Results matching “bodybuilder”

stretching-for-bodybuilding-206x300.jpgI recently visited the chiropractor's office because I had lower back pain, which I thought was brought on from sitting in my office chair 8 hours a day. Well, after the chiropractor analysed what was wrong she noticed my hips were slightly misaligned, she said it could be due to a tight muscle, which was probably in my legs, boy was she right!

She said the most common area for tightness is the hamstrings, so she started stretching and massaging mine. She started with the left hamstring, which was fine, then moved to the right, at that point I almost jumped from the mat. It was so painful and she informed me it was very tight, when she asked do you stretch I said yes, of course.

What I didn't realise is that I don't stretch enough, so I decided to create this post to help others understand the importance of stretching.


Scott and I covered bulking in a gymchat a while back, but I do get quite a few questions about it so I want to touch on the topic once more.

Bulking up or eating to gain muscle mass is something anyone who has ever picked up a weight has come across. It basically means that you increase your caloric intake above maintenance in order to build huge, beautiful muscles to impress girls or whatever your goal is. Sounds easy enough but does it work?

Lee Priest in the Off Season
Lee Priest in the Off Season.
There are two approaches toward bulking; one is GFH (get fucking huge), where the lifter eats everything in sight for weeks on end, gains a substantial amount of weight, some if it muscle and then diets to lose the fat.
Lee Priest in Contest Mode
Lee Priest in Contest Mode.
The other one is the "lean bulk", where people are so obsessed with losing their abs that they count every calorie in order to only build muscle. After a year, they usually haven't gained a pound and look the same.

I am not thrilled by either approach, since they both have serious drawbacks.

The lean bulking simply doesn't work, in order to gain muscle you ll have to gain some fat with it. That doesn't mean you should resemble a sumo wrestler but you wont have an 8 pack either.

GFH works in order to gain muscle but does require 16+ weeks of diet in order to see those. For a natural bodybuilder, it is impossible to diet for that long without losing a substantial amount of muscle, which means your gains are limited. Someone who is chemically enhanced can go this route, since the anabolics will prevent catabolism during the diet. Then there are aesthetics and overall health. An extra 30 lbs simply doesn't look good nor is it a great idea for your heart, liver and joints to carry so much extra weight. I have tried the GFH and, while it is fun to eat whatever you like, being 250 lbs in the NYC summer wasn't all that great. But I digress.

SO whats left to do? I'd suggest to gain a little and then diet for a week in order to limit fat gain and keep you looking great, basically "culking".

Lets cover some basics first. How much muscle can you gain? Despite what the magazines tell you, you will NOT gain 20 lbs of muscle in 8 weeks.

1/2 lbs per week would be outstanding, which wold come to 25lbs a year. That's a figure that novice lifter might achieve; if you are more advanced 6-8 per year would be outstanding. As for fat gain, depending on your nutrition and genetics for every 3 lbs of muscle you will gain 1 lbs of fat, some unfortunate individuals might even gain 1 lbs of fat for every lbs of muscle gained. It's a harsh reality isn't it?

Udo Boelts
Udo Boelts (on the right).
Today I want to touch again on the topic of genetics, since that is something I encounter often when speaking with trainees.
The above saying could be loosely translated as "make yourself suffer, you piglet". These wise words were spoken by Udo Boelts, the gentlemen on the right, to his teammate, Jan Ullrich, wearing the yellow jersey during the 1997 Tour de France. The roles were pretty clear, Ullrich was the captain of Team Telekom and in command of the tour. Boelts, on the other hand, was his assistant, his job was to get him over the Alps and safe to Paris.

Boelts was a worker on the bicycle, Ullrich had more talent than anyone else during the last 50 years. But in terms of mental toughness and work ethic, nobody could touch Boelts. So he felt entitled to scream at his captain when he appeared to not give it his very all.

The unorthodox strategy paid off, Ullrich ended up winning the tour.

Why I Started Training - SttB Articles

I knew lifting weights was for me when I was 12 years old; the year was 1997 and we had just moved from London out to the countryside. My father continued working in London and had to make the two hour commute every day, so he had to wake up every morning at 5am.
I have always looked up to my father, and during my summer vacations as a child I used to wake up with him at 5am to spend time with him. Every morning we watched those pointless infomercials all trying to sell the latest gadgets, tools and fitness products, we used to joke about how pointless and funny they were, but yet we still watched. I was always interested in the fitness products and distinctly remember this ab crunch machine, it was basically a red seat with two handles and it promised a six-pack in only 30 days or "your money back!"

The ab crunch machine is where it all started, from that point on I was bitten by the fitness bug. Although I was a little different, I was more interested in looking bigger and stronger compared to looking like a lean fitness model. So in the summer of 1997 at the young age of 12 I remember starting my fitness regime, I would run or cycle twice a week to keep up my fitness and to get stronger I did body weight exercises, such as pullups, press ups, sit ups etc. Doing this worked well, even at such a young age, but I quickly progressed and needed to take the next step - lifting weights.

So, for my 14th birthday my parents bought me something I had wanted since I started my fitness regime, a set of dumbbells. I was ecstatic, I had a set of dumbbells totalling 50lbs, I was finally ready to start lifting weights. For the next couple of weeks I read books on the many different exercises you can do with dumbbells, I must have tried 50 or more exercises, most of which I can't even remember. My favorite of all exercises was the dumbbell biceps curl, which I'm sure is a favorite for many young guys. I distinctly remember doing dumbbell curls twice a week in my bedroom, I remember curling 10lbs each arm for 2 minutes, resting for 30 seconds then starting again for another 2 minutes, I did this for a total of 30 minutes!

UPDATE 12 Mar 2012 : Maik and I are currently co-writing a book on shrugs, which goes into a lot more detail on the variations & progressions possible.

Leave a comment below, or join us over on the forums, to find out more.



Today's subject seems rather mundane..I mean shrugs, really? What is there to know? You grab the heaviest dumbbells you can find and perform short, jerky motions right?
Yes, that is pretty much how shrugs are done in every gym I ever set foot in. It's a pretty cool exercise, you get to move 5 plates on the barbell, make a lot of noise, enforce your tough guy image and, best of all you can't really mess it up. Or at least that's what people believe.

First of all, what are when people do shrugs they tend to think only about the small area that's actually visible toward the ears (unless you are Johnny Jackson, then that part is huge).

TrapeziusBut if you be so inclined and look at the graphic, you will notice that the traps are quite big and cover a large part of your back.

Secondly, the traps elevate and lower the shoulder blades so the traditional way of rolling the shoulders back and forth is not a good idea. Get a feeling for moving your shoulder blades without engaging the arms. A good idea is to have a training partner touch you in the lower trap area while doing reverse shrugs at the lat pull down.

On a side note, I find this an extremely helpful technique with so-called out of sight muscles such as hamstrings, traps or midback. Studies have shown that each set becomes about 30% more effective, if we have the sensation of the touch on the working muscle. Quite neat.

People usually do not have any problems feeling the visible part of the traps, but that only a small portion of the muscle, as stated above.

Supplements...we all take them, looking for an edge or even a magic pill. Over the years, I must have taken hundreds of different supplements and spent 1000s of $ (sad).

The results are sobering, to say the least. There are some that are worth the money, 101 Fitness Myths has a chapter on the 5 best supplements.

But what always fascinates me is the incredible marketing and graphs the companies use to suck money out of our pockets. Waiting for clients at the gym, I began flipping through muscle magazines, and I couldn't help but notice the stupidity of some supplement ads.supps.jpg

So without further ado, my 10 favorites:

10. "Now with real fruit!" Ok, ...what was it before? Unreal fruit??
9. "Our new pre-workout supp will cause skin bursting pumps! "Wow, that would really hurt and definitely put you in the ER.
8. "Burn 400% more body fat. "Than who? Where is the comparison?
7. "Build 20 lbs of muscle!" That is a great one. Aside from the fact, that it would be a difficult feat to achieve even while on steroids, one has to wonder: what if I only weigh 120 lbs? Do I really gain 15% of my body weight?
6. "Breakthrough technology." Does it get any more vague than this?
5. "Lean muscle mass. "There isn't really any fatty muscle mass, since that would be called adipose tissue or body fat.
4. "Steroid-like results." Nothing, absolute noting will give you results like steroids. There is a reason those substances are classified as drugs in most countries...No further comment...
3. "Muscles exploding with new growth." That would probably kill you.
2. "Build x lbs of pure muscle." How in the world do you build impure muscle? If you have this much control over your body, you could definitely play in the NFL or be your own nuclear reactor a la Dr. Manhattan.
1. "Product x declares death to fat cells." Without getting into the whole leptin discussion, fat cell death (apoptosis) is extremely rare. If all your fat cells were to die, so would you. Fat is also needed to make testosterone so some of it would be helpful. On another note, fat doesn't melt either, it oxidizes and by doing so the body makes use out of the stored energy.

But my absolute favorite is a certain company who takes it to a whole new level. They basically, use the Matrix movie ( do you want the blue pill, Neo?) , the blue pill signaling endless muscle growth and 4% body fat. You (Neo) have to commit to buy a 3 month supply for a a whopping 500+$, which will be delivered to you in a case that looks like something straight out of Area 51. The supplement? A humble berry extract....

I understand they are trying to sell us things, but I can't help but wonder if the supplement industry takes all bodybuilders and strength athletes for illiterates who are unable to tie their own shoes.

Rant mode off...

Train hard!


Monday, 27 Feb 2012 - Issues

This Week on Straight to the Bar

I'm constantly amazed at just how much my training is influenced by the people on this site. Whether you're looking for a new piece of equipment, an unusual exercise variation or just an idea of how others approach things, you'll enjoy these :

Over to you. I'd love to hear what you think : leave your comments on the above articles, and share them with your friends/colleagues/clients and so on.

NB : If you'd like to submit your own piece for Straight to the Bar, here's how.

Video : Mike Saffaie's 'Bar Training'.

Nice mix.

Gymchat 158 : Heavy Duty - The Mentzer Legacy

I love a spot of strength history. Many (though certainly not all) of the training approaches of past years are entirely valid today.

This week we'll be discussing the legacy of a well-known bodybuilder that Maik looked at recently - Mike Mentzer. Which of Mentzer's ideas are still useful, and how have they influenced your own training? Helping us explore this fascinating topic is none other than Olympic athlete, personal trainer and nutritionist Maik Wiedenbach*.

Details -

Who : Olympic athlete, personal trainer and nutritionist Maik Wiedenbach
Topic : Heavy Duty - The Mentzer Legacy
When : Wed Feb 29, 9pm EDT (2am UTC)
How : Post a comment, question or reply
Where :

If you've never been to one of these discussions before, here's how to join in the fun. Simple, quick to set up and free.

And to see when it's on in your timezone, head over to the calendar.

See you there.

* If you'd like to learn a little more about Maik Wiedenbach and his own fitness career, there's a great interview in the March issue of World Physique magazine. Nice one.

Quick update on last week's gymchat : Thanks once again to everyone who took part in the discussion on Tackling the Obesity Crisis. Some superb ideas in there.

For those who missed out on the conversation, here's the transcript. Was a great one.

NB : if you'd like to add a fitness-related event (either a competition you're taking part in, or something you're helping to organise there), just login to the forums and add it to the calendar. Cheers.

Tip of the Week: Use a Weight You Can Control

Each week we publish a number of tips and techniques via twitter, Google+, the forums, the blog; and now the newsletter. Wherever you are, there's always a way to improve what you're doing.

This tip comes to us from the enigmatic Gerard F, and is a snippet from a series of very interesting conversations surrounding the insights of the 'Iron Guru', Vince Gironda. In particular, this thread on Google+.

The full quote is :

Use a weight you can control, and control the weight you use.

This applies to a lot of things, but in this case we were talking about the bench press. Gerard noted :

At best the Bench Press is an "OK" exercise even when done correctly, but nearly everyone performs it based on the wrong concept. Using 8-12 reps its OK, but what happens is, when the reps get tough, your form goes bad, the back arches and/or your torso torques; stress goes from the chest to the triceps to the shoulder/cuff, and your strong side lifts the load that your weak side can't handle.

Over bench pressing gives you a circle looking chest, that's when the shoulders and tris are developed because the chest can't handle the weight, and what happens is the shoulder and tris are targeted more than the pecs.

Very interesting. Would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Good stuff.

Checking Out : RKC Instructor Workshop in Israel

I haven't been to Israel for years (last time, I was using a film-based camera, if that's any indication), and I love the Dragon Door certifications at any time. Superb.

The details are here, but it's essentially a Kettlebell Instructor Certification. If anyone here's planning on attending, I'd love to hear about it.

Looks fantastic.

Quick update on the superb Super Human Training Workshop (#2) we noted a couple of weeks ago. Looks fantastic.

I'll post a full review over on the forums shortly, but in the meantime, Logan's got all the details of who/what/when. Head over to

The Iron Guru - Vince Gironda - SttB Articles

Vince Gironda
Vince Gironda.
Since the Mike Mentzer article has gotten such good feedback, I thought: "Why not write a series about pioneers of the iron game?"

So today, I want to write about one of the forgotten pioneers of bodybuilding, who coincidentally, was almost as sociable as Mike Mentzer: Vince Gironda aka the Iron Guru. Vince, born in the Bronx, later settled in California and was one of the first trainers to the stars.

His clients were : Clint Eastwood, Cher, Larry Scott, Arnold Schwarzenegger and so on. But it wasn't so much his clientele that makes him remarkable, but his contributions to the sport which pushed weight lifting in a new direction. I just want to list the most important ones.

He was one of the first to develop a low carb approach to dieting, where he prescribed a whole eggs and lean meats combination along with some vegetables (pretty much a paleo diet).

Interestingly enough, he only proposed 3 meals a day and bridged the time in between with amino acid and liver tabs. I myself am a huge fan of liver tabs, its a convenient protein and vitamin B source and I feel my physique looks better and leaner when I use them. So this is more or less an intermittent fasting approach, as it has become popular today.
Even though he didn't like back squats, he used front squats in every workout as a hormonal optimizer in order to create growth in all muscle groups. This is something I have done with clients and I urge everyone to try. If you have a period of time where you can focus on your training and resting, up your calories by 10% and train your legs every time you go to the gym for 2-3 weeks. You will be very pleased with the results.

The bench press got no love from Vince, he felt it places too much stress on the front deltoid and doesn't develop a good chest. As a bodybuilder, I have to agree. The flat bench is very hard on the rotator cuff and front delts, while creating a droopy chest. I prefer the dumbbell version or the incline bench. For power lifting, that's a different story.

Vince also dismissed the then common notion of bulking for the sake of getting bigger as nonsense since it only led to fat gain. He was very much concerned with creating a physique as opposed to just heaping on mass (where has that idea gone??). I think the appropriate term for Vince would be "Physique Architect", he was very much concerned with a v-tapered physique. Vince was actually punished at a contest for appearing too "ripped" and was placed lower for being too lean ...(those judges later oversaw Lehman Brothers real estate portfolio).

In a way, I feel that Vince was too ahead of his time. In today's world he would have been a multimillionaire over and over.

UPDATE : thanks for all the feedback on Mentzer's ideas, and on HIT in general. Greatly appreciated.

We'll be discussing these in much more detail in this week's Gymchat, over on Google+. See you there.

Anyone who has been in gyms long enough has come across Mike Mentzer's system of heavy duty training at some point. Mike Mentzer, Mr. America, Mr Universe (with perfect score) was an extremely talented, massive and yes, intelligent bodybuilder.
During his early career, he followed the school of Schwarzenegger and Weider, which was a high volume approach. This way of training brought him an immense amount of mass and density, as seen in the photo. After the infamous 1980 Mr. Olympia, Mike retired from competing and started researching training and nutrition.

In the late 70s /early 80s it wasn't uncommon to train 4 hours a day and consume 500 grams of protein a day (yes, I did follow this routine when I was 17...hey, I lived in rural Germany and there was no internet, so please forgive me). Unsatisfied with the gains of the average non-steroid assisted trainee, he became convinced that the majority of people were over trained and drastically shortened his and his clients' workouts. In conjunction with Arthur Jones, he created his system of High Intensity Training or HIT. Basically, the trainee trained infrequently, 3-4 times every 2 weeks and did only one set beyond failure. He also added drop sets, negatives, partials etc.

There are many variations of heavy duty training. Dorian Yates, who is said to have been a heavy duty trainee, used in fact a much higher volume than Mike Mentzer ever prescribed.

Flexible Dieting - SttB Articles

That statement should have gotten everyone's attention. But what does flexible dieting mean?

OK, the donut part was more of a hook to get you to read the following. As we all now, dieters are failing by the millions, due to a number of reasons , the biggest one being a lack of willpower.

Some of them are so motivated that they don't stray from their diet for weeks, counting every calorie, eating at the perfect time and then....they implode. Due to stress or worries they fall off the wagon completely and stay off it.
This is where flexible dieting comes in; you need to allow yourself to live. If you are on a mild caloric deficit (400 calories per day or less), schedule a cheat meal once a week, so you can go to dinner with friends without worrying. I would give myself a 4-hour window for this and eat a side of fries or a dessert to your liking.

Athletes who run a more severe deficit and have a competent coach need to have a 2-3 day re-feed every week, combined with a heavy weight training session.

This will allow them to stop the muscle loss and revive their metabolism in order to continue to lose body fat. What does that mean?

When you diet for an extended period of time, such as more than 14 days, bad things start happening in your body: HGH and testosterone drop, cortisol goes up and leptin drops. This goes especially if excessive amounts of cardio are being performed. The results: you get hungrier, more irritable and start losing muscle. Fat loss, on the other hand, comes to a screeching halt. Not a good situation for a bodybuilder or strength athlete. Flexible dieting or smart cheating reverses that.

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