Q & A For Hardgainers!

Check out these awesome questions and answers from hardgainers all over the world. Get your questions answered by expert hardgainers!

Question Index



How Is This Routine?

Hi Chuck,

Was thinking I should alter the routine you set me up with at the end of August. It has worked really well but is starting to get boring and gains have stopped in some exercises.

Existing Routine:

    Day 1: Squat, bench press, chin, curl, leg raises
    Day 4: Deadlift (every other week only), seated overhead press (behind the head), shrugs, tricep extensions, one legged standing calf raises.

Chins are stuck, as are the curls. The chins seem to waist my arms and kill the curls which follow it. Could I maybe alternate these 2 exercises ie. do chins one week and then do curls the next.

I really never seem to have any energy left for the leg raises either. Maybe I just hate them so much eh? They're real fuckin easy to pass on.

Let me know what you think, I really respect your opinion. Everything you have told me has worked really well. I'm even gaining weight now which is unreal. Up to 190 lbs. Started at 179 in Jan. Remember that I am a real hardgainer and seem to overtrain easily.

Thank you for the compliments. It's really satisfying knowing people are actually progressing out there that were in a rut before visiting this page. There is a simple solution to your problem: mix up your workout. Either rearrange your exercises or pick a new routine (find your own routine, click here).

There are some good ones from other authors on this page that may be up your alley as well. As to your chins and curls question, you could switch the curls to the other day (alternate pushdowns and curls on each Day 4, for instance). I hate leg raises too. Do crunches with a big dumbbell right under your clavicle. Fun! Hope this helps.



Gut To Get Rid Of...

My name is Steven and I am from Toronto, Canada. I have a couple of questions that I feel only you can answer. First, where does cardio fit in? I'm 6 feet tall and weigh 210 pounds. Though I don't have too many complaints about my upper body, its the stomach, down that I have a problem with.

I have a 34 inch waist and have a big gut! My legs are somewhat long and thin. I currently train only 3 days a week and I do between 4 - 6 sets / bodypart. My sets contain repetitions of between 8 and 10. They are all out - positive failure exercises.

My training routine is as follows:

    Monday - chest, back, triceps
    Wed - glutes, hamstrings, biceps
    Fri. - shoulders, calves, abs

I realize my training is wrong according to your HIT standards, and I'm currently changing my routine to those recommendations. However, back to the question in hand, how can I lose my big gut and get larger glutes, hams, and calves at the same time? To what I have read, exercise should be kept to a minimum. My weight loss should be centered around less calories. But, how can I get big and use HIT standards on a severely reduced caloric intake?

At 210 pounds, weight really isn't a problem, its fat. I currently eat around 4-5 meals a day. This would consist of cereal, egg whites & potatoes, rice & chicken, and/or tuna sandwiches. So what's the real problem here?

Secondly, you stated that HIT should be used infrequently. How infrequently? 4-6 weeks? When I'm not doing HIT what kind of training should I be doing? Do I keep training my lower body on HIT until I feel I have reached a desired growth? Thanks a lot Chuck. I appreciate you taking the time to help confused bodybuilders like myself. I anxiously await your response.

Where to start? You answered your own question in that it is difficult to put on muscle and lose fat at the same time. Also, some people (most men) seem genetically predisposed to carry the majority of their bodyfat around the middle. One other thing I see in lots of guys is what's called a prolapsed abdomen. Their hyperlordotic spinal posture (swayback) and weak abs gives them the appearance of having a fat gut.

Remember, intake of calories is only part of the equation. You must burn more than you consume little by little over a long period of time. To make things more complicated, people have different basal metabolic rates which, in effect, is the amount of calories you burn in a set period of time. You may be one of those people that have a very slow metabolic rate. One good solution may be that you need to include some aerobic work. Yes, this may take away from your mass goals somewhat. But, you state your primary goal is to lose that spare tire.

Try this. Find some of those bodyfat calipers and start recording your bodyfat percentage if you aren't already. Now add a small amount of your favorite type of cardio for 20 mins., 3x/week at a rate you could talk, but not carry on a conversation. Monitor your bf% after a month and see if there is a change. It may be a good idea to cut out one thing out of your diet.

For instance, if you eat desert 3x/week (or whatever) or always go back for seconds at dinner, cut it down to 1x/week or kill seconds. Calculate calories if you are so inclined and cut back. Don't do anything drastic as you'll never stick to it. Also, if you have the prolapsed abdomen I talked about, read my posture post (in Chuck's PIT) and do extra abdominal work.

As to general weight training guidelines, there are many opinions of the authors here that vary slightly. The basic tenet is hard, abbreviated training done infrequently. Infrequently means few workouts per week, month, etc. Oh, one other thing. Where are your quads in the above workout? Are you doing some type of deadlifting, squatting and/or leg pressing mvmts? These are the bread and butter of every productive routine. Don't skip them.... EVER!



How Many Sets?

I'm still unsure whether I should do 1 set, 2 sets, or 3? I can do either one of these, it just depends on what weight I use. Sometimes I feel like if I do one set, even though I do as many reps as I can (about 8), I feel like I haven't worked that exercise/muscle enough. But if I do three long sets, I feel like I'm not following the philosophy for putting on muscle mass that HIT emphasizes. Can you give me any advice?

Well, you can do HIT with 1, 2, or 3 sets, IMHO. Try this. Next time you do a set of an exercise, work as hard as you can. Keep going till failure. Remember failure should be different for different exercises. If you are doing deadlifts, failure occurs right at the point of form breakdown. If you are doing some type of machine press, for instance, failure should occur when you can't move the "bar" anymore and you've lowered it very slow to the bottom position. Do this and wait 2 minutes, if you really feel like you can do another set, then go for it. Go just as hard on the 2nd set.

I mean really work hard. No "pumping" sets here my friend. Work hard. Did I say work hard? It seems to be a very little understood phrase. Rarely do I see people get red faced and collapsed on the nearest bench after a set much less work hard enough to puke or crawl to the water fountain.

If I were you, I'd throw in that extra set or 2. But try your best to make that extra set so undesirable that the thought of it brings tears to your eyes. Yes, I'm exaggerating, but it makes a good point. IMHO, intensity is the primary factor (after genetics) to decide your strength and physique success. Good luck!



Karate & Weight Training.

I stopped training for Karate in 1992, and at the beginning of this year I decided to do some strength training before starting over, in order to both get more power and decrease the risk of injuring myself. I have been doing Super Slow for the last 7 months, and I have been making big improvements.

Now I think I am ready to start training Karate again, probably three times a week (Mon/Wed/Fri). My question is, how should I schedule my weight-training so that I can continue gaining strength at the same time that I can develop my karate.

Well, it's gonna be tough. I'd say do them on the same day as 2 or your workouts (e.g. Mon & Fri). Realize you are really focusing on Karate and your strength training will have to be an adjunct. Perhaps, you'll make great gains. I've seen stranger things happen. I'd take frequent breaks in your training such as a week off every month. If you'd like to see some similar questions, there are a few in my HIT archives on my home page. Good luck and happy training.



Starting Out After Injuries!

I have just been reading your articles in HIT Q&A. I like it. I have been an avid weight lifter since the age of 12, I am now 29. My question is this, I have been off for around 8 months due to tearing my left pectoral all to hell (w/no fix) and major jaw surgery (had to have the upper and lower jaws broken and wired shut for 3 months).

My question is this... Should I start out with the 3 days a week or 2? Also can I due low level aerobic exercise on my off days, i.e. walking for distance, hiking, possibly easy bike rides.

I have done quite a few workout schemes in my life but HIT seems to make sense to me. I am an Electrical Engineer w/ a 2 year old son, so extra time is a problem for me. I hope this works because I miss the big feeling of working out.

Hopefully I can get to my old size of 220lbs. 10% bodyfat. I am now around 185lb. probably 12-14% body fat. I will keep you informed. Thanks for all the good information and keep up the good work.

Do either as much as your time allows. Work slowly towards your goals. It will probably return pretty quickly (muscle memory). Don't reinjure yourself by being too aggressive. Low intensity aerobics are fine. Maybe you oughta include your son in on some of your walking or hiking. The extra time spent together and the head start on a healthy lifestyle may be of great benefit to him. Feel free to drop me a line with your progress.



How Is This Routine?

I'm planning on starting a new HIT routine, working two days a week. Originally, I was planning on working each bodypart as a giant set or superset. For example I would leg press then run to the leg extension then run to the leg curl. Rest a minute or two, then barbell row then run to shrug then barbell row again.

Rest a minute or two and so on for the chest. Will this be too intense and promote overtraining? If so, should I attack each exercise and then have a 1 minute rest in between? Of course I'm doing one set to failure, except for each exercise repeated in the program. Thanks for your help.

I've never had much luck with supersets of anything similar. Intensity tactics are fine if they are not used chronically. Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. I've always had a tough time progressing up in poundages when my workouts were full of drop sets or pre-exhausts, etc.

I'd stick to the basics and do one intensity tactic per workout only after you are familiar with all the exercises. For instance, do the leg press followed by leg extension. But, don't do any other supersets during that workout. Next workout or next week (may be preferable) do some other superset or intensity tactic.

BTW, you don't have to have short rest intervals to train brief and intense. My rest periods vary with exercises from 1 minute to as many as 5 minutes when I'm going real heavy on squats or deads. To each his own. Hope this helps.



Progress Halt, Shoulders...

Hi. My name is Walter. I am 24, 179cm, 79kg, low bodyfat and have been training with weights for 4 years. I hope you can answer 2 questions I have.

After three years of great gains in size, strength and definition, for a year now I have stopped improving. No extra size, strength, definition, nothing! I train hard, but I don't even get sore the day after, unless I do 20 sets per bodypart all to failure. Should I train more? Less? Harder? Easier? Or have I simply reached my maximum and will never improve again! My current routine is:

    Day 1 - Shoulders/biceps/abs
    Day 2 - Back/running & bike (legs and aerobics all at once)/abs Day 3 - Chest/triceps/abs
    About 2 or 3 exercises X 4 or 5 sets per bodypart (reps 15,10,8,6,4+4)

Also, what is a good shoulder routine to get huge, round, bulging shoulders?

Walter, I doubt there are very few people in this world who have reached their peak potential in strength and size. Perhaps, they can't get anywhere in poundage progression for one exercise or another. But, they can still take a few key exercises quite a ways. Looking at your routine, I wonder whether you are doing all these days back to back.

If so, this is a great place to start on fixing your routine. You can't workout 3 days in a row and expect any gains for any length of time. It will not happen unless you have pharmacological assistance and have the genetics of Arnold.

Looking at your workout, it seems you have targeted the beach bodyparts: pecs, shoulders, bis and tris. The way you write it also makes me believe the only leg workout you are doing is running and biking. This is a shame because the leg/glute/low back muscles are the largest in the body. Get these going and getting big pecs and arms will be much closer to reality. Also, you don't need 3 exercises/4-5 sets per exercise for each bodypart. It's simply not necessary and in most cases counterproductive.



Upper Body Exercises Stuck...

Hi!

Without Cyberpump, I would have felt quite lost trying to HIT in the gym (people are REALLY suspicious about it). Now to the question, I've tried the full-body workout posted in the HIT FAQ for 8 months now and have made some progress. In the beginning I was training 3 times a week but now I train only two times.

The problem is that I don't get anywhere with the upper body exercises anymore (e.g. bench presses, pullovers), but the legs are still getting stronger. Should I reduce the number of sets? Eat more? Exercise only once a week? I will be grateful for any advice you can give.

The first thing I'd look at is your form. Are you doing full controlled reps with no cheating? Do you have good, strict form in your exercises? Since you have been on the same routine for 8 months you might want to think about trying another routine.

It doesn't have to be completely different. You could rearrange the exercises and/or days. Anything is possible. Also, are you doing legs first in your workout? Try doing them last. As I've wrote above we have a workout page here now that you can pick and choose. There will be several variations of the same theme. Good luck.



Log Books for Workouts...

Dear Chuck

My name is Hyo-jung Kim and I'm from South Korea. I've been working out for about four years now and come a long way compared to myself back in those days, which I'm very proud of.

I am thinking about getting down to workout more seriously recently and it seems I need to keep a record of my workout based on types of training, reps, sets and so on. Would you kindly advise me on that whether there's any form of log book that might be useful and efficient in the gym? Thanks.

Hyojung, there are several types of log books out there on the market today. Most nearly all are glorified spiral bound notebooks. If you want a good specific logbook pick one up from Bodybuilding.com.



Lacks Energy For Workouts...

Chuck,

I am 18 years old and I do a full upper body workout on the weekends and fit in my ab workouts and leg program during the week. My question mainly involves my full upper body work out. You see, I've tried just about everything to obtain the energy needed to complete my workouts with out be coming completely pooped.

I've tried eating and drinking different things (orange juice works a little), getting lots or a moderate amounts of sleep, working out at various time in the day, and even caffeine but nothing seems to really work.

My workout take about an hour and a half and by the time I'm at the end, I'm taking two or more minutes between sets in order to even do the set, and I know that's not good (or is that OK?) I want to be able to finish my work out with intensity and have enough energy to do the sets quickly with out a lot of time in between the sets. Are these "energy boosters" on the market worth investing in? If so, witch one do you recommend. Thanks for any help you can give me.

Your problem is you are doing enough upper body work for 3 people. No wonder you are tired. Cut back. cut back. Did I say cut back?

Remember, a high level of effort is what's needed for growth. Do you really think you can put out a high level of effort if you spread it out over 1.5 hrs? It won't work. Do this for your upper body:

    Some type of chest press (bench, dumbell, machine)
    Overhead Press (any type) (optional)
    Chin or Row (any type you prefer)
    Alternate bicep curl at one workout and close grip press at the other.

Never do more than 2 warm-ups and 3 work sets and you shouldn't need more than 1-2 total sets for the arm work. If you can't get out in under 45 minutes, you are lolly-gagging even if you are taking 2 minutes between sets.

Caffeine and/or ephedrine are the primary ingredients in most of those pep-pills you see in gyms and truck stops. Without resorting to the "drugs are bad" speech, I'll merely say that after a while your tolerance will build up and you'll have to continually take more to get the same effect.

Also, you may HAVE to take the pills or whatever. I think a much better way would be to cut down on your workout and attempt utilize various mental tactics like visualization and increasing your concentration to pull you through. That way, all the success originates from you and not from a bottle of pills or a 2 liter. Have fun with the workout!



Working Out Enough?

Been using the routine you set me up with since Aug. I've made good progress but feel like I need a change and am not sure how to do it. Gains have been slowing down. Curls are stuck in the mud, find that my arms are wasted after chins.

Here it is:

    Day 1: Squat, bench press, chin, curl, leg raises
    Day 4: deadlift (every other week only), overhead press, shrugs, tricep extension, one legged standing calf raises.

I workout in the basement so I don't have a lot of fancy equipment which I don't think I really need anyway. I wonder if I'm not working out often enough and when I do, really trying to do too much. I don't know, everyone tells you something different but I really respect your opinion. And, by the way, Cyberpump is a great site!

Scott, I like your routine. Realize even if you find a great routine, you are probably going to stagnate at some point. That doesn't mean the routine wasn't any good, it just means you've milked it for all it's worth. But, before you change, I suggest you experiment a bit. Throw out the curls, the extensions, the shrugs, and the calf raises. Now, do the deadlift every week. Go to a hardware store and pick up several 2" inside diameter washers.

You might have to search around for them. Pick up 8 of them if you can afford it. This will equal 4 lbs total. Now, on all the exercise left that you are relatively stuck on, work up to the rep goal you have targeted. Then, add 2 washers (1 lb). Do the targeted reps. You can keep going like this for quite some time. Stuart McRobert is fond of this method and you can find some ideas on the Hardgainer FAQ. There's a link in HIT Resources I believe.

Let me know if you choose the latter method and if you get any results from it.



Training To Failure At Home...

Chuck,

I'm a 33 year old beginner who wants to do HIT at home, so I found your articles on "HIT in a Home Gym" very interesting.

Can you tell me a little more about what it means to train to failure at home by yourself?

For example, does the combination of HIT and working alone mean that a regular part of my routine is going to be sliding out from under the bar when I'm done bench-pressing?

I've used free weights before, but not a power cage. Maybe you could tell me something about using a power cage in general? And what to look for when buying one?

Troy, the solution is a power cage. It provides a safety catch to almost any barbell exercise. I've tried as best as I can to describe one. When I was looking for one to buy, I scrounged the net to see if I could find one cheaper than that available locally. I ended up going to a local guy who builds equipment.

I set up the dimensions to include extra pins, j hooks small hole-to-hole jumps and a thick chinning bar. To get a good idea what a rack looks like try this web page: http://www.body-masters.com. I've never used a Bodymasters rack, so I can't judge how good it is. I know the hole-to-hole jumps are very big.

When looking for a cage, see what gauge steel it has. Pass on anything that's not 12 gauge or larger (remember, the smaller the gauge, the thicker the metal). Also, if you can walk up to a rack and easily tip it, it's too light for serious usage. Anytime you can, try out a rack with a loaded barbell. You wouldn't buy a car without test driving it.

I use the power rack by benching, squatting, etc from the pins. I either start at the bottom or unrack the weight from the J hooks. In either case, when the bar is on the pins ) or lowered to them) I reset and press it up. This is a much tougher way of working out and your poundages will suffer. However, you'll get a lot stronger because you are being stricter.



Lower Back Gives Out...

Help! I must be born under a bad sign or something. Every time I get on a heavy training cycle, I do awesome for weeks. I take my weeks off, like I'm supposed to, I eat like a damned horse, take my supps, etc. However, at some point, my lower back gives out! Last cycle, I was using Bill Starr's 5x5 strength cycle. I was squatting 5x5, into the hole, with 365 (all time PR). Ironically, squats didn't do it this time. I went to take a pair of DB's off the rack to do shrugs, and my LB shut down.

How can I avoid injuries to my LB? I've started a program of good mornings, SLDLs, and reverse hypers. I can do 115 in the GM's for sets of 10. At what point do you think I should make a return to the squat rack, and DL platform? I truly miss the feeling of doing these lifts, and would like to know when I can start back on them. Also can you tell me how to avoid these injuries?

Mike, there may be quite a few reasons your back "shut down." These include bending over too much, hips rising before shoulders, leading up with one side and/or just a real kick ass workout (maybe even a weight you weren't really ready for).

I don't think it's such a good idea doing 3 specific back movements. The erector spinae are very slow to recover and easily beat up with too much work. I would suggest after you have fully recovered you return to both exercises and take a long period to return to the same weights. Do 1 of the low back mvmts per workout and never more than 2 low back exercises per week. One may be all that you need.

If the pain has not gone away after a few days or is intense, go see a Sports Physician. If this is not the case look first to your form in squats and deadlifts. Also, make sure you have decent flexibility and always warm up, especially for those heavy days.



How Often: Pushups and Pullups?

Is doing pushups pullups and dips everyday a good alternative instead of lifting? If so, how often should I do them?

Pushups, pullups and dips are lifting. Do them like you would other exercises: infrequently and with intensity. When you can knock of 10 slow, clean dips or chins, you need to add weight just like any other exercise.

I wouldn't work these every day or even 3x/week. It will not do you much good; at least not as good as any properly designed program. Also, you need to do some type of squatting or deadlifting movement if you can. I wouldn't do any exercise over 2x/week. For some routines, click here. Good luck.



Rest Between Workouts?

Hello,

This is a question that I address (sorry about the mistakes, I'm not english speaking) to many people on Cyberpump (Bill, Rob, Chuck, Motz, and Master Trainer). I like to have many expert opinions! My question is about rest between workouts: Bill and Motz recommend for powerlifters and bodybuilders to work each part once per week, with the body usually divided in three workouts.

It is also what Master Trainer recommends. That gives 7 days of rest for each bodypart. HITers usually recommend 2 or 3 full body workouts a week. That gives 2 or 3 days of rest for each bodypart. Why this big difference? With the two ways of training you should destroy the bodypart, so the rest should be similar....

I train with full body workout (one very similar to the one by Leistner, posted in the HIT FAQ), but I think 2 or 3 full workouts a week is too much for the average trainee. Certainly for me it is too much. I am having always three days between them, and I'm thinking of having four. Is it strange? Am I doing something wrong?

Doing full body workouts with 4 days in between are fine. Working a bodypart once per week, as long as you don't start throwing in extra sets and exercises, are fine. All will work. There are many ways to workout and many people have their individual preference. Don't follow any author's advice to the letter. Say you've tried for many years to deadlift and you've never had much luck.

But, you can stiff-legged deadlift quite a lot. Hell to what others say, use what works for you. If you like full-body workouts, but you need an extra rest day, take it. If you don't have the energy to work your whole body, then don't. Weight training is an art. There are some scientific principles behind it. However, much is opinion and what well known gurus have espoused. I'm sorry if this doesn't answer your question. You're asking absolutes where there are none. Good luck.



Figure Skater Wants Advice

Chuck, I'll apologize first off, for not knowing anything at all about you, (your credential's), and Cyberpump. Not sure if you can help me on this, but here we go. I am having trouble getting myself into shape. I am a figure skater, and for the last 2 1/2 year's I have suffered from anorexia nervosa, and depression. I have just started to go to a little community centre gym. The goal is to get myself back to competition level fitness. I need to get fast result's, (I'll bet you've never herd that before have you?).

I am skating, but I don't have the energy in me to get through a whole session. But what really bother's me, is that I don't have the spring in my leg's to "pop" the jump's up. My leg's feel dead, and flat. I guess what I, (think), need, is some exercise's, (please besides squat's), to give me the punch I need in my leg's, which in turn, will give me the lift in my jump's.

Also, I need to co-ordinate the exercise's, with timing exercise's. My timing is way off. For some reason I can't seem to toe in, at and get my body squared up in time for the lift of the jump, (this is on the toe jump's only). The rest of my body is so thin, and I don't know what to do with it either. If you can offer any advise at all, or point me in the right direction.

David, I think you need to head to the gym with the goal of increasing your strength. Work on squatting or deadlifting type movements primarily. You say you don't like squats. This is a common belief of many. They try the exercise and their form is shitty and their back hurts. They automatically assume they can't squat.

The alternative is the deadlift. It, too, is a somewhat difficult exercise to grasp. Both are worth the time and effort you put into them. They are worth the practice sessions with ultralight weight till your form is down solid. What you can do till your form is down is to take advantage of a good leg press. I'm in agreement with Brzycki, Spector, Leistner and others that the leverage unit is one of the best.

Bodymaster makes a standing model while Hammer makes a good seated one. Stay away from the hack squat and the angled leg press if you can help it. Whatever the mvmt(s) you choose, work hard to get real strong (for you). Include a calf raise as well.

As to skating, there's no substitute for practice. Make time to do the mvmts that are difficult. Since you've done them before, your skill will return quickly. Give yourself enough time between workouts and skating sessions for proper recovery. I wouldn't weight train more than twice per week.



Include Arm Work?

I have a couple of questions about my work out. First a quick breakdown of my workout:

    Reverse Crunch OR Twisting reverse crunch
    Cross Knee Crunches OR Crunches OR BC Crunches (2reps/sec)
    Squats OR Deadlift (Alternate between cycles) (15-20reps)
    Bench Press
    One Arm Dumbell Rows (skip if in Deadlift phase)
    Shoulder Shrugs (skip if in Deadlift phase)
    Chins (skip if in Deadlift phase)

I alternate weights and jogging every other day over a four week cycle. After two cycles I take a week off. I try to do everything 2 up/4 down. I generally do two sets of each exercise in the 8-12 rep range. I do my sets to failure. And my workouts rarely last more than 45 minutes.

My questions are:

  1. Do I need to include any arm work in there. I especially wonder about the shoulders?
  2. Do I need to include any calf work in there?
  3. Am I in any danger of over-training my back?
  4. Am I seriously neglecting any muscles with my abbreviated workout?

Mark, use arm work as a supplement. Do maybe 1 bicep exercise at one workout and 1 tricep exercise at the other. If you choose not to do them, I doubt you'll suffer any. I'd go ahead and work your calves. They get little stimulation from other mvmts. I don't think you're gonna have any problems overtraining except that working this routine every other day is not a good idea. You're not getting enough rest between workouts.

As to overtraining your back, I do the row OR the chin all the time and skip the shrugs when you deadlift. I don't think you're missing any bodyparts. Throw in the calf work and maybe a set of grip/forearm work and you'll be cooking. For more info on grip training, see the article "Get a Grip" in Chuck's PIT. Oh, I'd do the ab work last as the abs help to support the pine during squats, deadlifts, etc. Happy training.



Wants to be a PT.

Dear Chuck,

Your strongman contest that you added to this weeks Cyberpump was really cool. I'd try setting one up with my buds, but they only express an interest in strength-related feats when they are very drunk. This would make boulder and log lifting bad ideas. Anyhow, I need your help. My future is uncertain with the company that I'm at now and I would like to study to become a physical therapist.

Because of my tendency to obsess about joint and muscle function, I feel this may be the career for me. What I'd like to know is: how large of a can of worms would I opening? How many years of study are required? Is becoming a professional student (spending millions of years in classes) necessary?

Attempting to go to PT school is a large can of worms. It takes a lot of time in the pre-requisite classes to make the grade to get an interview. The pre-requisites include classes like Pre-Calculus or Calculus, Physics I &II, Chemistry I&II, Freshman Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Statistics, and several others I choose not to remember.) Check with your Allied Health or Biology department for specific information on their Pre-Physical Therapy program.

At this time, the toughest part of getting into PT school may be getting in. When I applied, there were 450 applicants, 110 interviewed and 32 accepted. Those aren't favorable odds. In most schools, the interview counts most. Lots of people with 4.0s have been turned away because they lacked those characteristics the interviewers were looking for. These include caring attitude, self-esteem, ability to communicate, charisma, honesty, and many others.

However, many people with low 3's have got into PT school because they had those characteristics. One thing you may need to do is to have an alternate plan, so if you don't get in you have something to fall back on.

I'm currently taking 19 hrs. I'm in school from 8:00 a.m. till, sometimes, 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. (not including studying) as you may have guessed from my infrequency of posting. However, I'm really glad that I was accepted. I think it will be an occupation that I will really enjoy. I will graduate in September, 1997 at which time I will take the boards and start practicing.

I've enjoyed immensely the clinical rotations that I've been on so far. If any of you are thinking about Physical Therapy as a career, I urge you to go to a local facility and ask if you can volunteer. If they have you changing pillow cases the whole time, go somewhere else where you can "shadow" a PT and see what he/she does during a work day.



Lack Explosive Power For Rugby!

I have just recently, (within the last ten minutes) found your question and answer page. My question is quite simple. I am 18 years old and find that my physical health is rather excellent. My only problem is that I lack the explosive power that my sport demands, rugby. I wish to add plyometrics to my strength and aerobic workouts, but I don't know how. I would appreciate any comments or ideas on how I could attain my goal.

Decker, I know my limits and while I do have an opinion on the subject, it's not an educated one. For more info on plyometrics, click here!



Bench Plateau...

I have reached a bench plateau and am having a hard time getting past it. I only do bench and triceps once a week and I am sure I'm not overtraining. I weigh 190lbs and I'm 5'11" and bench about 300lbs. Without knowing my current work out can you recommend something to help me break this plateau I've been on for about 2 months?

First thing to look into is your form. Are you doing any of the classic technique errors such as bouncing off your chest, too wide or too narrow grip, benching with your feet in the air, benching to the neck and many others? One thing I see many do is what I've read referred to as "delt benching." What this looks like is at the top of the bench your shoulders appear to roll forward.

What is happening is the delts are carrying a large percentage of the load. To cure this, practice standing up straight and pulling your shoulders back like you were a soldier. Feel one of your pecs and see how tight it is. Now, roll your shoulder forward like you may be doing in the bench.

I'll bet your pec gets real soft. Now, when you bench try to maintain that shoulder back posture at all times. Don't arch your back real far. Just let it maintain that natural arch at all times. Keep your feet flat on the floor. If bench is too tall where you can't do this without arching really hard, get some boxes or whatever and put them under your feet.

Next thing you must do is find the optimum grip. A good place to start is to lower a bar to your chest (unloaded of course and right above/below your nipple or so) and place your hands out where your forearms are perpendicular to the floor. If you change anything, take some time to get the technique down with sub-max poundage. Also, remember the bar doesn't travel in a straight line, but in an arc that starts at your chest and goes up and back toward your head.

As to routines, there are many. I, too, have great difficulty with the bench. It's one of my weakest lifts and has always been. One of the biggest mistakes I made was to try an add extra this or that. You might try concentrating on just the bench and one tricep movement (preferably the dip or close-grip bench). I don't feel like there are any set/reps systems that are that much better than any other. You can bench strict HIT style or use a hardgainer cycle for 6-whatever weeks.

The choice is up to you. Many prefer the standard 6-8 or 8-12 rep double progression system where you use a weight you can get the latter amount of reps you increase it till you are back at the lower number. I prefer to stay at the same reps and slowly increase the weight with smaller jumps as the "cycle" progresses. Whatever you do, you must work hard and maintain good form throughout. I've seen many people (including myself) who have got that extra Nth poundage because of progressively sloppier form. Don't fall into this trap. You are only kidding yourself.



Push-Ups.

I have to say that I love your column. I read it religiously. It's really great! I'm just wondering... What's your take on push-ups. Are they good? Bad? Both? Can they be integrated in HIT training?

Doing push-ups are OK. Doing them every day as all young guys do are useless. Also, how are you going to add weight once you can knock off several strict push-ups? You can add weight to push-ups, but it's not easy. Plates slide around and mothers might not take to kindly to you borrowing their children for a horsy back rides. Your partner can hold plates on your back, but it will be tough to control the plates sliding as well.

One thing I thought of (well, I never heard of it before) is to use a sandbag. They don't slide as easy and you can add small plates to add weight. To make a sandbag, find a very tough backpack. I found a good one in an Army surplus store. Now, go to the hardware store (or a beach, desert, etc if you are near one) and get some 50lb bags of sand. Use the combination of sandbags and plates. Situate the bags of sand and plates where they are balanced. Secure the top securely. There you have it. Instant weighted pushups. Hope this helps. Let me know if anyone uses this method.



Weight Training for Boxers?

Hi Chuck,

I got your advice before and I would like some more. I am 17 years old. I think I am ready to start boxing later this year, hopefully in the summer. So I was told I should stop training like a bodybuilder. Until I finish school this year I have no way of getting any weight training advice for boxing. Would you know of any weight training programs that boxers follow? I ask only because HIT seems like the training best for boxers.

It seems as if you have gotten some much feedback  in regards to specific boxing training. Someone told you not to train like a bodybuilder. I agree if that means light pumping exercise with every machine in the gym. What's the difference between weight training for strength/size and what boxers should do? Nothing in my opinion. Strength training is strength training. Sure, there may be a few differences. Boxers should pay special attention to their abdominals, pecs, delts and upper back.

However, shouldn't we all. Should you do specific weight training exercises to try to simulate boxing mvmts? No. If you don't believe me, consult anything by Spector and Brzycki and many others in HIT stuff regarding specificity of exercise. To answer your question, HIT training and similar philosophies will be just fine for you. Just watch for overtraining.

Oh yeah, if anyone gives you any grief regarding your weight training, tell them you and Evander Holyfield think it's real important. That ought to shut the peanut gallery up! Good luck.

For more info on boxing training, click here!



40yr Old Wants to Lift Again...

I read your column in Cyberpump. Thanks for the good information. I have just one question that's nagging me. I would appreciate your help.

I'm a 40 year old male, interested in lifting again after a layoff of many years. I read Cyberpump, the HIT FAQ and Matt's book. The whole HIT concept makes common sense to me. It seems like a decent way to make good strength gains without spending your life in the gym.

I have my exercises selected. The question is: At age 40, am I better off starting with the "standard" three "whole body" workouts per week, decreasing to two per week when gains start to diminish? Or would it be better to start and stay with two whole body workouts per week?

If your recommendation is to start with three sessions per week, when it the time to drop to two sessions per week? When gains start to slow down? Is that usually about six months out for the average trainee?

You could do it either way. Dropping to 3 workouts to 2 should occur when your gains have stalled as you guessed. If you are training HIT as per HIT FAQ, take a week off every six weeks or so. Also, don't feel like you aren't doing enough if you, after going as far as you can with 2x/week workouts, then drop down to 3x/2 weeks. How much time it takes for you drop down in volume is purely a personal thing. Hope this helps.

Learn more about over 40 training, click here!



Gain Intensity?

In fact from the first half of October I have no more possibility to train myself with a partner because of my new job. So now I go to the gym out of the business time (luckily the gym belong to a friend of mine who give me the keys) and so I'm completely lonely during my workout.

I'm desperate because I'm no more able to give the right intensity to my workout and also because I can't do anymore bench-press and forced reps.

How can I give again new intensity to my workout? By now I have already made shorter my recovery between the set and I have increased my weekly workout from 3 to 4. However I think the problem is not about training program, but most of all

I think I have now a mental block which I can't pass over. So now I'm really really depressed. Can you give me some good advice?

Allesandro, your motivation must come from within. You need to challenge yourself to new goals. You must approach your training with a strong desire to accomplish the task at hand. I train in my garage between to the toolbox and riding lawn mower. It is a challenge at times. One thing you need to practice is to learn how to psych yourself up. To do this, load up the bar or whatever and walk away.

Mentally rehearse walking up to the bar and doing the reps with determination and not stopping till you get all the ones you've set yourself to do. In your mental image, make the reps hard but achievable. Now, open your eyes, and go over and do it. For more details on the mental aspect of training (and which the above was paraphrased from), I suggest you pick up a copy of Dinosaur Training by my friend Brooks Kubik. He has 2 or 3 chapters on the subject. The address is in HIT Resources.

It wouldn't be a substitute for motivating yourself, but you could put a flyer up at the gym to see if anyone wants a training partner at the same time you train. Good luck and find the strength within.



Info On How To Make Squat Stands?

I would like to know if there is any information out there which shows how to make squat or bench press stands for a standard bench (I assume out of heavy lumber). If so how safe do you feel they are?

Ironman books (1-800-447-0008 Ext 1) has a book called Home Gym Equipment plans (book #43) for $4.95. It gives plans for equipment made out of wood. I've never seen any made of wood, so I can't say how solid it is. But, if you have the wood working expertise, it's probably worth $5.00.



Squat Form Videos...

I have read your comments several times  on Cyberpump. You seem to have very thoughtful and knowledgeable comments. For this reason, I have a couple of questions that I hope you can help me with.

First, what is your opinion of Stuat McRobert's new book on correct form for different exercises? Have you found it very useful and worth the $30.00?

Second, do you know of any videos I can purchase that show the correct form for the squat? I have read both yours and Brook Kubik's excellent descriptions on how to squat. However, I find I really need a visual aid to supplement the textual description. Any suggestions?

Thanks for the complements. I really don't consider myself a HIT guru or any other such connotation. I prefer to think of myself as a critical thinker with a little intelligence who loves the iron game.

I haven't read Stuart's new book yet. Everything I've read and heard is that it's well worth the money. The only grumbles I've heard is that Stuart is very conservative.

Sadly enough, I know of no good video source to show proper technique. While renewing my subscription to IRONMAN a while back, I was sent a free copy of Lee Labrada's "Mass with Class". The routines were useless but it did show a pretty good squat and deadlift if I remember right. Labrada is one of the few people I've ever seen who could do a textbook bent over row. However, all weights were done with quite a bit less than max poundage. There were few pointers included, however.

Be sure to check out our exercise database for proper exercise form on over 300 exercises, click here!



Is This Routine Ok

I have been lifting for several months and I've been using a three day cycle routine.

    Monday - Chest, tri's
    Tuesday - Shoulders and legs
    Wednesday - Back and bi's.

I would do four sets of eight and about three or four exercises for each muscle group. This worked OK, but I felt like I was overdoing it. My friends who worked half as hard made better gains. I recently found Cyberpump and was immediately in love with it.

I do have a few questions about it though. I am 5' 10", and weigh 148lbs. I want to put on a lot of mass and maybe weigh as close to 200 as I can eventually. I am worried that working a body part once a week for two sets isn't enough for my body type which struggles to put on size. I have looked over the sample routines in the archives but they didn't break up the body parts like my old routine does. Please tell me if the following routine is OK...

Monday:

    Chest
    Bench 3x8
    Incline 3x8
    Flye's 3x8

    Triceps:
    2 hand push down 3x8
    French press 3x8

Wednesday:

    Legs
    Squat 3x8
    Leg curls 3x8

    Shoulders
    Behind the neck press 3x8
    Lateral raises 3x8
    Shrugs 3x8

Friday:

    Back
    Back-pull ups 3x8
    Dumbbell row 3x8
    Cable row3x8

    Biceps
    Curls 3x8
    Concentration curls 2x10

If this is not right, please give one that is correct keeping in mind that I want to build solid mass and lots of it. Also, I want to eat every two hours but I have to pack a lunch for school. What are some foods that don't require a lot of preparation, are relatively portable, yet have all the nutrients and supplemental qualities I need.

I don't mess with those protein drinks so I'm looking for specific foods. Thanks a lot. If you can help me I'll sleep a lot better knowing I'm on the program that will get me the fastest and most effective results! Keep up the great work at Cyberpump!

PS. Is there a shoulder exercise that can widen the shoulder girdle while putting mass on?

So, you want to put on mass as fast as possible? First thing you must do is to stop comparing yourself to others. You will progress at your own rate. Why don't you think full body routines will work? I assume you feel, as I did when I started, that to get big you must train like the big boys. As you may notice around the gym, some people grow in spite of themselves.

Franco Columbo won the Sicilian weightlifting championships in the first try without ever picking up a barbell before. He later went on to winning the Mr. Olympia 2x. People like me (and possibly you) have to fight for every pound of mass. I'm glad you set such high goals for yourself. Being a little balsy is much better than being timid. Channel that self-confidence (maybe cockiness) into always striving to increase your exercise weights while still maintaining good form. As to your routine, cut it down to the basics.

Big weights on these are what make you big. Throw out the incline press, flye, leg curls, laterals, cable row or one arm row and concentration curls. Only do 1 work set for your biceps and triceps. Don't forget to work your abs and gripping muscles.

If you can drink it, creative use of milk and "milk shakes" that you've made in a blender can work wonders. For the latter, throw in some milk, powdered milk, chocolate drink mix or orange juice, kitchen sink or whatever in a blender. Find or buy yourself a huge thermos and pack the stuff to school to drink in between classes.



L4 Back Problem and Lifting

Help! Sound advice needed. I am 37 years old and had back surgery in January of 1994. L4 was the problem. I have been physically active my whole life and remain in excellent shape running and weight training. I am 6' 4" and 195lbs. I do leg extensions and curls but have been scared to get back into squats. I have read several conflicting articles on whether individuals with problem lower lumber areas should squat at all.

Obviously my height makes for a long way down and the compression of the spine seems to be the focal point of the articles. The main problem is I can't find any other exercise that can give the results of squats. I just starting doing them again with light weight and focusing on form but am skeptical about continuing into heavier weights as I progress. With the stress of HIT on heavy less frequent training how can I get the desired growth results with lighter weights? Higher reps?

Wanting to get bigger and stronger!! Your comments please.

To be honest, I can't answer that for you. I can't give medical advice over the net (nor could I anyway till I graduate). If you decide to squat (you should consult with your MD first), practice with an empty bar and slowly increase your weight. Perhaps, if you have a leverage type leg press like the Hammer piece, you may be able to do these with little back trauma. I would also advise higher sets, reps and impeccable form in any case. I'm sorry I can't help you anymore.



Needs to Lose 20lbs of Fat

I have some questions about gaining muscle mass and losing fat at the same time. I am 6'1'', 225 lbs and I have never had my body fat % checked. I would say I need to lose 20 lbs of fat give or take a few. The problem is I don't want to diet so much that it affects my lifting. Currently I lift twice a week using each of the following routines once.

Routine A Routine B

Squat                         Deadlift
Bench Press                   Incline Bench Press
Pullover                      Dip
Seated Row                    Chin-up
Shrug                         Overhead Press
Tricep Extension              Close Grip Bench Press
Barbell Curl                  Dumbbell Curl
Leg Curl                      Leg Extension
Calf Raise                    Calf Raise
Knee Raise                    Knee Raise
Crunches                      Crunches
Side Bend                     Side Bend

I do 1-2 work sets on each exercise using a 2/4 count each rep. I've been doing hit for a month and a half and in the beginning I was making good gains. Since I started dieting I have not been making any real gains. Can you make some suggestions about diet and the type of workout I'm doing. How long would you guess it would take to lose 20 lbs on a diet that would still allow me to go up on my lifts, if that is possible.

Since I have your attention I would also like to ask you a few more things. First, I have been trying to increase my reps on chins past 3 for awhile at my body weight. Any suggestions besides losing weight? Second, I have also notice my chest getting bigger but no gains in bench press in the past 3 weeks.

I guess it's from dips and pullovers, do you have any comments about that. Third, doing deadlifts from a more bend over position. Isn't that like doing a stiff-legged deadlift with your knees bend over a little more or is that bad to do?

As I've written before, it's tough to jump up into poundages while trying to reduce bodyfat. Hypothetically, it's possible. But, I'm sure it's a fine line. Just understand that this is going to occur and don't try to drop the fat lbs all at once. Try and hold your exercise poundages at the same level and maybe even increase a few. Make small additions to your weights when you can. I do like your routine although there are too many isolation mvmts for my taste.

In order to increase the amount of chins you can do, you need to do a few negatives after your regular set(s). After you have done as many as you really can, jump or climb up into the top position and slowly descend. Use the same form as you'd use on a regular chin. Also, as with any ohter exercise, make sure your form is solid. Cutting the depth and kicking with your legs will not do you any good.

The same advice on form goes for your chest. Chest bouncing, ballistic reps, benching to the neck, and super wide-grip arm positions will not let you get very much weight. Also, check and see if you are a "delt bencher." To do this, have someone watch you while you bench. If your shoulders roll forward at the top of the lift, you are primarily using your delts to push up the weight. Do this: stand up real straight like you were a soldier, pull your shoulders down and back. Feel how tight your pecs are? You should maintain this position throughout the lift.

As to your deadlift question, I assume you are quoting me from my deadlift post in HIT Stuff. I think I said something along the line of you have to bend over at the waist. The basic difference between the the conventional and stiff-legged (not straight-legged) variety is the degree of knee bend and how far the bar is out in front of you. During the conventional style, you are trunk is more upright and the degree of knee bend is close to that of the squat. During the stiff-legged variety, your knee is locked in a few degrees of flexion (ie bent a little) and the path of the bar is fairly out in front of you.

Hope that clears up a few things. One of the many things I have planned to do is to go into a little more depth regarding deadlifts. Redirect if the previous explanation is not clear.



Stiff-Legged Deadlift?

First question: I read the book "A practical approach to strength training" by Matt Brzycki, very good book. But something surprised me. In the book he describes what he calls safety exercises, but there is not the stiff legged deadlift (SLDL). Since it is one of the harder exercises for the low back, it would make sense to put it in the book, unless it is not a safe exercise.... What do you think about the SLDL? Isn't it safe? I thought it was safe if one bents the knees. If it isn't, what other exercises do you recommend for the low back?

Second question: I like performing two negatives after I reach failure, specially in dips, chins, press behind the neck and barbell curls. I train Mondays and Thursdays. Is it good to perform them in every workout? Should I train less frequently? Will I overtrain if I perform negatives every workout?

I like the stiff-legged deadlift when I perform it as I've described previously. Doing them with a rounded spine and too the insteps is asking for an injury. When your spine is in a fully flexed position, your erectors are electrically silent. That means you are hanging by your ligaments and are asking for an injury. Do them properly with a slow poundage progression and you'll do fine.

I think you will overtrain if you perform negs at every workout. I also don't think it's a great idea to perform negatives on the conventional bench press and especially the press behind the neck. Both can seriously hurt your shoulder. Machines lend themselves to negatives and this is especially true for pressing type exercises. Good luck and happy training.

Learn how to properly perform the sldl, click here!



Wants Deadlift Increase...

My name is Kyle Dunkle, and I am 15 years old. I have been into weightlifting for about 1 year now. I weigh 148 lbs. and: I bench press 225, squat 300, and only dead lift 170 lbs. I don't understand why I can not deadlift hardly anything? How does someone preform sumo and conventional style deadlifts. Do you know what I could do to make my deadlift increase? If you have any information please let me know!

Aaarg! I guess I need to get on that deadlift supplement. The best advice I can give you is to work on your form and make sure it's correct. Also, if you can't pull from the bottom position, you might have to deadlift in the power rack and pull from the pins. Start from the lowest pin position and see what happens.

Don't use your subjective feelings to decide what position is right. Have someone monitor you from the side and see if your back is rounding. Letting your back round and your shoulders to be pulled forward is the 2 most commonest mistakes I've seen.

Learn more about the deadlift, click here!



Improve Vertical Jump?

Yo Chuck, how do you improve your vertical and jumping ability, without a vigorous training session. also how do I get a more defined chest when I work out.

In short, jump alot and make sure you squat or leg press and do some calf raises. Also, nothing happens in life that doesn't require a lot of effort. As to your 2nd question, definition is a function of bodyfat percentage. Beef up the size of your pecs, lose some bodyfat and your chest will have all the definition you're capable of.

Learn more about improving your vertical jump, click here!

For More Hardgainer Q & A, Check Out:
K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid!) Q & A!

Thanks,