10 things I learned from some of today’s best experts
The best part of my job is getting to know and even work with some of the top minds in training. When you are truly passionate about building muscle and getting stronger this is a dream come true. I sometimes must pinch myself to be sure that it’s happening, that I really have access to these amazing coaches!
To share the wealth here are some great things I’ve learned from 10 of the best in the business. Hope you enjoy it!
Charles Poliquin – The importance of varying tempo
I seriously doubt that anybody in the strength training community has accumulated more knowledge, either from practical experience or theoretical learning, than Charles Poliquin. He is my original mentor, the guy from whom I learned the most. I’ve been learning from him for 20 years! As such, you will understand how hard it is for me to pick one specific lesson I learned from him.
I think that the most important thing I learned from Charles is that importance of using many types of tempos and contraction types. Prior to learning from him, I came from a strictly performance background. At first training for football and then for Olympic lifting. I learned to always accelerate the weight as much as possible. Force = mass x acceleration. To me lifting a weight with anything less than the intent to be explosive was a waste of time. I did understand the value of controlling the eccentric portion of the lift, but again, I never really emphasized it.
Charles thought me that how you perform each repetition is at least as important as how many repetitions you do and how much weight you are using. Because the style of repetition you use plays a huge role in the type of adaptations you will stimulate.
For example, it is true that trying to accelerate the weight as much as possible is the best way to maximize force production (F=ma). And when trying to build explosiveness it is likely the best way to do your reps on the big compound lifts once you have achieved a high level of technical mastery. But that type of contraction comes with its limitations. First it is true that the peak force. But that doesn’t mean that you are producing maximum force over the full range of motion. When you try to be violently explosive with the weight you are creating a burst of acceleration and speed at first. This creates momentum. And momentum decreases the need to produce maximum (it’s easier to keep a load moving on its own momentum than to get it moving when it is not accelerating).
The more momentum (through high acceleration) you can produce at the beginning of the movement the more likely you are to reduce force production and muscle contraction over the rest of the range of motion. So, by doing maximum acceleration reps you are indeed improving your capacity to create a lot of force, but you might not maximally strengthen the full range of motion.
So even if your goal is maximum strength and performance, there is value in using concentric actions where you do not try to create acceleration. For example, pressing the weight in 2 or 3 seconds in the bench press will make you have to use intense muscle contraction at every point in the range of motion, leading to a more complete strength gain. At first you might not be able to use as much weight, but the muscles are working harder and getting more stimulation because maximum tension is produced over a fuller range of motion.
Another benefit of a more controlled, slower concentric movement is that it allows you to better focus on contracting/flexing the target muscle as hard as possible. This increases muscle recruitment and over time develops better mind-muscle connection, which is an essential skill when it comes to maximizing growth.
Slow and even very slow eccentrics are paramount when it comes to building size and even strength and power.
For size, accentuating the eccentric (going slow while tensing the target muscle as hard as possible) is the type of muscle action that has the greatest impact on mTor activation. This is an essential step; toward maximizing protein synthesis and muscle growth. This is the main reason why accentuating the eccentric will lead to more muscle growth. Of course, a slower eccentric also leads to more muscle fatigue, which is another form of growth stimulus.
For strength and performance, it’s simple: the eccentric strength represents your potential strength improvement: the higher your eccentric strength is, the higher is your potential to increase concentric strength. Another benefit is that accentuating the eccentric action is one of the best ways to strengthen the tendons. Thicker and stronger tendons can store more potential energy during the stretch reflex and this can greatly increase strength and power. For performance, it is also important to note that the stronger you are eccentrically, the faster you can switch from eccentric to concentric. When sprinting this means that you will be able to switch from absorbing your body weight when you step on the ground to propelling yourself forward. This means running faster. It also means that you will be more efficient when changing directions.
The lesson here is that for full development it is important to use many different types of muscle contractions in your training plan.
If you want to learn more from Coach Poliquin visit his website.
John Meadows – It’s all about the mind-muscle connection
John is well known for his inventiveness when it comes to exercises. He likes to tinker and modify common movements, sometimes even using pieces of equipment meant for completely different drills.
He doesn’t do it because he wants to look cool (most people who “invent” exercises and post them in social medias are doing it only to hook people in) but rather because he is a mind-muscle connection savant.
John understand that when it comes to hypertrophy for bodybuilding the most important thing is getting a strong contraction in the target muscle group. It’s not about moving the weight from point A to point B but it’s all about loading the intended muscles as much as possible. Think of it as flexing a muscle against resistance.
And John is on his own superior level when it comes to feeling a muscle working during an exercise. Because of that skill he can feel the slightest difference in the quality of the contraction of a muscle during an exercise. This is what allows him to come up with so many effective exercise variation whereas so many people simply invent movement that don’t do much.
The lesson here is not to try to invent new exercise to be like John. But rather to focus on the three “F” when focusing on building muscle mass: feeling, flexing and fatiguing the proper muscle. This means that the weight used is only a tool, not an objective. Use the weight that allows you to feel the target muscle doing the work. It also means that if you don’t feel an exercise, even if in theory it is the best option for that muscle, drop it.
I encourage you to visit his website.
John Rusin – No mandatory exercises, only mandatory movement patterns
I’ve been lucky enough to give seminars alongside Dr. Rusin and I learned so many things that I’s hard for me to pick just one. So, I’ll go with the one that was the biggest departure from my own original belief.
Dr. Rusin explains that there is no such thing as a mandatory exercise, one that you must do in your programs. Rather there are mandatory movement patterns.
What’s the difference?
A movement pattern is a general action that is fundamental to the proper functioning of the body. When it comes to lifting Dr. Rusin mentions:
- Squatting pattern
- Hip hinge pattern
- Pressing pattern
- Pulling pattern
- Lunging/single leg pattern
- Carrying pattern
Note that pressing and pulling could themselves be divided into horizontal and vertical pressing/pulling.
Exercises are drills that can be done to overload those basic movement patterns to make them stronger.
- Low bar back squat
- High bar back squat
- Front squat
- Frankenstein squat
- Goblet squat
- Lumberjack squat
- High box squat
- Low box squat
- High box front squat
- Low box front squat
- Safety bar squat
- Safety bar box squat
- Dumbbell squat (DBs by your side)
- Dumbbell squat (DBs on your shoulders)
- Overhead squat
- Overhead squat with dumbbells
- Trap bar squat (like a deadlift but with more of a squat pattern instead of a hinge)
- Barbell hack squat
- And of course, these can be done with various stances.
Hip hinge pattern
- KB swing
- Romanian deadlift
- Romanian deadlift with dumbbells
- Goodmorning from pins
- Conventional deadlift (note that the Sumo deadlift is more of an hybrid that a true hip hinge)
- Power clean (hang, floor, blocks)
- Power snatch (hang, floor, blocks)
- Single-leg RDL with one dumbbell
- Single-leg RDL with two dumbbells
- Single-leg RDL with a barbell
- Single-leg goodmorning with a barbell
- Suitcase deadlift with barbell
- Suitcase deadlift with dumbbell
- Deadlift from pins
- Pressing pattern (horizontal)
- Bench press
- DB bench press pronated
- DB bench press neutral grip
- Close-grip bench press
- Reverse-grip bench press
- Low incline (15-30 degrees) bench press
- Low incline close-grip bench press
- Low-incline DB press pronated
- Low-incline DB press neutral
- Floor press
- Bench press from pins (various positions)
- Close-grip bench press from pins (various positions)
- Trap bar bench press
- Trap bar floor press
- Football/Swiss bar bench press
- Football/Swiss bar floor press
- Football/Swiss bar from pins (various positions)
- Decline bench press
- Decline close-grip bench press
- Decline DB press pronated
- Decline DB press neutral grip
- Board press (1. 2. 3, 4 boards)
- Close-grip board press (1,2,3,4 boards)
- Pressing (vertical)
- High incline (45-75 degrees) press
- Behind the neck press
- Standing DB press pronated grip
- Standing DB press neutral grip
- Standing single arm DB press pronated
- Standing single arm DB press neutral
- Standing see-saw DB press (alternating arms)
- Push press
- Seated shoulder press
- Seated DB shoulder press pronated grip
- Seated DB shoulder press neutral grip
- Seated single arm DB press pronated
- Seated single arm DB press neutral
- Seated see-saw DB press (alternating arms)
- Half-kneeling single arm DB press pronated
- Half-kneeling single arm DB press neutral
- Z-press (barbell overhead press, seated on the floor with extended legs)
- Dumbbell Z-press pronated
- Dumbbell Z-press neutral
- Dumbbell single-arm Z-press pronated
- Dumbbell single-arm Z-press neutral
- Dumbbell see-saw Z-press
- Strip the rack shoulder press
- Strip the rack reverse grip shoulder press
- Strip the rack behind the neck press
- Strip the rack Z-press
- Trap bar shoulder press
- Shoulder press from pins (various positions)
- Bent over barbell row pronated
- Bent over barbell row supinated
- Bent over football/Swiss bar row
- Bent over DB row pronated
- Bent over DB row supinated
- Bent over DB row neutral grip
- Bent over single-arm DB row pronated
- Bent over single-arm DB row supinated
- Bent over single-arm DB row neutral
- Bent over see-saw DB row
- Knee on bench single-arm row (lawnmower) pronated
- Knee on bench single-arm row (lawnmower) supinated
- Knee on bench single-arm row (lawnmower) neutral
- Seal row pronated
- Seal row supinated
- Seal row neutral grip
- DB incline chest supported row pronated
- DB incline chest supported row supinated
- DB incline chest supported row neutral
- Seated cable row pronated
- Seated cable row supinated
- Seated cable row neutral grip
- Low pulley bent over row pronated
- Low pulley bent over row supinated
- Low pulley bent over row neutral grip
- Horizontal row/fat man pull-ups
- Ring/TRX row
- Active hang pronated
- Active hang supinated
- Active hang neutral
- Active hang rings
- Pull-up supinated
- Pull-up pronated
- Pull-up neutral
- Eccentric-only pull-up supinated
- Eccentric-only pull-up pronated
- Eccentric-only pull-up neutral
- Lat pulldown in front pronated (wide, medium, narrow grip)
- Lat pulldown in front supinated (shoulder width, narrow grip)
- Lat pulldown in front neutral grip (wide, medium, narrow grip)
- Lat pulldown behind the neck pronated (wide, medium grip)
- Lat pulldown behind the neck neutral (wide grip)
- Single-arm lat pulldown neutral grip
- Single-arm lat pulldown supinated grip
Lunging/single leg pattern
- Dumbbell split squat
- Barbell split squat
- Front rack barbell split squat
- Single dumbbell split squat
- Overhead split squat
- Dumbbell overhead split squat
- Single dumbbell overhead split squat
- Dumbbell split squat back foot elevated
- Barbell split squat back foot elevated
- Front rack barbell split squat back foot elevated
- Single dumbbell split squat back foot elevated
- Overhead split squat back foot elevated
- Dumbbell overhead split squat back foot elevated
- Single dumbbell overhead split squat back foot elevated
- Dumbbell split squat front foot elevated
- Barbell split squat front foot elevated
- Front rack barbell split squat front foot elevated
- Single dumbbell split squat front foot elevated
- Overhead split squat front foot elevated
- Dumbbell overhead split squat front foot elevated
- Single dumbbell overhead split squat front foot elevated
- Dumbbell dynamic forward lunges
- Barbell dynamic forward lunges
- Front rack barbell dynamic forward lunges
- Trap back dynamic forward lunges
- Dumbbell dynamic reverse lunges
- Barbell dynamic reverse lunges
- Front rack barbell dynamic reverse lunges
- Trap back dynamic reverse lunges
- Dumbbell forward walking lunges
- Barbell forward walking lunges
- Front rack barbell forward walking lunges
- Trap back forward walking lunges
- Dumbbell backwards walking lunges
- Barbell backwards walking lunges
- Front rack barbell backwards walking lunges
- Trap back backwards walking lunges
- Overhead barbell forward walking lunges
- Overhead dumbbell forward walking lunges
- Overhead barbell backwards walking lunges
- Overhead dumbbell backwards walking lunges
- Dumbbell Step-up (front)
- Single DB step-up (front
- Barbell Step-up (front)
- Front rack barbell step-up (front)
- Dumbbell Step-up (sideways)
- Single DB step-up (sideways)
- Barbell Step-up (sideways)
- Front rack barbell step-up (sideways)
- Reverse-Froward lunges combo
- Dumbbell farmer’s walk
- Trap bar famer’s walk
- Farmer’s walk with specific implements
- Single dumbbell farmer’s walk
- Single farmer implements farmer’s walk
- Overhead barbell walk
- Overhead dumbbell walk
- Single arm overhead dumbbell walk
- Searcher carry walk (barbell)
- Zecher carry walk (log)
- searcher carry walk (sandbag)
Not everybody is capable to doing every exercise optimally, either due to physical limitations, bad levers, etc. What is important is to train these basic movement patterns and become stronger at them. To do so it is perfectly fine to pick the exercise that suits your body, level of development and skill level.
You can learn more from Dr. Rusin here.
Bryan Krahn – When you get older focus on better, not bigger
Bryan is a true example for anybody who wants to look awesome past 40. If you are over 40 and want to look formidable, Bryan is your go-to guy!
He once said something very smart about training. He mentioned that when you get older (for some it might be once they get past 40, others 45 or even 50 depending on genetics and lifestyle) it becomes much harder to gain a lot of muscle. And it might be counterproductive to try to do. I’ve seen many older guys desperately wanting to keep playing the size game and as a result end up gaining a lot of fat in the process. But it is a fact of life that getting leaner is harder and harder as you become older. Not to mention that the abuse of significant weight fluctuations might cause more health problems than with the younger crowd.
That’s not to say that you can’t improve as you get older. But as Bryan said, you might need to change your mindset a bit: instead of trying to hang with the young guns when it comes to size and strength, you should focus on getting leaner while fine tuning your body.
Let’s be honest. I’d like to tell you that you will be able to keep piling on muscle forever. But if you are natural (or on TRT doses) it will simply not be possible. Bryan mentioned that after 40 he accepts losing 1lbs per year. Meaning that he is fine with a very slow body weight reduction in similar levels of leanness. That doesn’t necessarily mean muscle loss, but certainly it means that the years of serious gains are over.
It’s hard to accept. But it’s a fact (unless you decide to play the chemical game). And desperately trying to get the scale to go up a lot can only lead to trouble.
I’ll give my own example. My heaviest “in shape” weight was 228lbs. When I say in shape I do not mean “contest condition” but a good degree of leanness; probably around 9-10% body fat. That was about 10 years or so ago. Two years ago, I decided to “get big” again and by eating a ton I could get back up to 228. But that “new” 228 was sloppy and I needed to diet down for 8 weeks to get back down to an acceptable (for me) body fat level. And I ended up being 215lbs. I can safely say that my years of being 225-228lbs in good shape are over. But as I’m preparing for a photoshoot I’m finding myself leaner and I love what I see. I might only be 200lbs come the photoshoot, but what I lost in size I more than made up in quality. As a benefit, I’m feeling better than ever and my latest bloodwork have shown that I’m at my healthiest since 2012!
And while you won’t be able to add a lot of muscle mass. You can still make small improvements that can make a significant visual difference. I have this theory that we all have our own genetic potential for how much overall muscle mass we can carry. Once we have achieved that maximum the only way we can make visual changes is to lose “some” muscle in some places which will give us some “room” to grow elsewhere. That’s what I mean by improving quality: find a way to build a better, more balanced and aesthetic body.
For example, last year I did a photoshoot for my website. I was 202 in pretty darn good shape. This year I should be 198-200lbs but leaner. I didn’t gain a significant amount of muscle. But my deltoids and arms are a bit better whereas my hamstrings and lower back are a bit smaller (and I’m okay with that, it’s a decision that I made). And the overall look will be better.
The lesson here is that at one point you should stop focusing on getting the “big numbers” to go up (bodyweight, amount of weight lifted) but rather on improving quality: getting leaner and having a more aesthetic and balanced physique.
Bryan has tons of cool article about training after 40 on his website.
Charles Staley – Never stop going at it
Charles has been a high-level coach for longer than most of us in this field have been training. I remember when I was 18 and was trying to learn everything about the science of training my three sources of information were Charles Staley (back then through his website called Myodynamics), Fred Hatfield (drsquat.com) and Charles Poliquin (who was with T-nation back then). I studied these three guys for years and I’m proud to say that I am what I am today because of these three guys.
Charles Staley is a special inspiration because at 58 years of age he looks better than he ever did; he is leaner and more muscular and he performs also at a higher level. But more importantly he is still learning and tinkering. Think about that for a moment: 22 years ago, he was one of my main inspirations. And at the time he already had been an “expert” for a while. Yet he is still looking to better himself.
Charles is who everybody in this field should emulate. He is still battling hard to improve himself and still pursuing knowledge with the same passion he always had.
To me this is highly motivating because the two things that scare me the most (training related) are:
- Losing my physique and capacities
- Losing my passion for training
And Charles provides me the reassurance than we can stay 18 years old kids eager to learn more forever!
If Bryan Krahn is the go-to guy for those wanting to look awesome past 40, Charles Staley is the man when for those who want to keep performing at a high level even in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
I highly recommend that you visit his website.
Lee Boyce – who cares what you lift next week?
Lee Boyce says a lot of smart thing. It is my belief that more people should listen to him as he is often the voice of reason. One thing that he said struck a chord with me and made me change the way I approach training.
He wrote “if you are planning to train your whole life, what does it matter how much you will lift in 6 weeks?”.
For some reason, it really hit me. Because I lived a lot of my training life with the mindset of lifting the most weight that I could at every single session. I would routinely work up to a 1 or 2RM several times a week. This was inherited from my time as an Olympic lifter and I carried on with it when I switched to “regular” strength training/muscle building.
I can’t say that it didn’t work. It did to some extent. After all I did post some decent numbers with a 445lbs bench press, a 600lbs squat, 600lbs deadlift, 475lbs front squat, 275lbs military press and 315 x 5 push press. But you know what? It messed me up both physically and psychologically/neurologically.
I developed a nagging shoulder issue that took years to begin to solve. It led to issues with my right elbow which still can’t fully extend. For years, I had bad patellar tendonitis that prevented me from engaging in serious lower body training.
But the biggest issue was mentally. I felt drained all the time. I was an asshole to my wife because I was so unhappy and burned out constantly. I neglected other aspects of my life because I didn’t want to get tired and not be able to push heavy the next day. My training style became push as hard as you can until you break and are forced to rest for a week or two then go hard again. The one part I failed to mention is that I was depressed all the time and didn’t enjoy one minute of it.
Lee’s message was a wake-up call. And recently he posted something even more important on his twitter account. He said: “One of the hardest realities you’ll ever have to face as a lifter is the fact that no one cares about your maxes”. And he is 100% correct. Sure, you might get a lot of likes and maybe some words of congrats on social media, but really, nobody cares. And when you walk around town, in clubs, at the beach, at the supermarket, nobody knows how much you lift. It has absolutely no impact on anything. Unless you are a competitive strength athlete.
Now, if being stronger is something that makes you feel good about yourself then I’m all for it. But if attaining those greater numbers makes you feel like crap most of the time what is it good for?
Do you really need to push your maxes to look good and be healthy? No! While getting stronger is one tool to build a better physique, it is not the only tool. And gaining strength in the form of a higher 1RM might be a good way to build muscle. Isn’t getting stronger for sets of 5, or even 8 also constitutes getting stronger?
A lot of people go in the gym to feel like they are the king of the gym. They use too much weight just to “impress/intimidate or establish alpha status”. If you ask them what they are training for, most of them will answer that they want to become bigger and leaner (bodybuilder kind of look). Yet they are using weight that prevents proper muscle loading and will very likely make their training less effective… all to “impress others”. Let me tell you a secret: nobody cares!
My wife and I train at a commercial gym. I hate to say this, but I look better than everybody there. I’m training for a photoshoot and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a long time. I always see young guys looking at me and then doing the same exercises with more weight but shitty form just to one-up me. “Hey, I can lift more than the big guy”. But you know what? I could easily lift more weight but I would not be able to put the same tension and stimulation on the muscle I want to hit.
And you know what? I don’t care when I see someone playing games and outlift me. In fact, my reaction when that happens is to use less weight, go slower and squeeze more.
I’m not down playing the need to build a decent base of strength. But using more weight for its own sake, at the detriment of proper muscle loading is likely not the best course of action.
Ever since I changed my mindset I’m a much better person. I’m more positive, more social, have more energy and my physique is looking better. I might not bench press 400lbs anymore but I would not trade what I have now for the what I had back then for all the money in world.
Lee Boyce is amazingly insightful and is one of the best for “keeping it real”. I highly recommend that you read more from him at here.
Joel Seedman – Rapid eccentrics-isometrics for performance
Dr. Seedman is the only guy I know who is even more passionate about training methods and contraction types than I am!
When you work with athletes, especially high-level ones, I believe that it is extremely important to train every type of muscle action. Specifically, athletes in general tend to be too weak or inefficient eccentrically and isometrically relative to their concentric strength.
In simpler words athletes are very strong when it comes to lifting weights (overcoming a resistance) but they are relatively weak as far as absorbing (eccentric) and stopping (isometric) an external force.
And in the world of sports being able to overcome a resistance is not enough. In fact, I will go as far as say that being strong at absorbing and stopping an external force is even more important for them as overcoming it.
Think about it. In pretty much every sporting action you must absorb the force and stop it before being able to move it or overcome it: a lineman in football must absorb the charge of his opponent and stop him before being able to move him in the other direction. When you are talking someone it’s all about stopping his progress, even when you run you must first absorb your body weight when your foot hit the floor and stop the downward movement before being able to project yourself up, forward or sideways.
And the fact is that all contraction types use a different muscle recruitment pattern. You can be very strong in one type of action and weak in others if you don’t train them.
In sports, not only do you need to be strong eccentrically and isometrically, you must be efficient in these regimens while going fast. Because that’s what happens on the field.
That is why plyometrics work for athletes: they train the athletes capacity to rapidly absorb force before being able to project themselves explosively.
Dr. Seedman invented a type of exercises that trains that capacity. And in my opinion, it does so better than plyometrics because you can use a lot more different movement patterns, you can easily modulate the load and there is less shock on the joints than with plyos.
He calls it “rapid eccentric-isometrics”. It consists of executing the eccentric/lowering portion of a lift as fast as possible; you try to accelerate the weight down. When you reach the low position, you must abruptly stop the movement, pause for a second then explode back up.
It’s one of these methods that I wish I had invented when I was working with a lot of high level athletes because it is amazingly effective.
One caveat though: it is a very high stress method and as such it cannot be used without proper preparation. To be allowed to do rapid eccentric-isometrics and athlete must:
- Have perfect technique on the exercise being trained. This means not only have great positions but also being able to maximize tension in the whole body as well as very good stability/rigidity.
- Have a good level of eccentric strength acquired through having previously emphasized the eccentric phase (lowering heavy weights slowly under control maximizing tension).
- Have a stable technique under very heavy loads: if you compensate during heavy lifts, you will have the same compensations during rapid eccentric-isometrics.
- Be capable at accelerating weights in the 50-60% range (a la Westside dynamic effort).
We could say that a logical progression would be:
- Master perfect technique and tension on a lift
- Reach a fairly high level of overall strength on a lift
- Emphasize eccentric strength development through a slow eccentric with heavy weights
- Train acceleration on that lift with weights in the 50-60% range lifted with maximum acceleration without any technique degradation
- Rapid eccentric-isometrics
Depending on the level of the athlete each step might take a few weeks or even a few months.
The thing with advanced methods is just that: they are advanced!
And they are also seductive because as athletes (and coaches) we want to use the most powerful methods right off the bat. But an advanced method done when the body is not prepared for it will not work and might lead to injuries or faulty motor habits, all of which are obviously counterproductive.
For those interested in cutting edge training methods and exercises I cannot recommend Dr. Seedman’s website enough. He has more content than all of us combined! You can visit it here.
Paul Carter – Eat a metric ton of veggies
Paul is an amazing person. Not only when it comes to training knowledge but also at being a human being. We see eye to eye on pretty much everything related to training. Which is likely why we wrote a book together! (Maximum Muscle Bible).
Paul is super insightful and everything he says is golden. But I will concentrate on what he said that had the biggest impact on me.
We were in Montreal together and we want to eat at a local restaurant. Paul ordered what was likely the whole kitchen veggies reserve! He went on to say that “he eats a shit ton of veggies”.
How is that relevant? I mean, Paul Carter is the sexiest man on my list yet I’m attributing the least sexy advice to him. After all, didn’t our parents also told us to eat our veggies when we were kids? Hardly ground-breaking advice!
But let me put it into context.
I was the poster child for IIFYM. For those who have been sleeping under a rock, IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) basically mean eating any foods you like as long as you hit your protein, fats and carb s target. In other words, food quality doesn’t matter much. That was ME. I never ate veggies, rarely ate fruits, most of my protein intake came from shakes, protein bars and cold meats. And for carbs I would have highly processed foods or foods with very low nutritional content. And I could build a decent physique nonetheless so I was convinced that it worked.
Until I started to have health issues (kidney, heart). I’m not saying that my nutrition was the reason for my health issues, but it certainly did not help.
Then my physique started to degrade. No matter what I tried, I lost muscle mass, got fatter and weaker.
Then Paul went from “thick” powerlifter to being ripped to shreds 24/7. So, I listened to what he said. And changed my diet. I didn’t have a choice because I had to do a photoshoot for our upcoming book.
During my 8 weeks’ prep for the photoshoot veggies constituted at the very least 60% of my food (volume) intake, if not more. And my protein cake mostly from quality foods. And lo and behold I started progressing and got into the best condition I’d been in since I competed in bodybuilding 15 years earlier! I wasn’t as big because 8 weeks was not long enough to reverse two years of losing muscle, but I did regain some mass.
Then I did something stupid (I tend to do that).
After the shoot, I stopped eating properly. I had many seminars around the world (it’s not a valid excuse, I was just lazy) and went back to my old eating habits. And surprise surprise: I started to degrade again. I stayed the same size but I became softer and looked much worse without a shirt on.
Would you be surprised if I told you that I went back to eating perfectly (again because of a planned photoshoot) and that I started to change immediately? Not only that, if I don’t have my veggies for a day or to. Or if I use protein bars and shake to reach my protein target I look worse the next day. I’m lean enough now to see a day-to-day difference depending on what I eat.
The lesson to learn here is that food quality matters. I likely matter even more than macronutrients ratio when it comes to improving health and the overall way you look. Just because you “think” you can get away with IIFYM doesn’t mean that it is smart to do it.
If you want to learn more about training, nutrition and life in general you must follow Paul on social medias and visit his website here.
Jim Wendler – stay in shape
“Bodo (that was my nickname in high school and college), can you run out to the convenience store to buy some more beer?”.
“Nah man, it’s too far, it will make me lose mass.”
That is an actual conversation that happened in autumn of 1996. I was playing football at the time and that was at a house party after a game.
I sound stupid. And it is. But at the time I really believe that I needed to be as inactive as possible to be able to gain muscle.
And sadly, even though I knew better I still avoided “exerting” myself as much as possible for most of my “career”.
Two things made me change my mind.
The first was Jim Wendler’s own realisation. When he squatted 1000lbs but had trouble walking up a flight of stays and then decided to become athletic again.
The second was training CrossFit athletes who are strong and muscular despite doing a ton of conditioning work.
I think that I avoided conditioning work only because I hate it! And the problem when you are an “expert” is that you can convince yourself of pretty much anything. For a long time, I convinced myself to avoid conditioning work, even walking. But really, it’s because I don’t like it!
Jim’s words made me get off my ass.
I now do cardio at least four mornings per week. I push the prowler as part of my training and go walk my dogs for about an hour each day. I also do my lifting with very short rest intervals. And you know what? The more I do, the better I look and feel
And the better conditioning I have, the more muscle I can build.
See, your body hates you. But it also really likes you. All it cares about is survival. And adding muscle makes it harder to survive because that added tissue is hard to maintain. Not only does it need more nutrients, but it needs to be receive blood flow and oxygen. If your cardiovascular system cannot support additional muscle mass, your body will not allow you to build more muscle because it is a danger for its survival. Of course, anabolic drugs can bypass that. But when you are natural, your cardiovascular efficiency and health can be a limiting factor in how much muscle you can build.
Being better conditioned also allow you to sustain more training volume and recover faster from your sessions.
The lesson here is that even if your main goal is only strength and size, you should devote some time to improving your cardiovascular system. Sprint, push the prowler, do strongman medleys, walk… anything is better than nothing.
Of course, Jim needs no introduction! You can easily find him here.
Dave Tate – Don’t be afraid of being yourself
Dave Tate changed my life and he doesn’t even know it.
Years ago, I read his book “Under the Bar” in which Dave explains his life struggles and talks about his personal demons. Also, how he neglected loved ones just to put more weight on the bar.
You know what? When I read that book, I cried. Yep!
I am like Dave.
I neglected my wife because of training.
I was an asshole to her because I was so drained from too much training that I was impossible to be around.
I screamed at my mother when I was dieting down for a bodybuilding contest because she was not shaving my back properly.
I made my wife stand outside of the apartment while I was having a cheat meal because I was ashamed.
I was anti-social to everybody at the gym because I felt so bad inside.
All of this was due to excessive training and not having my priorities in the right places. You see I have an extreme self-confidence issue. I always hated myself. I was short, ugly, clumsy with girls, socially inept, not particularly good at sports. I didn’t stand out.
It’s that huge self-confidence issue that made me start training. To better myself. And it helped. But it’s also what led to excessive and destructive behavior. Becoming an anti-social asshole. Developed an eating disorder (the binging storied I could tell!), took steroids to look even better. Basically, becoming a lazy bum, neglecting my social life and not doing anything but train and write about training. Lucky for me I could earn a living writing articles and training people. Otherwise I would be pumping gas.
Over the past 5 years I really got to know, understand and accept myself. It was a long process. I don’t believe that someone can change their true nature. But when you understand it, and know what your triggers are you can easily deal with life and get rid of most of your destructive behavior.
I’m now a lot happier. My wife says that I’m a changed man. I’m comfortable with myself. I’m not trying to be something I’m not.
I’m also able to tell people who I really am. During my seminars, I tell everybody about all the mistakes I made, my flaws and how I could face them.
I’m also comfortable saying that I’m Asperger.
The one personally trait that I always admired in others was being true to yourself: never playing a role, always being who you are. I’ve never been able to do that until recently. And Dave’s book was what kicked the door in. And for that I’ll be forever grateful.
If you don’t know already, Dave has kickass website with tons of great articles and awesome equipment and apparel at www.elitefts.com