Up the Dosage

What’s the quickest and most effective way to change your physique? Easy. Insert several needles filled with an oily substance in your body each week and wash down half a dozen pink tabs everyday. Fast forward ten weeks and you should be pushing a good ten to fifteen pounds more in the lean tissue department. Pretty simple huh?

Actually it is.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world where beautiful gym babes work out topless and anabolic steroids are free. In this world, when it comes to planning the next cycle the first thing that changes is the dosage. Sadly, this is a huge misconception.

Johnny Loses His Virginity

Meet Johnny. He’s an average guy with a sub-par physique who’s looking to slap some meat on his bones. His weight training adventure started at the age of 22 when he weighed in at 160 pounds with 9% body fat. After a year of hard training in the gym he’s managed to add on 20 pounds of mass to his frame boosting him up to 180 pounds at 12%. However, as it routinely happens, Johnny has hit a plateau and is now considering the use of anabolic steroids. So he does some research and educates himself. After some time he finally decides to use 500 mg of Sustanon per week for 12 weeks, and 30 mg of Dbol every day for 6 weeks—followed by some clomid therapy. After acquiring the goods he starts his cycle.

12 weeks later and 15 pounds heavier, Johnny is now sitting at 195 pounds and 14%. Johnny is happy but he’s still not satisfied. After some time off he decides to do another cycle.

Johnny wants to keep it simple. He’s going to take the same drugs but increase the dose. So now he’ll be taking 750mg of Sustanon for 12 weeks and 40mgs of Dbol for 6 weeks. However Johnny’s friend Bob (his work out partner) tells him that he should use more since he’s no longer a virgin and that his first cycle was his best one. In other words, Johnny needs to use more now to see the same gains he saw on his first cycle. So he does some more research and adds in some EQ as well at 400mg per week. Johnny is now taking more than a gram of anabolic steroids per week.

Where did Johnny go wrong?

School’s in Session

Johnny made three common mistakes. He took advice from his friend. He made the mistake of thinking that more is better, and he confused the notion that everything should be keyed to the drugs he’s using.

Trainees tend to use higher dosages with each new cycle because someone, supposedly more experienced, tell them to. More experienced does not necessarily equal smarter. It is said that, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” The difference between a seasoned vet who is experienced and one who is knowledgeable is that the knowledgeable one not only passes the test, but takes the time to learn the lesson afterwards. Many experienced lifters in the iron game tend to spend more time “learning the tricks of the trade rather than the actual trade” (Vernon Law).

Johnny is not alone in his second mistake either. In succumbing to the notion that more is better, he joins thousands of others who have done the same. 

This problem has nothing to do with some sort of complex biological mechanism operating in the human body, but rather, with 3 simple factors:

1) Increased nutrient partitioning.

2) Increased training “intensity.”

3) Increased caloric intake.

When Johnny first started his first cycle, he introduced 3 new factors into his routine, and these played a large role in his weight gain success. As with most humans, it’s a psychological norm to believe that once something has been achieved, getting to the next level must involve an increase in whatever worked before. With the usage of anabolic steroids, the same belief is widely accepted and should be. However, the problem isn’t in the dosage but lies within other variables which are often overlooked—the three mentioned above. Instead of increasing his dose, Johnny should have looked at increasing his caloric intake and restructuring his program so that the intensity used allowed for more of an overload to be placed on the soft tissues of the body.

Johnny gained 20 pounds because the drugs he took had an effect on his training intensity and allowed for an increased nutrient-partitioning effect. If Johnny were to use the same dose again for his next cycle, train in the same manner and maintain his caloric intake, would he see the same results? No. The next time around, other than an increase in nutrient partitioning, he’d be lucky to gain 10 pounds of lean muscle tissue.

To see a noticeable increase in size and strength while keeping the same dose Johnny would have to increase his training intensity and his caloric intake to match his new body. In many cases trainees often overlook the fact that after gaining new muscle, their body is now operating at a new level. To see an increase in size, more calories have to be taken in and a new stimulus must be applied to overload the muscles. Unfortunately, instead of applying this basic principle, most look at increasing the dosage and keeping the other variables the same. This is why many people feel that an increase in dosage each time they start a new cycle will produce an increase in gains.

This leads to Johnnies third mistake.

Johnny depended on a drug to do the job for him when he should have done it himself. For something to have an effect on the body, one must be prepared to do some work. A program should be tailored to the dose and the substance used, but the results should never be substance-dependent. It’s often the uneducated lifters who look at the easiest variable (dosage) and increase it without sitting down and looking at the other variables at work in their program. Nutrition, adequate rest, proper training habits and methods are areas that should be looked at first before assessing whether or not a substance is performing as expected. However, if all avenues have been exhausted, then by all means look at the dosage, but not before doing a thorough check of these other areas.

In the end, if Johnny avoids this common mistake he won’t fall prey to the “more is better syndrome.” Of course he won’t reap the same results he achieved during his first cycle, but he also won’t have to worry about other things such as increased side effects, money spent, health risks and potential injury. Hopefully Johnny’s smart and takes the route less traveled. It may not get him to his goal as quickly but it’ll save him a lot of heartache in the long run.

Written by Maki Riddington

The Top 25 Ways to Pack on Serious Mass – Part 3

Note: You can find Part 1 and Part 2 to this article series here: Part 1 | Part 2

Yes, it’s finally here! You now have the final part in this three part series on how to go up a weight class. All the while making sure you don’t look like you have been on a serious diet of hot dogs and marshmallows. By the time you finish this article you will know the top 25 ways to put on solid muscle so that going up your weight class is a little more scientifically laid out than raiding your local “All you Can Eat” buffet a couple times a week. In the final installation of this series, I will discuss the last 9 tips to make sure that your venture of going up a weight class was a success, not a higher cholesterol rating.

17.  Avoid Processed and Junk Foods

I know I will get a lot of flak for this one but I had to say it. When I hear most powerlifters discuss that they are going up a weight class it reminds me of children talking about how they are going to Disney Land. It’s like they have just won the lottery. Just because you are going up a weight class doesn’t mean you have a blank check to eat all the junk that you can get your hands on. I know this may sound funny, but it is a reality among a lot of powerlifters. Plain and simple, processed foods are not healthy for the body. When you look back to our ancestors they ate mainly foods in a natural state. They didn’t eat things like potato chips, chocolate tacos, ice cream, chocolate bars, deli meats, candy, and all the other junk foods that people go crazy for. Let’s face reality for a second here, these “nutritious foods” may help you get a bigger total in “Bizarro World”, but I am sad to tell you they won’t help your total in this one! Not only will these foods add an extra roll of fat around your waist, they will also increase your chances for a whole slew of health conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes among others.

18.  Schedule a Cheat Meal

“Did you just say cheat meal?” “I thought you told us not to eat all the bad foods that you mentioned above.” Well, I do know that powerlifters are human after all, not strength cyborgs from another planet.

Yes, I don’t want unhealthy junk foods to be a regular part of your diet, but if I told you to have a total abstinence from the foods that you have loved all your life, you will give up before you get started. The point here with your scheduled cheat day is that you allow yourself one cheat meal per week. Note I said cheat meal, not cheat day. This will allow you once a week to eat whatever you want in a reasonable amount for one meal on your cheat day.

The main purpose of this is to allow you to have a mental break from your daily nutritional plan. At the same time it lets you enjoy something you like and it will help keep you on track the rest of the week.

20.  Consume Your Healthy Fats

If you have been a regular reader of my column, than you already know my view on fat. The type of fat that I will be discussing here is what is known in layman’s terms as “Healthy Fats”. These healthy fats include your Omega 3-6-9. The Omega 3 and 6 are known as polyunsaturated fats and the Omega 9 is known as monounsaturated fat. The Omega 3’s are one of the most important since they have many benefits for the powerlifter. They increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation of your joints and tendons. Your Omega 9’s are important since they contain oleic acid which is known to keep the arteries of your heart supple, and they have a positive effect on your testosterone level.

Carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram; while fat has over double that at 9 calories per gram. Not only will healthy fats help in many areas for health and strength, but they will provide an excellent source of calories. One tablespoon of flax or olive oil contains 114 calories and 14 grams of fat. Just say yes to healthy fats to keep your weight and total climbing!

20.  Optimize Your Post Workout Nutrition

Now when I say the words post workout nutrition, what comes to your mind? Is it go home and eat what ever you like? Is it to hit the local Ice cream shop for a double scoop of chocolate fudge layered in marshmallows and sprinkles? Or is it something you have systematically and scientifically planned out to make sure that you are providing your body with the nutrients that it needs to gain benefit from that crazy workout that you just did? Now from most of the lifters that I have talked to, they don’t have a clue what to eat after their workouts. They just go with the flow and eat whatever is lying around their house when they get home from their workouts, or whatever fast food drive thru is closest to the gym. This may sound funny but if this is you I will tell you straight. You are destroying all the hard work that you just performed by not supplying your body with what it needs at the most important time of the day.

Post workout nutrition is much more complicated than just simply eating your piping hot dinner (what ever it may be) when you get home from the gym. You have to supply your body with quality protein and carbohydrates (Opticen is perfect for a post-workout shake) along with a multitude of micronutrients and nutrient partitioning agents if you are looking to get the most from your training. In a future issue I will be discussing post workout nutrition and how it applies to the powerlifter. Just remember if you don’t think that your post workout nutrition plan is optimal, it most likely is giving your competition a major advantage come contest day!

21.  Prepare Your Foods Ahead of Time

You are probably wondering what this has to do with packing on mass. We are in a time when we are working more hours than we like, our family responsibilities are at an all time high, deadlines for work and life have to be met, and the amount of free time that we have for ourselves is very limited. With this in mind, I recommend for all my athletes to prepare their meals ahead of time. That is unless you live on a lavish estate where you have your very own servant and chef waiting on your every beck and call. Ok, back to reality here for a minute. The fact is if you try to stick to the guidelines that I have layed out for you in the past three articles of this series, it is unrealistic to think that you are going to prepare all of your foods on a daily basis every morning before going into the office. It’s simply too much work to keep it up day after day. This is one of the reasons why many people fall off their diets, and fail to stick with their plan.

I suggest that you prepare your foods for 2-3 days in advance. A Sunday evening would be perfect for this. Prepare your different foods and put them into Tupperware containers in the fridge. Now have a separate set of Tupperware containers that you will bring to work in your cooler bag every day. Just bring them to work and nuke them for a few minutes and voila, you have a ready to go nutritious high protein, carbohydrate rich meal that will keep you fueled all day long. Do the same with your protein drinks. Pick up a few protein shaker bottles which you can get at any GNC store. Put your protein powder in each bottle and throw them in your bag. At work, having a shake will be as simple as adding some water, shaking and drinking. All which can be done in under a minute’s time.

You have to make eating healthy convenient or you will turn into one of those individuals that tells everyone that you would like to eat healthy but it’s just too time consuming. Yet these are the same individuals that spend 3 hours every night in front of the television to watch their favorite shows. You have to prioritize what is most important, and if you consider yourself a serious powerlifter than there is no way that you shouldn’t be bringing your cooler bag to work with pre planned nutritious meals. If athletes of other sports can do this then there is no reason why powerlifters can’t do it!

22. Watch Your Alcohol Intake

I know that you didn’t want to hear this one. One of the things that seem to increase with a lot of powerlifters when they are trying to put on weight is that they jack up their alcohol intake. I have heard several lifters say things like the following. ”Hey it will provide me with some extra calories to help pack the weight on.” Yeah, extra weight on your waist and glutes! You will get extra calories, but they will be empty calories with absolutely no nutritional value. From a nutritional point of view we have to take a look at the macronutrient breakdown of different foods and from here we can choose whether they are a good or a bad choice. From here we can decide to include or avoid them in our nutritional plan.

Let’s take a look at the caloric intake of our macronutrients for a minute. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. Fat has 9 calories per gram. Alcohol on the other hand has 7 calories per gram! Isn’t that crazy? Considering alcohol has almost as many calories per gram as pure fat, doesn’t it make you wonder what it’s going to do to not only the look of your physique but your powerlifting performance as well? Now here is another problem that most of you may not be thinking of. Protein and carbohydrates have a lot of performance benefits for the powerlifter. Protein will help increase lean muscle tissue, increase your metabolic rate, helps in the recovery process, and increases protein synthesis. Carbohydrates provide your body with an excellent energy source, replace muscle glycogen stores after tough workouts, helps in the recovery process, plays a major role in cell volumization, and keeps our thyroid hormones in check. Now, how does alcohol play a role in this picture? It doesn’t play any nutritional role and this goes to show you that it shouldn’t be a major staple in our diet.

Now you might be saying that you saw a study that showed alcohol actually helped lower cholesterol levels in some individuals. This is when it is used in moderate amounts, not in the way that some lifters consume alcohol. This doesn’t give you a valid excuse to go out on the weekend and get loaded on a Friday and Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, if you consume alcohol in moderation it can have health benefits but the key word here is MODERATION!

23.  Increase Your Calories Gradually

When looking to increase your calories don’t just jack them up like a maniac after reading this article. Don’t go from your 3200 calorie diet and plan on attacking a 5500 calorie plan right off the bat. If you do you will be setting yourself up for disaster. Each week try to increase your daily caloric intake by 250-750 calories depending on your weight, energy expenditure, metabolic rate, and level of insulin sensitivity. You have to slowly increase your calories as your digestive system will just get overloaded and will not be able to process and absorb the nutrients from the massive increase in food volume. Take things in steps and you will eventually be where you need to be in no time.

24.  Take Extra Vitamin C

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last half century, than you probably already know that Vitamin C has a positive effect on our immune system. There always seems to be mainstream media coverage on how this wonder vitamin can help you fight off the dreaded cold. Yes, the immune system boosting properties of Vitamin C are one of the reason’s why I recommend its use but there is a lot more to this vitamin than what they tell you on TV. One very important benefit to Vitamin C is the effects that it has on cortisol levels. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone and is one that you want to minimize in your body. Its job is to breakdown valuable muscle tissue and increase fat storage. Sounds good if you want to be fat and weak! Vitamin C has been shown to reduce cortisol production. If that’s not enough it has also been shown to increase the powerlifter’s favorite hormone…TESTOSTERONE!

Now I have your attention don’t I?

Yes, Vitamin C has shown to not only keep the “Cortisol Monster” at bay but at the same time it has a positive effect on testosterone levels as well. One important function of vitamin C is in the formation and maintenance of collagen. This is the basis of connective tissue, which is found in skin, ligaments, cartilage, vertebral discs, joint linings, capillary walls, and your bones and teeth. Taking extra Vitamin C when going through a pre contest powerlifting cycle is an excellent idea to help your body repair and recover from all the stress you put upon it. These are just a few of the many reasons why powerlifters need to supplement with extra Vitamin C.

25.  Stay Dedicated

Without dedication to not only your training but your nutritional and supplementation program, you will never see the results that you deserve. With powerlifters I have noticed that many will stick to the training program that they have laid out for their upcoming competition, but yet many get lazy when it is time to put the same effort forth for their nutritional program. Now you might be thinking that all this nutritional stuff is just for those bodybuilders and it really has nothing to do with the sport of Powerlifting. Well, I’ll let you in on something. I believe that nutrition is even more important for the powerlifter than the bodybuilder. The main problem in our sport is that since we don’t have to have a ripped midsection when we step on stage that gives us the green light to go and eat what ever we like. This is not the case and if you are of this mentality then I can guarantee that no matter how hard you train, no matter who your coach is, no matter how fine tuned your bench shirt is, you will never reach your optimal potential in this sport.

I am currently working with close to 25 of the best powerlifters on this planet both men and women. They include world and national champion lifters, as well as World record holders from the United States, Canada, and Europe. I am working with strength athletes at such an elite level you would think that they have basically reached their limit in terms of their potential. Well guess what, many of them are just scratching the surface in what they can accomplish in this sport. Many of them didn’t have an optimal nutritional program when they came to me for counseling and program design. The fact that I have seen many of my world class powerlifters make unbelievable gains in such a short time is due to the fact that once your nutritional plan is customized to your individual needs, the results will be very surprising! If customizing the plan of World class powerlifters is causing them to have exceptional gains and helping them over come plateaus, just think of what optimizing your nutritional plan could do for you!

Written by Anthony Ricciuto

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 Top 25 Ways to Pack on Serious Mass – Part 3 discussion thread.

Top Ten and-a-Half Training Tips for Martial Arts Conditioning

Applying the principles of scientific training– I have come up with ten (and a half) training guidelines for the combat athlete that must be present to ensure competitive success.

Body weight before external resistance

Many athletes make the mistake of beginning a strength routine and going straight for the heavy weights. This usually ends up causing an injury. An athlete has no business using load if he/she cannot stabilize, control and move efficiently with only their body weight. So your strength program in the beginning stages may actually include no weights whatsoever. And it will work better and faster than a typical program that relies primarily on weights and machines in the beginning stages. In fact in my experience I’d suggest that some athletes cannot even work with their bodyweight so we may need to modify certain exercises.

Do not rush to lift heavy loads – muscle recruitment and control are far more important than maximal strength for any athlete. Without control – the strength is useless.

2.   Train to the 5th Power

This is a concept I learned from Juan Carlos Santana – basically it refers to the following.

a) Train in a standing position, GROUND BASED – The majority of athletic training should take place in an upright position – standing. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, we always lose something when we go from a standing position to a seated or lying position.

b) Train with free weights (destabilized) – Any machine limits the range of motion and controls the movement. This is fine for beginners, but athletes need to be able to stabilize and control their bodies in all three planes of motion simultaneously.

c) Use Multiple Joints (the kinetic CHAIN is natural) – Single joint strength (e.g. leg extension machine, bicep curls) develops useless strength – A study was undertaken at Ohio State involving a knee extension test.

The participants included:

  • 3 World ranked squatters
  • 1 World Record holder in the squat

The test results of the above subjects’ averaged 180lbs of force on the Cybex leg extension machine.

However a local power lifter (ranked 15th in the state) broke the machine. He wasn’t even number one in his state but he was stronger on this machine than the World ranked lifters. If there is a better example of the inability of single joint machine training to translate to real world strength then I’d like to see it. A guy who was only ranked 15th in the state can apply more single leg strength than a World Record holder. Nice. Pretty. But, pretty useless. If that strength doesn’t transfer then what’s the point of having it?

Basically, despite the strength that individual exhibited on the machine, he was unable to apply it in a real world situation – like squatting. And the elite squatters weren’t that strong on the leg extension – showing it’s not even a factor.

So leg extension machines are a waste of time. Unless of course you compete in seated ass kicking leg extension contests.

“How can anyone expect to possess co-ordination in active work when his muscles have never worked together in groups?” – Earle Liederman 1924.

Nearly 80 years ago and we are still having this argument today. Isolation machines have no place in the preparation of a competitive athlete.

“Single -joint exercises, such as leg extensions and leg curls develop movement patterns that will interfere with patterns you use in sport. Such exercises lead to inappropriate muscle recruitment patterns that can impair movement and lead to injury”
– Thomas Fahey

d) Train with explosiveness

Explosiveness as I see it can be defined as ‘as fast as possible with control’. Some people seem to feel that explosiveness is somewhat dangerous. Sloppy training, uncontrolled movements? That’s dangerous. Training explosively more closely mirrors what happens in sport and/or life.

e) Train functionally – train movements not muscle groups.

Again, isolated muscle group training, outside of rehabilitation has no place in athletic training. An athlete should focus on strengthening specific movements. True muscle isolation is impossible anyway, so let’s focus on using that body to work in an integrated fashion.

3.   Train unilaterally and multi-planar

The majority of training programs take place in the sagittal plane with bilateral movements. Sport takes place in all 3 planes simultaneously with primarily unilateral movements

4.   Use all primary methods to develop strength

  • Max Strength method – heavy loads
  • Repeated Efforts Method – multiple sets
  • Dynamic Effort Method – using relatively lighter weights and moving them at max speed (this is the least used method)

5.   Variation

Everyone seems to understand that training load should be progressively increased. Few understand that the training stimulus must also be progressively and periodically varied. All programs have positive and negative aspects no matter how well designed or specific – too much time on one program and you’ll habituate to the positive aspects and accumulate the negative aspects

6.   Avoid mimicking skills

The role of conditioning training is NOT skill training. Loading a technique tends to affect the mechanics of the technique negatively.

7.   Train with Balance

  • Balance between motor qualities
  • Balance between movement patterns (e.g. horizontal push-pull)

8.   Focus on Rate of Force Development.

Either lift lighter weights fast, or heavy weights as fast as possible (intent is more important than actual speed

9.   Train the antagonists

The speed of a kick or punch is determined largely by the ability of the antagonist to eccentrically decelerate the joint action efficiently and prevent joint injury. If your body cannot safely and effectively – brake – the motion, then it will not allow you to achieve full acceleration.

If you are not training the antagonists eccentrically – you are not training deceleration. And if you are not training deceleration you cannot be training acceleration.

Think about it – how fast would you drive your car if you knew your brakes were not working at their best?

10.   No Aerobic Training

Aerobic training is pretty much a total waste of time. There is nothing in any martial art that is done aerobically – it is done at high intensity, explosively and at full speed – usually without oxygen. Martial arts take place at the limits of the anaerobic threshold – there is no benefit to doing long slow training of any kind.

10.5.   Use Undulating Periodization

When using linear models – we tend to lose the qualities we initially sought to improve – e.g. 6 weeks of hypertrophy, 6 weeks of strength. 6 weeks of speed strength

At this point it has been 12 weeks since we were exposed to hypertrophy methods – so we’ll have lost portions of that quality.

A better method is to alternate accumulation and intensification phases.

Typical mistakes

1.   Sacrificing Quality for Quantity – Don’t do more of something until you can do it well. More is not better. BETTER is BETTER

2.   Seeking fatigue/soreness – The effectiveness of training is not determined by the amount of fatigue it produces but by the degree to which it improves the qualities and/or abilities you’re trying to develop.

3.   Excessive focus on loading –
Too much focus on the loads and not how it is being moved, and whether or not there is optimal transfer (standing split stance cable press v barbell bench press). Also the time taken to go from a 300lb squat to a 400lb squat may not be worth the return in the real world.

4.   Lack of diversity –
Unchanging routines leads to staleness and overuse injuries

5.   Lack of continuity –
Write programs, not workouts – try to write 12-16 weeks at a time. Understand that certain factors may mean that you need to change your routines – that’s ok. However – what I typically see is a situation where trainers and coaches do not write long term plans, they write single workouts. This leads to a lack of continuity and progress.

Remember the ironic rule of strength training for sport. The objective is not to get stronger per se but to improve athletic performance. Do not get caught up in the numbers game and do not confuse gym improvements with real world or sports world improvements. The greatest athletes in the world do not necessarily have the greatest bench presses in the world.

The greatest athletes in the world have an ability to produce useable force on their field of play. Usable force is force that propels athletes towards the ball, knocks another athlete back or down, helps you move at full speed, or throws the winning touchdown pass. Usable force is force properly directed in an unstable real world, unpredictable environment. The weight room, in general, is a stable environment whereas a field of play or the competition ring is a constantly changing place. A good strength and conditioning coach looks to improve athletic performances – not just gym lift numbers.

Written by Alwyn Cosgrove

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 – Top Ten and-a-Half Training Tips for Martial Arts Conditioning – discussion thread.