Wednesday, March 31, 2010


31Mar10 - Conditioning

Weight - 240

15 minutes of non-stop calisthenics, boxing, and muay thai all mixed in.

Think I'm getting a cold so this felt tougher than it should.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

5 training mistakes you should avoid

Doing shit that hurts -

Seems obvious you shouldn't do this doesn't it? However I am guilty of this as well.

Now when I talk about "hurts" I mean in a bad way. When a newbie starts training most everything is going to "hurt" in some way. Learn to differentiate between a good hurt and a bad hurt.

What I'm talking about here is the bad hurt. After several separations of my shoulder from football my bench was stuck in the gutter for years and years. Not because the strength wasn't there. All of my other lifts said I should have been consistently benching 400+ easily. But my pecs and shoulder hurt after just a few weeks of benching only once a week. So this is how it typically went....

week 1 - bench pain free
week 2 - bench with slight pain
week 3 - bench with more than slight pain
week 4 - bench with pain during warm ups, go ahead and go heavy anyway
week 5 - benching is far too painful. no more benching until the pain subsides

During those 3 or 4 weeks my bench would run up pretty fast, but the pain would run up just as fast. I KNEW there was no way I could get back into the 400+ territory if I wasn't benching at least once a week right? RIGHT?

Wrong. I knew that if I wanted to keep competing in powerlifting that I would have to figure out a way to bench, but I knew I couldn't bench every week. My permanently separated shoulder caused all sorts of physiological problems and there was no fix. But could I gain on benching less frequently?

So I brought my grip in to protect my shoulders, and started benching every other week. I did singles only to limit the amount of work in that plane. The next week I would do heavy inclines. I would still get tender in my pec-minor but it was manageable. In a couple of months I hit 405, then 425 and just missed 435 on an off night. I feel confident that I can hit 450 within the year with this method.

If it hurts.........don't do that!

The lesson here is that if an exercise causes you chronic pain no matter how much you love that lift, you have to figure something else out. Working around injuries is something everyone who lifts long enough has to do. If it's a technique issue, then have someone qualified to watch you perform that lift. If it's something physiologically related, then figure out a work around. The point is, don't destroy your joints or cause permanent damage because you are stubborn. Drop something if it hurts or figure out a work around.

Copying the pro's routine -

This is common with young guys in both powerlifting and bodybuilding. And yes I've done this one too (look, if there is a mistake to make in training I've made it!). I have news for you, doing Branch Warren's routine will not make you look like Branch Warren. This is a fact.

Now I'm not saying top level bodybuilders and powerlifters can't help teach you how to train, but you really need to be your own lifting scientist, and figure out what works best FOR YOU.

Doing Dorian's routine won't make you look like him.

Start with the basics like squats, deadlifts, bench, overheads, chins, dips, and rows and some simple progression. Start with something simple like training 3 days a week. Add weight when you can; rest when you're tired; train hard when you're feeling good. REALLY listen to your body and make good notes about this in your training log. Eventually you will figure out what works best for YOU, and then you'll progress faster than following the routine of a ghost writer for a muscle comic.

Having mismatched goals -

This is another common one I see from young guys a lot.

"I want to get, you know man, really ripped and put some muscle on too."

Ok, as I have noted several times, this is doable for a short while when you first start training but outside of that this is pretty much an impossibility. I don't care what anyone else tells you. Gaining muscle requires a surplus of calories. Getting ripped requires a calorie deficit.

Are there cases that are the exception? Sure, of course. There will always be an exception. But the saying about "that's an exception, not the rule" is oh so true here.

The guy that wants to "get ripped" and "get big" at the same time, generally does neither and trains his ass off in one spot. Having contradicting goals, or too many goals, will make sure you do a lot of work with little in return.

Instead, have a plan that covers everything you would like to accomplish, but at different (and appropriate) times. If you are currently 200 pounds @ 9% bodyfat and want to be 215 @ 7% bodyfat, you'll need to train for mass first. If you did everything correctly and gained 1 pound of fat per 1 pound of muscle you'd end up around 230 or so. Now you should have a plan to diet that 15 pounds off.

If you're 250 pounds and 18% bodyfat and want to be 240 with 10% bodyfat you'll probably need multiple steps. First dieting down to a sub 10 percent bodyfat figure, then slowly gaining back up and possibly (almost surely) dieting again.

If you have multiple goals, figure out what order they should be in and then plan accordingly. Then read the next lesson..........

Not being patient enough -

This is another one I can identify with. It's hard to be patient when it comes to your own body. You work like crazy and you don't get stronger or leaner or bigger or whatever it is you are trying to make it do. Or at least, not at the pace you think is acceptable. It can really try your patience at times.

For most people, physiological changes occur slowly. Even if you are doing everything right, it's probably not going to be at the speed you wish it were at. During those periods where nothing seems to be working it sometimes feels like you want to throw everything out the door and say "I give up". But more times than not if you just keep plugging away, progress will be right around the corner.

When I was younger and wanted to get bigger I can remember watching the scale not move for weeks and weeks on end. How could I not get bigger when I was eating so much and training so hard? It was frustrating beyond belief.

Then I would wake up one day, and literally be 5 pounds heavier, no joke. That's almost always how it happened. It was never a steady progression, it was usually a sudden increase, or if I was dieting, a sudden decrease. As much as I try to stick with the pound a week for both gaining mass and losing fat, the body doesn't always work on our clock. It doesn't mean the formula is wrong, just that the body might not be on our timetable right now. If your plan is solid, see it out and be patient. Generally once the gains (or fat loss) start they will roll for a while. It just takes a little while to get the locomotive going full speed ahead.

Setting unrealistic goals -

This probably should be #1 on the list really. I wish I had a dollar for every guy that was going to be the end all/be all of powerlifting/bodybuilding/strongman/whatever.

I knew a guy that constantly set unrealistic goals. His training was sporadic, he rarely did any hard leg work, and did some of the weirdest training stuff I can remember. I remember he did something like 405x8 in stiff leg deadlifts then popped off about how he would do 500x15 in a year. After I teased him about it he got butt hurt and flamed me for not "believing in him".

But he never did 500x15.

On the other hand, I'm friends with a pretty well known fellow in the strength community and after he strict pressed 300 overhead for the first time, someone asked him what his next goal in the overhead press was.

His answer? "305".

This guy is well respected and successful in the strength community and constantly meets goals he sets for himself. The former fellow is a blowhard do nothing. What's the difference in the two? One guy understands the small steps needed to accomplish bigger goals, the other does not.

You can't climb a mountain in three big leaps. It's one small careful step at a time. Most people don't understand how setting big, unrealistic goals is bad for them.

"Well shoot for the stars and if you fail at least you hit the moon" or something like that. It's a bullshit line. The people who plan like that generally don't even get out of the atmosphere. The guy that gets to the moon is the guy that says "hey let's make sure the shuttle is working properly first."

Solid, careful, realistic goals will help build confidence and set the building blocks for attaining big goals.

So allow me to rant for a minute because this is a pet peeve of mine.

People who tell you "you can accomplish anything if you just put your mind to it" are liars. There is a reason no white guy has ever run a 9.anything 100 meter dash. It doesn't have anything to do with mind over matter. You have limits. You have a genetic ceiling. Understanding your weaknesses will actually help you reach your highest potential. Just so long as you understand how to focus properly.

The little engine that could didn't say "Let's race a Ferrari!" did he?

I am a pathetic deadlifter. So I didn't stand up and say "I'm going to deadlift 700" when I was pulling 585. I finally just said "let me figure out how to pull 600". After working out a good training plan and several months of hard training, I didn't pull 600, I pulled 615. Setting an attainable goal helped me to train properly, and actually exceed my goal.

I have found when people get overzealous about goals their plans become as big, or bigger, than their goal is, and more times than not they are overwhelmed and burn out before they ever really accomplish anything.

Adding a mere 5 pounds every other month to a big lift turns into 30 pounds on that lift in a year. That's a crazy good gain for an advanced guy. Just make small attainable goals fairly often and before you know it you will be able to look back and see that you probably far exceeded what you thought you could accomplish.

Final Word

I hope you can benefit from my mistakes and not make the same ones. As someone once told me, the difference in the fool and the wise man is that the fool learns from his own mistakes but the wise man learns from everyone else's.



Weight - 243

Close Grip Bench -
135 x 15
225 x 8
315 x 3

365 x 1
385 x 1
315 x 8
225 x 20

JM Press -
135 x 3 sets of 8

Incline -
225 x 3 sets of 5

Chins - body x 3 sets of 10

Upright Rows - 2 sets

Ran out of gas pretty fast tonight but pushed through. bodyweight is dropping like a rock.

Monday, March 29, 2010


29Mar10 - Hard Conditioning

Hill sprints x 12

This sucked something hard.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

P.M. Training

Steady State Cardio - Walking 20 minutes

Abs - Hanging Leg Raises - 3 x 15


27Mar10 - Deadlift training

Bodyweight - 248

Deadlifts at mid-shin (4 inch blocks) -
135 x 8
225 x 5
315 x 5
405 x 3
500 x 1

530 x 8

Shrugs -
405 x 25

Good Mornings -
225 x 10 x 10

Pipes - 3-4 sets

Neckage - 2 sets

Nice session.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blue Collar Training For Mass and Strength - Part II

In the first part of this series I talked about eating to gain mass. In this part I will lay out a training template to put together a quality mass building routine and some factors outside of the gym that play a role in training progress as well.

Getting stronger, with an exception...

Since we're really talking about getting bigger in this series, we need to address correlation of strength and size. If your diet is dialed in, you need to get stronger to gain more lean mass, but with a caveat. You need to get stronger within a certain rep range. Training for a maxium single is more nervous system related, but training with maximum mass as an emphasis is closer related to time under tension, and of course a surplus of calories.

Now when I say time under tension, I'm not talking about super-slow training or counting rep speed or any of that stuff. I'm talking about a general repetition range. There is a reason after deccades of bodybuilding that the majority of bodybuilders train in a higher rep range than most powerlifters. Because training in medium and higher rep ranges is generally a superior way to build mass. Something in the neighborhood of 9-20 reps per working set seems to be ideal. Legs even tend to respond to higher rep ranges. Just ask Tom Platz. Now again, we're talking about using as much weight as you can handle in that rep range. This isn't an excuse to train "light". We're talking about moving as big a weights as you can move on that rep range.

This doesn't exclude lower rep ranges. 5's have often been touted as the single best rep range because it gives you a bit of both worlds. Good carryover to your one rep max and mass gain. So we will include some 5-8 range stuff as well.

Kirk Karwoski had a love for sets of 5 and he was kinda strong, so it's probably ok to do sets of 5 for mass building too.

Volume -

The next issue to tackle is training volume. I have never been an advocate of high volume training. It's never produced mass or strength gains for me like low volume training has. I completely believe in the adage "you can train hard or you can train for long time, but you can't do both." Focusing on a select few movements per session and working hard on those has been very productive for me and the people I have trained and helped over the years. Now low volume and high volume differs for everyone. A guy that is used to doing 20 working sets in a general training session may say that 8 working sets in a session is low volume. The guy who has been doing 3 working sets may say 6 sets is high volume. You also have to factor in the level of strength you are at. If you're squatting 500 for 13 reps your recovery between not only sets will probably be longer, but so will the time you need between training sessions. Exercise selection plays a part in this as well. Generally speaking, it takes longer to recovery from a barbell movement than dumbbell movement. And longer to recovery from a dumbbell movement, than machine. So with that in mind, you can lay out your volume related to the movements you choose in your program.

Barbell Movements -
When working to failure - work up to 1 top set all out, sometimes using an intensity technique
When working shy of failure - 2 top sets leaving a couple of reps in the tank (a couple means two BTW)

Dumbbell Movements -
When working to failure - working up to 1 top set all out with an intensity technique added (rest/pause, strip sets)
When working shy of failure - 2-3 top sets leaving a couple of reps in the tank

Machine Movements -
When working to failure - 2-3 top sets to failure with added intensity techniques occasionally
When working shy of failure - 4-5 sets leaving a couple of reps in the tank and limiting rest between sets

Bodyweight Movements (dips, chins, push ups, lunges) -
Pick a desired number of total reps and shoot for that in as few sets as possible

Dips (chains optional) are an awesome exercise for building mass.

Now this isn't science. This is what I believe works well for most people. This should also allow you to program in some intensity cycling to your routine, so that you aren't training balls out so much that you grind your bones into dust inside of 3 weeks. That's not productive training either. Also during a pure mass building phase, don't be afraid of machine work. They are great for using intensity techniques with and training to failure is safe and the injury factor is generally low (granted that the the machine is built physiologially sound, don't use any machine that hurts in a bad way, obviously). Second, machines are generally joint friendly, and giving the joints a break is never a bad thing.

Frequency -

For mass training there is that balance of growth stimulation and recovery again. How many times should you be in the gym? I believe for the most part, you can accomplish all you need to accomplish with three training sessions a week. I think you can even do it with two, but that's a hard sell.

A great way to rotate everything in and maximize recovery is to do all of your upperbody pushing and pulling on one day, and all of your lower body work on the other. Spread that across 4 workouts but lift three times a week. So one week you would train upperbody twice, and lower body once. The next week would be lower body twice and upperbody once. Like so...

Week 1 -
upper body A
lower body A
upper body B

Week 2 -
lower body B
upper body A
lower body A

So as you can see, you will have to set up two upper-body sessions, and two lower body sessions. The key here will be to manage those properly so that you can train hard as hell during certain periods, then back off a bit during others. If you want to program in a deload, that's fine. However for mass gaining I like to string it out a bit longer. Something in the 6-8 week range then see how I am feeling. If my joints are achy and I am not wanting to go to the gym, I will generally take a whole week off. I would then restart everything without any intensity techniques added in and train shy of failure for the first week or two.

Another option is to train 5 times over a two week period. You can use the same rotation of workouts however one week you're going to train 3 times, and the next week twice. This puts recovery at a premium and works really well. You can also stagger your cardio work as well (you didn't think you'd stop all cardio just because you're training for mass did you?). Doing two cardio sessions the week you train three times, and three times the week you train twice. It would look like so...

Week 1 -
upper body A
lower body A
upper body B

Week 2 -
lower body B
upper body A

Week 3 -
lower body A
upper body B
lower body B

Week 4 -
upper body A
lower body A

Putting it all together -

Since we've talked about rep range, volume, and frequency the only thing left to do put this all together.

There is no "perfect" routine in this article. I am simply giving ideas based on what I have seen work. So I will outline how I might set up a few routines using the principles above...


Week 0 - Break In Week -
Use the first week of the routine below, but use no intensity techniques, and leave a couple of reps in the tank on every exercise.

Week 1 -
Upper Body A - Intensity Based
Bench Press - work up to a top set of 5-8 all out to failure
Barbel Rows - work up to a top set of 5-8 all out to failure
Incline Db Press - 1x15-20 reps rest/pause style
Cuff work - 2-3 sets light

Lower Body A - Intensity Based
Squats - work up to a top set of 12-20
Stiff Leg Deadlift - work up to a top set of 15
Leg Curl - 1 strip set 10/10/10 all to failure

Upper Body B - DB, Bodyweight and Machine Based - Moderate Intensity Overall
Db Bench Press - 3 sets of 12-15 heavy, but leaving a rep or two in the tank
Chins - 30-50 reps in as few sets or as little time as possible
Hammer Strength Incline Press - 2 straight sets of 8-10 taken to failure
Cuff work - 2-3 sets light

Week 2 -
Lower Body B - Machine and Bodyweight Movement Based - Low Intensity
1-Legged Squats or Walking Lunges - 80-100 total reps
Leg Press - 4-5 sets of 15-20
Glute-Ham Raises - 30 total reps

Reapeat Upper Body A

Repeat Lower Body A

A very bare bones routine could look like so (and work REALLY well)

Day 1 -
Bench-2 working sets
Dips-50-100 total reps
Upright Rows-2 working sets

Day 2 -
Squats-2 working sets
Rows-2 working sets
Chins-30-50 total reps

Day 3 -
Incline-2 working sets
Press Behind the Neck or Standing Military Press-2 working sets
Side Laterals-2-3 working sets

Day 4 -
Deadlifts-2 working sets
Rows-2 working sets
Chins-20-30 total reps weighted

You could rotate these the same way and just try like hell to get as brutally strong using a few sets shy of failure, slowly adding reps or a couple of pounds every week until you stagnate, then reset those lifts (take around 15% off and start over).

These are just example routines, but they could be used as written with great results as well. There are no curls and no isolation tricep exercises and I don't have a problem if you wanted to throw something in at the end of the upperbody days. I would just limit it to cables and dumbbell work because the meat and potatoes should be the squats, presses, rows, chins, etc.

The other thing you may notice on the first routine is that I set it up so that you basically do two all out sessions per week, then have a moderate or low intensity based day. These days should be "fun" where you get a pump, lube the joints up, and feel better leaving the gym than when you walked in. As I noted, beating the snot out of yourself every single session is a sure fire way to grind your bones to dust in no time. Plus, training should still be fun sometimes. Especially on those days where you feel like shit and don't want to go on.

On the second routine the majority of the movements are barbell movements so I'd personally recommend using the "2 sets with a few left in the tank" methodology here. Just concentrate on adding a few reps every few weeks or a couple of pounds. A mere 2 pounds a month on your bench is 24 pounds on your bench in a year. For guys with an already good level of strength that is a heck of a nice gain.

So if you're an intensity guy, the first routine may be more to your liking. If you are a guy who likes to get a little more volume in, the second routine may be more to your liking. You still have a bit a little bit of your own scientist no matter what, and try some things out. If something is working however, don't fix it. Stick with it until it isn't.

I also strongly advise listening to your body. If you are tired but are scheduled to do a high intensity session, take another day of rest and try it tomorrow. Or do the same movements but go in and do something light like it's a low intensity day. The longer you can string out the program without burn out or injury the steadier the gains are going to come. When you do hit a wall, don't fret about it. Take a week off and have a break in week before you implement another cycle of this style of training.

I also recommend setting a time line on how long you will run this and set some REALISTIC goals to accomplish in that time. Like "gain 10 pounds of lean mass in 3 months." Some may scoff at that but 10 quality pounds is a hell of a lot better than 20 pounds of fat sitting on top of 10 pounds of lean mass. Why? Because when you diet to take that off that 20 pounds most of that 10 pounds of lean mass will go with it. Now you're right back where you started. Doesn't seem too smart does it?

Other Factors -

There are two other factors that really matter when it comes to results from a training program. Your "buy in" and lifestyle. If you think a program is the holy grail of training programs, you'll proably make great progress. If you don't buy in that that training program is very good, you're probably not going to make very good progress. My advice is to buy into a philosophy rather than a training "style" or "program".

In other words, my own philosophy is as so...

Add more reps or weight to the bar, a little bit at time over the long haul

Train hard with low to moderate amount of volume

Stick with a few select movements that you can do pain free, that give a lot of bang for their buck.

Press big weights overhead, pull big weights off the floor, and squat.

Get strong as hell at moving your body through space (dips, chins, push ups, lunges)

Do some injury preventative work like 1 legged movements, rotator cuff work, foam roll, and stretch.

Do hard conditioning a few times a week.

This is my philosophy of training. This covers everything I need to know. I can lay all of these things out in a million templates. But what doesn't change is the philosophy of what I believe works, and has worked for people for decades.

Just like gaining mass can come down to inserting a few PBnJ's into your diet, training is simple. The effort required is the hard part.

The other factor is lifestyle. If you are getting drunk every night and hungover how the hell are you going to train hard on a consistent basis? You can't. Spare me the bullshit. If you're staying up all hours of the night when is your body going to get the rest it needs to recover? It's not. Make lifestyle and sleep a priority as well. I'm not saying you can't have a beer now and then at all. I enjoy a good drink myself. But just like a cheat meal when you are dieting, earn those moments. Put as much focus on recovery as training and reap the rewards.

Batman won't be fighting a lot of crime or squatting big weights after a night like this...

And finally, let me add that once you embark on a mass gaining quest and are lucky enough to have all the stars align, don't mess with anything. If you're gaining at a nice clip of a pound every 7-10 days, strength is climbing, and you feel good.........don't mess with anything. I liken it to drag racing. A guy works for a long time to take his ride up to 700 horsepower. He forges all of the internals, replaces his transmission to handle the torque, gets his gear ratios perfect, puts some fat meats on the back and hits the track. He runs a fastest time ever then goes home and figures out how to get faster. He takes his car up to 800 horse power, goes back to the track, takes off and blows everything to hell in a hand basket.

Sometimes things are as good as they are going to get, and you're already doing everything as perfect as it's going to get. So if gains are coming in at a steady clip, don't be greedy. It's hard enough to make progress doing this as is. Don't mess with a good thing.

Now go make some PBnJ.


25Mar10 - Light Conditioning

40 yard sprints @ 75% speed x 20 reps

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thanks to Kenneth

For the donation. I appreciate it very much and look forward to reading your testimonial. That's always been the best part about this. Seeing guys like Ken who have the testicular fortitude to put their head down, go to work, and accomplish goals they set out to accomplish. Ken is one of those guys that always makes me feel like the advice and help I'm giving out isn't a waste of time because I know he's going to put it to work.

Thanks brother.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


23Mar10 - Bench

Weight - 247

Close Grip Bench Press -
135 x 10
225 x 8
315 x 10

Incline Press -
225 x 12 x 5

Chins - 5 sets
Dips - 3 sets
Upright Rows - 2 sets

Cardio - 10 minutes on the bike

Blue Collar Eating for Mass

Building Mass and Strength - Part I Diet

If there is any one topic that is near and dear to the majority of lifters hearts, it's talking about how to get as big and strong as possible. This is usually the main reason males get into the weight room. That and to get more attention from the ladies. I could write an article about that too but for now, we'll talk about getting big and strong and how to eat to get there.

You can't talk about building mass without talking about diet first. It's pretty much impossible. I can put you on the greatest mass and strength building program in the world and watch you get smaller and skinnier by limiting your food intake. This is something that is lost on a lot of young lifters. There is no magic program or magic supplement. You have to have a surplus of calories to build muscle mass. A complete novice in the weight room will gain some mass with no changes in diet, but that phase won't last that long. So we're talking about guys who have put in a few years in the weight room that are looking to take their mass and strength to a new level. And a new level cannot be reached without a diet that is dialed in to build mass.

My own experience in talking with skinny guys over the years about adding mass usually goes something like this...

Skinny guy: "I'm trying to gain weight and get big. What should I be doing?"

Me: "How much are you eating?"

Skinny guy: "Man I eat a lot. You should see how much I can eat."

Me: "Really. What do you eat each day? Start at breakfast and tell me a whole day of eating."

Skinny guy: "Oh well, I don't always eat breakfast. When I do it's usually like a couple of pop-tarts or a bowl of cereal. Then I'll eat like, some taco bell for lunch. I eat like 6 maybe 7 tacos. My friends think that's crazy right? Then at dinner I'll have like 2 big plates of whatever. Like, a lot of it too."

Me: "Awesome. I have no idea why you're still so skinny." \sarcasm

Skinny guy: "Well I been taking Gorilla Mass Oxy-Methane Andro-1. What do you think of that?"

Me: ::::walks away::::

The Right of Passage - Eat until you hurt.....then eat some more

It was the summer when I was 17 and 175 pounds. I decided that I was going to get as big as possible over those months and would do whatever it took to accomplish that. It was that summer where I learned how much I had to eat to gain mass. It was that summer that would be my Right of Passage. Almost every heavily muscled guy I've ever known has a story like this.

This was my daily diet, give or take a few things.........

Breakfast -
10 scrambled eggs
2 cups of oatmeal or 4 cups of corn flakes
2 bananas
milk and orange juice

Train for 2 hours

Drink two carb drinks immediately after training (this alone was 200 grams of carbs from simple sugars)

Come home throw 4 chicken breasts in the oven and start a giant pot of rice on if none was left over from the day before. Put on 2 packs of ramen noodles to eat while the chicken breast and rice was cooking.

Eat ramen noodles and have a protein shake while waiting on food to finish. Watch cartoons.

When chicken and rice was done, eat two chicken breasts and as much rice as I could put down.

Two hours later - make blender drink consisting of...

two cups of whole milk
two cups of ice milk
1-2 tbs of peanut butter
3 whole eggs (don't believe that crap about how raw eggs are bad for you)
malted milk
Hershey's chocolate syrup
banana (obviously to add flavor)

I would drink this giant concoction in one sitting. I didn't know when I found the information for this shake that it was supposed to be sipped throughout the day. To say drinking this in one sitting made me uncomfortable would be like saying Michael Phelps would make an "ok" lifeguard. But I was willing to pay the price to get as massive as I could.

I remember sitting on the couch one day downing one of these monster shakes watching Animal Planet. They had a show about lions on. The narrator informed me that lions gorged themselves to the point of discomfort because they didn't know when they would eat again.

"I know when I'll eat again." I thought "However I understand that discomfort phrase very well."

He then informed me that after a gorging lions would often find a water hole to lay in, because it would help with the discomfort.

Minutes later I was running bath water.

Lions know about eating discomfort.

But the day wasn't over yet. And neither was my eating.

Two to three hours after that shake I would have a large ribeye steak with a baked potato loaded down and a salad (because vegetables matter). If I didn't have that I would go to Subway and grab two foot longs. Usually meat ball with cheese loaded down with lettuce and tomatoes (because veggies matter!).

That evening I would eat the remaining chicken breasts and rice.

By the end of summer I had even worked up to drinking another shake a few hours after dinner. I also was in bed every night by 9:30 and up early to train to get my eat on for the day. I also remember times when I was eating that I would gag because eating had become such a chore and so difficult.

By the end of summer 210 pounds.

I love to tell this story to skinny guys because the look of horror on their face is priceless. Their comeback is usually something to the effect of

" I don't eat that much."

Now if I had a "do-over" would I do it that way agani? Hell no. I gained a lot of fat and was miserable the entire time. But I did learn some valuable lessons. Namely that bathing to ease fullness discomfort really works! The other thing was, you do have to eat A LOT in order to grow.

But how much? Actually around 300-500 calories a day over maintenance level seems to be just about right in order to gain mass and not gain too much fat with it (some fat gain is inevitable when you are talking about gaining mass). I was probably several thousand calories over my maintenance level, and the truth is, that is not needed nor ideal. I got bigger alright and I don't think there is any doubt that I gained some lean mass over that summer. I trained as hard as I ever had for the entire summer, generally 5 or 6 days a week for two hours at a time. However i also gained a lot of fat weight too.

You can't force feed muscle into growth. I've read all sorts of anecdotal "evidence" about how a ridiculous calorie surplus creates an anabolic environment and those kinds of things but every time I ever "bulked" up and then dieted back down I ended up near the same weight I started bulking at. I don't buy it. But I was told this was the only way to do it.

This is a lie.

You can be smart about mass gain and slowly increase your calories through calorie dense foods until you start to see the scale move every 7-10 days. Or you can stuff your face and become a fat-ass, feel miserable, and eventually have to diet to get that fat off and lose whatever hard earned muscle you did build underneath. Or you can stay fat. But I can't see how anyone would justify that, even for a bigger total. Eventually it comes off or you die young. And it's hard to kick ass in a grave.

Blue Collar Eating for Mass -

A really simple way to increase mass gain is with good ol' peanut butter sammiches and/or shakes with a healthy oil. I've used this approach for really skinny guys with success every time. And they don't end up lard asses in the end.

It's very simple...

Three solid meals a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner

Two peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and banana sandwiches during the day. That means 1 in between breakfast and lunch and 1 between lunch and dinner. For the last meal of the day have a protein shake with a table spoon of flax, safflower, or extra virgin olive in it. Check the scale in 7-10 days. If you gained a pound stay on track until the scale doesn't move then add in half of a PBnJ for the day. Yeah that means just 1 half for the whole day. Don't want to do that? Add in a glass of milk with the two PBnJ's. No more. Check the scale in 7-10 days.

Your mass building friend.

If you gained more than 1-2 pounds, go to half a PBnJ between meals and reduce the oil to a teaspoon and watch the scale again. If you keep gaining drop the oil and go to a quarter PBnJ between meals. It's that simple. Just managing some simple calorie components.

This is what a day of eating could look like -

Breakfast -
Three Whole Eggs
1 cup of oatmeal with raisins (also calorie dense)
Orange and Banana
Two pieces of toast with jelly

Snack -
PBnJ time

Lunch -
8 ounces of lean beef, chicken, turkey, or fish
2 cups of rice or two servings of pasta

Snack -
PBnJ time

Dinner -
Repeat Lunch

Before bed -
Shake with added good fats (or have another PBnJ if you like em like I do)

Just play with your serving size. If you are one of those really skinny guys that tends to be excited all of the time, you will have to eat more than you are comfortable with to gain weight. Just like dieting sucks, eating big the RIGHT WAY isn't entirely comfortable. You may have to bump both your food portions and PBnJ to get the scale moving. Maintenance is easy, change is hard.

Options -

"But I don't like PBnJ!"

"Fine. Kill yourself."

All kidding aside, no really kill yourself. It's blasphemous to talk that way. But if you don't kill yourself, you could substitute the PBnJ with shakes and oil all day. Drinking calories is easier however I highly believe in eating food over shakes, especially for gaining weight. Another option is to find a nut butter you do like, and substitute that instead. Almond butter is pretty good, especially if you like Pringals potato chips (and that's not even a joke). It is thicker and not as palatable as peanut butter however. So I can't really see it on a sammich. Cashew butter is also an option. But I will admit, I haven't had any yet. So if you try it and like it, let me know. If neither of those sound like an option try 3-4 hard boiled eggs between meals. Just don't come near me while you're trying this out.

I generally also advise using a natural peanut butter, with a good whole wheat bread, and an organic jelly. Why? Because it tastes better to me and if I'm going to be eating that as my mass gaining staple food, I want high quality. Some guys don't like natural peanut butter. It's not as sweet as the regular kind. Buy the natural with honey in it. You'll never want any other kind after that. If you don't want to do any of this that's fine too. It's just a recommendation.

Don't get fat -

Let me say that becoming a big lard ass isn't required or even ideal when it comes to gaining lean mass. Without looking up boring, dry-to-read scientific medical experiments on lab rats and midgets, I believe the body does a better job of utilizing the nutrition from food when you are in shape and carrying an athletic level of bodyfat (somewhere in the 10-12% range). You also will recover faster and can do more work in the gym. This is from my own experience and talking to others that have experienced the same. Keep yourself in decent condition while gaining mass. It's not a "get orca fat free" card.

Not the look of power

If you have a pack of hot dogs sitting on the back of your neck and breathe heavy walking from your handicapped parking spot into the grocery store, then maybe you're done "bulking"? I actually highly recommend getting your bodyfat checked before you start a mass gaining diet. If you're above 12% get in shape first and try not to exceed that 12% mark. This ensures quality mass gain, yet affords you enough room for big eating. Think of it this way, if you gained fat to muscle at a 1/1 ratio and put on 20 pounds through hard training and solid eating, you'd only have 8-10 pounds to take off. You don't have to resort to a long diet and crazy cardio to take off 8-10 pounds. So the chances of you preserving all 10 pounds of mass you worked hard for is really good. Be smart and PATIENT.

In the second part I'll talk about some routines I've used that have produced really good gains in strength and mass and some other facets of training that are highly critical in building quality mass fast.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Show Up

“How do you manage to stay in shape with kids and a job?”

“How do you find the time?”

“Where does your motivation come from?”

These are the questions I am often presented with by my friends and fellow moms.

I haven’t always been dedicated to exercise and healthy eating. In fact I grew up chubby and awkward. The awkwardness came from being born with a dislocated hip that required seven surgeries before I was two years old (more on that later). But most of all I was lazy. I hated playing sports and outside of dance, hated doing physical activities. I spent most of my youth sitting in front of the television or talking on the phone. Thank God they didn’t have the internet and Facebook when I was a kid!

During the summer of my freshman year of high school, I inexplicitly lost weight and returned to school a much thinner me. Needless to say I got a lot more attention than the short haired chubby girl everyone knew from before.

Senior year prom with my bestest cheese-wiz eating amigo

However my eating habits never really changed much and after I graduated my best friend and I took a summer job out of state working at an amusement park. My nights were filled with cheese-wiz and better-chedders. We even put cheese-wiz on potato chips! We cooked quite a bit as well but for the most part our dietary habits were atrocious. And my once thin body began to show it. I never got fat according to the scale, however I wasn’t going to stop traffic either.

"You wanna go out with that guy?"

After summer I returned home and a few months later I met my future husband, Paul. Paul was big muscular guy (which prompted my cousin to ask me the question in bold above) and was obsessed with lifting weights and doing something he called “conditioning” (which is really just another way of saying running and sprinting). I was a member of the local ladies gym but like a lot of women, I didn’t really know exactly what I was supposed to be doing in there. But I went in anyway and afterwards me and my friend would treat ourselves to the local steak or Chinese buffet. After all, we had “earned it”. Right?

Oh so wrong.

Paul tried to straighten me out but years of big Italian family eating was engrained in my blood. Half the time I ate good and the other half…well not so good. My knowledge of lifting properly increased with Paul’s help and after some hunkering down in my diet, my body improved again. I lost weight and regained my thin figure. But I still did not “love” exercise, and my love of greasy fried food never waned (and I still love it and believe I always will, but don’t eat it very often now). That was over 15 years ago.

At our first daughters birthday party. Just because the scale says you are thin does not mean you look good.

My first big step in getting fit

Four years ago we had our 3rd daughter. I didn’t gain a terrible amount of weight with her, about 40 lbs. but when you are 5 foot 4 inches tall it‘s not ideal either. Shortly after she was born my husband and I decided to go on our first vacation in over 10 yrs. We were going to Las Vegas and I sure as heck didn’t want to be fat on vacation. I had to get my training and diet in order fast. Paul had gained sympathy weight with me for the entire pregnancy and was fat as well (thank you honey!). He sat down and mapped us out a training and diet plan to get us into shape for our vacation. We needed simplicity so our diet was based around 3 small meals a day and 2 or 3 meal replacements. We ordered several boxes of a meal replacement and when it arrived, there was an advertisement for a body transformation challenge. All I had to do was submit before and after pictures and an essay. My interest was piqued and I decided I wanted to give it a go. So we decided to do it.

Paul and I took each others before pictures and boy was that a wake-up call. I don’t think there is anything worse than seeing a picture of yourself in a swim suit post-baby. Talk about horrifying!

I spent the next several months dieting and doing cardio like never before and being really consistent with my lifting. It wasn’t easy with my busy schedule but it was important to me. I had a photo shoot scheduled and a vacation that was paid for. Having those goals made it very easy to stay focused. When vacation time came I was in good shape, and donned my bikini for the pool and felt good about it.

Of course I look mad, you'd look mad too if you had to take this pic right after a third kid!

I'm all smiles here around 4 months later :)

Soon I began to get a question that was music to my ears.

“YOU, have 3 kids?”

I love that!

But I wasn’t done yet. I still had the photo shoot for the after pictures a month later. I wasn’t too nervous though because I knew I had put in the effort and given it my all. Tragically the photo shoot pics were lost but I managed to keep some from home that were taken when we arrived back from Vegas (those are used in this article). My conditioning for the photo shoot was even better however and it still makes me mad that we can’t find those pictures! Anyway…

I discovered something about myself throughout this process that I had never known. That I COULD do something physically difficult if I really WANTED to. That is the key to success. You really have to want it and for some of us women we need a good reason to want it.

Not long after my photo shoot I decided I wanted to try my hand at martial arts. Paul had also been involved in that for years and always wanted me to get involved with it as well. So we signed up for Krav Maga together and off I went. It was during that time, I’m sad to say, that my hip began its downward spiral, and the worse it became the more my exercising and fitness suffered. I began to walk with a worsening limp and my pain was constant. Soon after I could no longer squat or deadlift, two exercises I had learned to love, and I could do very little in the way of cardio work. I had to quit Krav and eventually I was relegated to doing water aerobics and some light upper body work. I tried to keep my diet in check but sometimes found myself comfort eating because of the depression I found myself in.

The happy ending to that is that I finally had my total hip replacement done in September of 2009 and within 6 weeks I was cleared to do whatever I wanted to. Once again however, I was starting from scratch. I was out of shape something terrible, my strength was gone, and I had nothing to really inspire me at the time. Then a friend suggested I try competing in the novice division of a fitness show. My first reaction was “absolutely not!” but Paul encouraged me as well, and now I’m in full swing preparing for that, and motivation is high. I will have to reach a level of muscularity and conditioning that I never have before, and that’s a challenge I look forward to.

I think the moral of the story for me in all of this is that I have acknowledged that I am not the most self driven person in the world, but having something to “show up” for helps me tremendously. So for women who read this and also feel like sometimes they have trouble finding motivation I highly suggest finding something you have to “show up” for. It can be anything. A vacation to the beach in a swim suit you can’t currently fit into, or do your first 5K or compete in a bodybuilding show. Don’t laugh. When you sign your name on something and realize you have to “show up” it has a very motivating effect.

So don’t make excuses. Find something in your life you feel like you want to show up for and put your money where your mouth is.

Best of luck and remember to "show up"!


20Mar10 - Squats

weight - 247

Pause Squats - 3 second pauses at bottom
135 x 10
225 x 5
315 x 5

375 x 8 sets of 3

Dynamic Shrugs -

365 x 3 sets of 5

Leg Curls - 35 x 20 x 10

Tiff's article coming soon...

I have been getting asked about this and it should be up today.

Friday, March 19, 2010


19Mar10 - Conditioning

20 minutes of boxing intervals + abdominal work

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Choosing the right training split for your goals

Increase Conditioning - Increase Strength - Increase Muscle

Increase Conditioning - Strength Maintenance - Weight Loss

Increase Strength - Weight Maintenance - Conditioning Variable

Increase Muscle Mass - Increase Strength - Decrease Conditioning


Increase Conditioning - Increase Strength - Increase Muscle -

Who can/should use this split? - A novice or beginner.

This will be (for the most part) the only time when someone will be able to increase 3 or 4 facets of their training at the same time naturally. Someone coming off of a long layoff could see all three factors for a short time as well.

A dialed in diet with a solid weight training plan will allow a green beginner to increase their conditioning, strength, muscle mass, and lose bodyfat. This phase will not last obviously, so take advantage of it while you can.

Days a week of conditioning - 5
Days a week of weight training - 3
Days a week of rest - 2
Workload/Volume - High

Sample week -
Monday - Weights and Cardio - Upperbody Push and Pull option A - 40 minutes lifting - 15 minutes of intervals
Tuesday - Cardio - 30 minutes - steady state, i.e. treadmill at 3.5 MPH or a steady walk
Wednesday - Weights only - Lower Body - 45 minutes of lifting
Thursday - Cardio - 45 minutes - steady state, same as Tuesday
Friday - Weights and Cardio - Upperbody Push and Pull option B - 40 minutes of lifting - 15 minutes of intervals
Saturday - Off
Sunday - Off

Upperbody Push and Pull option A
Bench Press - 7 sets - 10,8,6,5,3,2,1 (this includes warm ups, and the last set is not a max)
Incline Db Press - 4 sets of 12 reps pyramiding up
Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups - As many as possible in 5 sets
Lat Pulldowns - 3 sets of 12 reps pyramiding up

Lower Body -
Box Squats - 8 sets of 15,12,10,8,6,5,3,2 these include warm ups. I generally have beginners start on the box because it's easier for them to use at first.
Deadlifts - 4 sets of 5 pyramiding up
Leg Curls - 4 sets of 12 same weight
Calf Raises - 3 sets of 10 same weight

Upperbody Push and Pull option B
Standing Db Press - 5 sets of 10 reps pyramiding up
Push Ups - as many as possible in 3 sets
Db Rows - 5 sets of 12 pyramiding up
Chest Supported Rows - 3 sets of 12 pyramiding up

As noted, being able to shed bodyfat, gain muscle, increase strength and conditioning won't last long. So take advantage of it while you can. Some people put beginners on low volume/low intensity programs to ease them into things. That has never been my philosophy because I believe in taking advantage of this small window while you can. Train hard out of the gate.

Strength will not be high so recovery won't be an issue like it would be for an advanced athlete. Training with weights for a 4th day isn't off the table for a rank beginner either. A leg day consisting of bodyweight movements like lunges, glute-ham raises, and bodyweight squats would be an ideal second leg day option.


Increase Conditioning - Strength Maintenance - Weight Loss

Who can/should use this split? - An athlete with a base level of strength that wants to get in better shape, cardio wise, and improve body composition.

Maintaining strength is the other key facet. Some have found they gained strength on this split because of an increase in rest. Calories, as always, will play a part (but we're not talking about that today!).

Days a week of conditioning - 6
Days a week of weight training - 2
Days a week of rest - 1
Workload/Volume - Moderate

Sample Week -
Monday - Steady state cardio - 45 minutes
Tuesday - Weight - Upperbody push and pull Option A/B (alternate week to week)
Wednesday - Interval Training - 30 minutes
Thursday - Steady state cardio - 30 minutes
Friday - off
Saturday - Weight training - Lower body Option A/B (alternate week to week)
Sunday - Interval Training - 30 minutes

Push Pull Option A -
Bench Press - work up to a difficult triple (leave two reps in the tank)
Incline Press - 2 sets of 12-15 reps
Chin Ups - 50 total reps
Db Rows - 3 sets of 10 same weight

Push Pull Option B -
Clean and Press - work up to a difficult set of set of 5 (leave two reps in the tank)
Superset - Dips/Chins - 5 sets of as many as possible for each
Upright Rows - 5 sets of 10 pyramiding up in weight (no heaving or jerking, and for the love of God no straps for upright rows)

Lower Body Option A -
Squats - 5 sets of 5 same weight
Lunges - 50-100 total reps
Planks or Decline Sit-ups - for time or 50-100 total reps
Calf Raises - 3 sets of 10 same weight

Lower Body Option B -
Deadlifts - 5 sets of 3 pyramiding up in weight
Good Mornings - 2 sets of 8 same weight (light)
Planks or Decline Sit-ups - for time or 50-100 total reps
Calf Raises - 3 sets of 10 same weight

If you are looking to trim excess bodyfat, get into shape, and feel better this is a great split because it allows for a lot of rest between weight training sessions, and gives you two hard conditioning days and two easy conditioning days per week. Don't overlook the easy days of conditioning. These days are great for recovery so do plenty of stretching and foam rolling after your steady state stuff.

For intervals use the standard 1 part difficult 3 parts "rest" ratio. That means if you go hard for 15 seconds take the pace down for 45. You can use a bike for this one particularly well. Pedal as hard as possible for 15 seconds then go easy for 45.

I do a lot of sprinting for conditioning work, and basically I just sprint then use the walk back to where I sprinted from as my rest. If you do a jog/sprint (generally this is after you get in great shape) then use something like the light poles as a guide. Sprint from one lightpole to the next, then jog for the next three. If you do hill sprints, just use the walk back down as the "rest". Interval training should be fun, which is a reason why it is such a preferred method of conditioning for a lot of athletes (and because it works darn well).
It's also more difficult to recover from, so don't exceed the two days a week rule as it can start tapping into your strength reserves.

Do intervals...get in shape...feel the awesome.

Strength wise this routine is setup to help maintain a base level of strength, not achieve a peak level. A peak level only lasts for a short term (which is why it's uh, called a peak level), but on this split, depending on caloric intake, a base level of strength can be maintained. Some people who may have been overtraining a bit may even find a gain in strength. In fact this routine can be used as a strength gaining routine easily by dropping one day of hard conditioning. If you don't think that squatting one week and deadlifting the next week is enough I can point to some championship powerlifters who have used that exact style of split. So there are definitely merits to it. I will say that upping the volume on the lifting days a little bit could be ideal since you are only doing two days a week. Just don't go nuts.


Increase Strength - Weight Maintenance - Conditioning Variable

Who can/should use this split? - An advanced athlete whose goal is to increase maximum strength while staying at or near the same weight, and maintaining their current level of conditioning.

This could be for a powerlifter, wrestler, sprinter, or football player who already has a foundation of strength built. Basically the program is geared around the 3 days of lifting, and the amount of time spent on conditioning will be determined by what the athlete needs. A wrestler may wrestle and work on techniques 4-6 days a week. A sprinter may sprint 3-5 days a week, etc. This program stays away from rep ranges more closely associated with hypertrophy (generally 6-20) and focuses more on nervous system response for maximum strength.

Days a week of conditioning - Variable
Days a week of weight training - 3
Days a week of rest - Variable
Workload/Volume - Moderate to High depending on the variables

Monday - Squat/Bench
Squat - warm up to a top a moderately heavy triple
Pause Squat - 10% less than the triple for squats, 2x3 focusing on speed
Pause Bench Press - warm up to 3 progressively heavier singles, pause each rep on the chest
Close Grip Bench - 3x3 using 20% less than the top single for pause bench
L-Flye - 3x15

Wednesday - Deadlifts/Abdominals
Deadlifts - 6x3 up to a moderately difficult triple
Deficit Deadlifts - 3x3 using 20% less than the top triple on deadlifts focusing on speed
Planks and Hanging Leg Raises - 3x10

Friday - Squat and Bench Variations
Front Squats - 5x3 to a top triple
Incline Press - 5x5 to a moderately heavy top set of 5
Bent Laterals - 2x20

Notice that most of the movements are very close to the three core lifts (squat, bench, dead) if there is a variation. If you want to be good at something, do THAT. If you are going to add a movement in to improve a lift, make sure it's a very close variation of it. For squats we do pause squats and front squats. For bench we do close grip and incline. For deadlifts we do deficit deadlifts. These all have good carryover for most people to the core lifts. On the squat, bench, and dead make sure when you start the program you leave PLENTY in the tank in terms of weight.

I cannot stress this enough. So I will write it again, LEAVE PLENTY OF ROOM IN THE TANK.

don't be a clown by starting off too heavy...

Your first week in on this program everything should actually feel quite light. You want to be able to add weight for a good 8 or 9 weeks until you are hitting some true maxes in your triples. At the point where you fail to get the triple, go for a new max the next week then reset that lift (take 10 - 20% off of it) and start over. The key to building strength is not rushing a program early. The surest way to stall quickly is to start off too heavy. So check your ego at the door the first few weeks and reap the rewards later.


Obviously any of these splits can/will do what the goal is, but diet is and always will be a factor. So keep that in mind.

I will save the last split, Increase Muscle Mass - Increase Strength - Decrease Conditioning, for my next article. That particular set of goals seems to be most lifters goal and I have a lot to say about it. The early question would be "why does it say "decrease conditioning"? I will answer that one as well.

Until then stay strong.

New Articles coming soon...

I will have an article posted up tonight on managing training splits for different goals, and an article on mass/strength gaining to follow that up.

Tiffany will be posting an article about some of the obstacles she has overcome physically to get herself into shape and motivational tools she has used.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Training - Conditioning

17Mar10 - Conditioning

walk to the park (10 minutes)

Hill Sprints x 10

drag tired butt home (15 minutes)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Basic dieting Do's and Don't

Basic dieting DONT'S -

Don't drink regular coke, dr. pepper, sprite, etc. or other sugary drinks. This includes sweet tea for southern people

Don't add table sugar to anything

Don't skip breakfast

Don't overeat (duh!)

Don't eat processed foods like twinkies, little debbie's ANYTHING, or most anything that comes in a box, etc

Don't eat fast food (unless you have to then look for a salad with low fat dressing)

Don't eat candy bars

Don't eat carbs (rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, etc) with your last meal of the day

Don't go too long without eating

Don't eat only once or twice a day

Don't eat haphazardly

Don't eat your kids leftover food. Moms sometimes have a bad habit of eating those last few chicken nuggets or fries left over from the little ones. When you're dieting you don't have a lot of room for error.

Don't think of dieting as "dieting". That implies that it is temporal. Think of it as a new lifestyle of eating. After all, what's the point in putting in the hard work if you don't make permanent changes to keep it off?

Don't sit around and do nothing. MOVE!


Now for the Do's -

Do drink water. Add lemon or some crystal light to it if you need to for flavor. A gallon a day is a good goal. I generally drink two. Water with lemon added is a natural appetite suppressor. Diet drinks aren't bad but they are a distance second option, and you should still be getting in as much water as you can each day.

This is good.

This is bad...on so many levels.

Do use Splenda or Equal to sweeten instead of sugar. This one is pretty simple.

Do eat breakfast. Do not violate the processed food "don't" by eating pop-tarts or some "breakfast bar". Have oatmeal and a yogurt or some malt-o-meal and a glass of milk. Yes oatmeal and malt-o-meal come in a box, however these are exceptions to the "don't eat anything out of a box" rule. These are simple meals to get you started for the right way for the day. Make the time for them.

You should get to know this guy ladies. He can make you feel good.

Do learn portion control and DO learn how to count calories. Losing weight/fat is still nothing more than calories in vs calories out. A portion is around the size of your fist. And do not put on Incredible Hulk Halloween gloves to justify larger portions. Counting calories is the one sure fire way to lose weight. If you burn more calories than you eat each day, you lose fat. It really is THAT simple. That's it! No tricks!

You cannot buy and wear these to figure out portion size.

Do eat natural foods. They don't have to be organic (though that is great if you can do that), but I'm talking about things that can be killed or grown for the most part (there are some exceptions, like bacon). That means lean protein sources like fish, chicken, turkey, and occasionally beef. You can eat all the vegetables your heart desires so long as they aren't fried (I'm a southern guy so I know what goes on).

Do eat snacks like peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and fruit. Nuts have good fats in them that will satiate you longer and keep your blood sugar in balance. Fruits will give you a sweet tooth fix without adding in 1 bazillion calories like that super sized snickers bar (and yes I think a snickers bar tastes damn good too, but I don't eat em. Ok sometimes one sneaks in but it's one of those tiny ones).

You should experiment with a variety of nuts.

Do eat a ton of veggies at your last meal along with some sort of good fat to satiate you longer. Most people overeat carbohydrates in the evenings, then do very little afterward. This is fat gain waiting to happen. Sticking with a lean protein source, vegetables, and small amount of good fat (like safflower or olive oil) with your last meal of the day is a better choice.

Do have snacks between meals. That's right, have snacks between meals. It's pretty easy to figure out what a small snack would be if you read the "DO" section more closely. A small cup of yogurt with a half a handful of almonds will work. A small bowl of cottage cheese with pineapple isn't a bad choice either. Look for healthy eating between meals to keep your blood sugar stable through the day and your appetite under control.

Do eat multiple times a day. This is far better than skipping breakfast, eating a modest lunch then eating like a ravenous male lion upon arriving at a fresh buffalo carcass. Most people I talk to trying to lose weight eat this way. It doesn't work (duh that's why they are talking to me). Even if you were going to eat two meals a day you'd be better off eating a gigantic breakfast, a moderate lunch, then no dinner (bet you don't like the sound of that!). Shoot for 3 solid meals a day with two or three small snacks.

This will not be listed on any weight loss diet in the galaxy.

Do plan your meals and eat at home a lot. Get a sheet of paper out and write down breakfast, lunch, dinner, and your snacks for the whole week. This way you don't feel like you are dieting aimlessly. People also tend to overeat when they eat out because portions can be bigger or they can be tempted by their favorite foods. You should figure out the calories of the meals you plan and see what your daily total adds up to. I highly recommend to get started. I use it and my wife does as well. You can eat healthy at most fast food places now, and if that's the only choice you have go with something like a grilled chicken salad with a low fat dressing. However most people don't eat healthy at fast food places, so just avoid them for the most part unless you have no choice.

Do reward yourself. When I am in a fat loss mode I have a cheat meal or even a cheat day every 14 days. I used to try once every 7 days but I found I made better progress if I limited it to once every 14. I also noticed that the longer I went without cheating, the less I had cravings for anything "bad". However if I had been good long enough, I would allow myself something out of the norm. This gives you a short term goal to look forward to. Especially at first. If you have been right on the money for 10-14 days allowing yourself a piece of cake or a few slices of pizza gives your mind a break and rewards yourself. And it won't hurt the fat loss process in the long run. In fact a lot of times it may help, as the surplus of calories can give a slowing metabolism a kick start again. Just make sure and don't go overboard. Don't eat a whole cake or a whole box of doughnuts and wash it down with a gallon of chocolate milk (I've done both plenty of times and regretted it each time). Limits still exist on the cheat meal or cheat day.

Do set proper goals. I can't tell you how important this is. The scale is fine, but the mirror and your clothes do a better job of letting you know how things are going. If you have a favorite pair of pants that you haven't been able to squeeze into for a long time, set them out somewhere so that they are a constant reminder. Take pictures in a swim suit from the front and back in a relaxed pose. I warn you though, this one can be shocking if you haven't really looked at yourself in a critical manner in a while (esp from the rear in a bathing suit! Be prepared!). Glance at those pictures when you feel the urge to cheat or stray from the path, because it will happen. Everyone has weak moments. Setting goals and using visual references to help keep you straight can be a big help.

There is nothing more rewarding than setting a goal, and seeing it through!

DO EXERCISE! DO MOVE! I think how you eat is probably the biggest factor in what the weight scale reads, but how you LOOK in the mirror is a reflection of your diet AND function. In other words, the body becomes its function. If you ask your body to do sprints, and lift weights, and climb stairs for 4-6 hours a week it will reflect that. Especially if your diet is dialed in. If you ask your body to further wear your butt groove into the couch, well, people will say you do in fact LOOK like a couch potato, just maybe not to your face.

From a high level overview, here is what a good day of eating could look like -

Breakfast - Oatmeal, Raisins, Yogurt, Coffee, Water

Snack - Cottage cheese, Pineapple

Lunch - Grilled chicken salad with lowfat dressing and a small baked potato

Snack - Half a cup of almonds and an apple

Dinner - Grilled fish with vegetables and a small amount of olive oil

What you would need to do here is figure out your portion sizes and the calories in those portion sizes. There is 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So if you are in the negative of 500 calories a day of your maintenance level, it takes around a week to lose a pound. This is not an exact science however and some people lose more or less for a variety of reasons. However a pound to a pound and a half a week is just about right.

As you can see, the DO list has a lot more words than the don't list. My reasoning for doing so is because knowing why you are doing something is more important than putting time into understand what not to do. I could expound on the DON'T list but the truth is, you probably know the answers to those. You don't really need for me to tell you that washing down two ding-dongs with a 62 ounce Dr. Pepper is bad for you, do you? No, I really don't. You already REALLY know that bacon and doughnuts are bad.

Again...not on a single freaking weight loss diet in the galaxy! You know better.

Changing your eating habits will take some time before it feels natural. But once you get into the groove of things eating healthy 90% of the time will not be hard. On our honeymoon the wife and I went on a cruise, and were able to eat all sorts of extravagant food. At first we enjoyed ourselves, but by the 4th day all we could think about was getting home to some baked chicken and rice. So don't think about "dieting" think about a lifestyle change of eating properly and your body will thank you for it.

In closing let me say that creating a diet plan is very, very simple. The difficult part is sticking to it. Make no mistake about it, you WILL get hungry. There is simply no getting around that. And your body and mind will tell you to eat. It does not want to lose fat or make changes. This is where you must find the warrior in you to push through that crap and chew some gum and drink more water with lemon. Nothing worth having comes easy. There is no weight loss lottery where you wake up thin and sexy overnight. But there is also nothing more rewarding than setting a tough goal and achieving it. So get your paper out, plan your meals, take some measurements and pictures and step on the scale. Write it all down then write what you want those things to say, and write down a legitimate time frame (remember that 1 to 1.5 pounds a week I talked about) to achieve those goals. Don't let anything deter you from achieving it. Then when you do, have some doughnuts and snickers that day! But get right back on the wagon afterwards and set new and more even more difficult goals.

Be strong!


16Mar10 - Bodyweight - 247

Clean and Press (strict) -
185 x 3
205 x 2
225 x 1 easy, lots of room here

Incline Press -

225 x 12 x 5

Pec is still super tender.

Chins/Dips - 5 sets of each
Up Rows - 2 x 20

Cardio - 10 minutes @ 4.2 treadmill

This picture pretty much describes this workout...

Very average.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Strength Training For Women - Get lean, in shape, and stay that way

If there is one thing in the world of strength, conditioning, and fitness that still makes me want to throw a Jean Claude Van Damme Dim Mak punch straight to someones junk is when a woman asks me what she must do to "get toned". Ok that and some idiot doing curls in the power rack.

That's not the part that makes me want to perform the JCVD death touch. It's the part that comes after my answer.

"You must lift heavy weights, do cardio, and cut calories."

And then here it comes...

"Oh lifting heavy weights? I don't want to look like a big weight lifting chic."

Don't tell me you can't lift heavy weights! BYAAAAAAAA!!!!

It's amazing to me, in the age we live in, that women still think they can "tone" and still think that lifting heavy weights will make them look like Conan the barbarian. Ladies, you know men who lift weights. Do they all look like Arnold in his prime? I don't think so. So what makes you think you are going to end up with barnyard shoulders and sleeve ripping biceps?


"Well I saw those bodybuilding women on TV once..."

Yeah me too. And those women are on testosterone and other a host of other things. You can't build that kind of musculature naturally. You do not have the hormonal make up for it. That's the end of that conversation.

"But heavy weights make you bulky"

No, McDonalds fries and milkshakes and pizza and ice cream make you bulky. Weights themselves don't make you bulky. You're asking about "toning" and losing weight because you're already bulky and you weren't lifting heavy weights before. That should give you a clue right there as to what the problem is. The opening below your nose seems to be the issue in that particular case.

Jessica Biel lifts heavy weights. So should you!

The truth is, there really isn't much difference in the way a woman or a man should train regarding gaining muscle. And gaining muscle is what makes you look "TONED". And the single best way to build muscle is to (you know it's coming) LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS.

Now sure you can lose weight through cardio and diet but you won't change the shape of your body. If you're fat and have a flat butt and lose weight, you're going to be smaller....with a flat butt. If you are pear shaped or apple shaped or doughnut or whatever shaped, without building muscle your body shape does not change. You just become a smaller version of your bigger self. In other words, if you want your body to be sleek, muscular, and sexy then muscle is required.

"But my personal trainer tells me not to lift heavy because it will hurt my..."

Put your personal trainers head under these bricks!!!! BYAAAAAAA!!!!

While it's true that you can't just walk into the gym and throw hundreds of pounds on the bar if you are a newbie chic trying to figure this heavy weights thing out, you can lift heavy safely. You need a general warm up (10 minutes on the bike or treadmill is fine), then you need to pyramid up in weights until things become "difficult" to reach your target number of reps. For a novice, that's the best way I can explain it. If you are supposed to do 5 sets of 10 reps on curls, the last set should be difficult to reach that 10th rep IN GOOD FORM. This is a very basic way to explain what "heavy" is. Heavy is relative to everyone. What is heavy for you might not be heavy for someone else, and vice versa.

For beginners I find that bodyweight movements like lunges, bodyweight squats, push ups, crunches, and chin ups are more than enough to stimulate muscle growth.

"Wait, I thought you said lifting weights was the best way?"

It absolutely is. However most people don't realize they can't move their own bodyweight through space very well. So I usually start people there. Once someone can perform these movements with ease, we increase resistance, and rotate in free weight exercises. For now, let's use gravity and your bodyweight as the "heavy weights".

You can do all of these movements in the comfort of your own home. What I suggest to people however, is to join a gym or to go outside to do these. The reason is because of environment. Your home is generally a place of comfort for you, so exerting yourself inside of it may seem awkward (unless you have a workout room) or the level of effort may be low. We grew up outside playing on play grounds, playing sports, and generally doing some sort of physical activity. I believe there is a better connection in terms of physical activity, and motivation for level of effort. Obviously in a gym you know what you are there for. Unless you're at 24 hour fitness, then you're probably there for a cappuccino and some small talk.

"So what should I be doing? And how many days a week?"

Three times a week is plenty. If you want to do more, you can. However I've trained on every split imaginable including 3 times a day, 6 days a week, and I can tell you that forty-five to sixty minutes three times a week will get the job done just fine.

So what is a good cookie-cutter program for you to start on to build muscle?

Workout A - Legs and Abs

Walking Lunges - 30 total reps.

Count the number of sets that it takes you to get to 30. When you get to where you can do it in 3 sets or less, increase the number of reps to 50. When you can get to 50 in 5 sets or less, grab a dumbbell in each hand (it cannot be pink!) and go back to 30 reps. Repeat the same procedure.

Her dumbbells are NOT pink!

Bodyweight Squats - 20 total reps.

Stick your butt out first like you are going to sit down, and descend slowly. Put your hands out in front of you to keep your balance. When 20 reps are easy, go to 30 reps. When 30 reps are easy go to 40. When you can do 50 reps easily, it's time to start putting a bar on your back with some weight on it.

This is what you need to be doing after bodyweight squats aren't doing it for you anymore

Plank - as long as you can

Watch a second hand clock and hold as long as you can.

Finish up with 30 minutes of cardio. That can be walking at a crisp (I SAID CRISP!) pace, the elliptical, or stair-master.

Workout B - Upperbody pull and push with hamstrings

Lat Pulldowns or Pull-ups/Chin-ups - 5 sets of 10 reps

I don't really care what grip you use here. You can even switch it up and play around a little bit. You can go underhand (curl grip) or wide grip overhand. Just find something that feels natural for your body type. Start with a light weight then add weight each set. The last set should be difficult.

If you are at home or don't have access to a gym, buy a chin up bar and do chin ups. If you can only do one that's fine. Do one at a time until you reach 3 total. The next week do 4 total, and the next week 5 total. When you can do 10 or more try doing 2 at a time. If you can chin like there is no tomorrow then you are a beast and should find someone to fight on the street immediately.

This is a woman after my own heart!

Incline dumbbell press or push ups - 4 sets of 12 reps

Start light and increase the weight as usual until the last set is difficult. If you are training at home or outside in the mud (this makes for better training anyway!) do 4 sets of push-ups for as many reps as you can. Make sure to keep your elbows IN close to your body.

This lady knows how to do a proper push up. Notice her elbows in tight. AND she's outside! AWESOME!

Hyperextensions - 3 sets of 10 reps

Lower yourself slowly and KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT. Do not round your back as you lower yourself. An easy way to remember this is to think about sticking your chest out (you know you've done this when a guy you are trying to impress is around, don't think we don't know).

If you don't have access to a hyperextension machine, do glute kickbacks. You can use a band like in the pic below if you have one. If not, bodyweight at first is fine.

Just like before, finish up with 30 minutes of cardio. That can be walking at a crisp (I SAID CRISP AGAIN!) pace, the elliptical, or stair-master.

These two workouts should be rotated. So week 1 you would do workout A twice, and workout B once.

Monday - workout A
Wednesday - workout B
Friday - workout A

The following week you would perform workout B twice, and workout A once.

Monday - workout B
Wednesday - workout A
Friday - workout B

Your Ultimate Enemy - Excuses

I don't really want to show more JCVD death touch pics but I will if I have to. We're all busy adults with kids and careers and stuff. It's a BS cop out. People sit on the couch every single night for hours in America and grind their butt groove into it. Yet they can't find the time to exercise for 45-60 minutes, three times a week? Get out of here with that crap. People find time to do the things they want to do. If you really want something in life, you go after it. Ask yourself what is the last thing you wanted more than anything? What was your level of effort to get it? Probably fairly high. Why wouldn't you approach taking care of your body the same way?

"Because it's hard"

"Because it makes me sore"

"Because I don't have time"

"Because I don't want to"

"Because my spouse won't do it with me"


I liken getting into shape like quitting smoking, when you are ready you'll do it. No one can talk you into it, no one can really make you do it. And even if they could, you'd hate every minute of it. You have to decide up front if you want it bad enough, then go after it with a fury that is unmatched by anything else you have ever done in your life. You have to set aside that time during the week for that, and that alone.

Make goals, and go after them!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here is your ounce, freely given. Now it's up to you to decide if you want to extend the effort to reach out and take it. A program is only as good as the persons buy-in on it. If you commit yourself to doing the above program three times a week you will get stronger, you will build muscle, you will look more fit and feel better. Guaranteed or you your money...wait it's free. Even better. Now do something with it!

I will touch on basic diet do's and do-nots in a follow up article and provide some sample diets.