Three New Methods for Igniting Serious Size & Strength

In the quest for more muscle, we often get caught up in the craziest approaches to training, all for another pound of muscle or a few extra reps.

Think about it; I know you’ve tried some of the crazy techniques, like the twenty four-hour arm training program or the one-set-to-failure method. Heck, why wouldn’t you? Anything that is different from the normal routine can help you to grow.

The problems start when we get too far away from the basic premises that dictate how much we can grow.

Before looking at any intensity technique, you must ask yourself a few questions:

Are you getting stronger every workout, through more weight, more reps, or more reps with the same weight?

Are you sticking with a program for a certain number of weeks? While I don’t feel there is magic in a set period of training, I do believe that you must stick with a program for a few weeks in order to see how effective it is. Don’t believe some bodybuilder in a muscle magazine who tells you that you can do a different workout each week.

Have you stayed with the same rep and set ranges for too long? This is the most common problem that many people have. They’ll read the science behind hypertrophy training and think that they must perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps. This can only work for so long.

It’s time for a change.

New Sets And Reps For Maximum Muscle

You’re tired of the same old methods, you’ve “run the rack,” you’ve used pre- and post-exhaust training until you couldn’t do another rep, you’ve eccentrically loaded your muscles for weeks, and you’ve used bands and chains so much that you get awkward stares in the gym.

There is only so much progress that you can get by continually recycling those old training methods. Let’s expose your body to a few new methods that’ll drastically change your physique.

Method One: The Five Percent Solution

This is an awesome method for improving your strength levels. Any bodybuilder knows that to get bigger you have to get stronger. As the name suggests, you’ll increase the weight you use by five percent every time you train that muscle. Now you don’t just raise your percentages, you also drop one rep per workout. This is actually a failure-proof method. You’ll succeed each workout because you get stronger each workout. What do you think that will make you do the next time you go to the gym? Well, you’ll strive to get even stronger…so now you’re pushing for something.

Here’s how you do it. Select a three-rep bracket, with 6 to 8 reps, as an example. Now this is an intense training method so don’t use more than two to three exercises per body part. I suggest you start with two exercises.

Exercise choice is also important with this method. For maximum results, you’ll need to use compound movements like deadlifts, squats, and dumbbell chest presses. Because you’re using compound movements, I want you to rest for two to three minutes between sets.

Here’s an example workout with the 6 to 8 rep range bracket.

Workout One:

  • 3-4 sets of 8 reps using 100 pounds

Workout Two:

  • 3-4 sets of 7 reps using 105 pounds

*Remember you’re using an 8-rep range bracket and raising your weight by five percent every workout*

Workout Three:

  • 3-4 sets of 6 reps using 110 pounds

Workout Four:

You’ll use the same weights that you used in workout two, so that will be 105 pounds.

  • 3-4 sets of 8 reps with 105 pounds.

(Get it? More reps with heavier weight equals growth).

Workout Five:

  • 3-4 sets of 7 reps with 110 pounds

Workout Six:

  • 3-4 sets of 6 reps with 115 pounds.

You see what we just did here? You went from lifting 110 pounds with 6 reps to lifting 115 pounds with those same 6 reps. Sure, it’s only five pounds, but those five pounds are a big deal.

Remember, every little strength gain eventually equals big muscle gain.

Expose your body to a few new methods and you may be very surprised with the results

Method Two: Extended Fatigue Sets

This sounds brutal doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t that bad, but it certainly isn’t easy. Everyone knows what drop sets are, right? You perform a set of curls with a certain weight, then, when you can’t possibly perform another rep, you drop the weight by five or ten pounds and bust out a few more reps.

What is different here is that this method requires that you change either your foot or hand position, depending on the exercise, to accommodate for your fatigue in order to extend the set. Traditional drop set training has you doing the same movements the same way, but not with extended fatigue sets.

Let’s use biceps training as an example. We’ll do E-Z bar curls with the traditional supine (palms up) grip. We’ll select a weight that we can use for three to four reps. If we fatigue at rep three then we’ll immediately go to a pronated (palms down) grip. We rest ten seconds, then proceed to do another three to four reps.

Wait…we’re not done yet. Because it’s impossible to take a neutral (palms facing each other) grip with an E-Z bar, we’ll go to the dumbbell rack and perform dumbbell hammer curls for another three to four reps.

What we just did was extend the set around fatigued elbow flexors.

Here’s a chart showing how you can use this method with other popular movements for maximum muscle stimulation.

.

Movement Grip One Grip Two Grip Three
Dumbbell row Pronated/overhand Hammer Supine/palms up
Dumbbell chest press Pronated/overhand Pronated with hands all the way to the right side of the dumbbell Neutral grip
Seated dumbbell curls Supine/palms up Hammer Supine with pinky finger all the way to the right side of the dumbbell

.

Method Three: Wave Loading

This is my favorite movement in the entire article. This method works from the principle that the first set of a wave, (a wave is just three sets) sets you up for success with the other two sets of that wave.

Remember when your high school football coach made you load up the bench press with more weight than you can handle and then you lowered it halfway down to your chest? Remember how weak you felt, but then when you went back to your normal weight how good you felt? It’s the same principle. You go all out on set one, but then you back off with the other two sets of wave one. However, you’re still getting stronger.

Here’s how it works:

Assume we’re doing a flat bench press.

Wave 1

  • 8 reps with 225 lbs followed by a three-minute rest
  • 6 reps with 235 lbs. followed by a three-minute rest
  • 4 reps with 245 lbs followed by a three-minute rest

That completes wave one. The beauty happens in wave two–this is where we really push our strength levels.

Wave 2

  • 8 reps with 227 lbs followed by a three-minute rest
  • 6 reps with 237 lbs followed by a three-minute rest
  • 4 reps with 247 lbs followed by a three-minute rest

Your training for your chest is now done because this approach is very fatiguing to the central nervous system. So now you may be asking yourself if raising your weight by two to two-and-a-half pounds in the second wave is really “pushing it”.

All I can say is try this. Wave loading works so well because it causes more muscle breakdown than traditional training in whatever rep range you choose, but it also stimulates neural strength gains.

Remember, every little strength gain eventually equals big muscle gain

There are many methods…

There are many methods that work, but the key point for you to remember is that any method is only as good as the effort that you put into it. I’ve had days where I was using one of these methods, but I went into the gym and I did not want to use that method. The best advantage to the methods outlined here is that you’re actually in the gym for less time than you would be had you not used them.

Give them a try for three to four weeks at a time (make sure not to use more than one method at a time) and you’ll see some great gains.

Written by Jimmy Smith

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 – Three New Methods for Igniting Serious Size & Strength discussion thread.

About Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith, MS, CSCS is a training and nutrition consultant based out of Stamford, CT.

For more information and to get a free four-part arm training course, visit his website or friend him on facebook.

DC TRAINING Declassified: The Definitive Guide

Since its origin fifteen to twenty years ago, DC Training has slowly matured as a muscle-building system, steadily picking up positive buzz, a fast-growing group of new advocates (in both number and body mass), and a more solid rep over the years. With pros like David Henry, Mark Dugdale, and fast-rising amateur Dusty Hanshaw talking about DC Training, that growth doesn’t seem to be leveling off any time soon.

Originally discussed by its developer, Dante Trudel, in his mid-nineties newsletter Hardcore Muscle, the system was christened DoggCrapp Training when Trudel, responding to a topic on a bodybuilding website, chose the tragically memorable screen-name “DoggCrapp.”

What was meant as a singular post has turned into a monolithic triple-digit page-count thread and an unexpectedly long-lived moniker. As the poopularity of DoggCrapp training has grown (see what I did there?), the name has since been PG-thirteened down to simply “DC Training”.

What can DC Training Offer?

Rising star amateur Chris Genkinger was a reader of some of Trudel’s original newsletters who went from a normal offseason weight of 240 pounds to over 270 in six months, eventually hitting an offseason high of 285. “It wasn’t all muscle, but I was much bigger and stronger than I had been ever at that point. Honestly, that was the biggest I had ever been, and no matter what system I have done since then I never had gotten that big since that point in my career.”

According to NPC Junior Nationals class winner Ralph Garcia, “Big, shredded, ripped muscle is what drew me to the system, plus I am always open to new ideas.” Garcia went from 265 to 278 in four weeks on DC and added “plus, my weaker body parts were becoming stronger.” In an interview on the hardcorebodybuilding.net website, IFBB pro Mark Dugdale concurs that DC Training helped him bring up his arms (a stubborn weak point for him).

NPC Junior Nationals class winner Ralph Garcia went from 265lbs to 278lbs in four weeks on DC

Josh Barnett was drawn to DC Training after reading “Cycling for Pennies,” Dante Trudel’s aforementioned online thread on the system. “I got with Dante and I went from a 196-pound light-heavy to 218 pounds at the 2005 Junior USAs, where I took sixth place in my first national level show. I competed at the 2007 Arnold Amateur and took fourth in the super-heavy class and weighed in at 226.5 there.”

Recent Junior Nationals super-heavyweight class winner Dusty Hanshaw also credits Dante Trudel and DC Training for the size and balanced mass that helped him win the title. A promising prospect as a future pro, Hanshaw has been among the many evangelic endorsees of the system. Top amateur athletes Shelby Starnes, Tom Whorley, Steve Kuclo, Rob Lopez, and Justin Harris have used DC Training in phases of their careers.  “DC Training is a very innovative training program that is fun to do,” says Harris in his book Comprehensive Performance Nutrition. “I enjoy training heavy and pushing myself. You get both of those in spades with DC Training.”

“When I started DC training, I was 187 pounds at the 2004 Iron Man,” says IFBB pro David Henry (in an interview for bodybuilding.com). “Now I’m hitting the stage right at 201.5 to 202. What’s great about the way that I train and the way it (the muscle) stays on is the way I’ve put a lot of muscle on in the off-season and the way I’ve managed to keep the illusion of it as I diet down.”

That’s a pretty convincing stack of testimonials. Let’s look at some of the basic principles that form the core of the DC Training System:

DC Principle #1: Reduction of Volume

According to Trudel (from Hardcore Muscle, Issue #5, March 1995: “Breaking Walls”), “The trick to keeping the intensity high from workout to workout is to keep the workouts short.” For this reason, DC Training has been categorized as a HIT-based protocol, similar to the programs popularized by Nautilus-inventor Arthur Jones and his successors — Mike Mentzer, Ellington Darden, and the other HIT Jedis. Trudel is quick to distance himself from these systems, and rightly so, as his adaptations have eliminated the flaws in these previous applications.

Trudel feels that high-volume training is based on obsessive-compulsiveness and the faulty belief that one must train every aspect and angle of a bodypart at each workout in order to achieve full development. He prefers to work the hell out of one or two exercises each session.

According to David Henry (bodybuilding.com, video “Tip of the Week” June 9, 2009), “Just because less is more, as with this training approach, you definitely are GAINING more, especially with the way it is set up.”

DC Principle #2: Constant Strength Improvement

Increasing your strength to near inhuman levels is a mainstay of DC Training. Trudel says it best (Hardcore Muscle, Issue #5, March 1995: “Breaking Walls), “Whether you have professional aspirations or just want to be the best you can be, you need to continue to improve. The only legitimate barometer of measuring this progression (unless you’re already there) is STRENGTH! You must continuously increase your strength, especially in the basic size-building compound movements, which means not backing down to barriers.”

To this end, Trudel (again, HM#5, “Breaking Walls”) requires his athletes to log their training. “Each and every workout should be faced as a challenge. You are there for one thing, to beat last week’s mark.” Due to the limited volume of the training session, “Warm-up, throw a shitload of weight on the bar and do one set — BALLS TO THE WALL!” Trudel says (Hardcore Muscle, Issue #5, March 1995: “Rest Between Workouts”). “Believe me; your body does not respond to the time it takes to work out, it responds directly to the effort.”

Josh Barnett says, “The strength of DC Training is keeping that log book and constantly improving. If I deadlift 620 pounds and set a new standard for myself, then why should I ever drop below that standard when I already proved to myself I can do 620 pounds? I should always do at least 620 as a minimum from that point on. Progressively getting stronger and beating the log book is the key to success with DC or any program.”

Trudel summarizes this when he says (Hardcore Muscle, Issue #12, December 1996: “Questions & Answers”), “Find exercises that work for you. Stick to them and get so powerful at them that it’s scary. When you can’t get stronger or can’t perform them anymore in the right manner, switch to new exercises that work for you!”

DC Principle #3: More Frequent Bodypart Training

A major difference of DC training in contrast to the overtraining-obsessed programs of traditional HIT systems is in the frequency of training. For most trainees, Trudel recommends the body be split into three functional segments trained four times a week. In other words, bodyparts are hit every 4-6 days, as opposed to weekly. Junior USA champion, Jason Wojciechowski explains (“Wojo’s Wisdom Part I,” YouTube clip. May 10, 2009), “What we are trying to do with DC Training is hit the bodyparts a little more frequently with that higher intensity and lower volume, and that is going to give us more potential growth spurts throughout the year.”

Trudel does the math for us (in a July 2006 interview with Ron Harris for IronMan, “Dante’s Inferno”), “With the normal bodybuilder training a bodypart fifty-two times a year (once a week) and with my clients training bodyparts 75-92 times a year, that’s how I’m getting these guys up in muscle so fast.” Frequent instances of growth stimulation are a tenet of the program.

Junior Nationals class winner, Ralph Garcia feels this aspect of the system is crucial to his goal of building a huge and balanced physique. “If you have a weak body part that needs to be brought up, you’re better off training it at least twice a week than once per week.”

Rising star amateur Chris Genkinger was at his biggest and strongest whilst using the DC Training program

DC Principles #4 and #5: Negatives and Rest-Pause

Trudel focuses on two very powerful intensification techniques to elicit maximal size and strength increases with limited volume — a slow emphasized negative (lowering of the weight) and rest-pauses to extend the set. As he writes (Hardcore Muscle, Issue #2, September 1994: “Blasting the Legs”), “It has been scientifically proven over and over again in many studies that the lowering of the weight (negative) is where the most cellular disruption takes place.” This simple adjustment to rep speed makes a huge difference.

“Everyone I see who starts emphasizing the negative and exploding on the positive has two things happen. They usually lower their weights on movements initially, but soon after (three months or so) are blasting past previous levels. The second part is that they get a growth spurt.”

The second technique is the rest-pause, which, in the DC Training-style, involves training to failure by racking the weight for twenty to thirty seconds and then proceeding before full recovery takes place for a ‘set within a set.’ Trudel explains, “I know of no other method that is better at increasing size/strength. It is incredibly demanding and proper rest has to be taken. Usually rest-pause involves doing singles and taking rest between in between reps, but I like to use a slightly higher rep scheme to avoid injuries. Also I like to allow myself two, or at the most three, rest-pauses during a set to avoid overtraining.”

David Henry describes a DC Training rest-pause set (in a bodybuilding.com video “Tip of the Week” June 9, 2009): “I am going to go for seven to eight on my first loop… we call them loops… I’m going to rest fifteen breaths in between. I’m going to attempt it again. I should get four to five.  I’m going to take another break in between there, twelve to fifteen breaths. Then I am going to try it again. My ending total should be twelve to fifteen total reps. If it is more than that, then you need to increase the weight next time you come in.”

DC Principle #6: Blast and Cruise

DC Training also incorporates a type of informal no-math-required periodization. This takes the form of dropping the intensification techniques and generally easing back on things, both training-wise and nutritionally. Trudel says (from “Cycling for Pennies,” www.anabolicextreme.com), “I lift extremely heavy and I push the limits for four weeks, and then I just need two weeks to kind of regroup myself and then go balls to the wall again with poundages for the next four weeks.”

Ralph Garcia adds, “Coasting weeks give your joints a rest from the constant pressure your tendons and ligaments endure during DC. I go lighter without the slow static negative of each rep during my coasting weeks.”

Josh Barnett adds, “On my cruise weeks I do whatever I feel like. Sometimes I use a lot of volume ala Charles Poliquin style.”

“You have to have coasting weeks, and this is where most people go wrong, or where younger guys do,” Chris Genkinger adds. “I noticed that after about 6-8 weeks I would start to feel very overtrained, and I had to take a two-week down period or break. The training was very intense and if you are putting in all out effort, you’re going to overtrain on this system because of the amount of intense training technique, and the overall weight load becomes too much for the CNS to recover over time.”

The system is so intense that many athletes just cannot stick with it. “Now that I’m older,” Genkinger says. “I would almost have to do only a four-week blast before taking a down week. I think that since I’m older now, my recovery won’t handle the stress of DC training as well.  This is part of the reason why I now do a more traditional training system.”

DC Principle #7: Beware the Widowmaker

In a move that would shock Mentzer, Yates, and Jones, Trudel opted to set aside a dogmatic adherence to low volume and include a hypertrophy-inducing high-rep component to the system, referred to fearfully as the Widowmaker. Actually, this may not surprise the HIT experts since Arthur Jones was fond of finishing training sessions with a twenty-rep set of squats. Due to the high quantity of muscle fibers in the lower body and the hormonal response brought on by a lactic acid induced high-rep onslaught such as twenty-rep legwork, it is a brutally effective technique.

The Widowmaker is final set of around twenty reps on a basic compound exercise, usually a leg press, hack squat, or compound machine leg movement. Justin Harris often does high reps squats and explains his use of them (in his book “Comprehensive Performance Nutrition”):

“When I do the peak weight that I am planning on lifting for four to eight reps, I do that as my first set; this is my main set.  Because rest pausing on squats is potentially dangerous, I then do a back-off set after a minute or two of rest. In this set, I shoot for ten to twelve reps with the most weight I can handle in that range. I then finish with a widowmaker set of twenty reps after another few minutes of rest.”

Dusty Hanshaw discusses widowmakers (in his intensemuscle.com Q&A, 11/09/2009): “A widowmaker is harder because you are in a battle with your mind. Your body can push through the skin-splitting pumps that start happening around the 22-rep mark, but your mind will try its best to convince you to stop. So now you are in a battle with both gravity and the weak part of your mind. When my mind starts telling me to stop, I know that my competition just racked the weight and now is the time to create a gap between them and me. This is when you have to dig deep and grind out as many as your body possibly can.”

While originally designed for leg work (since drop-sets in squats and other heavy free weight exercises are more difficult due to safety reasons), the widowmakers have also evolved into “finishers” for many upper body parts that require that little bit of extra growth stimulation. Use of widowmakers in upper body compound exercises is reserved for advanced trainees, particularly when trying to bring up a weak bodypart. This optimizes the effect of our last principle:

Recent Junior Nationals super-heavyweight class winner Dusty Hanshaw is a big fan of the DC Training system

DC Principle #8: Static Stretching

One of the more controversial aspects of DC Training is the use of static stretching after a set to supposedly stretch the fascia (protective covering) of a muscle group in order to allow for increased growth. The theory here is that the fascia may restrict hypertrophy, and that placing it in a position of extreme stretch, particularly when well pumped by a high rep set, will enhance muscle size. This is obviously difficult to prove, but DC Training advocates swear that it makes a difference.

In the DC Training extreme stretching protocol, a stretch is held in place for sixty to ninety seconds, often with added resistance, either from dumbbells (as in a ribcage lifter high incline DB pec stretch) or with bodyweight (as in a pec stretch done on dipping bars). The amount of weight used is not important. The amount of stretch on the pumped muscle (its fascia in particular) is the critical factor.

“I think the Doggcrapp stretching has improved my arms especially because I’m stretching the fascia out,” says Mark Dugdale (in a Flex Magazine, Sept 2007 article “The HITman on Trial” by Greg Merritt). “I feel like the peak has gotten better on my biceps since I’ve been doing it. Dante says it will help with recovery between workouts, and if I can fight through the pain and hold the stretch for sixty seconds, I do actually end up being less sore later on.”

The key, of course, is to do the stretches correctly so as to have the proper effect and not cause injury to joints and soft tissues, a concept that is difficult to teach in a written article. In addition to increased growth due to stretching of the fascia, DC advocates believe the stretches improve recovery rate and reduce muscle soreness, making it an attractive technique.

SAMPLE DOGGCRAPP WORKOUT

Most users of the DC system split the body into two segments: A (chest, shoulders, triceps, back width, back thickness) and B (biceps, forearms, calves, hamstrings, quads) trained three times a week, as shown below:

Trudel sequences the bodyparts as listed because as he says (in his interview with Greg Merritt for Flex Magazine, September 2006, “A Load of Doggcrapp”), “It puts the hardest bodyparts you have to train, back and quads, last in your workouts. This is contrary to conventional wisdom, but after deadlifts or a widowmaker for quads, you’re not going to have the same energy for anything else.” This rotation encourages growth through three sessions for each bodypart in a two-week period.

VERY advanced bodybuilders may do a three-way split: A (chest, shoulders, triceps), B (biceps, forearms, back width, back thickness), and C (calves, quads, hams). These are rotated over four training sessions a week, as below:

This method trains each body part four times in a three-week period so there is less frequent growth stimulus and fewer days off for recovery. For these reasons, this method should only be used by advanced bodybuilders requiring extra work for weak areas.

The workout consists of progressive warm-ups sets (one to five, depending on the exercise, your strength level, and individual warm-up requirements) and then one all-out rest-pause set for each of the bodyparts trained that day. You should select a pool of three different exercises for each bodypart and rotate through them, one each session. Your goal is to ALWAYS exceed your previous best effort in weight or reps for that exercise. If you fail at that, then you strike that exercise from your choices and find a substitute. Rep ranges are between eleven and fifteen total reps, as described in the rest-pause section.

POSSIBLE EXERCISE CHOICES:

Choose one and rotate each workout

Bodypart Exercises
Chest Smith incline / Hammer incline / Machine press
Delts Hammer shoulder press / Smith military press / Machine press
Triceps Smith close-grip bench / Lying tricep ext. / Reverse-grip bench
Quads Leg press / Hack squats / Squats on Smith machine
Hams Lying leg curl / Frog leg press (press with heels) / Seated leg curl
Calves Calf press / Seated calf press / Standing calf press
Back Width Chinups / Lat pulldowns / Rack chins (pulling to bar in rack, feet on bench)
Back Thickness Rack deads / T-bar row / Hammer DY row
Biceps DB curls / Machine curls / BB drag curl

.

Widowmakers should only be done for quadriceps (in place of the rest-pause protocol) until you have followed the program for a while. If you experiment with them when training weak bodyparts, be cautious of the fact that they will cut into your central nervous systems’ recovery ability.

Most importantly, DC Training is NOT for beginners. David Henry warns (from Bodybuilding.com video “Tip of the Week,” June 9, 2009: “David Henry’s DC Training”) “For someone new to this, I would recommend adopting a regular training style first, and then, when their ligaments and tendons get used to the heavy weight, they can start DC, because it will bury you.” He continues to say, “This will pack it on fast, but if your body is not used to it, it will hurt you.”

IFBB pro David Henry sporting a big, ripped physique (yes, he trains DC too)

Closing Thoughts

DC Training is dramatically different from anything you may have tried. If you have put in the years and racked up noticeable size and strength gains but have slowed in your progress, the least you can do is set aside a three to four-month period to give DC Training a serious trial run. At the worst, you may find yourself encountering new challenges in the gym.

At best, you may make the kind of progress you have not seen since your first years of training. Apply mental toughness and consistency to this program and you might be shocked by the changes in your physique!

Written by Steve Colescott

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 – DC TRAINING Declassified: The Definitive Guide discussion thread.

About Steve Colescott

Known as the Guerrilla Journalist, Steve Colescott has written over a hundred published articles for many major bodybuilding publications, including Peak Training Journal, the innovative and well-respected magazine in which he served as Publishing Editor.

He is currently a staff writer for WannaBeBig.com and has been a consultant to a number of top sports nutrition companies.

With his company, Colescott Metabolic Solutions, he has transformed the physiques of scores of average businesspeople, weekend athletes and housewives beyond their wildest expectations. Steve lives in Akron, Ohio and trains at the ultra-hardcore Body Builders Gym, an Ohio musclehead landmark.

References

1. Author Unknown.  bodybuilding.com, “Interview with Dave Henry”

2. Author Unknown.  hardcorebodybuilding.net, “Interview with Mark Dugdale”

3. Author Unknown. MuscleMag International #283, (January 2006) “Star Profile: David Henry”

4. Bodybuilding.com “Tip of the Week,” June 9, 2009: “David Henry’s DC Training”

5. Harris, Ron. IronMan Magazine (July 2006) “Dante’s Inferno”

6. Harris, Ron. MuscleMag International #302 (July 2007) “Grow 30% Faster”

7. Harris, Justin. Comprehensive Performance Nutrition: Quick Reference Q&A Guide. JJH Enterprises (no publishing date listed).

8. Harris, Justin. Project Superheavyweight DVD, JH Enterprises2007

9. Henry, David. Xtreme Bodybuilding

10. Lester, B. “Interview with Mark Dugdale” (October 2006)

11. Merritt, Greg. Flex Magazine, (Sept 2006) “A Load of DoggCrapp”

12. Merritt, Greg. Flex Magazine, (Sept 2007) “The HITman on Trial”

13. Merritt, Greg. Flex Magazine, (August 2007) “Static Shock”

14. Metroflex Seminar DVD: Volume 1 (Justin Harris, Steve Kuclo and Jeff Dwelle), 2010 Metroflex Gym Plano

15. Ray, Shawn. MD Radio podcast, May 11, 2009

16. Robertson, Sommer. MuscleMag International #325, (June 2009). “The No-B.S. Crapp Workout”

17. Robson, David. “Giant Killer David Henry Shares Expectations for the 2009 Olympia 202-Showdown” bodybuilding.com

18. Trudel, Dante. “Cycling on Pennies a Day,” post on www.intensemuscle.com

19. Trudel, Dante. Hardcore Muscle Newsletter (selected issues, 1994-1996)

20. Wojciechowski, Jason. Dante Trudel’s DC Training  DVD, 2007 Atomik LLC

21. Wojciechowski, Jason. “Wojo’s Wisdom” (Part I; May 10, 2009) YouTube clip

22. Wojciechowski, Jason. “Wojo’s Wisdom” (Part II; May 18, 2009) YouTube clip

Being Real – an interview with f=ma, Invain and Behemoth

In July, I wrote an article for Wannabebig called “Get Real.” The article was a discussion of my views on the flaws of the bodybuilding media (magazines and Internet) and how those perceptions may act as a disservice to those at the grassroots level who are trying to find their way in lifting.

My contention was that the average person gets bombarded with the exploits of the elite at such a level that “spectacular becomes commonplace”. In such a world, the accomplishments of the average dedicated gym-goer just don’t seem to stack up. This can be a pretty disconcerting, sometimes debilitating, and, at the very least, demotivating thing for many of us.

To be honest, it was something of a rant…and I applaud Daniel and Chris for allowing me to share a view that not enough people have had an opportunity to see elsewhere.

In the discussion thread of the article, chevelle2291 made the recommendation that we follow up with some real world examples of people from our own community who have made impressive yet realistic accomplishments in the gym.

These are real world gym warriors who might serve as better role models for us than the Kai Greenes, Chuck Vogelpohls, and Ronnie Colemans of the world. Not that each of those men have not overcome obstacles and displayed some admirable traits, but they have genetic advantages that put them out of the league of 99.85% of us.

We did not have to look far or hard to find forum members Behemoth, F=MA, and Invain — all have very impressive, natural physiques, and we can learn things from each of them that may help us in our training. Let’s dig into their melons a bit and see what positive examples we can draw…

f=ma’s FORMULA FOR SUCCESS

Twenty-eight year old Tim M. is well known as f=ma to regulars of the WBB forums. No, he is not a fan of Sir Isaac Newton or necessarily even Fig Newtons, but rather he is an appreciator of the end result of Newton’s Second Law of Motion. By increasing his lean mass and ability to accelerate, Tim intends to be a force acting upon his own life. I like it, and consider the screen-name to be the ultimate proactive statement for a lifter (but maybe I’m over-thinking things).

With seven years of casual lifting under his belt, he locked things down and got serious about his lifting only a year and a half ago. Tim does not compete in bodybuilding or powerlifting. Like most of us, he just wants to improve for his own reasons. As Tim says, “My top accomplishment is my physique from this summer.  I had never dieted so successfully before.”

The first lesson from Tim is probably the one needed by most lifters: get started, get serious, and just make it happen. Thousands of lifters (and I have been guilty of this) seem to be in eternal prep, never committing to the ultimate program they want to be on. Nike’s famous logo (you know it) has endured because it resonates with so many people and is integral to any level of success.

His diet involved alternating bulking and cutting phases, going from 185 pounds to 230 and then down to a lean 172. “I didn’t count calories but I counted quantities,” Tim says. “I would have four ounces of rice and eight ounces of chicken twice a day with twelve ounces or so of lean meat for dinner with veggies. Once I started to taper off, the need for refinement emerged.  At that point, I became scientifically precise, with low dietary fat of around 35 grams, carbs at about 220 grams, and protein at about 240 grams.”

In his drop from 230 pounds down to 172, his waist measurement plummeted from around 37 inches to a svelte 31 inches.  He estimates that his bodyfat went from roughly eighteen percent to around seven percent at the conclusion of the diet. Best of all, Tim felt considerably stronger and leaner at 172 than at his initial 185 bodyweight, a clear sign of overall diet success!

Tim (f=ma) – in his own words: ‘A fat 230lbs’

Tim (f=ma) sporting an impressive, lean physique

Tim is an accountant who works a daunting schedule of ten- and eleven-hour workdays. “To get around this, I am up by 4:15AM on lifting days to prep my pre-workout food,” he says.  “I’m in the gym no later than 5:15.  I usually wrap it up by 7:00 at the absolute latest.  I come home, prep my food for the day, and go grind out another day at work.”

His recent training has involved alternating two different training styles. “I’ve most recently bulked on Madcow 5×5 and dieted using 5/3/1,” Tim says, feeling 5/3/1 to be a very effective and muscle-sparing program.  “I did Madcow 5×5 for about sixteen weeks and 5/3/1 for the subsequent sixteen weeks while dieting.”

Currently, on Madcow 5×5, Tim squats three times a week, benches twice, and deadlifts and shoulder presses once, “with some miscellaneous training work here and there.” For those not familiar with the program, it involves a focus on a limited number of basic exercises (listed above) for moderate sets and reps. “I train around strength gains since they are easy to measure.”

Tim is a scientist when it comes to nutrition and has fine-tuned things to his specific needs: “I use extreme levels of structure in food prep and consumption.” The basics though, involve moderate protein, high carbs, and low fat.

Tim’s final comments: “Within the past year, I’ve learned that your planned accomplishments will be met to the extent that the diet matches the goals.  If you have a conflict of interests, expect to be disappointed.  As far as attitude, staying positive isn’t always possible… but persevere as best as possible.”

F=ma regularly maintains a training journal on the Wannabebig Forums, you can check it out here – my journal pt. 2

Tim (f=ma) in the smallest locker room known to man

NOT STRUGGLING Invain

Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don’t let yourself indulge in vain wishes.” What does this have to do with our next subject? Well, it includes the phrase “in vain” which mirrors his WBB screen-name, but even more so, it speaks to the purpose-driven nature of Nick (Invain) Sattelberg’s lifting life. He is not afraid to wade into the deep water and set a course towards his gym objectives.

That course has not been without corrections, however. At only twenty-two years old, Nick has been training steadily for nearly five years. “My focus was on powerlifting and just getting bigger in general for the first three or four years,” Nick says. “I planned on competing and trained with the powerlifting team at the University of Michigan (where he is a biochem major), but I never did make it to a real PL meet. This past year, my focus has been on bodybuilding, although I still train heavy and still plan on competing in powerlifting.” His best lifts include a 370 bench press, 550 deadlift, and 470 squat (all raw), so his future lifting platform success has a great head start.

Nick trains four to five days a week, focusing on one major bodypart each day and using a power bodybuilding style. “I go very heavy with low reps on my core movements (dead, bench, squat) and fill in some volume with accessory work,” he says. “I’ve been training relatively the same way for the past three years.”

For example, he may do:

  • Monday: Back and biceps
  • Tuesday: Chest and triceps
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Shoulders

While he differs from the pure powerlifters in that his split is based on bodyparts rather than functional movements, Nick does not feel driven to exercise excessive variety.“I don’t do a million different lifts each session like you see some guys doing. I always start with my heaviest core lift first — bench, deadlift/rack pull, squat, military/push press.”

“I do some form of bench every week, but I only deadlift once every couple weeks because my lower back always takes forever to recover. I usually rotate between rack pulls and deadlifts from various heights. On leg days, I almost always squat, with a heavy, Olympic-style narrow stance. Depending on how I’m feeling, I may hit my hams after I squat. If not, I hit them on my back day. Like I said, I like to keep it simple. Some days I literally only do a couple of lifts, such as squats and calf raises on leg day. The key for me is getting in my heavy lifts before anything else.”

When it comes to nutrition, Nick follows a carb-cycling protocol, which consists of a targeted ketogenic diet with one big refeed a week. “Any days I’m not lifting, I eat almost zero grams of carbs,” he says. “On days that I lift, I try to eat one meal with carbs maybe an hour before I lift.”

“I was going five to six days straight with no carbs followed by a refeed on the weekends, but I’ve found the leaner I get, the faster I feel depleted, and a hundred or so grams of carbs before my workouts now makes a difference.” Nick plans his refeeds for one of the weekend days, with a goal of swallowing down maximal carbs, but he makes sure to limit fat intake at this time.

Nick (Invain) showing what is possible if you work hard and dedicate yourself

Nick Sattelberg’s parting advice to other lifters: “The most important thing to remember is that in this sport, it literally is the tortoise that always wins. It takes years to build a good physique; you can’t expect to win competitions after only lifting weights for six months. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle and it demands consistency, but it should also be fun. Don’t compare yourself to others, whether it is your physique or certain lifts. If you are hardworking and dedicated, you will make progress.” Follow his advice and you will not struggle in vain in your pursuit of bodybuilding success.

Invain regularly maintains a training journal on the Wannabebig Forums, you can check it out here – Invain wants to be heyoooge….

Nick (Invain) has some cobra like lats!

BUILDING THE Behemoth

In the Jewish Book of Enoch, the Behemoth is the primordial monster of the land, while the Leviathan rules the seas, and the lesser-known Ziz reigns in the skies. In the WBB forums, Rory Parker is known as Behemoth because he rules the gym.

But Rory was not born a behemoth. “I got into lifting at around age twelve, but it was far from pretty,” he recalls. “We had an old Weider weight bench in our garage, and I would sometimes bench press every day of the week, not knowing any better.”

When he was around fifteen, he joined the WBB forums and started educating himself. “I began to realize how badly I had been spinning my wheels. I started training my legs, back, and other neglected areas very seriously at this time. I also learned about bulking and cutting, and while I wasn’t fat (5’8” and maybe 150 pounds at around 14-15% bodyfat), I chose to cut first. To this day, that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. A lot of lifters get gung-ho to bulk up, not realizing the difficultly of losing the fat that comes with it if you’re not blessed with a great genetics.” Realizing that he is a natural endomorph, this was a crucial determinant for Rory.

Rory stands out due to his determination and work ethic. “My life is bodybuilding,” he says, “Ninety percent of my thoughts relate to the subject.” He puts in eight hours or more a day of serious labor working for his uncle’s residential construction company, so if you think you are tired from you office job, then you just don’t want it as bad as Rory. “I was so worn out after work that getting to the gym, much less getting in a good workout, was very difficult. Over time, I adapted to it and I think that this has been, in part, responsible for my ability to increase my workload over the years, as well as teaching me what hard work really is.”

“You’re too tired to give it your all on leg day, huh?” Rory asks. “Try carrying eighty-pound bundles of shingles up a forty-foot ladder in the dead of summer for eight hours and then hitting the gym for seventeen sets of squats, or maybe some walking lunges with dumbbells equaling your bodyweight for forty to fifty steps. Do that a couple of times and you’ll realize just how far the body can be pushed.” In his quest to become behemoth, Rory believes that flirting with and entering into the overtraining zone is necessary in order to increase work capacity — an assertion I strongly agree with and an area which others neglect to understand. He goes on to say, “Learning how to tap into your superhuman mindset is paramount to acquiring the superhuman physique nature may not have necessarily intended you to have.”

A fierce individual, Rory prefers to design his own training program on the fly. “I go into the gym with an outline of a workout and that’s it. If I have more energy than last week because I had a light day at work, you had better damn well believe I’m going to do some extra sets. However, despite the free spirit in the gym, my lifting is still focused on most of the same aspects that make any lifting quality lifting program successful.” Strength progression (particularly in the major movements) is the most important indicator of progress to him, even though his primary goal is building mass. “Don’t get me wrong,” he adds. “I use a lot of isolation volume, but just like Invain, I always train my big core movements (squat, presses, rows etc) first and strive to progress on them regardless of what my isolation lifts are doing.”

Rory (Behemoth) has a physique many would envy

His training split (which has been recently adjusted) consists of:

  • Monday – off
  • Tuesday – back
  • Wednesday – chest and abs
  • Thursday – off
  • Friday – legs
  • Saturday – calves and biceps
  • Sunday – shoulders and triceps

“I had been working quads and hamstrings separately with two pretty demanding leg days a week, but during my last cutting season, this really wore on my knees and tendons,” he says. “Right now, the focus is getting them 100% healthy and then bringing up my posterior chain to exactly where I want it to be, which may very well mean separating the quads and hamstring workouts again.”

As he constantly learns from his body and tweaks his program as necessary, Rory is preparing to enter an off-season phase. In his past, he has immersed himself in serious bulking, leaving him with more bodyfat than necessary. “I’m making big efforts to make my transition into my offseason less dramatic than it has been in previous years.”

He recently completed a seventeen-week carb rotation-based cutting diet. In this diet, his macronutrients were as low as 240g pro/125g carb/40g fat and as high as 220g pro/600g carb/40g fat on a refeed. “That diet was more intense than it needed to be,” he realizes upon reflection. “I should have added more food for a brief period there before trying to make my final push to sub-6%. Ultimately, I never did acquire that condition, and additionally, I think I even caused myself some hormonal stress that’s just now starting to level out.” This is not uncommon with those with a naturally extremist mindset, but Rory learns from his body and makes adjustments.

Behemoth’s closing advice? “Be smart, work HARD, and be patient! That’s the sum of the whole process.”  He emphasizes the need to constantly learn and work hard! “If you think you’re working hard, you’re probably not. If you have the slightest doubt that you may be able to work harder, then you are probably spinning your wheels. Fight that rep for ten straight seconds if you have to, but don’t be stupid. Don’t go to the gym and try to use more weight than you can, or do anything to compromise your form or safety, but fire every rep out with all the aggression you have. Then on the next set, do it harder. This is hard work.”

Behemoth regularly maintains a training journal on the Wannabebig Forums, you can check it out here – The balanced progression of an offseason bodybuilder.

Rory (Behemoth) showing off the wheels!

Wrap Up

There you go…three successful lifters that live full lives in which lifting is a very important part but not the ONLY thing they have going on. Unlike the sleep-until-noon “professional” meatheads we see in the magazines, chasing their checks from supplement sponsors and living scavenger lifestyles, each one of these men are articulate, driven athletes, working at jobs and/or going to school, making their meals, getting to the gym, and balancing relationships.

What they have achieved is realistic for many of us and should be admired by all of us. Best of all, they are a part of our community and have helped many other WBB forum members achieve similar successes. They are as real as it gets.

Written by Steve Colescott

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 – Being Real discussion thread.

About Steve Colescott

Known as the Guerrilla Journalist, Steve Colescott has written over a hundred published articles for many major bodybuilding publications, including Peak Training Journal, the innovative and well-respected magazine in which he served as Publishing Editor.

He is currently a staff writer for WannaBeBig.com and has been a consultant to a number of top sports nutrition companies.

With his company, Colescott Metabolic Solutions, he has transformed the physiques of scores of average businesspeople, weekend athletes and housewives beyond their wildest expectations. Steve lives in Akron, Ohio and trains at the ultra-hardcore Body Builders Gym, an Ohio musclehead landmark.


An Interview with Bench Press Specialist – Vincent Dizenzo

Vincent Dizenzo has been crushing big iron for over fifteen years.  Early in his strength career, he was a three-lift powerlifter, but two ruptured discs in his back caused him to reconsider his training focus, and he became a bench press specialist (which was ironically his weakest of the big three lifts originally). 

Vincent has held multiple bench press records, including a recent 605-lb raw bench press as a Masters competitor.  Suffice it to say that he is a brutally strong presser, but that is only a small part of the focus of this interview. 

Vincent’s 605 lbs was done at a body weight of 322 lbs.  For a man standing well under 6’ tall, that is a LOT of human being packed into a relatively small area of space!  This brings us to the real focus of this article: Vincent’s recent transformation…no, let’s make that transfiguration…into a lean and mean strength machine. 

Vincent recently made the decision to lose body weight and compete in the 242-lb weight class.  You read that right–from a superheavyweight to a 242-lb lifter.

Ok, enough of the introduction. Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s, or rather, the thoroughbred’s mouth.

Chris: Vincent, it’s a well-known and accepted mantra in strength training circles that “bigger is better”.  More size, regardless of body composition, equals more strength in the minds of most lifters.  What was it that made you break from this way of thinking and decide to get lean?

Vincent: It wasn’t really a conscious decision on my part, it just kind of happened.  It started with the passing of my brother back in December.  The loss simply took away my appetite.  Maintaining a body weight in excess of 300 lbs is tough for me even in the best of times, so with a reduced appetite, I simply didn’t consume enough calories and began dropping weight.

Emotional trauma is often the catalyst for life changes, and that is exactly what happened in my case.  As my body weight began to drop, I decided it was time for something new in my lifting career.  I had spent over a decade trying to get as big and as strong as possible, but now it was time for something different, a new challenge.  I decided to see what I could do.  At first, my goal of competing in the 242 class wasn’t fully formed, I just wanted to get leaner and stay strong.  As I dropped body fat and the 242 became a possibility, it then became my focus.  Having achieved that goal, my new focus now is on maintaining a lower body fat percentage and becoming as strong as possible.

Chris: Vincent, I totally understand the emotional trauma aspect of what you did.  In fact, I had something very similar happen to me when my wife of fifteen years told me she wanted a divorce and subsequently left me.  I too lost my appetite and then decided I might as well take advantage of my reduced appetite and get as lean as possible.

You accomplished the very elusive goal of losing a tremendous amount of body fat while simultaneously maintaining all, or nearly all, of your lean muscle mass.  Can you give us an overview of how you lost the weight and changed your body composition so dramatically?  

Vincent: Well, as I stated above, in the beginning, it really wasn’t a conscious thing.  My appetite was diminished and I simply ate significantly less.  During that time, I definitely lost some lean muscle tissue.  Once I got a hold of myself and made the decision to achieve my new goal of being strong and lean, I got a bit more organized.  I started by ‘cleaning up’ my diet and reducing overall caloric intake.  While being more calculated than just eating less, my approach was still a bit haphazard. 

I had heard good things about Shelby Starnes (bodybuilder, powerlifter, trainer, and nutritionist) with respect to his ability to help people from all walks of life optimize their body composition.  I decided to reach out to him and enlist his help.  Needless to say, Shelby radically changed my thoughts on diet.  He made me realize that it is definitely a science.

Once I started following Shelby’s advice, the changes were literally amazing.  He taught me what to eat, how to carb cycle, and that cardio is a necessary evil.  I mean, I’m a powerlifter; I didn’t know the meaning of the word cardio!  Shelby had me eliminate dairy, all forms of sugars (including fruit), and wheat products from my diet.  It was a new world, but an incredibly effective one!

Shelby was amazing, but I also want to take a moment and give myself some credit.  Shelby gave me the map, but I had to follow it, and I did so unwaveringly!  I never ever cheated on my diet unless it was planned.  I’m not kidding–I was 100% compliant.  I never even so much as snuck a piece of candy, a cracker, or even an extra scoop of rice.  I embraced the fact that sometimes you will be hungry on a diet. The hunger lets you know it’s working.  I hated getting on that treadmill at 5:15 in the morning, but I DID IT!  Once I set my mind to something, I give it 100%. 

Vincent Dizenzo – 245lbs at 16% bodyfat (it was touch and go here!)

Chris: I don’t think I ever mentioned it to you, but my business partner Daniel Clough has been working with Shelby for some time and raves about him.  I have heard nothing but great things about the man. 

It doesn’t surprise me that you were a machine during the process.  I know what kind of dedication is required to build the superhuman strength you have achieved, and a person with that kind of dedication can accomplish just about anything he sets his mind to.

You touched on several aspects of your diet.  I’m curious…if you had to pick just one thing that you feel contributed the most to your success, what would it be? 

Vincent: The single most important aspect of my dietary regimen had to be limiting carbohydrates. When I was a young athlete, which was a long time ago, there was a great emphasis on carb intake. As a powerlifter, I thought I needed to consume lots of carbs. Now I have learned the proper timing of carbs is very important and that carbs are not necessary with every meal. The other important aspect I learned was to eat protein and carbs or protein and fat together, but to try avoid eating protein, fat, and carbs all at the same time.

Chris: Definitely!  As you know, in my mind, insulin management (and thus carb control) is HUGE when it comes to health and body composition.

How about your training?  Did you do anything differently?

Vincent: Yes, my training changed dramatically. I was always a max effort guy. I just wanted to load weight, bands, and or chains on a bar and smash it. My motto was, “Anything worth lifting is only worth lifting once.”  Well, it wasn’t long into my diet that I found I could not keep up with the personal records I had set at a higher body weight.  My ego was not quite ready to take a back seat, so I knew I had to do something.

Before panic set in, I turned to Brian Holloway, a training partner and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  Brian had just finished up a block periodization training cycle that I had witnessed firsthand.  We discussed it, and I felt that it was the way for me to go.  I knew the first block started off with lower percentages, which would give my strength a chance to adapt to a lighter bodyweight. I also knew block periodization calls for a lot of volume and that would assist in my transformation.

In the end, it all worked out. I hit 16% body fat, which was beyond my goal.  I know many readers may not be all that impressed with 16%, but that is a real 16%, and let’s not forget I started at 326 lbs and God-only-knows-what body fat. That’s one of the problems with the internet; everyone claims to be 10% body fat or less when the reality is quite different.  Brian is very exacting with his method of using calipers to measure body composition, and I guarantee you that most of those 10% people would be 15%+ if Brian checked them.

I also made the 242-lb weight class.  That is a BIG change from superheavyweight!  Last, but not least, I hit a 730-lb bench, which ranks me in the top ten for that class.  Not too shabby for such a short amount of time.

Vincent’s 730lbs Bench Press @ 242lbs

Chris: Vincent, not too shabby at all! 

We’ve touched on nutrition and training, but how about supplementation?  Of course, as one of our sponsored athletes, I know you use our products, but why don’t you outline what AtLarge Nutrition products you used during your transformation and why you used them.

Vincent: I follow the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) method when it comes to supplementation.  I stick with supplements that are proven to work. I guess that is why I am such a big supporter of AtLarge Nutrition.  Your entire line is made up of no-nonsense supplements that are proven to work.

What I use at any given time is goal dependent.  During my fat loss program I took the following AtLarge products: 1) Multi-Plus tablets for overall health and any deficiencies in my nutritional plan, 2) Fish Oil caps for a healthy heart and to reduce inflammation. 3) Creatine for strength and increased muscle mass, 4) Nitor for its thermogenic effect, and 5) Nitrean for a low calorie source of quality protein to support my training and because I believe it’s the best protein on the market, bar none!

Chris: I know that rapid weight loss always takes a toll on strength, but once one’s weight is stabilized, that lost strength can be regained and often new records can be set.  Actually, I can think of a great example very similar to yours.  Are you familiar with John Kuc?  He competed against big Jim Williams as a superheavyweight in the very early days of powerlifting.  He was amazingly strong, but his health suffered at that body weight, so he cut back down to the 242-lb class!  He went on to compete VERY successfully in the 242s for many years (and pulled in the high 800s at that weight). 

What are your thoughts moving forward?  Do you want to stay in the 242s, or do you have other plans?  Personally, I would love to see you in the 242s or 275s setting some crazy records.

Vincent: I don’t believe I will ever compete above the 275s again.  I plan to do most of my competing in the 242s.  I know it is going to take some time to learn my leverages and begin to optimize my strength at this new body weight, but I am committed.

In my immediate future, I am going to train for a raw bench meet sometime in the fall. However, I plan to train as if I were going to compete in a full meet.  There is definitely a method to my madness.  First, my bench is always at its best when my entire body is strong.  Second, I want to add some lean mass to my frame and compete as a bigger 242 than I did at my last meet.  A solid raw training cycle with plenty of volume for the big three should spur some hypertrophy.  Finally, I just may compete in a full raw meet if my training goes well!

Returning to three-lift competition is a bit of a pipedream for me, but it is something I want to shoot for.  That said, I’ll enter my training cycle with my eyes wide open and will not compromise my health for the sake of competing in a full meet.  I’m going to take my time, and the goal will be to compete (in a full meet) within a year’s time. If my body holds up, that’s great, but if not, I will still focus on benching in the 242s because I feel I have some unfinished business in that department.

Training for a full meet will be a pretty big change for me.  I’ve been squatting and deadlifting the last couple of years, but I’ve been been playing it very safe.  I kept the loads fairly light and used a safety squat bar for squatting and hex bar for deadlifts. 

As mentioned above, I have ruptured two discs in my back, but I’ve also completely ruptured one bicep and partially ruptured the other!  The safety squat and hex bars have helped me to train around these injuries.  The problem, of course, is that neither can be used in a powerlifting meet.  I am going to have to squat and deadlift with a regular bar.  The deadlift in particular will be difficult as I am going to have to learn to use the hook grip in order to protect my biceps.  For a guy with small hands and weak grip, that will definitely be a challenge.

Chris: Vincent, I think it’s awesome that you are going to try for a full meet!  You have tremendous overall strength (I remember a video of you pulling 800 lbs or so), and I would love to see what you can do in a raw full meet. 

I also think you are making a great decision to stay at this lower body weight.  I believe it will prolong your career and potentially even your life.  The new insulin management practices you are employing can do nothing but benefit your health. 

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Vincent: You’re welcome, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you, Daniel, and AtLarge Nutrition. It is with your help and support that I have been able to accomplish so much in strength athletics.

Chris: Vincent, it has been our pleasure.  You really are a model athlete for our company because you are both a top competitor and someone who frequents our forums on WannaBeBig.com (WBB), contributing to the betterment of the community. 

Sometimes I think back to when I was a young trainee.  I think that if I could have had access to an athlete like you, I would have avoided so many mistakes.  I used to read interviews just like this one, but I didn’t have the opportunity to then pick the brain of the interviewee like our WBB members have with you.  Whoops…Get ready for some questions! 

Thanks again, and the best of luck with your new goals in powerlifting.

Written by Chris Mason

Note: Vincent is a regular contributor and moderator on the Wannabebig Forums and also maintains a regularly updated Training Journal. If you have any questions for Vincent, feel free to post them in the discussion thread for this article (see link below) or as a new thread in the Powerlifting Forums.

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 – An Interview with Bench Press Specialist – Vincent Dizenzo discussion thread.

About Chris Mason

 

Chris Mason is an author, trainer, and nutritionist. He has published articles in Iron Man, Athlete, Planet Muscle, and Powerlifting USA magazines as well as several online websites including Crossfit.com.

In addition, he has worked with top flight professional strength athletes on both their nutritional and training regimens. Chris is also the co-founder of AtLarge Nutrition. He is actively involved in all aspects of the business to include product formulation.

Switch Things Up With Suspension Training

Every now and then, I think every hardcore weightlifter hits somewhat of a mental blah.  You know the one…you roll into the weight room, look at all the steel, run through your planned routine and why you’re doing it in your head, then suddenly think, “I’m getting a little bored!” 

There are a handful of experts that would say, “you must be overtraining…your CNS must be fatigued.”  Yeah, maybe that’s the problem.  And maybe you ARE just a little freaking bored!! 

It’s not crazy to switch things up from time to time and use a few training modalities that are far from your current scope of practice, especially if you plan to use such methods appropriately and incorporate them with good planning toward your goals.

I have to admit, there’s nothing like ripping an intense amount of steel off the floor or grinding out speed sets on the bench press, but every now and then, our brain and bodies are hungry for something a little different. 

If there’s one way to maintain all your meat and increase fat loss, joint stability, and core strength while feeling brutally challenged and mentally stimulated at the same time, then this is it.

Bring on Suspension Training

You mean that Hollywood crap those dudes on the infomercials are doing and claiming is the ‘fastest, most efficient way to trim and tighten your core, blah blah blah’?  (Am I the only one that thought that?) 

Yup, that’s what I mean.  You know there’s something to this stuff when you see such a wide array of coaches and athletes advocating its use, coaches in sports from powerlifting, triathalons, the NFL, and NBA, CrossFit, etc.  Many great athletes are using this type of training either as a secondary exercise modality or as a primary, believe it or not. 

So why wouldn’t you or I use it? 

What is Suspension Training?

Suspension Training is a type of training that uses the body and gravity as the primary loading device and allows users to move within a variety of ranges of motion.  With the majority of the training exercises, it’s next to impossible for the body to not to engage nearly every muscle available in order to sustain and perform the movements. 

Because of the lack of stability within the suspension device, the body is forced to stimulate a large amount of stabilizers throughout each movement along with the prime movers and antagonist muscles.  This obviously creates an increased demand on the body, upping the challenge of each movement, and offering a completely different approach to strength training than the typical world of resistance training you’re used to.

Suspension can be utilized as a primary exercise choice for athletes by basing the entire workout around the strap system for resistance and core work, or as a secondary movement system by either super-setting the movements with traditional body weight or free-weight movements, or using them as finishers after focusing more on dumbbells, barbells, and medicine balls as the primary exercise devices.

I know what you might be thinking: If this stuff is so great, where’s it been your whole life?

“Best Total Body Tool” – Awarded by Men’s Health Magazine

Suspended in Time

Believe it or not, this stuff wasn’t invented in Hollywood and certainly wasn’t born out of an infomercial, though it may seem like it from the latest T.V. ads and internet links.  Even still, a good number of individuals are touting that suspension training is a ‘new’ and ‘advanced’ method of resistance training.  I’m sorry, but this really couldn’t be any further from the truth. 

We’ve all seen the good old gymnastic rings, haven’t we?  Those suckers have been around since the mid 1800s and while I will agree that they were mostly used for swinging at first, the rings were still part of an intensive method of suspension training.  In fact, movements like the Iron Cross, Muscle-ups, Hand Stands, and Dips were soon developed, and these are only a few of the incredible exercises many of the early innovators of this type of training performed. 

Today, most trainees are lucky to pull off a good suspended pushup while performing their new ‘advanced’ method of resistance training, so I’m going to go ahead and say the “advance” is more like a mutated fitness regurgitation of something that once was and still is great: gymnastic rings.

However, with respect to the efforts of most individuals attempting to achieve a better physique, joint stability, and core strength, the suspension method is certainly more advanced, and in my opinion much more effective, than what they’re probably currently doing, and it is certainly ‘new’ to most individuals who typically spend the majority of their workouts in the circuit room or performing a myriad of low-load isolation movements. 

So if it wasn’t a spikey haired, bosu-ball worshiping Hollywood aerobics instructor who invented these, then who was it?

It’s said that the ‘rings’ have been around for nearly 2000 years and were invented in Italy, but it’s pretty hard to find any solid research or evidence of application during those times.  However, suspension training came to light in Germany around the middle 1800s via a man named Adolf Spiess.  This new method of training soon gained popularity and was first introduced into the Olympic Games in 1924 in Paris.  The sport now known as ‘Still Rings’ is obviously still a major event in male gymnastics today and is very much the foundation of the suspension training we see today. 

Suspension Training Today

We’re seeing it all over the place at present, in home gyms, hotel gyms, large chain gyms, private high-end personal training studios, yoga facilities, and even in the hardcore training centers…they’re all using the suspension devices and hopefully using them well.  It seems like if you’re not implementing some sort of suspension device into your training today, then you’re missing the boat somewhere and are left wondering if there’s a good reason you should board that puppy any time soon.

It took me a while to be convinced that this stuff wasn’t just for the short, jacked men in tights and hot chicks who were afraid of weight training, but after examining the movements a little more, I thought I could definitely see some major reasons to attempt this type of exercise modality.

For most general exercise enthusiasts, fitness efforts usually involve using low intensity weight training movements with poor muscle recruitment, poor need for muscular or joint stability, and poor core stimulation.  To paint a little better picture, just think about what you see the majority of gym goers doing: riding the elliptical for 20 minutes, then cruising around the circuit room using every machine for three sets of ten, then possibly cruising over to the lower end of the dumbbell rack, and performing a few bicep curls and side bends. 

Hopefully I didn’t just describe any WBB readers’ workouts, but even still, it’s not terribly frequent that the slightly more advanced weight lifter puts some serious efforts into performing major functional movements or spends any serious amount of time on increasing joint stability and core strength beyond the scope of leg raises, dumbbell presses, and dead lifts. 

So it’s obvious that if there’s an exercise method available that can stimulate a large amount of muscles, increase caloric output, increase joint stability and core strength, and still aid in overall muscular strength, function, size, and power, then you should probably find a way to implement it into your training routine from time to time, right?

You’re Suspended!

There’s a pretty good selection of exercises you can perform with suspension devices that range in difficulty levels, so you’ll have to rate your strengths and perform them accordingly.

Also, there are obviously more exercises you can perform with this type of equipment; however, I’m only displaying a few of the movements that I feel can provide equal to or superior training performance over that of other training methods.

Try these movements first, then either get creative or do a little extra research and begin compiling more intense workouts for yourself.  You’ll be hooked!

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Suspension Training – Upper Body Exercises

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Suspension Training – Lower Body Exercises

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Suspension Training – Core Exercises

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A Changed Routine

If you think you could use a little diversity in your training routine for a while in order to keep your mind fresh and keep the boredom at bay, then there are several ways you can begin to implement this into your current routine.  You can also simply change your routine to suspension training only for a while to work on joint recovery, fat-loss, core strength, and stability while giving yourself a little break from the more heavy load-bearing movements.   

Here’s a few ways you can do it:

  • Cross-set or superset every free weight movement in your routine with a similar suspension movement.

Example – Incline Dumbbell Press (ss) Single-Arm Suspended Pushup OR Incline Dumbbell Press (cs) Single-Arm Inverted Suspended Row)

  • Simply replace most of your current free weight movements with the same movement pattern in suspension.
  • Replace all core movements of your current free weight routine, with all suspended core movements.

1 Day Suspension Routine – Because I love ya!

This is a one-day routine that you can pretty much throw in anywhere as part of your current routine.  Consider it a metabolic conditioning day.  Do keep in mind that this is still resistance training and will still require pre- and post-workout recovery like anything else, so plan accordingly.

1 Day Full Body Suspension High Intensity Routine

Lower Body Combo – 4 x 10 x 10, No rest

  • 1a) Balanced Lunge
  • 1b) Single-Leg Hamstring Curl

60 seconds recovery

Upper Body Combo – 4 x 12 x 8, No rest

  • 2a) Suspended Pushup
  • 2b) Inverted Row

60 seconds Recovery

Core/ Arm Combo – 4 x 8 x 10 x 10 x 8, No recovery

  • 3a) Fallouts
  • 3b) Bicep Curls
  • 3c) Tricep Extensions
  • 3d) Shoulder Flys

60 seconds recovery

Lower/ Core Combo – 3 x 8 x 8 x 8 x 20

  • 4a) Single Leg Squat
  • 4b) Pike
  • 4c) Hip Abduction
  • 4b) Bicycle

Repeat (Just kidding!)

Wrap Up

TRX Suspension Training: Get Beach Body ReadyIn the end, all that matters is the end results.  How we get there is not nearly as important as what it is we’re seeking.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s about your personal goals and reaching them as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

You’ve got to take care of every part of your car to keep it running, and the same goes for your body and mind.  If your joints are weak, find ways to make them strong.  If your core is pathetic, make it better.  If your brain is burnt out, find new ways to keep it challenged and fresh for your training so you can continue towards your goals!

Suspension training may just be a new way for you to continue on without getting hung up.  There are a variety of different suspension devices available, and I’m sure if you ask around, you can quickly come to some sort of opinion as to which ones are for you.  However you do it, just get on it and try something different!

Lastly, here is a link to the official TRX Suspension Training website – TRX Suspension Training. You can pick up TRX Suspension Training gear, DVDs and all types of quality stuff from here – check it out!

I’ll see you in suspension!

Written by Mike Scialabba

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 – Switch Things Up With Suspension Training discussion thread.

About Mike Scialabba

Mike is the Director and Owner of the Missoula Underground Strength Training Center located in Missoula, Montana.

He’s an Expert Strength Coach and has been in the business for nearly a decade working with hundreds of individuals utilizing conventional and unconventional training methods. 

Michael has sent over a dozen kids to collegiate football and basketball and has spent endless hours in the trenches getting dirty with real training and real results.

Be sure to check out his blog!