Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The barbell doesn't care about snake oil

Man, it's hard for me to read particular sites sometimes with the bullshit that gets printed and passed as training information.  The reason why is because I remember being a young dude, and wanting size and strength more than anything on the face of the Earth, and really believing in some of the snake oil bullshit that got printed in the muscle comics.

Franco was prolly worth buying a muscle rag for

I don't know what the sales on magazines are anymore, but I haven't bought a muscle comic in forever.  I don't visit but a couple of lifting boards, only a few websites overall, and I know training bullshit when I smell it.

For those of you that can't, the old adage about "too good to be true" is a good rule of thumb to follow.

You want a list of things that will make you big and strong as shit, and proven to do so?

1.  Consistency over a long period under the bar

This is #1 because if you are not slinging iron on a consistent basis week in and out, nothing is ever going to stick.  Everyone knows that guy that goes in and trains hard for a few months then quits for no explanation.  I talk to people I haven't seen in forever and they will always remark "wow, you've kept on lifting weights after all these years.  That's incredible."

Why the fuck is that incredible?

The above is generally my first thought.  Then I realize that the average gym goer signs up right after January 1st and never steps foot back in the gym about 6 weeks from then.

Lifting to me is part of my life blood.  I will do it until I die.  That's not a "hardcore" thing to say, it's just part of my lifestyle.  No different than anything else in my life that is somewhat ritualistic or habitual.  It's what I do.  It's part of who I am.  It's not #1 in my life.  Not even #4 or #5 really (those are all reserved for believes and people) but it's up there.  I mean, anything top 10 in your life probably has a serious meaning to you.  And unless you decide that you are going to be consistent in your training, everything else you do won't mean shit.  Period.

Lift this about a million times and there you go

2.   Lots of food

This should be obvious but always isn't.  A surplus of food creates an anabolic/growth potential environment.  Simply put, you're not going to get bigger without a nice surplus of calories.  That's a fact.  I don't even care if you're running test/tren/anadrol/var/dbol/deca at max doses.  The calories are the vehicle for everything.

Don't think so?

Years ago the value of a calorie surplus became apparent when I had lowered cals and was dropping weight, and was weak as shit.  I couldn't hit weights at 225 that I used to could hit, and I realized that on the way UP to 240 at 225, I was a shit load stronger than I was at 225 on the way down.  Now this may seem obvious to some, but a lot of people will tell you that you need to gain weight to take advantage of leverages.  And this is true to an extent.  But when you START gaining weight, you'll find the strength increases really sky rocket compared to when your weight levels out.  In fact, you may find that you were hitting the same weights 10 pounds lighter than your weight gain goal, than when you reach it.

In other words, when I am gaining weight, I can hit all the same weights at 245 that I can at 255.  So eventually I figured out, why gain the extra 10?  No need.  On the way up the calorie surplus helps drive the strength gains like a NASCAR driver on meth.

Whether or not you decide to eat clean or dirty, it's the calories that will drive the strength and mass gains.  And for those who are jacking off to "good fats" and shit like that, it's carbs that drive mass gains.  Where do you think the energy for the muscular repair process comes from?  That kind of thing needs a quick energy source, and fats are not it.  And it's glycogen that fuels hard ass training sessions.  Not fats.  I don't care if you "enjoy" eating chicken breast with bell peppers and olive oil.  You're not going to get big or strong on those kinds or diets for the most part.  You need carbs for growth and energy.  Stop buying into the "fat cures all" bullshit that is going around now.

If you're a beanpole this is good and fine, and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

3.  Hard ass, balls to the wall training

Volume training is like what fats have become to this whole eating trend.  Overrated.  Volume is great at times, but at some point you're going to have to bear down and put in some bust your ass style work.  I mean heavy-high-rep squats, leg press, and deadlift, rest/pause and 50% sets on upperbody stuff and going for fucking broke on the big movements.  Doing a single and sitting around for 5 minutes might work for some strength gains here and there, but if you are looking to get over a size and strength plateau, then you will eventually have to pay the piper.  If you get big and strong and cruise through workouts, well good for you, you are in the 1% of 1% of guys that lift.  But if you aren't that guy, accept the fact that at some point you're going to have to bust your ass in a way you never have before to get shit moving forward again.

4.  Rest

You grow when you rest.  If you don't sleep enough to allow for growth, you won't.  If your priority is partying all weekend and getting blasted, then right now getting as big and strong as possible really isn't your priority.  When it is, cut that shit out and spend your weekends resting as much as possible instead of acting like a frat boy douchebag.

5.  Anabolics

This is a dirty word to some people, and salvation to others.  Anabolics are proven to get you bigger and stronger.  If you are holier than thou-steroid-users-are-as-bad-as-child-molesters person, obviously this is not an option for you.  If you are a guy that has maxed out everything he could get out of his natural potential but want to see what else is out there, then anabolics might be for you.  Proceed with caution/enter at your own risk and all that shit.  I will tell you this however, if you have low test levels you will have devisions to make (like I did with HRT) regarding what you need to do.  If you're taking your kids to their soccer game in a minivan it's a good chance you do.  Get your blood work done and make decisions from there.

Love em or hate em, they work.

If you just follow 1-4 you can go a hell of a long ways in terms of getting big and strong.  Eat a lot of food, train your ass off, give your body time to recover with good sleep and rest, then go at it again for as long as possible.  This is a proven sure fire time tested shit-thing/way of getting as big and strong as possible.

The bar or your body doesn't give two shits about some special new routine that promises 30 pounds of lean mass gain in 14 minutes.  Getting big and strong, for the less genetically blessed, is a long hard traveled road.  Either stay on it, or get the fuck off.  Fence riding doesn't have award winners.


  1. Awesome stuff man. Just came across this blog the other day and now I'm checking back as often as I can. Thanks.

  2. This may be a dumb question...but I'm here to learn as much as possible. The 50% sets are of your 1 rep max of a movement for reps. Correct?

  3. A 50% set = taking a set close to failure, resting 1 minute, then going again and trying to get half as many reps as you did on the first set.

    So if you squatted 500 x 12, you would rest 1 minute, and try to get 6.

  4. Best blog on lifting for sure. All info in here is no BS. Good stuff

  5. In that picture of Franco deadlifting, and I've wondered this for a long time, doesn't it look like his arms are bent like hell? I've always wondered how his biceps didn't explode right off the bone.

  6. 50% sets are awesome!

    From this site I have learned the value of 50% sets, lower volume, rest, and one of my new personal favorites, back off sets.

    Something for others to try is to work up to a top set and then do 1-3 back off sets using 90% of your worked up to weight and 2 reps over. So work up to 225x8, then 200 for a couple sets of 10.

    Best site out there. Thanks for the real world advice.

  7. I think there might be a slight bend. That's how I popped mine.

  8. You crack me up Mr Carter LMFAO ..."And for those who are jacking off to "good fats" and shit like that..."

    Another great post btw - laters fella.


  9. Paul,

    Awesome post...A few weeks ago you gave me a Leg hypertrophy program...its kicking my ass and im lovin it thanks again.


  10. Awesome Matty. Make sure you give me the results when you're done.

  11. Awesome post Paul,

    I think when someone establishes consistency over the long haul everything else falls into place and nothing else matters till you do. Such a small percentage of people do, that everything else is clusterfucked.

  12. Thanks Jason. And you're exactly right.

  13. We all know it's the hot chick(s) you have tucked away in the home gym. Might not make the top 4, but certainly doesn't hurt.

  14. That's funny timing, I just had one leave.

    It certainly doesn't hurt progress. LOL

  15. Paul - great article as always - I'd be interested (as you're one of the first writers to have the balls to mention PEDs) in how to structure a program based on a variety of factors. For example - I am nearly 40, I work shifts in a stressful job (cop in London), I have a young family (youngest is 2) and I choose not to use anabolics.
    No one has found a way to convince me that my recovery ability is the same as if these factors were different.

  16. Phil - Are you asking me to talk about outlining a cycle? I'm not sure of the question.

  17. No - that's not what I'm after !
    The programs that get outlined (Jim's 531 - WSFSB - DC etc etc) all are structured without any mention of what to do when (for example) you get 2 hours sleep 3 nights in a row or you've been fixing the house up.
    I know (from experience) that I'm not going to hit PRs because of my lifestyle - not because of a lack of desire.
    One of my friends (and an excellent powerlifter) recommends not going to failure (never miss a lift) and training 2 days a week (Bench one day - Squats and Deads the next)
    I would like your sage advice and comments on this subject.

  18. I gotcha Phil -

    Your friend is a smart man because that's what I would do as well.

    With a lack of sleep recovery is not going to be good. You're not going to really build a lot of strength during this time, so just moving at a snails pace would be ideal. Slow and steady. Shit I train like that anyway now.

    Day 1 - bench - 5/4/3/2/1, 1x10 all quick and crisp
    Db Curls - 2x15

    2-3 days off

    Day 2 - squat - 5/4/3/2/1, 1x5 all quick and crisp
    calf raises - 2x15

    2-3 days off

    Day 3 - Overhead Press - 5/4/3/2/1, 1x5 same as above
    Dips - 1xmax reps

    2-3 days off

    Day 4 - Deadlift - 5/4/3/3/3, 1x5
    Lunges - 2x10

    Take 2-3 off and repeat. Don't approach failure and make sure you feel better after the workouts than before you went in. Don't worry about progression, just get the time in. So if you feel like shit, just get the reps in. If you feel good, bump it up a little but don't go to failure.

    Let me know how you do with this phil.

  19. how come no rowing or chinning in the last post? do you think that pressing is priority for dtrength and you should just leave pulling work if time is an issue?

  20. To me 1 main lift, then something light and easy. Chins aren't light and easy. If it were a pull then facepulls.

  21. The 5/3/1 program works really well for people with little time to train and/or have little time to devote to recovery. You get the sets and reps in on the big exercise, cut out the accessory work and leave the gym. You can train 2, 3 or 4 times a week, whatever works.

    I've been using it for a while, the gains are slow(ish) but I find I retain strength better than when I was following the "peaking" principle.

  22. Paul,

    Out of curiosity what are some of the websites you do visit regarding training?

    Gotta say that your site and programs have made a big difference in my life. 1 year ago I was stuck at around 228 lbs. and worried about my weight.

    I spent some time reading your site and over the last 5 months I have dropped down to 199. This is without much conditioning due to midwest weather and my strength hasn't gone all that terrible either. I really appreciate the advice you post here. God bless.

  23. The sites I check out are generally elitefts or t-nation but I only read the stuff where the author or title has interest to me. The only board I post at is the PnB.

    Dale that is awesome man. That's the reason I post this stuff. That maybe someone will benefit from it. Awesome to hear.

  24. Awesome blog paul, I check your writings as often as I can. I love your 3 day a week routines. being a family man, I am really limited to three days a week training. been making some great gains keeping it silly stupid, just deep squats, dead's, chin up's dips, presses and cleans. I been thinking of trying some rest pausing, doing a main lift and then RP/ing an assistant lift. will see. anyway, thanks for your training tips.

  25. Training 3X a week I personally think is ideal no matter what you're doing. Recovery is still an under appreciated factor in training.

  26. Paul - sorry to keep bothering you, the 5/4/3/2/1 - what sort of jumps should I use.
    An idea of what I'm doing at the moment - last squat session was 3 sets of 5 with 330lbs (150kg) - not too difficult. Last deads were 3 sets of 3 with 418/190 (again easy enough) and benches were 242/110 for 3 sets of 8.

    By the way on T-Nation powerlifting section there is a thread by a decent powerlifter ("Storm the Beach" - or something similar) - he outlines his program - for 2 years he did one day per powerlift and 5/4/3/2/1/1/1 - he got strong !

    I should be able to do some of the sessions at work (small gym there) - could I substitute some elevated push ups for dips on the o-head days (feet on bench, hands on bar in smith machine) ?

  27. Phil - that's pretty much how I run my 5/4/3/2/1 when I am prepping for a meet. I just add two more singles to it that are heavier, then the back off set.

    On my 5/4/3/2/1 stuff I do a lot by feel. If I am feeling good I will have an idea of what I want to hit for a single, then for my back off. It's not exactly scientific but after 21 years of this I have a good measure for what I want to hit.

    As noted I am working on some percentages to get an idea of what an actual programmed cycle might look like.

  28. From above post:

    "As noted I am working on some percentages to get an idea of what an actual programmed cycle might look like."

    Hey PC, I would really appreciate seeing something like that in writing. If you need any impetus to get on it, please let this be it.

    As always, I appreciate the advice you give at PnB and on this blog.

    take care,