Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Weekly Q & A

Leave a name and a question fellow brothers in iron.........


  1. i always thought that i got stronger when i was benching heavy singles. i really don't have any proof, i just thought that. i have only been lifting for about 3.5 years. i have never been able to bench more than about 10 pounds more than i weigh (235x1). i have tried all i can think of. i just started doing the paused reps. i've posted on your blog a lot recently. i'm the guy whose wife just had his 4th kid. i have to stop lifting for a month or so, until things level out at home. i will continue the paused reps when i start lifting again. i guess what i'm getting at is this. i see a lot of guys who say that they just suck at pressing movements. genetics, leverages, whatever. does this make sense? am i just destined to suck at pressing? or is it just gonna take 10 years of endless reps to see real progress? i'm not gonna stop lifting any time soon, so i can be patient. i NEED to lift. it's how i let the noise out, you know? i don't need a quick fix (although that would be nice), and if i'm just always gonna suck at it, that's ok too. i can accept it. i'd just like to know. how do raw benchers get so good at this? what do they have that i don't?

  2. Well a lot of good raw benchers are built for that lift. Short arms and thick torso.

    There are a few schools of thought for guys who aren't built for pressing.

    1. That good pressing just takes time and maturity. I know a lot of guys that have been lifting for a long time, that have 390-415 benches. I'm talking 20+ year guys like me. They have similar stories as I do. That it just took a long time. It could be the case with you. If so, don't sweat it. Just keep lifting.

    2. You may just need to press more often. Have 1 day for benching heavy and another day of light incline where you train close to failure but higher reps. Like 12-15. Throw in dips on the incline day and overhead press on the heavy bench day and you've got a winning combination. Just be patient and give it time.

  3. Hi Paul. When you write "Hip and Ass Machine - 2 sets of 50" is that like the Nautilus hip and back machine? Or like those machines that you sit in and open your legs against resistance? Or something else? And is that a warm up for you? Or assistance work? Or both? Thx.

  4. My question has to do with arm hypertrophy. I've bee focusing a bit more on hypertrophy the last 4 months. Doing squats, benches, presses, deadlifts, rows, you know the drill. First two months go by, and I'm getting stronger and bigger, it's working. But my arms are not getting bigger to match my expanding shoulders, traps, and chest, and I'm vain enough to want big arms along the way. I figure I shouldn't be surprised my arms aren't getting bigger without direct arm work. So, once or twice a week, I close out my workout with supersetting tricep pushdowns and curls on the cable machine. The cable machine is quick for switching between the two so I knock out 12-15 reps of pushdowns at a weight, knock out 10-12 curls at the same weight, take 10 deep breaths, drop the weight 20# and do it again, repeat for 3 or 4 sets. I get a mean pump, but two months of doing this along with everything else I kept on doing, and while my shoulders, legs, etc all continue to get bigger (I'm roughly 240# at 6'2" now), my arms don't grow. So that's where I'm at now, and I figure I should mix it up on the arm training. I'm already pressing, rowing, all the compound stuff I'm supposed to do. Just looking for suggestions on what to do for the icing on the cake. Thanks!

  5. Hey paul,

    Did a stupid thing at work last week, tore my patella-tendon straight off. Went into surgery friday, and am now on crutches for at least a few months, and the rehab can take up to 6 months. Sucks donkey balls, but hey, that's life, just gotta grin and bear it.

    I'm bored out of my mind, not mobile enough to take public transport to the gym for at least the next 4-6 weeks, so I pretty much lay in bed and watch TV, read your blog etc.

    Any good movies/series you recommend?

  6. Paul,

    I had a good look at myself, and I've just realized that I'm fat. Funny how easy it's been to fool myself saying that strength is more important and whatnot. I'm 6'3/240 with a 5RM squat at 300 pounds and 5RM 230 bench at a bodyweight of 240, so my excuse that I need my fat for strength doesn't really hold up. I think I can probably stand to lose 25 pounds of fat.

    I've been running a couple of conditioning blocks, and pushed away from the table earlier, making me lose around 2 pounds pr month. But I'm losing patience, and want to get this weight loss shit over with. What do you think, is a weekly kcal deficit of around 8-9000 , along with low volume high intensity strength training the way to go? I'm considering doing this for 2 months, before going ahead on the Ultimate Beastdom program.

    I've seen you recommend doing 6-12 months of conditioning with a light diet for someone in a similar situation, but I don't know if I have the patience, knowing there are quicker ways to my current bf goal.

    Sorry for the rant. Love the blog - I check it every morning. Keep up the good work :-)

    Cheers, Martin

  7. I, like many of your readers, am doing 5/3/1. Main goal is bigger and stronger. I have tried the BBB for assistance, but I have also noticed that most gains were done when I just did a back off set of 8+ of 75-80%. The BBB seems to pump and burn for me, while the back-off seems to work the muscle more. I guess my question is, does that make sense or am I just imagining it.

  8. Hey Paul, I've been running Madcow's 5X5 for 12 weeks or so. I started REALLY light since I was recovering from a sports hernia repair and I'm almost 40. Anyway, I'm close to resetting on some lifts and was wondering how many times you would generally reset before trying something a little different? I'd like to milk this for as long as possible. Thanks and keep up the great work.

  9. Hey Paul:

    I have some shoulder issues from what I would describe as overbenching in my 20's. It seems as if the flat bench and its other varieties (flat db etc) give me the most difficulty and pain. I have been diagnosed with partial labrum tear, impingements, something with my clavicle and the usual. I have decided to stop flat benching all together and use the Incline Bench as my main chest exercise. Ironically enough, Inclines, and Millitary presses are lifts that give me no difficulty or discomfort. My question is what is your opinion of doing this, should I abandon the flat bench?

    For the Incline I usually ramp up to a weight that I can get 3-4 reps, and then back down to a weight wherein I do 10 reps, I then do another 5 back off sets with bands SS with chins in between, so 10 total sets of incline bench super setted with 5 sets of bw chins of 10 - 15 reps.



  10. Matty I had the same problems when I was younger as well. I suffered a separated shoulder in football and combine that with years of bad bench pressing (too wide, too much bounce, too much awfulness) and my shoulders were wrecked.

    Funny enough, incline, press behind the neck, and incline never bothered them.

    My opinion of it is that if you have no pain with inclines or military just focus on them as your staples. The incline has become one of my staples for a while now. I generally incline one week and flat bench the next. This has worked great for me.

    Second, if you do bench, stay light and do close grips. FAR easier on the shoulders. It's better to shave off 10-20 pounds on your bench and save your shoulders.

    So you're on the right track.

  11. Ryan - I was only able to run through it one time. After that I programmed too high and ran myself into the ground by week 3 or 4. So my suggestion would be just to keep programming it light so that you don't fuck up like I did, and see how that goes.

  12. Zac - The back off sets for mass has been my bread and butter for a really long time, and again why I am putting together these programs that use those as the main engine of it all. Again, hang out until I can complete these because I want it to be quality. Or as quality as a single functioning entity can be for a lifting site.

  13. Martin - This is about perspective.

    Let's say it would take 12 months for you to get there. Well, the 12 months is going to go by anyway. Right? So at the end of those 12 months, you could either have accomplished your goal or you can still be frustrated and you lost out on 12 months of making it happen.

    This comes back to my philosophy about enjoying the journey. Enjoy the frustration too. Because it makes winning the battle so much sweeter.

    Fat loss is a pain in the ass for almost everyone, myself included. Mainly because you sit around hungry half the time, and you don't see immediate results. We like quick feedback to let us know what we are doing it working. This isn't the case with fat loss even more than any other factor in training.

    Just get on that horse and enjoy the ride man. If you're a lifer, 8-12 months of training is nothing, and you're just going to be better for it in the end.

    Own it.

  14. Holland Mark - Damn man! Sorry to hear about that. You know I have plenty of experience in dealing with the injury layoffs.

    I don't know if you watch The Wire but we did the first season and were lukewarm on it. The 2nd season however, was AWESOME. That's a great series to check out.

    Movie wise here are some good ones I've seen or recommend.

    Kick-Ass - Best movie I have seen in the last few years.

    Cinderella Man - Rocky mold type movie but better.

    Apocalypto - Love this flick.

    The Usual Suspects - One of my all time faves

    Collateral - One of my all time faves

    Taken - Liam Neesom almost never disappoints.

    The Road - Incredibly depressing but done really well.

    Heal up and kick back.

    Don't sweat these layoffs.

  15. Alex - The single best thing I ever did for arm SIZE was MY PJR pullovers for triceps (yes those are mine) and rest/pause for bicep work. Namely the 1 arm db preacher curl. Again, I'm not usually big on this kinda stuff, but the 1 arm db preacher curl with SLOW negatives and rest/pause made my biceps blow up pretty well, and I never had good bicep development before that.

    Aside from those, it was ez-curl preacher curls with slow negatives and rest/pause as well. Just make sure you concentrate on progression on the curls and PJR pullover as well.

  16. Paul Finnegan - I looked for a pic of this particular one but couldn't find it. I will take one myself and get it up.

  17. Thanks for the response Paul,

    I watched Season 1 of The wire, and I liked it, but never got around to season 2. Will look into it.

    Still need to see kick-ass, the road and apocalypto. Have seen the other ones, all great movies!

    I just hope the surgery was succesful, and I can make a full recovery..

  18. paul, at the moment I'm training 3 days a week with a press, pull and lower body move each day, using diff rep ranges.
    monday - deadlifts, incline bench(smith machine, easier on my shoulder - recently dislocated), machine rows
    wednesday - leg press, db bench, db rows
    friday - push ups w feet raised, chins, squats.

    really seems to work for me and I keep progressing.

    have you ever used a frequency of 3 times a week? (at the beginning of your training career possibly)

  19. Damn, this Q&A is getting popular.

    Ok, my question is about your statement of carbs driving mass gains.

    I'm wondering why this is true.

    If Dude A, eats 5,000 calories a day with high pro/high fat and Dude B eats 5,000 calories a day with high pro/high carbs...

    ... are you saying Dude A will build more mass BECAUSE carbs are better suited for mass gain?

    Or is it really because Dude B simply won't be able to eat 5,000 calories a day without carbs.


  20. Matt - The same reason your body will crave candy and cake and bread and pasta after surgery. Because it needs glycogen to perform the repair process. It takes the body a long time to start using fat for fuel. It's easier to use glycogen or muscle for energy. So when you have a repair or recovery process in the body, it requires energy to do that. Getting bigger, building more muscle mass, is essentially a repair process by the body. It's really that simple.

    So when you cause microtrauma at the fiber level and they need to be repaired, glycogen will be the main source needed for this. Since you're lifting hard and heavy, glycogen is needed for that as well. So a high steady supply of carbs in a mass building phase is a MUST.

    this is laymans terms, but it's also backed by plenty of anecdotal evidence. Hope that helps.

    Anonymous - Training 3X per week has been my staple for the most part of 21 years. I do have a trap day now, but it's mainly for fun.

  21. sorry, what I meant was training 3 days a week with a press, a pull and lower body on each day.
    didnt mean to be anonymous either

  22. Thanks for the Q&A Mr Carter. I lift for strength and condition for general well being. I don't compete in meets or anything like that, and am not on the juice. I do however (sin of sins) use a belt and straps for double overhand deadlifts (gives me a better pulling dynamic I believe), and also for squats and heavy bent over BB rows. I am able to lift more with a belt. My question is this - am I cutting myself short by use of the belt and straps. Appreciate your opinion, take care fella.


  23. Steven - With the straps I would say so. Just build your grip strength and go mixed grip.

    The belt thing gets debated by EVERYONE when it comes up.

    I don't need a belt and I've squatted 605, 585x3, and 500x8. All at around 245, with no belt and no wraps. I got rid of my belt because I wanted to strengthen my low back, abs, and "core" using the big lifts. Yes you get more poundage out of a belt, but I could never wear one now, and it feels good to be able to do all of my lifts without any required equipment.

    Second, I've never had a low back strain since I ditched the belt. Just some food for thought.

    Bud - Yes I've done that too and I like it in spurts, but not as something I'm going to do forever.

  24. New Reader to your blog! Big fan. I appreciate the practical advice and insight. My question is I struggle with the bench. I'm 195 and workout at 250 for 5. I am striving to get up to working out around 300. I have read a lot about getting optimum leg drive and also Mark Rippetoe's article about proper low back positioning for ultimate strength in the powerlifts. Utilizing this technique has shown increases of 20 lbs over the last couple months but I want more! I am concerned about overarching and/or hurting myself. I'm a new dad and CPA who sometimes is crunched for time. I have a good power rack which helps. Any tips?

  25. 1. Gain weight

    2. Do a lot of shoulder work

    3. Use the incline as well as the bench

    4. Be patient

    These are the things that have helped me the most.

  26. Any cure for shitty calves?

    Your calves are huge. No homo.


    Any tips?


  27. Not sure if I'm too late but thought I'd ask when will your training program be available? Sounds great, based on the previous articles I have read. I'm a fan of the basics, no flashy bs, type of training.

  28. Matt - My calves didn't blow up until I gained a shit ton of weight and held it in place for a long time. Ever heard the term fat coaches calves? Go find a fat football coach. He'll always have awesome calves it seems. Well walking around at 270-280 for a couple of years seemed to work for me.

    Anonymous - I am hoping for Monday but it could be later. The more I write on it, the more material comes out.

  29. Paul,
    I've got a movie for you: Centurion. It's about the Roman 9th Legion in their battle against the Picts. Really bloody and violent, solid acting and good story (loosely based on the history).


  30. Watched it about a month ago Brian. Good call.

  31. ok paul: diet.

    whilst i know that your approach for the younger lifter regarding eating dirty just as long as you're eating stuff works, what about when you're past that stage and gotta be careful not to get fat whilst gaining?

    is it something along the lines of your recent post - i.e one week restricted calories then a slow ramp up towards a couple of weeks of "massing calories" then down again?

    counting calories is such a chore but i dont suppose there's an easy way?!

    also what are your recommendations regarding macro-nutrient %'s?



  32. I don't have one for macronutrients to be honest.

    I do think some good guidelines are...

    1.5 grams of protein per pound of bw

    And everything else after that is a go.

    I personally don't need as many calories as I used to to gain weight. On the flip side of that, I have to REALLY lower my cals to lose fat. Like 2200-2500 a day. So 3200 or so is about all I need to gain mass.

    I had a post about a really great clean eating diet for mass building a while back. Do a search on it. That is most likely the plan I will follow once I go back into a lean mass gaining mode.

  33. Paul, when you go back to a mass building phase, you going to include rest pausing back into the mix? I think I am going to start some RPing here myself. I did run a DC style routine last yr and made great gains but could not muster enough intensity for 6-8 week blasts due to slack of sleep, but I love the concepts of DC training and still want to apply some of those techniques. having a one yr old now, I don't want to be in the gym more then 3 days a week anymore, but I still want to try and add some lean mann and strength. I don't want to be a weak dad, LOL

    Day 1 Upper

    Overhead Press 5/4/3/2/1, back off set

    rp close grip bench 15-20

    high rep db rows " kroc "

    Day 2 Upper

    Incline 5/4/3/2/1 Back Off

    RP Weighted Dips 15-20

    Pull-Ups and a ton of them, say 50 reps

  34. was that the diet plan you borrowed from Aceto? yes, seen that thanks.

    so basically, after ensuring 1.5g/lb protein just add carbs and fat according to taste and calorie target?

    just out of interest, how do you track calories? something like fitday etc?


  35. Geoff - works pretty good for me.

    Anonymous - Yes I will probably include some rest/pause stuff back in there. Once my elbow clears up you're going to see my training take a bit of a change in terms of what I have been doing. The program will cover this as well.

  36. Paul,
    I've been following your deadlift program and I was curious the form in which you perform SLDL'S. In other words, do you round your back at the bottom or do you maintain a neutral lower back as in the Romanian deadlift? Thanks for your time.