Supplement Staples for 2009 – Protein is Prime

Now that the Holiday Season is over and the New Year is upon us, it is a perfect time to re-examine your supplement plan for 2009. With thousands of different dietary supplements available, it quickly becomes an overwhelming task to make sense of product claims and separate fact from fiction.

The first order of business is to make sure you have the basics covered. There is a sizeable amount of scientific literature supporting the anabolic effects of creatine and the general health benefits of fish oil.

While I’m a major advocate for including these as staples for any serious athlete, I think the number one supplement you need in your arsenal is protein. Regardless of your specific goals or whether you are a novice or veteran in the gym, a high quality protein supplement is essential for maximizing training adaptations. 
The Most Important Reason You Need Protein

If you don’t consume protein around your workout, protein balance is negative. In the fasted state, it is true that resistance exercise alone has an anabolic effect by increasing protein synthesis proportionally more than breakdown, but the end result is still a negative protein balance. That simple fact is the main reason you need to consider a protein supplement as part of your nutritional supplement program.  Simply put, the amino acids provided by protein serve as the building blocks for building muscle proteins. If you do not provide the amino acids in your diet, the body breaks down its own muscle proteins to provide the amino acids needed.

Three Key Questions

When it comes to protein supplements, there are a large number of products to choose from. From a practical standpoint, there are 3 main questions to address with protein supplementation:

  1. What source of protein should be used?
  2. How much protein should be ingested?
  3. When should protein be consumed?

Be skeptical if anyone claims to have unequivocal answers to these questions because the science is far from absolute.  We have some very good knowledge about protein supplementation, but there are still many gaps that need to be addressed. The results from studies can, however, begin to point us in a direction that makes the most sense.  When looking at the preponderance of evidence a sensible case can be made for providing recommendations on protein supplementation.
1. What source of Protein should be used?

Two of the most popular protein sources are whey and casein, the two major milk proteins.  Both are excellent sources of all the essential amino acids, but they have some key differences.

Whey is renowned for its high quality rating and is definitively the most popular supplemental protein. Scientific studies have revealed that whey has several unique qualities that make it an attractive protein source for athletes:

  • A distinguishing feature of whey protein is its high prevalence of essential amino acids.
  • Whey contains about 10% leucine which directly activates a critical compound in muscle cells called the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).  mTOR activates protein synthesis. 
  • Whey protein is digested and absorbed quickly resulting in a rapid increase in plasma amino acids.  This results in a large and rapid increase in protein synthesis.
  • Chronic ingestion of whey results in improved body composition including both increased lean body mass and decreased fat mass.
  • Whey is helpful in weight management due to increased satiety and increased energy expenditure.
  • Whey protein consumed after resistance exercise provides a greater overall anabolic effect on skeletal muscle.
  • Whey protein improves blood glucose control.
  • Whey protein has antioxidant effects due to the fact it is a unique and rich source of cysteine and thiol groups (3-4 times higher than soy).  These groups are rate-limiting for synthesis of glutathione (GSH), one of the most important non-enzymatic antioxidant defense systems.
  • Whey fractions such as lactoferrin, glutamine, immunoglobulins, and other peptides (eg, lysozome, –b-lactoglobulin, and b-lactalbumin) may have positive effects on immune function.
    • Several peptides from whey protein have been shown to possess hypotensive properties, and some studies show lowering of  blood pressure on par with some drugs.

Casein also has several unique characteristics worth noting. Casein is the most abundant protein in milk. It has all the essential amino acids and scores high on all methods of protein quality. Whereas whey protein is more soluble in an acid environment, casein is relatively insoluble. Because casein is insoluble it tends to form structures called micelles. Micelles are suspensions of spherical structures that increase solubility in water.  Casein’s insolubility slows its digestion rate. In contrast to the rapid digestion and release of amino acids into the blood after ingestion of whey, the slow digestion of casein in the stomach results in a prolonged and steady release of amino acids. The effects of this pattern of slow release have been investigated in a number of studies.  For strength trainees, one very important effect is the promotion of an anti-catabolic environment.

An early (considered classic) study documenting the effects of casein on protein metabolism was done by French researchers and published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(1). Healthy subjects ingested 30 g of either whey or casein and anabolic and catabolic effects were measured for 7 hours after consumption. Whey protein resulted in a rapid increase in blood amino acids and protein synthesis, but it was short-lived. Casein, on the other hand, resulted in a prolonged increase in blood amino acids and a 34% reduction in protein breakdown. The net protein balance remained more positive for casein over a 7 hour period. The authors attributed this to casein’s delayed gastric emptying and slower absorption rate from the gastrointestinal tract. These findings were quite revolutionary.  In fact, a commentary was written in the top science journal in the world, Nature(2).

To gain further insight into these phenomena, researchers performed additional experiments to document the effects of protein digestion rate on protein turnover. In one study(3), healthy young men were provided one of four meals: 1) a single meal composed of 30 g of casein, 2) a single meal containing 30 g of individual amino acids equal to the casein meal, 3) a single meal composed of 30 g of whey, and 4) 30 g of whey provided in a sequence of 13 small meals given each 20 min.  In this case, Meal 1 and Meal 2 were essentially both casein, but varied in digestion rate. Meal 3 was whey which is a fast-digesting protein. Meal 4 was whey, but the repeated ingestion mimicked the characteristics of a slow digestion protein like casein. The results supported the importance of digestion rate on protein turnover. Meal 2 (free amino acids) and Meal 3 (whey), both fast-digesting meals, resulted in a larger increase in protein synthesis, but it was transient. They also resulted in a large transient increase in protein oxidation. Meal 1 (casein) and Meal 4 (repeated small whey feedings), both effectively slow-digesting meals, resulted in a smaller effect on protein synthesis, but prevented protein oxidation and strongly inhibited protein breakdown. Protein balance over the 7 hour period of measurements was significantly higher with the slow-digesting meals. Thus, casein, or small whey “meals” consumed repeatedly resulted in the most favorable protein balance over a sustained period.

These studies show unequivocally that digestion rate is an independent regulator of protein retention. Therefore, casein makes an ideal protein supplement to sustain long periods of an anabolic environment for muscle growth.

Since whey rapidly increases protein synthesis, and casein blocks protein breakdown, a combination of both proteins makes intuitive sense. A recent study (4) compared the effects of supplementing with either a combination of whey and casein, or carbohydrate on several markers of muscle anabolism during strength training. Untrained men participated in a 10 wk resistance training program and either supplemented with 40 g of carbohydrate or 40 g of protein (containing a mixture of whey and casein). Half of the respective supplements were consumed one hour before and immediately after exercise on workout days. The results were overwhelmingly positive for the combination protein group. Despite similar background diets and identical training programs, supplementation with protein resulted in greater increases in several measures of muscle anabolism including greater increases in lean body mass, thigh muscle mass, muscle strength, anabolic hormones, and muscle specific proteins.

In a similar study(5) that lasted 14 weeks, untrained men performed resistance training and received either 25 g of carbohydrate, or 25 g of a combination protein (whey and casein) 1 hr before and immediately after exercise. The combination protein group resulted in significantly greater increases in muscle fiber size compared to the carbohydrate group. These studies provide strong evidence that a combination protein consumed before and after workouts augments muscle anabolism.

These studies support the general concept that combining whey and casein has an anabolic effect, but the control groups consumed carbohydrate, so it is unclear if the combined effects would be better than the individual protein sources. Few studies have directly compared whey versus casein, or a combination of whey and casein versus each alone on the adaptations to resistance training. One study does, however, provide evidence supporting the theory that a combined whey and casein supplement is superior. This study showed that a group of men who received a protein supplement consisting of both whey and casein had greater increases in lean body mass after 10 weeks of training compared to a group that received only whey protein(6).

2. How much protein should be ingested?

Many of the early studies showing that protein supplementation after resistance exercise augmented protein synthesis used only 6 grams of essential amino acids, thus you get a pretty good bang for your buck.  However, few studies have addressed whether providing more is better. Prominent protein researchers addressed this void in the literature by conducting a dose response study in healthy active men(7). The protocol involved subjects performing a resistance exercise session on five separate occasions. After exercise, they randomly consumed a drink containing different doses of protein: 0, 5, 10, 20, or 40 grams. The source of protein was egg. Compared to consuming no protein, muscle protein synthesis was increased by 37% after the 5 g dose and 56% after the 10 g dose of protein. The 20 g dose condition increased protein synthesis even further by 97%. When 40 g of egg protein was ingested, there was no further increase in protein synthesis.

These results indicate an efficacious dose response relationship between the amount of protein ingested and stimulation of protein synthesis after resistance exercise up to 20 grams of dietary protein. At the higher dose, there was a marked increase in protein oxidation suggesting that the extra protein was being used as fuel. This is a milestone study that shows 20 grams of high quality protein providing about 9 grams of essential amino acids is a sound dose to consume after resistance exercise.

3. When should protein be consumed?

When it comes to protein supplementation, the what and how much are critical, but new research indicates so is the when. The majority of protein supplementation studies have focused on the post-exercise time period and this work unequivocally shows it is an important time. However, there is accumulating evidence that the pre-exercise time period is important as well. The main evidence for this comes from a study where researchers gave subjects 6 grams of essential amino acids after exercise and showed it stimulated protein synthesis(8). This was a well characterized response at the time. The surprising finding from the study was that when the same dose of protein was given immediately before exercise, there was a significantly greater increase in protein synthesis after exercise. The greater effect associated with pre-exercise supplementation was attributed to elevated blood levels of amino acids before exercise and greater delivery of those amino acids to the active muscles as a result of muscle contraction. It has been shown that delivery of amino acids to muscle is one of the rate limiting steps in protein synthesis. This landmark study makes a strong case for consuming protein during the pre-exercise time period.

A follow up study by this group examined whether the timing of whey protein supplementation was important in terms of promoting anabolism(9). Healthy subjects were placed into a group that received 20 g of whey immediately before, or a group that received the same dose immediately after a bout of resistance exercise. The anabolic response (muscle protein balance) was increased in both groups, but was similar, indicating that timing (relative to before or after training) of whey protein supplementation was not a factor. The reason for the lack of a greater response with pre-exercise consumption like the previous work is unclear, but could be due to the difference in protein sources (intact whey versus free amino acids). The researchers did not have a group who consumed protein at both time points (both pre and post-exercise). The important point to gleam from the research is that consuming protein either immediately before, or immediately after resistance training increased protein synthesis, so a reasonable inference is that consuming protein at both times would be of equal or potentially greater benefit than either or. 


The science clearly shows that protein supplementation around a workout is crucial in order to switch from a negative to a positive protein balance.  While there are many high quality protein sources available, whey and casein are two of the most popular and each have unique features with favorable qualities.  Whey is quickly digested with rapid and transient anabolic effects, whereas casein is slowly digested with prolonged anti-catabolic effects and superior net retention. Combining whey and casein thus makes intuitive sense and there is evidence such an approach may be better than using either alone for augmenting adaptations to training. The ideal amount of protein that increases protein synthesis without sharply increasing protein oxidation appears to be somewhere around 20 grams per serving. Finally, there is evidence that both the pre-exercise and post-exercise time periods are important for increasing protein balance.  If you are seeking a high quality blend of both whey and casein proteins, AtLarge Nutrition’s Nitrean provides a nearly ideal blend with the added benefit of egg protein. 

Written by Jeff Volek, PhD, RD

Wannabebig’s Protein Powder Supplement recommendation Nitrean is one of the premier protein products on the market today. It is superior to any whey-only powder with its blend of whey (isolates, concentrate, and hydrolyzed), casein, and egg proteins.

In addition, it is one of the best mixing and tasting products available.Men’s Health have recommended Nitrean Protein numerous times and most recently as their top choice for the protein supplement category in their 2008 awards.

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 – Supplement Staples for 2009 – Protein is Prime discussion thread.


1. Boirie, Y., Dangin, M., Gachon, P., Vasson, M. P., Maubois, J. L. & Beaufrere, B. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (1997); 94:14930-14935.

2. Fruhbeck, G. Protein metabolism. Slow and fast dietary proteins. Nature. (1998); 391:843, 845.

3. Dangin, M., Boirie, Y., Garcia-Rodenas, C., Gachon, P., Fauquant, J., Callier, P., Ballevre, O. & Beaufrere, B. The digestion rate of protein is an independent regulating factor of postprandial protein retention. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2001); 280:E340-348.

4. Willoughby, D. S., Stout, J. R. & Wilborn, C. D. Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. Amino Acids. (2006).

5. Andersen, L. L., Tufekovic, G., Zebis, M. K., Crameri, R. M., Verlaan, G., Kjaer, M., Suetta, C., Magnusson, P. & Aagaard, P. The effect of resistance training combined with timed ingestion of protein on muscle fiber size and muscle strength. Metabolism. (2005); 54:151-156.

6. Kerksick, C. M., Rasmussen, C. J., Lancaster, S. L., Magu, B., Smith, P., Melton, C., Greenwood, M., Almada, A. L., Earnest, C. P. & Kreider, R. B. The effects of protein and amino acid supplementation on performance and training adaptations during ten weeks of resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. (2006); 20:643-653.

7. Moore, D. R., Robinson, M. J., Fry, J. L., Tang, J. E., Glover, E. I., Wilkinson, S. B., Prior, T., Tarnopolsky, M. A. & Phillips, S. M. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. (2008).

8. Tipton, K. D., Rasmussen, B. B., Miller, S. L., Wolf, S. E., Owens-Stovall, S. K., Petrini, B. E. & Wolfe, R. R. Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2001); 281:E197-206.

9. Tipton, K. D., Elliott, T. A., Cree, M. G., Aarsland, A. A., Sanford, A. P. & Wolfe, R. R. Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2007); 292:E71-76.

So You Wannabe a Bodybuilder?

Congratulations on your fine choice!

You have decided to become a bodybuilder and live the unique lifestyle it entails. Congratulations! You will look back at it as one of the best and most significant decisions you ever made.

From this day forward, many aspects of your life will improve. You will look better, have improved health and energy, and your self-confidence will soar!

While others may hope and wish they could “…have a better body”, you will be one of the few that actually makes it happen. In a world where most people forever search in vain for quick fixes and effortless success, you will stand out as one who actually achieves your goals through hard work and determination.

Three sides of a pyramid

To the outside observer, it might seem as if bodybuilding is all about training. In actuality, training is only one of three key factors to bodybuilding success.  You can liken these three factors to the three sides of a pyramid.  Training, nutrition, and recovery all share equal billing on the marquee of bodybuilding success. Each plays an integral part in achieving your physical goals.  Without training, you can’t stimulate muscle growth. Without proper nutritional support, you won’t be able to fuel productive workouts and your muscles won’t have the raw materials needed to repair damaged muscle tissue and synthesize new muscle mass. In the absence of ample rest, you will neither have the energy for great workouts, nor the ability to recover from them.

Training – you are not a powerlifter!

There are millions and millions of people that lift weights on a regular basis, but only a small percentage of them are true bodybuilders. What’s the main distinction? Most people go into the gym and move weights from point A to point B. Their exercise form may, or may not be correct. They may have vague goals of being able to lift a certain amount of weight in one or more exercises (the bench press being most popular), but that’s about it. In contrast, bodybuilders go to the gym to train their muscles. A bodybuilder wants to feel the target muscle(s) stretching and contracting as he performs his reps.  He wants the muscle(s) to feel pumped by the time he’s done training, and often prefers to feel some level of soreness the next day as an indication he hit the muscle(s) with enough intensity to stimulate growth. He doesn’t usually waste time trying to see how much weight he can use for a single maximum effort; instead, he does 8-12 reps per set for most upper body exercises, and 10-20 reps for legs.

With a proper understanding of what makes a bodybuilder different, we can now discuss the best training methods for the novice. Your first year or two of training are when you lay the foundation of your physique. If you talk to almost any bodybuilder who has been training more than a few years, he will tell you that he made his best gains when he first started. Our bodies are highly adaptive organisms, so the greatest adaptation to training occurs while that stimulation is still a fairly new phenomenon. As the years go by, the body becomes tougher and tougher to ‘trick’ into new growth, and that’s when workouts become more complicated. But in the beginning, complicated is the last thing you want.The secret to success in your first couple years of bodybuilding training is to keep it simple.Whatever you do, don’t pick up a bodybuilding magazine and copy the routine of your favorite pro. These are hereditarily superior men that have typically been training for at least a decade and have built all the size they will ever need. Though they may still be trying to improve a specific body part, usually their main goal is to refine and add detail to their existing muscle mass.
Author, Ron Harris

They employ many isolation exercises as well as plenty of machines and cables spending entire workouts on just one muscle group. In short, they don’t train like they did, or you should when you are first beginning your bodybuilding journey.

Your success as a beginner depends on getting progressively stronger on just a handful of very basic exercises most of which are done with raw iron (i.e. barbells and dumbbells). Isolation is not what you want at this stage. Instead, you will benefit most from compound movements that work several large muscle groups at once thus giving you the most ‘bang for the buck.’ Deadlifts hit the entire back, but also the legs, biceps, forearms, and abdomen. Bench presses are ostensibly for the chest, yet they heavily recruit the triceps and front delts as well.  There is a reason squats are known as the king of lower body exercises. The quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and even the calves all work hard during squats.  Full body routines are often recommended for beginners, but the workload required for such routines is prohibitively high in my opinion.  A program which stops short of a full body routine, but still targets most of the major body parts is optimal (see Beginner Workout at the end of this article).

Techniques such as supersets, drop sets, rest-pause, forced reps, and pre-exhaust are of value, but should be saved for the more advanced trainee.  Beginners should stick with straight sets, good form, and a high intensity of effort.  They should practice progressive resistance (as your strength increases so should the loads).

You will find that muscular size and strength are highly correlated at least for the individual.  In other words, as you get stronger you will also get bigger assuming you maintain good form and consume sufficient calories.  It’s a gradual process, but a powerfully effective one.

Nutrition – quality calories for quality gains

Several analogies have commonly been used to attempt to describe the importance of good nutrition in bodybuilding.  For example, food is often likened to gasoline.  My personal favorite has to do with construction sites.  The workers can show up every day to build, but without the proper raw materials they can’t build a sound structure no matter how hard they work.  As with the construction workers, you simply cannot build a great physique with poor nutrition irrespective of your efforts in the gym.

The old cliché, “You are what you eat” is an immutable truth in bodybuilding.  The higher the quality of the foods you consume, the better your bodybuilding results will be.  Most people don’t really put much thought into what they eat. They eat when they are hungry, and they eat for pleasure. If that’s your way of thinking, it needs to change immediately!

The standard three meals per day will not cut it in bodybuilding.  Muscles need a near constant, steady supply of nutrients which means that you must eat every two to three hours. Going longer between meals takes your body out of an ‘anabolic,’ or building state, and into a ‘catabolic,’ or wasting state. The truth is that there are plenty of guys out there that train hard and often enough to stimulate muscle growth, yet they never grow. The number one reason is insufficient nutrients.  Luckily, with the advent of protein supplements, we have a quick and easy way to provide our bodies the requisite fuel.  Not everyone has time to sit down and eat a solid meal every couple hours, but drinking a shake only takes a minute. Most successful bodybuilders eat about four solid meals and consume two or three protein shakes per day.

Ron Harris – in the gym cranking out some dips

There is a world of difference between the quality of a 99-cent hamburger from a fast-food joint and a grilled New York Strip steak. The burger contains far more saturated fat and less protein. The same can be said for the distinction between a bucket of fried chicken and grilled chicken breasts. Bodybuilders need to take in ‘clean’ calories for best results. The best clean protein sources are chicken or turkey breasts, lean red meats, egg whites, fish, and skim milk. All of these contain the correct ratio of amino acids the human body needs to repair and synthesize new muscle tissue. You also need complex carbohydrates to provide the fuel for your workouts. The best sources are rolled oats (oatmeal, but not the instant flavored type), yams, potatoes, and rice.  As with protein sources, never assume that a fast food order of french fries loaded with sodium and saturated fats is the bodybuilding dietary equivalent of a beaked potato, it isn’t.  Fibrous carbohydrates are raw vegetables and should be eaten for their fiber content as well as the many vitamins and minerals they provide. Good choices include broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and spinach. Finally, fats are an essential ingredient in the anabolic process, but you must be careful to selectively consume ‘good’ fats. Examples of good fats include those found in nuts, egg yolks, the omega acids in cold-water fish like salmon, and flax seed oil.

Just as eating the right foods is important, how you prepare them is also significant. Baking or grilling is better than frying in oil. Another area of concern is condiments. A baked potato is a clean carbohydrate, but not if you slather it with butter! A chicken breast is a clean protein source, but not if you drown it in sugary barbecue or teriyaki sauce. Salads are great, unless you dump a bunch of high-calorie dressing loaded with sugar and fat over them. Get the picture?

How ‘clean’ you need to eat and how many carbohydrates you should consume really depends on your metabolism. If you are a skinny guy who can eat all kinds of junk and never gain an ounce of fat, you can get away with not having to eat so clean all the time. You can have your occasional burger and fries, or few slices of pizza. In fact you may even benefit from it because your metabolism burns so many calories.  You should also consume complex carbohydrates at each meal.  Conversely, if you are overweight and have never been able to lose fat easily, your diet needs to be as clean as possible.  You should strive to have the majority of your daily carbohydrate intake directly before and after training.

Protein requirements are a bit easier to determine. Generally speaking, you should aim to consume a gram and a half per pound of bodyweight every day. For a 180-pound man, that’s 270 grams a day. If you eat six times a day (which includes shakes), that averages out to 45 grams per meal.

Nutrition is a subject you can and should learn a great deal more about, but hopefully this basic introduction has given you a rough idea of what is needed.

(see Perfect Bodybuilder Meals at the end of this article)

Rest and recover if you want to grow

Just as nutrition is often overlooked by would-be bodybuilders, so is recovery.  Intense weight training causes damage to the muscle tissue at the cellular level. It is when this damage is repaired, and with the right circumstances rebuilt slightly larger (known as hypertrophy) that the bodybuilder begins to achieve his goal of increased muscular size and enhanced shape. This process can be sabotaged if intense training is performed again prior to its completion.  Additionally, the process can be thwarted if sleep is inadequate, or the body is subjected to excessive mental or physical stressors which flood the system with catabolic hormones like cortisol.  Many new bodybuilders, in their zeal to build a great physique, overtrain by subjecting the muscles and nervous system to more exercise than they can recover from.

Earlier in this article I referenced the folly of copying the training routines of the pros relative to their choices of exercises and specific goals.  Overtraining is another reason not to train like them.  The volume and frequency of training programs followed by most professional bodybuilders would simply bury the novice.  This is due to a hereditary advantage many of them have in terms of recovery ability and the rarely discussed factor of tissue building drugs.  As a drug free bodybuilder, as I feel all beginners should be, you simply won’t have the recovery advantage the drugs impart as part of your arsenal.

You must have ‘off days’ when you don’t train. You can’t do endless sets and exercises, and you NEED your rest. Don’t stay out all night drinking with your buddies or give up hours of sleep to watch TV or play video games. Don’t run around playing other sports for fun if making gains as a bodybuilder is your primary goal. Always keep in mind that you stimulate growth by training, but actual growth happens outside the gym. Doing too much training, or not providing your body with enough rest will prevent results from materializing. So, unless you don’t mind putting out all that effort in the gym for nothing, you must pay heed to your body’s recovery requirements.

Ron Harris – Shoulder press

A word on patience and consistency

Building a physique is a very gradual process. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is any exceptional body. Most beginners hate to hear this, but it will be several months before you start to see significant improvements, and at least a year or two in most cases before you obtain what most consider the ‘bodybuilder look’.  This should not discourage, on the contrary, things which are too easily achieved impart little satisfaction.  If it were quick and easy there would be nothing special about it.  Every guy would be walking around with bulging muscles and granite-hard definition.

It’s really all about consistency. Every good workout, every good meal, and every good night’s sleep should be considered one step closer to your goal.  Every day of addressing all three sides of that triangle to the best of your abilities keeps you moving in the right direction.  Ignoring any of them will mire your progress, or worse, cause regression. How does that saying go?  The tortoise wins the race?  Progress is never at lightning speed, there will inevitably be some times when you don’t seem to be making any at all despite your best efforts.  It’s useful to take photos of yourself in the exact same lighting conditions at regular intervals (every two or three months).  Your physical progress is akin to the growth of your lawn.  It’s impossible to see grass growing on your lawn if you stare at it every day.  With a regularly taken series of photos you will definitely see and appreciate the progress you are making. This will serve to heighten and sustain your motivation and confirm that your efforts are indeed paying off!

Let the gains begin!

Welcome to what I feel is one of the most positive, life-affirming activities a person can partake in – bodybuilding. It’s a journey you can remain on for the rest of your life. As a bodybuilder, you will be more in control of your health, strength, appearance, and vitality – qualities that most others around you simply surrender to fate and bad habits they feel powerless to act against. The ability to master your own body and recreate it into an image you desire is empowering. Others may envy or jeer you, mocking you for being so ‘obsessed’ with working out and eating right. Just remember, obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated… Dedicate yourself to bodybuilding, and the rewards will be innumerable. Take it from someone who began this journey a quarter-century ago and is still going strong. There is nothing like being a bodybuilder.

Beginner Workout

(Note: always warm up properly before attempting heavy weight)

Day one

  • Barbell bench press  4 x 8-12
  • Deadlift   4 x 8-12
  • Seated military press  4 x 8-12
  • Barbell curl   4 x 8-12
  • Weighted dip   4 x 8-12

Day two: OFF

Day three

  • Squat    6 x 8-20 (pyramid up in weight, down in reps)
  • Stiff-legged deadlift  4 x 10
  • Leg press   3 x 10-15
  • Lying leg curl   4 x 10
  • Standing calf raise  3 x 10

Day four

  • Chin-up   4 x 8-12
  • Incline dumbbell press 4 x 8-12
  • Barbell row   4 x 8-12
  • Seated dumbbell press  4 x 8-12
  • Alternate dumbbell curl 4 x 8-12
  • Skullcrushers   4 x 10-12

Day five: OFF, repeat cycle

Perfect Bodybuilder Meals: A + B

A. Protein (40-60 grams)

  • Chicken breast
  • White tuna
  • Turkey breast
  • Egg whites

B. Carbohydrate (50-200 grams)

  • Rice
  • Potato
  • Yam
  • Oatmeal

Written by Ron Harris

Strongman Technique Series

Technique can be the difference between trophies and injuries in any sport.  This phenomenon is even more prevalent in strongman where extreme loads are coupled with high skill component movements. 

The sport of strongman incorporates lifts which are vastly different than most strength trainees normally encounter in the gym.  This can make them an excellent source of variety for powerlifters and other non-strongman strength athletes.  It also presents unique challenges to the strongman training neophyte. 

In my experience, the strongman movements which present the most formidable of these technique challenges are the log press, tire flip, and Atlas stones.  The balance of this article will address the lifts individually and will also provide helpful hints to ease your transition from strong guy to STRONGMAN. 

To see any of the below techniques in action view the video link at the end of this article.

Log Press

Included in almost every strongman contest, the log press is the most common test of overhead strength, and often a key event by virtue of being placed first in the meet. There are two variations of this event, the max log and the log for reps.

Tom Mutaffis - Log Press

 Proper Execution:

  1. Row the log into your lap and then squat down holding your elbows high.
  2. Clean the log to your shoulders by rolling it up your body. You will have to be very aggressive and really snap the log into the racked (essentially resting on the shoulders) position.
  3. Once the log is racked be sure to keep your head slightly up with your elbows held high.
  4. Begin the press/jerk by squatting down slightly and then firing the log off of your chest as you extend your hips and legs in an explosive upward movement.
  5. As soon as the log clears your head try to bring it (your head) through by moving it slightly forward and altering the path of the press slightly to the rear.  
  6. Make sure to hold your lockout at the top and, if possible, make eye contact with the judge while awaiting the good lift command. 

General Tips

  • The more leg and hip drive you can muster, the more powerful your press/jerk will be.  The Olympic lifting technique of a squat or split jerk is also used by many strongmen.  If you can master either of these techniques they can be a very effective tool in your arsenal.
  • Assistance exercises in the gym should include front squats, close grip bench presses, barbell push jerks, and power cleans.
  • Wearing flat-soled shoes will help to maintain balance.  The use of a power belt can help the lifter to stabilize their torso during the press.  It can also provide a platform to rest the barbell on if the continental clean technique is being used. 
  • Many lifters are docked reps in competition due to poor form and or improper technique.  Their haste to pound out the reps causes them to lose focus and get sloppy.  Don’t let that happen to you! 
  • Breathing is especially important during a press for reps event.  The best time to do so is with the log in your lap. 
  • Experienced pressers and strongmen can work on mastering a singular motion pressing technique which is more efficient and thus a time saver during press for reps events.  When performing this technique the lifter simply skips the rack phase of the clean and press.  A strong strict press and a very fast clean are keys to success with this technique.  The fast clean generates increased momentum to help the lifter bypass sticking points in the press. 

Tire Flip

The tire flip is a very common strongman event.  Proper technique can make a huge difference in both the weight of the tires that can be used and the speed in which the movement can be executed.

The size of the tire dictates the optimal technique to be used.  Larger/heavier tires require a double movement technique while smaller/lighter tires allow for a single motion. 

Smaller / Lighter Tire – One Motion Technique:

  1. Place your hands palms-up underneath the tire.  Keep your feet back and drive your chest into the tire.  This allows you to use your body as leverage to break the tire from the ground.
  2. Continue to drive your chest into the tire and simultaneously thrust forward and upward.  Walk forward as the tire raises.
  3. Once the tire clears your knee use your leg to briefly hold it in place while transitioning your hands from under the tire to a pushing motion (if you are extremely explosive you might find that your chest can be used in the same fashion as described for your leg).
  4. Follow the tire as it falls and re-grip as quickly as possible remembering to keep your legs back.

General Tips for Lighter Tire:

  • Skip the use of a belt as it can just get in the way of a smooth execution of the motion.
  • Give the tire a final push at the very apex of the movement.  This force, in concert with gravity, will literally cause the tire to skip forward providing for additional distance with each flip.
  • Always remain aggressive with the tire.  Time is most commonly lost during the transition between flips.  Stay focused and move as quickly as possible at all times.
  • If for any reason one hand/arm loses grip during the ascent phase of the flip abort the movement immediately (unless your knee is supporting it at the time).  This can help to avert a torn biceps or other injuries. 

Heavy Tire – Post & Flip Technique:

Begin as described above for the light tire.  The variance begins when you clear your knee.  At that point you post the tire on your thigh.  This is accomplished by wedging your leg beneath the tire and literally resting it briefly upon your leg.

  1. Once the tire is posted on your thigh you will want to try to pop it up while simultaneously either pushing on the top of the tire, or driving your shoulder underneath the implement.
  2. Make sure to maintain good body leverage and keep leaning into the tire to finish the lift.
  3. Re-group and attack the tire again.  With heavy tires it is acceptable to take a brief moment to make sure you are prepped for the next flip. 

General Tips for a Heavy Tire:

  • Always make sure to have your body leaning into the tire to optimize leverage.
  • Focus on an explosive transition from the post.
  • Minimize the time you are holding the tire in the post.  The less time holding the tire the more energy conserved.
  • Master form with sets of singles, then graduate to sets of 3-7 reps.

Atlas Stones

Atlas stone lifting is a staple in strongman contests.  It is also one of the most technical and therefore challenging lifts to master for those new to the sport. 

The lift consists of 2 main components, the lap and the load.  Setting up properly is key to a successful execution of the movement.

Setup for Atlas Stones:

  • The Atlas stones are round and relatively smooth making for an odd object that is very difficult to grasp.  Tacky is a sticky pine resin that is allowed by the rules and should be applied to the forearms and chest (if the competitor is not wearing a shirt).  This substance will greatly improve your ability to hang onto the stones as they are hoisted.
  • In lieu of, or in addition to, the use of tacky it is common practice to use either protective sleeves or athletic tape as a measure of protection for the forearms.
  • Be sure to properly warm-up your biceps. 
  • Heavier lifters may want to avoid the use of a belt as the stone can pinch the skin of their belly against it.

The Lap:

  1. Mentally gear-up for a big lift.  Begin by standing slightly back from and centered relative to the stone.
  2. Bend over and grip the stone tightly being sure to make as much contact with your hands and forearms as possible.
  3. Squeeze with all of your might and begin to row/stiff-legged deadlift the stone to break it from the ground.
  4. As the stone nears your knees squat down and pull it into your lap.  With a particularly difficult stone you can sometimes bend at the knees a bit earlier and literally roll the stone up your legs into your lap.

Loading an Atlas Stone:

  1. From the lapped position fire your hips forward and drive the stone up your body rolling it to your chest as you stand erect.
  2. Load the stone onto the platform.

Note – For higher platforms you may have to explosively pull the stone up your body and place it on your shoulder, then load.

General Tips for Stone Loading:

  • Make sure to start with the stone 6-8” away from the platform.
  • Extend your lower back as you move from the lapped to a standing position.  At the peak of the movement you should be leaning back slightly as you use a heave of your chest to help thrust the stone to the platform.
  • A close stance with your feet is beneficial for the load as it will make you “taller”, and thus make the load easier, especially for the higher platforms.
  • Training without tacky can be of benefit as it will improve your ability to hold the stones.

Strongman training is a great way to enhance overall bodily strength and general athletic prowess.  Start light, master the techniques, and then go BIG!  

Written by Tom Mutaffis

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 – Strongman Technique Series discussion thread.

Up Your Bench Press 30lbs in 30 days!

Your reaction upon reading the title of this guide was one of disbelief and curiosity, wasn’t it?  I understand.  There are a lot of people making a lot of promises out there and very few of them pan out.  Your personal gym experience also influences your reaction to the title.

You have not experienced such fantastic progress and follow all of the advice you have gathered from the net and in print.  Undoubtedly, you have heretofore come to the conclusion that such progress is only possible with anabolic steroids and inhuman heredity.  Please read the following VERY carefully:

I am here to tell you it can and has been done, drug-free, and that includes experienced trainees.  With the right combination of proper training, diet, rest, and supplementation you can do it!  If you’re game, read on…

The Four Factors

The four most important factors ranked in order of importance are:

  1. Proper training
  2. Proper diet
  3. Proper supplementation
  4. Proper rest


Wait a second!  You have read so many times how important sleep is, right?  How did it get ranked least important?

The idea that strength training progress is nigh impossible without 8 or more hours of sleep seems to be all pervasive in iron game culture.  Sleep is important, but a lot can be done with less than optimal amounts.  In my own training, I have made excellent progress while working with significantly less than 8 hours of sleep per night.  As both the great Paul Anderson and Doug Hepburn knew (modern superman Chad Aichs knows it too!), so long as you have sufficient nutrients to fuel recovery, you can get what is considered to be less than optimal amounts of sleep and still build prodigious size and strength.

Joey Smith – AtLarge Nutrition big bencher!

Mike Wolfe – getting his Z’s!

As long as you have sufficient nutrients to fuel recovery, you can get less than optimal sleep and still build Brobdingnagian size and power!

With that said; in order to make the most progress in the shortest period of time you need to optimize each of the 4 Factors.  You should shoot for 8 or more hours of sleep per night.  If this is not possible, naps can be a powerful tool to augment your nightly sleep.  Power naps of 20 minutes to 1 hour taken when possible will benefit your overall recovery.

Sleep is not the only form of rest that must be considered.  Intense physical exercise outside of the gym should also be greatly curtailed during this 30 day program if you are to optimize your results.  Skip your weekly pickup game of basketball and save the majority of your energy for the gym and recovery.

Remember, this program only lasts 30 days. Make it a priority during that time and be sure to make time for the rest you need to optimize your results.


Your training routine is the single most important factor in how much weight you can bench.  You can do everything else perfectly, and may have, but if you don’t train properly you won’t realize the kind of results you are capable of.

The purpose of this guide is to increase your unequipped bench (without a special bench shirt) by 30 or more pounds in 30 days.  As such, the training routine must be one of specialization for the bench.  You know the saying, “Jack of all trades; master of none.”  The gist of those words is that specialization is king when you want to maximize results.  This is no more true anywhere than with the human body.  The very nature of human physiology mandates that we specialize our training for optimal results.  Strength is extremely specific.

This concept is embodied in the S.A.I.D. (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) principle.  This principle states that the human body will respond with a very specific adaptation to any physical stressor placed on it.

Remember that specialization is king when you want to maximize results!

Mike Wolfe pushing some big weight and being the living embodiment of the S.A.I.D. principle!

Mike Wolfe the living embodiment of the S.A.I.D. principle!

My first exposure to the concept of training specificity was from the writings of Ellington Darden, PhD.  Dr. Darden is one of the driving forces behind the H.I.T. (High Intensity Training) bodybuilding phenomena (he coined the term).  He is also a prolific author of the genre.

One of many things that differentiate Dr. Darden from the rest of the bodybuilding pack is his considerable expertise in the area of motor learning.  Motor learning is the concept of skill acquisition relative to physical movement and how those skills may or may not transfer to other movements.

It was on his old website, the name of which escapes me, that I first read about a series of studies which examined athletic endeavors and how skill in one specific event translated (or not) to another.  The studies found that there was little skill correlation between very similar athletic movements.

For instance, the fastest runner in a straight line was usually not the fastest when running in a circle.  Another example was hitting with a tennis racket vs. a badminton racket.  The best at hitting the tennis ball was not the best at hitting the badminton bird.  Why?  Specificity of motor movements!  Just because two movements are similar does not mean that the motor skill required to perform one translates well to the other.

You can read more about his thoughts on the topic in his latest book The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results which is available through his new website (a cool website to visit).

A young Dr Darden on the left

Specifity and the Bench

If the desired training adaptation is a big bench press you have to perform the movement with high frequency in order to build your motor skill.  As per the concept of training specificity, demonstrable strength is highly reliant on the optimization of your nervous system relative to a specific movement.

A Different Perspective

Another titan of the iron game, Louie Simmons, preaches something which might seem to fly in the face of the S.A.I.D. principle and the idea that frequent practice of a given exercise is required to optimize results.  Louie espouses the virtues of the conjugate method.  This method dictates that the lifter frequently alternate exercises by body part on their maximum effort (M.E.) days (M.E. days are practiced once per week and see the lifter typically work up to a 1 rep maximum lift).  Louie normally has his Westside lifters alternate their primary M.E. day exercise every 1-3 weeks.

Louie knows that training with heavy loads for 1-3 repetitions taken to, or near the limit of one’s momentary ability (otherwise known as failure) is what produces the greatest increases in 1-rep maximum (1RM) demonstrable strength.

Heavy loads taken near to, or to failure frequently can also quickly lead to neural stagnation and overtraining.  The variety (in neural stimulus) provided for by the conjugate method allows the lifter to effectively avoid this pitfall.  It works, and Louie has a stable of the strongest men and women in the world to prove it.

Louie Simmons (center) and some of his Westside Barbell crew


Before you get totally confused, let’s make it all fit together.  You must practice a specific movement frequently to optimize your motor skill at performing the movement and thus your demonstrable strength.  You must also train to, or near to, your limit with very low repetitions and high loads if you are going to maximize your 1RM in any given movement.  Finally, if the frequency of low rep, high intensity sets for a given exercise is excessive, overtraining will quickly occur (with conjugate variation being the cure).

Training Points:

  • Specificity
  • Frequent training to build skill
  • Conjugate variety

So, how do you optimize your results over a 30 day period?  How do you perform the bench press frequently with heavy loads and not overtrain?  The solution lies in using high frequency with a “conjugate style” variation of load.

The conjugate method works because even small variations in a movement incur a very different stress on the nervous system thus taxing it in a different manner.  This precludes neural stagnation (and thus overtraining).  For our 30 day purpose, the variation in neural stress provided by the conjugate method is desirable, but we still need the “practice” afforded by frequent benching.

The solution lies in variation of the loads used.  Load is another factor which affects or stresses the nervous system and is something that can be varied easily.  Varying the loads used each training day for the bench press will prevent overtraining during the program and allow for frequent benching in order to optimize neural acclimation to the movement.

For the 30 days of this program you will be benching three times per week.  Each session will use a percentage of your beginning 1RM (with the loads being graduated from week 2 on).  The balance of your training will be performed in a more traditional fashion.

The Program

Each of the sets listed is a “working” set.  These are post warm-up sets which should be preceded by 2-3 progressive warm-up sets (unless the specified body part is already warmed-up, the choice is then yours).  The bench press working sets should follow the rep formula exactly as outlined.  The balance of working sets should be stopped 1-2 reps short of failure unless otherwise noted.

Training Point – Precede each working set with 2-3 progressive warm-up sets.


  • 3 x 65% x 3 reps = 3 working sets with 65% of your starting 1RM for 3 reps per set
  • 1×10 = 1 working set of 10 reps


  • Bench Press –  3 x 65% x 3 reps
  • Skull Crushers –  2 x 10
  • Triceps Pushdowns – 1 x 10
  • Squat – 2 x 5
  • Lat Pulldown (curl grip) – 2 x 10
  • Calf Raise – 2 x 10, to failure
  • Machine Ab-Crunch – 2  x 10, to failure


  • Bench Press – 2 x 75% x 3 reps
  • Triceps Pushdown – 1 x 10
  • Deadlift –  2 x 3
  • Ab-Crunch – 2 x 10, to failure


  • Bench Press – 2 x 85% x 2 reps
  • Dumbbell Bench Press – 1 x 30  (or more reps, to failure)
  • Skull Crushers – 2 x 8
  • Triceps Pushdowns – 1 x 10
  • Leg Press – 2 x 6
  • Lat Pulldown (curl grip) – 2 x 10
  • Calf Raise – 2 x 10, to failure
  • Ab-Crunch – 2 x 10, to failure

Training points – For everything other than the bench work, try to progress by performing 1 more rep, or the same number of reps with a small increase in the resistance each session.  Again, stop 1-2 reps short of failure unless otherwise noted.

Follow this schedule exactly for week 1.  Then, for weeks 2 and on, you should increase the loads used for benching by 5 lbs per set (per day) if you’re starting 1RM is 150 lbs or less.  If your starting 1RM is 155 – 295 lbs, use 10 lbs per set.  For 300 – 395 lbs increase the loads by 10 lbs per set for the Monday and Wednesday sessions, and 15 lbs for the Friday sessions.

Finally, if you’re starting 1RM is 400 lbs or more, use a 15 lbs increase for the Monday and Wednesday workouts, and 20 lbs for Fridays.

Training points:

  • 1RM < 150 lbs = increase loads by 5 lbs per set
  • 1RM  155 – 295 lbs =  increase loads by 10 lbs per set
  • 1RM  300 – 395 lbs  =  increase loads by 10 lbs on Mon & Wed, and by  15 lbs on Fri
  • 1RM > 400 lbs =  increase loads by 15 lbs on Mon & Wed, and by 20 lbs on Fri

Mike Wolfe getting ready to hit his triceps

Samples of Bench Progression

Beginning Bench Press = 200 lbs

Week 1

  • Monday – 200  x  65% = 130 lbs
  • Wednesday – 200  x  75% = 150lbs
  • Friday – 200  x  85% = 170 lbs

Week 2

  • Monday – 130  + 10  = 140 lbs
  • Wednesday – 150  + 10  = 160 lbs
  • Friday – 170 + 10  = 180 lbs

Week 3

  • Monday – 140 + 10 = 150 lbs
  • Wednesday – 160  + 10 = 170lbs
  • Friday – 180  +  10 = 190 lbs

Week 4

  • Monday – 150  + 10 = 160 lbs
  • Wednesday – 170 + 10 = 180 lbs
  • Friday – 190 + 10 = 200 lbs

Beginning Bench Press = 330 lbs

Week 1

  • Monday – 330 x 65% = 215 lbs (round to the nearest 5 lbs)
  • Wednesday – 330 x 75% = 250lbs
  • Friday – 330 x 85% = 280 lbs

Week 2

  • Monday – 215 + 10  = 225 lbs
  • Wednesday – 250 + 10  = 260 lbs
  • Friday – 280 + 15  = 295 lbs

Week 3

  • Monday – 225 + 10 = 235 lbs
  • Wednesday – 260 + 10 = 270 lbs
  • Friday – 295 + 15 = 310 lbs

Week 4

  • Monday – 235  + 10 = 245 lbs
  • Wednesday – 270 + 10 = 280 lbs
  • Friday – 310 + 15 = 325 lbs

A Cautionary Tale

Nearly everyone that tries the program, and you will most likely be no exception, feel that they are not performing enough work, especially in the beginning.  You will want to do additional work for your pecs, shoulders, and everything else.  The compulsion will be strong.  It must be resisted!  Remember, you are most likely trying this program because you are unhappy with your current bench press progress or 1RM.  This program was not put together haphazardly and has been proven in practice.  As the loads are increased weekly the intensity of effort will climb and you will “see the light” as your bench and other lifts begin to soar.

Training point – Follow the program exactly as prescribed!

Westside Barbell Powerlifter – Travis Bell


I rank supplementation 3rd in importance among the 4 Most Important Factors to strength training success. Proper training and diet are more important, but that fact does not minimize the benefits that the right supplements can provide.  If you want to optimize your results, and that is what this program is all about, you need to augment your regimen with the right supplements.

If you are active on the net and read bodybuilding or powerlifting publications you are literally bombarded with ads and advice that recommend a myriad of supplements.  The reason only 4 products are mentioned on the following pages is because short of true anabolic tissue building drugs (even those that are sold as “supplements” due to loopholes in the law) they are part of a very select list of supplements that actually provide an ergogenic benefit.

AtLarge Nutrition’s Maximum Mass Stack groups 4 proven muscle building and recovery products together at a discounted price to help you to optimize your results.

The “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to supplementation is truly a waste of your hard earned money.  Don’t be fooled by flashy advertising and made–up pseudo-scientific terminology.  Stick with real science that you can actually reference at places like Pubmed.

On the following pages I describe the right supplements to help you in your quest to optimize your training results.  They are proven to help you safely achieve your goals.  I firmly believe AtLarge Nutrition products to be the best products of their kind on the market.  You can, of course, with the exception of ETS (Extreme Training Support) which is unique to AtLarge Nutrition’s lineup, substitute similar products.

Supplementation points:

The “everything but the kitchen sink” approach is a waste of your hard earned money!  Choose quality supplements that are proven effective.


Perhaps the most unique weight gainer supplement available.  It has a highly effective protein blend of whey, casein, milk protein isolates, glutamine, and egg albumin providing over 60g of protein per serving!  In addition, it provides over 70g of energy-fueling, recovery-stimulating carbohydrates.

What truly sets MAXIMUS™ apart from its competition is its inclusion of Microlactin® at a proven dose of 2g per serving. Microlactin® improves general recovery, reduces delayed onset muscular soreness (DOMS), and can help to reduce minor joint pain.  Finally, the addition of inulin helps to promote the superior nutrient absorption required by the growing strength trainee.

Maximus - the most unique weight gainer supplement available


AtLarge Nutrition’s unique recovery promoting product.  ETS™’ proprietary blend of Microlactin®, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins C and E allows you to train harder, more often.  Optimal recovery is of prime importance in any strength training program.  No other supplement on the market will do more for recovery than ETS™.

In addition, ETS™ can help with minor joint pain and tendonitis.  Finally, it provides a direct strength enhancing effect.

ETS - unique recovery promoting product


RESULTS™ consists of 4 individual ingredients: dextrose, Creapure™ creatine monohydrate, ß-Alanine, and HMB.

Each ingredient is included at a scientifically proven effective dose. RESULTS™ will help you to lose body fat, significantly increase lean muscle mass and strength, enhance your muscular endurance, and promote blistering intensity in the gym!

Results - significantly increase lean muscle mass and strength


AtLarge Nutrition’s Creatine 500™ is Creapure™ creatine monohydrate.

It is one of the purest monohydrate products available.  Creatine monohydrate is the most scientifically studied and proven (proven to be both effective and safe) strength and lean muscle tissue building non-hormonal supplement in the world.  Its inclusion is a must if you want to be as big and strong as possible.

Creatine 500 - High Quality Creatine Monohydrate


Using Opticen™ immediately after an intense session in the gym (post workout – PWO) will help to maximize your results.  A 60g serving (the recommended PWO serving size) provides roughly 35g of its proprietary protein matrix (whey concentrate, casein, milk protein isolate, whey isolates, glutamine peptides, and egg albumin), 17g of carbohydrates, 1g of fat, and a myriad of vitamins and minerals.

These nutrients combined with its liquid state (which provides accelerated absorption) will quickly place your body into PWO anabolic overdrive!

Opticen - Meal Replacement and Post Workout Shake

Supplement Wrap

Including these products in your regimen will make a significant improvement in the results you achieve.  MAXIMUS™ is particularly important because it makes the high calorie intake required by the program much easier to consume.  Just 2 MAXIMUS™ shakes made with milk will add upwards of 2,400 quality calories to your daily intake.


If you truly want to get the most out of this program, and are someone who normally has trouble putting on muscular body weight, you need to consume a minimum of 25 calories per pound of body weight.  If you are a naturally heavy-set individual, or are over 40 years of age, such high caloric intake is not recommended and you should focus on a healthy diet and the other factors in this guide.

Diet is truly one of the most important factors to your strength training success, but possibly not in the manner you expect.  Most people who have a cursory knowledge of strength training are convinced that the stereotypical bodybuilding diet is what one must follow in order to see progress in the gym.  They are certain that boiled chicken breasts, tuna, and plain rice must be the staples of their dietary regimen.  For those seeking to gain a maximum amount of size and strength in a minimum amount of time nothing could be further from the truth!

Donnie Thompson - one of the world’s strongest men!

Donnie Thompson, one of the world’s strongest men, knows that training for strength requires eating for strength!

If you want to increase your bench press 30 lbs in 30 days you need high calorie foods to fuel your training and provide the calories needed to not only recover, but to supercompensate from said training.   Solid foods should be the core of your diet, but consuming the requisite number of calories can get tiresome and prove to be nearly impossible for some.  Liquid meals are easier to consume and more readily digested.  A full serving of MAXIMUS™ mixed in 4 cups of whole milk provides 1,200+ quality, growth-promoting calories.  As mentioned in the supplementation section, 2 of these shakes per day can make all the difference in terms of allowing you to hit your daily caloric intake goal while on the program.

Here is a brief list of strength training super foods:

  • Whole milk
  • All meats
  • Cheeses
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Pasta w/sauce
  • Eggs
  • Oils and butter

For those who struggle to gain quality weight and are forever proclaiming that they eat a “ton” of food and could not possibly eat more, I say, “Balderdash!”

The reason certain trainees feel that way is because they have not conditioned their stomachs for maximum mass.  Just like you need to train your body to make it huge, you need to train your stomach by expanding it sufficiently such that you are able to consume the necessary calories to fuel growth.  The only way to stretch your stomach is to consciously over-eat.  You obviously do not want to gluttonize to the point that you feel ill, but you must get close in order to spur the desired stomach expansion adaptation in relatively short order.

Total caloric intake is more important than the macronutrient breakdown of the foods you consume over this 30 day period.  You will find that when consuming the calorie dense foods required by this program, your macro breakdown is roughly equally distributed between protein, carbohydrates and fats.  You may have read or heard in the past that protein ingestion should constitute 40% or more of total caloric intake for strength trainees.  Don’t confuse the resistance trained individual’s increased need for quality protein with protein as a percentage of total caloric intake.  When you are consuming a high calorie diet like the one recommended here, you will consume a lot of protein (300+ grams daily), but  by virtue of the fact that your overall caloric intake is so high, protein will only end up constituting about 33% of the total.

Important – Remember to consume at least 25 calories per pound of body weight!

The bottom line is that you need to eat a lot of relatively unrefined, calorie-dense, high-protein foods in order to get as big and strong as possible in 30 days.

You need not worry about excess body fat accumulation with a program such as this due to its brevity and the fact that it is a “shock” to your system.  The massive caloric intake combined with heavy resistance training called for in this program will result in the addition of a large amount of lean muscle mass and a modest deposition of body fat during the 30 day period.

Tip – Use this program sparingly (once or twice per year) and you can continuously reap its benefits.

Getting the Job Done

There is an old story about a former Mr. America bodybuilder training his protégé that very vividly illustrates the level of commitment required to be the biggest and strongest you can be.  As the story goes, the master and his apprentice were at the beach one day.  Both were wading in the water when suddenly the former Mr. America grabbed his pupil by the head and pushed him beneath the waves.  The pupil was literally forced to struggle for his life.  When he finally made it up for air, the master simply said to his liege that only when he wants to be a great bodybuilder as much as he wanted to breathe moments before would he finally achieve his goals.

Stupid?  Yes, but highly effective in making the point that the mind, the will, are the keys to extraordinary results.  The vast majority of trainees simply do not possess the single-minded determination required to achieve the results they claim to desire.  How do you engender such dogged determination in yourself?  For me, it simply boiled down to my competitive nature and making a decision and then having the will to follow through with it irrespective of other influences.  When I decided that I wanted to become as physically big and strong as I could (without tissue-building drugs), that goal became the sole focus of my life virtually to the exclusion of everything else.

In Closing

Ok, you now have all of the tools you need.  The rest is up to you.

Give this program the kind of laser focus described above for just 30 days and you will be absolutely AMAZED at what you will achieve!!!

Written by Chris Mason

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 – Up Your Bench Press in 30 days discussion thread.