Friday, December 27, 2013

And yet.......another success story.

Hi Paul,

Here’s another success story based on a meet I did a few weeks ago. USPA Men’s Raw 198 pounds 56 years old.

Although I Squatted poorly, I did learn a valuable lesson, and the meet was an overall success. I ran Strong-15 in preparation for the meet and didn’t miss a lift the entire cycle.

I programmed Squat for 350, I hit 350 in the same meet last year and did 360 half a year ago. The Squat singles in phase 3 were tough grinders but I made them all, and I paused all reps, singles and the rep sets. My first Squat was disqualified because my spotter put his hands on me when I lurched forward on my opener of 303. I don’t fault him because I came waaaaay forward and if we were in his garage he would have bear hugged me.

To avoid bombing I had to stay with 303 for my second attempt which I did easily. Before this second attempt I figured out why I was out so of position, I was not used to NOT pausing, exploding out of the hole was throwing me forward. So this second attempt I concentrated on staying controlled in the hole. Lesson learned, start doing non-paused Squats a few weeks prior to meets to get the feel of it.

The American record was 352 which was my goal so I had a decision to make for my third attempt, should I jump the 50 pounds and try 353 for the record, or do the smart thing and call for 330 and add to my total. I went for the 50 pound jump and never even got out of the hole. Also in retrospect, I was squatting deeper than needed to get white lights, I should have gone as deep as I could handle and taken my chances.

I hit a Bench PR for weighing 198. I programmed for 290 pounds, went 253 / 270 / 286. All my training reps were paused and fast, very doable. I think I made a good decision to go with 286 instead of 292, the 286 was pretty slow.

Deadlift was awesome. I hit a 33 pound overall PR, 468 pounds, I programmed for 440. I never would have attempted 468, but I was awarded a 4th attempt because it was for an American Record (AR). I went 374 / 425 (AR) / 452 (AR) / 468 (AR).  My weakness is getting the weight off the floor, so I was in no man’s land when I got this much weight past my knees. I’ll never forget that moment when it was past my knees and everyone was yelling, even the head judge, and it just kept going to lockout. Without a doubt my most memorable lift to date. Incidentally, 468 is USPA Elite Class for my age and weight. I am convinced Strong-15 got me there! (By the way, I train with a real deadlift bar, so the meet bar didn't contribute significantly to the lift I feel)

My 1041 total was also an America Record. A decent Squat would have given me a PR for total (1063) which I set when I was 220, but live and learn. I’m shooting for 1100 next, should be doable if I get my Squat back in order.

Strong-15, programed for 295, for a Bench only meet in February, goal is to hit 292.
Big-15 over and over again for Squat, I have to build my base Squat.
Strong-15 Block Deadlift, programmed for 440. I want to work on floor strength and speed. I feel if I can get it past my knees, I can stand it up!

Thanks for your advice, wisdom, and entertainment in your blog over the years. Being an older guy, your approaches agree with my body better than any other program I’ve tried.

-- Phil B

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Some simple rules

If you've been in the iron game/physique culture sub-culture very long, then most everything you could ever know about strength training and changing your body composition you've probably already read.

With that said, most of us (including myself) get caught in no mans land sometimes with regards to what we should be focusing on to get better.

For years, getting trapped in this no mans land of training is what kept no mans land.

Essentially it goes like this........

"I want to be jacked, strong, ripped, huge, awesome."

Yet right now I'm skinny-fat, not strong, not huge, not ripped, not awesome.  But I want to be all the aforementioned stuff RIGHT NOW.  So there has to be a plan to get me there immediately!

I did a search for skinny-fat and this came up.  I have no idea why, and don't care.  It's for your viewing pleasure.  

The truth is, you can get there.  The other truth is, it won't happen immediately.  Not all of it, anyway.

So let's take a stroll through some of the most common issues faced by guys trying to get better, and the options they have to take in regards to remedying their woes.

#1 - I'm fat, but I don't want to lose strength 

This one is fairly common for the guy that spent a few years on that "GOMAD" diet (gallon of milk a day) or years and years bulking well past the state of already fat asseness.  One day they wake up and realize that huffing and puffing to tie their shoes and that a trip up the stairs is something avoided on a routine basis isn't too much fun anymore, but they fear that losing all that "mass" will cause a huge drop in strength.

There's good news and bad news.  Well, there's a few variations of good news and bad news here.

But before I get to those, I want to clear a few things up here in regards to this topic.

First off, everyone is different in regards to strength loss while dieting.  Some guys don't lose very much, while other guys bottom out hard.  I think a lot of that has to do with how well a few factors...

1.  How well the individual understands his caloric needs in terms of training and fat loss.
2.  How fat the person is when they start the diet.
3.  The type of diet the person uses.  This sort of ties in with #1, however.

So let's talk about the reasons that some guys do lose strength while trying to shed some fat.

Generally, the main reason for the initial drop in strength is not because of a "change in leverages".  I mean, you lose 5 pounds from glycogen and water drop and I can promise there's not enough of a change in "leverages" to make that big of a difference.

No, the real issue is as simple as the caloric drop, glycogen and ATP depletion.  That is, if you're going very low carb.  But if you were paying attention to the nutrient timing Q&A I did with Dr. Israetel you'd know you should still be getting in carbs /pre-intra-post/ workout.  So you should STILL be using carbs for nutrient timing.

Most people however get very carbaphobic when they start a low or no carb diet, and even avoid them during training.  Do not do this.  Your body is not going to store carbs as fat if you're just ingesting them during the pre-intra-post workout periods, and as Dr. Israetel noted in the Q&A can actually help with fat loss.

John Meadows has tried to beat this into people for a long time but people star to fear carbs completely without realizing that carbs don't make you fat, but people still don't always listen.  Excess calories make you fat(ter).  Not just carbs.

Use carbs appropriately so that your workouts don't suffer, and so that strength and energy doesn't bottom the fuck out on you.

So if you work your diet properly, strength loss can be kept to a bare minimum and sometimes, not at all.  If your goal is to get into low single digits well then that's another story.  There's no real way to avoid strength loss at those bodyfat levels in comparison with being fairly chubby, unless you're still in the novice category of lifting.

Otherwise, there's really no need to get into low single digits.  However 15% or below should be something most strength athletes should be shooting for.

#2 I want to get bigger but I really don't want to lose my abs! 

This is the guy that always gets made fun of.  However I can appreciate the want for looking good naked.  Especially if you've ever been really sloppy, you know how good it feels for your clothes to fit you correctly, and to not feel like hiding behind a bush or making sure all the curtains are closed in your house when you strip down to your birthday suit.

So here is your dilemma.  You really desire to get bigger, but you're afraid of gaining fat and getting soft.  It's understandable.  Especially if you started lifting because of the ladies.  Ladies don't care about bench presses.  They care about that v-taper and well defined shoulders and back, but not if you're 165 pounds.

You too have good news and bad news.

The good news is, you just need to get your bodyfat checked and make sure you set an upper limit on how far you're willing to let yourself slop out.  Generally, as we went over in the previous section, that's around 15%.  If you're even more subconscious then set your ceiling at 12%.

The bad news is.......well, there is no bad news really.  You're in a good spot for more growth.  Again, read the article on nutrient timing, dial in your macros, and set aside 8-12 weeks of training just to grow.  Follow the big-15 guidelines for attaining rep PR's and boom.....a bigger and better you.

This kind of skinny with abs is completely acceptable 

#3 I want to get bigger and stronger and get ripped, bruh!  

You can't do that.  All of those things go against each other to varying degrees.

Bigger and ripped?  Well one requires a calorie surplus, and the other a calorie deficit.  There, that's all that needs to be said about that.

Getting bigger and stronger can both be done, however the truth is if you truly just concentrate on one or the other it will work much better.  Yeah if you get bigger it means you had to start moving heavier weights, but generally you did so with a lot of reps.  And while that while give you a bigger 1RM, there is a better way to train for pure strength than chasing rep PR's.

Fact is, training in the lowest of the rep ranges tends to cause a bit of a loss in hypertrophy for most guys.  Yes, a LOSS.  Don't believe me?  Keep everything the same, and go from doing sets of 8-15 on everything for a few months, to sets of 3-5 for a few months, and see if your body composition doesn't change quite a bit.  You'll be less full, and look far less muscular.  I mean, there's a reason why bodybuilders train with more reps.  It works for size far better than lower rep work.  So decide which one is most important and chase that dragon.  Not multiple ones.

The simple answer to all!

The most simple answer I give to everyone I talk to or coach is this.....pick the most important goal that you have, and go after that with everything inside of you.  Let everything else go.  I mean everything.  No matter how much you want to hang onto even a modicum of it.

Not even an inkling can stay if you truly desire and froth at the mouth over attaining something else.  Put that goal in your line of sight, and fire everything you have at it.  That means not worrying about the shit on your left, or on your right.  Right down the middle, staring at that one thing.  And that ONE THING has to come center stage and be left up there all alone like the winning beauty contestant if that's what you want.  She can't share the stage with Fat Sally and Bulimic Betty. She has to be in the spotlight, with nothing else around her so she can fully shine.  That's how you need to see this goal in your mind.

Stop trying to ride the fence.  Stop trying to ride two horses with one ass.

And lastly, stop making excuses.  You can't control the hand you've been dealt but you can control how you play your cards.

The only way to obtain that beauty queen that you want so badly is to pour yourself into obtaining her with everything at your disposal.  So game her up like it's your last ride.  So make a plan to prioritize things, and eventually you'll be big, strong, ripped, and awesome.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Nutrient Timing - Q&A with Dr. Israetel

I've already introduced Dr. Michael Israetel before.  I poked and prodded him when I was writing the piece on the "every other diet" about clean and dirty foods.

After I was done poking him, I asked him if would be interested in doing a longer Q&A on nutrient timing because that was the thing most people seemed interested in after that article.

After toweling off, he said he would be more than happy to do a Q&A with me on this topic.

So here we go................

Paul Carter:  Mike,  one of the most common questions that arose from our little mini-conversation on clean vs dirty foods was that about nutrient timing.  Can you tell me when you use that term, exactly what it is you're talking about?

Michael Israetel:  Nutrient timing, at its most basic level, describes not the WHAT of the food you eat, but the WHEN. There are two distinct  areas of focus in nutrient timing. The first is meal frequency, or put simply, how many times per day/night you eat. The second focus is on timing food intake to activity, which asks the question of whether food intake must change with respect to training times and times of rest.

Paul Carter:  Cool.  So tell me the basics of nutrient timing.  For example, is it better to eat breakfast or not aeat breakfast?  This has been debated a lot the last couple of years.  For a while there was a trend saying NOT to eat breakfast because it short circuited the fat burning process.  Years before that, it was "eat breakfast to stop catabolism".  Do you have a preference for early morning eating?

Michael Israetel:  That's a great question.  One thing I'd like to clear up is that the effects of a meal almost entirely seem to last as long as the digestion and absorption of that meal occur.
Thus, we should be weary of claims such as "eating breakfast puts you in a fat-burning state for the rest of the day" or "not eating breakfast puts you in a fat-burning state for the rest of the day."
The literature supporting such claims is spotty at best, and certainly not something to get carried away with in diet design.
Thus, the real question about breakfast is, what are you doing right after? If it's training in an hour or 3 hours or something like that, then breakfast has to prepare you for training.
If it's just going to work and doing computer tasks all day until your 5pm weights session, then your breakfast should be designed to address the needs of the body at rest.

But to answer the basic question, I think that any time someone tells you to skip any meal of the day, they're probably mistaken about physiological realities. When amino acids don't leach out of your GI tract, into your blood, and to your body systems after a meal, they must come from SOMEWHERE ELSE, which is almost always your muscles, to a large extent.

Thus, the question is how much to eat, or what nutrients, but definitely not whether to eat at all. The answer to the latter question is YES.

Paul Carter:  So basically you just removed all the confusing aspects of eating breakfast because for a while there were diet gurus that said eating breakfast was bad.  So the trend for a lot of people became not to eat breakfast.

Michael Israetel:  If you're not eating breakfast, you're going to be risking muscle loss. And breakfast is a bit special in this regard because you're almost guaranteed to have no incoming nutrient, as the long fast of nighttime has not allowed for the ingestion of nutrients. If you skip any other meal, some of that time will still be covered by the meal before. But unless you wake up in the middle of the night to eat, breakfast is the worst time to try this.

Paul Carter:  Alright so, what about that whole fear of spiking your insulin early in the morning and how that will make you tired and sleepy and fat?

Michael Israetel:  Spiking your insulin at any time can do that, which is why large volumes of high GI foods need to be saved mostly for during and post-workout times, when muscle uptake rates of nutrients are higher and fat gain probability is lower.
Thus, if your job is to do computer work, breakfast should be low in carbs, and the carbs should be very low GI if consumed.

Paul Carter:  So basically, keep insulin under control all day,  UNTIL........

Michael Israetel:  Until the workout and post-workout window.

Paul Carter:  What magic happens there?

Michael Israetel:  Elevating insulin during and especially after the workout has extensive benefits. Higher GI carbs, when consumed during and after training spike insulin. Via insulin and the actual presence of those carbs, a number of positives result, including:
1.) Reduced risk of catabolism intra and post workout
2.) Higher energy levels during the workout, especially at the end.
3.) Faster and more complete replenishment of glycogen, which both gives you energy for the next training session and itself activates anabolic processes.
4.) Direct activation of anabolic processes which last days afterwards.
All of these effects as maximized when carbs are paired with a fast-digesting protein, such as whey.

Paul Carter:  So what do you recommend to drink during training?

Michael Israetel:  Gatorade and whey protein with plenty of water.

Paul Carter:  Will how much vary on the size and energy being expended by the athlete?  Yes, it's a "duh" question but give me some guidelines here on what you might recommend.
So we don't have to run through every size, what might a guy that's 175 might need compared to a guy that's 240?

Michael Israetel:  The protein intake is based on bodyweight (lean bodyweight, actually).
So we take your daily intake (1g per lb or so) and divide it evenly into meals, thus if you weigh 250 and eat 5 meals per day, your shake might have 50g protein.

Paul Carter:  So as we talked about before, your nutrient timing plays into the IIFYM model.

Michael Israetel :  Carbs are based off of protein intake as well as volume of training.
Low Volume (deload): 1-1
Moderate Volume (3x5s): 1-2
High Volume (4x10s): 1-3
Very High Volume (lots of moves at 5x10): 1-4
So a high volume workout for our lean 250lb guy would be a shake with 50g whey and 150g gatorade powder, mixed with plenty of water
And yes, macros are more important, but once you have those dialed in, timing plays a role as well.

Paul Carter:  Ok so what about post workout?  We hear about the post workout window and taking advantage of it.  Do you believe in this theory and if so, why?  If not, why not?

Michael Israetel:  Absolutely. The literature is convincing.
Same recommendations for post-workout as intra.
Truth be told, your should be sipping your intra shake after your workout, finish that in a couple of minutes, and transition into your PWO meal rather soon.

Paul Carter:  How soon is soon?

Michael Israetel:  "How soon is soon:" Well, you want that ratio of protein and carbs to be consumed in such a manner as maximizes uptake speed post training.
The trade off is, if you eat TOO much, TOO soon, you'll slow down absorption rates.
Without getting too complicated, after you finish your intra/post shake, you should start eating your next meal (or shake) within 20-40 minutes after your workout is over
If you just slam it all after, you bloat up, and absorption could be hampered.
If you wait too long, the muscles lose sensitivity to glucose and amino acid uptake and you miss part of the window.
So I'd say about 30 min post is a good idea for most situations.
And drink plenty of fluids, as that many carbs will just sit in your GI tract if you don't properly dilute them. That's not usually a problem, as people tend to get pretty thirsty from 100g of carbs in sugary cereal!

Paul Carter:  Ok so how long do you believe this "anabolic window" lasts after training?

Michael Israetel:  About 6 hours seems to be the best approximation with lower volume workouts having a shorter workout window and higher volume ones up to 6 hours.

Paul Carter:  So how would one eat after the post workout meal in order to take advantage of this window?

Michael Israetel:  After the PWO meal, you continue to eat carbs in every meal, but as you go meal-to-meal, there are three distinct changes that occur.
1.) Your carb content per meal decreases with each meal as you leave the workout window. As insulin sensitivity drops over the 6 hours, so does carb intake.
2.) Your carb GI should drop as well as you leave the window, from high GI right after workout, to lower and lower GI with each meal. It has been shown that high GI carbs promote positive changes in body composition post-workout, but negative body comp at other times of the day.
3.) Fats will also increase from minimal consumption post workout to higher levels afterwards, as fats lower the GI of any carbs they are eaten with.

Paul Carter:  Ok so to back up a bit, since I feel like we have that covered, do you believe that there should also be certain guidelines most people follow in terms of what and when they eat BEFORE training?

Michael Israetel:  Absolutely.  before training, it's important to have a meal that sets you up for a productive training session. It must provide enough energy for blood glucose levels to be adequate to stave off neural fatigue, and it might also have some carbs in it to top off glycogen stores. The meal must be timed right so as to be digested in the stomach and leaching out into the blood by the time training starts, so the fat and fiber levels of the meal must be modulated.

Paul Carter:  So what's your recommended timing for this team and what might it look like?

Michael Israetel:  For example, if you're training in 40 minutes, some sugary cereal and whey protein will accomlish the deposition of nutrients into the blood on time.
But if you're eating 3 hours before training, some brown rice and PB with steak could do the trick, since you'll need to nutrients later.

Paul Carter:  So the timing before training will dictate the type of food you need to eat.

Michael Israetel:  Correct.  A big mistake is if you violate those recommendations. Eat cereal 3 hours before training and you're hungry, hypoglycemic, and out of energy by the time training comes.
Eat a burrito 30 min before squatting and you'll see that burrito on the floor by your third set, largely unchanged.

Paul Carter:  I don't wanna see that.

Michael Israetel:  Hahha.  Indeed.

Paul Carter:  So to recap, the basic foundations are.....

But the basic foundations are:
1.) Multiple protein meals through the day.
2.) Carbs pre-during-and tapered after workouts.
3.) High GI carbs in the workout and close to it, Lower GI at other times.
4.) Lower or no fats in workout window, fats outside of it based on filling in calories that your proteins and carbs did not fill.

Paul Carter:  Ok so even if a guy is trying to lose fat, should be take in all these carbs?  I mean, I hear over and over again that carbs just make you fat.  Like you eat carbs, fat just magically pours onto your body.  What if a dude is trying to get really fucking lean.  Still eat the carbs around this window?

Michael Israetel:  Carbs in the workout window lead to muscle gain and retention, and more fat loss, in fact
thus, when cutting calories from your daily diet, workout window carbs should be some of the last nutrients to get cut.  Carbs not in the workout window should be cut first.  Eventually when fats and carbs are cut VERY low, workout window carbs need to be cut as well to reduce calories further but that's certainly not what to do first.

Paul Carter:  And on the flip side, what about training for long periods in a carb depleted state?  Like people who do keto diets.  I always felt like this was a very counter productive way to train and create an anabolic environment.  Is my intuition about that backed by anything from a research point of view?

Michael Israetel:  It's absolutely correct.

Paul Carter:  Go on.......

Michael Israetel:  Glycogen is the best fuel source for high-intensity activity, hands down, so going low in glycogen for long periods of time is ill-advised. Additionally, carbs in the workout window have such beneficial effects for muscle retention on a diet that it would be a bad idea to get rid of them for the same reason.

Paul Carter:  I think the key words there are "for long periods at a time".  Maybe some people can do keto for a 8-12 week span, and not notice detrimental effects, but the majority of people are probably going to suffer if they go keto or ultra low carb for too long.  In terms of trying to build lean tissue.  Is that about right?

Michael Israetel:  I think so.  But I think maybe it's not a good idea to go into keto for even that long.

Paul Carter:  Why not?

Michael Israetel:  Unnecessary risk of muscle loss from taking out all carbs.

Paul Carter:  I read a study that showed where some people on a no carb/keto style diet actually gained some muscle over a 4 week span, however IMO that's such a short period that there's not a lot to derive from that other than over 4 weeks you don't have a ton to worry about.

Michael Israetel:  It's likely because they had so much more protein than usual and of course a single study will often have a variety of interesting conclusions.
If we look at all the studies taken together, there is a clear advantage to carb intake in relation to body composition.

Paul Carter:  I would agree.  I mean, all the bodybuilders in the 80's and 90's got shredded with high carb diets.  So I'm not sure why the carb a phobic crowd showed up one day with their thong in a knot over carbs.  At the end of the day, it's really about calories in vs out in terms of fat loss, is it not?

Michael Israetel:  Yep, I think because cutting carbs is a very good way to cut fat, people took it very far. But they took it overboard, where they ate too few carbs (keto) and were now losing a bunch of muscle too.
And yes, calorie balance is the first ingredient.

Paul Carter:  Ok so is there anything missing here?  What about the last meal of the day.  Anything special going on there?  You know, slow release protein to avoid catabolism, etc?  Anything you like to do there?

Michael Israetel:  Absolutely.  The last meal of the day presents us with a particular set of circumstances
because our muscles still need aminos through the night, but energy expenditure during sleep is similar to what it is at rest (low).
So it's probably best to consume a slow-digesting protein but low or no carbs should be consumed as energy expenditure is low and possible high fats, because they will delay protein absorption and allow the aminos to be present for even longer casein and PB is a good choice there.  And lastly, likely a slow digesting protein with low carbs at night and that's the meat and potatoes of it!

Paul Carter:  Mike what role do fats play in all of this nutrient timing ?

Michael Israetel:  Fats have 3 very related effects on digestion and absorption:

1.) They delay the absorption of ALL nutrients eaten with them.
2.) They slow down the rate at which nutrients are absorbed once they do start absorbing.
3.) They lower the GI of any carb they are taken with.
These factors must be taken into consideration when planning your meals.
For example:
If you have a workout coming up in 30 minutes, DON'T EAT 60g of fat with your pre-workout meal!!!
I did that once when I had the opportunity to train at the Elite compound with Dave Tate and a couple of other guy.  We had a nice big meal at a restaurant... then we got up, and they were like "time to train!"

I had leg day....

Paul Carter:   I bet.  So obviously that also means post workout you need to avoid fats until the meal close to bedtime, where you'd want the nutrients to be absorbed at a slower rate.

Michael Israetel:  YEP, Exactly.  Another good time would be if you know you can't eat for a while
Say you'll be with family at the park or lake and they are normal people, so not eating for 5-6 hours is fine by them.  Instead of inconveniencing yourself with a cooler and meals just eat 80g of protein and 60g of fat before the trip, and you have a slow and steady release of aminos into the blood the whole time!

Paul Carter:  That's great because I don't know what is more annoying than to see those people who can't go anywhere without packing a cooler of food around.

Michael Israetel:  Yep.  And this is where the IIFYM people and IF people have a point.  No, you don't need to eat every 2 hours.  But if you're going a long time without food, you need to make sure you "pack it" in your GI tract!

Paul Carter:  Great point.

Michael Israetel:  Swallowing A heroin baloon with casein protein works too.

Paul Carter:  I see.  Ok so what about protein?  Tell me your thoughts on protein in this equation.

Michael Israetel:  The protein should be the appropriate one for the occasion if you want aminos in the blood asap, you must use a fast digesting source if you want a meal replacement, a medium-digesting source
if you want a large anti-catabolic window, a slow digesting source must be consumed it's just about that simple.
In that order

Paul Carter:  Back to fats real quick, what are your recommended sources there?

Michael Israetel:  Paul, that is a very good question.  I'm actually going to be writing a very angry article about this soon.
It has become fashionable of late to say that saturated fats don't cause heart disease
that they have been mislabeled as bad, etc..
No less than 9 massive comprehensive reviews of the literature have concluded that sat fats are worse for your cardiac long term health than other fats particularly monounsaturated fats.
2 literature reviews of the same magnitude found insignificant differences.
So you tell me, Paul, as an intelligent non-scientist which side you gonna bet on? 9 or 2?

Paul Carter:   Of course the 9.  Well if you remember for decades doctors and nutritionists said that saturated fats were bad.  Then you had all these keto diets show up and basically say "it's ok to eat shit fats because your body will use it all the same".  But that never made sense to me.  For example, the god damn bacon rage.  Because bacon is a dog shit food, and I don't understand how somehow can justify eating pounds of it.

Michael Israetel:  hahahahah Exactly.
So healthy fats need to be comprised mostly of monounsaturated fats, some poly and few (but some) sat fats
you can have bacon on occasion.
But most fats should come from sources like avocado, olive and canola oils, and nuts/nut butters

Paul Carter:  And what fats and foods should really be avoided here?

Michael Israetel:  Foods with trans fats are a no-no like fast food, store-bought baked goods, etc
often have trans fats.  They are the worst type of fat, as they're pretty close to just being mild toxins.

Please help stop bacon retardation 

Paul Carter:  Yet I see tons of powerlifters listing these types of foods as their "staples" all the time.

Michael Israetel:  Paul it's so easy.  How great would it be if eating burgers and shakes was healthy?
It's so much more fun to eat that than PB and brown rice!  But PLers are notorious for ignoring their long-term health to get "jacked now" and that's a fine choice, it just sucks if they are ill-informed and think its not actually bad for their health to eat a pound of bacon.

Paul Carter:  But from a peformance standpoint, I also lift better and feel better when I'm NOT eating that shit.

Michael Israetel:  100% me too.  Some people, I have no idea how they can eat like they do and still want to MOVE, let alone lift.

Paul Carter:  Exactly.  Eventually when I overdo it on shit foods I become very lethargic and feel like shit.

Michael Israetel:  Without a doubt.

Paul Carter:  Mike I feel pretty good about this.  I want to thank you for all of your time with this.  It's very much appreciated.

Michael Israetel:  My pleasure.

You can find Mike on Facebook at the Renaissance Periodization page..

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Training - Bench and assistance

Bodyweight - 265

Bench -

bar x 40,30

135x15, 12

405 x 4.5

315 x 5 sets of 8

Hammer Pulldowns -

1 plate x 20
2 plates x 12
3 plates x 12, 12
4 plates x 8,8

Upright Rows and Rope Pushdowns - 4 x 20 each

Notes - So this is the NEW grip I am using.  It feels quite a bit better than how close I was.  Essentially it's the same grip I use on incline so I do expect an even greater amount of carryover from incline to bench and bench to incline, etc.

I will admit the pauses on the set of 405 weren't as long as I like, but there is a slight pause.  Will work on pausing those more the next time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Training - First day back from the flu....fronts and stiffies

Bodyweight - ???

Front Squats -



405x1  God damn, so fast.

Stiff Legs -

Notes - Had the flu all last weekend and today was the first day I felt good enough to train.  I couldn't do a whole lot because I am still coughing and my lungs are not 100% so the sets of 5 made me feel like I ran hill sprints.

However it was nice that the 405 moved like this..........

Other folks getting stronger.........

Hey there

Just a quick note to let you know that I won the Open and Masters divisions of the USAPL American Open a week or so ago, 48kg, and set a new PR total and squat and DL PR.

Reason for the email is not to tell you how awesome I am (lol!) but to let you know that a lot of the progress I made in the first half of 2013 was essentially through realizing I had to do some base building to get properly strong, as the well of newbie gains was starting to run dry. I actually did one of the first "raw squat" programs you ever posted on your blog in Jan/Feb this year, it's still buried on your blog somewhere!

Anyway, I bought Base Building and am now going to be using that for the next 3 months or so, and then will do a 12 week peaking cycle for Raw Nationals in July 2014. I did BB1 for squat last night and had a blast. I love training, and actually love the off-season more than competition peaking because you can try stuff out and not feel beat up the whole time and just have fun doing the thing you love most.I think that for me, competition training can sometimes be detrimental to getting bigger and stronger all over, so I limit the number of meets I do and will only be doing the big ones next year.

According to PL watch I made the Top 10 all time total for 105 raw (actually raw, no wraps).

So, here's to bigger and better and stronger things for us all in 2014!

Best, Jo


From a client I have worked with the last 12 weeks.........

I hired Paul initially with the goal of improving my squat, deadlift, and incline press. I felt like my training had stalled, and I had been unable to break out the rut on my own. Having never worked with a personal trainer of any sort I had no idea what was in store for the next three months. I also had no idea just how bad my form was on squat and deadlift. 

 Paul was very straightforward about the mechanics that I needed to fix, and patient while I worked my way through implementing them. When it was all said and done, I PR'd all three lifts, and finally reached my personal goal of pulling 500. Paul was an excellent teacher, and I hope I have an opportunity to work with him again in the future. -- Steven Todd

Steven sort of downplays his own accomplishments here.  He also hit a 20 pound PR on incline press at 225.

A couple of notes about Steven's training progression and PR's.

He hit a 245 pound incline press.  He spent the majority of the 3 months doing sets with anywhere from 155 to 185.  

He pulled 500.  He spent the majority of the three months pulling between 295 and 365.  Only the last few weeks did we bump his pulls, and they flew.  

Listen, if you have been stuck or frustrated about training progress for a while now, do yourself a favor and pick up Base Building.  Implement it for your offseason training, be patient, and reap the rewards that will come with it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shotgunning the 350 method with Base Building

Everyone knows what calling "shotgun!" means.  It means you get the co-pilot seat.  You're not driving, but if the driver dies, you have some responsibility.  That's what Norm McDonald said about riding in the front passenger seat anyway.

The same can be applied to how to use the 350 method with your assistance work to support your main movements.  Use it as a nice compliment to keep the main work company, and also as a way to keep your assistance work in check yet keep you focused on hitting some PR's.

By keeping assistance work in check I mean, far too many guys make their assistance work the main dish rather than the co-pilot.  It should be in place to help you grow larger, and help the main movement in some way, shape, or form.

I have found that the 350 method does this perfectly.

What is the 350 method?  

I can't believe how many times I've had to explain this method to people.  To me it seems very simple, yet I still get a ton of questions about it, or someone doesn't understand it when I explain it.

You pick a weight, and do three sets with it.  Over those three sets, you try to get 50 total reps.

For example......

For incline press I did 275x20, 9, 8 = 37 total reps

That means I'm 13 reps short of the goal of 50.

Seems simple right?

I thought so too.  Yet I still get a ton of questions about how to use this method, or someone mentions how they did it, and it was all wrong.

This is not difficult.

3 sets
50 total reps over the three sets
Use the same weight for all three sets
Rest only 2-3 minutes between sets MAX

There's literally nothing else to explain.  This isn't quantum physics.

Building bodyparts with the 350 method - 

For the most part, I've used the 350 method for incline press as the main assistance work.  And this has worked VERY well.  Not only for myself, but pretty much every client I've had use it.

Since it has worked so well for pressing, I thought it was finally time to start implementing it into other movements, or at least brainstorm what movements it would indeed work well with.

Since I prefer the 350 method as an offseason staple, let's use it like a bodybuilding method and talk about it in terms of bodyparts, and not "movements" at first.

Shoulders - 

If you have a military press day, which seems to be really popular now and I don't know why, as I hate the fucking movement like John Wayne Gacy hated young boys having oxygen, the best way to implement the 350 method would be to follow up your standing press with either seated db press, or side laterals.

Standing Press - whatever it is you do
Seated Db Press - 350 method

next session -

Standing Press - more shit
Side Laterals - 350 method

Triceps - 

If you don't bench close grip then using the close grip bench with the 350 method would be a great idea.

The other movement you could do would be dips.  Although little guys always brag on their dipping strength because they weight sub-200 pounds and can do a million.  But let's keep things in perspective for everyone here, because even I can do 50 dips myself nonstop at 270 pounds.

Add some weight.  Doesn't have to be much, but adding a 45 pound plate to almost anyone will cut the reps down significantly.

If your elbows are beat up I have found that one of those dip machines, for whatever reason, seem to bother me a little less than real dips.  I also love overhead rope extensions as well.  Nothing actually gets my triceps more sore than those do.

Bench - Base Building Method I,II,III
Pressing Movement 2
Pulling Movement I
Pick one:  Dips/Machine Dips/Close Grip Bench/Overhead Tricep Rope Extensions - 350 method

Biceps - 

This will be the shortest installment.

Pick a curl.  Do the 350 method.

Chest - 

There is some overlap here with triceps.  By that I mean, I generally like to do my tricep work the same day I press.  And if you're doing dips or close grip bench with the 350 method then your chest is getting worked.  However, if your chest REALLY lags, I have a better solution than that. chest.

A lot of guys chests lag behind because they have really strong shoulders and/or triceps.  So when they press, those bodyparts do the bulk or the prime moving, and the chest sort of just hangs around and helps out the best it can.

Now if the chest can be brought up to match the strength of the triceps and delts, that lifters pressing will indeed go up (granted the movement still has to be trained...this isn't magical).

So let's use movements that actually target the chest a little better, than just pressing.  Some of these movements would be the dumbbell flye, pec deck machine, cable cross over, and the wide grip incline press.

If the chest was going to be emphasized in the workout using the 350 method, here's how we could structure that.

Bench - Base Building Method I,II, III
Wide Grip Incline Press - 350 method
Flat Db Flye/Pec Deck/Cable Cross-Over - 350 method

For chest, I really do prefer two movements because I have found, for whatever reason, that the chest really likes a lot of extra work.  Maybe it's because it just sits there on top of your sternum all day doing very little and needs more attention, but the chesticles seem to respond well to a lot of extra work.

Back - 

Implementing back work with the 350 method would best be served by understanding movements and how they impact the musculature back there.

To keep it simple, we will divide it into two patterns.  Vertical movements, and horizontal movements.

Or to go with bodybuilder speak, basically you have pulldowns or chins, and then rows.  Pulldowns and chins tends to  primarily work the lats, while rows tend to work the rhomboids, traps, and midback.

My opinion is that back should get a lot of extra work, so there's no reason to not get 3 back sessions in every 10 days or so.  One of those should have a deadlift in it.  So over the span of those three workouts we could situate the work like so....

Workout 1 -
Deadlifts - Base Building Method I,II,III
Barbell Rows - 350 method
Shrugs - 4x20

Workout 2 -
Chins - 50 total reps
Lat Pulldowns - 350 method
Shrugs - 4x20

Workout 3 -
T-Bar rows - 350 method
Db Rows - 1x30
Shrugs - 4x20

Legs - 

For legs obviously I would prefer the 350 method come after a squat, or front squat.  All depending on what the lifter needed, the 350 method could be applied to focus on quads or hamstrings.  Since we can simply rotate between a squat and a front squat workout, why not just address both?

Day 1 - Quad centric
Squats - Base Building Method I,II,III
Leg Press - 350 method
Leg Extension - 350 method

Day 2 - Hamstring centric
Front Squats - Base Building Method I,II,III
High Foot Wide Sumo Leg Press - 350 method
Leg Curls (seated or standing) - 350 method

The sumo leg press is where you place your feet as high and as wide on the leg press as you can.  This was a staple hamstring movement by DoggCrapp and the people that followed his methods.  I can tell you that it does indeed work very well.

Selecting weights - 

It would be dismissive of me to not include a section on what weights to select.  Or namely, how to understand what weights to select.

Obviously, you are going to want to start light.  For example I have a max incline press of around 440-445 pounds.  I am using 275 as my base weight for the 350 method right now, and still a little ways away from hitting the goal of 50 reps with that.   So that's about 62% of my max.

My suggestion would be to start at 50% of your max and go from there.  I started with 225 on incline, and did that for a while before I shredded the 50 reps.  I took a little time off from the 350 before I started back, and immediately went to 275 even though 245 may have been a better choice.  My reason for this is because I want to be a little more challenged and also to have a weight I can stick with a little longer.

I will say this, if you can't hit 18 reps on your first set, you're probably way too heavy.  I can do 315x14 on incline but I'm WAAAY off of using that for my 350 method.  WAY off.  So you get the point there.  I would use 18 reps for set 1 as the bare minimum in terms of a starting point.

Closing - 

There are TONS of variations to use the 350 method with so this article is by no means the final word on doing so.  Try some of your own favorite movements with it and see how it feels.  Make sure once you do decide to use it, stick with it for a while.  Much like the 100 rep work I promoted in the past, this has REAL merit in terms of mass but also appears to have a very nice carryover into your base work as well.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Just get stronger

Lately, for some reason unbeknownst to myself or anyone that knows me, I've spent time reading more in depth analysis about movements and motor patterns and studies that show what is better or worse, etc.  My whole sentence there is more ambiguous than Sphinx's double meaning musings to the heroes in Mystery Men.  But I believe most people will understand what I am getting at.

Some of these studies are insightful and come away very appreciative of them, and the knowledge I gained from them.  Especially when the author or person behind it has a level or degree of strength I can respect.  This tells me that he or she not only understand theory, but application.  And the latter is probably far important than the former.  Mainly because lots of people understand theory or the science of something but don't really understand how to apply it in a functional way.

MMA is a great example of this.

Lots of great teachers can teach a fighter something, but what makes that fighter great is his ability to apply that at a high level in the ring.  The teacher has the knowledge, but the fighter is the one that can apply it either in a more superior way, or in a way that is more efficient/devastating than the instructor can.

With that said, I think in strength sports I have always believed that if someone is a "coach" there still has to be a point where the clinical research starts, and the ability to show or demonstrate an appreciable level of strength has been earned, i.e. applied.

This is one of the reasons I don't engage in a lot of conversation online anymore or participate on message boards about training.  Because I see so many guys that argue incessantly about what is good or bad, what is wrong or right, what is transferable or not, and then not enough time in the gym figuring these things out for themselves.

I can't really "know" what combat feels like, no matter how many times I read stories about it.  It is something that one would have to experience I imagine, in order to be able to really know and understand what a writer is trying to convey when penning about such a thing.

You can argue about benching or squatting or deadlifting until the cows come home, but at some point you need to worry about doing more work, getting more weight on the bar, moving weights with more violence and conviction, and not giving a fuck about every nuance in regards to the lift.

Maybe it's just me but I see so much of this now, where guys just debate and debate and debate on whether something is good or bad, or what exact technique is correct, without ever actually having spent time experiencing those things first hand.  A study or a textbook isn't going to tell you everything you need to know in terms of what is truly best....FOR YOU.  You will need to determine that through pain and suffering under the bar.  A joyous occasion it will not always be.  Nor is it supposed to.  However it is part of the process of learning and earning in terms of bar discipline.

I get tons of questions a week.  And so many guys that send me questions want to know what will work best.  The fact is, I can't tell you.  You have to be in the gym, with a yearning in your heart and desire in your unbridled want to, to get better and not spend all day punching yourself in your testes because you don't know if you should tuck your elbows too much on bench, or sit back too far on squats.

This is exactly why Base Building is such a great program in my opinion.  I have been in the process of changing my grip on bench, from very close, to moderately close.  Like any time that you change a technique in a movement, it feels like shit at first.  But when you're using 75% of your EDM, and doing a lot of volume with it, it gives you a chance to learn the feel of it, without wondering all day or debating on what you should be doing different.  I can change those things set to set, until I find each sweet spot for the movement.

I understand and appreciate the need for study and science and all of that jazz related to lifting.  But eventually you are going to have to close the laptop, and put the textbook aside.  Apply chalk and blood to your resume and get a tremendous amount of work done without asking someone's permission if what you are doing is acceptable, and just get stronger.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Training - Press and Back Work

Bodyweight - 268

Seated PBN -


Lat Pulldowns (wide) - up to stack 2 x 6
V-Grip Pulldowns - stack 2 x 8

Notes - The 315 x 3 PBN was something I've done before but not this easy, so definitely another way of "measuring" a PR.  I think I could have eeked out 4 if I had wanted but I like to save one in the tank.

The "every other" diet and the "clean" vs "dirty" food debate

Back when I was conversing on a regular basis with Kirk Karwoski we talked extensively about his training and eating during his competitive years.

When I asked him how he ate in order to get into the lean condition he did for his AAU raw meet back in 94 he told me something very interesting.

"I did the "every other" diet." he said.

"The every other diet?" I asked, befuddled.

"Yeah, so I would eat something clean one meal, then something you know, not so clean the next meal.  Then something clean, etc."

"And that's got you that lean?" I said.  Kirk competed that year in the 242 class looking the best he ever had.

"Yeah" he said.  "Well, you have to remember at the time, I was working a very physically active job.  When I ate clean every meal I lost too much weight.  When I ate clean and then threw in some extra calories to cover my physical needs, it seemed to work out just right."

Kirk knows a thing or two about training and eating

I've been meaning to write about this "diet" for some time because I thought it was so interesting.

Kirk, regardless of how crazy he is (and he's crazy as fuck, trust me), was and is really smart about these kinds of things.  You know, diet, training, managing all the facets involved in what made him great (besides being born a mutant).

Kirk's "plan" was nothing more than energy in vs energy out.  Nevermind that people will tell you that not all calories are the same and blah blah blah.  Kirk lost too much weight when he ate clean.  So he added more calories back in via "dirtier" foods and presto magic, he leaned out at just the right pace, yet still had enough energy to train and get stronger.

When I went to write it, however, the words that Kirk used kept ringing in my ears.

"Clean one meal, dirty the next".

Clean vs Dirty - Shitting on diet gurus until the cows come home 

Before I could write this out, I had to address this whole "clean" and "dirty" foods business because well, I've seen several well known diet "gurus" say "there is no such thing as clean or dirty foods".

O Rly?  That's where we are at now?

That we're either too fucking stupid or too paralyzed by information to draw some very simple lines as to what clean and dirty foods are?

We don't know what "junk food" is anymore?

Can tell you what junk food is, while diet guru cannot

I mean, the common god damn house wife with a couple of ankle biters can tell you what junk food is, but Mr. Diet Guru can't?  Well what good are you then?

If you can't even discern between what is a healthy (clean) food, and what is junk (dirty) food, how smart are you really?  You're really not.  You're just a mental masturbation specialist that fancies himself smarter than he really is.  And that's it.

There are eleventy billion diet guru's out there debating on what the fuck "clean" and "dirty" foods are.  Last week I even read from one certified assclown about how you shouldn't eat fruit (really?  we're at a point where fruit is up for god damn debate?) or drink milk, or how wheat poisons you.


I know every time I am served a fucking bowl of Oatmeal at a place, I sneer at the waitress and wonder why the fuck she would bring me a bowl of hot death.  My guess is, it wasn't bubonic plague that wiped out most of Europe in the middle was mother fuckin porridge!

The real "black death"

If you are a dietary mental masturbator when it comes to diet shit and have no idea what is true or not, please do yourself a favor and look up my guy Michael Israetel at Renaissance Periodization (that's a link to click BTW).

Dr. Michael Israetel has a PhD in Sport Physiology, and has taught graduate sports nutrition and been the head sport nutrition consultant to the ETSU Olympic Training Site.

Dr. Israetel would define DIRTY foods as.......

"Dirty" foods are those which contain: 1.) very high quantities of unhealthy fats (many animal products such as bacon, sausage, etc...), which are both seemingly bad for health and bad for adiposity (fat stores).

2.) Very high amounts of highly glycemic, processed carbs, which spike insulin and also lead to poor health and body composition outcomes. Eating these in the workout window promotes muscle growth. Eating them outside of it likely promotes fat deposition. Examples: poptarts, full-sugar sodas, fruit juices, white breads...

3.) Foods which COMBINE high levels of unhealthy (vs. healty) saturated fats and glycemic carbs. Examples: almost ALL known "cheat foods" (cheesecake, pizza, cheeseburgers, shakes, fries...)

4.) Foods that contain trans-fats (fast foods and some store-bought baked goods), which cause muscle loss and fat growth, and are very bad for health.

Eating lots of these foods has been shown, repeatedly, to be slightly worse for health and body comp than eating the same calories in mostly clean foods (low GI carbs like whole grains, healthy fats like nut butters, lean proteins...). The difference (once calories are equated) is not MASSIVE, but it's meaningful, ESPECIALLY for competitive athletes. Your mom can have a piece of cheesecake and be ok, but if you want to look your best onstage, you should probably abstain.

So to all of you who say "who is to say what's clean and what is dirty?" that is a big fuck you, to you.  At least in regards as how to define what "dirty" can be.

Where the confusion comes in, it appears, is when someone tries to define what "clean" means.  Someone will say anything processed at all isn't "clean".  Or that anything with oats or wheat isn't "clean" (I'm still having trouble getting my head around that).

So again, I'll defer back to Mr. PhD so he can shed some light on what he believes "clean" foods are........

I would say that clean foods are ones that contain low glycemic carbs, more fiber, and low (or zero) levels of saturated fats and trans fats. So... the OPPOSITE of dirty foods. 

And just to reiterate, this is a MINOR point... whether or not you eat dirty or clean is not a huge deal, as long as you calories, macros, and timing are in order. BUT if you're looking for that last 5% of difference, it pays to watch your food composition as well... so I have no problem with regular people eating junk on occasion, but I really wonder when people do "flexible dieting" for a BBing contest.  

So what you're saying Mike is, IIFYM is fine for people who want to look good naked, but if you're really looking to get to that next level of lean then you're going to have to do more eat an IIFYM diet?

Correct. Now, IIFYM also misses nutrient timing, which is even more important than "clean" vs. "dirty."

Tell me more my friend..........

Cause IIFYM doesn't really make allowances for timing. BUT this will be debated by some people who follow IIFYM because they themselves DO incorporate timing, but other IIFYM people don't.

So what you're saying is, if you follow the IIFYM protocol then it really behooves you to also include nutrient timing into the macros as well?


So would you say it's fair to say that a diet consisting mainly of what you described as "clean" foods would not only have a better effect on overall body composition, but just overall health as well?

Absolutely. The evidence on that is quite clear.

Then why is it that what foods are "clean" is so heavily debated by the diet community and so many dietary gurus?  I mean I've read a million times that oatmeal and wheat and such are terrible fucking foods. Please explain this to me.

Wheat is usually a gluten issue which only a couple percent of the population has an issue with, so that opinion is mostly dogshit. IF your calories are low enough, and your protein needs are being met, THEN you are already doing the two biggest things possible to get lean. where they go wrong is saying that there is NO benefit to timing and glycemic index, etc as opposed to just a smaller benefit than some bodybuilders think.

For example I had a student ask me what's wrong with her bbing diet and why she's not losing weight fast enough. Turns out she was eating ALL clean foods but like 2x what she needed to lose fat!!! So she thought eating clean was some magical thing, but she forgot that calories are even more important much more.

So what you're saying is, the IIFYM crowd has really shed light on some of the most important parts of a sound dieting strategy, but like most diet ideas they got a bit silly with it and lost sight of some very important factors in rounding it all out?

Yes, especially for serious, competitive athletes.

So in closing........IIFYM is good, but needs to built more around clean foods and nutrient timing to make it great, and lastly, the people that argue there are no such things as clean and dirty foods are being fairly disingenuous.  Right?  

I think IIFYM (in the sense that you must count calories and macros) cannot be ignored. If you're trying to get big OR lean, calories and macros matter the MOST.  So ALL diets should start with IIFYM. If you're a competitor or want to take your diet to the next level, the details matter, so timing and food composition (clean vs. dirty) should become a concern as well.  For those that want the edge, IIFYM is not quite enough. 

As for people who write that there is no such thing as clean eating (such as that article on impruvism), they are either disingenuous or just haven't gone into the data deeply enough. I suspect the latter as I have no idea why anyone would do it for the former reason.

Thanks, Mike. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Training - Squats and Tugs

Bodyweight -268

Squats - high bar, no belt, 60 seconds rest

315 x 8 sets of 5

This weight feels about right for where my quad is at post injury.  I still have a LOT of pain in it coming out of the bottom.  Especially on pause squats, which I did a few of here and there during the 8 sets.

Deficit Pulls -



First set was ok, but the second set was VERY fast.  I feel good about this.  I will probably just add more volume and work on speed at this weight for a while.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Base Building: Progression and goal setting

Base Building templates are built around three factors, for the most part.

  • EDM (everyday max)
  • Volume
  • Bar Speed

Because these are the three key components, the obvious question becomes "where is progression built in?"

That's an easy question to answer.

Progression is determined by the lifter, and his understanding of those three factors.

If bar speed increases on a considerable basis over time, then it's up to that lifter to discern how much he should raise his EDM by.  Let's not lose sight of the fact that the whole point of BB is to increase your EDM, so that your BASE LEVEL, your sustainable level of strength, has increased.  This is how your offseason should be spent, unless you're trying to increase your base level of muscle mass.  Mind you, these are two entirely different training protocols, though there will be overlap with both.  BB will increase muscle mass (trust me, it happened with me), and mass building will up your base level of strength.  However each one does a specific job better than the other.

So back to progression, and how to plan for it.

Once you've established your EDM and understand what weights you will be working with for your phase, it's not entirely a bad idea to set a goal for what you would LIKE to be working with eventually.  I write "eventually" because the BB methodology is built around "slow and stead wins the race".

For example, right now I'm using BB Bench model I.  That means I'm basing my EDM bench at around 425, something I know I can do any day of the week.  So my work sets are at 315 x 5 sets of 8, all reps paused.

Now there are days (like last night) when 315 x 5 x 8 is hard, and other days where I feel like I can throw it through the roof.  My own personal focus is that even on the days where I feel like total shit, I can still hit 5 x 8 @ 315 with good speed across all 5 sets of 8.  Last night, that wasn't the case.

My goal in terms of progression is to EVENTUALLY be able to do 365 x 5 sets of 8 (all reps paused) on a GOOD DAY.  This is not a short term goal.  Just something I see up there as a place I would like to be.  My EDM at that point would obviously be significantly higher (duh, right? around 485).

Now this runs counter point to most of my points about setting small goals, and inching forward.  The reason here is because I know I will probably go into BB model II for a while, where I would be using 365 for 3 x 5, then 315 x 3 x 5, then a set with AMAP, and then BB model III before finally coming back to BB phase I

If you notice, I don't raise my EDM throughout all three of those phases.  It stays the same.  What I will do is the following........

Run phase I until I never have a day where 315 x 5 x 8 isn't easy as shit
Go into phase II, and set goals with both bar speed AND goals on the AMAP set
Go into phase III and set goals with both bar speed AND goals on the AMAP set
Go back to Phase I when I feel as though 365 x 5 sets of 8 all paused, are clearly possible

I do not have a timetable on this.  It might take a year, or two years, or three years.  The point is, that whole time I will be still be inching forward, making progress.  Rather than being greedy and trying to force things to happen, I will inch forward slowly so that I'm not sitting here saying I haven't gotten any stronger in three years.

Most guys are not going to be patient enough to understand how to make this process work for them, and that's too bad.  They spend too much time reading information about going balls out every single session with no understanding that training that way has a time and place, but will eventually find one at a point of diminishing returns.  In that regard so will EVERY form of training.  This is why in the Base Building manual, I make a point to emphasize that training must have PHASES THAT BUILD ON EACH OTHER.  One style or method of training will not help you reach all of your goals.

Get Base Building HERE 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Some early Base Building FAQs

1.  "Paul, I made it through phase "X" of the Base Building squat, in the minimum time, and it was easy.  What should I do?

A.  The first thing I have to stress is, or rather ask, is...was your speed on every set as fast as possible?  Generally people think yes, however after having worked with many dozen guys using this protocol I can tell you that I often still see slow downs from the 3rd set to the 5th-8th set.  It still feels "light" however the drop in power is evident on video.

If it is not, then I bump the EDM (every day max).  This is good.  This means progress, of course.  I recommend that you video your first, third, and last set of your work phases and watch your speed.  If there is any slow down in the transition point, then stick with that weight.  If the bar is still flying off of your back, then bump the EDM.  But always milk out a phase for as long as possible.

Lastly, this isn't about getting in X amount of work in X amount of time.  It's about doing it, and having every set look as explosive as possible.  Two factors without the third factor (power in each set) means the other two don't matter.

Work + Time + Explosiveness

That's the key.

2.  "Paul, I'm entering a fat loss stage.  Should I still run base building or something else?"

A.  Base Building works great for guys who are in the process of trying to go from lard ass to not so lard ass.  Mainly because the EDM can be adjusted as strength levels wane a bit during the acclimation process during fat loss.  Where a peaking program is based around ramping up, BB is built around sub-max intensities with speed, and a static max.  The static max can be adjusted as needed based on how your speed is doing.  You can also use the Fatigue Singles protocol to judge where your EDM is.

3.  "I have a powerlifting meet in 9 weeks.  How should I work Base Building with that?"

That's easy.  You should run the short cycle for 6 weeks (this includes the deload), so run Base Building for three weeks before that as the primer.

4.  "How do I decide what phase to use?"

My recommendation is to always start at Phase I, and milk it for all it is worth.  Once boredom or "gains" stall, you can move into Phase II or III.  But again, I emphasize that you need to understand all of the factors that go into what you are trying to accomplish here.  Becoming explosive with heavier and heavier weights.  Even though they are sub-max, you want to be able to move them with more speed over time, and then push the volume with the other phases.  So you need to ask yourself WHY you are changing phases.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Training - Lower body work

Bodyweight - 260

Front Squats -



Deadlifts (light) -

Leg Press -
3 plates per side x 20
4 plates per side x 20
5 plates per side x 20

Notes - Had the shits all weekend so I lost so weight but my stomach still looks and feels like I swallowed a fucking beach ball.

The 500 pulls will be my light speed check pulls.  These felt good tonight after fronts.

Base Building is on Kindle

Pick it up HERE. 

Picking meet attempts

One of the most simple things about powerlifting, in my opinion, is picking proper attempts on meet day.

I mean, it can't be that hard.  You just spent X amount of weeks preparing for said meet, with a cycle based around hitting doable third attempts.  So you should already know the goals for the meet, and your training cycle should have reflected that.



So often the answer to that is "uhhhhhhhhhhh........"

Training - The first place it all goes wrong

First off, you have to train within your means.  That is, your training cycle should represent nothing but success across the board, for whatever length of time it is.

Most of the time it all goes awry because a guy totals 1,850 then sets up his training cycle to go 1,950 only a few months later.  Rather than 1,875 or something more manageable.  So now the entire training cycle is based around numbers that on meet day, probably aren't really doable.

Now, the lifter has to reach not only on training day, but on meet day as well.  Missed lifts ensue, and then confidence wanes come meet day because the training cycle was never set up for success.

If you missed lifts on a fairly often basis, then how solid could your programming have been?  If you winged it, well, I guess you'll wing it on meet day too.  I don't see any other athletes "winging it" in training then showing up expecting to win.  Yet powerlifters do it all the time.

So the first short circuit by a guy in not understanding how to pick attempts properly on meet day, started in the gym.  Going too heavy too soon, missing reps, getting burnt out, and then walking into the meet feeling very unsure.  So now, the athlete isn't positive what to pick because he bases his attempts around maxes he hit in the gym.

In other words "Well I hit 500 in the gym, so I'll open at 480 and go from there."

Nevermind that 500 was a grinder and had only been hit one other time in this lifters life.  So he proceeds to open at 480, it grinds, and he goes to 510 for his second.  Which he misses of course.  Then misses it on his third as well.

This is common.  I see it at every meet.  Some guy opening with a grinder, then gets his ass kicked on his second, or then makes it but it zaps him so much he doesn't account for the fact that it will take some off of his other lifts, and then proceeds to miss most of them as well.

I've detailed how I pick attempts and how I get guys to pick attempts in Strength, Life, Legacy but I'm going to go a little more in depth in that here.

Just to get this bit of chest puffing out of the way, I have a fairly solid track record of training and picking attempts for powerlifters ranging from fairly new to elite level guys.  Most of the guys I have helped in this regard generally go at minimum 7 for 9 with several PR's.  8 for 9 and 9 for 9 are very, very common.  Not to mention that Ernie Lilliebridge Jr. tells me all the time "I don't know how you do that." in terms of picking attempts or nailing every call in terms of when someone will make a lift or miss it.  I very rarely miss.

Success fuels success - 

As an athlete I always thought that you prepared to be successful.  It wasn't until I got into powerlifting that I found out that I had been fooled all these years.

That's heavy sarcasm in case you didn't catch it.

The whole purpose of training for weeks on end, traveling, spending money, and putting forth all the effort you did in preparation for a meet should be to go 9 for 9, with 4 PR's.


That's a squat PR, a bench PR, a deadlift PR, and a total PR.  Yet I've read all sorts of fucking nonsense like "if you didn't have a miss you didn't go heavy enough."


"If you got three whites on your squat you went too low."


God damn, I've never been involved in a sport where success was so heavily frowned upon by so many.  If your training and competing is spot on, it should reflect that on the platform.

And that starts with your opener.  A great opener builds to a solid second, which sets the lifter up for a lot of confidence come that third.

This is what should be the goal on meet day.  So where do I feel most guys go wrong?

Let's start with the opener.....

The opener and clarifying - 

The opener is both the least, and most important attempt you will pick.

Your opener is least important in the way that, it should be an after thought.  It should be so easy, that it literally requires almost no psyche.  No second thoughts.  You respect the weight, but it's insignificant IN TERMS OF WEIGHT ON THE BAR.

On the flip side, it's the most important because if you do not pick your opener correctly it can really set you up for a shitty day, or of course, you can bomb out.

Your opener should be EASY.  I don't know what part of that word most people do not get.

EASY!  EASY!!!!!!!!!

Your opener should be your last warm up.  That's it.  Your LAST WARM UP.  What does a warm up feel like?  Fucking easy.

If you wanted me to be a little more specific I usually call it between 85-88% of the planned third attempt. Some guys look at me incredulously and say "really?!?!"

Yes.  That light.  Who are you trying to impress with an opener?  Seriously.  I swear to Christ that's what half, or more than half, of these asshats I see at meets are doing.  Trying to impress people with openers.

One myth I want to debunk is that "your opener should be something you can do for a triple."

What?  You want to open with something that is roughly a max triple?  That is a great piece of advice if you plan on leaving the meet that day with a shit ton of misses, or bombing out.

Most peoples three rep max will fall somewhere between 90% and 93% of their TRUE max.  And you're going to open with 90+%?

I even had a friend tell me, upon my suggestion as to what his opener should be "that's a waste of an opener".

The only wasted opener is the one you miss.

Second and third attempts - 

From a percentage standpoint your second attempt should generally fall around something in the 93% area of  your goal.

Again, if you're not being completely stupid, your second attempt should be very doable.  It should definitely require you to get "prepared" for it, however confidence should be high that you can make this lift.

Your second attempt is also the attempt that gives you an idea if the goal for the third attempt is there or not. If it grinds more than you'd like, back off a bit.  If it has good speed through the transition point, then you should be good to go for hitting that goal.

At the UPA meet a few weeks ago I picked attempts for Pete Rubish, who went 8 for 9 for his biggest total ever.  Pete fought me a little bit each time but eventually relented and told me after the meet "man, it's amazing how when you go smoke your opener, and then have a solid second, how much better than third attempt moves and feels."

Yeah man.  That's the point.

Managing fatigue - 

The other factor that people generally don't think about in regards to their second and third attempts is the accumulative fatigue that it has on the body.  A low bar squat will tax the shoulders more than you think.  If you arch hard in the bench, then the low back contracts very hard and will be more taxed than usual in the deadlift.

The meet day in general is long and boring, and fairly draining.  So you need to take into account that there will be a certain amount of fatigue involved that time in the gym doesn't really account for.  Adrenaline dumping after squats tends to take quite the toll as well.

So make sure you understand for example, that if you deadlift on a day you don't squat, then your deadlift is going to be a bit lower on meet day than it is in training.  You won't be phresh come deadlift time on meet day.

The methods I don't like - 

There are quite a few methods I see that I don't care for.  I do know that some good and even great lifters use them, however that doesn't mean they are optimal, in my opinion.

Method 1 - Picking attempts too close

I see this one a lot.  The guy will basically make the smallest jumps possible to his third.  For example....

455 - 470 - 490

This guy opened with what should have been his second, then took a second that really served no purpose (97% of your goal????  Why???)

His attempts should have looked more like.......

415/430 - 455 - 490

 Method 2 - Go for broke

I think this is my most despised method, because well, I think it's completely retarded.

"Open with something you could triple, get a small PR on the second, go for broke on your third."

This method makes my head hurt so bad I'm not sure where to start.

It's the anti-successful method.  First off, this sets you up for misses.  If you're going for broke on all of your thirds, one thing that is going to happen is you're going to grind the living shit out of them and then your next lift is going to be quite less than you anticipated (as we have covered).

Not only that, but on a down day, you're likely to miss a lot of those seconds.  Small PR's are never a given. It's why you save them for your thirds, based on how your second attempts feels.  You don't grind out an opener, then go for a PR on your second.  Even if you make that small PR, it's probably not going to be an easy lift, and now the subsequent lifts will take a bit of a dive.

Closing - 

Powerlifting is a sport where most of us spend quite a few bucks to go compete, and put in a lot of hard work and time in order to show up and be our best.  Therefore it's also important that you make solid decisions about your attempts on competition day.  You're not there to miss.  Remember that.