Thursday, November 18, 2010
Key #2: Use C.A.T. for the Ultimate Repetition
Key #3: Train Heavy and Hard for Your Body Type
Key #4: Use a Relatively High-Volume of Training
Key #5: Stop Most of Your Sets Shy of Momentary Muscular Failure
Key #6: Do Less Early On in Your Workout So You Can Do More Later
Key #7: Get Plenty of Rest
Key #8: Add “Extra” Workouts
Key #9: Take Advantage of Peri-Workout Nutrition
Monday, October 25, 2010
Morphing From Blobby Bodybuilder to Bad Assby Jackson Yee
For 20 years I was obsessed with getting big.
I was a bag of bones when I graduated from high school and didn't even break 100 pounds. I was tired of looking like a skeleton, so I put all my effort into developing as much muscle mass as possible. I was fully dedicated to transferring my skinny five-foot-four frame into a meathead.
With hard work, I was able to gain seventy-five pounds by my mid-twenties. My success was due in part to training at World Gym and Gold's Gym in the early 80's, where I was inspired daily by watching the routines of bodybuilders like Arnold, Franco, Tom Platz, and other greats.
My 20 years of training at these great gyms enabled me to try every bodybuilding technique and method ever invented, even though I never thought of actually entering a bodybuilding competition. I was horrified at the thought of wearing Speedos on stage. Still, bodybuilding training and packing on muscle was my passion.
I continued to do single-body part training into my 30's with some major changes. I pretty much stopped squatting, doing deadlifts, or picking up anything heavy from the ground. My only leg and back work was on machines. Also, I rarely trained my abs. In my mind I was still that skinny runt that couldn't break 100 pounds, so being chiseled wasn't first and foremost in my mind.
Biceps work and lots of benching dominated my workouts. Having big arms and a huge chest was pretty much my focus for a whole decade Having big arms and a huge chest was my identity.
By the time I turned 40, my training had stagnated. I wasn't bored; I still loved going to the gym, but I'd reached a plateau. I stopped getting big and the only thing that was growing was my gut.
I was fat, soft, terribly out of shape and suddenly on hypertension medication. When I finally was ready to face my denial, I knew I had to change. Bodybuilding was my life, but now I knew I'd run my course with this type of training.
I didn't jump into strength and conditioning work immediately. I was too afraid and skeptical of anything other than the old-fashioned bodybuilding split routines. Over time, I experimented and tried out different training protocols. I struggled, but I persevered. The new methods I discovered now define who I am.
The transition from bodybuilder to a conditioning athlete was never easy. I wrote the following tips because I know how isolated your journey is going to be, IF you decide to make the switch.
I made the transformation and can't conceive of ever going back to the way I used to train. With the growing popularity of MMA, the shift is changing from wanting to look big like Arnold to training to look like Georges St. Pierre. For those of you ready to make the great leap or if you're just conditioning-curious, here are some ideas to help you make the change.
1. Change your aesthetic goals
Accept the fact you'll never win the Mr. Olympia competition. Be grateful for all those years of bodybuilding and that you got as huge as you possibly could. Be realistic with yourself and possibly assess that you're overweight, a little flabby, and probably might have some heath issues to address.
You need a change. Pick an ideal physique that you want to attain. So instead of looking like Arnold, pick an athlete that looks like a bad ass, such as GSP. And most importantly, remember that chicks dig guys with abs. You can get in the best shape of your life if you work your ass for it. It won't be easy, but it's definitely attainable with hard work and a different training regimen. Being open-minded is a must.
2. Full body workouts
After reading about the alternative to single-body part workouts, I wasn't convinced. For 20 years, single-body part training was the belief system that I never, ever, questioned or doubted. I stubbornly refused to believe that full-body workouts would be effective in packing on massive muscles.
There are many arguments to train the whole body in one session, but what convinced me to give it a shot was my need to learn how to move my body as one unit. Not only was I out of shape, but I also wasn't athletic.
I don't want to use overplayed words like 'non-functional,' but I was definitely borderline clumsy. Playing a softball game with friends at the park on a Sunday afternoon had the potential to be a very embarrassing situation for me. Going on a hike with one of my Matchmaker.com dates was never a good idea, unless my date had an oxygen tank in her picnic basket.
But reality finally hit me when I had to help a neighbor move a heavy sofa and I struggled until it landed on my foot. For a guy with a lot of muscle, I sure wasn't very strong.
For twenty years I'd hid behind my muscles, posing as an "athlete," but now I'd been exposed. Too many years of isolation muscle work and not working my muscles together as one powerful kinetic chain had finally caught up with me. My big muscle groups, like my back and glutes, were dormant.
As result, I was weak as shit.
So the change of pace to a full-body strength program now seemed more appealing to me. I focused on compound movements and for the first month I didn't know if I was getting much out of the workouts. I hadn't done any deadlifts, squats, or heavy rows in years, so I wasn't sure how my form was or, for that matter, what the hell central nervous system training was all about.
However, I persisted and the once in a blue moon full-body workout turned into a twice a week workout and eventually a three times a week workout. I was soon motivated by how much weight I was able to move. The quick improvements fascinated me.
I went from trying to build bulky muscles to learning how to get my CNS to recruit as much muscle as possible during each lift. I was getting stronger and my body composition started to change. To my surprise, I was getting bigger overall.
For those of you who want to incorporate a strength training protocol to your regimen, I suggest you pick basic compound movements like a deadlift, a front or back squat, military press, barbell row, barbell hip thrusts, pull-ups, pushups, or good mornings. Stick to the basic multi-joint movements.
Remember you're now on a strength program so you've got to go heavy. A simple protocol is to pick 4 movements, do 5 sets for each movement, and keep the reps low from 4 to 6 reps (except for pull ups and pushups which you train until near failure).
Notice I said near failure and not to complete exhaustion. When I was bodybuilding it just seemed logical to lift until I couldn't budge the load for even an inch. With this new plan, you want to hold back some and learn to leave some extra fuel in your reserve tank.
How do you train hard when you can't go all out? It's a fine line, I know. So I did my research and found that all the C & S coaches that I respected were vehemently against training to failure. It's the direct opposite to what I used to do with my bodybuilding training where I usually extended the exhaustion with half reps and drop sets.
I just felt I wasn't doing enough unless I trained to complete failure. It was a hard concept to give up until I started to see my PR's go up. Once you see your strength numbers going through the roof, you'll understand how training to failure is a detriment to your strength development.
It took a while, but I finally saw the correlation between getting strong and building muscle. Even now I could kick myself in the head for all those thousands of training sessions using relatively light weights for high reps or screaming in pain while doing concentration curls.
First off, the good news: I have an article in the latest issue of Planet Muscle magazine entitled "9 Keys for Alien Mass."
Sunday, September 26, 2010
- You cannot combine high-volume with high-frequency... at least, at first. If you want to embark on a high-frequency training program, keep your sets per bodypart relatively low until you are able to build up your work capacity.
- At first, stick with a whole-body program. You can't go wrong with a Bill Starr-style heavy-light-medium program to start things off right.
- Perform between 30 and 50 reps per bodypart three times per week.
- If you are solely interested in gaining muscle mass, then 5 sets of 10 reps is a good set/rep combination.
- If you are interested in a combination of size and strength, perform multiple sets of low reps. 10 sets of 3 is a standby that cannot be beat.
- If you decide upon a 10 sets of 3 program, use a weight where you reach failure on the 6th repetition.
- As you get more advanced, you can start adding back-off sets for more volume. For instance, you could start off with 10 sets of 3, then add 2 back-off sets of 8 reps with a lower weight.
- Once you adapt to high-frequency training, incorporate heavy singles into your program. These are a must if you want to get as strong as possible.
- As you get more advanced, you can also begin to add extra sessions. These should be light—nothing too taxing— and can be performed on your "off" days.
- Once you become advanced, you can start splitting your bodyparts, training half of them on one day, and half on the next. This, of course, also means training 5 to 6 days per week, but if you have the time, it can be highly effective.
- And, finally, the best piece of advice I (or anyone else) can give you: be creative and have fun. Training should be enjoyable—even when it's hard. If you're not enjoying your workouts, then something's wrong. (And this goes for all kinds of training.)
Friday, July 23, 2010
At one of my very first seminars I answered a question that would be most revealing over the next 20+ years. I was still in my 20’s and I was asked about motivation for a contest. I really had no prepared answer because I had been an athlete, even mentally my whole life, so the idea of being unmotivated or not motivated never actually occurred to me till that very moment. But my answer had some people shaking their heads. I said what motivates me is that my body is the house where my true self will reside for the rest of my life. Like any house, the more I like the surroundings and lack of clutter and the more clean and organized that environment, than the more likely I am to think more clearly and “be” a better me. That was my answer even way back then about motivation.
And the thing was, it was the truth.
Early on that is exactly how I felt about my training and workouts. Even then I had connected my spirit self with my athlete self. The Tao nature of that would become obvious over time. I was never comfortable identifying myself as a bodybuilder. My whole career, instead I saw myself as an athlete, who did bodybuilding. It was a difference that still exists today.
The Tao and the Tao nature is about the path, the fulfillment or filling you up from being on the path. It’s about YOUR path. It is unique. The Tao is about balance. It is beautiful in its context that it can be about pure devotion and commitment but at the same time not be about obsessive compulsive preoccupation with outcomes, or results or externals that take us off its path and away from balance. It is said even to discuss the Tao is to lose it. It’s kind of like trying to hold on to running water. It is a natural truth that you know only when you know it. Seek it and it cannot be found, live it, and you become just like that flowing water. There is no need to hold what you are part of, and what is part of you.
This is Tao, and at the same time, not Tao.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
1. Train Hard, Recover Harder
I've said it time and time again: The more you train without exceeding your capacity to recover, the more you'll grow and the stronger you'll get.
I'll go one step further and say that most people don't train hard enough to progress past the beginning of the intermediate stage. When they first start, they gain because any training represents a drastic increase compared to the hole they were wearing through the couch. But as soon as they get past the beginner stage, gains become exceedingly rare because now that their body is used to physical stress, it takes a lot more of it to force adaptation.
One of the reasons why these people fail to train hard enough to stimulate gains is out fear of overtraining (which is often just a justification for laziness).
Well, let me tell you this: True overtraining is exceptionally rare. In all my life as an athlete and coach, I've only seen two real cases of overtraining, and in both the guys were Olympians training over 30 hours per week under tremendous psychological stress.
In reality, most elite athletes train over 20 hours per week, with some even hitting the 40-hour mark. Not all of this is strength training; speed and agility work, conditioning, and skill practices are also on the menu.
Before you throw the doping argument in my face, I've seen a ton of young athletes who were obviously not on drugs follow that type of schedule. I've worked as the head strength coach of a sports academy where kids ranging from 12 to 18 would go to school from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm, then train or practice from 1:00 to 5:00 pm every day. Their programs included daily strength work, agility training, and practices cumulating over 20 hours per week. None of them were overtraining; all of them progressed quite well.
Similarly, most high-level Olympic lifters train for three hours per day spread over two or three daily sessions. Heck, Canadian National team member Marilou Dozois-Prévost engaged in two sessions daily, each lasting two hours, and would often extend these to do additional jumping or gymnastic work... when she was 14!
The benefits of youth? Maybe.
But how do you explain the case of Marcel Perron, who at 68, would lift for two hours in the morning, sprint for 30 minutes before lunch, and train for two more hours in the evening? His partner, Emery Chevrier, who power cleaned 285 and power snatched 225 pounds at a bodyweight of 170 when he was 70, would do the same minus the sprints.
And on the practical side, I've known quite a few farmers who chugged along for eight hours straight day after day, doing work that'd bury the most hardcore gym enthusiasts, without overtraining.
The problem is that most people lack the recovery capacity and don't take the necessary means to recover properly.
The Barbarian Brothers, two of the hardest training bodybuilders mankind has ever known, said that there was no such thing as overtraining, only undereating.
While not 100% accurate, they have the gist of it. Most people who think they're overtraining are simply under-recovering. While you can't make your body invincible to overtraining by pigging out, undereating, and especially undernourishment, can drastically reduce your capacity to recover.
Here are some things you can do to increase your recovery capacity:
Saturday, July 10, 2010
I have chosen this entry not necessarily because it's the best of all of my articles, but because it's probably the one article that more lifters need to read. And they need to read it because they need to give its suggestions a try.
If you're not squatting and deadlifting at least double your bodyweight, and bench pressing at least 1 & 1/2 times your bodyweight; and if you're not comparably strong on a lot of other lifts, then you have no business using multiple-split training, or using bands and chains, or using steroids, or—well, let's just say you have no business doing any of the nonsense a lot of (so-called) lifters do. You save all of that stuff until after you've laid a very good foundation of basic training. And I have no doubt that the workout in this article is the best foundation that you can lay for future—and immediate—success.
Here it is:
The best-known advocate for this style of training is probably Bill Starr, who made the system popular through his classic book "The Strongest Shall Survive" (published in the '70s), and in many subsequent articles for Iron Man Magazine. Of course, Starr didn't invent the program. Before his book was published, many bodybuilders and powerlifters from the '60s and '70s used it. (Some of these lifters did prefer a medium/light/heavy system of training, however, thinking it best to save the heavy stuff for the last training day of the week.)
The purpose of the article is to show how to properly use a heavy/light/medium system. Although many people advocate this program as a good means for gaining both size and strength (a search of the many internet forums should attest to this fact), I have found that many lifters don't understand how to utilize it correctly. Since I have trained many others and myself—usually either powerlifters or football players—using the system, I believe I understand its nuances better than most. I have also used this system for extended periods of time (as long as six months), which is something that needs to be done in order to really understand any training methodology.
What follows is a week of workouts designed for anyone that's new to this style of training. Pay close attention to all of the details, and read the training plan several times before you attempt the program. After I have finished going over the program in detail, I will offer a few pointers so that you can properly tweak the system based on your goals and your level of strength fitness.
To read the full article, go here.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
- This kind of training should be done frequently. There's no reason that—if bodyweight training is going to be your only form of resistance training—you shouldn't train six-days-per-week for 1 (beginners) to 2 hours (intermediate to advanced) per session.
- You recover fast from this sort of training. This is good—and bad, I suppose. Not only should you train more frequently, you really need to train more frequently.
- This stuff is great for conditioning—and getting you in shape fast. As Paul Chek has said, the key to being in great shape is to perform anaerobic exercise until it becomes aerobic. Bodyweight training can easily fit the bill here.
- Bodyweight-only training is excellent for the athlete who wants to be ageless. You want to live to a ripe old age, and be able to look half your age, have sex like you were half your age, and out train guys half your age? Then these kind of workouts should be the staple of your training.
- This kind of training is great for mixed martial artists. If you are into MMA, I would advise that you lift weights 2 days per week (HEAVY) and the other 4 days a week should be comprised of bodyweight-only strength training.
- When performing bodyweight squats, don't count reps during a set, count the time of your sets. You should work up to 5 to 10 minute sets of squats. Then you will be in very good shape.
- This kind of training teaches you to eat well. You can't do these workouts and eat like a super-heavyweight powerlifting competitor—you'd be winded within 5 minutes of starting your workout. You need lots of lean protein, and plenty of complex and fibrous carbohydrates.
- Everyone should do this kind of training at least once per week. (Yes, that even goes for your super-heavy powerlifters I was talking about.)
- These workouts are great as "extra workouts" in your powerlifting arsenal, especially if your workouts in the gym are mainly comprised of "maximal effort" training and "dynamic effort" training.
- You will not lose your muscle mass if you switch over from typical bodybuilding training to bodyweight-only training. Don't believe me? Try doing 100 push-ups, 50 chins, and 500 bodyweight squats six days per week for the next month. You'll be absolutely friggin' sold.