Exercises of a True Physical Culture

In my article Routine vs. Ritual, I mention that a workout should never be a routine. Routine meets base requirements so we can then get on with important stuff, while a ritual inspires and creates progress.

The modern workout routine is steeped in aesthetic conquest, gleaned from years of too many Muscle and Fitness magazines promoting workouts that zoom in on body parts for the main purpose of pageantry. Someone following these common ideas may look prettier but will have little function to their movements, since the body works as chains, not as parts. Larger movements involving multiple joints seem to confuse bodybuilders because they aren’t sure what day to include these motions.

Through emails, on forums and often in person the question has been asked ‘what day should I do deadlifts? Leg day or Back day?’ Well, 100 years ago, when the Saxons (Arthur, Kurt, Herman and Arno, not the dreaded crusaders from Northern Europe), Louis Cyr, George Hackenschmidt and Eugene Sandow were wowing the world with feats of strength (some of which, to this day, haven’t been duplicated) no one was asking what day a deadlift fell on. Or a Bent Press, or Saxon Bend or any of the common lifts of the day that are all but now forgotten.

By the way, these men were huge, sans drugs, and phenomenally strong. So what happened? Over the course of the last 70+ years, the quest for pretty muscles has dominated over the ability to actually move the body. Then the fitness world became a squishy, marshmallow industry promoting the ‘safest’ techniques possible, which actually has been leading to spineless, weaker clients and gym members who think they have a strong back because they can do 300 crunches.

Give some of these exercises a try and see where you stand. What day do you include them into? The day you decide to start getting stronger.

The Burpie

The Burpie is a holdover from gym class, the one exercises every kid hated doing. It involves placing the hands on the ground from a standing position, kicking the legs back and the returning them before standing again.

The versions here are a bit more advanced and include a pushup and jump. The goal of a Burpie is speed (I think I just heard a 24-Hour Fitness trainer pass out and the entire IHRSA convention groan in fear). Yes, speed. It’s not the evil hobgoblin of broken backs and ruined joints that everyone thinks it is. In fact, if you have any desire to play any sport or participate in any athletic activity, guess what you need?

To make a Burpie work, the speed, although important, is second to form. The ultimate goal being to be fast and functional.

Our advanced Burpie looks like this:

Once the hands hit the ground, the feet kick back quickly. Then drop into a pushup before yanking the feet back under you and then, from that position, jump as high as possible before landing right into the next one. There are no pauses from motion to motion, especially the jump. Too often the body wants to stand before jumping and then land in a standing position before moving into the next Burpie. To conquer this, as soon as the feet hit the ground from bringing them back from the kicked-out position, jump up, then as soon as they hit the ground again, absorb the landing right into the next Burpie.

Before the ego overrides the brain, yes they look silly, but they are quite challenging. Start with a small number before doing larger sets, based on either numbers or times (a thirty or sixty second set can be pretty brutal).

The second version involves a medicine ball, or, if you want to be truly DIY, a sand bag (or two, one in each hand). Place the ball on the floor instead of your hands, kick the legs out a little wider for the pushup (which will involve mostly triceps…don’t let those hips drop!), then, when jumping up, swing the ball up with you (an easier version is to press it up with the jump, but a swing, with straight arms, is more fun). Dumbbells or kettlebells work well too, as shown, although balancing on the kettlebell for the pushup takes some practice.

“But what does it work?” Your body, darn it. Enjoy.

Saxon Bend

Otto Hennig, under the stage name of Arthur Saxon, was part of the aforementioned group called ‘The Saxons, a Trio of Muscular Marvel.’ Although all were quite strong, Arthur gained the most notoriety by being the standout, eventually gaining fame with a 300+ pound Bent Press (which we will learn below). He was quite famous for being a wonderful ambassador for the iron game, visiting gyms in towns where he performed to demonstrate exercises and meet with the local physical culture. One of these exercises is making a come- back with strength athletes, though anyone who touches a weight should be familiar with it. Strengthening spinal muscles in a unique and wonderful, the Saxon Bend will be your new best friend, once you get over the ego-destroying sensation of using tiny dumbbells reserved for folks half your size.

These are done with an embarrassingly light weight since the length of your lever has become very long. The trick to this exercise is to focus on the hips. Their first reaction is to shoot out in the opposite direction of your bend, like some dance move (or the ‘model tilt,’ which we actually advocate later). That’s a dance you won’t forget, since the stress on the lower spine could be something to write home about, from the comfort of your couch while you recuperate. So keep the hips still, as you would for a standing overhead press. Squeeze the ground with your feet, tighten the tush and bear down on the other trunk muscles (don’t ‘suck in’) like someone’s going to punch you in the stomach (one of my clients colorfully said it is like trying to pass a watermelon).

So all you are really doing, outside of holding the hips tight, is “opening up the ribs” by leaning in one direction, then the other without the hips dancing. Let the arms move with the body, not as individual entities that can keep going after the spine has reached its limit.

Just think of waving lighters during your favorite hard rock ballad, except the lighters way several pounds and the song is really short. Want it a little harder? Get your stance narrower, but again, check those hips.

The Windmill

Now none of these exercises are unique, and although I occasionally add my own twist, they have old roots. The resurgence of these lifts is being brought to light through the efforts of a small group of folks; among them are Coach John Davies and his Renegade Training Crew, Coach Scott Sonnon of Clubbell fame, Mike Mahler and his Aggressive Training system, John Brookefield and the Iron Mind gang, and, of course, Pavel Tsatsouline, the crowned prince of the modern kettlebell movement. There are many more, the point being that the info exists. We just have to search for it.

The Windmill takes minimal practice but is a fun addition to any program. With feet comfortably wide and turned away from the weight at about 45 degrees, the weight, be it a dumbbell, kettlebell (pictured), clubbell, barbell (way fun), small child or woodland creature, is held in one hand straight up from the shoulder. Unlike the Saxon Bend, the hips get to move on this one, pushing back and out as the free arm crawls down the other leg. The body has to corkscrew under the weight a little as it bends. Then shoot back up. Loads o’ fun. Try to keep those legs straight, although bending the front leg is allowed if you have yet to feel comfortable with the movement.

The Windmill Kickback starts like a windmill, with the hand ending up on the ground on the inside of the leg. Then, like a Burpie, except for the weight straight up from the shoulder, the legs kick back and wide. Then they return and you stand back up, never letting that weight waiver. GO LIGHT, since this requires an element of coordination that some of us have forgotten from our childhood.

The Bent Press

Pick up a Weider publication or any number of the other muscle rags out there and you’ll see the same words on the cover month after month: Blah blah abs, blah blah chest, eat like a pro, etc.. 100 years ago you’d probably see something every month about the Bent Press and the benefits it can produce, from increasing your Weightlifting (in the traditional, clean and jerk sense of the word) to making your spine a solid piece of steel.

The Bent Press, called ‘the greatest lift in the sport of Weightlifting’ by George Sailor in an article from 1937, was originally scoffed at as a mere balance act. Then Arthur Saxon threw up over 300 pounds (his official record eventually being over 370) and the physical culture of the day quickly accepted the Bent Press as legitimate, soon being praised (at least by George Sailor) as being able to ‘make one better at all his lifts, and I will say any weight lifter should study and practice the Bent Press, which to my mind, is the King of all lifts.’

Advocates can get a little enthusiastic of what ‘proper’ form is. For instance, from a great website called Iowa Strong Man, the following is the intro to proper

Bent Press stance:

The placing of the feet is very important.
They should be spaced about 18 inches apart. If you are going to perform with the right arm then the toes of the right foot should be turned in slightly, (Fig. 1) the right leg should be perfectly straight with the hip thrown out to provide a formidable bolster and support for the weight. The left leg should be bent at the knee and the toes of the left foot should point straight forward. Practice getting the proper foot stand before doing anything else. This is very important. Most Bent Press enthusiasts fail through improper foot position.”

This is a pretty classic technique, one that works well, but I’ve found that a little liberty in foot placement, depending on upper leg length and hip flexibility, can be slightly altered per person. Perhaps I’m not a true-ist, but set rules always scare me a little. Other opinions of stance differ, as in the following from Alan Calvert:

‘The lifters stands with the heels 18 or 20 inches apart, and the toes turned out, so that the feet are at right angles to each other.’

I personally find that the foot under the weight points straight ahead or turned in slightly and that leg is straight, while the other leg is turned out and slightly bent. I like to play with foot width, anywhere from 18 to 26 inches apart (roughly, who the heck measures foot distance?) and then the fun begins.

Here I do it with both a dumbbell, although, as with the other lifts, anything can be used. Really. Grab a vacuum cleaner, try it with a file cabinet, whatever is at your disposal.

  • Take the object up over one shoulder with your elbow at your side, under the weight.
  • Position those feet in the desired distance and angle (after the above mentioned ideas, you have many options)
  • Do what I call a ‘model tilt,’ which is jutting the hip out and back slightly under the weight, like a runway model shifting her weight and posing.
  • Line the hip, elbow and ankle up with each other
  • “Squeeze the KB handle, and flex the lat on the lifting side
  • Imagine trying to tightly hold a newspaper under the armpit, this is the idea. Keep it tight. You should feel the KB float upward about 1″ if this is done properly.”

Now, with the model hip-tilt and the dumbbell in place, start leaning towards the outside foot (the one not under the weight) by pushing the hips back and bending. Although called ‘press,’ the weight will be forced up on it’s own, by letting the lat push it up. Quite a unique feeling. Chris, again, puts it best:

“Do this slowly, and try to feel the lifting arm naturally straightening. Think of doing a negative-only one arm chin here. The body moves away, the arm straightens. The KB rides on the flexed lat throughout. Very, very important. You should feel the KB floating up, effortlessly.”

It’s true. You are not actually pressing the weight as much as the weight is being pushed up by the downward movement of the body. The arm will eventually straighten out if you lower your body enough. Then stand up, either by bending both knees and squatting up, or simply raising your torso, proud with the weight still high. Lower it, and start again.

“The “bent-press” is a combination of bodily strength and acquired skill. It is not a lift which a man will do instinctively – he has to be taught. It is possible to lift so much more weight by this method than by any other, so the lift is well worth learning.

Any real expert at the bent-press can press aloft more weight with one arm than he can with two arms; and there are some men who can raise almost as much in the one-arm bent-press as in a two-arm jerk.”

Enough said.

DB Swing

This is called a DB Swing simply because that is what is pictured. Again, anything can be used for weight. Try this one with the cat. This was one of the original Olympic lifts about a century ago, along with a host of other one- and two-handed exercises, including the two that are still around today, the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch. This is one of my favorite exercises for explosive power of the posterior chain.

Start in a deep squatted position reaching between your legs for the weight behind your feet. Pictured is a one handed version, although two hands could be used.
Drive the feet into the ground and snap the hips forward in one explosive move, forcing the arm to swing the weight up.

Some versions of this, especially the kettlebell, will have you stop at chest level, but today, with the dumbbell, we’re going up over the head. Now the tricky part: as the weight swings back down (not lowered gently), you’ll beat gravity by trying to get the hips down even quicker. As the weight swings back through the legs, keep an extended back (the weight will want to round you, but fight it) as the momentum stretches the hips and hams nicely. As soon as the swing gets to its furthest position, change directions explosively and do it again.


Written by Chip Conrad

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The Science of Nutrient Timing, Part II

First published at www.t-mag.com, Apr 9 2004.

Note – You can read part 1 here – The Science of Nutrient Timing, Part I

Nutrient Timing – The Growth Phase

After protein and carbohydrate have been provided during the Energy and Anabolic Phases, the net protein balance of the body shifted toward the positive; muscle glycogen restored, catabolism blunted and anabolism increased, it’s time to consider how to keep the growth process moving forward. After all, the damage has been done, the acute phase response is now activated to clean up the mess (see Lonnie Lowery’s Muscle Masochism for more on this process), and your metabolism is going to be racing until tomorrow. It’s definitely time to feed!

However, even though the body is under construction, it’s moving quickly back toward normal physiological functioning during this Growth Phase. In other words, the growth window is closing and this means bye-bye to improved insulin sensitivity. You can also sit back and watch your Testosterone and growth hormone concentrations fall. And muscle protein turnover is slowing down, reaching a rate just above normal.

With this slow return to “normalcy”, it’s important to ditch the high glycemic carbohydrates and rapidly digested proteins. That’s right, while these foods were the anabolic superstars of the Energy and Anabolic phases, you’ll have to thank them and send them on their merry way during the Growth Phase and the “Rest of the Day” Phase. Kickin’ insulin is great during and after exercise, but elevate the insulin all day and your reward will be chub.

The When, What and How Much of the Growth Phase

While the exact when of the Growth Phase is a bit ambiguous, studies from my laboratory at the University of Western Ontario have recently demonstrated that unless muscle glycogen concentrations are severely reduced (greater than 70% depletion), carbohydrate and protein meals can help restore much of the depleted muscle glycogen in less than 6 hours. So, for simplicity sake, I consider the Growth Phase to last 6 hours after training.

During the Growth Phase, it’s important to continue to feed some carbohydrate and protein but definitely begin to reduce the total amount of carbohydrates ingested per meal while increasing the amount of protein ingested per meal. While a 2: 1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein was suggested for the Energy and Anabolic Phases, a ratio closer to 1: 1 might be optimal now.

Also, you’re going to start chewing real food rather than slurping down drinks. If we assume you’ll be drinking a postexercise drink immediately after training and you train in the morning or early evening, you’ll have time for about two food meals consisting of slower digesting proteins (meats, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc) and low glycemic carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, beans, ancient grains like quinoa, etc). If you train late in the evening, you’re screwed — just kidding.

Actually, if you train late in the evening you can simply ingest one meal as specified and either have a midnight shake (a Grow! and some oatmeal might make a good choice) or simply skip the second Growth Phase meal.

Again, how much to eat depends on your goals. Once you’ve calculated your daily energy needs (you can do this by visiting the Massive Eating Calculator), simply factor these meals into your total daily energy intake such that they are contributing toward your total intake. Remember, the Growth Phase, like the Energy and Anabolic Phases, is still marked by increased fat oxidation (even in the presence of some dietary carbohydrate) and increased glycogen synthesis (especially in the presence of some dietary carbohydrate). So take advantage of this by ingesting most of your daily carbs during these three phases.

Nutrient Timing – The Rest of The Day Phase

For those of you keeping score, the Energy, Anabolic, and Growth Phases cover about 7 or 8 hours of your training day. During these 7 — 8 hours, you’ll be ingesting about 4 total meals. Assuming you sleep about 8 hours per day, that leaves 8 — 9 hours and 3 meals to go. It’s these 8 — 9 hours and 3 meals that I consider “the rest of the day.”

Since the Rest of the Day is marked by normal physiology, the food you eat during this phase should be adapted to what you know about your tolerance to carbohydrates and fats in the diet. For example, some of you may have relatively poor carbohydrate tolerance and insulin sensitivity. As a result, you should be eating mostly protein and a blend of fats during Rest of the Day. Others of you might do better on a higher carbohydrate diet. As a result, you should be eating more protein and carbohydrates during the Rest of the Day (as long as you don’t neglect getting your dietary fat, especially your essential fats).

In my experience, most trainees interested in carrying a low body fat percentage will benefit from simply eating protein and fats (with veggies) during the 3 Rest of the Day meals; carbohydrates and protein in a 2: 1 ratio during the 2 Energy and Anabolic meals; and carbohydrates and protein in a 1:1 ratio (some healthy fats can even be thrown in there) during the 2 Growth meals.

The When, What and How Much of the Rest of the Day Phase

As discussed, the Rest of the Day Phase is what’s left after your exercise and the 6 hours postexercise. During this time, it’s important to use what you know about your body to determine what to eat and your goals to determine how much to eat. Some of you can get away with a few carbohydrate and protein meals with some good fats thrown in. Others will have to go protein and fat meals with some veggies thrown it.

However, either way, you can rest assured that muscle glycogen concentrations have been maximized during your Energy, Anabolic and Growth Phases and that you’ve done everything in your power to stimulate the growth and recovery process.

One interesting way of looking at your food consumption during a “nutrient timing day” is that you’re eating like Atkins Diet proponents might recommend during 3 of your meals (Rest of the Day Phase); like Zone Diet proponents might recommend during 2 of your meals (Growth Phase); and like the American Dietetics Association might recommend during 2 more of your meals (Energy and Anabolic Phases).

Of course, this system wasn’t designed solely to reconcile the three big dietary movements but rather to use what we currently know about exercise metabolism to meet your daily energy needs in order to optimize growth, adaptation, performance and body composition. However, it’s certainly interesting to consider that the most effective nutritional strategy for athletes (nutrient timing) actually takes the best from each of the three most popular nutritional movements and finds a happy medium among them.

With the science of nutrient timing gradually producing more and more practical information, isn’t it about time you started using this information to support your training? If maximal muscularity, improved athletic performance, positive shifts in body composition, and marked improvements in recovery are your goal (uh, did I miss anyone), I encourage you to give the principles of nutrient timing a try. These principles form the foundation of my 7 Habits and Massive Eating Reloaded (Part I and Part II) and will influence the field of sports nutrition for years to come.

Written by Dr. John M Berardi, Ph.D.

Note – You can read part 1 here – The Science of Nutrient Timing, Part I

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – The Science of Nutrient Timing, Part II discussion thread.

John Berardi is the author of Precision Nutrition, the nutrition system used by his personal clients and athletes to build lean, muscular, high-performance physiques in record time.

The Wrist Roller

The forearms are used in everyday activities. Whether it’s typing at the desk, eating chicken and rice or lifting weights, these are just a few of the areas the muscles of the forearm are called upon. However, even with all their use, they tend to be a weak link in many trainees programs. And, as the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Most people would love to sport a set of Popeye forearms however many own the Olive Oyl type, small, frail and weak. That’s because the forearms get no love. They’re either left out or put off until the end of a workout session. But wait, there’s good news, fixing this problem isn’t difficult. With some dedication and consistency building the forearms doesn’t have to be such a chore.

One of the many ways people can train the forearms to become bigger is through the use of a wrist roller. The problem however, is how this movement is performed. Below are two pictures, can you pick out which of the pictures is displaying the proper form.

If you chose picture 2 you understand how to execute this movement. To perform this movement properly, the arms should be extended straight, with the upper body in an upright posture. Wrists in line with the shoulders, maintain this position throughout the entire movement.

Deviation from this position will take away from the exercise, which in turns makes this exercise less challenging.

Many people perform this movement with their arms out in front them. This is a mistake. This is an exercise that is supposed to challenge the forearms not the shoulders. So, the next time you choose to use this exercise bare in mind the points made.

It’ll save you time, that could be otherwise put into working the bigger muscle groups.

Written by Maki Riddington

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Changing for the better – Making New Years resolutions that stick

With the arrival of the New Year, many people are getting ready to introduce their fitness lifestyle to some new changes. Unfortunately, few people actually stick to their training resolutions.

As a rule this annual failure can be attributed to a few factors.

Failure to define one’s expectations
Failure to set up appropriate and reasonable time frames
Failure to properly evaluate their past programs

I’ve outlined a number of areas that, if worked on and adhered to, will ensure a successful approach to correcting these past mistakes .

Goal Setting Made Simple

Certain steps need to be implemented so that the changes you make are advantageous, and one of them is goal-setting. Below are 6 steps toward successfully achieving what you want to do.

Step 1

A goal must be in writing, otherwise it’s just out there floating around in mental space with all that other stuff. It might be a wish or a dream, but it’s certainly not a goal and, most likely, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Step 2

A goal must be specific and measurable.” I want to get into shape” just doesn’t cut it as a goal. It’s not specific enough. Wanting to run 3 miles in 30 minutes would be more along the lines of something tangible. In order for a goal to be specific it must be quantifiable so you can watch the stages in your progress.

Step 3

A goal must have some sort of personal meaning to it. To simply want to have a 6% body fat percentage by July 1st so you can turn some heads at the beach come summer, has no sort of real value. Now, if you said you wanted 6% body fat for your next competition, which takes place in July, then it would be part of your long-range objective to become a champion BB (bodybuilder). It has some value since you¹ll be rewarded above and beyond your ego.

Step 4

Is your goal challenging? If it isn’t, then when you achieve it, there’s a good chance it will be soon forgotten. Using the 6% BF example, if you’re already at 7% and your goal is to get down to 6% over 6 months, that’s not much of a challenge.

It’s better to aim for the stars and then fall on the mountain peaks! 

Step 5

Do you have a completion date? Usually it is time that creates the pressure to get a job done. If you¹re not sure, base your completion date on what you¹ve learned from past experience.

Step 6

You must be positive about the goal you’ve set out to accomplish.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal– nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong attitude”Thomas J.

To get to where you want to go, set up more than one goal. Have a long-term target and then break it down into steps.

The most successful people are those who understand the power of chunking; who don’t bite off more than they can chew.” – Anthony Robbins

Someone once said to me, “How do you eat a elephant? One bite at a time.” No matter how large your objective, if you break your goals down into bite-size chunks they’ll lead to ultimate success. And your success, of course, will always depend on how consistent you are at doing your best to meet your goals.

Bad Habits

Everyone has them, and many of us have more bad habits then good ones. Coach Charles Staley of Integrated Sports Solutions says, ” Habits are consistent patterns that reveal our character and determine our effectiveness in life.” So how do we change our bad habits?

Anthony Robbins explains that bad habits should not be changed “until the negative consequences of those habits begin to outweigh the perceived benefit.” An example of this would be eating a bag of chips every night before going to bed. This is an enjoyable experience, which for a short period of time outweighs the negative outcome. However with time, the negative outcome will arrive in the form of body fat from those extra empty calories. Because of this experience, the chances of changing your habits are greater then before because of the profound effect it has on your body.

Taking action. Or as the Nike slogan says, “Just do it.” There is no better time than the present. No excuses–just change NOW! This is based on your decision to take action without thought. Remember, no one can make you change; the power to transform your body lies within.

However, taking action is not always a fail-proof strategy. So, to complement this move, you must now replace your bad habit with a good one. For example:

If you like to snack at night after dinner it could be because you are not eating breakfast. If this is the case then, eating a balanced breakfast, which includes some carbohydrates, fat, and protein will help you fight your late-night snack binges. As a result, a lot of good things can happen.

1. Your energy levels become more stabilized throughout the day.

2. You have more energy to work out.

3. You have fewer cravings at night, or they become controllable.

4. You start to lose some body fat.

In other words, if you seek out healthy habits the bad ones will progressively disappear.

The next step is preparation, specifically, for the tough times. Failure to plan is planning to fail and when it comes to the tough times, this couldn’t be truer. Good times are inevitable, but when the bad times arrive, life gets hectic, your schedule is full, the gym starts to take a back seat, and nobody is there to support you; most people bail.

Being prepared for these times will help minimize the number of steps you take back which, in the long run, will allow your to attain your goals quicker.

Physcological Tools

Everybody needs to equip themselves with the proper psychological tools as they move onwards to where they want to be.

Imagine. Can you picture yourself achieving your goal? If you can’t, chances are you’ve already lost!

Visualize. Clearing your head of self-doubt makes your journey so much easier. Find a quiet place each day, and visualize your goal while sitting there (I know it sounds silly, but don’t underestimate the power of visualization). There have been studies conducted in which coaches have had athletes visualize their performance before actually performing it, and the results were astounding.

A New Start

How you respond to your New Years resolution lies in your hands. No one said it would be easy; in fact, doing what’s hardest in life is what builds character and confidence. This applies to fitness as well. The journey at hand may be tough but if you follow the steps I’ve outlined the growth you will see will be worth the effort.

Written by Maki Riddington

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If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Changing for the better – Making New Years resolutions that stick discussion thread.

Sow Your Oats

Does that “eye-opening” bowl of hot cereal actually lull you back to sleep? Does the prospect of eating one more bowl of oatmeal smack of morning torment? Are you trapped in an insipid cycle of breakfast ennui?

Drop the doughnuts and unhand that barely palatable energy bar! Rethink your oats. Not only are whole grains – oats included – one of the most natural, healthiest foods around, they are eager to be transformed into interesting, appetizing, and satisfying meals. Oats and other whole grains are 100% natural with no added sugar, salt, or additives and they are naturally low in calories.

So what does it take to make this stellar whole grain a food of hungry intrigue? A little imagination, a few new techniques, and eating outside the bowl.

The Breakfast Bowl


Oats, like all grains and grain flakes, can be toasted to deliciously boost their flavors. For example, put oats in a dry skillet set over medium heat and stir frequently until they begin to smell toasty and take on a little color. Immediately remove them from the heat so they don’t burn. Cook them as you normally would.

Time Savers

Instant oatmeal and cream of wheat can be cooked in the microwave in a flash but neither are as flavorful or as nutritious as whole grains. However, standing over the stove stirring a pot of whole grain hot cereal is irritating and eats up your morning shower or workout time. Save yourself the hassle and use a slow cooker or even a thermos. For the slow cooker, add oats (other whole grains, if desired), a pinch of salt, and water the night before and cook on LOW until morning. For the thermos, pour boiling water, a pinch of salt, and oats (other whole grains, if desired) and tightly close lid the night before. With either method, you’ll have breakfast waiting for you upon awakening.

Top-rated Toppings

Embellish your cooked cereal with tasty ingredients that tantalize your tastebuds and make your mouth water. After cooking your hot cereal, flavorize it with a medley of textures and flavors. Choose one or two from the following list:

  • Ground flax seeds or other toasted seeds and nuts
  • Raisins, dried cranberries, dried papaya, or chopped dates
  • Apples, pears, peaches, or bananas sautéed in a little butter and lots of spices
  • Butter, yogurt, or sour cream stirred with maple syrup or molasses
  • Fruit juices or milk, cream, half and half, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk
  • Spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, all spice, ginger, and nutmeg
  • Vanilla or almond extracts
  • Crystallized or fresh minced ginger root
  • Honey, sorghum, brown sugar, or sugar substitute
  • Your choice of protein powder

Alternative Grains

Instead of opting only for familiar grains like oats or wheat, give spelt ( Western Asian wheat) , barley, or rye flakes a try. Other great grains are quinoa, amaranth, couscous, millet, wild rice, brown rice, and stone-ground cornmeal. You can find these packaged or in bulk at most natural food stores and increasingly in supermarkets.

For the Health of It

If you still can’t get motivated to eat your oats, think about the proven health benefits this common grain has to offer.

  • Prolonged energy release – The complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber in oats allow a slower digestion, which sustains your blood sugar level to energize your morning activities.
  • Lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease – Though cholesterol is a naturally occurring and essential substance in the body, too much of it can be detrimental. Oats are like tiny sponges that soak up cholesterol and carry it out of the bloodstream.
  • Vitamins, mineral, and fiber – In addition to a bevy of micro nutrients, oats contain folic acid which is essential in healthy fetal development.

Breakfast Rules

Eating breakfast is a smart way to start your day and one of the easiest steps to improving your diet and lifestyle.

Sure, you may faithfully work out and watch what you eat during the rest of the day, but the breakfast meal may be the most important.

  • According to the American Dietetic Association, a healthy breakfast can actually help you lose and/or maintain your weight, compared to breakfast skippers.
  • The National Institute of Health recommends breakfast because it tends to thwart overeating later in the day. Studies have shown that breakfast eaters who have dieted and lost weight, are more successful in keeping their weight off.
  • Include protein in your morning meal. Have a small bowl of hot cereal with a plate of eggs or an omelet. Add a scoop of protein powder or low-fat dairy products like milk or cheese to your oatmeal to further sustain your blood sugar level and energy.
  • Don’t forget fat. The body needs fat to function properly and it will help you feel full longer. Choose primarily unsaturated fats. Drizzle flaxseed oil, walnut oil, or olive oil over your oats and scatter in a handful of chopped toasted nuts or seeds.

A bowl of oatmeal in the morning can help you rev up your metabolism, maintain your cognitive focus, fuel your workouts, and get you through the rest of your day. And oats aren’t just for breakfast…

Think Outside the Bowl

Whole grains, particularly oats, can be used in a near endless array of both sweet and savory dishes – beyond the breakfast bowl. Following are a few dynamite recipes that will give you the food you need to be convinced that oats are well worth eating. Apricot Honey Oatmeal for breakfast. Salmon Cakes and Herbed Yogurt Sauce for lunch or dinner. Crispy Coated Baked Apples for dessert. Rethink your oats and eat well.


Apricot Honey Oatmeal

Serves 4


3 ½ cups water
½ cups chopped dried apricot (or other dried fruit)
2 tablespoons honey (or sweetener of your choice)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups steel cut or old fashioned or rolled oats
¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds


In a large saucepan, bring water, apricots, honey, cinnamon, and salt to a boil. Stir in oats and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let oatmeal stand for a few minutes to finish thickening. Embellish with sunflower seeds. Stir in milk or half and half or coconut milk for extra flavor and richness.

**Toast oats in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly browned for a wonderful toasty flavor.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving):
Calories 202 (23% from fat); Protein 6 grams; Carbohydrates 35 grams; Fiber 3 grams; Total Fat 5 grams (Saturated Fat less than 1 gram; Monounsaturated Fat 1 gram; Polyunsaturated Fat 4 grams); Cholesterol 0 milligrams; Sodium 250 milligrams.

Salmon Cakes and Herbed Yogurt Sauce

Serves 4

Sauce Ingredients

½ cup plain lowfat yogurt
1 shallot, finely chopped (or 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion)
Juice of an orange (3 to 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Pinch of dried dill
Pinch of sugar or sugar substitute
Pinch of white pepper or more to taste


1 pound smoked (or cooked) boneless, skinless salmon (or other fish of your choice), flaked
¾ cup old fashioned or rolled oats (uncooked)
½ cup milk
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs such as dill, tarragon, marjoram, or parsley
White pepper to taste
Pinch of salt or more to taste


Whisk sauce ingredients together and set aside. If making ahead, store covered in the refrigerator.

Combine all ingredients for salmon cakes in a large bowl and mix well. Let stand for 5 minutes. Shape into 4 oval patties about 1 inch thick. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Cook salmon cakes for 3 to 4 minutes then flip. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and heated through. Serve with sauce and sprinkle with additional finely chopped herbs.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving):
Calories 327 (37% from fat); Protein 37 grams; Carbohydrates 13 grams; Fiber 1 gram; Total Fat 14 grams (Saturated Fat 3 grams; Monounsaturated Fat 6.5 grams; Polyunsaturated Fat 4.5 grams); Cholesterol 108 milligrams; Sodium 251 milligrams.

Crispy Coated Baked Apples

Serves 8


6 medium baking apples, cored, thinly sliced
Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon maple syrup, warmed
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup old fashioned or rolled oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup lightly packed brown sugar (or sugar substitute)
¼ cup finely chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground nutmeg or mace


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and lightly coat a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Toss apples with lemon juice, maple syrup, brown sugar, and melted butter until ingredients until apples are well coated. Pour apples into prepared baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix with a fork until crumbly, evenly distributing butter. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden and apples are tender. Serve warm with a dollop of plain whole-milk yogurt or a drizzle of coconut milk.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving):
Calories 280 (37% from fat); Protein 4 grams; Carbohydrates 42 grams; Fiber 6 grams; Total Fat 11.5 grams (Saturated Fat 5.5 grams; Monounsaturated Fat 3 grams; Polyunsaturated Fat 3 grams); Cholesterol 23 milligrams; Sodium 118 milligrams.

Written By Shelly Sinton, MS

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Sow Your Oats discussion thread.

Bedtime Story – Consumer Report

Do you remember back when your momma read bedtime stories to you? You know, illustrated children’s books spinning tales of old Gepetto and Pinnochio, Jack and his Beanstalk, and Raskolnikov and his Crime and his Punishment. What’s that? No one ever read Crime and Punishment to you? Okay, just kidding about that one, but in all seriousness, one of the themes that makes a great children’s story is the clear delineation between good and evil. When you’re a kid, you know whom to love and you know whom to hate.

Thinking back, one of my favorite stories was the legend of Robin Hood. This story told of a daring outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. In my youth I was enamored with his cunning and his loyalty to his friends. It was always satisfying when his quick wit allowed him to make a fool of the powerful Sheriff of Knottingham.

On one occasion, Robin and his men were able to sneak into an archery contest and win the first prize, a golden arrow. Although this contest was a trap set by Knottingham, Robin and his merry men had good on their side and were able to win the arrow and escape capture. I’ve liked the underdog ever since.

Unfortunately in today’s supplement market, a modern day Sherwood Forest if you will, a story is being told that’s the antithesis of the Robin Hood story. You see, in this bedtime tale, the rich Knottinghams of the industry are robbing from the consumer, and they’re doing so with promises of golden arrows. So, true to my love of the underdog, you know where this article is headed. Just call me Robin Hood (and no, I don’t wear tights!).

A Little Knowledge is Dangerous

Weight lifters today are more informed about training and nutrition than they were a decade ago. But as often is the case, a little information can be dangerous. Unfortunately, you and your wallet are the ones in danger in this case.

Take the phenomenon of overnight catabolism, for example. First, you learn what the word catabolic means. It’s the opposite of anabolic and has to do with muscle wasting. Then you learn that you become catabolic during sleep at night. As a result, you make it your goal to prevent this catabolism at any cost.

Now here comes the dangerous part. The big bad Knottinghams of the supplement world realize your unnecessary desperation and begin to use this information against you, spinning scientific-sounding tales based on spurious assumptions and false promises. They come as a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing and, unlike the fairy tales of our youth, it becomes difficult to distinguish the heroes from the villains.

Keeping with the overnight catabolism theme, Knottingham’s new golden arrow is his so-called “nighttime anti-catabolic protein formula.” He’s been trying to convince would-be supplement consumers that his super expensive, slow-released protein blends are the only way to prevent wasting away to nothing overnight. 

Using fancy words and a couple of inappropriate references, he claims that the conventional protein powders on the market today are useless for overnight consumption and that only his special high-tech blend will make you huge.

With furrowed brow, I unsheath my arrow.

What Happens When the Lights Go Out

When tucking into bed at night, you’re about to embark on a six to eight hour journey of rest and repair. After all, it’s been a long day in the forest. However, during this time you aren’t feeding the body. We call this the post-absorptive period. If you haven’t heard of this post-absorptive period before, let me explain.

Throughout the day, the first hour or two after eating is referred to as the post-prandial period. During this time, the body digests and absorbs nutrients. When you eat and even during the post-prandial period, the body’s maintenance needs for blood glucose and energy are met. At this time it begins to synthesize proteins and glycogen in the liver and muscle.

Once this period is over, the post-absorptive period sets in. After the absorption of the nutrients from your last meal is complete and the nutrients in the blood have been delivered, the body begins using those stored nutrients for energy. Then, in order to maintain blood glucose and tissue metabolism, the liver and muscle start metabolizing and sending glucose and amino acids out into the blood.

If you’re eating frequently during the day, the overnight period is your longest post-absorptive period. It should be no surprise that after an overnight fast and a long post-absorptive period, some of the muscle glycogen and muscle protein will have been depleted. In fact, research has verified this hypothesis and shown specifically that after the overnight fast, muscle protein breakdown exceeds muscle protein synthesis. Interestingly, the opposite is true in the splanchnic region (gut, liver, etc) because in these tissues, synthesis exceeds breakdown. Therefore during the night, muscle is broken down to feed the gut/liver/etc and presumably other tissues as well (1).

Feeding For Increased Muscle Mass – Nuts and Berries of the Forest Won’t Do It

Understanding what happens after an overnight fast, I’m sure you’re now wondering how you might keep out of the post absorptive period and prevent overnight muscle losses. Well, the secret is in understanding how the body handles protein and amino acids under normal conditions. Remember, net muscle-protein status (anabolism or catabolism) is determined by a simple equation: protein synthesis minus protein breakdown.

Large increases in blood amino acid levels (100-200% above the fasted baseline) are necessary for increasing protein synthesis. Therefore a protein meal containing at least 20-30 grams of fast-digesting protein (like whey) can accomplish such a goal.

Interestingly, to inhibit protein breakdown we only need small increases in blood amino-acid levels (25-50% above fasted baseline). However, these small increases must be prolonged (4-5 hours) in order to realize this inhibition of protein breakdown. In this situation, a slow-digesting protein like casein is necessary.

So, at this point you might be asking why you can’t simply consume whey protein every few hours in order to maintain super-high levels of blood amino acids. It makes sense that this would keep amino acid levels high for a very long period of time, thus stimulating protein synthesis and preventing protein breakdown, right? Well, not so fast, Little John.

Unfortunately, when large increases in blood amino acid levels (+100%) are achieved via intravenous infusion for a prolonged period of six hours, protein synthesis only increases from the 30 minute to the two-hour mark. After two hours, protein synthesis rates almost immediately return to baseline. Unbelievably, protein synthesis rates remain at baseline levels from the two hour to the six hour marks, even with the same level of hyperaminoacidemia (2).

So it’s clear that keeping amino acid levels elevated all day won’t keep protein synthesis rates racing along. It’s my guess that if you were to try to do this, breakdown would simply balance synthesis and you wouldn’t get any bigger. It’s my theory that you need those phasic bursts in amino-acid levels to stimulate protein synthesis.

If you’re keeping up, this presents a confusing picture as to how to time your meals for optimal protein growth. In my opinion, large bursts of hyperaminoacidemia every four hours or so (to stimulate synthesis in a phasic manner), coupled with a prolonged low-level hyperaminoacidemia (to chronically inhibit breakdown) may be the best way to coerce the muscles into getting huge. So how can you accomplish this? That’s easy, at least when you’re awake.

Consider the “pros” and “cons” of the bodybuilder’s two main sources of protein:

Whey protein intake (30g) produces large transient hyperaminoacidemia. After an hour, blood amino acids are elevated by about 300%. After two hours, about 92%. After four hours, you’re back to baseline. This is ideal for increased protein synthesis but does nothing for protein breakdown (3,4).

Casein protein intake (30g) produces moderate but prolonged hyperaminoacidemia. After two hours, blood amino acids are elevated by about 32% and after four hours by about 35%. After seven hours, blood amino acids are still elevated. This is ideal for prevention of protein breakdown but does nothing for protein synthesis (3,4).

The next question is, where the heck are you gonna find whey and casein protein in Sherwood Forest? Well, if you can find a cow or a goat, you’re in luck.

Milk protein is composed of 80% casein and 20% whey. Milk is interesting in that, believe it or not, the whey and casein fractions are absorbed separately. In one study, subjects consumed skimmed milk and were evaluated over the course of eight hours. With milk-protein ingestion, there’s a rapid rise in blood amino acids within one hour (probably as a result of the whey fraction), a plateau from one to three hours (a combination of simultaneous whey and casein absorption), and then there’s a progressive decline over the course of the next eight hours. However, blood amino acids are still elevated at the eight hour point as a result of the casein fraction. (5).

While this discussion has only dealt with milk proteins, it may be safe to say that most animal proteins are probably similar to casein in their slow digestion and absorption profiles. So, during the day, eating a combination of fast digesting and slow-digesting proteins every four hours or so is probably the best way to maintain a highly positive daily protein status. Again, this can be done with milk proteins alone or with a combination of whey or milk protein and animal protein at each meal.

In the end, though, don’t get too obsessed with seeking out your favorite cow every four hours. Research has shown that eating animal protein alone does a nice job of increasing post-prandial protein synthesis, too.

Don’t Let The Sheriff’s Men Steal Your Muscles Overnight

All these recommendations are interesting for the waking hours while you’re robbing from the rich, but what about at night when bedding down with the lovely Maid Marian?

Well, if I had an ideal nighttime protein shake to set by the bed, it would include a combination of ingredients that promotes two large bursts of hyperaminoacidemia every four hours (leading to two bursts of synthesis – one at bedtime and one four hours later) and a prolonged low-level hyperaminoacidemia (to inhibit breakdown). Now, part of this can be accomplished with a milk-isolate blend taken immediately before bed. There are many such blends on the market.

At this point, you might be asking yourself why I simply don’t recommend milk. Well, I’m hesitate to suggest milk as a result of the recent data showing that unfermented, intact milk (skim or whole) may not be all that great for you. The high incidence of milk allergies and lactose intolerance coupled with a huge insulin index makes me hesitant to give my endorsement to the moo juice. However, milk products like cottage cheese behave differently than milk and are another solid choice. The whey content of cottage cheese could use some beefing up though, so don’t be afraid to throw in some whey or milk isolates.

Although quite effective, unfortunately this route doesn’t allow for the second burst of fast protein and hyperaminoacidemia that we want about four hours into our slumber. So the simplest way to do this would be to make a big shake/meal before bed, consume half at bedtime and the other half in the middle of the night.

The Golden Arrows

You can certainly wake up in the middle of the night to provide the body with some protein nutrition, but some people believe doing so will disturb sleep patterns and in the long run, you’ll be worse for the waking. So why not formulate a special high-tech protein powder that will accomplish our goal of two large bursts of hyperaminoacidemia every four hours (two bursts of synthesis – one at bedtime and one four hours later) and a prolonged low-level hyperaminoacidemia (to inhibit breakdown) without having to wake up to get it?

Such a formula might contain 15g of regular whey protein, 30g of casein, and 15g of time-released, encapsulated whey protein that sits around in the gut for four hours and is magically released during one big digestive burst at that time. With such a formula, the 60g protein dose would definitely keep you covered for the overnight fast and might help you pack on a little extra muscle.

Excited yet? Well, don’t fall for the trap. I’m sorry to tell you that such a formula is probably impossible to make. First of all, I’m not aware of any technology that will allow such a precision release of protein at a predetermined time. Secondly, if there were a way to do this, the costs would certainly be prohibitive.

But what about the current crop of overnight protein formulas popping up in magazine ads? What are they supposed to do? Well, unfortunately they don’t even claim to accomplish the goals I set out above. All they claim to do is provide you with a slow released protein that keeps blood levels of amino acids low and stable all night, thus minimizing protein breakdown. Considering that plain old cottage cheese can accomplish this goal, these formulations aren’t so revolutionary.

In fact, either milk protein blends or homemade whey/casein combinations may even be superior to slow digesting proteins alone, as indicated above. The combination of fast and slow may be best for both increasing muscle protein synthesis and preventing muscle protein breakdown. So why the need for fancy overnight protein products? At a price of four to seven bucks per 50g of protein (based on the brands I’ve looked at), I can’t see one. All I can see is the rich robbing from the misinformed poor.

A Happy Ending

To summarize this little bedtime story:

  • About halfway through the night your body runs out of muscle-building fuel and leaves you in a catabolic state. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to get some protein before bed. 
  • The so-called “nighttime anti-catabolic protein formulas” hitting the market are overpriced, overhyped, and aren’t even ideal for battling catabolism.
  • A better and more-affordable choice is plain old cottage cheese and/or a blend of proteins like those found in Low-Carb Grow! (Milk itself isn’t a good choice however.)

Armed with these arrows of information, I’ll now let you go do battle with catabolism and all those unscrupulous Sheriff of Knottinghams out there. Now, where’d that little muffin Maid Marian run off to?

Written by Dr. John M Berardi, Ph.D.

John Berardi is the author of Precision Nutrition, the nutrition system used by his personal clients and athletes to build lean, muscular, high-performance physiques in record time. 

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Bedtime Story – Consumer Report discussion thread.

The Power Look

So you want that look, huh?

You know what I’m talking about; the “power” look. I’m often asked by guys in the gym and from the far reaches of cyberspace how to gain the type of build that just screams raw power. More often than not, the ideals they point to are American football players.

What gives an athlete this look? The more noticeable features include thick traps and lats, big triceps, and tree trunk legs. Coming with this look is the functional power, quickness, and athleticism football players are known for. That sounds fantastic, but how do you get it? Well, the short answer is really simple. Train like a football player!

Since you’re reading this, I’m betting that the short answer wasn’t what you were going for. In this article we’ll detail a plan to build a big body that looks good on the field and in the gym. Heck, you might even find yourself being a little more athletic, too!

This program is similar to a program I use for off-season football players looking to gain mass while maintaining their explosiveness. It’s leaned a little more heavily on hypertrophy development than I would use for them, but your goals are more about size and less about pure athletic development. Also, most of the trainers reading this article don’t have the time, resources, and requirements that high level football players do.

Before I hit the meat of the plan, I’d like to talk just a little bit about the three primary types of strength that we’re going to be targeting. If you understand the targets of the program, then it’ll be easier for you to understand. “Black Box” training is usually much less beneficial than a studied and digested program.

The first type is maximal strength. Quite simply, how much weight can you move from point A to point B one time. While focusing purely on maximal strength isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get big, it’s rare to find someone who squats 200 pounds that has more lean mass than someone who squats 400 or 500. The body will adapt to the increasingly heavier weight by stimulating hypertrophy as well as inducing neurological improvements.

The next quality of strength is speed strength. Speed strength is often synonymous with power. There are a few types of speed strength, but basically look at it in regards to rapid, explosive movements. If an athlete bench presses 300 pounds in three seconds, while another one benches the same weight in one second, the second athlete has substantially more speed-strength.

Finally we come to strength endurance. I know, some of you out there are gasping because I said “endurance”. Well, focus more on the “strength” and you’ll feel better. I’m certainly not talking about running ten miles or curling a pink dumbbell 100 times. I’m talking about moving real weight for reps. It is all well and good to be able to move a high one-rep max, or even to do it quickly, but in the world of athletics you’re going to have to do it over and over again. This even plays a factor in a stop and go sport like football.

Enough blather, on to the gym! You’ll be hitting the weight room four days per week, and doing some form of exercise at least five days per week. I recommend at least one day of rest per week, and two might not hurt. The routine is set up for twelve weeks. After which I very strongly recommend a week off for recovery.

Here is the day by day breakdown. I’ve put it into a convenient Monday through Friday routine, but feel free to adapt that as your schedule dictates. Keep the days in the same order, though.

Day 1: Monday: Upper Body Maximal Effort, Easy Interval Training

Day 2: Tuesday: Strength Endurance Lower Body

Day 3: Wednesday: Hard Interval Training

Day 4: Thursday: Strength Endurance Upper Body

Day 5: Friday: Lower Body Maximal Effort, Slow Recovery Cardio

Day 6: Saturday: Rest

Day 7: Sunday: Rest

I’ve set up a routine of exercises here for you to get started with. That’s not to say that other exercises couldn’t be used, but I think you’ll find this to be pretty comprehensive. For a good illustrated explanation of each exercise, see here. Now we’ll go through the plan for each day.

Before each bout of exercise, make sure to do a comprehensive warm-up including some light cardio or agility work along with dynamic stretching and mobility training.

Upper Body Maximal Effort Day

  • Maximal Effort Exercise: See explanation below.
  • Light Back Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Pull-ups, Assisted Pull-ups, or Seated Pull-downs (depending upon ability). Four sets of ten reps.
  • External Rotational Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Face Pulls. Two sets of twelve reps.
  • Heavy Abs (Assistance Exercise): Weighted Decline Sit-ups. Four sets of eight to ten reps.

Strength Endurance Lower Body Day

  • Explosive Pull Exercise (Power Exercise): Power Cleans. Three sets of five reps.
  • Unilateral Movement Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Walking DB Lunges. Three sets of six reps.
  • Quad Endurance Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Olympic-style Barbell Squats. Three sets of twelve reps.
  • Lower Back Endurance Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Hyperextensions. Three sets of fifteen reps.

Strength Endurance Upper Body Day

  • Explosive Push Exercise (Power Exercise): Push Press. Three sets of five reps.
  • Explosive Pull Exercise (Power Exercise): High Pulls from the rack. Three sets of five reps.
  • Pectoral Hypertrophy Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Incline Dumbbell Bench Press. Three sets of eight reps.
  • Heavy Back Exercise (Assistance Exercise): T-Bar Rows. Three sets of six reps.

Lower Body Maximal Effort Day

  • Maximal Effort Exercise: See explanation below.
  • Lower Body Stability Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Overhead Squats. Three sets of five reps.
  • Hamstring Hypertrophy Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Stiff-legged Deadlifts. Three sets of six reps.
  • Bicep Hypertrophy Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Hammer Curls. Four sets of eight reps.
  • Light Abdominal Exercise (Assistance Exercise): Reverse Crunches. Three sets of twenty to thirty reps.

Now we’ll going to go through a bit of specifics about how each type of exercise should be done.

Maximal Effort Exercise

This exercise will go in three week phases, and focuses on heavy compound movements. Here’s where you’ll get strong. I’ve include a list of potential exercises below. For two weeks I want you to work up in sets of three to a heavy set of three after some light warm-ups. When you can no longer complete three good reps, then you’re finished. Take small enough jumps in weight so that you accomplish at least five sets. An example for a lifter who can bench press 250×3 might be as follows:

  • 45 lbs x 15 reps
  • 135×10
  • 185×3
  • 215×3
  • 230×3
  • 240×3
  • 250×3

This lifter would not be able to do 255 for the complete three reps.

The third week is where it gets fun. Rather than work up to a heavy triple and focus purely on maximal strength, we’ll throw in some heavier maximal strength work and even sneak in a little bit of strength endurance. On this week warm up normally, and start moving up in weight to warm up for heavier lifts. Don’t go anywhere close to failure. Rather than jump close to your three-rep max, you’re going to be aiming for six single reps of a heavier weight. Use 105% of the weight that you successfully hit last week for your triple.

Your goal is to do six single repetitions of this weight with 30 seconds of rest between repetitions. For example, our lifter who hit 250 lbs for his bench press three-rep maximum would try to use 105% of 250 lbs for six singles. This comes out to 262.5 lbs, which doesn’t fit neatly on the barbell. In this case, err on the side of conservatism and use 260 lbs.

Week four involves you picking another exercise and starting again.

Take some time between sets, especially as the weight gets heavier and you approach your max. For the three rep weeks, take two to four minutes between sets once the weight starts becoming a challenge.

Example Maximal Effort Upper Body Exercises:

  • Flat Barbell Bench Press
  • Incline Barbell Bench Press
  • Decline Barbell Bench Press
  • Board Presses
  • Rack Lockouts
  • Close-grip Flat Barbell Bench Press
  • Close-grip Incline Barbell Bench Press

Example Maximal Effort Lower Body Exercises:

  • Barbell Squats
  • Good Mornings
  • Rack Deadlifts
  • Sumo Deadlifts
  • Conventional Deadlifts
  • Deadlifts while standing on blocks
  • Box Squats

Obviously there’s a lot of room for variation. There are hundreds of variations of these movements that are possible and viable. Check out Elitefts or Westside Barbell for more information about maximal effort lifting and maximal effort exercises.

Power Exercises

The power exercises are based on Olympic movements and focus more on developing your speed strength rather than your maximal strength or strength endurance. That being said, they can be quite a workout on their own. These movements are fairly technical and the emphasis is on form. I want each rep of each of these movements to be done perfectly.

Take a two to three minute rest between sets. Our focus here is on perfect and explosive performance.

Progression will be steady on these exercises. Do not go to failure. Add weight in small increments each week if possible without hitting failure.

Assistance Exercises

These are the ones that will really make you work up a sweat. The focus on these exercises is to induce muscle hypertrophy, build strength endurance, and maintain muscular balance.

Rest times are shorter between these sets. Try for rest periods of one to one and a half minutes.

As with the power exercises, we’re looking for progressive overload here as the scheme for growth. Try to add small amounts of weight to each of these exercises every two weeks or so. Hitting failure on a set should be infrequent. The weights should be very challenging, but generally one should stop one rep short of true failure. For many people this is farther than they actually go. A lot of trainers may think that they only have one rep left but could actually pull off another three reps or so. For growth you’re going to have to be really working.

Energy System Work

So, football players lift heavy and fast. What else do they do? That’s right, they sprint. All of the sprinting they do in training and in games has a great effect on their physique. In addition to making them powerful and explosive, it helps them retain muscle mass and stay fairly lean.

You will perform three energy system workouts per week targeting each of the body’s primary energy systems. One will be a very intense interval session, one will be a shorter interval session, and one will be a slightly longer, slower steady state session for active recovery purposes.

Remember to warm up well before doing any interval training.

For your interval sessions, sprinting on a track or field would be ideal. If you have the resources to do this then your hard workout will consist of five to ten sprints. These sprints will be ten seconds in duration. Remember, when I say “sprint”, I mean sprint. You are to go 100%. Recovery between the sprints will consist of fast walking. If you’re not in top shape, start with five sprints per workout alternated with 50 seconds of walking. As you become more conditioned move towards the end goal week by week of ten sprints with 30 seconds of recovery walking.

Your lighter intensity interval session will consist of a similar scheme of sprinting, but only perform half of the sprints that you perform on your high intensity day. The end goal will be five sprints with 30 seconds of recovery.

If you do not have access to a field or track, then the treadmill can be used. Cross training machines and elliptical trainers are good alternatives. Stationary bicycles are acceptable as well, but many find them less challenging. If this is the case, do a few more intervals.

The active recovery cardio is performed once per week after the Lower Body Maximal Effort workout. This can also be performed the day after. So if you lift on Friday, this workout could be done on Saturday to help alleviate DOMS and promote recovery.

The active recovery cardio will be some sort of low, slow cardio workout. This could be walking, biking, or something similar. An intensity of around 60%-70% of your maximal heart rate is appropriate. The duration of this activity should be between 20 and 30 minutes. While this will improve your cardiovascular ability, we’re more interested in getting the blood flowing through your beaten up lower body to promote recovery

Other Considerations

This program is a lot of work. Recovery is very important in order for you to keep making gains. Make sure to get adequate sleep and rest. Remember the old adage: “You grow outside of the gym, not in it”. These workouts are kept fairly short for a reason; they are to be intense. Realistically you shouldn’t be spending much more than an hour with the weights per workout.

Sauna treatments, whirl pools, hot tubs, and contrast showers are all excellent means of heat and hydrotherapy that can and should be utilized to enhance relaxation and recovery. I have found these methods invaluable in keeping my athletes and myself going after weeks of workouts and competitions.

Dynamic stretching will go a long way towards limbering you up and keeping blood flowing through your muscles. This will enhance your flexibility, encourage recovery, reduce soreness, and possibly promote growth.

The most effective way to implement this program is on a hypercaloric, or mass gain, diet that will help promote growth and recovery. Drink water like it’s going out of style. A gallon of water a day is a good starting point.

If you’re trying this program on a cutting diet, then overtraining might become an issue. If you feel that you’re overtraining, then an acceptable way to cut down on the volume is to drop a work set from each of the assistance exercises.

If you’ve ever seen a big linebacker or fullback walk by and thought: “Wow, I wish I had the genetics to look like that…”, then I say genetics be damned. If you eat hard, rest hard, and lift hard then there’s no reason that you can’t be walking around with your own “power look”.

Written by Isaac Wilkins, CSCS, NCSA-CPT

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – The Power Look discussion thread.

The Science of Nutrient Timing, Part I

First published at www.t-mag.com, Apr 4 2004.

Note – You can read part 2 here – The Science of Nutrient Timing, Part II

James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise believed that space was the “final frontier,” an undiscovered territory full of strange new worlds, new life, and new civilizations. So they set out to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Following the lead of Kirk and his crew, a new crop of nutrition and exercise scientists has begun an exploration of their own, set against the backdrop of human physiology. Here on earth, nutrition and exercise scientists have suggested that the “final frontier” of the muscle-building realm is “nutrient timing.” And while the science of “nutrient timing” is nowhere near as exciting as beaming Mudd’s women aboard your vessel, put it to good use and your physique might just land you a few sultry females from this galaxy.

What Is Nutrient Timing?

With respect to manipulating body composition and athletic performance, traditional nutritionists have spent much of their time figuring out how much to eat and to a smaller extent, what to eat. Of course, both of these approaches have immense value. Although a myriad of factors affect energy balance (more than can be understood by a simple appraisal of how much you eat and how much you exercise; see Hungry, Hungry Hormones Part I for a more complete picture), the laws or thermodynamics are the most important determinants of weight gain and weight loss. Therefore, how much we eat is critical in altering our body composition (and, indirectly, our performance).

But conventional thermodynamic approaches tell just a portion of the story. After all, very few people would benefit from focusing exclusively on weight gain or weight loss. Rather, the focus should be on the composition of the gain or loss. If you’re losing equal amounts of fat and muscle when in “negative energy balance” or gaining equal amounts of fat and muscle when in “positive energy balance,” you’re probably not taking advantage of the full spectrum of nutrition and exercise information available.

Although this might be a bit of an oversimplification of a very complex topic, in some ways the thermodynamic approach of measuring calories in vs. calories out may simply maintain the body shape status quo. If you’ve got the right genetics, the calorie in vs. calorie out approach will probably be all you need to look good nekid at any body size (bigger or smaller). But, if not, simply counting calories will probably just make you a bigger or smaller version of your former self (and if you’re unhappy with that shape, you wont necessarily like it at a bigger or smaller size).

To address some of these limitations of the thermodynamic or “calorie balance” approaches, scientists recognized the value of studying the effects of food selection on body composition changes (for more on this concept, see Lean Eatin’ 1 and Lean Eatin’ 2). While this line of investigation is in its relative infancy, it’s becoming clear that there’s something to this whole food-type thing. Despite what naysayers claim, once energy balance is accounted for, some carbohydrates are better than others. Likewise, some proteins are better than others and some fats better than others.

Therefore, by choosing your food wisely, even if you’re eating the same number of calories each day, you can upregulate your metabolism, shift your hormonal profile, and alter the composition of your weight gain and weight loss (not to mention reap the health benefits of a better diet composition).

As you can see, the science of what to eat has added to the how much to eat picture and advanced our understanding of body composition manipulation. By recognizing the laws of thermodynamics and eating accordingly we can set the stage for weight loss or weight gain. And by choosing our foods wisely, we wield the power to take control of what types of gains and losses we’ll see. In some respects, the science of what to eat has given us the power to transcend some of our genetic “inclinations” (i.e. overall body shape).

While the how much to eat and what to eat approaches offer a ton of great nutrition information, one newly emerging area of research, “nutrient timing,” has begun to demonstrate that manipulating the time dimension can further assist in taking control of our body composition and athletic performance. In this way, nutrient timing, or the science of when to eat, is becoming an important part of nutritional planning.

What’s So Special About When We Eat?

To the average person who’s not exercising, the principles of nutrient timing aren’t very important. Sure, glucose tolerance/insulin sensitivity is altered during the course of a day but these changes probably aren’t critical to determining one’s dietary needs. For these individuals, what and how much they eat is the most important thing. While nutrient timing isn’t critical to the average person, its importance must not be underestimated in the athlete (including team sport athletes, endurance athletes, and weight trainers).

In the book, “Nutrient Timing” (a book I also contributed to), Drs. John Ivy and Robert Portman make a great comment about the current state of sports nutrition practice. In this book they highlight the fact that as scientists began to learn about the nutritional needs of athletes/weightlifters (i.e. higher energy needs and the benefits of additional protein ingestion), a “bulk nutrition” concept was adopted in which athletes began to believe things like “if protein is good, then more protein must be better.” (You don’t know anyone like that, do you?) In other words, when many athletes find out that something is “good,” they try to get lots of it. And when many athletes find out that something is “bad,” they try to avoid it at all costs.

Unfortunately this is nothing more than a combination of the how much to eat and what to eat approaches discussed above. Combine that with a very naive good vs. bad approach to food and you’ve got a recipe for sub-optimal nutritional intake. After all, very few foods are always good or always bad (well, I can think of a few…). This is certainly unfortunate for two reasons. First, much of the current science is pointing to the fact that if you train regularly, the body is primed for fat gain or fat loss just as it’s primed for muscle gain or muscle loss during specific times of the day. Add in the wrong foods at the wrong times and you’re sabotaging your efforts in the gym. Add the right foods and your efforts are given a giant boost. Secondly, although some foods are not optimal during certain times of the day (i.e. sugar), some of these same foods can actually be very beneficial during other times of the day (such as the post workout period).

Throwing aside the oversimplification inherent in the bulk nutrition concept, let’s now get down to the nuts and bolts of optimal nutrient timing. Since I was a consultant in the development of the book, I’m going to go ahead and take the liberty of borrowing from some of Drs. Ivy and Portman’s nomenclature. In the book, the authors refer to three critical times of the day in which nutrient timing takes on a greater importance. These times are known as the Energy Phase, The Anabolic Phase, and The Growth Phase. Since I like these distinctions, I’ll use them here. However, I’ll add another phase that I call, somewhat in jest, The Rest of The Day Phase

Nutrient Timing — The Energy Phase

The Energy Phase is called this because this phase occurs during the workout when energy demands are highest. As you probably know, the energy used by skeletal muscle is ATP. This ATP is formed and re synthesized by macronutrients from the diet so carbs, proteins, and fats contribute indirectly to the energy of muscle contraction. Therefore, the high rates of energy demand during exercise are met by ingested nutrients and/or stored nutrients (the ratio depends on your feeding schedule). This breakdown of nutrients, while completely necessary, is, by definition, catabolic. As such, the workout period, as I’ve addressed in the past (see Precision Nutrition), is marked by a number of anabolic and catabolic effects.

Anabolic Effects Of Acute Exercise

  • Increased Skeletal Muscle Blood Flow
  • Increased Anabolic Hormone Release
  • (GH, Testosterone, IGF-1)
  • Acute Phase Response Resolution

Catabolic Effects Of Acute Exercise

  • Glycogen Depletion
  • Decreased Net Protein Balance
  • Increased Cortisol Concentrations
  • Decreased Insulin Concentrations
  • Acute Phase Response Breakdown
    Increased Metabolic Rate
    Dehydration (Endurance or Intermittent Exercise in Heat)

While these phenomena are nothing new and have been shown to occur during most types of exercise/training, what is new is the idea that targeted nutritional intake can actually shift the anabolic/catabolic balance during exercise, enhancing some of the anabolic effects while minimizing some of the catabolic effects (1; 4; 10; 11; 17).

To give you an example, a protein/carbohydrate supplement (like Opticen) ingested immediately prior to exercise (or sipped during exercise) can actually increase skeletal muscle blood flow. Since this drink not only enhances blood flow but stocks that blood up with amino acids and glucose, the protein balance of the muscle will be shifted toward the positive and glycogen depletion will be significantly reduced. In addition, those amino acids and glucose units, independent of their effects on muscle protein and glycogen status, can also lead to a decrease in cortisol concentrations and improve the overall immune response (part of the acute phase response listed above and described in detail in the Precision Nutrition article).

Of course, if the aforementioned supplement is in a liquid form and is sipped during the exercise bout (as recommended), dehydration, a potent performance killer in both strength and endurance athletes, can be staved off as well. That’s not too shabby for a little ol’ protein/carbohydrate drink, eh?

The When, What and How Much of the Energy Phase

When examining the science of nutrient timing in detail, it becomes clear that one of the key “when to eat” times of the day is during the Energy Phase or during the workout. Of course, in focusing on when to eat, I’m in no way suggesting we should neglect considering what and how much to eat. In fact, they’re probably your next two questions so let’s get to them right away.

As indicated above, during the Energy Phase it’s important to ingest some protein and carbohydrate. In my experience the easiest way to do this is to drink an easily digested liquid carbohydrate and protein drink. This drink should probably consist of a well-diluted (a 6-10% solution — meaning 60-100g of powder for every 1L of water) combination of glucose, maltodextrin, and whey protein/hydrolyzed whey protein. Dilution is important, especially if you are an endurance athlete or if you’re training in a hot environment. If you don’t dilute your drink appropriately, you may not replenish your body’s water stores at an optimal rate (9; 12).

Now that we know when to eat and what to eat, let’s figure out how much. Unfortunately this isn’t as easy to answer. How much to eat really has a lot to do with how much energy you’re expending during the exercise bout, how much you’re eating the rest of the day, whether your primary interest is gaining muscle mass or losing fat mass, and a number of other factors. For a simple answer, however, I suggest starting out by sipping 0.8g of carbohydrate/kg and 0.4g of protein/kg diluted in somewhere around 1L of water (5; 17-20). For you 220lb guys, that means 80g of carbohydrate and 40g of protein during training. This, of course, is the nutrient make-up of Surge.

Nutrient Timing – The Anabolic Phase

The Anabolic Phase occurs immediately after the workout and lasts about an hour or two. This phase is titled “anabolic” because it’s during this time that the muscle cells are primed for muscle building. Interestingly, although the cells are primed for muscle building, in the absence of a good nutritional strategy, this phase can remain catabolic.

Without adequate nutrition, the period immediately after strength and endurance training is marked by a net muscle catabolism; that’s right, after exercise muscles continue to break down. Now, if you’re asking yourself how this can be, you’re asking the right question. After all, training (especially weight training) makes you bigger, not smaller. And even if you’re an endurance athlete, your muscles don’t exactly break down either. So how can exercise be so catabolic?

Well, for starters, as I’ve written before, while the few hours after exercise induce a net catabolic state (although protein synthesis does increase after exercise, so does breakdown), it’s later in the recovery cycle that the body begins to shift toward anabolism (8; 14). So we typically break down for some time after the workout and then start to build back up later (whether that “build up” is in muscle size or in muscle quality).

However, with this said, there are new data showing that with the right nutritional intervention (protein and carbohydrate supplementation), we can actually repair and improve muscle size or quality during and immediately after exercise (16; 17). And the best part is that if we do the nutrition thing right, not only do we start repairing muscle during and after exercise, we continue to alter muscle size and/or quality later on as well (16). For more on what happens during the postexercise period, check out my articles Solving the Post-Workout Puzzle 1 and Solving the Post Workout Puzzle 2.

The When, What and How Much of the Anabolic Phase

From now on, when planning your nutritional intake, you’d better consider both the Energy and Anabolic phases as two of the key “whens” of nutrient timing. Therefore, to maximize your muscle gain and recovery, you’ll be feeding both during and immediately after exercise. Again we come to what and how much.

As indicated above, during the Anabolic Phase it’s important to ingest some protein and carbohydrate. Just like with the Energy Phase, in my experience the easiest way to do this is to drink an easily digested liquid carbohydrate and protein drink. This drink should probably consist of a well-diluted (a 6-10% solution — meaning 60-100g of powder for every 1L of water) combination of glucose, maltodextrin, and whey protein/hydrolyzed whey protein. While dilution, in this case, isn’t as important for rehydration because you’ve stopped exercising and presumably, sweating, you’re now diluting to prevent gastrointestinal distress. I won’t go to far into detail here — just take my word for it. You must dilute.

Now that we know when to eat and what to eat, let’s figure out how much. Just like with the Energy Phase, how much to eat really has a lot to do with how much energy you’re expending during the exercise bout, how much you’re eating the rest of the day, whether your primary interest is gaining muscle mass or losing fat mass, and a number of other factors. However, just like with the Energy Phase, a simple suggestion is to start out by sipping another serving of 0.8g of carbohydrate/kg and 0.4g of protein/kg diluted in somewhere around 1L of water (5; 17-20).

If you add up the basic suggestions from the Energy Phase and the Anabolic Phase, you’ll find that I’ve recommended about 1.6g of carbohydrate/kg and 0.8g of protein/kg in total. For a 220lb guy, that’s a total of 160g carbohydrate and 80g of protein during and immediately after training. Based on your preconceived notions of what constitutes “a lot” of carbs, this may seem like a lot or not much at all.

Regardless, it’s important to understand that during and after training, insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance is very good (2; 3; 13; 15; 21). Even if you’ve self-diagnosed poor carbohydrate tolerance (which too many people do unnecessarily) during and after the post exercise period, your carbohydrate tolerance will be much better.

And if you consider that most carbohydrate ingested during and immediately after exercise will either be oxidized for fuel or sent to the muscle and liver for glycogen re synthesis and that even in the presence of increased insulin concentrations, the post exercise period is marked by a dramatic increase in fat metabolism (6; 7), it should be clear that even a whopping carbohydrate and protein drink will not directly lead to fat gain. Just be sure to account for this increase in carbohydrate intake by decreasing your carbohydrate intake during other times of the day when carbohydrate re synthesis isn’t so efficient and booming insulin isn’t so benign.

From this discussion it should be clear that, using the principles of nutrient timing, one can load up on carbs during and after the workout while reducing them for the remainder of the day. In using this strategy, carbs are fed when they’ll best be converted into muscle glycogen and when they’ll best stimulate muscle growth and/or repair. If muscle gain is your goal, you’ll get more muscle per gram of carbohydrate ingested. If fat loss is your goal, you’ll get more muscle glycogen and a pronounced muscle sparing effect with fewer daily carbs ingested. And if athletic performance/recovery is your goal, your recovery will improve dramatically.

So before we move on, it’s important to understand that the 960kcal I recommended (for 220lb men) would be better utilized during and after the workout than during any other time of the day and herein lies the gist of nutrient timing. Nutrients ingested during the Energy and Anabolic Phases can better contribute to muscle gain, repair, and recovery when compared to the same nutrients ingested during other times of the day.

Now that I’ve covered what to eat during the Energy and Anabolic Phases, I’ll be back next week with some recommendations for what to eat during the final two phases of the nutrient timing cycle.

Written by Dr. John M Berardi, Ph.D.

Note – You can read part 2 here – The Science of Nutrient Timing, Part II

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – The Science of Nutrient Timing, Part I discussion thread.

John Berardi is the author of Precision Nutrition, the nutrition system used by his personal clients and athletes to build lean, muscular, high-performance physiques in record time.