Monday, October 19, 2009

Scott Abel interview

     Most of my posts are not links to other articles, but occasionally I come across an article that is so good—whether it's bodybuilding or Spirituality—that I have to post a link.
     The following is the latest interview from T-Muscle (formerly T-Nation; see link to the right) with bodybuilding trainer Scott Abel.  If you're interested in solely building muscle—as opposed to strength and power—then Abel is definitely your man.
     There are some really good "gems" in this article.
     Here it is:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why Do You Train?

     Do you have a passion in life?  If you do, why do you do it?  What drives you to excel at it?  What drives you to continue at it?
     What drives you to do it?
     I have a passion for lifting weights.  I have a passion for working out.  I have a passion for reading.  I have a passion for traditional martial arts—the kind that can take you from gross to subtle to Causal.  I have a passion for True Spirituality—the kind of spirituality (hence the capital "T" and "S") that transcends common, everyday run-of-the mill spirituality; the kind that transcends spiritual materialism in all of its maddening forms.  (And sometimes I even have a passion for writing.)
     And, yes, sometimes I have a passion for things that I shouldn't necessarily have a passion for—women and beer; drugs, even, at one time in my life.  (By the way, there isn't necessarily anything wrong with any of these three things—or other things often thought of as "wrong"—don't read more into what I am saying than what is on this printed page.)
     So, the question remains: Why do you train?

     Interlude: For the sake of keeping this piece short, I am going to stick with training—specifically training with weights.  (At least, for the most part; I have been known to ramble, to let whatever comes up—especially if that "whatever" is Spirit—lead me where It wants to lead.)
     You can apply something other than lifting weights if it fits your particular personality.

     If you are expecting some high-flung, self-help style of answer, then you're going to be sadly mistaken.  I—by the way—can't stand all of the "self-help, guru" crap that masquerades in some form of spiritual guise.  In other words, if you think crud like "The Secret" is spiritual—or is in any other way helpful to this world we live in, to the further development of the evolution of human consciousness—then you might as well find some other blog at this point.  (This one ain't for you, buddy.)
     The answer is really short to the question posed here.  Two sentences should suffice.  (I will probably expound a little bit on these two sentences, of course, but if you want to stop at the next two sentences, feel free to do so—they're all you really need, especially if you get them right off the bat.)
     Here they are:
     I train just to train.
     I train because it is what I am.
     If you train for any other reason, then you're doing it for the wrong reason.  You got that right; please don't misunderstand me here.
     If you are training to look better in order to pick up women—or women, to pick up men—you're training for the wrong reason.
     If you're training in order to break records, win powerlifting meets—maybe be the flat-out strongest sumbitch walking around the gym—then you're training for the wrong reason.
     If you're training just to look better (without all the picking up women stuff), you're still training for the wrong reason.
     If you're training just to be stronger, you're training for the wrong reason.
     And, yes, if you're training in order to feel better, you're training for the wrong reason.
     Don't get me wrong about this, either—there's nothing wrong about getting stronger, looking better, feeling better.  I competed in powerlifting meets for years, and when I entered a meet, I planned on damn-well winning the thing.  But these things are only by-products of your training—they should never be the reason you train in the first place.
     You must train just to train.
     You must train because it is what you are.
     I have no choice but to lift weights, to train my body, push it to its limits.  I have no choice because training is what I am.  I couldn't be otherwise even if I tried.  (Now, this doesn't even mean that you necessarily have to enjoy training.  You can train just to train without ever enjoying it.)

     And so the question must be asked once again:  Why do you train?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bodyweight Training

     In the last several weeks, I have received a few e-mails from lifters wanting to know what kind of routine they should follow if they have limited equipment.  As in very limited equipment; as in just a pair of dumbbells, or as in just—well—nothing but their bodyweight to be honest.  And I don't think these guys expected much of a response from me, especially when you consider some of the ultra-heavy workout programs I've advocated in the past.
     Little did these lifters know that I actually had some routines which could really help them.  In fact, I'm going to give you—if you'll just be patient for a moment—a couple routines that require little more than just your own bodyweight.
     But first a little detour (and a confession to make)...

     About a year ago, my wife (of 12 years) and I separated.  Now, apart from the usual angst such a thing can bring about, it was also upsetting because I had a whole slew of weight equipment at our house.  In fact, our entire garage I had turned into a gym: squat rack, bench press, deadlift platform, 1,200 pounds of weights—and all that just for starters.
     When I moved out, the only thing I took with me (as far as weight equipment goes) was a pair of dumbbells.
     I had plans to occasionally go over to our (now her) house and lift weights.  (We got along well enough.)  However, I knew that most of the time I would just be lifting solo at my apartment with nothing but my dumbbells.  And—in time—it got to where I would do mainly bodyweight-only training.
     And I—considering the kind of workouts I had performed in the past—was certain that I would lose at least some degree of muscle mass.
     Imagine how surprised I was when, six months or so later, not only had I not lost any muscle mass, I was now bigger than I had been in a long time.
     My separation from my wife turned out to be a blessing in disguise (at least as far as building muscle mass went).  Not only did I gain muscle mass with my limited equipment workouts, they also allowed me to train pain-free.  (Due to a surgery I'd had a couple years ago, pain-free workouts had been a real rarity for some time.)

     First, here are the rules you need to follow if you plan on performing limited equipment workouts or bodyweight-only strength training:
Rule #1: You must train frequently.  And when I say frequent, I mean it.  Two, three, or even four days per week will not cut it.  Not one friggin' bit.  You must train five to six days each week.
Rule #2: You must train each bodypart frequently.  In other words, if you train five to six days a week, you can't do any of this one-bodypart-per-workout crap.  You need to be training your whole body, or performing upper/lower splits.
Rule #3: Volume Rules!!! A couple of sets per bodypart isn't going to cut it, either.  You need lots of volume.
Rule #4: Plenty of Reps.  And I mean plenty!  Unlike other workouts I've recommended in the past, you have got to do some high-rep training here.  As you'll see from the workouts below, 100 reps per bodypart will be a minimum.

     Now, on to the actual workout programs:

Workout #1: The Waterbury 100-Rep Workout
     This is one I got from Chad Waterbury (which he wrote about not that long ago on the T-Muscle website).  It's really simple.
     This is an upper-body specialization program for those of you who just want to look good with your shirt off.  It requires only two exercises.  (Like I said, it's simple, but that doesn't meant that it's going to be easy.)
     For six days per week—for the next 30 days—you are going to perform 100 reps of push-ups and 50 reps of chin-ups each day.  It doesn't matter how many sets it takes to get the reps, or how many times you train throughout the day.  In other words, you can do all 100 push-ups and 50 chin-ups in the same workout or you can spread it out over 2 or 3 sessions.
     Just get the required number of reps.
     And don't skip one single day.
     Yes, you may be sore the first week—and by day three of the first week you might be having a hard time getting all of your reps—but your body will adapt.

Workout #2: The Upper/Lower Split
     This one might be even simpler.  And it also requires only 2 exercises.  But it's also highly effective.
     Train six days each week.  (For the sake of this article, we'll assume you're going to take Sundays off—reserve it for plenty of meditation and devotion to Spirit.)
     On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays you will perform 200 reps of push ups.  As with the Waterbury workout, it doesn't matter how many sessions it takes to get all these reps.  It doesn't matter how many sets it takes.  Just make sure that—by the end of the day—you have performed 200 push-ups.
     On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays you will perform 500 reps of squats.  These can be hindu squats, bodyweight-only wide-stance squats, or you can use a light pair of dumbbells.
     As with the push-ups, it doesn't matter how long it takes you, or how many sessions, just make sure you get 500 reps.
     Perform this program for the next 30 days.  And get better results in those 30 days than you have in any other 30 days of training before that time.

     If you want to—once you have adapted to these programs as they are written—start adding abdominal work and extra dumbbell work.  You could start adding several sets of dumbbells, some walking lunges, some calf raises, or whatever it is that you need to improve.

     And one more rule—we'll make it the official rule #5: Once you have adjusted to the amount of volume in the above workouts, make sure you add more.  Trust me, once you have reached the point where you can do several-hundred push-ups each day for six days a week, your lack-of-upper body gains will be a thing of the forgotten past!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

In Praise of High-Sets, Low-Reps

     This week, it seems that I've received an inordinate number of e-mails.  Most of them have been related to questions regarding my latest article at Mike Mahler's website.  (If you haven't read that article—see the post a couple below this one—be sure to do so; and make sure that you check out Mike's site.  He's got a lot of good stuff there.)  I've been too busy to answer all of them—but I'll be sure to do so by the end of the weekend (hopefully).
     Anyway, I received an e-mail earlier today asking me what the single greatest "approach" is for building muscle mass.  In other words, what kind of workout program seems to elicit the best gains in both building muscle mass and garnering strength gains.  I started to answer with one of the more popular lines from strength coaches (and one of the most redundant):  "The best workout program is the one you're not doing."
     Then I decided that was a bit of a cop-out.
     Truth is, I do have a favorite approach.  And that's the high-set, low-rep approach.  I'm talking 10 to 20 sets of anywhere between 1 and 5 reps.  Pick one or two exercises at each workout.  I also like to pair an upper body pulling movement with a lower body pushing movement on one day, then an upper body pushing movement with a lower body pulling movement on another day, then have a day reserved for arm training, calf training, ab training—you know, the small stuff.  I find this is about as good as it gets.
     Here's what a good workout might look like:
Day One
Squats: 15 sets of 3 reps
Wide-Grip Chins: 20 sets of 3 reps
Day Two
Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses: 20 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts: 15 sets of 2 reps
Day Three
Off
Day Four
Barbell Curls: 20 sets of 3 reps
Skullcrushers: 15 sets of 5 reps
Ab Wheel: 20 sets of 5 to 10 reps (Okay, I know that the reps are a little bit higher here, but that's for those of you who are conditioned enough to handle it.)
Day Five
Off
Day Six
Repeat with a different 5-day cycle of exercises

     Simple, but highly effective stuff.