endurance — in other words, the less reps it can do at a given percentage of
maximum. Therefore, muscles with a high fast-twitch make-up are normally trained for
lower reps, more sets, and intra-set short rest intervals (one to three seconds between
Since there's plenty of empirical evidence and scientific research to point out that the
development of maximal strength is best accomplished by using loads representing 70100% of one's maximum, it appears essential to determine the exact number of
repetitions to be performed at this percentage range. For most fast-twitch individuals, the
rep bracket optimal for strength gains falls within the 1-6 rep range, while other
individuals may make gains in the 1-12 rep range.
For a very interesting discussion about fiber type distribution, consult this article by
Robert Colling.
Q: There's a 20-year-old kid at our gym in Colorado Springs who told my girlfriend that
he can completely change her physique in two weeks. He also says that he's a thirddegree black belt in Tae Bo. Is he for real?
A: Third-degree black belt in Tae Bo? Let me cover my spleen so that it doesn't explode
out of my body when I start laughing. What do you suppose is involved in the
examination for the third-degree belt in Tae Bo, being able to do all of the moves while
the tape plays fast-forward?
This is complete bullshit. First of all, Tae Bo is not a martial art with a grading system.
It's an aerobic dance system incorporating martial arts-based movements. Let's assume,
however, that it's a legitimate martial art (just for a second). If he's a gifted martial artist,
it would take three years to reach his first-degree black belt, then another two years to get
his second degree, and another three years to get his third degree. Since Tae Bo has only
been around for two years, you are, indeed, dealing with a "very talented" individual or,
perhaps, someone who can actually travel through time.
In fact, this man appears to be so talented that you may want to encourage him to go into
Ultimate Fighting where he can get a complete overhaul of his facial architecture in ten
seconds or less.
As to his ability to transform a physique completely in two weeks, that means he could
produce an EAS contest winner in a fourth of the time normally required — again, very
Q: I heard a rumor that the recent increases in arm size in the Mr. Olympia have more to
do with local injections of Synthol or some other oil-based compound than training
methods or drugs. Do you know anything about it?
A: As a matter of fact, I was in Southern California recently and met with a friend of
mine who's an IFBB pro. He showed me a series of pictures where his arms grew from
20.5" to 22.25" in just two weeks. He was supplied the compound by a southern
hemisphere bodybuilder who, I was told, actually had over 27" arms! I gave the standard
reply of "Bullshit!"
To prove me wrong, my friend showed me a tape of him flexing his then 20.5" arm
against the dealer's gargantuan arm. Well, my friend's arm looked reminiscent of Woody
Allen comparing his biceps to the 1978 Arnie. Even though I didn't see a tape measure,
my friend's arm, at a bodyweight of 250 pounds, looked...puny.
However, this practice is not without side effects. Plenty of bodybuilders are seeing
drastic side effects, including scar tissue buildup, abcesses, loss of strength and
flexibility, neuropathy, and a host of others.
People using these oils are easy to spot as the muscle has little definition, regardless of
how low the individual's body fat is. Interestly enough, it doesn't seem that you need it to
win. If you look carefully at Ronnie Coleman's physique at the last Olympia, you can see
only shredded bodyparts, so my best guess is that he isn't using any of these designer
synthetic oils.
Q: I recently attended your Stamford size and strength seminar, and I learned more in
those 16 hours than I have completing my Masters degree in exercise physiology and
working as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at a college. During the break,
some of the strength coaches were talking about wavelike loading and how great it
worked for them. I don't recall you mentioning it during the seminar. Can you please
elaborate on it?
A: Sorry I didn't cover it, but I can't possibly discuss everything that I know in just a
single seminar. Some attendees have taken the seminar over eight times, yet they still
come back. Since the make-up of the audience is always so diverse, I tailor the seminar to
their expectations and present needs. So, some of my seminars may concentrate on
strength training, while some concentrate on hypertrophy.
Getting back to wavelike loading, this system was shown to me by former Canadian
national weightlifting coach Pierre Roy who was, undoubtedly, one of the brightest men
I've met in the field of strength development. Wave loading is based on the principal of
post-tetanic facilitation. Athletes will find that the hardest wave is the first one, while the
succeeding ones are easier to perform.
Editor's note: For an example of another wave-loading program, check out Ian King's
Limping Into the New Millennium article from last week's issue of Testosterone.
The following 3-2-1 wave-loading program (exceptional for athletes seeking greater
relative strength) sample is for an individual who can do a 300-pound front squat:
Wave 1
1) Three reps at 270 pounds
2) Four-minute rest
3) Two reps at 285 pounds
4) Four-minute rest
5) One rep at 300 pounds
Wave 2
6) Four-minute rest
7) Three reps at 272.5 pounds
8) Four-minute rest
9) Two reps at 287.5 pounds
10) Four-minute rest
11) One rep at 302.5 pounds
If successful, proceed to the third wave.
Wave 3
12) Four-minute rest
13) Three reps at 275 pounds
14) Four-minute rest
15) Two reps at 290 pounds
16) Four-minute rest
17) One rep at 305 pounds
If successful, proceed to the fourth wave.
Wave 4
18) Four-minute rest
19) Three reps at 277.5 pounds
20) Four-minute rest
21) Two reps at 292.5 pounds
22) Four-minute rest
23) One rep at 307.5 pounds
Note: Most people will do two waves — maybe a third one on an exceptional day —
but it takes athletes truly gifted for strength development four waves to reach their
maximal load for the day.
The following 7-5-3 wave-loading program (suited for athletes in combative sports
interested in moving up in weight class) sample is for an individual who can do a 350pound incline press:
Wave 1
1) Seven reps at 280 pounds
2) Four-minute rest
3) Five reps at 295 pounds
4) Four-minute rest
5) Three reps at 315 pounds
Wave 2
6) Four-minute rest
7) Seven reps at 282.5 pounds
8) Four-minute rest
9) Five reps at 297.5 pounds
10) Four-minute rest
11) Three reps at 317.5 pounds
Note: Regardless of the strength profile of the athlete, two waves will suffice at this
intensity zone.
Q: Given the fact that it doesn't train the stabilizers, should I ever slide my handsome ass
into a pec-deck machine?
A: I've seen your ass, and it definitely isn't "handsome." Regardless, as a source of
variety, and if you're an athlete who's generally uninterested in functional strength — like
a bodybuilder, for example — you can do the pec-deck sporadically.
However, make sure that the model used has a pedal which allows you to "leverage up"
the weight so that you can get your arms into a pre-stretched position to do the exercise.
Also, when you do the movement, make sure that your palms are facing the floor during
the exercise. For instance, if you use the standard hammer-grip style, your upper
extremities will be in external rotation, which sends a signal to the brain to fire the pec
major, an internal rotator of the humerus. This results in poor recruitment of the targeted
As is the case for just about any other exercise, you'll adapt to it in six workouts or so,
which means that it will have outlived its usefulness.
Q: In your "Poliquin Principles" book, you briefly mention one-armed chin-ups. Are
these just showoff exercises, or do they have some value to a bodybuilder? How about
one-armed push-ups, same deal?
A: The one-armed chin-up isn't exactly a showoff exercise, as very few individuals can
even dream of doing them (well, for those individuals, I suspect that it's a showoff
exercise at times). It's been estimated that only one out every 100,000 trainees has the
genetic potential to achieve a single one-armed chin-up. The athletes most likely to be
able to do one or more are mountain climbers or gymnasts.
Once, one of my client's bodyguards who, aside from being a sharpshooter, was also a
very accomplished mountain climber. He told me that he really liked my concept of
changing tempos and that he was getting much stronger. So I asked him what exactly it
had done for him, and he explained that it had really improved his chin-ups. To illustrate
his great strength gains, he handed his Glock to his partner and then proceeded to do a
full-range, one-armed chin-up, taking 20 seconds for the concentric phase and 20 seconds
for the eccentric phase. What was even more impressive was that he was doing it with
only his middle finger wrapped around the bar.
There was another mountain climber who worked for our National Ski Team that
performed 23 of them in front of me while using a pronated grip. He did them while
holding onto the diving board of a drained swimming pool.
Both of these examples were quite slender and didn't sport excessively muscular arms.
But obviously, they have superior motor-unit recruitment abilities. So, the direct
applications of one-armed chins are rather limited because of genetic factors.
Furthermore, this movement would be considerably harder for the average bodybuilder,
as the rest of his body is generally a lot more massive than that of the average mountain
climber or gymnast.
One-armed push-ups are more readily accessible to the average person as they require
much lower levels of maximal strength. After all, if Sylvester Stallone can do them...
In my opinion, a more impressive form of the one-armed push-up is to have only the
contra-lateral foot on the ground when doing them. If you're doing one-armed push-ups
using the right hand, your left arm is extended in front of you, and your right foot is kept
a few inches off the ground.
I first saw these being done by the late Kay Baxter at the Pro World Bodybuilding
Championships in Toronto 14 years ago. What I like about this advanced form of the onearmed push-up is that it requires a much greater range of motion than the classic Rocky
ones, and you also need to fire a much greater amount of motor units to stabilize yourself.
Q: What's the best time of day to train? We've heard about training in the morning
because growth hormone levels are supposedly higher. But I tried it, and my poundages
went to hell. Others say that the optimal time is mid-afternoon. What's your opinion?
A: This is a classic case of people looking at only one factor and basing all of their
decisions on that one factor. As far as growth hormone is concerned, there's a bit of
overkill involved in this one. Taking a sauna increases growth hormone, but so does
being exposed to cold temperatures. I'm surprised that Ellington Darden or Joe Weider
hasn't come out with a Temperature Contrast Principle yet in which you superset
squatting in the sauna with leg curls at the morgue.
According to some rather limited research — most of it by German strength physiologist
Hettinger — it appears that the best time to train is 3-11 hours after waking up —
assuming, of course, that you always wake up at the same time.
But from personal experience, you can train yourself to have optimal workouts at any
time during the day as long as you are disciplined to always train at the same time. In the
summer, when I'm my busiest, I enjoy very good workouts at 11pm. It takes me about a
week-and-a-half to get used to it, though. In the fall, I prefer to train at around 10am.
Regardless, don't get too anal about it. My schedule changes a lot in the fall and winter,
and I still have great workouts any time, assuming that my blood sugar is constant or
slightly elevated. I know where the 24-hour gyms are in any city. I rarely go to bed
having missed a workout. I've trained arms at 1:30 in the morning with a police officer
friend of mine at the World Wrestling headquarters (thanks to the hospitality of Vince
McMahon). I've also gotten up at 3am to eat so that I can "enjoy" a 5am leg workout at
the Gold's Gym in Las Vegas because I had a full day of consultations lined up from
The most important thing is to have an accurate training diary and resolve to exceed your
previous gym performances. The rest is really irrelevant. Often, seminar attendees or
interns ask if they can train with me. If they're not dorky, "pain in the ass" material, I'll
say, "Sure, meet me at the gym at 23-hundred hours." Then I see how keen they are about
training with me. Much to their surprise, they enjoy an excellent workout, and the time of
day doesn't matter much, providing that their mental attitude is right.
Many trainees fail to achieve gains because they make all sorts of excuses. You can
dream of gains in the gym, or you can stay awake and actually make the gains.
Q: Do you think that those devices used to stretch the legs are worth it? I see them all of
the time in martial arts magazines, and I could use some flexibility.
A: Keep in mind that flexibility is very specific. In other words, you can be supple in the
short adductors of the thigh, yet have very tight long adductors like yours truly. I have
perfect squatting flexibility, but I can only attain enough height in a sidekick to stun
Mini-Me on the kneecap.
Most of the machines advertised in martial arts magazines only aim to improve flexibility
of the long adductors of the thighs so that you can achieve the type of splits often
achieved by Belgium's most famous wife-beater.
You're far better off buying some good stretching cords or one of the devices advertised
in Jerry Robinson's "Health for Life" catalog. They're economical and very versatile. For
more information, call 800-874-5339.
Q: What do you think of those funny-looking shoes that supposedly increase your vertical
jump? Several models are out now. Are any of them worth the money?
A: Those devices are, in fact, a copy of a device developed by a Spaniard who competed
in the high jump during the '30s. The guy was quite ahead of his time, and he had figured
out that elevating the front of the shoe created a more rapid and greater stretch of the
ankle extensors upon takeoff, thus permitting a greater jump performance.
Consequently, he kicked all of his opponents' asses at the track meet when he first
showed up with them. Since they weren't described or addressed in the rule book, he was
free to use them. At the end of the meet, however, the officials met, and the shoes were
banned forever from track competition.
Based on the research that I've seen, these shoes only allow the user to have a greater
vertical jump while he or she is wearing them. Training with them over a longer period
appears to have no advantage over more conventional shoes for plyometric ability.
Don't spend money on these shoes. Your calves will grow more if you invest that money
into nutritious foods or quality supplements.
Q: I was slumming the other day at a bodybuilding newsgroup, and there was a hot
discussion about the validity of ZMA for athletes and bodybuilders. One guy said that
ZMA only works if you're very deficient already, and it won't help very much if you're
just a regular guy who's training with weights. It sounds like the old boron scam to me.
Someone else mentioned that you really like ZMA, so I had to rethink my stance because
I really respect your opinion. So help me out here, should I spend my money on ZMA to
help maximize T levels?
A: Here's the deal. Depending on the study that you look up, 54-75% of the general
American population is deficient in magnesium. Variation for zinc is somewhat greater.
Regarding the athletic population, we've found that both zinc and magnesium are
deficient in 100% of the athletes who come into our clinic for the first time.
However, I should mention that these people do at least 18 workouts a month. Also,
there's a great correlation between their training volume and the extent of the deficiency.
In other words, a long-distance speedskater is more likely to be deficient than a track and
field sprinter. Triathletes would likely be the ones with the most extensive deficiencies.
When I gave ZMA to my athletes, virtually all of them reported better quality of sleep, an
essential factor in maximizing recovery. About 70% of them noted an increase in
morning libido. One of them had previous problems conceiving a child, and his low
sperm count rebounded after using ZMA for only six weeks.
The magnesium in ZMA is of such high quality compared to the cheap magnesium oxide
most commonly found in other products. I was able to reduce the amount of magnesium
that I needed to consume in order to avoid further cardiovascular problems by 60%.
In summary, if you live in the US and are fairly active, the odds that ZMA will enhance
your performance in the gym are quite high. Expect the results to be the greatest after six
weeks of use.
Q: This could get complicated, but what type of training program would you recommend
for American football players at high school and college level? Since most football
players need size, speed, strength, and agility, it's difficult to choose exercises and rep
ranges. Generally speaking, of course, what type of program guidelines would you
suggest? Thanks, as always.
A: The answer to your question has been the subject of many books and symposiums. To
answer it entirely, though, would require that I move in with you and your family for six
months, and it's way beyond the scope on this column. Regardless, here are a few tidbits
of my personal philosophy on training the American football player that will whet your
appetite for more information.
Depending on the player's position, training would fall somewhere along a speed-strength
continuum with sprinters on one end and weightlifters on the other. For example, if
you're training a lineman (who's basically paid to take two steps and have a fit), then the
training will be more like an Olympic weightlifter, at least in terms of the expression of
speed-strength. On the other hand, if you're training a running back, the training would be
closer to that of a sprinter.
Most of the repetition schemes used by football players produce nonfunctional
hypertrophy (dead weight). If you're going to gain size, it had better be concentrated in
the right motor units. An example of a good program for that purpose is outlined in my 16 Principle article, which has been very popular with our readers since it produces
superior results. The pioneer in this area is Al Vermeil, who questioned traditional
training dogma and suggested better training regimens. Incidentally, Al is the only
strength coach to sport both Super Bowl and NBA championship rings.
Are most of the devices available for developing agility useful? In the words of Dr.
Mauro DiPasquale, do you want the short answer? If so, to again quote Mauro, the
answer is bullshit!
In my seminars, I go to great lengths to explain why one of the "pseudo-expert,
information broker, never produced any champions, made every client worse" consultants
(who we will refer to only by the initials VG) is defrauding athletes and their parents by
selling devices that give them basically zero results. One such bullshit device is the speed
ladder, which only improves your speed ladder performance. Incidentally, the speed
ladder isn't an Olympic nor an NCAA event.
I'll certainly agree that agility is important, as one of the things that makes a great
lineman or even a great hockey player is the ability to avoid contact. The Ward brothers
were responsible for training the Dallas Cowboys at their zenith, and they instructed
players in the martial art Jeet Kune-Do. It's what made a lineman like Randy White
possible. He only weighed 258 pounds, yet he tossed around men who outweighed him
by over 60 pounds.
In any event, it should be clear that this is a complicated subject. You've got a few
choices: read everything that you can on the subject, use trial and error, or attend one of
my training seminars.
Q: Hey, a bunch of guys at my gym are using those "Body Blades." Are they worth a wet
sack of doggie doody?
A: I know what you're referring to — they're overpriced pieces of plastic with foam
handles in the middle. An urban legend states that the guy who patented them stole the
idea from a zookeeper who had developed them as "Dynamic Elephant Clitoral
Stimulators." He had created them for elephants with low arousal levels during mating
They're about as useful as the rolling wooden bars that women sat on to "break down fat,"
or those high-speed vibrating belts used to "shake off the cellulite" that were popular in
1960s health spas. It's just another case of a piece of junk endorsed by a "pseudo-expert,
my son's politically correct because he plays with Barbie, never produced any champions,
made every client worse" consultants who's first name sounds like "Bern" when
pronounced by Hispanics.
I know quite a few personal trainers who are quite adept at using this device and boast of
its terrific capability of building shoulder stabilizers. These guys can also use it on a
Swiss ball while whistling Dixie...backward. Amazingly enough, their shoulder
stabilization strength hasn't helped break the plateau of benching only 50% of their
bodyweight for three reps.
Here's another urban legend for you. Toronto colleague David Harris wanted to try one
out last summer at the NSCA convention in Kansas City. Since he'd forgotten to take his
epilepsy medication, he went into a grand mal seizure while he tried the Body Blade. To
the amazement of Ironman columnist Lorne Goldenberg and me, the convulsions were so
strong that the blade remained motionless.
Q: I heard Paul Chek say something about the Total Gym. Isn't that just another piece of
infomercial junk? Are any of those "home gym" things worth the money, or should I just
buy a bunch of free weights?
A: If you look at older books on conditioning for gymnastics, you'll see earlier models of
the Total Gym. In those models, the handles were, in fact, still rings. It allowed a junior
gymnast the opportunity to train certain specific gymnastic moves from the rings at a
predetermined percentage of his bodyweight. In Hungarian gymnastic programs, you
could see those devices lined up on the borders of the training hall.
There are plenty of examples of European devices that were not patented and,
subsequently, "American" inventions (the Safety Squat bar comes to mind). Anyhow, the
Total Gym is a fairly decent piece of home equipment. By this, I mean that it meets the
criteria for selecting home gym equipment:
a) It provides overload in both the concentric and eccentric ranges.
b) The overload can be gradually increased.
c) It can be done for a great variety of exercises.
d) It can be stored with minimal space.
e) It's safe.
I think that the Total Gym is, in all fairness, a good investment if you have very little
space but still want to work out. At some gyms, like Peak Performance in Manhattan,
trainers use it with their clients.
Personally, I'd prefer to use dumbbells for a home training device. On the other hand,
Tim Patterson prefers to rep out biceps curls using the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension
course, supersetting with Joe Weider's Iron Shoe triceps builders.
Q: Could you settle an argument that I had with my training partner about drop sets? I
would just kick my partner's ass, but I married her a few years ago and wish to get laid in
the new millennium. When using drop sets on the Scott curl, I say that you should
perform about four reps, and then drop the weight. But my wife says to do the usual 8-12
reps to failure, and then lower the weight for another set. If our main goal is size, which
method is best? Should we just alternate between the two?
A: The truth of the matter is that you're both right. Each of the methods will work. There
are many synonyms for this training technique: down the rack, railroading, suicide sets,
etc. Even in the earliest scientific literature on determining the best loading parameters
for strength development, drop sets were found to be superior to standard sets for
increasing maximal strength. Exhaust the higher threshold fibers first and, as you lower
the weight, prolong the time under tension of the worked muscle groups.
The advantage of this method is that even though you may want to go as fast as possible
in the concentric contraction, the high tension won't permit you to use high velocities to
overcome the load. Therefore, the time under tension will be great, as will the actual load.
Depending on your fiber type, your drop set will have a different configuration. Here are
some examples:
Mode A
Drop sets for a fast-twitch person
1) Perform four rep maximums.
2) Drop the weight by 10-15% and perform as many reps as possible (probably one or
3) Drop the weight by another 10-15% and perform as many reps as possible
(probably one or two).
4) Rest, then do another two to three drop sets.
Mode B
Drop sets for a fast-twitch person
1) Perform two rep maximums.
2) Drop the weight by 5-7% and perform as many reps as possible (probably only
3) Drop the weight by another 5-7% and perform as many reps as possible (probably
only one).
4) Drop the weight by another 5-7% and perform as many reps as possible (probably
only one).
5) Rest, then do another three to four drop sets.
Mode C
Drop sets for a normal fiber distribution type
1) Perform eight rep maximums.
2) Drop the weight by 5-10% and perform as many reps as possible (probably three or
3) Drop the weight by another 5-10% and perform as many reps as possible (probably
three or four).
4) Rest, then do another two to three drop sets.
Mode D
Drop sets for a normal fiber distribution type
1) Perform six rep maximums.
2) Drop the weight by 20% and perform as many reps as possible (probably 12).
3) Drop the weight by 20-25% and perform as many reps as possible (probably 25).
4) Rest, then do another one to two drop sets.
Keep in mind, too, that machines lend themselves well to drop sets because one can
lower the resistance with minimal rest between drops.
Q: You once said in a seminar that you train using low reps, averaging about three reps
per set, as I recall. So how come you're so freakin' big? Can you achieve hypertrophy
using solely low reps? Does this have to do with your muscle fiber make-up? Are you a
A: Basically, I only began to grow once I started using very low reps for multiple sets.
The key is multiple sets. I'm blessed with a higher percentage than normal of fast-twitch
fibers. So, training with high reps is a waste of time for me.
It's my experience that there's an optimal number of sets per muscle group for each
individual. Those who are gifted with a large number of fast-twitch motor units always
do fewer reps at a given percentage of maximum. While the average trainee performs
seven repetitions at 80% of his maximum, a high fast-twitch individual may do only three
reps at the same percentage. Conversely, high slow-twitch individuals, who train
aerobically, have been shown to do 12-37 RM at 95% of maximum, while average
persons will only do two or three RM.
Since there's plenty of empirical evidence and scientific research to point out that the
development of maximal strength is best accomplished by using loads representing 70100% of one's maximum, it appears essential to determine the exact number of
repetitions to be performed at this percentage range. For most fast-twitch individuals, the
rep bracket optimal for strength gains falls within one to six reps, while most individuals
will make gains in the 1-12 rep range. Furthermore, fast-twitch individuals would
normally use more sets and short intraset rest intervals (one to three seconds between
An intern of mine, John Alvino, used to get Paul Gagn? (one of the best trainers in North
America) to write training programs for him. But he wasn't making much progress. After
receiving Paul's blessing, John asked me to train him at a Stamford seminar. From initial
testing, it became clear that John was doing too many reps. For example, he could only
do two reps at 85% of max in the cervical extensors, while world champion speedskater
Marc Gagnon could do in excess of 200 reps at 85% of maximum.
Now, John trains by never doing more than six reps, and his yearly average is about 3.5
reps. Well, in 12 weeks, he went from 206 pounds at 11% bodyfat to 218 pounds at 6%
bodyfat. He can do close-grip bench presses at more than double his bodyweight, and his
curling strength went up 50% during that time. His physique had made such dramatic
changes in so short an amount of time that other seminar attendees in NYC (who were
also there in Stamford) kept asking him what he'd done differently.
Not to sound immodest, but eight other seminar attendees hired me to write their
programs after that.
Q: What type of diet would you recommend while using your 1-6-1 training program? In
general, what would you suggest for anyone whose primary goal is to build strength?
A: In a nutshell, when interested in increasing your level of maximal strength (regardless
of whether you're doing the 1-6-1 program or some other routine geared toward
increasing strength), I find that supplements actually play a bigger part than diet. This, of
course, is assuming that you're eating a diet that's more well-balanced than that eaten by
the average guest on the Jerry Springer show.
Additionally, diets are very individual specific, and trying to prescribe a universal
strength-building diet is risky. The key thing to keep in mind, however, in eating for
maximal strength gains is focus, and anything that dulls your focus should immediately
be kicked out of your diet with the deftness of an Irish barkeeper throwing out an unruly
drunk. Personally, I have to abstain from carbs until the workout is over, even the low
glycemic index ones. Contrast that with pro bodybuilder Milos Sarcev, however, who can
ingest enough pasta to save a small African nation from starvation and still have a great
workout. Compounds that I have found to help increase strength:
• Power Drive, not to exceed the recommended dosage
• Acetyl-l-carnitine, 3-7 grams per day
• Glutamine, 30-70 grams per day
• Branched-chain aminos/glutamine, taken while training, like Beverly International's
Muscularity (800-781-3475)
• Methoxy-7, four tablespoons per day (I particularly like it for athletes who need to
compete in weight classes, as it also allows them to lose bodyfat)
• Ribose/creatine combo, four servings per day
• Sufficient protein, two grams per pound of bodyweight (most individuals will need
to use liquid meals to achieve this target)
• Plenty of smart fats like CLA and fish oils
• Certain forms of tocotrienols in high dosages (they also dramatically reduce
• Various herbal preparations (this goes beyond the scope of this column, I enlist the
help of a naturopath trained in herbology)
I'm not suggesting that you take all of the previous compounds at once. But I do
recommend that you experiment with some of them, either alone or in combination, and
find what works best for you.
Q: What do you think of "jump squats"? If you like them, how would you recommend
incorporating them into a program?
A: They're excellent for improving vertical-jump ability and shortening the "stance
phase" in sprinting (the time you make contact with the ground; the shorter it is, the faster
you're running).
The problem most people experience with this exercise is that they use loads that far
exceed their stretch-shortening cycle capabilities. In other words, they spend way too
much time on the ground, which negates the positive transfer of this exercise. Obviously,
you can't load a bank vault on your back and expect to spring up with any degree of
explosive power.
Studies on various track and field groups would tend to suggest that an athlete never use
more than 40% of his or her best power snatch for this exercise. I normally use five to ten
sets of six to ten reps on this exercise. The ground contact time has to be kept to a
minimum. If the weight you're using doesn't allow you to immediately explode back up,
your vertical jump is doomed to stay in the modest range. You'll be able to leap over any
two-by-fours that bar your way with amazing deftness, but not much beyond that.
Q: Hey, Charles, I want traps like WCW wrestler Goldberg. I've never heard of a "trap
specialization" program. Should I just do lots of shrugs and upright rows, or is there
something better? Thanks for the advice! Think you could kick Goldberg's ass, shorty?
A: Yes, you can do a specialized trap routine. This muscle normally has a very rapid
growth response, so much so that if you can't grow traps, you're truly destined for
Submission fighters use plenty of trap work to improve their specific skills. Ultimate
Fighting championship winner Ken Shamrock has a set of traps that most pro
bodybuilders would envy.
Powerlifters get their trap development from years of deadlifting while the Olympic
lifters get them simply from the Olympic lifts and their derivatives. In fact, British
powerlifter and World Record Holder Vanessa Gibson has trap development that makes
Goldberg look cachectic. Her breasts are nicer, too, but that's beside the point.
I'd rank the power snatch as the top trap builder. Then, power cleans and the different
forms of shrugs. Here's a good 12- workout trap cycle that should pack the meat on:
Workouts 1-6 (Working traps every fifth day)
A) Power snatch from mid-thigh
• Five sets of five to six reps on a 10X0 tempo, resting for three minutes between sets.
Editor's note: The numbers in the tempo refer to how many seconds it should take you to
do the rep, with the first number referring to the lowering portion of the rep and the
second number referring to the pause, if any, between lowering and lifting. The third
number denotes how long it should take you to lift the weight (an "X" denoting explosive
speed) while the last number is the interim between lifting and lowering, if any.
B) Trap tri-set
• Seated dumbbell shrugs, three sets of six to eight reps on a 2022 tempo
• Rest for ten seconds
• Standing barbell shrugs, three sets of 10-12 reps on a 1110 tempo (note a pause at
the top of the movement)
• Rest for ten seconds
• Upright cable rows, three sets of 12-15 reps on a 2010 tempo
• Rest for two minutes
• Repeat all steps two more times
Workouts 7-12
A) Power cleans from blocks
• Ten sets of two to three reps on a 10X0 tempo, resting for three minutes between
B) Single-arm dumbbell shrugs
• Five sets of six to eight reps on a 2011 tempo, resting for three minutes between sets
(single-arm shrugs allows for a greater range of motion)
Supplemental neck work is also indicated if you want to further thicken the neck.
Regarding kicking Goldberg's ass, I don't mind fighting out of my weight class, but
fighting out of my species is a completely different story.
Q: Could you give us some general guidelines as to how an athlete should train in-season
as opposed to off-season? I know that can get complicated and can be sport-specific, but
are there any "rules of thumb" to use as guidelines?
A: Here are some rules of thumb regarding in-season strength training: there's no need for
so-called specific work. You're already doing plenty of that on the field, or on the ice. I
know of one team who chose to do "sport-specific training" during the season. Eleven out
of fourteen athletes developed patellar tendonitis in a short amount of time.
It takes very little work to maintain strength, particularly if the sport itself offers a lot of
external resistance. For example, we found with our alpine ski team that training quads
once every 21 days was sufficient to keep 90% of the previously acquired gains in the socalled off-season.
I feel that an athlete should be more interested in staying as healthy as possible in the off
season. Again, using an alpine skiing example, we found that training the hamstrings
once every five to seven days was critical in keeping down the incidence of knee injuries.
My general guidelines include the following: Losing muscle mass precipitates maximal
strength losses. Therefore, adequate attention should be given to preserving as much
muscle mass as possible. This is best accomplished by doing one to two sets of six to ten
RM every seven to ten days. The workouts should be very short, i.e. 20-40 minutes.
An approach that works well for maintenance is the "one exercise, post-technical session"
approach. Judokas and submission fighters use it with great results. For example, on
Monday after mat practice, they may do sets of chins. On Tuesdays they'll squat.
Wednesdays are devoted to incline presses. Thursday is Miller time. You get the picture.
On average, they'll knock off to to five sets of the exercise of the day.
Additionally, the more muscle one has, the easier it is to maintain maximal strength.
Therefore, smaller individuals may need to strength train more often during the
competitive period. For example, Chris Pronger of the St. Louis Blues, one of the top
defensemen in the league (albeit a smaller individual), has a very strict training regimen
during the season, and yet he plays up to 40 minutes a game. By contrast, Jim McKenzie
of the Washington Capitals and Rich Pilon of the New York Rangers, both very muscular
individuals, get by with little in-season work.
Q: Okay, fine, squats are the king of leg exercises. The problem is that I'm bored of
squatting. Could you give me a quad-dominant exercise to break the monotony that's,
well, almost as good as the squat?
A: Sorry, but I'm sure that my colleagues Al Vermeil and Ian King will agree with this
statement: there are no substitutes for the squat. The squat exercise not only recruits a
great deal of motor units, but it also generates an unequaled hormonal response which
puts you into anabolic drive. And it allows you to get close to the floor to see if there are
any dust bunnies under the squat rack. No amount of leg presses or lunges can substitute
for the back squat.
The closest alternative would be the trap bar deadlift, performed on the podium. This
exercise can provide a welcome break from the squat. If you're going to do more than
three reps per set, however, then I'd recommend you use straps so that your isometricstrength endurance does not become a limiting factor in applying overload on those
muscles. Make sure to keep the upper arms relaxed throughout the exercise and to initiate
the movement by driving with the legs, not the lower back.
After a three-week cycle on this form of deadlift, you can return to the squat with
renewed interest, and most likely set yourself up to achieve new PR levels in a short time.
You can add spice to your squat life (in addition to more weight) by employing devices
like the eccentric hooks called Power Recruits (call 814-378-7108) and the Full-Speed
And, if you're still bored, try this method. The next time you squat, and you're coming up
from the bottom position, pause three times for eight seconds each time during the
concentric range of your last repetition. That'll have you cursing me out, for sure.
Q: I've often heard that athletes should perform their lifts standing up when appropriate.
For example, they should always stand when performing overhead presses for shoulders.
One trainer even said:
You fight on your feet and you play sports on your feet, so why would you train sitting
Most guys I know sit down and use some type of back support for shoulder work. Is this
wrong? What if I feel discomfort in the lower back while standings and lifting?
A: The problem with sit-down work is that you're inviting trouble by eliminating
structural work for the lower back. To paraphrase Fred Hatfield, sitting down effectively
limits the support and stabilizer requirements of the muscles. In essence, this damages
their abilities to work synergistically and stabilize the body. Compared to machines,
Hatfield says, standing work helps you build a more injury-proof body. He also notes that
standing Olympic lifts teach athletes how to explode, accelerate objects under varying
degrees of resistance, and apply force in the proper sequence. In other words, if you're a
competitive athlete, you'd better be standing up while lifting where appropriate!
I'd also concur with my colleague Charles Staley that bodybuilders could further their
gains by doing some standing platform work. Most bodybuilders would gain some
appreciable muscle mass in the posterior chain and traps with some of the Olympic lift
If you do experience lower-back pain while standing, I recommend you communicate
with a competent health professional to help you deal with the problem causing that
lower back discomfort.
There're also plenty of exercise alternatives for someone with lower back pain. For
example, the Safety Squat Bar is a viable alternative for someone who experiences lower
back pain while doing regular bar squats. This specially designed bar with a padded yoke
makes it easier to get deep enough into the squat position and easier to keep your back
upright while minimizing the stress on the knees and lower back. The design of the bar
provides a lower center of mass for the resistance on the bar, thereby creating less torque
on the lower back vertebrae. To purchase a Safety Squat Bar contact Jesse Hoagland 609989-0211.
Another alternative for leg development is the Gerard Trap Bar. It was invented by Al
Gerard, a powerlifter from North Carolina, who suffered from chronic back problems. To
alleviate pain and lost training days, he invented and patented this special diamondshaped bar which allows you to stand inside of it. This improves balance and eliminates
interference with the legs. In other words, no more bloody shins. It also permits you to
maintain a more upright posture; thus, there's less shearing force exerted on the spine. To
get a Gerard Trap Bar, go to
Q: Do you think acupuncture has any applications for the training of athletes? How does
acupuncture actually work anyway?
A: Yes, acupuncture can definitely be helpful to athletes. I know many world class and
professional athletes who've used acupuncture as an adjunct to their training. Over the
years, I've seen Olympic medallists in weightlifting, track and field, alpine skiing, and ski
jumping use acupuncture to achieve a competitive edge, one that can't be detected by
standard means of doping control.
Acupuncture has been used both as a performance enhancer and in the treatment of
injuries. Normally, acupuncture is used in conjunction with other therapies such as
chiropractic, soft tissue manipulation, herbology and so on. I know of athletes who've
used it successfully in dealing with all of the following:
• Neuralgia (nerve pain)
• Sleep disorders
• Overtraining conditions
• Low androgen/growth hormone production
• Muscle tears (particularly effective here)
• Bursitis (inflammation of the fluid-filled sac beneath the tendons)
• Priapism (a sustained eight hour erection. It's a long story; besides, TC would be
embarrassed if I told the whole world about his little problem.)
As far as performance is concerned, athletes have been known to use acupuncture to help
them get into "the zone." If they're too nervous, certain points are used to calm them and
get them ready to perform. If an athlete is lethargic on competition day, acupuncture can
be used to activate the nervous system and get him or her into the optimal zone for
performance. In fact, at this very moment I have my personal acupuncturist, Wong-Lee,
poking me in the ass repeatedly to keep me in my "meet-the-deadline" zone.
Acupuncture actually works at encouraging the body to promote its natural healing
processes. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat (called moxibustion) or
electrical stimulation at very precisely selected acupuncture points. There're two ways I
can explain how it works. First, the classical Chinese explanation:
Channels of energy, also known as meridians, run in regular patterns through the body
and over its surface. These channels can be likened to rivers flowing through the body to
irrigate and feed the tissues. Any obstruction in the movement of these "energy rivers"
can be compared to a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in
others. According to acupuncture dogma, any blockages or deficiencies of energy, blood
and neural pulses would eventually contribute to illness. The Chinese also say that
acupuncture balances out the Yin (negative) forces with the Yang (positive) forces. What
the needles are basically doing is clearing or removing the dams that block the flow of
Now the Western explanation: Needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous
system to release chemicals in the muscles and at various points in the central nervous
system. These chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins, either change the pain
threshold or trigger the release of other chemicals that precipitate healing. Instead of
using the Yin and Yang construct, Westerners say that acupuncture balances out the
electric charges at the electron level in the actual cells.
Regardless of the language, acupuncture can be a helpful tool for the athlete.
Q: Outside of milk thistle, do you know of any other herbs that athletes favor for liver
A: Yes, one that's gaining popularity in athletic circles is Picrorhiza kurroa. It's a small
perennial herb that grows in the northwestern part of India, usually on the slopes of the
Himalayas between 3000 and 5000 meters. It's an important herb in the traditional
Ayurvedic system of medicine and has been used to treat liver troubles and bronchial
problems. It's the roots and rhizomes (subterranean stems) of the plant that are used
The herb has shown in experimental settings to protect the liver from a variety of
stressors, everything from toxic mushrooms to Tylenol. It appears to be at least equal,
and in many cases superior, to milk thistle. Besides having strong antioxidant properties,
its liver regenerating effects have been strongly demonstrated.
Picrorhiza kurroa comes in two forms: tincture and capsules of standardized extract, 4%
kuktin. (If you're a real man, however, you'll travel to the Himalayas and pick the herb
yourself, as I used to do thrice yearly. Unfortunately, I was mistaken for a Yeti and shot
in the chest, the bullet just grazing my heart. Perhaps you've heard of my past heart
surgery? Well, now you know the whole story.)
The normal dose prescribed sits between 400 to 1500 mg. Many athletes report increased
energy levels and gains in lean body mass after five days of use. This is probably due
improved IGF-1 levels.
Q: I'm a pro-volleyball player in Italy during the winter months and very much enjoy
your articles. I've had multiple ankle injuries due to my sport. I love to squat, but can't
seem to be able to get in the proper position that you describe in your articles. Any
A: First, you may want to address correcting the soft tissue adhesions that restrict your
ankle motion. I personally saw Rich Pilon when he was with the New York Islanders get
instant and permanent flexibility gains on the ankle retinaculum after being treated by Dr.
Mike Leahy with Active Release Technique. The team trainer's eyes practically came out
of their sockets when he saw Dr. Leahy solve the problem easily in less than a minute.
The befuddled trainer muttered in disbelief, "I've been treating him on that for the last
four months!" To contact an ART provider in your area, call 1-719-473-7000.
Until you get the soft-tissue released, you can still squat using a Super-Squat Harness.
This device is particularly appropriate for athletes with long femurs and tight ankles like
your typical volleyball or basketball player. To purchase a Super Squat Harness click
here. The harness is very affordable and can be carried in your gym bag.