Q And A: Page 3!

A conditioning specialist in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a Bachelor's of Science in Exercise Science. His articles will help you!
Question
Gain Weight And Increase Speed?

I am a football player trying to gain a lot of weight. I am 5'8 and weigh 155 for a least a year now. I have been training for about 3 1/2 to 4 years. I am also taking Dermagain and Carb Solutions protien drink. My workouts switch every week. One week I have 3 days upperbody and 2 lower then the next I switch and have 3 lower and 2 upper. I am a cornerback and need to be weighing at least 175 and running a 4.6 40. I need your help to gain weight and gain speed. I run a 4.89 now.

Answer

I am not familar with Dermagain, but let me ask... where is the multi-vitamin/mineral, anti-oxidant, and good fats? Most times I hear about supplements, but nothing about the real foods people are eating. So, in this case that is where I would start. Are you eating at least 5-7 times a day? I mean high quality foods like steak, eggs, brown rice, etc? This is a must if you are going to put on some quality weight.

I would not switch the workouts every week as your body must adapt to them to some degree to see some progress. During the first week of a new routine, usually the body is just learning how to perform the exercises or getting use to the order of exercises, or the many other training variables. I would recommend you using approximately a three maybe four day routine. If using three days I would do an overall body routine incorporating compound movements and using various ones on the seperate days. If four I would focus on more of an upper and lower body split.

I have posted several times below some of the keys for improving speed. I don't know your training background or how well your coaches can teach you various lifts. So, to suggest specific lifts you don't know how to perform might be unwise. I would recommend reading some articles by one of football's top strength coaches, John Davies, on www.intensitymagazine.com. He demonstrates many of the movements and teaches how to incorporate the many aspects of physical conditioning into an overall program.

Question
Gains Stop Then Start Again. Why?

I have been training for 4 months. I weigh 120 pounds, 21 years old and I have about 25-30 percent body fat. My problem is that after every 3 to 4 weeks or so my body stops improving and I stop growing. I have tried changing my routine and methods but that does not seem to work, but after 2 weeks my body starts to grow again. What I don't understand is why this is happening and what can I do. I have tried pyramid training, light training and also straight sets on one weight that I can rep 10 to 8 times in three sets.

Answer

You are missing the bigger picture, you are making progress!! Muscle mass gains will not occur every week or even every month. Sometimes you will experience terrific gains and sometimes you will find that the gains come very slowly. As long as you are still making progress that is the result you should focus on.

Definately changing methods is an effective way of stimulating new progress, especially in body composition changes. However, make sure that you are not changing the program too frequently as your body has to adapt to some degree. Usually I recommend changing some variable every 4-6 weeks. Your training journal should also be telling you a lot about your progress. If you are continually becoming stronger week to week, then you know you are heading in the right direction. Muscle mass takes time and sometimes can go through very odd spurts. Just have some patience and appreciate the fact you are gaining.

Question
Is This A Good Mass Gain Workout?

I am very interested in gaining some serious muscle mass. Right now I'm a real small guy, 5'4 about 110 pounds. I am working with a schedule that goes as follows:

Monday - Chest (bench 4 sets, flies 4 sets, incline bench 4 sets, cable crosses 4 sets). Shoulders (dumbell press 4 sets, lateral raise 4 sets, front raise 4 sets, shrugs 4 sets supersetted with upright rowes). Triceps (cable pushdowns 4 sets, skull crushers 4 sets, dips 4 sets, kick backs 4 sets).

Tuesday - Back (lat pulldowns 4 sets, behind neck pulldown 4 sets, bent over rows 4 sets, seated rows 4 sets). Biceps (21's 4 sets, incline curls 4 sets, hammer curls 4 sets, barbell curls 4 sets). Legs - (squats 4 sets, hamstring curls 4 sets, leg extensions 4 sets, calf raises seated and standing 4 sets).

Wednesday - Rest

Thursday - Repeat Monday

Friday - Repeat Tuesday

Weekend - Rest

Each of these work outs tend to run about an hour. I eat 6 large meals a day. My daily protein intake is usually 115 grams a day. However I am not supplementing right now. Is there any change you would make to my routine? Can you suggest any supplements for me to begin taking or any possible diet change? Thank you for your time.

Answer

WOW! This program would probably kill me and you do this in about an hour? Dang! The question you should first ask yourself is have you made any progress on this program. Even if you have I might say that you have succeeded despite your program. As silly as that sounds we are able to get away with a lot when we are young.

I have outlined many times splits that I think work for the natural trainer. Please look in my previous Q & A below to see my examples. Your incredible workload is eventually going to take a toll. Not only is your volume EXTREMELY high, so is your frequency which means the combination of the two could very easily lead you to overtraining. That would be incredibly frustrating especially considering the amount of time you are committing to training. I would suggest cutting both your volume and frequency back a bit. My four day split will help you see how to accomplish this in your program design.

It is also to remind you that smaller muscle groups do not need such high volumes since they are also trained while doing compound movements for other muscle groups, i.e. bench press, chin-ups, etc. Also, I prefer to split up seperate days for leg training, this way you can give hamstring the same attention that you do the quadriceps. Most either greatly neglect the hamstrings, or place the leg training at the end of the program when they are fatigued and not able to place as much effort into their leg program. I would definately prioritize leg training as it can stimulate growth for the whole body especially if you utilize lifts such as squats and deadlifts.

Question
Squats And Deadlifts? Rep Ranges For Mass?

Here are four questions from a visitor with my answers to each of them:

Question 1. Squat & deadlift. Most bodybuilders swear that these 2 are necessary to stimulate overall muscle fibers and will enhance more growth. What if I don't incorporate them into my routine? Since I've already had mass in my thighs and I kinda worry that deadlifts will only injure my lowback and groin. Will I miss something big here with only doing other compound movements other than squats and deadlifts?

Answer: Because of the demands of these two movements, they do recruit many different muscle groups which not only has a positive effect on growth, but strength as well. I don't know if I have really met anyone that has "enough mass" on their thighs. However, if you still have no desire to increase the size of your thighs you can use less reps and use either a heavier load or faster tempos.

The belief these two exercises will cause injury is a great fallacy. It is only as true as it is with ANY exercise. If you do not know how to perform them properly or become over zealous with the weight then yes you have a risk for injury, but no greater than other movements. In fact, you will end up having a stronger back, hips, and knees, than if you did not include these movements.

Question 2. Currently, I still do squat in a smith machine since my gym doesn't have any squat rack. Is it dangerous to smith squat? How do you execute them properly? What's the difference between execution of free-weight squat and a smith squat?

Answer: That BLOWS my mind. We have gotten so far away from what a gym really needs and what people really need it is unbelievable. It is a sad reflection when the gym has no squat rack!! For those that squat often you will notice that the movement in the Smith Machine is very different. It can even feel very awkward. Because most people have to perform squats on the Smith Machine with a reduced curve in the low back, more pressure is then translated through the knees and low back. I have seen many more injuries from the Smith Machine than I have the free weight equivalents. My suggestion is to use a leg press over the Smith Machine. You can do various other movements though like one legged squats, step-ups, split squats, etc.

Question 3. Most people say that the 8-12 reps regime is optimum for building mass, after like 3 months of doing that kind of reps, what if I do more reps (like 12-15) for chest, back,and arms? I've heard some people say that doing that kind of rep range will shrink your muscles. Is that true? What if I stop lifting weights for awhile and only do bodyweight exercises with a LOT of reps? Will I lose my muscle mass?

Answer: It has been well documented that most hypertrophy will occur using repetitions between 6-12. This allows for sufficient work to be done and enough loading to cause a positive adaptation. More than 12 repetitions would result more in endurance, but hypertrophy is always possible. It will not shrink your muscles as you are still providing enough load to the body. Under 60% is usually considered too low to significantly impact muscle mass. The major mistake people make is that they assume the repetitions have to be the same for all exercises. You can begin your routine with heavier weights and lower repetitions and finish the routine with more of an isolation exercise using lower weight and more repetitions. This way you are getting the best of both worlds.

Question 4. Do you know about male gymnast's workout routines? That's the perfect kind of body I want. What type of training do they do? Do they lift weights?

Answer: Depends on the program. They do a lot strength work manipulating body positions and using high forces from their ballistic activities. Their training lasts many hours a day and utilizes various forms of recovery. Some programs that do lift weights utilize compound movments and Olympic lift variations to compliment the needs of their sport. It is a realistic type of body to achieve, however, realize the great amount of time that they dedicate to their sport and don't expect to acheive the same results over night.

Question
Basketball Programs?

I weigh 180lbs and I was wondering what things I could do to help me with strength for basketball. What would be some good workout routines and what would be the best supplements to take? My body fat is about 20% and I don't currently workout or take anything.

Answer

Basketball is not unique in that it requires many of the fundamental aspects of any other sports. Meaning just becoming strong or big does not ensure that you will perform well on the court. While strength training is definately helpful it should not be where all your time is devoted. Depending on the time of year to, plyometrics are not even needed. Yep, you heard me right, a sport like basketball is a perfect example where employing plyometrics at the wrong time can produce poor results. A good rule of thumb is not to use true plyometric training when you are playing a lot of basketball. When you are playing you are getting enough of a plyometric effect from the sport itself. If anything it can wear down the tissues too much and set you up for injury.

A good basketball program will help develop agility, i.e. using an agility ladder, foot and hand speed (jumping rope), medicine balls can be useful for both sport specific work and developing greater power in the trunk and arms. Lastly, as I often state, Olympic lifts can offer many benefits. For the basketball player it can help with jumping height and flexibility primarily. I am working on an upcoming series of articles on how to learn the Olympic lifts so that many of people can start incorporating them safely into their routines.

Lastly, make sure that you are spending time on drill work. I recently watched one of my clients try out for a professional basketball team. Guess what? They never asked to watch him dunk, didn't ask what his squat was, you know they did? They DRILLED him on skill work for an hour and a half straight! Yep, they wanted to see if he could perform what they consider basic fundamentals and skill work. This is an important lesson to all athletes that drill or technique work should not be neglected during the off-season.

Question
Good Workout Program?

I am 17 year old male (5'10" and 225 lbs) and I have not had any injures from weight training. I am on a cardio and strength training program and I am wondering if I should tone it down some or kick it up some more. Basically my cardio/strength training goes like this:

Monday: 30 minutes interval walk training (5 minute warm up, 30 seconds walking/30 seconds running done for thirty minutes, 5 minute cool down) 2x day and strength training upper and lower body 1x a day and I do some 30-60 second cardio between sets of each exercise.

Tuesday: 30 minute interval walk training 2x a day

Wednesday: Same as Monday

Thursday: 30 minute interval walk training 2x a day

Friday: Same as Monday and Wednesday.

Saturday & Sunday: Off-Days

I mix up my strength training every time (different order of exercises every time) so my body doesn't get used to the routine and doesn't hit a plateau. I am just wondering if this plan is too heavy on cardio and if it could risk losing muscle instead of gaining it. I am trying to get down to 180-185 lbs and perhaps 15-20% body fat by the end of August. I am not sure but I believe that my body fat is somewhere between 25-30%, 28% I believe.

Answer

First let me say thank you for the details of your workout. So many times I get emails without such information and it makes it very difficult to help. Yes, I believe that you are doing too much interval training. I like using this method over traditional aerobics, but more is not always better. In fact, your assumption may be very accurate. You could end up losing bodyweight, but finding that you are looking softer from the loss of muscle. Usually I recommend no more than 4 times a week and once a day. If you would like an additional challenge or new way to vary up your routine I would suggest you read my "Getting In Shape" series.

I am not sure what your strength training program is though. If you are weight training 5 days I believe that is too much as well. Most people respond well to 3-4 day training programs as this allows for adequate recovery. I personally believe the one body part a day routine is a waste of time. I like that you vary your workouts however, your body needs to adapt to the routines somewhat to get the desired response. My advice is to keep the same routine for 4 weeks and then vary either all the variables or some of them. Meaning you can keep all the exercises and change the order like you have been or do a giant overhaul of the program.

The one aspect you left out was what your nutritional program consisted of? This can be just as much a help or hinderence depending upon what you are currently doing. Please take some time and look over the many articles on nutrition and make sure your program reflects your goals.

Remember, more is not always better. At the other end you may need to change and make what you are currently doing more challenging.

Question
Creating Attainable Goals?

I am a 16 year old male. I workout at the gym 5-6 times a week and I also do at least one 30 minute toning session a day. I take creatine, weight gainer, protein shakes. I've been training for about a year and a half and my bodyfat is at about 6% or 7%.

I want to know how many calories I need to eat a day to gain 2 pounds or so each week, I am right now about 174 and I want to be 200 by September 4th, I know that is a lot of weight but I am willing to get it. I also want the huge traps, I have been working them out and seen some improvement but not all that I am hoping for. I basically want to gain about 15-20 lbs but try not to have by body fat raise above 9-10%.

Answer

I receieve many emails like this one above. However, most miss the point of trying to outline a detailed training and nutritonal program. Without such information I am truly taking the shotgun approach to giving any useful advice. In this case though, it is a little easier since the goal is 2 pounds every week.

Where did this goal exactly come from? Meaning why try to gain 26 pounds in about 13 weeks? If you were to achieve this goal we never stated what percentage is bodyfat and what percentage is lean body mass. Chances are the majority of body mass would be bodyfat. There are several problems with this goal.

1. It is never defined why it is meaningful to achieve these numbers. Just because "I want to" is not really going to cut it.

2. How much progress has been obtained? If you haven't gained more than 10 pounds in a year and a half what makes you believe it is possible to gain 26 in 13 weeks?

3. I have no idea what the current training and nutritional program actually is.

4. Muscle gain does not occur in a linear manner. Meaning that you can not expect to gain 1 pound of muscle every week. There will be times that you seem to gain very little and other times where you seem to balloon very easily. There are numerous reasons that this would occur.

5. This goal is not very realistic. Most people have a hard time believing that a professional athlete can put on 20-30 pounds of muscle on during an off-season. You are still at an age where the body is still maturing and such goals just do not seem very reasonable and only set you up to partake in very unhealthy choices. I would highly suggest that you reevaluate your goals. Go over how much you have gained over the time you have trained and see if these goals appear to be reasonable. If you would like more input please supply the full training and nutritional progam.

Question
Stack ECA With These Supplements?

I am an 18 year old male, 6'3, 270lbs and about 16% body fat. I'm going to start the keto diet along with running every morning and walking at night. I'm going to take the Tricuts II and Guggubolic for my thyroid at the same time but I was wondering if it would be a bad idea to take an ECA stack along with the Tricuts II and Guggubolic in the mornings before I run.

Answer

I don't think too highly of Tricuts II as an effective fat burner and the active ingredient in guggubolic has been shown to raise estrogen levels. I think the ECA, glutamine, and flaxseed oil stack would be much more beneficial. You did not mention which keto diet you were planning on using, my only problem with keto diets is that they do not teach people how to eat properly long-term. Since being in ketosis can increase your risk for cancer, I don't believe anyone promotes being in this state long-term. If you would like a great book I would recommend Dr. Mauro DiPasquale's Metabolic Diet book. The information is great and he outlines actually cycling periods of low carb with high carb. You can find it on www.metabolicdiet.com.

You didn't mention anything about your strength training routine. Remember that weight training can be extremely effective in promoting fat loss and keeping the weight off from an increased metabolism. You don't have to spend more than 45 minutes lifting, but you should seriously consider employing a routine as just aerobics will make you quickly plateau. In addition, you should think about altering the type of aerobics you use. You may use ideas from my "Losing Fat Without Aerobics" article or "Getting In Shape" series.

Question
Weightlifting With Tendonitis?

I am 42 years old and after 12 years of not working out due to depression, I have started working out again. I am experiencing significant tendonitis and am told that I need to change my workout to do more aerobic exercises instead of using weights. I really like the weight lifting routine however the tendonitis is very painful. I have been very careful to control the weight and not use extremely heavy weights. I have been doing 20-25 reps X 4 sets just because I cannot use heavy weights. Is there anything I can do to continue using the weights to build size and definition?

Answer

How was this diagnosis of tendonitis made? Would seem highly unlikely that you have developed such tendonitis unless technique is not where it should be. In fact, performing the type of routine you have outlined suggests that you are spending more than appropriate time in a General Adaptation Phase. This means you are taking the time to develop the strength of the tendons and preparing the body for the work of more intensive workouts. I would highly suggest that you seek out the expertise of a good soft-tissue specialist to get a better idea of the cause of your problem.

Doctors unfortunately are very quick to tell individuals to stop lifting. This may or may not be appropriate, but utilizing the expertise of other health professionals may give you new hope in this area. It would have been more helpful to know the types of exercises you are using as well as your past health history. Are you currently taking any medications? If so I would seek out information to see if there is any side effects of those particular medications. My doubt stems from the fact I work with many individuals older than you and have no problems with arthritis, tendonitis, or general adaptation to exercise. Worst case I may suggest working closely with a trainer that specializes in corrective exercise to see if your problems can be avoided or helped. Please check out www.paulchekseminars.com for trainers that are certified in such work in your area.

Question
Why Can't I Gain? How Much Cardio Should I Do?

I am a 15 year old male I had some shoulder problems but now they seem fine. I've been training for about 2 years on and off and I have changed my workout schedule many times. In the last year I have tried 2 different wokrout schedules. One where I worked each different muscle group twice a week and another where I worked 2 different groups on 5 seperate days. I find that I start to increase in weight and reps, but do not gain in size and with each workout I get stuck at a certain weight and rep count for all different exercises. I can't seem to get passed this plateau. Do you have any suggestions of a workout ruotine where you train all of the muscles groups twice a week and in which I will notice a difference in my body? I am currently taing Prolab N-Large2 and amino acid pills.

Also, I know that to become even close to the shape that todays professional bodybuilders are in you must set up your workout with weights and cardio. But I do not know how I should come at it. Could you tell me a way to do this? For example should I do light cardio weight train then a heavy cardio? How long should I do this cardio? What type of cardio has proven results? I also have to work around school when it comes time in September, but I will always make enough time to weight lift for atleast 2 hours.

Answer

Why is your assumption that training more will produce a greater result? There are many reasons that you may not be experiencing the muscle growth you desire.

  1. You are not eating enough and not enough quality foods. You should be eating around 5-7 times a day. There should be very little fast food in your diet and lots of lean meats, eggs, all natural peanut butter, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  2. Your body is still maturing. People develop at certain rates so your body may still be maturing which means you won't see huge muscle gains for a few more years. However, I would check your training logs to make sure you are making a lot of progress as far as strength is concerned.
  3. Your program is not well planned. You should be changing some form of your workout every 4-6 weeks. This can be simple changes as in exercise order, reps, or a giant overhaul of the whole program.

For supplements you really would be best off with a good multi-vitamin/mineral, anti-oxidant, protein powder, and carbohydrate powder (post-workout) primarily.

You want to get in shape like a pro bodybuilder? First I don't know if I would say bodybuilders are in great shape, sorry guys, but I have seen professional bodybuilders that can't walk through an airport without huffing and puffing. If your goal is to put on body weight I would probably not do more than 3 days of cardio work each week. For ideas of different methods that you can use that won't make you lose muscle mass please read my "Losing Fat Without Aerobics" article or my "Getting In Shape" series.

Question
Bringing Up My Chest And Arms?

I am a 15 year old. And I have been training for about three years. I am 150 lbs and I am about 6 feet tall. My legs are super strong and I can leg press over 800 lbs. but my arms and chest are lagging. I have been doing bench, incline, decline, curls for about two years now and I have had a very little progress. Right when I got into freshmen football before I started ninth grade, I could only bench 95 lbs A year later I can only bench 135. I lift about 6 times a week. I don't see a real difference. I keep working out but just nothing. My squat is 225 lbs that is good for a 150 lb guy like me. I have had no really big problems with my body.

Answer

Let me say that it is great that you have begun training at such an ealier age. I believe it will only help you obtain your goals of football glory. The leg press is a very poor test of leg strength. This is not to disappoint you, but to better educate how to measure your progress. The leg press does not challenge the body in typical movement patterns. Being supported and with somewhat a limited range of motion the transfer to the squat is very poor as you have noticed. Having an 800 pound leg press and a 225 squat means only approximately a 28% carryover from the leg press to squat. This is not an exact measurement, however, you can see the significant difference between the two. More importantly, the leg press has little impact upon sporting performance because it does not challenge the body to balance in space which the body is forced to do every day on the field.

When people also tell me their squatting numbers it is hard for me to get a genuine idea of their strength levels. First, there are two main ways to perform a squat, Olympic style (closer stance, but almost touches the ground) and lower bar or more of a powerlifting stance (wider stance and more hip movement, the thighs usually hit parallel or just slightly below). Either one is acceptable, however, being around many high school programs I have seen butchered versions of both. So, let us examine your routine more carefully rather than how much you are lifting.

High school programs for the most part are completely lost in how to construct beneficial sports performance programs. There is no need to be lifting six times a week. If anything you have experienced success in spite of the program and not because of it. The bench press is probably the most overemphasized lift that has very little transfer to the actual game. If you would really want to impress someone, tell them you could overhead squat your bodyweight! Benching once a week is adequate focusing more on speed of the bar than the actual weight. In addition you do not need to be doing a ton of chest work, you are trying to become a better football player and not a bodybuilder. Your progam should be focused around Olympic lift variations (an article in which I will be working on in the near future), compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, chins, bench, etc. Also a great deal of abdominal work should be done to help support the health of your body while you participate in such a punishing game.

Even though you mentioned your strength work you did not mention what you were doing for your flexibility, speed, or agility work. These are also equally and sometimes more important components of athletic development. If you would like to see specific examples of all these movements I would highly recommend John Davies, Renegade Training for Football book found on www.dragondoor.com. Instead of focusing on just how much you lift, try to structure your goals around things that will allow you to perform better on the football field.

Question
Lower Abs Not Showing Up?

I have been training for a few months now and I am almost completely satisfied with my success. I ve lost 30 pounds. I am 5'8", 145 pounds right now. The beer belly is gone and my muscles are toning up. I do 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week (intense cardio). I also ride my bike a lot. I lift 2 times per week (3 exercises per body part, 12-16 reps, 3 sets per exercise, including abs). I have a pretty good diet. I eat 5-6 meals per day. But I have had a four pack for a while now but the lower two have not shown up yet. I can feel underneath the little "pouch" in my stomach. The little pouch does not seem to be going away... or if it is, it is taking a long time. What else can I do? The rest of my body is doing well.

I want to start gaining some more weight but will the pouch go away if I increase my caloric intake? The rest of me is pretty lean including 2/3 of my abs and I feel ready to start gaining muscle. Any thoughts? I also take creatine, glutamine and protein. I would really appreciate your input in both training and nutrition.

Age 30
Bodyfat +- 10%

Answer

It would be more helpful to know your exact bodyfat. However, your problem is not unique. When one can see abdominal development in men, you can estimate their bodyfat to be a little lower than 10%. To get the lower abdominal development the amount of bodyfat can vary. The only guarantee is that it would have to be an extremely low level. This is usually too hard to maintain unless you are genetically blessed with such development. At 5'8 and 145 pounds you are very light and would probably benefit greatly from putting on some muscle mass. How much is up to you and your goals.

Diet is not really as big of a mystery as some to make it out. You must start by taking out crappy types of foods such as fast food and highly processed goods. Secondly, you need to make sure you are eating at least 4 times a day with 5-7 being preferrable. The majority of your protein intake should come from lean quality meats and eggs. Protein powders should be used to supplement your diet for convenient meals but not replace the whole food meals. Carbohydrates should be mainly in the form of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Many times I recommend clients to travel to natural food stores as these are one of the few places you can get true whole grain products. Last, but definately not least, you must be getting quality fat from sources such as fish oils, flaxseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc.

This is where I recommend most people to start. If one ceases to make any progress with their training we always first examine the training program, then see if we can clean up the diet anymore. To assume a specific ratio of macronutrients works for every individual is too simplistic and not realistic. We all respond to foods and ratios differently. I use very general recommendations such as 1 gram of protein per pound of bodymass (1 gram per lean pound of bodymass if trying to lose bodyfat and still eating carbs) and 30% of fat should be coming from fats. Everyone will tolerate carbohydrates differently and you can adjust the ratio depending upon how your body responds. A calorie is not a calorie and those that promote such an outdated idea are taking a very simplistic view point upon nutrition.

I would lastly increase your weight training to at least 3 times a week and no more than 4. I have posted some of my favorite splits in previous Q & A's below so please take time to look them over. If you are riding your bike constantly I would not see a huge need to perform a great deal of aerobic work, especially if you decide to add some muscle mass. Depending upon how long these rides are you can adjust the volume of aerobic training. You may also want to try the program outlined in my "Getting In Shape Pt. 2" article.

Question
Bigger Arms? When To Take Creatine?

I'm 16 and I weigh 155 lbs and I'm inspiring to become a Navy Seal. I've been strength training for only 6 months. I've seen improvement in all of my lifts except for my curls. Right now I'm doing 3 sets with 10-8-6 reps. I'm taking Nitro-Tech bars, Nitro-Tech supplements, and shark cartilage. I was wondering what I could change to improve my curl weight. I've had 2 injuries, I pulled a muscle in my shoulder, which has already healed, and I bruised my ribs when a spotter dropped 225lbs on my side. I was also wondering what time of the day it is best to lift. I know that the morning is the best time to lift but I was wondering what time in the morning was best.

Answer

Well, there is some scientific research and anecdotal evidence to answer your question about the best time to train. There is research that shows hormone levels are highest in the morning and tend to be low in the late afternoon. Body temperature also increases after about 3 hours of waking, so muscle elasticity increases. However, the reality is we can't always dictate when we want to train. Many people have jobs, families, or other committments that allow them only to train when they have time. My suggestion is to train when you feel your best and so that you can keep a great level of consistency.

Ok, now to answer your questions about curls. You did not provide your training program so it is hard for me to have a good idea of what you have been doing. So, I will just make some general comments. Your overall program should be emphasizing compound lifts. If it is, you will be doing plenty of pulling movements like chin-up variations. Chins, rows, etc. are great way to help build the biceps as they are involved in pulling heavier weights than when isolated in most curl exercises. Some may argue with my next point, but I believe it is very helpful to train the biceps at various hand positions and angles. This is because motor recruitment and muscle recruitment patterns change with each variation. I would do no more than approximately 9 total sets for your biceps though.

Some other good ideas are to use exercises you are not use to doing. Some of my favorites are sand bag carries, sled hand over hand pulls, kettlebell work, and one arm barbell curls. Yes, barbells not dumbbells, just for a good variety.

Question
How Long Should Each Workout Be?

I want to ask you about the cortisol. How long actually is it until it is released during a workout? Is it 45, 60, or 75 minutes. I really enjoy working out for an hour to 90 minutes, but due to the buzz on cortisol, I cut back my morkout to 60 minutes max. So it's the classic question... how long should my workout last? I work out 4 times/a week.

Answer

This is another classic situation where people have blown a concept out of proportion. Yes, cortisol is a stress hormone and if it is too prevelant then it can be a problem. However, it is also a natural process and helps the body as well. The key is to keep it to moderate levels. A good rule of thumb is to have the actual weight training portion of the training session not to exceed 1 hour. Now, this would not include the warm-up sets, just working sets. For myself I will exceed an hour for a training session because of my extensive warm-up and cool-down drills. However, this is also to help me prevent many of the problems you mentioned.

Cortisol secretion can depend on various factors such as the type of training performed, muscle groups trained, exercises used, individual response to stress. So, you see it would be very difficult to place a label on a very general question. The take home point though is to have a well organized plan of attack so that you are not wasting time and maximize your time in the gym. Excluding warm-up and cool-down, the working sets again should not exceed an hour and will often be more around 40 minutes.

Question
Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?

I'm a 17 year old male, 200 lbs. I'm not sure exactly what my body fat is but I'm asduming that it is around 20%, because it was 14% about a year ago, but I've gained about 35 pounds since then. Pretty much all muscle though but I do have a beer belly. I've been lifting 6 days a week for about 20 months now, and now all of a sudden my blood pressure is higher than it used to be and it has aroused concern. It was perfect when I was 14 yrs old, 130lbs, but I've gained a lot of size from training, and now it's kind of high, So I am going to start doing cardio and running 5 days a week, I also need to do this anyways cause I have football coming up in the fall.

However, I fear that I will lose hard gained muscle with all of the cardio I am about to start doing. My body isn't used to cardio anymore so I think it will get shocked and drop a lot of pounds. I worked so hard to get big, but now I am faced with a difficult situation because I must now do cardio, but I am literally sickened by the thought of losing my muscle that I have dedicated my life to achieving. Hot can I get into good cardiovascular shape without having tons of weight drop off? How much do you expect I will lose? And the main reason I'm begining to play football again is because of how big I have gotten... what if that diminshes over the summer with all the cardio I'm going to be doing? Then the main reason I wanted to play will be gone.

Answer

So, let us break this down for a moment. If you were 14% at 165 that would give you approximately 23 pounds of bodyfat. Now, at 200 if you are around 20% you would have approximately 40 pounds of bodyfat. In that 35 pounds you gained almost half would have been fat, so my initial thought is your nutritional program was much to relaxed. There really is no reason so much of your gains should come from fat since this is neither productive for cosmetic or performance purposes.

What doctors don't tell most young people is that having "abnormal" blood pressure during the teenage years can be pretty normal. Most times it will straighten itself out. This doesn't mean though taking care of your training or watching your nutrition more carefully won't help out. It is also important to note that strength training causes very positive adaptations to the cardiovascular system as well. Because most of the research in the West has centered around aerobic training, there is a huge misconception that strength training is not as useful for improving cardiovascular risk factors.

You didn't mention what type of running program you were going to start. If my assumptions are correct this would be more of an endurance run. Why would you believe this to be more beneficial for the heart or sporting performance than High Intensity Intermittent Training (HIIT)? In fact, most research points to HIIT as being superior for cardiovascular, body composition, and sporting performance objectives.

Why do you believe you have to do a lot right away? This goes against the whole concept of progressive overload which is not exclusive to weight training. I would highly suggest you check out my series of articles on General Physical Preparation and How to Lost Fat Without Aerobics. The first article I suggested will help you also with football appropriate conditioning.

Question
Is This A Good Program?

I am a 26 year old male and have been training now for the last six years. Progress has been slow. I find that when I try to bulk up the only thing that I bulk up is my stomach. I train hard and eat clean even when I am trying to bulk up. I use glutamine, creatine and musashi protein powder. At present I am sitting at around 10% for bodyfat.

My goals for my training are pretty simple really. I want to be in great shape and want to get to around 6% bodyfat but actually keep some muscle. Time frame would like to achieve this within the next 6 months. Type of traning regime currently on is 2 days on, 1 off body split into 3 back/biceps, chest/triceps and shoulders/legs. I try to get in 4-6 cardio sessions a week.

I really am getting discouraged one day I would love to compete but I am finding that this really seems like something unattainable. I have been trying hard with my program but have got to the point of giving up. Here is my current program:

Diet

5-6 meals per day split up every 2-3 hours. I am a shift worker so time changes.

Meal 1 porridge milk fruit, orange juice and creatine if training in morning.
Meal 2 postworkout protein drink with glutamine added plus piece of fruit
Meal 3 pasta plus tuna or fish or beef and baked vegetables
Meal 4 protein shake maybe rice aswell
Meal 5 as meal 3
Meal 6 maybe a protein shake before bed.

Training

Workout 1:
latpulldown 3x8-10
bb curl 3x8-10
seated row 3x8-10
alt db curl 3x8-10
db row 3x8-10
preacher curl 3x8-10
bb row 3x8-10

Workout 2:
incl bp 3 sets
tricep pushdown 3 sets
bench press 3 sets
overhead tricep ext 3 sets
flat flye 3 sets
dips 3 sets

Workout 3:
bb shoulder press
leg ext 3 sets
side raise 3 sets
squat 3sets
upright row 3 sets
leg curl 3 sets
standing calf raise 3 sets

All exercises 8-10 reps, high intensity. Sometimes I will add in drop sets.

Answer

Alright, let's get rolling here. I think it is safe to assume that your primary goal is to lose bodyfat as "getting in shape" can mean a million different things. Looking at your diet I would make the following recommendations.

1. Cut out the juice, rice, and any other simple sugar or bread type product this includes pasta.
2. Take creatine post-workout.
3. Need to have protein in the morning and having a high fiber carb to compliment it is fine.
4. 20-30 grams of glutamine post-workout.
5. 9-12 Fish oil capsules
6. 2 tablespoons of Flaxseed oil

Workout:

If you are going to train four days a week (which what your current split almost works out to) I would prefer one of the following splits:

Day 1: Back and Triceps
Day 2: Hips, Obliques, and Calves
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Chest and Biceps
Day 5: Quads, Trunk Flexors, Calves
Day 6 & 7:Off

or

Day 1: Upper Body
Day 2: Lower Body
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Upper Body
Day 5: Lower Body
Day 6 & 7: Off

Vary up your set and rep schemes more. Sure the classic 3 sets of 10 reps will work for a little while, but you will need to add some much needed variety. This includes changing exercises, rest intervals, exercise order, etc. Make sure to place more emphasis on the legs especially with more compound movements. It will equally be important to vary your cardiovascular program. Make sure to include some high-intensity aerobic work.

Question
More Sets For Bigger Arms?

I am a 25 year old, 6'1", 210 pound male. I've been working out now for about 5 years and have for the most part been doing 6 direct sets for bi's and 6 direct sets for tri's. I'm pretty happy with the size that I've gotten in my arms although I would like a little more. So can I assume that maybe by adding one more set per exercise for my bi's and tri's that this could help? My biggest fear is overtraining as I was doing that for years before someone finally set me straight. So basically I'm asking you if 9 direct sets for bi's and tri's is overtraining?

Answer

There are two very important points to make right off the bat.

1. More is not always better. To accomplish better goals does not mean you have to increase the amount of work you are performing.

2. Overtraining is much more rare than most people think. Because we live in a society where even many of our athletes are out of shape we must think of bringing up our individual work capacity. How do you know if you are overtraining? You feel sick, depressed, joints ache, lack of progress in the gym, etc. As long as you don't exhibit these symptoms you should be fine.

You did not list what reps, sets, rest intervals, or exercises you had been using. If you are doing compound pushing and pulling movements, direct arm work should just enhance the work being performed by your upper arms. Even when you do train your arms directly I would utilize bigger movements such as:

1. Close Grip Chin-ups
2. Dips
3. Close Grip Bench Variations

Most importantly you mentioned you were making good progress. If this is true why do you think you should change what you are doing? Of course progress never seems to come as fast as we like, but the fact you are making signficant changes should be very rewarding. As the old saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Question
Improving Vertical Jump Without Equipment?

I am 19 years old, 5'7", and weigh about 67 kg. I have been playing basketball for a number of years and am able to touch the standard 10 foot rim. I am also active in marathons and triathlons. I really want to increase my vertical and if possible dunk as well. I am from Malaysia and this area where I stay does not have a gym or anyone who can help me. I do own a pair of dumbells (5kg each) and skipping-rope. Can you recommend or draw up a program where I can train my vertical leap? I do know also that there are many programs that guarantee the increase in vertical but would also bring about serious injuries.

Answer

This is actually an email I thought about for some time. There is no reason anyone needs fancy equipment to achieve some positive results. At the same time it would have been nice to have access to just very basic gym equipment. Anyways, we will try to think of a very easy way of accomplishing some of your goals.

The good sign is that you seem to have very good genetics. You don't weigh very much so my impression is you do not have a lot of strength in the back side of your legs. However, we can try to change this with some ideas.

I would use the jump rope in the following manner:

Three rounds consisting of 3 minute intervals. During these intervals you will perform smaller 15 second intervals of the following jump rope techniques:

1. Two foot skip
2. Split Shuffle
3. Side to side
4. Front to back
5. Double Hop
6. Hip Turn Left
7. Hip Turn Right
8. Running High Knees
9. Crossover hands
10. Single Leg Left
11. Single Leg Right
12. Triangle

In between rounds you can do 30 seconds of the any of the following movements.

Push-ups
Burpees
Push-ups + Burpees
Towel Chins + Burpees

Unweighted General Physical Preparation

This will be helpful in developing the power muscles of the backside and improve calf strength. You will do the following movements in a circuit pattern. Understand this is a beginner level and as you progress you should follow the basic rules of periodization.

Three circuits, each exercise is done for 30 seconds:

Jumping Jacks
Split Shuffle
Burpees
Star Jumps

Weighted General Physical Preparation

Since you don't have any equipment available you can do a variety of traditional strongman exercises. Depending upon what you have available you can choose and periodize these exercises as well.

Wheelbarrow Push
Farmer's Walk
Sled Dragging
Tire Flip
Hand over Hand Sled Pull
Sledgehammer
Turkish Get-ups
Sand Bag Overhead Carry
Sand Bag Cleans
Sand Bag Swings

What these exercises do is provide strengthening of the overall body especially the torso and hips. Once you get better at some these movements you can slowly make them more explosive. I usually recommend you do these exercise for time. For example, tire flipping for 5 minutes or 50 yards. You can slowly increase the time or speed of movement.

I understand most of these ideas and exercises may be very new to you so I suggest for a full description you go to www.renegadetraining.com. This is the website of a great performance coach, John Davies. I think you will find all the necessary information and maybe some additional good ideas.

Question
Too Unflexible For Deadlifts?

I was at the gym today and asked one of the trainers to show me how to do stiff leg deadlifts, he showed me them and then I gave it a try. Now I have pretty good form and did the best I could but he said I kept rounding my back. He said to start stretching my hamstrings because they are connected to my lower back or something like that, and if I stretch my hams I will be more flexible in my lower back and be able to perform the exercise correctly. He also said that he wouldnt recommend the exercise because it is quite dangerous since I'm only 16. I was just wondering if you could tell me what you think of the whole situation and if I do need to start stretching.

Answer

I would be very interested in how this trainer determined your hamstrings were too tight. Now this very well could be the case however, his determination of this would be interesting to hear. First, did this trainer have you actually perform the exercise with completely straight legs? You see the name of this exercise is very misleading. In actuality you have about a 15-20 degree bend in the knees when you perform the stiff-legged deadlift (I prefer calling them Romanian deadlifts). The reason for this slight bend in the knee is that the ITBand on the side of the leg is somewhat "anchored" into the gluteal area. With the slight bend in the knee the butt now becomes more heavily involved in the movement and since the glutes are a big time hip extensor this is very necessary. In addition, this takes some load off the low back and transfers the load more balanced to the hamstrings, glutes, and yes the low back.

If I were watching someone performing this movment I could determine if they had tight hamstrings in the following manner. Near the end of the movement, when the body is almost parallel to the ground, the pelvis should be rotating. This is known as proper lumbo-pelvic mechanics. If the pelvis does not rotate and the low back tends to round, this is a good sign the hamstrings at the hip may be tight and should be stretched.

It is crazy that certain lifts should only be done for certain age levels. If you have proper technique then there is no danger in using this exercise, but I re-emphasize proper technique. Don't become too consumed with the weight on the bar especially if it compromises your form. THIS is where injuries occur not in the exercise themselves. The old saying "quality over quantity" is a good rule to follow. This is a great exercise especially for young people looking to improve size or strength.

Question
Increasing Vertical Jump?

I was wondering if at 16 I could get into the type of training you referred to in your "Increasing Your Vertical Jump" article? I have recently been training with jumpsoles but still have yet to finish and at 5'9" and being already the tallest in my family I have a feeling I will not be getting any taller and I would really like to dunk. Will any of this training help me? I was also wondering if you knew the highest ever recorded vertical jump because I heard it was done by a weightlifter and I thought you might know.

Answer

The techniques I explained in that article are appropriate for anyone that does not have an injury that would be contraindicative of that type of training. With that in mind, one can also only use what they already know how to perform correctly. This is where many lifters that try to use plyometrics or Olympic lifts go wrong. Since very few coaches are knowledgeable on these training techniques, lifters are taught incorrect techniques and program design, so THIS is where injuries come from.

At 5'9 you can definately get to the point of dunking if this is your primary goal. The only thing I will say in regards to my above statement is dunking is only a very small part of the game and too much time should not be devoted to only this really insignificant part of the game. Yes, a vertical is important, but look at progress and not only the goal of dunking. Most research has not shown the jumpsoles to be productive in significantly improving one's vertical leap.

If you are unfamiliar with Olympic lifts and plyometrics you can still significantly improve your vertical safely while working on your range of motion and hip strength. This may not seem very exciting, but you will be very surprised at how increasing your mobility (especially in the hips) will allow you to jump with more freedom and better height. Strengthening the hips with the movements previously mentioned (deadlifts, pull-throughs, goodmornings, etc) will greatly help as the hips are the most influencial in jumping height.

I am not sure of the highest vertical ever tested. Remember tested is very different than anecdotal stories. I know many Olympic lifters have been tested at the US Olympic Training Center with verticals from 35 to 40 inches. This is amazing considering these are also very large athletes.

Question
Neck Pain Solution?

I am 34 years old and been weight training on and off most my adult life. When I started results came quickly and in my early twenties I could bench press 300lbs. But very soon after I started experiencing severe neck pain radiating to the shoulder through the elbow into the wrist and pins and needles in my little finger. This stopped me from training regularly, however when the pain would ease I would try training again. With this problem I have never really progressed in my fitness. Over the past 3 years I have given up completely and I have spent thousands and thousand of dollars on medical bills. In an acute phase treatment helps but I still live with a deep dull pain in the neck with my neck going into spasm now and again, however this is less frequent now. I have had many X-rays and MRI scans that show narrowing disc space between c5-6 disc space, but all the doctors say the structures in my neck are stable.

Training and fitness are a very important part of my life and doctors have said it is safe for me train. The pain has affected every aspect of my life. I have also tried various supplements like MSM and glucosamine. I would appreciate any advice or a suggested routine that I can follow.

Answer

First, let me say I am not a physician and I can not diagnose your problem. All I can do is provide you with some suggestions based upon my knowledge. It is frustrating when we seek out the help of health professionals and can't find any method that proves to be effective. Some factors that you left out that are important are the following:

1. Did this problem come on suddenly, or did it progress slowly?
2. Was this related to a certain movement or exercise performed or just irritated by exercise?
3. What was the treatments and suggestions other health professionals provided?

Outside of knowing those answers lets see if we can figure out some possible solutions. Problems in the neck are problematic not only from the perspective of pain, but with all the nerves that bypass this region it can cause significant weakness in the arm, shoulder, and upper back. Chiropractic adjustments would only be useful if x-rays demonstrated the alignment in the neck was off. Sometimes the very first vertabrae called the Atlas can be knocked out of place and throw off the alignment of the whole body. To place this vertabrae back I would recommend the evaluation of a NUCCA chiropractor. You can search the internet for one in your area. These are specialists in this area. I have had chiropractors adjust my Atlas manually and have actually made it significantly worse!

My other suggestion is to find a highly qualified soft-tissue specialist. If you have no idea where to turn I recommend checking out www.activereleasetechnique.com to find a good practitioner in your area. Possibly by removing muscle adhesions or scars you would release the pressure on the nerves and find a great deal of relief. This may take several treatments, but you should find a great deal of progress from the very first treatment.

I hope you will be able to follow through with these suggestions and keep me up to date on your progress.

Question
Workout For A 6-Pack?

I read your article "The Best Exercises You Aren't Doing" and it was really good. I was wondering if you could tell me some good ab exercises. I do everything I can but I just can't seem to get that six pack. The thing that seems to work the best is elevated situps. I know that you're busy but if you could help me out I'd really appreciate it. I'm looking for an intense workout. I'd really like to get in better shape. Also if you've got any cardio suggestions I like to hear them, thank you very much for your time.

Answer

Let me answer the question about abdominal training first. If you can not see your abdominal development then this is more about your bodyfat levels being too high and not them necessarily being strong enough. Abdominal exercises should vary from basic to complex depending upon the strength of the individual. Some great books you can find explaining some exercises can be found on http://www.paulchekseminars.com or http://www.dragondoor.com.

Let me now address the second question about designing workouts. I am not directing this only to the gentleman that wrote this email, but the many emails I get requesting the same thing. I would love to ideally write everyone a workout, however, this is not realistic from a time perspective or what I have decided to dedicate as a career. Many people are more than happy to write workouts, but they also do not work as professionals in the field. I have spent a lot of time and money to develop myself into a successful professional. These requests are very similar to me asking a mechanic to fix my car for free, a cook to make me a meal for free, etc. Now, I really do not mean to sound like an ass. I would just like everyone to appreciate the time commitment I have made and the one that would require to write all these programs. If purchasing programs is something you are interested in developing then please write in to Bodybuilding.com and make the suggestion.

Question
Is Ephedra Safe?

Ephedra and Ephedrine have been a supplement I have been hearing about a lot lately... Bodybuilding.com says it is safe and sells it like crazy, but the NFL banned it because some of the players died of its use. I am at odds on what to believe. I heard the reason why one of the players died was because he went for a run after taking Ripped Fuel and a cup of coffee. Anyways, I have been making very good gains with my training and I was wondering if you recommended taking a thermogenic like Ripped Fuel when I want to get down to a lower bodyfat percentage. I don't want to end up with any health problems. I plan on going for runs and training hard to be in great shape for my next wrestling season. Currently I am weight training 5 days a week. Can you give me some advice on taking this supplement at my age for losing weight if you recommend it. I read your article on supplements on your page, but I wasn't sure if it applied to someone younger like myself.

Answer

Ephedra is a relatively safe supplement. It does increase one's heart rate so if you do have any of the conditions that are contraindicative you are better off avoiding the supplement. The risk of the supplement is very low when you are taking reasonable dosages and not keeping yourself dehydrated. Since the ephedra products are normally combined with caffeine you must be careful and aware that these are also diuretics so you must keep yourself hydrated. Just like anything else though, if you take inappropriate or outrageous dosages of ephedra it can be dangerous.

Do you need this particular supplement? No, not really. Does it help, sure as you have noticed. Eventually you will tolerate the lower dosages and naturally you will need to increase the dosage to obtain the same effects. You must be careful though as I mentioned getting to higher dosages can lead to significant problems. Also, these stimulants drain the adrenal glands which are very important for improving training effects. So, after six weeks I recommend take a two week break minimally. Let the adrenals recover and you will notice smaller dosages will be once again effective.

Read the latest Harvard study on Ephedra's safety and benefits! Click HERE.

Question
Become A Better Athlete?

Could you give me some tips, workouts, supplements, training, nutrition and things I should know to be an outstanding athlete? I am a sophomore in high school right now. I'd say I am a pretty good athlete right now but I want to be even better and better. I play football and I am a sprinter on the track team. I run the 400 meter in 51.79 seconds, the 200 in 23.5 seconds, I am a wide reciever on the football team; I run the 40 yd dash in 4.7 seconds; My best bench press is 225; best deadlift is 315 and my best squat is 275. I want to be the fastest on my football team and get my strength up alot. I want to work on increasing my fast-twitch muscles fibers.

Answer

Hmmmm... that is a hard place to start. I hope though that you have read my article "So You Want To Be An Athlete." What makes up a good athlete is the combination of many qualities. Just being strong and big isn't sufficient and just practicing the sport won't be enough. It is optimally combining the two.

You can't increase the number of fast-twitch muscle fibers. You can though make your body more efficient at utilizing these fibers. This can be done by using explosive and/or very heavy movements. Olympic weightlifters are one of the most proficient at recruiting these fibers as their lifts are very explosive and they will train at varying intensities.

During your off-season you should also try to get better at the specific skills of your chosen sports. In the case of a wide receiver, learn how to come out of cuts better, or how to position your body in relation to the defender. Eventually you will meet up with an opponent that can match your physical abilities. You will need to be technically sound to overmatch these individuals.

Your question is very complex and many texts have been written to just explain the general theory of such questions. If you would like something that gives more direct answers though I would suggest you check out Performance Coach, John Davies' new football training book on www.dragondoor.com.

Question
Lifts For Increasing Speed?

1. Since you hold a Bachelor's degree maybe you have an idea if Creatine is safe for 15 year olds?

2. What lifts could you suggest for increasing speed?

Answer

Yes, creatine is safe. However, you must remain hydrated as it will make you retain water. You also need to make sure you are doing the most important things such as eating lots of quality food, getting plenty of sleep, and taking care of your body whenever possible (please see my post-workout article).

Increasing speed depends on many things. Like everything else in training it depends on what is your weakness. You may be strong, but not capable of developing that force quickly (rate of force development). This would be improved through the use of Olympic lifts and explosive exercise variations as well as the well structured use of plyometrics. You may need to increase strength of the hips which would involve the implementation of goodmornings, cable pull-throughs, glute-ham raises, and reverse hypers. It may be as simple as you are too tight in the hips and you need to commit time to improving your flexibility and range of motion. As I have described in previous Q & A's below, this may involve the use of basic gymnastic movements and hurdle mobility drills.

Question
Whey And Creatine For Girls?

I am a 17 year old female and I am trying to tone my body during my summer break. I am currently 5'6", 134 lbs, 28% body fat. My first goal during the winter was to lose 5 lbs and I suceeded in that but now my goal is to lose the remaining fat on my arms and legs. I have been weight training and doing aerobic exercises such as bicycling and jump roping and was wondering if I should start taking additional supplements such as whey or creatine to build more muscle to burn the fat. I am afraid if I take this stuff I will look huge instead of toned. I can build muscle fast and right now, I can see my biceps and triceps when I flex my arm but I can still pinch the fat when I do this. I want to be slimmer but more defined with less fat. My main concern is if taking this stuff will just make me more buff looking instead of toned.

This is my training schedule so far:

MON: weight train upper body, abs
TUES: biking, jump rope
WEDS: weight train legs
THURS: weight train upper body, abs
FRI: biking, jump rope
SAT and SUN: rest

I eat five meals a day, mostly 25 g protein per meal. I also take a multi vitamin, protein shake, protein bar, and ECA stack once in a while. I avoid carbs too.

Answer

First, congrats on your success. You should feel very good you achieved your first goal and make sure you set some other goals to strive for. Creatine does not automatically put muscle on one's body. It allows one to perform more work than usual which indirectly causes an increase in lean body mass. The only negative side effect is you will retain water which can make you look bloated. Whey protein is a great supplement as it allows you to add meals to your diet easily and has positive properties such as increasing the immune system and assisting in recovery from exercise. Again though, whey itself will not make you gain size. It is the way in which your program is designed that will determine what you achieve. However, women have 1/10th the testosterone of men and overall have lower percentage of muscle mass. In other words, it is very difficult for women to get big and massive.

Your workout program is not bad. I hope you are alternating two days of upper body and one day of lower body with a week of two days lower body and one day of upper body. Your aerobic work should not exceed 40 minutes, too much aerobic work will make you retain the bodyfat, especially in the lower body. Making sure you emphasize compound exercises and manipulating the intensity of your aerobic work will prevent you from experiencing these problems.

Question
Should I Keep Bulking Or Cut Down First?

I'm a 30 year old male. I started training 5 months ago, when I was as skinny as 152 lbs., out of which 23 were pure fat, on my 6 foot, small frame. I went up to 163 lbs. in 3 months, putting on only 3 lbs. of fat, and now I am 165 lbs. with the same fat level. Now that the summer is almost here I'm full of doubt. Should I still go on trying to bulk up by eating 3,500 calories a day and risk not ever getting rid of my insulin-resistant-like belly and love handles, or should I first try to reduce my bodyfat level to 10% and then bulk up as much lean muscle mass as possible... all that assuming it's not possible to increase lean body mass and lose fat at the same time?

Additionally, given my age, how realistic is a target of going up to 190-200 lbs. with 7-10% bodyfat in a couple of years? I really got fed up of seeing a bony myself in the mirror.

My current schedule is the following:

Tue: Chest (bench barbell press x12, x9, x6; incline dumbbell press, 3x10) Back (Pull down behind neck 3x10; pulley row 3x10; upright ez- bar row 3x10; deadlift 3x10)

Thu: Biceps (standing barbell curl 3x10; seated dumbbell curl 3x10) Triceps (Pulley pulldown x12, x9, x6; French press 3x10)

Sat: 30 min cardio before breakfast.

Sun: Shoulders (Barbell press x12, x9, x6; Lateral dumbbell raise 3+10) Legs (Squat x12, x10, x8, x6; Leg press 3x10, Leg curl 3x10, calves machine press 3x10)

I always do 7 minutes cardio to warm up, and stretch thoroughly after the workout. Although I really want to rip up, I'm concerned that switching to a four day split or doing more cardio would lead me to losing as much muscle muscle as fat.

I take around 250 grams of protein, including whey, casein and egg, and I supplement with glutamine after my workouts, multi-vitamin and 5 g. creatine everyday, 2-3 grams CLA daily, and some tribulus + carnitine + BCAA before working out. I eat 5-6 times a day, getting comparatively more carbs in the mornings than in the evenings.

Answer

I am sorry but I had to chuckle a little. Why so much doubt? Either you like the way you are progressing or you feel that you need to place more emphasis on other aspects. If you feel you are too fat, evaluate what needs to be changed. How do you know though you are insulin-resitant? You seem to be doing very well by adding 10 pounds of muscle with only 3 pounds of fat. Depending upon your current bodyfat levels you will answer your own question on which is most important to you. For some reason there is also this notion that you can't lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. I find that not to be true. Sure it isn't as easy to do either one, but you just need to be stricter with the types of foods you are consuming.

I won't lie, putting on 35 pounds of muscle is a challenge at any age. Possible, yes, especially considering you haven't been lifting very long. The keys are to outline some shorter term goals so that you can see constant improvements. The other important factors are being consistent with both nutrition and training. Keep educating yourself on principles of training so that you can avoid some of the more common mistakes of training.

It is always hard for me to say something is wrong if it is working. I will say that you may want to be placing the legs before shoulders as they are significantly bigger muscles and will place a greater demand on the body. Right now you are doing well with a lower volume approach, but you may find that you may have to slowly increase the amount of work you are doing. If you maintain your emphasis on the compound movements you should not have to do too much extra.

250 grams of protein seems pretty darn high for someone who is still consuming carbs. I would say you could reasonably drop that number to 160-180. I am not sold on the effectiveness of tribulus and I have discussed what I feel are appropriate dosages of glutamine and BCAA's in previous Q & A's below. You didn't list the type of carbs you are taking, as always I suggest mostly fruits and vegetables especially if your goal is to lose bodyfat. People usually put too much stock in supplements. Yes, some can be helpful, but more importantly is eating high quality food and getting plenty of sleep. I have listed what I feel are the most productive supplements so please read the previous Q & A sections below.

Question
N-Large And Cell-Tech?

I'm 16 and I have 2 questions. I was wondering if it was OK to take 3 servings of Prolab N-Large every day because 2 servings isn't doing much and I've been taking it for 3 months now and only gained 2 pounds. The other question is will Muscletech's Cell-Tech stunt my growth?

Answer

First you are going to have to learn that patience is going to be a key ingredient to your success. At 16 you will grow, but it will take a little longer as the body is going through a lot of changes. Make sure you are being consistent with your training program and experiencing increases in strength. The other thing to remember is that N-Large is just a supplement, you must be eating at least 4 other meals throughout the day. Yes, you could take N-Large more frequently, but I would encourage you to incorporate more real food into your diet. There is something in real food that can never be replaced by supplements. Remember they are suppose to supplement your diet and not replace real food.

Cell-tech is nothing fancier than creatine and a TON of sugar. While taking it post-workout is not a bad thing I don't think it would be anymore effective than taking powedered creatine with gatorade post-workout. Like I have mentioned many times, my favorite creatine product is by FSI. This form has been proven and patented to be more absorbable. No, creatine will not stunt your growth, but make sure to be drinking plenty of water once you begin taking it. I will still go back to the fact though you must be eating a lot of food, sleeping, and being consistent with both training and nutrition to have the success you are looking for.

Question
Look Good AND Become A Superior Athlete?

I am 15 years old, a freshman just finishing up a year of varsity football and varsity wrestling. Though due to knee injuries I am taking a season off of football. I have already started to lift heavily; 3-4 times a week. I just want to get big, be cut, and be strong. Also I would like to be more flexible, faster, etc. I have been doing a regular weight program, chest/tri, bi/shoulder, legs, back/cardio, etc. And one thing I have changed is doing many repetitions, especially with arms, trying to get them well defined. What is your advice, if I would like to be a superior athlete in a little less than a year especially in wrestling. I just want to be big and make a name for myself.

Are there any suggestions on programs, lifts, agilities, etc.? Anything at all on my training? Please help me out. Here is where I am in weights; bench: 230 rep, barbell curl: 75, squat: 210 (bad knee), and that's all really. I am about 200 pounds, and I am 5' 11" So if you can, tell me anything to help me out.

Answer

Your goals seem to be very conflicting. As I have said to other readers, your program needs to represent your goals. In the beginning you state that body composition is your major goal, later you mention that you want to be a superior athlete. So, which one is it? Before you make any major changes to your routine you have to decide what it is you are trying to achieve. You have such contradicting goals that it is hard for me to even tell you where to start. As I have written in previous articles, an athlete training like a bodybuilder is a major mistake. You have to determine which is more important to you, being a superior athlete or looking really good. Yes, you can have a great physique as an athlete, but that will not be the focus of the training program. So, before you begin read my articles on goal setting and developing into an athlete and then rethink what you are currently doing and where you want to go.

Question
Is Lifting Alone Enough For Fat Loss?

Great website! Read your article on aerobics and the question which sprung to mind is why isn't strength training enough? If strength training fits the profile of interval training - intense effort followed by rest interval - then why must it be supplemented by cycling or running?

I guess I'm looking for carte blanche to discontinue my conventional aerobic training, which has eroded my strength gains and left me with chronic tendonitis.

Answer

The reason that strength training would not fit true interval training is that you can not manipulate the rest to work ratios to a degree in which it will build the endurance component like intervals. For example, the lowest rest interval I would normally suggest in weight training is 45 seconds while the work period can vary depending upon the exercise. Also, weight training should reflect the goal of the overall program. If strength is the priority in the program then it would be inappropriate to use weight training in such a manner. The exercise selection also plays a role. Obviously curls do not have the same impact upon the body as squats. Using running, biking, etc. you are using a form of exercise that utilizes the bigger muscle groups.

Conventional aerobic training is boring and becomes ineffective very quickly. That is why I often suggest people re-evaluate their training and utilize unweighted and weighted GPP training. This can include bodyweight calisthenics, strong man exercises, jump ropes, kettlebell training, etc. These methods I find much more effective and fun.

Question
Is Lifting At 14 Safe?

I'm a 14 year old football player. I want to get bigger for the powerlifting team. I work on separate body parts every night like the following:

Monday: Chest, Lats, Shoulder, Traps
Tuesday: Abs, Bicep, Forearm, Tricep
Wednesday: Glutes, Hamstring, Lower Back, and Quads
Thursday: Monday's Workout
Friday: Tuesday's Workout
Saturday: Wendsday's workout
Sunday: Rest

I just want to get bigger for protection in High School and for sports. But my question is "Is it okay to lift at 14 or is it bad for me?"

Answer

It is very important to distinguish training for powerlifting and training for sport. Even thougth many of the lifts used by powerlifters will have a positive impact upon your sporting performance, there are many aspects that you have to include to have a well rounded sports performance training program.

If you are aiming towards powerlifting you have to remember this is not bodybuilding. You also have to remember that you are 14 and you will get stronger very quickly for the first several months if you are consistent and take the time to think about what you are going to do in the gym and take care of yourself outside of the gym. There are many ways that you can structure a powerlifting program. Being 14 you might be best off lifting three days a week. You can start by centering each day with one of the basic lifts. This is a very elementary way of structuring the program, but you are also at a point where you are just learning how to do the lifts. So, you program could look something as follows:

Monday:

Squat
Semi-stiff legged deadlift
Cable Pull-throughs
Pull-ups
Back Extensions
Barbell Roll Outs

Wednesday:

Bench
Push Press
Seated Cable Row
Rotator Cuff
Dips
Russian Twists

Friday:

Deadlift
Goodmornings
Cable Pull-Throughs
Chin-ups
Back Extensions
Reverse Crunch

You could add fun activities like medicine ball exercises, sled pulls, or some of the old fashioned strongman exercises to compliment your program. This does several things:

1. Helps you recover
2. Allows you to build your work capacity
3. Keeps you from getting bored
4. Allows you to train with heavier weight without putting yourself too much at risk

Being 14 you should not be trying to max out. You can use heavier weights but avoid failure and get comfortable with all the lifts. Technique is a big part in having a lot of success. Once you have some training in your pocket you can slowly occassionally work in maximal effort days and become more creative with your workouts.

Question
Hardly Ever Sore?

I am a 18 year old male. It seems that when I go to the gym I get focused, work my butt off but later during the next couple of days I am hardly ever sore. Is this due to not having enough weight, reps, etc.? I take Creatine, HMB, Cytovol, ZMA and lots of protein each day.

My workout plan is as follows:

Mon: cardio
Tues: legs and back
Wed: cardio
Thurs. chest and shoulders
Fri: cardio
Sat: arms and abs

As for my goals I am looking to bulk up while losing fat. I am currently in my cutting stage, jogging every morning for 30 minutes with a stack of ephedrine, caffine and aspirine and only consuming 1600 calories a day. I am 6'3 270 lbs, broad shoulders, 47" chest, 18" arms and 28" legs. I have been training for about 6 months consistently now. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated!

Answer

There is a very common misconception that soreness equates to a good or effective workout. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Soreness usually means that there was too much damage done to the muscles during training. This is why you will be weaker and have a more difficult time performing complex exercises when sore. It is amazing that Olympic weightlifters and Powerlifters have been able to create high levels of strength and hypertrophy without the belief in soreness. In fact, they will often avoid soreness like the plague as it will negatively affect their training. The results you get from your training should be what determines if your workouts have been successful. If you have vague and unclear goals then you may have to take a step back and reevaluate what you are trying to accomplish.

You did not list your bodyfat percentage so I do not know if you are a muscular 270 or a fatter 270. Chances are with your height that you are a little on the fatter side which would also explain your desire to cut. 1600 calories is far too low, you should be at least around 2500. You should be consuming five to seven meals a day primarily of quality protein, good fats, and carbs from fruits and vegetables. The workout you listed seems way too light. I do not know your training background so you may be trying to get back into training or starting for the first time.

If you want to train three days with weights that is fine. However, I would recommend you perform overall body routines focusing on the major muscle groups and compound movements. We are putting together a collection of pictures for these exercises so if you are unfamiliar with which ones to perform be patient and we should have some up on the site shortly. Make sure to mix up your cardio workouts as to avoid plateauing. You can change the type of exercise and/or the intensity.

Question
Hardgainer Advice?

I'm 39, working out for many years. I'm 200 lbs right now like to get up to 210 lbs of muscle mass. However, I 'm a hardgainer.

Mon: triceps, biceps
Tues: chest, legs
Wed: back. shoulders
Thurs: triceps, biceps

I have tried many types of supplements looking for something that work for hardgainer. I work out alone. Right now I 'm taking Cell-tech. I 'm thinking about taking Testosterone what kind of advice can you give me. My goal is to gain weight as well as muscle mass. Both of my parents have a small frame.

Answer

Ok, I have to clear up the issue of people that say they are "hardgainers." With all the people I have worked with I have never seen a true hardgainer. Even a 16 year old I was working with (who has a very small frame) was able to put on 10 pounds in a short amount of time from my secret of......eating a lot of good foods and training wisely!! So, I don't want to hear anyone say they are a hardgainer, usually means they are not eating enough.

What is the rationale behind this routine? The arms are the last muscle groups that I would train twice. First, they are already trained on their own day in addition to being heavily worked on upper back and all pressing movements. You also have chest and legs split together. Two very big muscle groups that if you are using the right exercises (compound movements) will be extremely demanding and probably boderline too much. I have listed in my previous Q & A replies some of my favorite four day splits that I think would work much better for you.

This is the perfect time for me to reveal my basic to gaining weight supplement list. Be prepared, it isn't very expensive, but extremely effective.

1. Twinlab's Ultra Fuel, or Champion Nutrition's Revenge for post-workout carbs.
2. Meal Replacements
3. FSI Effervescent Creatine
4. Glutamine
5. Fish Oils and Flaxseed Oil

Testosterone would only be necessary if you have blood tests to show that you are on the lower end of the scale. It is highly doubtful that poor hormonal levels are what keeping you back. Everyone is so quick to blame hormones before they really evaluate their nutrition and training programs. However, at your age getting blood work for hormones may not be a bad idea as long as you can get the help of an open-minded physician.

Question
Sets And Time Per Bodypart?

First of all, I am training to gain mass.

1.How long should a training session last?
2. How many exercises must I do per bodypart?

Answer

There is no set time. There is some research done with weightlifters (those that compete in Olympic weightlifting) that after an hour the positive hormonal balance seems to have a negative shift. However, this must be understood that Olympic weightlifting is very different than bodybuilding and that this time is started after the warm-up. So, will you stop growing if you workout over an hour? Probably not, but again it depends on how much. Most people that workout a lot longer than an hour do not have an organized program, or are taking way too much time chatting with friends.

There is not a set rule again for how many exercises you should do. Since you are most likely referring to a split system (training individual muscle groups on specific days) a nice rule of thumb is 8-12 sets per bodypart. That is why I have never understood training only one muscle group per workout. In my opinion you can train two even three bodyparts in a workout. This would allow for more recovery and better utilization of time. Smaller muscle groups may be able to be trained less as they will be hit indirectly during the week as well. For example, the biceps and triceps are trained on most upper back and pressing movements, therefore giving them the higher end of the volume might be too much. Obviously though you will have to keep a log of your progress and change the volume as time goes by.

Question
More Frequent Workouts?

Just found the Bodybuilding.com website and started reading some of what you wrote. I think you are the best person to give me some advice, if you would:

I'm 40, having worked out with weights on and off for a couple years. Recently I have pushed myself more, doing the following routine:

Mon: chest, legs, triceps
Tues: shoulders, back, biceps
Thurs: repeat monday routine
Fri: repeat tues.

I want to gain muscle mass and am willing to work hard. A bodybuilder I know claims that it is possible, even desirable, to work out each bodypart every other day, advice which goes against what I've read. What do you think? I do my workouts alone, and try to complete a set to failure, but without a partner, it's impossible to really break down the muscle, I suppose. In this case, is it okay to have more frequent workouts? Thanks for any advice! I appreciate it.

P.S. Do you believe in taking both Creatine AND Glutamine?

Answer

To workout a muscle group every other day would only be possible if you only did one exercise for that bodypart. From the split you described training like this would be excessive. I have presented my favorite four day splits in my previous Q & A section below. In addition, I think the upper back for most people needs to be prioritized because the chest is often done first on other days. By placing the upper back first you are balancing out the two sides and keeping the shoulder and spine healthy.

Yes, both creatine and glutamine are great products. For some reason a myth has developed that they cancel each other out when taken together. This is completely untrue!! You are best off taking glutamine and creatine post-workout. Glutamine should also be taken during off days in lower dosages to maintain the immune system. Forget that if you are sick you can't train and remaining healthy is crucial in reaching your training goals.

Question
How To Get Ripped?

Right now I am on a mon-tues-weds plan with 30-40 min of cardio on tuesday, saturday,and thursday. Monday I do chest and tri's, Weds is back and bi's friday is legs and shoulders. However, to get "ripped" I was considering changing to a 4 week superset program then switching it up. This is actually how I came across your article, by reading up on supersets.

For supplementation, I was going to start a cycle of Adipokinetix within the next week. I eat about 4-6 times a day, as my schedule with school and work permits. I am eating good carbs like oatmeal, brown rice, wheat bread, veggies, fruit, etc and i am getting about 200 grams of protein a day from protein shakes, meat, peanut butter, tuna, etc.

Answer

I would prefer you were on a Mon, Wed., Fri. program. This would give your nervous system as well as your body ample time to recover. If you wish to significantly change your body composition I would recommend something like this.

Mon.

Squat variation
Assitant Leg Exercise (split squat, step-ups, goodmornings, etc.)
Upper Back (chins, rows, etc.)
Triceps
Rotational Ab Exercise
Flexion Ab Exercise

Wed.

Bench Variation
Overhead Press Variation
Assitant Leg Exercise
Smaller Upper Back Exercise (rear delt, db seated snatch, etc.)
Lower Back (reverse hypers, back ext., etc.)
Calves

Fri.

Deadlift Variation
Assitant Leg Exercise
Upper Back Exercise (chin, row, etc.)
Biceps Exercise
Rotational Ab Exercise
Flexion Ab Exercise

I would recommend doing 2-4 sets per exercise with 45-60 seconds rest in between sets. Repetitions can range from 6-12 with the lower number reps being paired with more sets.

* Nothing wrong with Adipokinetix, but let me ask if you have a multi-vitamin, anti-oxidant, flaxseed oil, and glutamine? To me these products are far more beneficial than a thermogenic and are a must especially in a bodyfat loss program. I would in addition, cut out brown rice (high glycemic index level), wheat bread (most people are allergic to gluten which can make you look bloated), and keep primarily vegetables and fruits.

Question
Lose Fat Without Hurting Athletic Performance?

Visitor: I am a 16 year old male soccer player weighing 158 lbs. I've been working out with weights for almost three years, have never had a serious injury, and have no current minor injuries whatsoever.

At his time I'm on a three day per week weight program--chest, shoulders, and triceps on Monday--back (lats and center back), biceps, and whatever muscle shrugs workout (trapezoids?) on Wednesday--and I do quads, hamstrings, and calves on Friday--on top of that I have soccer practice up to three or four days per week where we also do conditioning such as plyometrics and sprints, and sometimes one or two mile runs; twice a week I try to do some interval training as well.

I eat anywhere from 5 to 7 meals per day, more or less with a balanced protein/carbohydrate ratio. My carbohydrate intake fluctuates somewhat, i.e. before practices I boost my carb intake, and after practices and workouts I eat high carb in order to replenish my glycemic stores. Of course I eat protein with every meal and try to keep protein intake very high because of the demands I put on my body.

I'm not sure of how low my body fat is, as I've never had it measured before, but it's fairly low--my abs are visible, not super defined, but they are reasonably cut, if that's any indication of how low my body fat is. (I read somewhere that for guys the abs start to become cut up at 6% bodyfat, but I don't think that's right, because I don't think I'm that low, if I had to guess I'd say I am around 10-12%... Or am I lower than I think?) I have two basic goals, #1 is absolutely top performance in my sport, #2 is I want to have a great physique. I think If I concentrate on the first the second will naturally follow.

I have no secondary commitments except school, however, I am homeschooled so I adjust my schooling around my workouts and practices.

I have two questions for you. They're actually sort of several questions within each question...

The first one is just this: like I said before, my bodyfat % is fairly low, however, I would like to drop it down even lower. The way to lose fat is to create a mild calorie deficit, right? Coupled, of course with quality exercise. BUT, I don't want to sacrifice performance in soccer for losing fat. So my question is would eating less per meal hurt my performance? And also, will a fat-loss-calorie-deficit diet give me the amount protein my body needs in order to recuperate from all my physical activity?

My Response: Changing your nutritional plan right now is not going to benefit you, most likely hurt you. You are involved in a high amount of physical activity and will need the calories to recover from your training. If you are taking in high quality food you will improve your lean body mass and reduce your bodyfat levels. Soccer players generally do have bodyfat percentage's below 10. You have to remember you are also 16 and your body is still maturing. Chances are if you maintain what you are currently doing that when you are 18 you will be significantly bigger and more muscular. The biggest problem I see with young athletes is the high amount of junk food, so if you are always trying to utilize high quality food sources you will be very ahead of the game.

Visitor: Or, would a better way to lose fat be simply to maintain my eating and do more interval training, say, three days per week? Because in all honesty with all my other training going on I have tended in the past to let my interval training slip. Would simply being diligent with that be enough to trim down bodyfat without eating less?

My Response: No, no more intervals. You are doing plenty of running during practice. I would say you would be doing more harm than good if you implemented even more work in that area.

Visitor: My second question concerns my weightlifting regime. I have been mostly doing bodybuilding type workouts, but more recently I've worked in more powerlifting (basically just heavier weight, lower reps, not really "powerlifting") as well to develop power and strength. However my workouts still incorporate alot of isolation exercises. I realize that I need to focus more and more on multiple joint exercises. So my question is what kind of workout should I be doing? I still want a three day per week regime, but what kind of explosive exercises should I be doing? In my gym I cannot do any olympic weightlifting where the weight is dropped, because it's on the sixth floor of a building (and no elevator!!! not fun!). But could you give me at least some advice on what kind of exercises I should do, reps, sets, ect.? Also, is the deadlift a good exercise for soccer?

My Response: This is a terrific question. Olympic lifting is great, but only if you know how to perform the exercises correctly. Most young athletes try to "muscle" the weight instead of being truly explosive. You can do many exercises that can help build explosiveness, in fact I think you have inspired an upcoming article! Good explosive exercises you can employ can be almost anything. As long as you are utilizing an accelerative raising of the weight. However, some of my favorites are listed below.

Box Squats
Speed Deadlifts
Bench
Push Jerks
Push Press

BTW, you will have to keep your eye out on that new article as you have convinced me it would be very beneficial.

Question
Gain Endurance And Muscle Mass?

I have been trying to develop a program to help me gain muscle and endurance. I am going to O.C.S. for the Marine Corps in about a year and I need to be in the best shape possible. Maybe you can tell me what I am doing wrong. My main goal is endurance but I also want to gain a little mass so I can be ripped and big. I run on M,T,Th,F. I also lift on those days. On M and Th I do chest, shoulders, Tri's, with 2 exercises for each muscle group 8-10 reps for 3-4 sets. On T and F, I do legs, back, and bi's the same way. I always do different exercises than I did the last time I worked a muscle group. For example, I will do flat bench and decline bench on M and than incline bench and butterfly on Th for my chest. Also after I run on M and F I do push ups, pull ups, and crunches and also on W but I do all that in the morning and lift in the afternoon. I am on Beta Lean and Nitro Tech protein supplement and am thinking about creatine. I am not sure about creatine because I am afraid it will make me less cut. I am also thinking about HGH. I need to be able to run 3 miles in 18 minutes and 30 pull ups before I go. Can you tell me if I am doing too much or too little or just what I am doing wrong?

Answer

WOW, I really am trying to find a place to start. First, endurance training does not have to be high reps with light weights. If you possess more maximal strength your ability to do more repetitions with a given weight will increase. For example, if you have two people competing in a bench press competition, both people are trying to bench 225 as many times possible, one has a max bench of 500 and the other of 285 who is going to find 225 easier? Obviously the person that can bench 500 right? So, it depends on what type of endurance you are speaking.

As far as your running program you can do interval training on the track as well. I would suggest you re-read my article Never Do Aerobics Again. I think you will find employing those methods very helpful.

Supplements always go back to my solid base. I hate to sound like a broken record, but look over my article Supplements That Work. Creatine would be helpful for your goals, but as I have said in the article I would suggest FSI's creatine products. HGH has many possible side effects and would be completely unnecessary considering your program can be cleaned up.

I have listed my favorite training split for bodybuilding below in my Q & A section. It would work perfectly for the schedule you are referring. I think you goals must be prioritized and have the training methodolgies reflect those goals. Right now they look a little confused.

Question
Getting The Best Gains?

Here are a series of e-mails back and forth with one lifter:

When lifting, is it more effective to burnout, or stop before? I have been told both ways.

My response: More accurately you are asking whether or not you have to train to failure. Even when you refer to failure you must distinguish between concentric, eccentric, or isometric. There is a time and a place to do both. You must simply distinguish what the goal of the program is and if the methodologies reflect the goal. Not only that, but you must also weigh out the cost benefit ratio of any strategy. If your current program does not seem to benefit the body more than the costs then I would say you need to seriously rethink your program.

Should I be lifting differently when training for a sport that requires speed and strength as opposed to just building muscle?

My response: Yes, training for sport is COMPLETELY different than bodybuilding. Again the goals are going to reflect the differences in methodologies and training strategies. Sometimes improving body composition isn't even a goal in sport, other priorities must take over such as maximal strength, speed-strength, etc. These can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

How often if at all should I change up my routine?

My response: There are varying reports on what is ideal. Change your routine when you see that you stop making progress with a routine. This may mean you are unable to go up in weight or improve in the other variables of training.

How much of a difference do you think it makes drinking protein shakes and all that instead of just eating right and not using those things?

My response: If there was any chance of eating all the "proper" foods nowadays these things would not be necessary. But truthfully no one has the time nor the inclination to cook and eat 5-7 solid food meals including all the nutrients necessary. Also with the current overuse of our nations' soils, many of the foods grown are devoid of the needed minerals. The proteins involved in many of these products also provide a lot of health benefits over that of just chicken, tuna, and steak. If you would like more information please read www.brinkzone.com.

What should I be eating after I workout, and how much?

My response: That is really goal dependant and in my opinion dependant upon what type fo workouts you are performing. Obviously you are not going to need the same amount of recovery from an arm workout that you will from a leg workout. At the same time you will not be eating the same formula if your goal is body fat loss as it will be when you are looking to gain muscle mass. What type of budget you are on will also dictate a lot of what you can include in these post-workout formulas. The less you have availabe as far as finances the more you have to prioritize.

To get rid of the extra stuff around my middle (i.e. love handles, and gut), do I need to be doing a lot of cardio?

My response: No, please see my article Never Do Aerobics Again.

How much do you think lifting has to do with your mindset, and how motivated you are?

My response: Obviously your mindset is going to have a lot to do with your accomplishments. Achieving lofty goals requires making your training and nutritional program part of your lifestyle. This is a lot of dedication, commitment of time, money, and avoiding many of the common temptations. When you are in the gym it is crucial to make sure your focus is on the task at hand and not what is going on around you. Distractive chattering and the typical health club atmosphere is far from optimal in achieving goals.

Question
Is This Overtraining?

I am an 18 year male who has been training consistently for about a year. I take my vitamins and protein shakes, along with glutamine. I am currently 6' 2" 200 pounds. I'm not sure what a realistic time period is but my goal is to be 250 pounds, and I am dedicated to putting in the time. My question is about over training and what kind of a schedule will work, without over doing it. I know that you need rest but what is enough. I recently wanted to add more exercises to my routine, is this workout OK, or is it over training?

My schedule:

Mon - Bench Press, Bicep Curls, Tricep Curls, Leg Extensions, Shrugs
Tues - Incline Press, Squats, Leg Curls, Reverse Curls, Calve Raises
Wed - Repeat Mon
Thurs - Repeat Tues
Fri - Repeat Mon
Sat - Repeat Tues
Sun - Rest

Answer

Your workout schedule could be greatly modified. You are always prioritizing the upper body and chest currently, which could mean you are set up for some classic weaknesses. Here is a general split that works well with many of my clients.

Monday: Upper Back, Triceps
Tuesday: Hip Dominant, Obliques, Calves
Thursday: Chest, Shoulders, Biceps
Friday: Quad dominant, Trunk Flexors, Calves

Overtraining is very easy to see. First, you stop making progress week to week or workout to workout. Then you can see such signs like insomnia, joint ache, depression, loss of appetite, and general lethargy towards training.

Question
Maximal Effort Method?

I read the article you suggested and I have decided to got with the maximal effort method. Could you tell me what compound and isolation movements are please and also why can't I use isolation movements while doing this? Also, could I combine regular strength movements with the maximal effort movement in the same workout?

Answer

Compound Movements are those that incorporate more than one muscle group to perform a movement. This would include such exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, bench variations, chin variations. Isolation exercises try to work on one muscle group exclusively. Even though this is almost impossible to accomplish as the body hardly ever works in complete isolation, you can greatly reduce the influence of other muscle groups, i.e. curls, pushdowns, leg extensions, leg curls, etc.

You can use the maximal effort method with isolation exercises, but this would be more true with a muscle group like biceps. The reason is that you are trying to develop overall strength with this type of training. You also are going to use fewer exercises because the amount of stress that is caused by the body and the increased rest intervals. Therefore, you need to make sure you are maximizing your time by incorporating exercises that utilize the most muscle groups.

Usually what I recommend is that you use 1-2 exercises with maximal strength and the rest can be a variety of hypertrophy methods. For example, you can use maximal strength supersetting bench and chins, then the rest of your workout can be more typical bodybuilding. However, make sure you workout does not exceed one hour.

Question
Mike Mentzer's Training?

I like your articles, they make a lot of sense. I was wondering how you feel about Mike Mentzer and his philosophy about training. Also, are there any natural, legal steroids or prohormones or something to that nature that in your opinion will really help build muscle or burn fat with little or on side effects?

Answer

In my opinion, Mentzer was more than a little dogmatic about his views on training. He saw everything very black and white with very little room for deviation from his system. This is unfortunate because there are so many useful tools for training and to be locked into only one aspect really limits one's potential for success.

Personally I do not think he understood much of the science of training either. You see his much promoted system H.I.T. (high-intensity training) really was far from being what the name implies. As I have described in many articles, intensity refers to how close one trains to their maximum force production or 1 RM. The H.I.T. system mainly refers to going to concentric failure. Many trainers take this as working harder than anyone else. Funny though, I don't know of any system that promotes not working hard. Sometimes failure is necessary, sometimes it is not though.

Every system of training claims to have all the answers to your training needs, however, every system has advantages and disadvantages. In fact, there is no great mystery of putting on muscle mass. Increased hypertrophy is a direct result of how much work is done within a period of time, the more work, the more protein degradation and rebuilding will occur. Please check out Charles Staley's new article called EDT on www.testosterone.net.

No steroid is legal without a prescription and anything that will manipulate hormones has the potential for side effects. I am not a big believer in prohormones as they have never seemed to live up to their hype. You have to understand if they were as potent as they claim then they could have many of the same side effects of anabolic steroids.

I receive so many emails on this topic, but what I most commonly find is that basic training, nutrition, and supplementation are no where close to where they should be and steroids are not what is needed, but cleaning up one's general program. I have written Supplements That Work for a basic foundation of supplmentation. Also, my series of articles, Constructing Success, is designed to help one build their own training programs that have rhym and reason. Therefore you will be able to implement many different techniques, but understand why. Whenever you encounter someone promoting their system as "the best" or "the only way to train", I would be more than highly skeptical.

Question
Workout When Hungry?

Every morning I get up on a empty stomach and do some running. Sometimes I don't eat enough the night before and I wake up starving, is it still a good idea to run/workout when you are hungry? Do you risk muscle loss if you do?

Answer

The ideal situation would be to take a small protein shake, or BCAAs before your aerobic workout. This would allow you to maximize fat loss without placing yourself in a situation to lose much more muscle.

Question
Side Crunches Increase Waist Size?

I heard that training obliques by way of side crunches makes them bigger, and consequently your waste bigger, so you shouldn't do them if your trying to get a smaller waste. Is this true? It seems to me that the fat from the sides would be changed to muscle.

Answer

This is an old wives tale. No one's abdominal region ever became extremely hypertrophied from training. The distended guts you see in pro bodybuilders is from the extreme amounts of drugs, especially growth hormone. Obliques are very important for stabilizing the trunk during heavy lifting and preventing low back injuries during rotational type movements. Side bends also very heavily involve the quadratus lumborum, a small low back muscle which is important in low back stability.

Question
What Is Quality Work?

What exactly is quality work? If you do bench press for an hour you definitely move a lot of weight, but wouldn't you have over exerted your chest after a certain point?

Answer

Training is about maximizing the benefits and minimizing the costs to the body. Every time you lift a weight there is going to be a cost, but not always a benefit. That is why well organized, planned, and tracked programs are most successful. Good training programs try to manage the fatigue response so to minimize the negative effects of training. With that in mind, let me ask you this... what is the first sign of fatigue in training? Many coaches have defined fatigue in terms of losing technique, or unable to complete a certain number of repetitions. However, if you look closely something else is going to happen, you start to slow down! This is very subtle but is always going to occur in the trainee first (assuming one is conscious about technique). The key is to know how much of a decrease of speed is appropriate. Usually a 7-10 percent drop is the cut-off point. This is tough to measure though without specific timing devices. So, what you can do is try to do things like measuring the time it took to complete sets or set a metronome. Again though, it is important to define your standard of quality.

Question
What Rep Speed Is Too Fast?

Well your response clears up the confusion I had about intensity, but I still have a few other questions. How fast is too fast for lifting a weight? It seems that if your moving too fast there is a immediate jerk at the bottom of the exercise then the rest of the way through the exercise the muscles are doing less work cause of the momentum.

Answer

Your body will naturally find what is too fast because during very fast eccentric descents the force increases on the body. If these forces rise too fast it is impossible for the body to reverse the weight and get it going up. This type of training is more appropriate though for those that are looking to increase maximal strength or speed-strength. Those looking to improve muscle mass would not tend to use such a method. However, raising the weight as fast as possible is good for recruiting more motor units and fast-twitch muscle fibers. So, this would be good for anyone with a reasonable level of experience.

Question
Arnold's Encyclopedia?

Here are a series of e-mails back and forth with one lifter:

Q: What is your view on Arnold's "Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding?"

My response: This book is basically written with Arnold's experiences in mind and not true training science. So, as long as you understand that he is writing from what he did and not science it is fine.

Q: He claims that the reason weightlifters use heavy weight and low reps for strength, and light weight and high reps for definition is primarily because of trial and error.

My response: There is a lot of research to describe why lower reps are more appropriate for strength. You train the central nervous system more which is more responsible for strength increases. Higher reps usually change body composition more because more work is done during the same time frame causing more physique changes.

Q: Furthermore, did Arnold take steroids in his teens? I saw a picture of him at 19, and he looked good. Also, he did NOT look like he was juicing.

My response: I am not a Arnold biographer, but I do think he did take steroids at that point.

Q: Finally, have you ever tried his level 1 training program?

My response: No, I construct programs based upon my own goals and principles that allow me maximal success according to my own genetics and lifestyle.

Question
Ways To Train Correctly?

Here is another set of e-mails from one person:

Q: I tried lifting a bit faster with heavier weight on biceps on Friday (good form of course) and had a great workout. So if you train to the point where your moving slower and you need a spotter to lift it up for you, have you already gone too far, or should you stop at the point where you believe you can't lift another without help?

My response: This is not always the case, but a good general guideline to follow. The thing about training is there are no rules that you have to follow ALL the time. Everything is basically a guideline and you must use some variety to cause change. However, if you understand the reason you are using certain methods then your programs will be most successful. However, I am glad you are trying to grasp some concepts and found them rewarding.

Q: The reason I run in the morning on a empty stomach is because I read somewhere about having low blood sugar when you workout forces your body to burn fat, and since fat has 9 calories of energy in it rather than protein (muscle) having 4, your body would always burn fat, how true is this?

My response: When the body is without food for prolonged periods of time it goes into a self preservation mode. It is much wiser for the body to breakdown muscle during times of starvation rather than bodyfat for survival concerns. You can burn just as much bodyfat with food in your system if not more than while you are starving. Plus, if you have food in your system then you are apt to work at a higher level than when you are fatigued from low blood sugar levels. A lot of people that follow what you are doing do notice a lost of bodyfat, but also substantial muscle.

Q: I have been trying to lose body fat for quite awhile now, it's been pretty hard but I have made some progress. I run for 20 minutes in the morning and right after I workout, then after that I immediatly consume a protein drink. Recently I have been trying the interval running you wrote the article about, that is sprinting for as long as possible, then stopping and resting for a bit then sprinting again. Do you have any other tricks or ideas I could try for burning body fat?

My response: The interval training is a very good system. You can also use jump roping for your cardiovascular training. Most people have a hard time jump roping for 15 minutes at a time. Also, if you would like to lose substantial bodyfat increasing your work capacity by improving your general physical prepardness is very good. I offer these workouts on my website, www.rawintensity.com. Many people find they lose bodyfat and gain some muscle mass on these routines, but they are not for the faint of heart. I would also recommend Protein and Glutamine after all these intense workouts.

Question
Your Intensity Ideas?

I read your article about constructing workouts for success and the intensity issue has me a bit confused. I have always thought that the higher the intensity the better the workout: using weight that you can complete perfect form with. Now if you use flawless form when doing exercises, don't you grow the most and look the best because the muscle is evenly injured (microscopically)? I guess my question is, is it best to have a higher intensity and the best form possible if your goal is to grow bigger? I don't understand how using higher intensity would produce smaller gains than using less intensity, more weight and sloppier form. Let me know what your thoughts are about this please.

Answer

Whoa, Whoa, we are falling into an immediate pitfall here with some of the thoughts that are being expressed here. First, "more weight and sloppier form". Why does the use of heavier weights result in worse technique? This is a common paradigm in the fitness industry. Just because one uses heavy weights or moves a weight fast does not mean they will have bad form. It is just as easy to lift light weights slowly and have bad form. So, no where is the amount lifted and technique correlated. The only time that I see such things is when inexperienced lifters try methods out of ignorance and we see horrific results.

I don't think you really understand the term intensity. Let me redefine it in a little easier to understand terms. Intensity is usually referred to how close to one's maximal force production you train at, with 1 RM obviously being 100% intensity. So the further you move away from your 1 RM the less intense your workout becomes. Remember I said the true terminology for intensity has nothing to do with effort of the workout.

High intensity workouts usually produce less significant body composition gains because the overall volume for these workouts is less. Let me tell you the secret to gaining muscle, hold on for this one... It is simply how much quality work you are able to perform within a given amount of time. That is about it, using a variety of methods are helpful for providing a new stimulus, but there is nothing magical about pyramiding, stripping, negatives, going to failure, etc. So, with high intensity workouts less work is done within a given time frame than with less intense workouts. Hence, most of the training adaptation occures in the central nervous system. This is why you can see smaller trainees lift amazing weights. I hope this has cleared up your confusion, it is a good question,

Question
Deadlift Safety?

I read somewhere that if you are not very experienced on deadlifts that if you try to be explosive and lift the weight off the ground then you might mess up your back. I've been doing deadlifts for a few months now but not explosively. Would it be OK to do them that way as long as I make sure I warm up properly and keep good form?

Answer

Unless you are very comfortable performing the deadlift and have at least a year of experience behind you I would not try to do anything explosive. A progression could be just trying to accelerate the weight more and more until you feel comfortable, but I also would not use maximal loads during times of maximal acceleration. The other thing is that the deadlift is not a good exercise for explosive lifts. It can be used however, to teach acceleration of the weight.

Question
Energy Supplements?

I am 20 yrs old, 5'9 and I am 195 lbs. I know I am overweight and I need to get in shape but I don't have the energy to workout. I get tired real quick. What would you recommend I was thinking about getting some Ripped Fuel and some Protein shakes. If you can give me your best advice that would really help me out cause I do need something to get me hyped up to start working out better. What kinda of supplements do you recommend? I need something that would make me build muscle faster. I just wanna be a decent size. If you can send me your opinions that would be most helpful to me. What muscle builders do you think would work best or do you think just going with with the protien shakes and Ripped Fuel is good enough?

Answer

This is a common email that I receive on a daily basis. The problem is that you did not provide nearly enough information for me to give some very useful information. Many would see your problem of being tired and just say take some Ripped Fuel. However, it is more important to figure out why you are suffering fatigue. That is why when you are asking questions or trying to figure out the solution to your problems, you need to first look carefully at your training and nutritional program. Unless there is careful scrutiny of these two areas you are not going to find the most effective answers. In addition, when you ask questions provide that information and as much detail about your lifestyle as possible.

Question
Testosterone Therapy's Effects?

Sorry to bother you with this but after reading your articles I thought of all people you may be able to help me.

I have had my testosterone levels checked because pro hormones and the like did nothing for me. My first reading was 10.7 and they told me the norm was from 11 to 35. The doctors wouldn't put me on hormone replacement therapy because they said it wasn't low enough to affect libido or cause other problems.

Since then I have been taking anything natural claiming to boost t-levels which has not helped me much thus far.

Can you tell me how having a testosterone level on the lower end of the spectrum (when I am only 27) will affect my potential muscle gains and what the best supplement or thing is to increase my natural testosterone production?

Answer

It is not uncommon for doctors to avoid prescribing hormones to young people. Even though in many cases they may be necessary, this seems to be the case for you! Unfortunately there are not a lot of natural products that will significantly improve your testosterone levels, or more importantly improve them for a sustained period. Just raising testosterone levels is not good enough, keeping them elevated is crucial.

Testosterone is a hard hormone for doctors for two main reasons. First, the tests used have a very large range for what is considered normal, approx. 400-1200 (I could be slightly off). In other words you can be at 401 and be considered "normal" but not be feeling anything close to another "normal" guy with a range of 1000. Secondly, there is a great misunderstanding about which types of therapies to use and what is causing the problem. I would HIGHLY suggest you seek out a doctor that is more willing to help. I personally won't go to a doctor unless they are into fitness and nutrition like I am.

On a separate note about prohormones. I would definately not take them! They do not cause sustained levels of testosterone which means small peaks do absolutely nothing. Also, there have been several studies and anecdotal stories about increases in estrogen from the poor conversion in the body of these hormones. In fact, a well respected scientist, Dr. Jose Antonio, did an experiment with a bodybuilder using prohormones and found no change in weight, but an increase in bodyfat. Not a good sign. Good luck and let me know if I can be of anymore help.

Editor's Note: The studies were done on the older andro products such as androsteneDIONE. Newer prohormones have not been found to have these negative effects. Research them on our message boards.

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E-Mail me at AAPJosh@aol.com with questions or comments.