Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why all carbs are not equal


The IIFYM and flexible eating bunch have been at this for a while.

"Your body sees all carbs as just carbs."

"There's no difference in how your body uses carbs from pop-tarts to jasmine rice to sweet potatoes.  So long as your macros are the same each day it's all the same."

Sigh.

Ok, let's just try to end this once and for all.

If a carb just a carb is just a carb, then that would mean a few things.

1.  All carbs would elicit the same response from the body in regards to insulin.
2.  All carbs would be stored exactly the same way in the body.
3.  All carbs would have the same inflammatory response in the body.

So let's start with number one.

Carbs, insulin, and leptin - 

Ok, if you don't know what the glycemic index is, it's a number scale based on the body's glycemic response.  That means, how fast it converts said carbohydrates into glucose in the body.

The lower the number, the lower the rise in blood sugar in the body.  This also means the lower the response for insulin.

The higher the number, the faster blood sugar and insulin rises in the body.

Generally carbs that have a number of 55 or below are considered carbs that have less impact on raising blood sugar and insulin.  And as we know, part of getting leaner and building muscle is controlling and timing insulin release.

"But people often mix in proteins and carbs thus it changes the glycemic index of the food."

You're right.  But we're talking about the difference in carbohydrates alone today.  So give it a rest.

Based on the fact that the GI scale exists at all, tells us that all carbs are not treated the same way by the body in regards to insulin and blood sugar.  In fact, fructose does not even stimulate insulin production nor does it have an effect on leptin levels.



In case you don't know what leptin is, it's the hormone that regulates your appetite.  When your leptin levels rise, it signals to your body that you are full.  When leptin levels are low, then it signals your body to eat.

Simple, right?

But what if the foods you ate, made you leptin resistant?  So you would eat, but your leptin levels either didn't rise, or didn't rise enough to signal to your body that you are full.  This is the other factor in obesity.  It's not just that obese people become insulin resistant, i.e. their insulin levels don't respond the way they are supposed to in regards to carbohydrate intake, but they rarely get full, or it takes a LOT of food for them to stimulate leptin release.

But wait.  Wait.

I am totally going to copy and paste this part, because well, I love it so much.  I mean I really do.

research also reveals that fructose has effects independent of this mechanism to induce this metabolic syndrome. Whereas fructose increases weight through the standard mechanism of stimulating more food intake and blocking the burning of fat, even when you control caloric intake, fructose can affect body composition.

This is because when you eat fructose, you actually generate more fat in your liver for the same amount of energy intake, compared to other types of sugar... For example, if you calorically restrict an animal but give it a high-fructose diet or a high-sugar diet, it will still produce fatty liver and will still become insulin resistant. According to Dr. Johnson, fructose has two effects:


1.  It stimulates weight gain through its effects on your appetite and by blocking the burning of fat
2.  It also changes your body composition to increase body fat even when you are on a caloric restriction.

So let's look at that last part again.

It also changes your body composition to increase body fat even when you are on a caloric restriction.

Wait....wait....one more time.

It also changes your body composition to increase body fat even when you are on a caloric restriction.

Remember all those guys that told you, that it doesn't matter what you eat because so long as there's a calorie deficit, that you'd lose weight?  And there is some truth to this.  However, depending on your choice of carb intake, it may not be that simple.  

If your diet is high in refined sugars, fructose, etc. then you could be in a calorie deficit....AND STILL GET FATTER.  

Boy that fucking sucks doesn't it?

Fructose doesn't even cause a secretion in insulin.  Which means if you eat fructose, and you aren't depleted if liver glycogen (more on that in a minute) then theoretically, that particular sugar can behave like fat intake.  If insulin isn't transporting the nutrients into muscle cells, then where is it going?  

It's making you fatter.

The guy that penned that piece? Dr. Richard Johnson. The head of nephrology at the University of Colorado. 25+ years of research in the field of nutrition with over 500 peer reviewed articles about said topic. So before you point me to Joe Bodybuilder who also has a PhD, he really can't carry this guys sammich.

The body does indeed respond differently in regards to blood sugar, insulin, and leptin for different types of carbohydrates.

So there's strike number one.


How different carbs are stored - 

Are all carbs stored the same way in the body?

No.

Carbs that come from most (not all, but most) fruits are high in fructose, for example.

Fructose gets stored primarily as liver glycogen.  Now before you say "you're now saying fruit is bad?!?!"

No.  Fruits also contain fiber and water, and it's gonna be pretty hard to eat enough fruit in one sitting to totally fuck yourself up in regards to fructose intake.  But if we're talking about using fruit as say, a post workout choice, it's not a very good option because fructose doesn't go towards replenishing muscle glycogen.  The sugar in fruit is also called "natural sugar".  It is obviously not an added sugar.

Carbs that are higher in dextrose (aka glucose) get stored primarily as muscle glycogen.

The reason it's important to note the difference is because in order to stay as anabolic as possible, there needs to be enough muscle glycogen to fuel your workouts and keep cortisol low.  Once you deplete muscle glycogen, then liver glycogen, cortisol levels rise in order to create glucose.

Cortisol eats through lean muscle tissue.

Does this sound like a good idea to someone who is trying to either hold on to lean muscle or to build it?

Yah, doesn't sound good to me either.

Now some will tell you that so long as you eat carbs later in the day, that replenishing glycogen will occur.  However the research back and forth on that isn't clear.  I've read and read and read.  Some studies show a higher uptake of glucose in a short window post workout, and some show that it doesn't matter so long as you get your carbs in over the course of the day to replenish both muscle and liver glycogen.

So I'm going with empirical evidence and some "well this just seems right" in this instance.

If you just depleted a significant portion of your muscle and liver glycogen, then it stands to reason that post workout, the body would be more primed to uptake glucose into the muscle cells, so long as the proper type of carbohydrate was being ingested.  In this context, post workout is 30-60 minutes after you're done training.



However let's get away from this for a second.  It's actually more important to pay attention to the pre-workout meal in regards to this.  Depending on how far out you eat from the workout is going to to play a part in choosing a viable carbohydrate.  If you're 45 minutes out?  You want to spike insulin in push glycogen into the cells quickly.  If you're a few hours out?  A lower glycemic carb will probably work best.  Yes, I heard you.  Adding in fats and proteins will lower the glycemic index however if you're eating pixi sticks two hours out from your training session instead of sweet potatoes then you're probably doing it wrong.

So to get on with this, not all carbs are stored the same way in the body.  And if you're all about gaining muscle and losing fat, then choosing what kind of carb you are going to eat and when you're going to eat it, does in fact matter.

Strike two.


Inflammation - 

Now here's where we really get into why it's important to understand that a carb is not just a carb and where the IIFYM crew goes wrong.

Their mantra about this is "all carbohydrates get converted to sugar in the body".

Yes, we know that.  However we've already covered two points that show what happens after that, depending on carb source, can be dramatically different.

The controlling of inflammation in the body is vitally important if you want to avoid shit like heart disease, the beetus, cancer, and pretty much all diseases including death.

Death seems serious.  It's hard to come back from catching a bout of that.

So what the hell does carbs have to do with inflammation?

Well, there are certain carbs (and fats, like Omega-6 fatty acids) that can cause or trigger an increase in inflammation in the body.  Remember that the body needs a normal amount of inflammation to operate in a healthy or productive state, i.e. brain function.  But if inflammation levels rise above that, then you're looking at a myriad of health issues that come with it.

Arachidonic acid is a type of non-essential fatty acid that your body produces that while needed to function properly, if it becomes elevated in the body can cause elevated inflammation in the body.

Food wise, what can cause this?

HEY LOOK!


I'll save you some time on this one.......


In conclusion, whole grain consumption may be related to lower circulating plasma concentrations of PAI-1 and CRP, which in turn could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These findings suggest that the protectiveness of whole grains in relation to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease may be due to an effect on plasma inflammatory protein concentrations and reinforces the public health recommendations that whole grains be consumed daily as part of a healthy diet. Refined grain intakes were positively associated with PAI-1 concentrations, indicating that refined grain intake could have proinflammatory effects. The novelty of this finding warrants further investigation into the potential effects of refined grain consumption on metabolic and inflammatory measures.

This article is getting long, so I'm going to stop there.  The point is, the type of carbohydrate you consume can either increase or decrease inflammation in the body as well.  Now of course, the fatter you become, the more factors that come into play in regards to increasing inflammation but at the end of the day, you get fatter by making poor food choices.

Strike three.

Where the IIFYM and flexible dieting people miss the boat - 

IIFYM is not a horrible diet.  If you're a male, and 15-18% bodyfat, and you just want to get down into the 10-12% range, it will work.

For a few select outliers, they can use it to get into men's physique type stage shape.  And I do say they are outliers because the fact is, 99% of the bodybuilders in the world cannot use it, and go win shows.

There isn't a single guy that will stand up on the Olympia stage this year and have a shot at winning using IIFYM.  Not one.  Zero.

Now let's examine that statement for a second....

If pro bodybuilders have all of these pharmaceutical advantages, and they are also genetic anomalies, then why can't they use IIFYM and get in championship bodybuilding winning shape?

Because the simple fact is, at that level, you have to account for more than "20 grams of carbs is 20 grams of carbs."  The carb source, and how the body reacts to it can be the difference in winning and placing out of the top five.  Let me put it to you like this; a few too many packs of splenda over a week might mean the difference in winning and placing third.  True story.

So when you say "Matt Ogus uses flexible dieting and he has won shows." no one gives a fuck.  You're not him.  Not to mention that, a handful of men's bikini competitors that are naturally lean and don't need to get peeled to win at their shows aren't exactly the best examples of why IIFYM "works" when works means, in context, bodybuilding stage shape.

But since we're not talking extremes here, what about the male well over 20% bodyfat?  You know, flat out obese people.

Well IIFYM typically fails there too, in my opinion.

With very obese people who are pushing up against the type 2 diabeetus wall, they need to get their insulin levels and inflammation under control ASAP.  Not only that, but it's been proven through research that people who consistently stuff their face with overly processed foods and added sugars, develop a dopamine based reward system for those kinds of foods.

Go read......

http://www.lift-run-bang.com/2014/05/if-youre-fat-and-lose-weight-youre.html

In other words, they need to literally approach their diet like a 12-step program and abstain from those kinds of foods long enough to "go through detox" essentially.  Obese people literally crave shit food like drug addicts crave their drug of choice.

So telling a really obese individual that they can still have their pizza and ice cream and doughnuts on this diet is like telling someone trying to get off crack that they can still hit the crackpipe "2 or 3 times a week, so long as you're clean the rest of the time, you'll eventually overcome addiction."

Now does that make any sense to you at all?

Yeah, me neither.

Lean people can generally get away with things like IIFYM and flexible dieting.  However their body is probably in an optimal state of nutrient partitioning, i.e. it does a better job of moving glycogen in, and storing fat less.  But obese people are poor at nutrient partitioning.  And honestly, don't need things like "cheat meals".  They need a very long period of eating very healthy foods to undo the damage they have done.

So with all of this said.......

Still think "a carb is just a carb?"

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684484/
http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/glycogen.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15181085
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/05/dr-johnson-leptin-resistance.aspx
http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/5
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-spot-and-avoid-added-sugar

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Fitness Industry - Extremes and addictions - Part 2


In part 1 of this, I covered the fitness industry from a high level overview in regards to what you're getting into when you decide to compete.

This is part, I'm going to go into a bit more detail about what some of those things look like.

I've been meaning to finish this part but it got put on the backburner for a while due to other work.  However last night I made a post on Facebook about women and androgen use, and for women to take some time out to understand androgens, and what they ultimately could end up doing to their body.

Shortly after I posted it, a received a message from someone, who will remain anonymous, that sent me this....



Hey, so I read your post bout women and androgens...and I can tell you first hand, it's a trade off I sometimes wish I had never made.

In an effort to preserve my anonymity, I'm gonna keep this kind of vague in regards to my sports and such...


All I knew in my twenties was that I wanted to be a champion athlete. My coaches started shooting me twice a week with deca when I was still young in the sport. Seemed harmless enough right. I was a competitive athlete...I needed to recover, my body was literally getting pushed to places it didn't always wanna go...by the time I was 28 I had become quite successful in my chosen sport...it was the best time of my life. At that time, everything I used were mostly cutting agents and things to lube my joints. I retired in the shortly after my 28th bday due to injury, it was at that time my focus changed to heavy lifting.

So I found my way into the strength sports...long story short, I started hitting the weights and the heavier androgens...again I seemed to do quite well. However now I deal with things that other women do not and I'm terribly insecure about it.

My hair is all paid for, my natural hair is no longer pretty. My hips are the width of my waist like a mans. I have hair in places that are not desirable for a woman...these are all things I deal with on a regular basis and I'm so insecure about it. My cycle stopped over a decade ago. Fortunately my female regions are still pretty...got a lil beasted up down there, but no one ever complained.

I'm glad to see you notice that there does seem to be a very unhealthy upswing in women's use of anabolics. I knew that there was a trade off...I just never fully understood the magnitude of my decisions...now every man that I'm physical with, I always wonder If when he sees me naked, does he see a beautiful woman or a woman who is masculine...

But hey, I was champion right...


Whatever it takes - Coaches, drugs, diets, sex, and porn

The above woman's story is not unusual for women who set out with the mindset of "whatever it takes."  

Women that are driven to become champions are no different than men in that regard.  They are willing to take the drugs, do the extreme diets, abuse their bodies, and accept the consequences that come with all of that.

The problem in doing so, is that very few have the foresight to see what those consequences ultimately are.  

This concept applies to both genders, as men often adapt the attitude of "well, it can't happen to me" when there are bodybuilders in their 30's and 40's dropping dead every year due to decades of steroid abuse, and pushing the limits of what the body can handle.  

For women, it often means they physically transform, and lose who they were before.  It's like chemical plastic surgery for your entire body, but not in a way that is going to enhance your beauty.  That is unless of course you consider having to wake up to shave your face every morning like men do, and think that a male modelesque jawline enhances your beauty. 

The industry is full of these stories, and it's not just the highest level of competitors that have them.  From powerlifting to women's bodybuilding even to bikini (yes, bikini) drug abuse and the lasting side effects of them are everywhere.  

I know a guy who was dating an IFBB bikini competitor.  He told me the first time he called and got her voicemail he thought he had dialed the wrong number.  The voice he was listening to, didn't sound anything like the girl he had met.  The voice in person, while not overly masculine, was certainly deeper and laden with more bass than the almost childlike voice on her voicemail. 

There was only a little more than a year between the time she had created the voicemail, and the time he met her.  Let me reiterate, she was a bikini competitor.  If you don't know anything about bikini competition, well, basically they still have to stay somewhat soft for competition (comparatively speaking to the rest of the women's divisions), and basically do a bunch of weird hand gestures onstage.  

So why did a competitor need drugs so harsh that within a little over a year, her voice had already changed that dramatically?  

The same reason everyone else abuses androgens and anabolics.  The desire to gain an edge, and win.

For a lot of these women unfortunately, they end up with the wrong people in their life, guiding them in all the wrong directions.  Coaches are a huge part of the problem.  Let me restate that, bad coaches are a huge part of the problem.  

A lot of these women end up getting pushed or influenced to move in these directions because the men they are guided by either don't care about the lasting side effects that the "whatever it takes" attitude to win entails, or just aren't smart enough to know any better.

For example, anavar is a safe and mild drug for women to use but winstrol is not.  Because those two drugs often have similar looking results when men take them, it is often assumed it's the same for women.  Not to mention that because of that factor, winstrol is often passed off as anavar and some female competitor that thinks she's taking var, is often taking winny.  And for her, there is a massive difference in these two drugs.

First off, let's get this part out of the way.  Women that think they know what they are doing, or even men, will often say "I use winstrol as a cutting drug."

Ok, read what I am about to write and understand it, digest it, grok it, get it tattooed on your forehead backwards so that every morning you wake up, you see it, and don't forget.

WINSTROL IS NOT A CUTTING/FAT LOSS AGENT.  IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU LOSE FAT.

You know what the best "agent" for your fat loss is?  It's this thing called diet and cardio.  

Winstrol does not burn fat.  It does not make you leaner.  It does make you look leaner via the fact that it will make you drier, but it does not burn bodyfat.  It is a favorite in "cutting" cycles because near contest time, it can and will make a competitor look harder.  But this is not due to fat loss.

Virilization, which is developing of male characteristics due to a surplus of androgens in the body, is much much higher with winstrol than anavar.  And yet coaches will sometimes even knowingly recommend winstrol to their female clients, assuring them it's perfectly fine by saying "I have tons of women using this.  Do they look like men?"  

And while it is true that you can run winstrol in a lower dose for a short length of time without any permanent side effects, what often happens is that those low doses increase over time.  And that "short length of time" becomes months.  And then without realizing it, said competitor has fallen into the realm of abuse, and may not notice the massive changes that has happened to her until it's too late.

But drugs aren't the only problem with so many "coaches" now.

Regardless of how "swell" you think your coach is, it's in their best interest for you to win because that's how they make money.  So depending on the coach, they may or may not give a flying fuck about your well being or health.  I've seen over and over and over again where coaches have competitors on severe starvation diets, all the while having them do hours and hours of cardio a day along with their weight training.  

800 calories a day with two hours of cardio and then two hours of lifting a day is NOT conducive to a great look on stage, physical, mental, and emotional health.   Add in them throwing a bunch of diuretics at you come competition time and this really looks like a recipe for disaster.  Any coach prescribing you such a protocol doesn't know his head from his ass and doesn't give a flying shit about you, regardless of what a great guy you think he is.  

Does he want you to win?  

Of course he does!  But he's perfectly fine with putting you on the brink of death to do so.  It's not his life he's playing with; it's yours.  So who cares?  

It used to be that diet and training and cardio were the cornerstones of creating a great physique, with drugs sort of being the icing on the cake.  Now it's this chemical cocktail of clen, T3, T4, excessive androgens, saran wrapping with Auschwitz style contest dieting that make up the bulk of "success" with intelligent training and diet being more of an afterthought.  

Oh and what about post contest?  

That chick that's been starving for 12 to 14 weeks now often goes on a binge that would make any professional competitive eater proud.  And then there is the post show weight gain, oh yes.  I've seen women that did photoshoots that looked amazing get so bloated and fat that only a few weeks later won't even get in a pool without their shirt on.  

Is that what this "lifestyle" is to you?  Because these same women often post memes and write quotes about how they "live this" and how it's "just for me" and every other ridiculous notion that is wrapped up in faux self bravado.  It's nothing more than a facade for them to hide behind because they absolutely must force themselves to believe this nonsense.  

What's that saying about if you have to constantly tell someone how great you are at something?  Something, something, you're really not that great.  If you are constantly having to tell someone how you're all about something, you're probably not all about it.

Are there some great coaches out there?  Yes, undoubtedly so.  But the industry is so saturated with people who have some weekend certification and a few before and after pics of a few clients that come cheap, so women and men will often go with them as their "coach". 

Let me be clear on this; if you're going to compete and be serious, seek out a great coach with a stellar reputation, and pay them what they are worth.  This isn't fucking bargain shopping down at the flea market.  You're talking about your endocrine system, mental and emotional well being here.  If you can't afford a great coach, and you feel like you need one, don't compete.  It's that simple.  There are coaches out there who have literally put multiple competitors in the hospital.  

You get what you pay for.  And being cheap with your body could cost you more than money.

The other dark side that is often joked about is the gay for pay stuff that many competitors do in order to pay for their drugs, food, and the lifestyle they "need" to live in order to be highly competitive.  

However what isn't talked about so much, is that women often do sleep with judges in order to get higher placings.  

This isn't conjecture on my part, it's reality.  I've heard first hand.

It's not exactly hidden in the industry, as plenty of competitors know what judges have a reputation for this, but it's not exactly talked about as openly as other topics.  So you take a woman who has dieted for months on end, taken drugs that have fucked her hormonal system up, who has invested a tremendous amount of time and money into doing well, and she's now in a vulnerable position to cave to such propositions. 

Before you stand up on your soapbox about how "that's her choice" or "it's no ones fault but her own", I hope in every emotionally charged situation in your life, you made all the right decisions.  

Thank you, Jesus of the fitness industry, for showing up to bestow your devout wisdom and displaying how infallible you are.  Surely it must be hard to stay so humble when you're perfect in every way.

I'm not excusing this behavior.  I'm saying anytime you put someone in an incredibly vulnerable state, they will often make decisions and choices that are out of character for them.  I also blame the judges who partake in this, as it is preying on these insecurities and vulnerabilities in order to essentially extort sex out of them.  You're an asshole.

And all of these things can indeed lead down slippery slopes.

Photo shoots turn into nude photo shoots turns into stripping which turns into softcore porn, which turns into hardcore porn.  And this has happened to MANY women whose path began with, "I want to get in shape and do a show."

It's funny how each little and seemingly insignificant decision in our lives lays each brick for the temple of personal self destruction.  I bet you never thought that doing some glute thrusts in the gym would lead to some glute thrusts out of the gym for money did you?  

I apologize for making light of choices that may have left you with poor memories, but that was a joke I just couldn't pass up on.

Obviously all of these things do not happen to everyone.  But they do happen.  And it's not even terribly uncommon for women who compete long enough to experience each one of them in some form or fashion.

These things are also not limited to fitness, figure, physique women either.  I've watched plenty of women in powerlifting absolutely destroy their femininity chasing a $20 plastic trophy.  And all I can ask myself is, "why?"

If it's that important to you to boast of a big squat, that you're willing to accept all of the consequences that come with abusing androgens, then it is your life.  Have at it.  But there are too many women who have stories like the one at the beginning of this article that regret it later.

Very few people think about the future when they are caught up in the obsession of attaining goals related around a hobby.  You may say you're willing to accept those consequences now, but after competing is gone, all of those consequences are still going to be there with you every single day of your life.

So you better be certain that you're really ok with them, when you decide that "being the best" is really what you're after.  

Conclusion - 

I don't write any of this to dissuade people from competing, or even from using drugs.  I write it to at least educate them that these are some of the things that can happen if you are not aware of all the dark shadows that loom in the corners of the fitness industry.  

Please educate yourself, and surround yourself with people who have your health and personal best interests in mind.  Remember that a lot of people in the industry don't care about you, and will use you for their own personal gain.  There are lots and lots of awesome people in the industry, that live their life with integrity and honor.  And there are lots and lots that don't.  

If you plan on competing, and don't want to ruin your health and your life, ask yourself what you are losing and gain in every difficult and critical decision you are faced with.  At the end of the day no one will have to carry the ramifications of your choices but you.  And even the broadest of shoulders will eventually slump if those ramifications become too much to bear.


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Squatting for bodybuilders


The free weight barbell squat has been possibly the biggest staple in weight training since the barbell was invented.  And for good reason;  few movements work as many overall muscle groups as the squat and offer the overall benefits for growth the squat does.

It is used by Olympic lifters, bodybuilders, crossfitters, athletes of every sport, and of course competitive powerlifters.

The squat has a high degree of potential in regards to capable poundage being moved with it, so it possesses a significant degree of progressive overload capability.  In other words, it can be milked for a very long time in terms of adding weight to the bar.  And one of the single biggest factors in regards to muscle growth is progressive overload; i.e. asking the body to do more tomorrow, next week, and next month, than it can do today.

With all of these wonderful factors about the squat, it obviously means that every bodybuilder should be squatting in regards to building a massive lower body.

Right?

Not necessarily.

If you're a bodybuilder, no one ever judges you based on how much you squat.  They judge you based on what you present onstage, physique wise.  There isn't a single judge out there that can tell if you squat big weights, or don't squat at all based on that package.

Lots of champion bodybuilders have used the squat as a staple in their training, and many have not.  What often separates the champions from the guys placing behind them, is their ability to choose the right movements in training that help them present a more complete package than their competition.  And for some guys, the squat wasn't an ideal movement to address deficiencies in their lower body.



For example, Dorian Yates was forced to abandon the barbell squat early in his career due to hip pain from it.  On the other hand, Ronnie Coleman did in fact make the barbell squat a big part of his lower body training.

I think both guys did ok.

So making the decision to use the barbell squat in your training largely depends on your leverages, how you squat, what muscle groups you need to bring up and if the squat targets those effectively.

Leverages and squatting - 

Unfortunately you cannot change the length of your bones.  And depending on things like femur length, the squat may be very ideal for building a big set of wheels, or it may not be.

You have probably seen that one guy who turns his squat into sort of a half-squat, half good morning exercise.  Often, these are guys that don't have ideal leverages for squatting, and suffer from "long femur disease."  And while plenty of these types can and do squat big weights, they usually are very strong and developed through the hips and trunk rather than the quads.

On the other hand, if you have short femurs you can probably squat ass to grass, as they say, with little effort and maintain an almost completely upright torso.  From a quad development standpoint, this is very ideal and far more efficient.

This doesn't mean that the guy with long femurs and a lot of forward lean have to abandon the squat.  It just means he or she will need to squat differently than the short femur mutant in order to effectively target his quads.

Joint movement and bar path -

Joint movement isn't slang for the push to legalize marijuana.  Instead we're talking about the movement of the knees, ankles, and hips in relation to torso movement to keep the weight of the bar over the center of the foot.  This is what I call the "power path" of the bar.  Where the bar travels down the centerline of the body, over the middle of the foot, and allows you to move the weight in the most mechanically efficient manner as possible.

If the bar is not in this power path, then it means you lose leverage over the bar.  If you've ever felt yourself get on your toes while squatting, this means the bar isn't in the centerline of your body, and you're out of the most mechanically efficient position to move the weight.

And regardless of femur length, the lifter needs to squat in a manner that does that.

For the short femur trainee, his knees may not travel very far forward in comparison to the guy with long femurs to accomplish the same task.  For the long femur lifter, he may have to stick his glutes way back in order to accommodate for his more prominent knee flexion and extension, to find the ideal bar path.

Ankle mobility also plays a huge role in both of these roles as well.

The short femur lifter has a significantly shortened range of motion than the lifter with longer femurs. So he or she often isn't limited by a lack of ankle flexibility the way the squatter with long femurs is.

This is often visible by watching the angle of the shin during the squat.  If the shin is angled very far forward then it is often, but not always, a sign that ankle flexibility is poor, and isn't allowing for proper hip abduction during the execution of the movement.

What this means is, in order to reach proper depth in the squat, the knees need to track outwards to allow you to sit down in the bottom.  If you are tight in the calves and have poor ankle mobility, and have long femurs, this is going to be a bad day for you.

Unfortunately for people with long femurs, they do often suffer from these problems, which is why their squat is often very ugly looking.  For those built to squat, they might actually suffer from poor ankle mobility and tight calves, but because their range of motion in the squat is so limited, it doesn't impede them from squatting with great effectiveness.

A quick fix for this is to simply insert a small plate or thin board under the heels.  This essentially bypasses the issue of having tight calves and poor ankle flexibility by not asking them to stretch as far in order to achieve proper depth and squat position.  I squatted this way in the beginning and eventually was able to squat without it.

So for those who suffer from poor squatting position and find squatting to always feel awkward and "off" this is often a simple solution to keeping you more upright in the squat, and putting the emphasis back on the quads.


Isolating muscle groups and squat depth -

Because I'm a competitive powerlifter, squat depth is a badge of honor in our circle.  I've always squatted deep, and I've never been called for squat depth in competition one time.

In bodybuilding however, I see a lot of guys squatting well above parallel and offer all sorts of justifications for doing so.

So I want to put some of these justifications to rest.

"We squat higher to isolate the quads."

I can use a hammer to break a 2x4 in half, but if I want to actually cut it to a precise length, my guess is a skilsaw is a better tool for the job.

The barbell squat is not an isolation exercise.  And it shouldn't be used as one.

It's a multi-joint movement.  So if you're using the barbell squat, I assume the reason you're doing it is to bring as many muscles of the lower body into play as possible.

Yes, the purpose of this article is how to use the squat in a more quad dominant fashion, however it can't and never will be an isolation movement.

But since isolating the quads is often used as an excuse as to why some guys squat high, we can put that notion to rest as well.

The deeper you squat the more the knee extensors, i.e. the vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris, AKA the quadriceps, are brought into play.

Depth is a more important factor than load on the bar when it comes to force produced by the quadriceps.  So if you're loading up your ego on the bar, and cutting it high, you're involving the knee extensors less, and the hip extensors more.

So deep squatting means more quadricep involvement.  Higher squatting means less.

So what is depth?

The deepest you can get without sacrificing proper mechanical position.

So if you can't get to parallel or below (where the hip crease is below the top of the knee at the bottom of the squat), then the quadriceps are going to play less of a role in your squatting.

This may cause some to say "well so-n-so squats high and has great quad development."

Yes and some guys can eat taco bell and get shredded, but that doesn't mean you can too.  Just because someone else can do something and get away with it doesn't make it ideal.  And what someone else can do literally has no impact or significance on your own training.

If you're going to use the barbell squat to build your quads....

1.  Squat as deep as possible without losing proper mechanical position.
2.  Keep the load of the bar mid-foot.
3.  Use small plates or a thin board under your heels to eliminate poor ankle mobility/tight calves as a roadblock to hitting depth and staying more upright.
4.  Do all of the above while finding your stance, and positioning that allow you to maintain as much of an upright torso position as possible.


Knee wraps -

Another issue I see with a lot of bodybuilders are the use of knee wraps while squatting.

Knee wraps will allow the lifter to use more weight on the bar, but what they do is eliminate the force being produced by the vastus medialis in order to get out of the bottom position of the squat.  What this means is, you replace the work that is done by a muscle with the wraps, and this means less development for that muscle.

This is important because the vastus medialis is the only quadricep muscle that has a medial pull on the knee.  The knee needs a strong VMO in order to facilitate proper knee tracking.  If knee tracking is not ideal, then there will indeed be knee pain, usually in the patella tendon.

A lot of guys that use knee wraps say they can't squat without them because of knee pain.  If you think about this for a minute, they are caught in a vicious cycle.  They can't squat due to knee pain, so they use wraps.  Using wraps means less force produced by the VMO, which means a smaller and weaker VMO, so knee pain continues.  Essentially, putting on wraps is a temporary band-aid that isn't fixing the knee pain issue.  It's just bypassing it, but not in a way that has long term benefits.    .

In fact, it has drawbacks.

Knee wraps compress the knee cap into the thigh, increasing friction between the patella and cartilage.  This is not something you want going on in your knee if long term knee health is desired.

For guys that do experience knee pain while squatting, it behooves you to spend some time strengthening the VMO and your hamstrings, which also help in knee stabilization, so that you can eventually ditch the wraps and squat without them.

Some great movements for strengthening the VMO are...

1.  Step ups on a box
2.  Split Squats
3.  Toe pronated leg extensions

As a bodybuilder, your goal is muscular development.  Adding wraps means you're taking away a muscles involvement in a movement, and relying on a piece of equipment to do its job.  Throw away the knee wraps and fix the issue.  I'm not saying this to be argumentative, I'm saying it so that you can avoid more knee pain down the line and eventually squat pain free, with more quad development.


Other factors - 

Pain could always be a reason why some guys will just never be able to squat.  This could be from former injuries, tightness in certain muscle groups, or inability to ever correct technique and form.

It all depends on the reason for the pain.

If you have worked with a great coach who knows how to fix your squat, and you still have pain, then it may be more ideal not to barbell squat, and to focus on doing movements you can do pain free, that allow you to progress and continue to refine and further your muscular development.

If you have worked with a coach and come to the conclusion that your own leverages don't make squatting ideal for optimal quad development, then ditch it and focus on movements that do.

Conclusion - 

The squat is still a fantastic exercise for the majority of people who train, and compete in bodybuilding.

However it doesn't come without fixing for a lot of people either, if their desire is to use it to maximize quadricep development.

For some people there are better options for building the quadriceps due to poor leverages for squatting.  Hack squats, leg presses, and various squat machines can all work in regards to building massive quads.

Spend the time perfecting your barbell squat, but also realize you don't have to marry yourself to a movement if it is not suited for your structure and doesn't address and develop the muscular area you are trying to use it for.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The blurry line between use and abuse, cheating, and a level playing field


When I arrived in Melbourne, Australia I had a very interesting cab ride from the airport to my hotel.  The cabbie was an older gentleman and quite chatty.  He asked where I was from in the States and what I was doing in Melbourne, etc.  The usual talk.

Somehow, we got on the topic of the tour de france and he said that he had been a huge Lance Armstrong fan, and that because of the time difference, he'd actually set his alarm clock to wake up to watch Lance race when this was going on.

Then he told me he lost all respect for Lance once it came out that he had been using steroids to win.

"Do you think he really did that?" he asked me.

"Yeah.  Of course he did." I said.

"But that's cheating." he said.

"How?" I asked.

"You're supposed to see what the body can do naturally." was his answer.

Oh brother.

Just a while back Hector Lombard, a UFC fighter, was suspended from fighting for a year for testing position for the designer steroid, desoxymethyltestosterone, aka DMT.

The Nevada Athletic Commission, just like the NFL, NBA, and whatever acronym pro baseball uses, all have policies against the use of anabolic steroids that of course come with heavy fines or suspensions if one pops positive for them.

That's because of course, steroids are illegal.  And dangerous.

I will tie all this back together in a bit.  Just sit tight.

Media and general population ignorance - 


From this site...http://thelawdictionary.org/article/why-are-steroids-illegal/



Health risks of steroids

Anabolic steroids are illegal due to their proven health risks for individuals who take them. As a powerful hormone, they can cause unexpected and unwanted side effects for individuals who abuse them beyond a doctor's prescription. Side effects include:
  • Infertility and impotence in men
  • Breast development and testicular shrinkage in men
  • Excessive face and body hair development in women
  • Deepened voice, menstrual irregularities and reduced breast size in women
  • Acne, oily scalp, jaundice, mood swings, delusions and baldness in both men and women
  • Increased risk of high cholesterol, liver disease, liver cancer and heart attack
As a controlled substance, anabolic steroids are kept illegal to prevent people from suffering unwanted health effects. Their illegality keeps the general public that may not know the full risks safe from harm.

Well shit, let's just tackle these one by one.  


List of drugs that can cause infertility/low sperm count in men outside of steroids - 

1.  Heavy alcohol consumption - legal depending on age
2.  Tobacco use - legal depending on age
3.  Cocaine - seriously illegal
4.  Weed - Illegal in some places, not in others
5.  Obesity - manifestation of abusing twinkies, pizza, hot dogs, and bloomin onions


  • Breast development and testicular shrinkage in men -

1.  Bruce Jenner got tits and was hailed a hero.  Men get gyno and are trolled online.
2.  No one cares who has big or small nuts.  I've never heard of a woman complaining that a guys nuts were too small.  Physically speaking I mean.

  • Excessive face and body hair development in women -
1.  Italian women have this naturally.  So do Indian women.  I suppose we should just start throwing them in prison.  
2.  Razors can't be found at Wal-Greens anymore?  

No one remembers this story?


I guess airport and homeland security missed this one.  She should have been thrown in jail.  What if she really was just taking steroids and this was the outcome?

  • Deepened voice, menstrual irregularities and reduced breast size in women - 

1.  Men are used to dealing with irregularities in women in regards to their menstrual cycle.  I am sure some of us would like them to be thrown in jail during certain times of the month due to this, so I can't really oppose this.
2.  I am all for throwing women in jail who purposely shrink their big cans.  Can we also outlaw breast reduction surgery?  Since women willingly go see a surgeon to do that?

  • Acne, oily scalp, jaundice, mood swings, delusions and baldness in both men and women -

1.  Let's throw everyone who is going through puberty in prison immediately.  Acne for days.
2.  Let's also make room for those who use any drug that cause acne.  Certain birth control pills can.  And women were made to procreate.  So they are literally fighting nature by stopping us from getting them pregnant AND getting acne.  
3.  ACNE IS A REASON LISTED!!!!!  ACNE!!!!  

  • Increased risk of high cholesterol, liver disease, liver cancer and heart attack - 
  • 1.  High cholesterol....don't get me started.  We're all aware of the link to high cholesterol and poor dietary habits and obesity.  The difference is, the media keeps telling us that fat is beautiful.  So we're supposed to accept one standard (obesity) as being beautiful while ignoring all of the very well documented health risks with it, and shun the other for what they say causes the same thing.  Makes sense.
  • 2.  The liver.  Alcohol is legal.  Alcohol and the liver.  Read.  http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/alcohol/

So to recap, the government tells us that steroids are illegal because they don't want us harming ourselves with them, yet doctors can push medications that cause all of these same issues, and liquor, tobacco, and fast food are all freely available 24/7.

A while back there was a steroid lab busted, and the cop who was interviewed said that it's important to get these drugs off the street because they make people angry.  And that as a safety precaution, we didn't need angry drivers on the road.

So basically, what you're telling me is, every New York city cab driver is hitting the tren and halo way too fucking hard?

Makes sense now.

Seriously, it's like our government sits back in their office each day and says to each other "let's figure out all of the dumbest reasons we will make something illegal, and see how many sheep there still are in this society."

I wonder if anyone has ever bothered to show all of the completely ignorant members of society and congress this study, done by the New England Journal of Medicine...

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101

Basically, two groups of men.  One group was given placebo, the other group 600mg of test enanthate a week.

As expected, those that got the testosterone got bigger and leaner and stronger than the group that didn't get it (DUH!).

But it's the last line of the conclusion part that is most important.

Neither mood nor behavior was altered in any group.


Wait....wait...............wait...................wait...............

You're telling me the group that got the roids wasn't out killing prostitutes and fighting the cops on a weekly basis?  They weren't having road rage and shooting out of their window at other drivers with an Uzi?  Oh wait, that's Chicago.  Not steroids.

So let me get this right.


  • Drunk driving kills over 10,000 people a year.  And alcohol is legal.  
  • Overall mortality among both male and female smokers in the United States is about three times higher than that among similar people who never smoked.  Cigarettes are legal.
  • 1 in 5 deaths in America are now obesity related.  We are told that "beauty comes in all sizes".
  • Steroids shrink your balls.  ILLEGAL!!!!!  
I just wanted to clear up the hypocrisy in which we live in, and to show the utter and complete stupidity as to how we are governed as a people.  

The general public, like my cab driver in Melbourne, thinks steroids are dangerous.  But I can't find a single stat on the number of people that were killed by roid rage.  Or roided out drivers.  

The fact is, the great majority of people that just watch the news believe the bullshit that is fed to them because they are sheep.  If you believe that steroids will turn you into Ben Affleck in some after school special, then you're a moron.  



So are there health risks?

Unequivocally?   Yes.

There are health risks associated with virtually every form abuse.

Drink too much - Die
Smoke too much - Die
Eat too much - Die
Steroid too much - Die

But shit man, take 30 aspirin and you'll experience the last headache you will EVER have.  You can buy that over the counter right now.

Death tends to be the ending manifestation of all form of abuse in this context.  But within context, for abuse to be related to death, it also needs to be abuse over a long period of time.  

Pretty sure when kids go on spring break in Cancun or Florida they "abuse" alcohol for that week.  They probably abuse recreational drugs during that time as well.  And yes, you can die from alcohol poisoning, or overdosing of some form of recreational drug, but I'm not talking about that.  I'm talking about long term abuse.  Because as far as I know, you can't OD on testosterone.

So how do we draw the line in order to say "this constitutes use, and this constitutes abuse."?

There are a few factors here at play in that regard.  


I don't consider a swollen clitoris or shrunken balls "health risks."  

And this is where we have to get into the blurry line of "use vs abuse".

The problem is, I think most people want to attach a certain dose onto the value of abuse.  I'm not opposed to that, however I don't think it's that simple either.

So let's get the most important part out of the way first.

1.  USE is NOT ABUSE

There are people who consider any form of use, to be abuse.  And that's like calling the guy having a beer on the weekends a raging alcoholic.  

Testosterone therapy, as prescribed by a doctor is use.  But it is not abuse.

Anavar is often given to children or AIDS patients.  

In fact, anabolics are quite often used in those with HIV or AIDS because it fights the catabolic effects the virus has on the body.  Yay for steroids being awesome.  

It's also even possible, that someone with HIV may need to take what would be seen as "abuse" in regards to dose, because of their condition.  I know this for a fact because I am friends with someone who has AIDS, who has to take incredibly high doses of anabolics just to maintain his bodyweight.  

Unfortunately, I've seen him still wither away over the years despite his "use" (yes use, not abuse).  However he has told me on numerous occasions that if not for anabolics, his life quality would have been in the shitter years ago.  Steroids literally helped him live a far higher quality of life.  

In his case, his "use" did not constitute abuse because it was literally what was required to get the job done JUST TO LIVE.

For someone who just needs to feel normal again that has low test levels, they obviously would not need the type of doses he took.  

Both are striving for a higher quality of life.  Yet both have different needs in terms of "use".  



2.  Use in accordance with performance

This is the blurriest of lines.  

There are some sports where for the great majority of the athletes, will need to cross over into what most people would consider "abuse" in order to be competitive.  

Professional bodybuilding, professional strongman, elite level powerlifting, cycling, and probably a few others.  

Does this mean that abuse is not happening?  No.  But in these cases the user may justify his abuse in order to be competitive at the highest levels.  When I write "justify" of course, I mean to himself.  After all, it's his or her choice to make in regards as to what they are willing to risk.  

My biggest issue here is, it should be up to the athlete to make that choice without being made into a criminal by our government.  It's really none of their fucking business what people do with their body since alcohol, tobacco, and McDonalds are all still legal.  


3.  Clearly defining abuse 

In all honesty, I'd like to be able to do that, but I have such a staunch stance on all of us being able to decide what we want to do with our bodies that it's hard for me to reconcile this.

But I will toss out a few things here, so that I can be as clear as possible about this.

If you've been around sports or bodybuilding or the strength world long enough, you know what abuse looks like.  Guys that are sporting a nice shade of magenta year round, and people that have to take blood pressure medication so that they can take even more drugs, are definitely falling into that realm of "abuse".  

If a guy is getting his blood work done, and getting his heart checked out, and all of it consistently comes back with a reading of "holy shit, you're about to fucking die" he's probably abusing.

But seriously, bottomed out LDL's and atherosclerosis and elevated liver enzymes should all be pointing you to the fact that you have crossed from "use" into the land of "abuse".  

The biggest problem I've seen in regards to this, is that so many guys refuse to accept they are abusing.  They see the guys that have died from years of abuse, and believe shit about them having pre-existing conditions that had nothing to do with anabolics.  I mean you really have to have your head in the sand if you're going to ignore all of the bodybuilders that have dropped dead over the past two decades that were between 25 and 45 years old.  But people don't think it can happen to them. 

People don't like to willingly acknowledge their mortality at times.  That's a scary thing to come to terms with.

The level playing field - 


Back in 1988 Carl Lewis lost to Ben Johnson in the 100 meter dash.  Ben got popped for steroids, and because Carl Lewis was an American, and American's are wholesome and shit, congress decided that steroids, and Canadians, are dangerous.  And should be made illegal.  

Yet we're still letting Canadians into this country. I can't figure this out.

Anyway, that was really the knee jerk reaction that caused all of this, and of course the media then filled the sheep's heads with all the bullshit that gets repeated by the common man or woman who doesn't know a winstrol tab from a tic-tac.  

But the main pile of bullshit I have to hear is how some guy should be suspended because he got caught using them.  

First off, as fans we demand to see athletes perform at a high level.  A level that defies our ability to sometimes comprehend how they can do such things.  And PED's always have, and always will play a big part in this.  They help the athlete to recover, and play on Sunday, instead of being in the trainer's room.  

Steroids pretty much saved baseball with the home run race.  No one gave a god damn shit about baseball until then.  Then suddenly Mark and Sammy were heroes.  Oh wait, nevermind.  They used some designer roids to play better, feel better, look better, and baseball a bit better.  

What horrible, horrible cheaters they were.  I'm not sure why they aren't sitting in Guantanamo bay with the other terrorists.  How dare they entertain us by hitting home runs and making baseball cool again.  

How dare Lance Armstrong make the tour de france awesome by breaking foot off in cyclist ass over and over again.  

Athletes are always going to find a way to "cheat".  But you have to understand something.   To the athlete, he's just trying to win.  And he's very aware of the fact that his competition is "cheating" too.  People don't remember the guy that took 5th but was natural.  People remember winners.  For better or worse, that's what we remember.  And as fans, we demand the athletes we root for to perform at the highest level.

And then some of you have the nerve to criticize them for going above and beyond in order to meet that demand. 

There is no such thing as a level playing field.  The majority of athletes are going to look high and low in order to find an advantage to win.  Because their passion to excel at something exceeds the limitations of their fear.  And if that passion means they ride into the dark days of abuse, that is their choice.  And they will have to ultimately pay for it.  Not you.  Not me.  Just them.  

Does that mean it's the choice for everyone?  No.  Of course not.  And I'm certainly not applauding abuse.  I just believe that people should have the right to make that choice without looking at prison time for it.  But because of Carl Lewis, they can no longer freely make that choice without consequences from the law.


Fuck you Carl Lewis, for being such a crybaby losing bitch.

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Context and association in real world strength and physique development


The title of this is perhaps, the longest title of any article I've ever written.  But I had no idea what to call it.

A while back I wrote a post somewhere (I don't remember where), where I addressed the fact that at times people overload themselves with too much information, and find themselves lost in regards to what they really need to be focusing on in training.

This was met with "you can never know too much" and the scientific nerd crowd got all up in arms at my suggestion that some people actually get worse from information overload.  

This is not conjecture on my part; I know from personal experience and from all the messages and emails I receive on a daily basis that it is possible to learn more, and actually go backwards in training.

I don't think you need to go very far to find an internet debate filled with hundreds of guys that don't look like they lift, and can't lift very much yet can spout off every piece of scientific information known to man about programming, diet, and macros and can recite page 15 paragraph 6 of Supertraining like a sports fan can tell you who won the NFL rushing title in 1984, 1996, and 2004.

That'd be Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, and Curtis Martin in case you were wondering.

I absolutely am going to stand by my stance here.

Not all of the information on training out there is useful or applicable to everyone in regards to their own training.  And overloading yourself with training or nutritional knowledge that doesn't apply to you can indeed cause paralysis by analysis.

"Should I apply this?"

"Should I not?"

"Do you think this split is better than this one?"

"What do you think of doing arms every third waxing moon phase?"

There is really only a few things each person needs to ask themselves to cut through all the bullshit.

But I will get to that in a minute.

Here are some reasons why lifters get caught up in this confusion -  

1.  Starts worrying about things that don't pertain to their level of qualification - 

Advanced lifters have things they need to concentrate on, that beginners and intermediate guys have no use for.

Likewise, beginners and intermediate level guys have things that should be their focus that don't offer as much benefit for very advanced guys.

A beginner doesn't really need to worry about things like nutrient timing.  So long as he is eating a good meal before and after training, he should be covered.  

For an advanced guy, this is far more important and plays a much bigger role in improving, regardless of what some study says (even though there are studies consistently support nutrient timings effectiveness for advanced athletes).

How do we know this?

Because there are just too many guys at the elite level that have seen dramatic recovery enhancement and improvement in their training and physique implementing it.  It does make an enormous difference.  I've spoken with too many elite level bodybuilders to rely on some study done with guys doing leg extensions a few times a week to put any stock into those.

An advanced guy training his ass off will see a difference in it.  I know, I've seen it lately by being far more strict with my nutrient timing.  I've taken 1 day off from training in the last 5 weeks adhering to this protocol and my training volume has been insane.

It DOES make a difference.

Will the novice or intermediate see a difference?

Probably not.

Noobs and intermediates can get away with not doing a lot of the things advanced guys MUST DO to improve, and still get better.  That's because the longer you train, and the closer you get to maxing out your genetic potential, the more "simple details" matter.

IIFYM is another great example of this as well.

IIFYM can be used by guys and gals who want to make dieting more flexible, yet still get leaner and not be forced into a position of being strict as hell in their nutrition plan.

But I don't know of a single competitive bodybuilder who does IIFYM going into major competitions.  If they do, they aren't placing well.  Because no one is eating mac and cheese two weeks out from the Mr. Olympia that plans on doing well.

Some backyard level competitive bodybuilder may do just fine implementing IIFYM.  But at the very advanced level of competition, no one is doing that.  Do you really think that pro bodybuilders ENJOY carrying their food around with them everywhere they go?  They don't.  But at that level, they literally can't even eat restaurant food and still dial it in the way they have to if they want to win.

This doesn't mean one is right and one is wrong as whole.

It means one is far more optimal depending on WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH.  

2.  Prioritizing the wrong things - 

The beginner needs to worry more about simple progression on the bar and perfecting technique in his or her lifts at the forefront of their training.  Things like rest/pause technique, strip sets, and complex programming or advanced modalities in training are not required to get better.  Just showing up and putting in some good work on the two things mentioned is far more paramount.

For the advanced guy whose body has been through all sorts of training stresses, he has to search high and low to find new things his body must adapt to.  

A guy with 13" arms who weighs 145 pounds doesn't need 4 different curl variations and arm specialization to get his arms to grow.  He needs to add about 40 pounds of quality bodyweight to get that done.  

I put that in bold italics because I get slammed weekly from guys asking how to get their arms/shoulders/pecs, etc bigger, who haven't even built a decent base level of muscle mass.  They need to do THAT first.  

The very advanced guy who already has a significant level of muscular development may need 4 different curl variations in order to get his biceps to grow, along with a host of crazy intensity techniques because he's already well adapted to a variety of training stimulus.  

Once again, two levels of qualifications, two different needs.

But even aside from those things, there are a host of things I see people squabbling about on a daily basis, and having long drawn out conversations trying to figure out what is "right", when there isn't always a factual answer.  It really all depends on where the lifter is at in regards to his or her level of strength and development.

This whole thing reminds me of when I was doing DoggCrapp training and Dante constantly reinforced the notion that it was not for beginner or intermediate level lifters.  They would get pissed off about this.

"Well why can't we use it?"

"Because you don't need it, and you have other things you need to be concentrating on."

"But what if I just do..."

In this case, what if you just do what someone with decades of experience tells you to do instead?  Seems like that would be the best option.  Beginners and intermediate guys did not NEED DoggCrapp training.  Yet they continued to argue as to why they should or could use it.

Which leads me to another pet peeve I have.

A while back there was a video of Dave Pulcinella debating Ian McCarthy about the importance of meal frequency.

Dave is a guy that has decades of experience, and has coached countless numbers of bodybuilders in regards to dieting, with great success.

Ian McCarthy was a guy with a lot of book smarts that had coached exactly as many bodybuilders as pornstars that Yoda from Star Wars has banged.

That would be fucking zero.

We have far too many Ian McCArthy's on the net now, with a lot of book smarts and a lot of fancy letters after their name, with no experience in actually applying these supposedly scientific principles to the athletes they say should be using them.

If you have zero experience in training elite level bodybuilders, strongmen, powerlifters, or athletes, then why are you debating what works with people who do?

If you claim to be a diet guru, and you can't even get yourself into apartment complex pool shape then why are you handing out dieting advice?   How good is your advice if it doesn't even work on you?

What a lot of these people who actually train elite level guys have figured out is, what is done in a study, often isn't what we see in the real world.  And that it is often not even applicable depending on each individual.

But there is a huge disconnect here between the scientific world and the empirical training evidence world.

Sometimes they help each other, and sometimes they come to an impasse.  But remember that a lot of the things you read that are considered "scientific fact" now, were once just "broscience" too.

And then there are times when you have to accept that there may not be an answer until you actually do what the rest of us used to have to do before the internet was invented.

And that is TRY IT OUT YOURSELF.  

In the end - 

One thing that often gets lost in all of these internet debates and battles is a couple of simple questions each person should be asking themselves....

"Does this even apply to me?"

If it doesn't, why are you even debating the effectiveness of it?

"How important is this really?"

Sort of still an echoing of the first question.  If it doesn't apply to you or your goals, it's probably not important to you.

I remember years and years ago, there were guys saying that creatine wasn't effective for them, and didn't work.  It was a small percentage of course, as creatine most certainly DOES work.  But does it work for everyone?

No.

As it turns out, you have to have a decent amount of muscle mass to start with before creatine can do anything for you.  That's because guys with low levels of lean muscle mass are probably getting all the creatine they need from your diet.  But guys with a significant degree of muscle mass can use and benefit from adding creatine, because food alone doesn't supply enough creatine to the advanced lifter.

Wow!  See how that works?

For one guy, who isn't very advanced, it serves little to no purpose.

For the advanced guy, it can make a significant difference.

A novice guy can say "I don't need that.  It's of no benefit to me right now."

Where the advanced guy can say "this works very well."

Guess what?  They are both right!

AMAZEBALLS!  Context matters!

I know it's an alien concept in this age of debating on whether or not white rice is better than brown rice, but believe it or not, not everything works (another saying I hate).  It really all comes back to the athlete's level of development and what they actually need.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Ladies, you need to stop being intimidated by the gym

I've been meaning to write this piece for quite some time, but I will fall back on the age old excuse of "life gets in the way" as to why I haven't.

About a year ago, I read an article about a survey as to the main reason that many women, who do want to get in better shape, don't end up joining or making it in to the gym.

Survey says!

Intimidation.

There were several types of intimidation, and I hope I can shed some light on them for the women who would like to get to the gym, but have some of these unwarranted fears embedded in their minds.

"Hot, luscious, sexy bodies"

One of the types of intimidation that the women interviewed said they felt they would be bothered by, was all of the "sexual, hot and luscious bodies that the women who are in the gym have."

Ok, so I'm taking big liberties with that hot and luscious stuff (which means severe embellishing), but it did cause me to laugh internally at the thought of it.  The idea that the gym is filled with all of these hot women with huge, deliciously perfect heart shaped asses, and six pack abs so deep the men are lining up to lick off the almond butter they slathered on them between sets.

I'm here to tell you, there is no such place.  I mean, there may be, I'm just saying after 26 years I haven't seen or even heard of such place.  And if there were, I promise everyone would know about it by now.  And everyone would be at that gym, and you'd know exactly which gym to avoid.

But I will tell you what I have seen in almost 3 decades of being in the gym.

The majority of the women range from being in piss poor shape, to pretty good.  Occassionaly, there will be a female that comes in that is in unbelievably great shape, but the truth is, they are few and far between.

Which leaves us with the majority being women who are in piss poor shape, and doing their damned best to rectify that, all the way to the women who look pretty good, but aren't going to be winning any IFBB bikini or fitness shows anytime soon.

And this covers everything from large commercial gyms, to crossfit gyms, to small personal studio type gyms, to whatever.  There are all sorts of shapes and sizes in each of those that at some point, probably had the same fear that you do.  That they would walk into that gym where some almond butter ab goddess would shame you for still carrying around that 30 pounds of "baby weight".

Nevermind that "baby" just graduated from college....5 years ago.  But I digress!

So you can put your fears to rest.

I've been in all of these gyms, and I promise you that the great majority of the women in there, from a "looks" standpoint, aren't going to make you feel completely self conscious about how you look right now, more than likely.

Not only that, you need to remember that even if you do see some almond butter ab goddess, plenty of those women were in horrific shape when they finally made the decision to overcome their fears, and do something about how they looked and felt.  And if that's the case, they aren't going to look down on you.  They will identify with your struggle because it has association to them.  They know what that's like to not look and feel your best.  I know, because plenty of them have told me their stories about the why-and-how they made the choice to muster up the courage to finally step through those gym doors, and pick up a barbell.

I know with you feeling because everything sags and jiggles that you will be looked at with scornful eyes and somehow, someone may mock you in their mind, but that really is just never going to happen.  I see women everyday who are overweight, and I am always inspired by them working their ass off more than the super fit chick doing another high rep set on the look-at-my-ass machine.  I'm not saying I don't look.  I might look.  Yeah, I look.  Because I'm a man.  And we often stare at asses.
But that's really not the point here.  When you get in shape, and you will if you hang in there, I too will check out your ass when you get on the stare-at-my-ass machine.  So how about that?

How IG "models" train biceps


But all that aside, remember this as well; everyone started from ground zero at some point.  Even that chick you think that was born with biceps and glutes had a day where she did her first sets of squats, first set of presses, and first set of look-at-my-ass-machine.  She had to work for what you see, and she wasn't always the physical specimen you are looking at today.

My last tip here, is try to bring a friend, or talk someone else who is also intimidated into going with you.  That way you will at least be able to lean on her for emotional support, and her on you.  You can even go to the bathroom together.  Isn't that what women do?


"I wouldn't even know where to begin"


The other intimidation factor was simply being afraid they would walk into the gym and look stupid, trying to figure out what in the hell all of those machines do, or being intimidated by barbells.

Again, let me throw out my experience in this matter.

Bros at the gym will take up about 98% of the stupidity going on.  You probably wouldn't even recognize it at first, but trust me, it's happening.  So don't worry about that because there are going to be so many bros in there hogging all the stupid you won't ever have to worry about it.  The rest of us won't even notice you because between sets we're too busy watching bros and going, "god damn that bro is stupid."

Remember, no one is REALLY going to notice that you don't know what you're doing, unless you decide to stand on a swiss ball, and throw a medicine ball onto a trampoline.  Then, everyone is going to go "this chick is really fucking stupid."

So, don't do that.  Avoid that action.

There are a few things you can do to overcome this fear of looking stupid in the gym.

1.  You can train at home for a little while, learning some exercises.  Just google the names and watch some videos.  Fact is, you can learn a lot just by doing this.  Then when you feel ready, you can find a gym and start more advanced training from there.  But this will at least give you a start and instill some confidence in you.

2.  Hire a trainer at the gym to show you.  Most gyms now have trainers that work there.  At the bare minimum, hire them for 6 weeks so you can learn the ropes, or until you feel confident enough to be on your own.  If your trainer is awesome, and you're getting results really fast, keep em.  Good trainers are hard to come by.

3.  Stick with machines for a while.  Most machines have little drawings on them on how to do the exercise.  Start off light and adjust the seat and various levers on it until the movement feels comfortable.  This will take some experimentation, but again, no one is going to notice.  I have to adjust every machine on get on as well.  We all do.  Relax.  It's normal.


"Men are going to bother me"


I can't quell your fears completely on this one.  It does happen.

A piece of advice I can give you here is to do a few things...

1.  Develop a severe and intense case of resting bitch face.  

Put it on the second you enter the doors of the gym and never take it off.  Not even in the shower, or while putting on makeup after.  Hold it so long and so often that it becomes a part of who you are in the gym at all times.

Perfect your resting bitch face first


In all seriousness......no I'm being mostly serious.  If you don't want dudes to bother you while training, put on that resting bitch face.  That alone is a pretty good deterrent.

However....

Some dudes are just dick blossoms and are going to give it a shot anyway.  Which leads us to point 2....

2.  Wear headphones and learn the phrase "can't talk, I'm training."

This takes care of 99% of potential run ins with dick blossoms who are not deterred by your awesome resting bitch face.  Oh and don't "be nice".  If a man is willing to bother you while training, he has no respect for you, or your time.  Think about that.

Let me also add that the GREAT MAJORITY of men in the gym, that are serious, don't give a shit about talking to you.  Even if you are hot.  They are there to train, and really don't care about picking up on you.  I'm not saying they wouldn't try outside the gym, but I'm telling you, even when I've had training partners, we were serious in the gym and didn't bother women, or really even talk about any in the gym.  We were there to train.

truly the dude you need to worry about


Lastly on this topic, if you do get hit on and want to flirt, take it away from the actual lifting area.  Those of us who are serious about our training get pretty annoyed at people who take up space and equipment to act like they are standing at the bar down at the local club on a Saturday night.

Remember, the gym is a place to train.  And lots and lots of people are serious when they are in there.  If you want to flirt or talk to someone, it's a good idea to wait until you're done training.  That way, you can take it off to the non-training area and do your business.

Conclusion - 

Most of the fears and intimidation factors that women worry about the gym are largely in their head.  They see some IG "model" (I write that sarcastically) and doesn't think about the fact that her ass doesn't look like that year round, and maybe doesn't know she took 56,765 selfies before the light hit her bum at just the perfect angle to make it look delicious.  Add in mega filters and after she's all done, you're not looking at reality.

Most of these women have what is called an "offseason" as well, where they relax on their diets and "fatten" up a bit.  They aren't in Laura Croft Tomb Raider shape year around.  They diet and train specifically for photo shoots, competitions, and fitness expos.  Trust me, I've seen plenty of offseason pics of these same women you think have the most amazing bodies ever and you'd be surprised how far some of them slide in the "offseason".

And that's fine.

If there is a pretty unfair situation in the fitness industry and well, in society in general, it's that we constantly impose these almost impossible demands for beauty and sex appeal in regards to women, and have no such standards for us men.

So if a man reads this, I hope you also have the same standards for yourself in regards to your abs, and pecs, and delts, and of course...TRAPS, that you have for how fit and sexy a woman is supposed to be.

So ladies, the only thing you have to fear....is that by some slight chance you walk into a gym filled with almond butter ab goddesses and they laugh you right out of the place for even having the nerve to walk in.

And you're far more likely to get hit on by Chris Hemsworth while he's training for the next Thor movie for that to ever happen.  And that's not happening either.

So stop being scared.


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